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December 13, 2019 / Dalynn Holling

Supporting Your Friend Whose Child has Special Needs

Recently Risen Motherhood released a podcast that caught my eye called How Can I Help?: Loving the Friend Who Has a Child with Special Needs. (Episode 147 if you’re looking for it.)

Can I be real? It has been much easier for me to come to terms with Nora’s hearing loss than to come to terms with the label that she is and will be labeled as “special needs”. That she has an IEP for special education already. My logical brain says that there’s nothing wrong with it and that it’s amazing for her to get early intervention and individualized plans to help her succeed. But we all know that labels are hard. No matter how many times the term is revised to make it more compassionate and politically correct.

But I was excited to listen to the podcast still as it’s always good to not feel alone and hear from others in a similar boat. It’s like God made us for community or something..

Oh how I wish everyone would listen to it. How I wish I would’ve listened to it 10 years ago so that I could’ve loved those around me with a child with special needs better, especially when I was teaching and working as our church’s children’s director. And I wish it would’ve been 5 hours long instead of 45 minutes. I. Needed. More.

So I thought I would just share some of my own feelings and thoughts that were stirred up while listening.

First, they talked about how to ask questions to a parent of a child with special needs without seeming intrusive or insensitive. 

We all get so caught up in our heads and nervous about offending people. Sure there are a lot of easily-offended people out there, but as I listened to these moms talk and thought about my own experiences I thought, “We just need to take a second and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.” Classic empathy stuff. What hurts more: Never being asked a question about how you or your child are doing (because people are unsure of how to ask)? Or an awkwardly worded question (asked out of a heart of love and compassion)?

I’ll take awkwardness any day of the week. A general “how are you doing” is just fine. A specific question is even better.

This past Sunday a friend asked me very specifically, “Do you feel like you get to feel the joy of being a mom or does it feel like you’re more of a PT or interventionist?”

(I realized in re-reading this that not everyone may know Nora’s story. She was born with moderate to moderately-severe hearing loss. She received hearing aids at around 3 months and has been doing really well with them. We receive weekly speech/language intervention. She also has hypotonia (low muscle tone) which has caused her to have gross motor delays. We work with a physical therapist (PT) weekly and I work with her daily to strengthen her. I spend hours reading and watching videos for how to help her grow stronger too. We are meeting with a neurologist in January to determine if there’s a cause for this or if it’s just an isolated case of low muscle tone. This journey is a whole ‘nother post.)

I was like.. Whoa. That was a weight I had been feeling but hadn’t really realized or articulated and certainly had never been asked about. I thought about that question for several days.

Yes. I absolutely feel the joy of motherhood and enjoy every moment immensely (truly!), but in the back of my mind (and sometimes the front) I am constantly thinking about how instead of playing with her on her back I need to be getting her on her tummy more or sitting up more and have I read enough books to her today to make sure her language develops and should I repeat what I just said so I can enunciate it better so she hears all the letter sounds and should I have asked the doctor about this thing or that and if I had done something differently earlier would she be farther along and it’s so hard to see babies born 4 months behind her doing things she can’t do yet and and and and…

My friend shared how concerned she is about the shift to home-based intervention. Let me tell you, it is amazing to have people come to our home once a week to work with Nora and equip us. But she shared that the weight of the intervention and therapy ends up resting solely on mom (or whoever is home the most) and that if there’s not progress to show the next time they come, it can feel like a failure and like you’re not doing enough. Again.. I hadn’t really thought about it that way but I was certainly feeling the weight of that. Deeply.

And have my circumstances changed since this conversation? No. But now that I’m aware of it and how it impacts me, the weight of it has been significantly lifted and I’m able to logically think about the fact that it’s not all on me. What a gift her question was to me.

So, please! Ask me questions instead of asking nothing! Ask me about Nora’s progress or how she’s doing with her heading aids. It’s perfectly fine!

But may I please make a suggestion about how to do so?

(Don’t forget that I said earlier that I’ll take an awkward effort any day of the week. But this is just a tip to help you be a little less awkward and more sensitive to a mom’s fragile heart.)

Try not to phrase your question or react in a way that suggests where you think she should be.

Example of real life conversation that happens on the regular:
Good-intentioned person: Oh she’s so cute! She has beautiful eyes! How old is she?
Me: Thank you so much! She’s 9 months.
Good-intentioned person: Oh she’s so little!
(Me, sighing on the inside thinking, I know I know… Note: When she was 2 months and we were really struggling with weight gain, these questions and reactions really piled on my anxiety. Please be careful when talking to new parents and just steer clear of any comments about weight.)
Good-intentioned person: So 9 months.. she’s crawling all over the house now and getting into things?
Me: No, not yet. (Instantly feeling the weight rush back in of the fact that she’s behind and then feeling like I need to explain and justify everything.) She’s actually a little bit delayed in her gross motor so we’re working with a PT. (And then I try to get out of this conversation as fast as I can without seeming rude but to protect my own heart.)

