Sisters By Heart, Not By Blood

There’s a line in To Kill a Mockingbird; “You can choose your friends, but you sho’ can’t choose your family.” For me, this line tells the story of why I am the person I am today and it is because of God’s plan that I have been blessed with both.

Without them even knowing it, I became my parents “miracle baby”. Being a difficult pregnancy for my mom was the start of my stubbornness. Three months into my mother carrying me, she began dilating, had her cervix stitched closed and was placed on bed rest until the 8th month. My parents wanted multiple children, the picture perfect family, but unbeknown to them; they would never get pregnant again.

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Growing up, I also wanted the dream my parents envisioned. I always wanted an older brother. My parents, shot down that dream and told me it wasn’t possible! Darn! Even so, I wanted siblings. Being an only child wasn’t always easy and didn’t give me the advantage of making friends easily. I didn’t have many friends who lived closed by, and I was certainly never good at playing by myself!

I never would have imagined that many of my 7th grade cheerleading teammates would become people I now call sisters. Growing up as an only child, it is easy to fit into the “stereotypical” mold that only children are selfish, spoiled, and not maternal. It was for that reason, that up until about a year and a half ago, I was confident in my decision that I didn’t want my own children.  I didn’t have the experience that most get with having younger siblings. The lack of experience, and being the perfectionist that I am, feeling that I wasn’t maternal enough to be good at it, created a desire to not pursue that path. I was perfectly happy with my school “kids” and my fur babies!

Having friends that you can pour your heart out to, share your deepest insecurities with, and have them be your unbiased sounding board is a gift I will forever be grateful for.  I’m less selfish and I’m less stubborn because they never sugar coat whether I’m being unreasonable and unrealistic and in a lot of ways they know me better than I know myself.  They hold me accountable to loving myself, to being a better person, and their unwavering love and support reminds me every day that they are more than friends, they are sisters.

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Each of them are unique, all strong minded, and together we are a family. As we have grown from teenagers to adults, our differences have allowed us to grow closer together, to learn from each other, and I am blessed for that rarity.

One of the biggest things I am grateful for is them challenging me on my decision to not have children, questioning if that would be something I would regret looking back, and sharing with me all the reasons it was worth it.  Seeing my best friends go through the experience of carrying and raising their children, and having them embrace me as their Aunt, opened my view to a different sense of purpose…the concept of loving someone more than I love myself.

It was this love that allowed me the ability to open my heart more than I ever thought I could and embrace my husband’s children. It certainly wasn’t easy at first, and I continue to grow and learn everyday as a step-mom, but I’m better for it… for this has shown me that I am maternal and I am deserving of being a mom.

It’s funny how God’s plan is better than the one you have for yourself and how it comes full circle.  My parents are now grandparents, embracing a large family, I’m a mother to an amazing son and two bonus kids, and most importantly, I have what I always wanted…sisters!

Do you have lifelong friends that are more like brothers/sisters?

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10 Products New Moms Don’t Even Know They Need

If you’re one of those “with it” chicks who does all her research and knows just what she needs, and wants, for every life transition, this post may not apply to you; however, I’ve compiled a list of must haves most moms don’t even know they need for the other 95%. 

Most, if not all, of these products are available at ShopWholeHeart.com via the links in the post or page on this blog. Toot, toot! (#ShamelessPlug)

New moms have a habit (that must be broken) of getting pregnant, rushing to big name baby store, and registering for everything they’ve seen at friend’s houses figuring it must be the best. I’m here to say, “Stop it!” Alot of these products are low quality, high toxin, and poorly constructed. But don’t worry, I gotcha covered.

1. Keekaroo Diaper Changing Pad

Keekaroo Peanut

Ever changed a kid’s diaper on a regular diaper changing pad or table? It’s a great way to get your eye gauged, drop a kid on their head, or paint the walls a, ahem…baby poop green. Well, the Keekaroo company has designed a peanut shaped pad that prevents the gymnastics your wee one will inevitably do during a diaper change. Plus, it’s not made from the highly toxic polyurethane, vinyl, plastic, or foam that mainstream pads are made of. It’s 100% nontoxic, ecofriendly materials, AND it’s puncture proof, water resistant, and stain resistant. Plus, it comes in a plethora, if you will, of colors. Check it out!

2. Baby Shusher

Dr. Harvey Karp, famed pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, includes shushing loudly as one of his “5 S’s for Calming” fussy babies. The Baby Shusher is the ONLY white noise machine on the market with a human voice doing the shushing. What will they think of next?!

