This has been my longest blogging break in over 7 years!
Writing has become such a big part of me that it was initially very difficult to scale back. Over time, though, it has felt right. Now also feels like a good time to break the silence and keep everyone up to date. So, this will be a more personal post than many, and that trend just might continue.
It Began With Goodbye
In March, my husband’s 61 year old father died suddenly. We lost my mother-in-law in 2007 and my husband is an only child. He is so strong and so capable, but my heart just broke for him. I felt like it would be best for me to at least temporarily free up my calender to support him during that season of unexpected travel and mourning. I didn’t yet know that I probably needed the break, too.
I really loved contributing to awesome blogs like Young Wife’s Guide, Breastfeeding Place, and Modern Alternative Mama. I was also enjoying the challenge of selling Lilla Rose hair jewelry at shows and home parties. And in addition to homeschooling my kiddos, doing a pretty awful job at keeping house, and being involved with volunteer positions in the church choir and local breastfeeding support group, I was trying to write a book.
Honestly, it didn’t feel like too much! I loved everything I was doing. I felt fulfilled, needed, and appreciated. Scaling back (pretty much dropping all of those things except homeschooling) was really a sacrifice. I was happy to make it for my husband (though he never asked me to) so that I could be more present, but it wasn’t easy!
I’m so glad, in the end, that I did. Turns out that while I didn’t *feel* stressed or worn for the most part, my body and mind were maybe affected more than I realized.
Hormones and Mental Health
With more time on my hands, and in sad circumstances, I began noticing things I had been ignoring. I wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep. Even when I went to bed on time (which wasn’t often), I wasn’t sleeping well. I felt bleary and grumpy and unable to function every single morning… until I had a cup of coffee or two. Coffee got me through the daily routine and activities, and then when the kids went to bed I usually started writing.
Now despite a much more minimal schedule, I found that I had very little energy to be an emotional support for my family. I also realized that I’d gained a good 10lbs, wasn’t eating well (too many processed easy meals), and was struggling with acne again. These are things that I knew were going on, but I wasn’t taking the time to address them or really think about their implications.
I decided to make some changes based on what I could read and work out about my symptoms. Obviously better nutrition was a must. More sleep. And unfortunately, I felt like coffee had to go. I think it was affecting my adrenals, though I’m not positive which was the chicken and which was the egg. In any case, it seemed like a necessary trial.
I also started taking a few supplements including rhodiola (to help with stress and any damage the caffeine had done) and maca (because it’s a superfood and amazing for lots of hormonal ailments). (Those are Amazon affiliate links, thanks!)
The caffeine withdrawal was rough for a week or so, but after that the veil began to lift!! I felt like maybe I could start adding things to my plate again if it was good for all of us. I even had the urge to start exercising again! We were several months out from my father-in-laws passing and things were starting to feel normal again. So funny the things God has planned in our story… “normal” was not really in the cards…
Let’s Plan! Let’s Move! Let’s… Have a Baby???
This Summer we decided it was time to purchase a home here in Juneau and we spent lots of time looking at our (meager) options. The housing market here is pretty ridiculous and the amount that we SOLD our home for in Missouri isn’t even a DOWN PAYMENT for one here!
In the end, we decided it was best to continue to live below our “means” and even downsize a bit for a better situation in the future. So we bought a two-bedroom condo.
Two bedrooms? And there are how many of you?
I know, right? But compared to much of the word, we’re still living large (I have so so so many thoughts on this that I hope to write down soon). And we felt content with the three children we had. We’d decided not to pursue a fourth pregnancy. That was a journey in and of itself. Here’s a journal entry from that time:
For the first time, I’m tackling potty-training and night-weaning without morning sickness and fatigue to deal with. I’m playing “soccer” with my 4 and 6 year olds without feeling the need to shield my tummy. I’m able to rough-house with my active boys more often. I think about things other than baby names.
But I’m also a bit disoriented! I feel more freedom than ever before with children now that they are all talking and playing together! Yes, this is amazing and refreshing, but it’s also difficult to set priorities when I suddenly have options!
Welcome to adult life, right?
Life just never really stops changing and moving, does it? I tried to fight it for a few months and lived in this suspended reality without any effort to adapt or grow – I kind of buried myself in ME, daydreaming about books I’ll write and things I’ll achieve.
I’m finding that without something new and exciting to look forward to on the horizon, it takes discipline for me to be others-centered. It’s hard to stay excited about the every-day if I’m not intentional about seeing the miracles in small things.
Obviously I was feeling convicted about things… but not about having another baby.
God is so funny sometimes.
Just about two days after we signed on purchasing the condo… we got a positive pregnancy test.
Long story shorter, we were using NFP to avoid pregnancy. This was the longest we’d gone in our married life without a baby to announce!! I’d felt strange about that month even though my chart indicated that I’d probably already ovulated. I wasn’t checking my temperature, so I knew it was harder to be sure. In the end, we obviously decided not to be as cautious as I was feeling we maybe should be. It seemed unlikely that we had conceived because of the timing of it all. Then I read this…
Some women experience spotting or a change in their menstrual cycle when they first begin using maca. This is normal and a sign that the body is beginning to balance the hormonal system. (from here)
Maybe would have been good for me to have done more research ahead of time, ‘eh? My cycles have always been super regular, so I had pretty much chalked my symptoms up to my imagination. This baby is proof though that I ovulated a lot later than expected.