By the way- If you think you’ve had this conversation with me, please don’t feel badly. I know your heart. It honestly happens so often that I can’t even keep track of when or where or with whom it has. No grudges held here! I just want to help educate you because when you know better, you do better! And I want us all to love each other better.

A good way to react for small talk purposes:
Sweet person: Oh she’s so cute! She has beautiful eyes! How old is she?
Me: Thank you so much! She’s 9 months.
Sweet person: She is seriously the cutest baby I’ve ever seen (or insert other specific compliment here). You’re doing a great job mama!
Me: Aww.. thank you!! (Walking away feeling happy and affirmed.)

A better way to go deeper:
Informed thoughtful person: Oh she is so cute, and growing so much! What new things is she doing? (<<I LOVE this question.)
Me: (Super excited that I get to actually share about her growth and that cute new thing she did yesterday, instead of being reminded of her delays and having to explain them.) Oh my goodness! She has been saying “mama” nonstop and she just started rolling and rolling across the room to get where she wants to go. AND she ate a whole bowl of oatmeal this weekend for the first time!
Informed thoughtful person: Oh wow!! She is changing so fast! You are doing an amazing job mama. You are the perfect mom for her.
Me: Aww.. thank you!! (Walking away beaming and feeling super safe and seen with this person. Maybe I’ll cry or hug them.)

Does that make sense? It’s SO easy to be person #1. We’re just so used to asking those same few small-talk questions of parents. (You know, like the “What are you doing after you graduate?” questions of the 22 year old or the “When’s the wedding?” of the newly engaged couple.) I know I’ve done it in the past pre-baby! But, please, at least try to be person #2. It’s so easy. And if you really want to love a parent well, especially a parent with a child with special needs, be person #3. And this is said with all the love and grace in the world. I would not know this if I hadn’t lived it and been on the receiving end of it.

Secondly, they talked in the podcast about how helpful it is to have friends comment on the new things they notice in your baby.

When you’re so hyper-aware of your child’s development and progress (or lack thereof) toward milestones, it really does feel like waiting for grass to grow. (And you feel kind of guilty because you don’t want to wish time away. You want to cherish every moment and keep them little forever. But you also want to see progress and for them to hit those milestones.) So like watching grass grow, it’s hard to notice the little progress and victories as they tend to come on so gradually. But when a friend who hasn’t seen Nora in a couple of weeks sees her and says, “Oh my goodness! She is sitting up so much better than the last time I saw her!”, it reminds you that she is making progress, even if she hasn’t hit the big “sitting independently” milestone yet that you’re so aware of. I am SO thankful for family and friends who notice and celebrate Nora’s baby-step victories.

On-topic sidenote for other parents: Check out CanDo Kiddo’s Baby Steps to Baby Milestones. Ugh. Her first paragraph in that post got me in the feels. So I printed that baby so I would remember to celebrate the little wins that get you to the big wins. It’s so helpful. Instead of obsessively focusing on the big crawling milestone, I am focusing on helping Nora pivot during tummy time and anytime she pivots 1 cm, I’m throwing a party instead of feeling discouraged that she’s not crawling yet. I hope this perspective and resource helps another parent. Also I’m thinking it’s a great excuse to bake cake more often. I think I should literally start throwing parties.

Lastly, it would mean the world if you were intentional about teaching your kids (and yourself) about all the ways that make us different.

Stephanie Marrufo, a mom of a child who is hard of hearing, just wrote the book All the Ways I Hear You so that her kids (and other deaf/hard of hearing kids) could see children that look like them in the books they read. She recently posted on her Facebook page about wanting to give away her book to some kids or adults who are deaf or hard of hearing and asked us to recommend someone. I posted that I think it’s amazing to get books like this into the hands of littles with hearing loss so that they can see themselves represented in the books they read. But I think it’s equally important for hearing kids to see kids that are not like them in the books they’re reading. It helps them gain more empathy and compassion and it goes a long way in normalizing kids with special needs.

I hope for a world in which people don’t do a double-take when they see a baby with hearing aids. Double-takes and questions from strangers don’t offend me. But what if it was normal to see babies and kids with hearing aids or cochlear implants or wheelchairs etc. in books and TV shows and movies (and not just as a “token” or special character where the story revolves around it, but just as a person). People don’t blink about an older person with hearing aids because that is seen as normal. I know it will take time, but I really hope that in Nora’s lifetime kids will become familiar with and educated about hearing aids so that it’s not the first thing they ask about. Or the thing that they stare at and freeze up and don’t say anything because it’s all they can focus on. (Again.. it’s not offensive to me because I know we’re not there yet as a society. I think it’s cute and I love that I have the opportunity to educate them!) So if you’re our friend, brace yourself for receiving this and books like it for your kiddo.

And to everyone: be proactive. Even if you don’t know me or Nora or any child with hearing aids, be proactive with your child and teach them about kids who are different from them. Talk about it before your kid runs into a child with special needs in the grocery store or at school or on the playground. Set them up for success to be that sweet, compassionate kiddo and good friend that you want them to be. It’s not hard.