3. Lalabu Soothe Shirt

Many parents nowadays have learned that babywearing is not only convenient (hands free rocks my world), but it’s also best for baby. Better trunk control, physiological development, language development, sleep, etc. yada yada yada…but, many carriers aren’t safe for a newborn. Either they’re only front facing which is overstimulating, or they’re rear facing, but have the face squished against mom and the hips splayed out (hip dysplasia, anyone? Bueller?) Well, there’s always wraps for newborns, but alot of moms are overwhelmed by wraps. The Lalabu Soothe Shirt is actually a shirt, with a pouch like a kangaroo that you just place “Roo” in and snuggle. Plus, it doubles as a nursing tank. I can hear you sighing in relief.

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4. Woombie

Halle-freakin-lujah for the Woombie, y’all! I’ve been told I’m pretty kick ass at swaddling babies (shout out to Julie Nietzel, another baby whisperer, for her fine training), but I’m not a fan of swaddling once babies get their super human strength around day 3 and can houdini out of things. I love the peanut shaped Woombie because it allows baby to be swaddled snuggly WITHOUT wrapping, baby can be hands down or hands-to-heart for comfort, Plus, the legs are free to roam which again protects them from hip dysplasia. Bonus: It’s got a double zipper for easy late night diaper changes. wahoo!

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5. 5 Phases Bottles

I hate…no, I LOATHE, plastic bottles! You don’t heat your food up in plastic tupperware, right? Why not? Because you know that plastics contain BPAs which are endocrine system disruptors and have been linked to cancer. So, why would you use a plastic bottle for baby’s milk? Glass is the ONLY sure fire way to protect baby from BPAs because even the “BPA free bottles” are made with a cousin of BPA that hasn’t been tested for safety logitudinally yet. 5 Phases are glass, ecofriendly, come in 4oz or 8oz, have vented silicone nipples and a silicone sleeve for added protection.

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6. Knock Nanny

This lil device slides right over your doorbell and has a heap full of decals you can use to let noisy neighbors or the UPS man know that mama bear will kick some ass if they ring the doorbell during naptime. We love it!

7. Shrinkx Belly Wrap

Shrinkx Belly Wrap should be in your travel bag for the hospital so you can wrap your belly after birth and encourage your uterus to retake shape, hold ab muscles in for comfort, and encourage healthy posture while nursing. Plus, there’s the added benefit of getting your pre-baby body back, but we heart moms who don’t make that a number one priority.

8. Softskin Stretch Mark Prevention System

This system includes the Soft Skin Signature Oil (all natural, paraben free, organic) and a soft tank and boy short made from a material that keeps the oil on your skin without making clothes sticky or rubbing the oil away.

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9. Humidifier

We have a whole section on humidifiers and air purifiers because babies breathe through their noses primarily until 6 months. If their nose is stuffed, they can’t breathe. Yikes! Keep their noses wet with a cool mist humidifier in the nursery.

10. EzPz Less Mess Happy Mat

This mat is great once baby starts eating solids. The mat is made from nontoxic, food grade silicone so food won’t stick to it which makes for easy clean up. Nonstick, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, oven safe, AND, the coolest part? It sticks to the table’s surface and will NOT budge unless an adult lifts the corners. Get it here.

EzPz Fun Mat, Shop Whole Heart

If you’re a veteran mom, what would you add to this list? Create a registery on ShopWholeHeart.com for 10% off and FREE shipping.

EzPz Fun Mat, ShopWholeHeart.com

Breasts are Cheaper!

Breasts are cheaper? Gotcha, pervert. I’m not talking about implants here, I’m talking about breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding. I LOVE to break down costs in regards to the hot button issues the “sanctimommies” bring up because, let’s face it…money is important to all of us. 

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First, let’s just say baby eats an average of 25 ounces of milk/formula a day. They eat way less than that early on and way more than that later in their first year, but on average, 25 ounces per day. Formula costs an average of 20 cents per ounce, which means baby eats on roughly $5 a day. Shoot, I wish everyone in my family ate on $5 a day. But, this equates to $1825 a year.

This is assuming baby is strictly formula fed; however, most babies will eat purees and solids around 6-8 months and be substituted with formula. So, $1500-2000 is a safe guestimate. Add in bottles, nipples, cleaners, drying rack, bottle warmer, and bottle brush for a total around $150-200 (or more).

Evelyn feeding zade

Breastfeeding costs $0 if you breastfeed exclusively; however, if you do need to pump, a breastpump will cost between $200-300, which is still a huge savings.

Many breastfeeding moms opt for a few luxury items to make nursing more comfortable so let’s add in nipple pads, nursing bras, fenugreek, blessed thistle and a nursing pillow.

