Zemirah’s Birth Story


In just three short days, our sweet Zemirah Capri will be 2-years-old! I can hardly believe it! It’s true what the wiser and more experienced parents say: the days are long, but the years are short. There have been some difficult and long days (and nights!) these past two years, but there has been so much growth through the difficulty. The Lord has used Zemirah to sanctify both David and I; we have learned so much about ourselves and about our Good Father through this short journey of parenthood. I look back so fondly on her birth day – where the pain, sacrifice, love, and beauty of parenthood started – that I wanted to share her birth story with you all.

Zemirah’s Birth Story

Finding out I was pregnant was an unexpected surprise, but we were excited to become parents, and did looooots of preparing. We read multiple books, went to all the doctor’s appointments, took a couple months worth of classes, re-did the budget, and stocked up on all the essentials. I say “we” in all of this because David is my greatest gift and blessing from the Lord and was the most supportive partner I could have hoped for. Anyways, we felt prepared. However, at 38 weeks pregnant, the midwife asked if I was going to go all natural and I said “I’m going to try.” I did not feel prepared in the area of labor and delivery, but knew I would like to have a natural, un-medicated birth. Sure, I did my yoga and practiced my breathing, and we watched natural birth documentaries together, but it was all so overwhelming and scary.

Cut to January 30th, 2017; I was 39 weeks and 1 day pregnant. I was up around 3 AM because of cramping; I had been cramping for a couple of weeks now so I thought it was still Braxton Hicks. But because of the discomfort I could not go back to sleep, so I finally got out of bed around 4, went to the bathroom, and saw a little blood. Rarely does someone get excited about bleeding, but this was one of those times! I woke David up and said “I think today’s the day!”, called my mom, who instantly started looking up flights, texted my in-laws, sisters, friends, and was so excited just bouncing on my birth ball, drinking coffee, and watching the sun rise with David. He called into work and told them I was in labor (in hindsight, he definitely could have gone to work that day. Ha!) so he could spend the day laboring with me.

We definitely should have been taking advantage of the little pain I was having and kept sleeping, but we were too excited. We ended up taking a little nap around 9 AM, but that slowed my contractions down, so after waking up, we went on a two mile walk. On the walk, I noticed a change in my contractions. They felt like when you get a muscle cramp, but in my groin and hips, and I felt a lot of pressure, but they were still very bearable at this point.

Later that afternoon, my mom called to give me her flight information, so we did laundry, got the pull out couch ready, and went to the grocery store all while timing my contractions. They were about six minutes apart at that point and still very mild; however, we felt certain it was real labor. After the grocery store, we just stayed at home watching Netflix, eating light foods, and timing my contractions. David rubbed my back and feet like the wonderfully supportive labor partner he was.

By the time my mom got there that evening, my contractions were about two minutes apart but still mild, but we thought it would be wise to head to the hospital. Around 9 PM we headed to the hospital; we were excited, and I thought I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have much pain in labor. Wrong! So we (my mom included) carted all of our bags and baby paraphernalia up to the L&D ward and I got checked in triage. What a disappointment to find out I was only three centimeters dilated and 60% effaced! The nurse sent me to walk around and told me to come back in two hours to get checked again. During this walk, things began getting more intense. I could no longer walk through my contractions and was starting to feel nauseated. We walked all around the hospital while my poor mom napped in the waiting room, I would lean on walls for support during contractions, and David would put counter pressure on my hips and remind me that my pain had a purpose. We were going to meet our daughter soon!

At 11:30 PM we went back to triage to get checked again, hopeful they would admit me and we could get comfortable in our room. I was still at a 3… the nurse suggested taking a Benadryll and napping. We went back home disappointed, but I knew things were changing. I almost vomited on the short drive back home because of the pain. When we arrived home, I took a Tylenol PM and David and I laid down. It was midnight at this point and we were exhausted. However, sleep was not in the near future.

I was starting to moan with the contractions and David reminded me not to fear them; they were good, and the pain was temporary and purposeful. Instinctively I knew I needed to get in a warm tub. David drew me a bath and I spent the next two and a half hours in there on my hands and knees “vocalizing” (it was a horrifying, guttural moan that probably sounded like a cow dying) while David, and at one point, my sweet mother, poured warm water on me and whispered prayers of strength over me. I vomited twice and, at one point, felt like I was going to faint. It was at this stage I said, “I can’t do this”, but David reminded me that I was made for this and I COULD do it!

Around 3 or so (no idea of exact time lines at this point hehe) we decided to go to the hospital. I did NOT want to get out of that tub and get in the car, but knew that labor was nearing a close. When we got to the hospital I could barely walk and needed a wheelchair to get down to L&D triage – I’m not sure why the Naval Hospital thought it would be a good idea to have L&D be on the second floor and waaaay down the hallway! I got checked and was at a six so I could be admitted. The nurse asked me, “Do you still want to go natural?” This was my fork in the road… I said “yes”.

As we were getting set up in the room, I asked for something to be sick in; the nurses calmly handed David a barf bag which he frantically tried, and failed, to open. Looking back now, we both laugh about that moment! After thirty excruciating minutes of laboring in the bed so I could receive my antibiotics for Strep B, I could finally get up and get in the shower.