Next time you’re at the playground and they come take a break with you on the bench, say, “Wow! There are a lot of kids here running around! Did you know there are some kids who can’t run like you? Some kids use wheelchairs or walkers to get around or wear leg braces to help their legs out. But they are just like you in that they love to have friends and have fun!” And then give your kid a hug and let them run off to play, with a new gratitude for their strong legs and a new awareness for those around them. Or you’re in the car listening to music and you say, “I’m so grateful to have ears that can hear this fun music, aren’t you? Did you know some people need a little extra help to hear music? (Explain.) Isn’t that cool?!) I love how Laura worded it on the podcast too. She said to look for opportunities “where you can stop and explain and help your kids understand—it’s not weird. A lot of people have this [aid/device] and it’s a good gift from a good God that they can get that extra help that they need.”

And hopefully when your child does end up crossing paths with that cute kiddo with leg braces or hearing aids, instead of staring or shouting “Whoa! What’s wrong with his legs/ears?”, they’ll light up while remembering their conversation with you. They’ll remember that this kid is just like them in that they want to have friends and have fun, and they’ll run up to introduce themselves. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful world? But it doesn’t just happen. It takes intentionality and proactive-ness.

On that beautiful thought, I ask you to pray for us! (And pray for all your parent friends!) But specifically I ask that you would pray for Matt and I as we seek God’s plan for how He wants to use us and Nora and our story for His glory. We feel He has something brewing and we are obediently walking toward it and can’t wait to share more as it develops!

December 12, 2019 / Dalynn Holling

My Journey to a Beautiful Natural Childbirth

I had an amazing childbirth experience. The kind where I want to be a surrogate (only half joking) so that I can do it again. I worked really hard in the third trimester to educate myself about my body and the process because knowledge is power. It helped me retrain my brain to not fear childbirth but to see it as the natural process that it is. I knew exactly what to expect and since I had no fear, my body didn’t tense up resulting in more pain than necessary. It did take a lot of intentionality, reading, studying, practicing, and prayer. I spent countless hours preparing for childbirth.. but it was oh so worth it.

I have been in conflict about sharing my story because this is something that I’ve wanted to shout from the rooftops so that every pregnant mom can educate herself and not be afraid. But I also know that there are many, many women out there who dreamed of the childbirth I had and were unable to have it for a multitude of reasons.. and I know that there is a grieving process that comes with that. I haven’t wanted to add to that grief.

But after literally months of going back and forth on this (I actually wrote the rest of what follows just a few weeks after Nora was born), I really feel compelled to share my story in the hopes that it can help even one mom be less afraid and have a calm and peaceful childbirth experience.

My story really begins at my own birth. So… let’s take it waaay back.

My sister and I were both delivered by C-section so growing up I had always thought that that was how I would give birth to my babies as well. I thought it was such a cool thing that you could go in and have doctors get your baby out of your belly for you and not have to go through all of the screaming and pain that I saw on TV and in movies.

Fast forward 20 years to a Dalynn who had heard countless childbirth stories from women. (Women love to share their stories, right? Especially if their labors and deliveries were especially hard. The downside- these stories planted a lot of images and fear in my brain.) I don’t think any woman intends to scare another woman with their story, but there’s something in them that makes them want to share to get validation or something.

I noticed, though, that my friends who shared or posted their positive birthing stories were all women who chose to deliver naturally, oftentimes at home.

This really intrigued me. How was it that the women who were taking advantage of all of the amazing modern-day medicine and techniques were walking away with battle stories, but the women who went au naturale were using words like “beautiful” to describe their experiences?

I still didn’t think I would be strong enough to do it, to be honest, but I shifted my “plan” from having a C-section to birthing in a hospital with an epidural and anything else they could give me. I was afraid of the pain.

Fast forward again to me actually being pregnant. (Yes, all of this thinking and planning had occurred pre-pregnancy. That’s who I am!) I walked through my first and second trimesters with the attitude of “ignorance is bliss”. I remember telling someone who asked me what my birthing plan was that I was choosing not to even think about it until the third trimester. I could not even handle thinking about myself giving birth. It gave me so much fear and anxiety. When I sat down to actually think about it, I realized that all of my fear was stemming from the epidural. I was terrified of it, but I thought it was the only way. I felt trapped.

Thankfully, God planted some people in my path. Some friends of ours told us that they studied the Bradley Method of natural birthing and that it worked really well for them. Their birthing story didn’t scare me. It sounded empowering and feasible. Then, randomly, the realtor who showed us our new house mentioned that he and his wife had used the method and he highly recommended it. So I began looking into it.

My chiropractor told me about another natural birthing method called HypnoBirthing. I kind of wrote it off at first because… hypnotism?! Say what?! It kind of has a connotation of squawking like a chicken on stage. But for some reason, I kept coming back to it and I kept running into people who raved about it. So I dug in and did a lot of reading online before I bought the book along with the Bradley Method book.

Matt and I read the Bradley Method book and found it so unbelievably helpful in understanding the different stages of labor and what to expect. Without this book, I would not have been as confident in laboring at home as long as I did and knowing when to go to the hospital. It also did a really good job of helping me understand exactly what my body was doing which made me feel very in control and empowered. Knowledge is power! I started feeling confident. Like I could do this.