Nipple pads: $7-15

+Nursing bras: $30-40

+Fenugreek & blessed thistle: $30

+Nursing pillow: $60

=Roughly $100-145 total with all the luxury items.

Wow! That means you can save $1000 up to $2000 by breastfeeding your baby! Plus, a breastfed baby doesn’t even need purees or solids. In fact, lactation consultants and baby food preppers recommend solids as “dessert”, given only AFTER a successful breastfeeding session. This prevents nipple confusion and helps maintain a healthy nursing relationship.

Increase milk supply by eating healthily, drinking TONS of water, taking herbal supplements as mentioned above and encapsulating your placenta. Aim to nurse for as long as you can, at least the first year, but be kind to yourself if you don’t make it : )

How long did you nurse your baby?

Zade

My Bad, God

Whoops! On my jog this morning I realized that my current state of, “Boo hoo, poor me…without the injectables I can’t get pregnant this month,” is entirely unfair to my God. So sorry, Lord, my bad!

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Yes it’s true that with the injectables my chances of a pregnancy this month would be 50% and without the injectables I only have a 15% chance, but in January I did ZERO treatment and got pregnant when my chances were 0.00005% of “no chance ever” so…what does that tell ya? It tells me that my God is WAY more powerful than science and if he wants me to have a baby and, more importantly, when he wants me to have a baby, he will make it happen.

My God has no awareness of femara, clomid, FSH injections, IUIs, or IVF. In fact, I imagine him up there on his throne laughing hysterically at me going, “Chelsea! Chill out, girl! It ain’t time yet! Gimme a chance!”

Chelsea Vail with tummy time nephew

So, whether you’re current state of suckage involves the death of a loved one, job loss, sucky medical diagnosis, or a house fire…sit back, get your head outta your ass and give God a chance to show you what he’s capable of. His plan is SO much better than yours!

Again, so sorry God that I threw myself a pity party doubting you!

What’s your God capable of?

Chelsea Vail with nephew

Enough Already!

WARNING: This blog may contain curse words, typos, and heavy emotions not suitable for the faint of heart. 

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I have never, not once, left the fertility clinic without being completely discouraged. Oh sure, there’s always silver lining if you look for it, but after three years, and a SERIES of disappointments, I’ve lost my inner Polyanna. In fact, fuck you, Polyanna.

It’s my southern upbringing and natural tendency towards being optimistic that continues to cause me to fall flat on my face EVERY time. If I could just stay “Debbie Downer” then it wouldn’t hurt so bad when things go wrong.

Every time I go to the doctor they have to verbally review my chart with me, “History of ovarian cysts, irregular ovulatory patterns, history of uterine septum, history of stage 1 endometriosis, 3 cycles clomid x1, no result, 3 cycles clomid x3, no result, 3 cycles femara, no result, 3 cycles femara with injectables, no result, two failed IUIs with injectables, one chemical pregnancy resulting in loss…”

Well, what a fun trip down memory lane! Next time, I’ll pack a picnic!

Then, yesterday my nurse called me to confirm my day 3 sonogram  and I told her I’d really like to do the injectables this month with two IUIs (increasing my chances of pregnancy up to 50%), but I told her I could only do the injectables if there were any donated ones that I could have since they cost $1300-1500 each cycle. There were! She found some! There finally was a pack of meds and she set them aside for me.

“This is it!”, I told myself. I was pumped. I went in to the office today ready to walk out with my free meds and start a new cycle and finally have a real shot at meeting my baby. But, to quote The Little Rascals movie, “Then the clouds opened up and God said, ‘I hate you Alfalfa!'”

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The right side of my ovaries looked great, but, for the first time in over a year, my left side showed two cysts. So…it’s not safe to do the injectables. Not only do I not get to use the meds, but I get the pleasure of passing on the donation to someone else. Call me selfish, but it’s my fucking turn! I know I should try to feel great about somebody else getting these meds, but I just can’t see it that way yet. Enough already, it’s my turn.

Why not me? Why can’t something in this area of my life just work out? What’s the point of continuous let downs and disappointments?

When I thought my HSG was all clear I woke up to find I had endometriosis.

When I thought my septum was mild I woke up to find out it was super severe and they had to put in a uterine balloon and I was literally in labor for two weeks trying to “deliver” it. Freaky, right?

When I think I’m the lucky one who gets to go home with $1300 worth of donated meds, I find out I have cysts and aren’t eligible. 