Later than I expected, at least. God knew… the stinker. ;)
Not an Uneventful Pregnancy So Far!
Early in the year, before our baby news, and before our home purchase, and before our goodbye, we’d planned a 3 week long vacation in September. So, 10 days after moving into our new place, we repacked what felt like half of our belongings and headed to the midwest to see family and friends.
It took four different airplanes to get to Kansas. Oh my word, Alaska is TOO FAR AWAY and I was WAY too pregnant for that!!
Add to the jet lag a nasty respiratory infection that I couldn’t kick for over a month, and it was quite strenuous. Thankfully, seeing so many people we love dearly more than made up for it! Cherished memories. :)
Unfortunately, about a week into my trip I received a phone call from my midwife. My routine blood work had come back with something concerning. My blood showed Duffy FYa antibodies.
Don’t worry, I had no idea what that meant either.
I’m thankful that I was with a wonderful friend who let me use her computer to consult Google University for part of our visit, and who has lifted me up in prayer since then while I’ve kept this pretty quiet. I’m sorry that I couldn’t share with so many of you that I saw in person on that trip. I just didn’t have enough information yet.
The long and short of it is that our blood breaks down into a lot more categories than just A, B, and O positive or negative. There are about a bajillion other differences in blood types, including something called “Duffy.” You are likely familiar with at least one other name on that list I linked to because most of us know someone who has tested positive for Rh antibodies and potentially received an injection to make sure that her body doesn’t reject a baby with a different Rh type.
While Rh antibodies usually show up after the first pregnancy in which the baby has incompatible blood, Duffy antibodies are a delayed reaction to a different type of blood sharing – blood transfusion.
I had a difficult time recovering from my first labor and delivery and ended up receiving two units of blood via transfusion. Now my body is reacting negatively to my donor’s blood type and it may affect how well my body receives this new little one growing inside me. It’s called isoimmunity or alloimmunity, and it can result in Hemolytic Disease of the Newborn.
Thankfully, my recent blood tests have shown that my titers (antibody levels) are very low and there’s no danger for the baby at present. Because this is my first sensitized pregnancy and because I am 14 weeks and my number still look good, we probably don’t have much to worry about. Duffy is reportedly not usually very aggressive.
However, the worst case scenario is definitely something that has had me shaking in my boots a bit. I wanted to have as much info about our present condition before I shared all of the “could happens.”
If my blood shows an increase in antibodies, it might indicate the beginning of my body rejecting the baby. The baby could then become anemic. When numbers get to a certain level, we’ll need to begin utilizing a specific type of ultrasound to measure how much blood is making it’s way to baby’s brain. If there is a concern then baby will have to have an intrauterine blood transfusion (maybe more than one). In rare cases, babies will be taken early and possibly given more transfusions after birth.
As scary as that sounds, it’s unlikely that we’ll go there this pregnancy. AND with all of the wonders of modern medicine, I haven’t come across a single story of an infant being diagnosed in utero and then dying. There’s also little risk to me.
So… what that means for us is more regular prenatal appointments than I’d otherwise have, regular blood draws, and me asking you for prayer. :)
Our prenatal appointment today went very well! Baby’s heart is strong. He or she is ridiculously active – I can already feel movement regularly! AND because I had a huge growth spurt this week, we did a quick ultrasound to make sure there was only one in there. ;) We only saw one, but ohmygoodness it was a cute one!
I’ll have my anatomy scan as early as possible considering all of these things, which means we have less than 4 weeks to wait until we find out the baby’s gender!!! I can’t tell you how excited we all are for that this time around. We can’t decide on names, and the stress of researching all of this blood ridiculousness has made it difficult to be excited about baby sometimes. Hearing and seeing him/her has been wonderful for all of us. :)
Am I “Back?”
While I’ve continued to journal for my own sake, I’ve so missed blogging and writing for others. I absolutely want to keep friends and family (that’s YOU if you are reading!) up to date with Baby Barr #4, and I am ready for a creative outlet again. So yes, I’m back. :)
I don’t know how often or regularly I’ll be writing. I still feel kind of raw and off center when I write because I’m out of the habit. I imagine it’s like seeing a spouse after a long deployment or separation… I missed writing terribly but it’s going to be a bit before it feels second nature again.
I am also aware that I need to guard my family time and my health, so you will likely be seeing a lot more informal writing than awesome graphic-filled, shareable posts. That was fun for a time, but this isn’t that time anymore.
I don’t know what this space will look like in the future. I absolutely still want to finish my book, write about health, etc. We’ll just have to see. Thank you for being so kind and caring as to want me to succeed and be healthy and happy. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. And thank you for praying for us.
(oh, and btw, if you want to vote on baby names because it’s too fun to resist, here’s our list!!)