But the HypnoBirthing book was the real game-changer for me. It gave me so much confidence and peace of mind. It reminded me that my body was made for this and that women have been doing this for thousands of years. Women have given birth in caves, next to trees, even in comas.. Animals give birth all the time without taking 10-week courses or reading books. So I soon began to trust myself and my body to know what to do.

The book also talked a lot about affirmations and maintaining positive thoughts. In addition to the book, I purchased an online course that came with audio tracks of this delightful Australian woman who would speak in her calming accent to spa-like music. I listened to the affirmations track a lot to engrain in my mind that my body knew what to do, that each contraction was bringing my baby closer to me, and that my baby is the perfect size and would fit. HypnoBirthing is also very intentional about the language used. Instead of “contractions”, they were called “surges”. Instead of “pain”, things were described as “pressure”. These swaps may seem insignificant, but they made a world of difference for erasing the fear from my mind.

I will say- it wasn’t always easy to keep these positive thoughts because I was constantly being bombarded by people about my size and “are you sure it’s not twins?” and predictions of how big the baby would be. (P.S. I was not big. And even though I knew that, I had to keep reminding myself of that because people’s comments easily get stuck in your brain. So future reference- don’t comment on pregnant women’s sizes. You are allowed to say, “You are beautiful. You’re doing a great job.” That’s all. K thanks.)

For the sake of my mental health, I literally started avoiding people who had made any negative comments about me or pregnancy or childbirth in the past and worked really hard at replaying positive affirmations in my head. I printed and hung affirmations on my mirror. (Matt wanted me to add that he appreciated those affirmations when he was in the bathroom pushing… LOL!)

(Sidenote- your thoughts also impact your enjoyment of your pregnancy. I worked really hard to stay positive and enjoy every moment. I tried not to complain and was determined to never say “I feel miserable”. I also worked really hard to drink a ton of water every day, stay active, do squats, and not give in to unhealthy eating except a splurge here and there. So when people say I got lucky with an easy pregnancy… maybe! But also, maybe I worked really hard to take control of the things that I could control to make it as pleasant as possible. I think it was a little bit of both.)

The HypnoBirthing book and tracks were also invaluable in teaching me relaxation strategies and breathing techniques which I practiced daily. These really carried me through labor and delivery.

So, after my reading, my mindset really shifted. I KNEW that I could have a natural and even pleasant childbirth experience. I knew that I didn’t need an epidural or even laughing gas. I knew that I could labor at home for a long time. We talked about doing a home birth, but Matt and I decided that for our first baby we would probably be more comfortable in a hospital.

One of the biggest blessings was having people around me who supported me. I definitely had a lot of people who were super skeptical of HypnoBirthing and even questioned why on earth I would want to have a natural childbirth when I could utilize medicine to numb some of the pain. (First of all, most women give in to medicine when they are literally right around the corner from giving birth and it can stall out your labor and make it last longer. Secondly, I wanted to actually feel everything and feel in control. And lots of other compelling reasons found in the books.) As mentioned earlier, if I discovered someone wasn’t onboard or supportive of my natural endeavors, I just wouldn’t talk to them about the topic anymore. But luckily I had a best friend who was all onboard with everything and who loved to talk to me about it. I discovered other people who had used HypnoBirthing or the Bradley Method and they cheered me on. My husband read and studied everything with me and was 100% supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I dare say he’s even verging on being an advocate for HypnoBirthing. And I had a dear friend who read the book with me and was in the hospital room as I delivered to help me stay relaxed and focused. (This was another gamechanger. Get yourself a husband and friend like these. And if you don’t have a friend like this, get a doula. Or me.)

As the due date approached, I found that my fears were completely (yes, COMPLETELY) replaced with peace and confidence and even excitement! I couldn’t wait to put into practice what I had learned and have the childbirth of my dreams.

We almost didn’t take the hospital’s childbirth classes because we knew what we wanted to do, that we wanted to labor at home as long as possible and then birth without any medications or interventions, and we knew that these classes tend to spend a lot of time talking about interventions. But we decided that any knowledge is power and we wanted to know what the hospital’s protocols were. We ended up loving our instructor and class and it gave me even more peace of mind hearing that our hospital is supportive of the mom’s wishes and will do whatever they can to make it happen. (I will say, though, we still had to be firm with our doctors on our wishes and that’s where having a typed up birthing preference sheet came in handy along with having my friend in the delivery room with us who knew what we wanted and was not afraid to speak up for me.)

So! Let’s get to my actual birthing experience! This is the PG version. I’m happy to talk one-on-one with any mamas that would like more details. 🙂

First off, I had Braxton Hicks contractions for months. Seriously. And whenever I would tell people that, they would freak out like my water was going to break on the spot. (Another friendly reminder to not be a crazy person around pregnant women.) But I loved my Braxton Hicks because it gave me lots of opportunities to practice my HypnoBirthing breathing techniques.