Enough already! 

one of three scars from surgeries

one of three scars from surgeries

So, I’ll do femara (lame ass pills) this month with only one IUI which gives me a 15% chance of a successful pregnancy aka I have a shot in hell and I get to waste another month. I’ll get bloated, hungry, exhausted and cranky with no positive end result.

Chelsea Vail with baby zade

Or, maybe after a few days of being negative my southern self will pull through, I’ll channel my inner Polyanna and find some way to be positive again. Ugh, happy people live longer anyway, right? : )

Welcome to the Infertility Party

I consider myself a bit of a veteran in the infertile world and I’ve found that only humor, faith, and a kick ass group of friends can help you navigate it without losing your mind entirely. This post is dedicated to the newbies wondering how they’ll make it out alive.

HUMOR 

I was post anesthesia

I was post anesthesia

1. The fertility center is a “fork in the road” (emotionally) EVERY single time you walk in the door, whether it’s the first time or the last time. You can choose to break down, because you despise the fact that you’re there, or you can smile, laugh, and find the humor in each awkward situation. I remember one day being spread eagle in the stirrups, my lady parts exposed, and a tech intern (who looked 12 years old & very uncomfortable) walked in. I awkwardly found a way to meet her eyes and said, “Welcome to the party!” She laughed, but more importanly, so did I! Humor helps.

2. I used to hate getting sonograms because for awhile there EVERY single one was bad news. I’d leave in tears, call my mom, consider driving off the 360 bridge, and go home to curl up in fetal position and watch bad daytime TV. So, one day I asked my husband to go with me. When he saw the 2 foot long vaginal wand next to the computer screen his eyes got huge and he asked, “Where does that go?”. I laughed and said, “I’ll give you one guess”. He said, “Chels, I beg you…when the nurse goes to insert that, lift your ass off the table and yelp, ‘Whoa, wrong hole!'” Ha ha ha ha ha! Well, I didn’t have the balls to pull that off, but I did giggle through the whole exam.

3. Our first IUI was extremely stressful. The doctors & nurses gave us ZERO instructions regarding the process and we had no idea what to expect. All we knew is they’d take our “sample” (aka sperm), spin it in a machine to whip the lil guys into action, and then insert the juice via a catheter. Well, I made a playlist for our first IUI and included songs like, “Whip It”, “Spin Me Round”, and “Whip My Hair” to make us smile.

FAITH

first prayer as man and wife

1. It can be hard to keep the faith when you experience a disappointment every 28 days. When you were a teenager, your period meant you couldn’t wear your fave white shorts to the party Friday night, but as an infertile adult, every period is like being punched in the gut and hearing God laugh, “Ha ha ha, not this time!” I had to stop looking at God as the evil one reframe my thinking to remind myself that it was not Him doing this to me. God was the one in charge of the process as my protector and provider. Only He can decide when the time is right for your baby to be born. It’s your job to take the tests, swallow the pills, follow the schedules, but ultimately He is still in charge.

2. I also went through a period of wondering if using infertility treatments meant I was playing God. Was I creating a “synthetic baby” as portrayed in the media? My baby sister, Skyler, said “Science only goes so far. God decides if life gets created”. She was right. The medicine may assist you in the process, but life does not form inside you without God’s consent.

3. My one and only pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage after 6-8 weeks (estimated gestation). The grief experienced there is a whole other level (and another blog post), but it nearly killed me. I was PISSED at God before I decided that maybe this was God’s way of saying, “Don’t give up. It’s still not time for your baby, but here’s a glimmer of hope that this is possible for you one day”.

Kick Ass Friends

The day I found out I was pregnant…before the loss

The day I found out I was pregnant…before the loss

1. My girlfriends and their husbands have been amazeballs! They’ve been an ear to hear me, a shoulder to cry on, and bartenders when I needed a cocktail or a glass of wine.

2. They have NEVER tried to give me unsolicited advice or tell me what they think I should do…not once, which is awesome! I get so sick of people telling me, “use this oil”, “drink this tea”, “gain weight”, “stop running”, “don’t stress”….AHHHHHHHH!

3. They also gladly engage in my monthly, “I’m Not Pregnant Party,” which is how I avoid the 28 day mental breakdown. Instead of falling apart, I’d try to focus on what I could do since I wasn’t pregnant at the end/beginning of each cycle. I’d go for a run, eat sushi, and drink martinis.

Chelsea Vail, Deep Eddy vodka

PS: Don’t let the posts in the media about the 65 year old mom of multiples or the she-man who got pregnant discourage you…those should be signs that the science is strong. If those peops can get preggers, so can you. It may just take awhile. Keep heart.