They definitely started ramping up a couple of weeks before I went into labor. I would have a whole bunch of them in a row for awhile and then nothing for a day. It was very confusing.

Funny enough, on the Tuesday before giving birth, I wasn’t having any extra signs that labor was coming soon. In fact, my chiropractor and I agreed on Monday that it’d probably be another week before she came. But on Tuesday, I passed over my computer and keys to my replacement at work just because I felt like we were in a good place and I was ready to pass the baton.

I think that triggered my body. Haha. My brain was like, “Ok! You’ve officially done all you can do to prepare at work for Leave so let’s do this now!” We had also just moved into our new house the week before and I had finished setting up the nursery.

Around 8 pm on Tuesday, I commented to Matt that I was having a lot more Braxton Hicks than usual. I even timed them. They were coming fast enough to technically warrant a trip to the hospital according to the numbers in books, but I knew I wasn’t in active labor so it just confirmed to me that they were still just Braxton Hicks. I got up and did some cleaning and they stopped so I didn’t worry about it anymore.

Matt had a couple of big important meetings at work on Wednesday so I just kept telling Baby that she needed to wait until he was done with those to come. (Wednesday was her due date.)

I had a doctor’s appointment that morning. They did a non-stress test on me and apparently I was having significant, regular contractions. I was dilated to about a 2. I still didn’t think much of it, though, because they didn’t really hurt and I had read that people could be dilated at a 2 for days. And everyone told me that I would know when I was in labor. In hindsight, I was obviously in labor. But I was still convinced it’d be a few more days. Plus the doctor scheduled another appointment for me for Monday. I told my family not to worry or hit the road yet, but to start getting their bags ready. (They live 6 and 12 hours away.)

I had my bestie come over and hang out with me on Wednesday to help pass the time. We watched Parks and Rec together and I breathed through contractions on the floor with my exercise ball. We went on a walk together. For some reason, I was still in denial. I know, I know… I mean look at this picture she took. I think any mom would look at that and say, “Yeah, Dalynn. You were in a labor.”

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Matt got home and I think we went ahead and got bags ready just in case. I told my family that they could probably head this way in the morning but that I’d give them an update later that night. Around 9 I told my sister that nothing had really changed so we were going to try and get some sleep and see what happened in the morning. My contractions had gotten stronger but had stayed the same for a long time so I didn’t think anything was happening soon.

Well… I kept having consistent contractions throughout the night. They were about 10 minutes apart and I would sleep between each one. Then every hour I would get up and go to the bathroom. Around 3-4 am they started getting strong. I was on my hands and knees in the bed breathing through them. But I still didn’t wake Matt because they were still far apart. (Hindsight- should have woken Matt; should have called my family. Oh Dalynn…) I got up at 4:30 to go to the bathroom and my water broke on the way. (Boy is that an experience!) I hollered at Matt and waddled to the bathroom. (I made it to the tiled bathroom, by the way! Victory!) I’m happy to share the details with mamas privately, but I’ll spare them here.

We contemplated laboring at home a little bit longer, but decided to go ahead and go in. I called my family who all jumped in their cars and I called my friend to meet us at the hospital.

We probably got there around 5:30 am. Things slowed down a little bit (I’ve read this is normal as your body knows that it’s not in a good place to give birth) and we got settled into our room. The three of us were snacking (I wanted to make sure I had enough fuel in my body for energy) and chatting away and I would breathe through contractions as they came. P.S. This phase is mentioned in the Bradley Method where you’re still able to talk and smile for a picture..

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At my first check I was 4.5 cm which I was super pleased about!

I lost all concept of time after that. But at some point I definitely felt things shift to the “serious signpost” mentioned in the Bradley book. I kept my eyes closed and focused really hard. I was in my own little world, working really hard at staying relaxed. One of the keys is keeping your whole body and all of your muscles limp and relaxed so that when you are having a contraction, it’s not painful and your body is able to do what it needs to do to prepare for the baby’s descent. (So amazing!!)

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My contractions were unfortunately mostly in my lower back so I ended up on my side with Matt rubbing my back really hard during contractions while my friend was by my face coaching me through them. These contractions were really hard, but my mind was calm. (Except for the annoyance I had with the doctors for insisting that I keep the monitors on my tummy when I just wanted to be free to move around.)

As I reached my point of, “I can’t do this anymore”, (another signpost of the Bradley Method) my brain was also thinking, “This means that she’s just around the corner! I can do this. I’m so close.” My knowledge of the process helped me through that hardest part.

At about that point I told my friend, “I’m feeling a lot of pressure.” She was surprised and asked if I thought it was the baby. I wasn’t sure, but I was at the same time. She went and got the doctor and nurses. It took several more contractions for me to get the energy to roll back onto my back and get in a position for them to check me. The contractions were coming right on top of each other. (That was so bizarre!) The nurse checked and asked me if I wanted to know. Part of me didn’t want to know because I was a little worried that I was still at a 5 or 7 or something. But I said yes and she told me, “You’re at a 10! You’re ready to have this baby!” I think I almost cried happy tears. I knew I had made it through the hardest part. (For the record, I always thought pushing would be the hardest part. Turns out, those last contractions are the hardest part and pushing just feels really natural and brings so much relief.)

The pushing was the one thing that didn’t go exactly as I had planned. HypnoBirthing talks about breathing your baby down and I still 100% believe that this is doable and would have been better, but my doctor was all about the pushing and I was just all about getting my girl out at that point so I went for it.

I need to say- pushing was not painful (if you work with and not against your body). The body is amazing and actually numbs itself at the right times so that it really is just pressure. I was never in pain. It was really quite incredible. It was hard work and a lot of pressure, but not unbearable. My all-time favorite memory was my friend yelling, “Push like you’re pooping!” Haha.. it helped! My eyes were closed most of the time so my memory of everything is all auditory. I remember the nurses checking in with Matt to make sure he was okay. (He was an amazing champ by the way. He did everything right. He helped me through my contractions and was so comforting. And I was so impressed that he was involved all the way to the end and cut the cord!) I remember hearing the doctor and nurses talking about how much hair she had and about how amazing I was doing. (Even in the days that followed, there was so much talk of “This was her first baby?? And she did it naturally?”) They asked me if I wanted to feel her head and I didn’t at first. I was just working on staying focused and calm and didn’t want to be distracted. But then near the end I instinctively reached down and got to feel her sweet little head. Wow.

We’re not sure but estimate that I only pushed for about 20 minutes starting at about 9:50. (I was only in the hospital for about 4.5 hours before she was born.)

I will never forget the sense of relief I felt when she came out and then the overwhelming emotions I felt when they placed her on me. There is nothing like it.

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Oh my word. Her warmth. Her smell. I cannot get over that smell. I wish I could have bottled it up.

I also felt so proud of myself. I knew I could do it, and I did it. And I felt like I could conquer anything after that.

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If you’re going to have a baby, I highly recommend this book to learn all about your body and what to expect in labor and delivery, even if you’re not going all natural. The knowledge is power.

If you want to birth calmly and naturally, HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan was so empowering for me. And it’s such an easy read. Here is the link for the audio tracks I used.

And please please please reach out if you have any questions or want someone to talk to about all of this. Nothing would bring me more joy than to know that my experience helps someone else have less fear and more empowerment in their own story.

ADDITION: After an outpouring of love on Facebook in sharing this, from both mamas with similar stories and those who had the complete opposite experience, I wanted to say- thank you. You celebrating my story with me means the world. And I also wanted to share this reply I posted to one sweet mom’s comment whose birth didn’t go as planned: “One of my favorite things about Hypnobirthing is that while one of the goals is medication-free, the ultimate goal is to be free of fear and calm no matter what happens or if things don’t go as planned.. so some of the affirmations were “I am prepared to meet whatever turn my birthing takes” and “birth is miraculous however it happens”. They talk all about how to use the strategies if you have to be induced or have a c-section. I love how it’s filled with grace instead of being firm on one set way!” So while HypnoBirthing for me looked like a medication-free birth, I wanted to affirm that it can work for anyone and whatever plan they have! The ultimate goal is peace and confidence. ❤

February 7, 2018 / Dalynn Holling

Non-Committal Revival

Oh sweet glory. I am writing.

I’m not committing to anything here, though.

This isn’t some hyped-up declaration that I’m reviving my blog and going to inspire you weekly.

Nope.

I’m just here to tell you that one day I was in the shower and I thought to myself, “Huh! I have a blog! Kinda forgot about that! I have some good ideas sometimes. I should write them down.”

And here we are.

The bigger story here, though, is that this is going to be the best year yet. And there’s an even bigger back-story to that, too. And that’s what I’m going to begin writing about. I’m going to tell you about some changes I’ve made and things I have learned that have started this year on a great foot. (Which foot is that, by the way? Right? Left?)

I have so much that I want to share.

Habits. Health. Mindset.

I’m going to leave you hanging with that. But stay tuned if you want to hear more about how God is rocking my 2018 and to maybe be inspired.

And now I’m going to be brave and not proofread this one thousand times before I publish it. But I might just once. Ok, I lied. I proofread twice. (Rome wasn’t built in a day.)

June 26, 2013 / Dalynn Holling

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Hey everyone! 

Something I’ve learned about myself and life- When things get busy, I forget to make time for the things I love. Isn’t it sad how that happens? One such thing is blogging! Now that summer is here and life has slowed down, I’m happy to get back to writing. It’s so good to have hobbies, right?

And speaking of hobbies.. I have a new one! I have no idea where or when or why I decided to embark on this new journey, but when I decide.. I go all-in. 

I think it happened in the dead of winter when I was dying to be outside and see green and life. 

So, I decided to start my own vegetable garden! The thing is… I don’t really like vegetables. I was hoping that growing them myself would force me to like them. 

Another motive behind growing my own food is that over the past 5-6 years, I developed some sort of allergy to fruit and some vegetables. With some research and experimentation, I came to the conclusion that my allergy might actually be to the pesticides used on vegetation. After many years of trying to avoid some of my favorite foods, I finally got fed-up and started eating them again while keeping some Benadryl handy. The worst that ever happened was an annoying itch of the mouth and lips. Kinda scary, but tolerable. I did discover that when I ate organic fruit, the itching was either nonexistent or at least not as bad. 

So there you have it. Why I decided to start my own garden. 

I’m planning on writing several posts on the topic such as why I chose raised-bed gardening, starting plants from seed, trials and triumphs, natural remedies, and some progress posts along the way. I will link back to this post as I write them. 

For now I will leave you with some classic before and after pictures. 

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Do you have a garden? Why did you decide to start gardening? 

February 3, 2013 / Dalynn Holling

My Extreme Couponing

Here is my tale of my first major couponing experience, from start to finish.

Over the past 5 months, I have been trying to figure out the best grocery system for our family. I have settled into planning and shopping for meals for a month. It’s been working out pretty well for us. We usually only have to run to the store during the last week of the month for some more milk, and maybe some ice cream or cheese. We love ice cream and cheese. I’m planning on posting about my shopping method madness sometime. 

But today’s post is all about coupons. 

This is by no means an expert post about extreme couponing. This is my beginner’s perspective on couponing and my story. 

After developing my meal plan and my list of needed ingredients, I started perusing the internet for coupons. I first gathered some wisdom from The Krazy Coupon Lady. Then I Googled my different items and checked out websites like Coupons.com, SmartSource.com, and RedPlum (now Save.com). I had 61 items on my list and found 29 coupons. That’s almost half of my purchases covered by coupons! 

I realized that a distinction between me and Extreme Couponers (at least from what I’ve seen on the TV shows) is that I’m developing my needs list and then looking for coupons, and they seem to just find as many good deals as possible and stockpile for the apocalypse. Even when I’m walking through the grocery store, I find myself chanting to myself, “Buy only what you need. Buy only what’s on your list.” 

I had my grocery list typed up all nice with every item under its own category. I tried to even remember the layout of the store to anticipate what food items would be in what aisle. 

At Meijer, they are nice enough to put the price per ounce on every price label. This is very convenient! It helped me quickly evaluate if it was a better deal to buy the bigger “value” size or the smaller. 

There were many situations where my coupon items were also on sale. Win! There’s no better feeling than that. I spent a lot of time with my phone out calculating price per ounce after sales and coupons to make sure I was actually getting a good deal. In some situations I think it may have still been better to buy the off-brand, but I was dedicated to my coupon experiment and didn’t want to take the extra time to figure a third item out as well. (I was at the store for over two hours.) 

Behind my list, I had the coupons in order corresponding to the order of my grocery items. I also numbered the coupon pages and wrote the page numbers next to the items on my shopping list so I could quickly flip through and see if there were any size or quantity restrictions. It was very helpful to be organized. 

When it was time to check-out, I followed the Krazy Coupon Lady’s advice and looked for the cashier who looked like they would be the most helpful. I picked a woman about my age who had no one else in her line. I warned her ahead of time that I had a lot of coupons. We got to the end and it was time to ring up the coupons. Some of the ones I had printed off from the websites, okay, a majority of the ones I printed off, had printed off very small and the scanner couldn’t read the barcode. Panic. She tried typing in some of the numbers, but only a couple worked. 

She called over a couple of supervisors to help. (Seriously?! It’s just like the TV shows.) Meanwhile, a couple of customers had come in line behind me but I told them they might want to switch lines. They were all very gracious. 

The guy and gal that came to help complained a bit about how I had printed them too small. I explained that I had used the authorized coupon-printing software provided by the sites and that there was no way, to my knowledge, to change the size. (Don’t blame me people! I’m on the edge!) 

The sweet cashier defended me and told them it was my first time and that I was her hero. That made me feel better. 

In the end, the coupons didn’t scan but the store was kind enough to add up what my savings would have been and credit it to me. Goodness, that was nice of them. 

Overall, I had $15.25 in coupon savings. 

I really couldn’t decide if it had been worth all of the effort. Sure, $15 is $15. But, I wonder if it would have been cheaper to just have bought off-brand everything in the long-run. 

Here’s the crazier part- I saved $35.60 in non-coupon savings. I think I’m a better sale-shopper than I am a coupon-shopper. 

I may try the crazy coupon routine again and this time go to Walmart and see how things pan out. I’m consistently blown away by their low prices. We’ll see. I think the other thing that Extreme Couponers have on me (besides the 20 hours a week they spend clipping) is that they have these magical stores that double and triple coupons. That’s insanity. 

I’ll let you know how it goes if I give it another try!

Anyone else have crazy couponing experiences? Successes? Horror stories? Wisdom?

Please share! 

January 11, 2013 / Dalynn Holling

2 Months to 24

I was scrolling back through my blog posts and happened upon a post from April of last year. In it was a list of 9 things I wanted to do before I turned 24. This was a list that was made in a breakfast diner booth on my 23rd birthday with my then-boyfriend, now-husband and then-roomie, now-friend. 

The goal was to do approximately one thing per month. Well, when you forget about the list, it’s hard to do the things and meet the goals. 

By pure luck and good fortune, however, I was able to cross one thing off the list. And perhaps it was the best thing. I crossed off #6. And all it took was me getting a horrible flu and having had married the most amazing, selfless husband who willingly watched HSM 1, 2, and 3 to make me feel better. It really did make me feel better. 

So 1 down, 8 to go and less than 2 months to do it. 

  1. Play with puppies at a pet store.
  2. Take surfing lessons. I don’t actually want to do this, but Kendra thought it’d be fun and push me out of my comfort zone. However, if this doesn’t work out, I’d much rather kayak on Lake Michigan. (Ah! But it’s too cold now! Revision suggestions being accepted.)
  3. Try butter chicken. (Some Canadian dish.)
  4. Go to a new state.
  5. Have a Wikipedia page written about me. 
  6. Get Matt to watch High School Musical 1, 2, and 3 with me. 
  7. Buy a bike.
  8. Make a paper cup phone and communicate with people through it. 
  9. Go snow-shoeing. 

Let me know if you’d like to help me cross one of these off my list! 

January 7, 2013 / Dalynn Holling

Our 2012 Christmas, New Year, Groundhog, Valentine’s Day Letter

January 7, 2013
Dear Family and Friends,
Merry Christmas (belated) and Happy New Year (also belated)! When the holiday season rolled around this year, I had just finished up writing thank-you notes from our wedding and writing a Christmas letter didn’t sound too appealing. But over the past few days of reflecting over this past year, I realized this was too good of a year to pass up writing about! So, Happy (early) Valentine’s Day. Enjoy.
January- Hmm.. According to Facebook, I ate some delicious crockpot chicken. It also appears that I spent a splendid weekend in Indianapolis with Matt at the Indy Children’s Museum, but maybe January is just when I got around to uploading those pictures. We’ll pretend that happened though! In January I also began my job as Assistant Teacher at Schools of Hope in addition to substitute teaching.
February- I spent a night in the ER for the first time. That was an expensive night! But all’s well that ends well. The month got better too as I had my first visit to IWU. Matt and I spent the weekend hanging out with his friends, eating delicious free food, and having serious relationship-changing conversations on the car ride home.
March- I celebrated my 23rd birthday. It was fun. Later in the month, Matt and I had our first Dave ‘n Buster’s experience in Indy. Unrelated, but both fun things.
April- Matt proposed on April 27th, and I said yes! My parents and Matt’s family were there for the surprise and to celebrate afterward.
May- Matt started his new job as the Digital Marketing Specialist Associate at Whirlpool. This job allowed him to move back to St. Joseph from Indianapolis so we could begin our whirlwind journey together. May also included a trip to Oklahoma with my family to celebrate my brother-in-law’s graduation.
June- We closed on our first house! The next few months were an adventure of learning how to remodel this formerly unloved foreclosure. We took a break from that for a fun weekend in Chicago with Matt’s family which included visits to the Shedd Aquarium and The Museum of Science and Industry.
July- Matt turned 23 and we gave him exactly what he asked for- a painting party. His aunt and uncle came up from Ohio and we tackled the task of repainting every surface in the house. My dad also came up later in the month to help out with various tasks, including helping me finish the enormous job of painting cabinets. This month, I had my first bridal shower thrown by Matt’s mom and her friends!
August- Our month started off on the right foot with a mind-blowing Coldplay concert, complete with lots of woo!’s, tears, and goosebumps. August brought my family up here to celebrate another wedding shower with me at Overflow. It was great having them up here to see where we live. I then rode back to St. Louis with them for the few weeks before the wedding to finish preparing things.
September- We got MARRIED! It was a perfect day (despite a tornado and rain brought on by Hurricane Isaac). We then enjoyed a 6-day cruise to Key West, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. We took a couple more days off at home to open wedding presents, clean up the mess from opening presents, do some shopping, and get settled in at home.
October- This month we learned a fun part of being married- passing sicknesses back and forth. I ended up with an intense flu that I couldn’t kick and then hives from the medicine that wasn’t helping. In sickness and health! At the end of the month, we made a spontaneous trip to St. Louis to see my family for the first time since the wedding.
November- This actually started in September, but I’ll talk about it now instead. I started doing hand modeling for Whirlpool. Yes, you read that right. A few times a month, I get paid to look pretty and pour cups of coffee or make smoothies in blenders or press buttons on washing machines. Definitely my most interesting job to date.
December- On December 9th, we finished watching all ten seasons of Smallville in less than 4 months of marriage in anticipation of the Superman movie coming out this summer. I think we both shed a few tears that day. In other news, we had a wonderful holiday season and got to spend time with both of our families.
January- I got offered a long-term sub position teaching first grade at a school just down the street! I am very excited to start sometime in the next month and will continue to be involved at Schools of Hope but as a volunteer as my schedule allows. And Matt’s most exciting news for this month is the awesome dinner we had tonight at a Mongolian restaurant. We love our food!
I can’t imagine how any year could be more exciting than this past one, but we are looking forward to finding out what this next one has in store for us. We love you all!

Matt and Dalynn