David spent the next hour and a half praying over me, putting lots of counter pressure on my lower back, and spraying me with warm water. I’ve never been so in love with him as I was then. I knew he was so exhausted, yet he was constantly at my side supporting me through my labor; I absolutely could not have done it without him. I was reminded of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet when David knelt down on the cold hospital bathroom floor to lovingly wipe the blood from my legs.

My mom was waiting (well, pacing, really) out in the hall for all of this; she knew it was almost time. She was also incredibly loving and sacrificial in all of this; I know she was praying, too. I definitely could not have done the first week postpartum without her!

I began feeling monumental pressure and felt that I needed to push; David called the nurse, but she said to wait because my water hadn’t broken. Trying to wait and not push was honestly the most painful part of all. At one point, David and I were hugging facing each other and while trying not to push I accidentally BIT him! Another moment we laugh about now haha! Finally, David called the nurse again and said he thought it was time. They checked me and asked “are you sure your water hasn’t broken? Because it’s time!” To this day, I still don’t know when my water broke, but at that point really didn’t care; I was so ready to deliver our sweet Zemirah.

The doctor came in around 5 AM and instructed me to do a few “practice pushes”, then left to go check on her other patients. But my body knew what it was doing and didn’t need practice. The nurses raised a bar up on the bed so I could squat. Suddenly they told me to lay down and frantically called the doctor back in. David overheard one of them saying “I’m not about to catch this baby!”

I felt such relief to finally be able to push with all my might that the pain went away, the contractions slowed down, and instead of pain, they came with a wave of power and strength. In between each push, David would give me a sip of water; he was right by my side the whole time, telling me I could do it, and when Zemirah was almost earth side, he looked at me with misty eyes and excitement saying, “babe, I can see her head!” After pushing through the “ring of fire”, at 5:26 AM, she came out in one swift motion, and before I knew it was on my chest. She was finally here!

We spent that first “golden hour” together skin to skin, practicing getting a good latch (thanks to the help of my wonderful mom!), while David and I ooed and awed over the little lady we were finally getting to meet.

Though painful (and long!), I am so thankful for Zemirah’s birth and the way it played out. It is truly only by God’s grace that we had such a wonderful experience; it strengthened our bond and helped us bring our daughter into the world the way we dreamed.

Zemirah’s name means “song of joy” and in those moments immediately after birth we were both truly feeling the joy of the Lord. We were sitting there in awe as the sun rose on the morning of Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 holding our darling Zemirah Capri, our song of joy.


23 Pounds and Other Non-Scale Victories

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I didn’t know if I would ever write a post like this because I don’t want this to be a “weight loss” blog, but here I go. I have shared a little bit about my food journey in my first post, here, and how the Whole30, as cliche as it may sound, truly changed my life and my relationship with food. If you want to learn more about Whole30, I highly suggest reading The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig, the co-founder of Whole30. And for you mamas out there, I have found such encouragement about raising healthy eaters in the Whole Mamas Club podcast; I hope you check out these resources!

As far back as I can remember, even back to first or second grade, I wanted to lose weight; I was a chubby, but happy, girl with crazy, curly hair (in fifth grade, I was nick-named Tornado thanks to my ‘do) who just wanted to fit in like other kids. I recently went through some old journals where I was in 7th grade and documenting everything I ate while berating myself for eating Oreos…a 12-year-old should be out having fun with friends, not worrying about calorie consumption. It was the same all throughout high school, but add in some mean boys commenting about how “you aren’t as hot as your big sisters”, or “you’re prettier when your hair is straight”, so I kept trying to fit in and meet their beauty standards.

Then in college, I gained the classic “freshman 15”, but tried not to worry about it; however, anytime I would go out for late night fast food with my friends, I would feel guilt to the point of wanting to vomit up everything I just ate; that was “bad” food only contributing to my weight gain. I eventually cut out sodas and started running my sophomore year; I also started experiencing symptoms of IBS, so I lost weight fairly quickly. I was, and still am, so proud of myself for running a half marathon that spring semester, but my relationship with food was still off, and my anxiety was high.

Throughout college and into my first year of marriage, my IBS got so bad that if we went out to eat, I would be sick all night. My darling husband saw me throwing up while sitting on the toilet so many times during our first year of marriage that I’m sure he wondered what he had gotten himself in to! On top of being sick so often, I was also an anxious mess, and had gained about 12-15 pounds in our first year and a half of marriage. I had just decided to start working out more regularly when we found out *surprise!* that I was pregnant. So of course from there, I just kept gaining and getting more and more anxious; despite my efforts to have a healthy pregnancy, I gained 40 pounds.

After our sweet Zemirah was born, things took a turn for the worse in a battle of postpartum depression and anxiety (which I will write about at another time), and I not only “hated myself” (actual words I said to David), I couldn’t sleep despite my exhaustion, had zero energy, and felt absolutely out of control with everything: life, weight gain, motherhood, and fear. I tried the best *I* could (never truly handing my burdens to God), to deal with my anxiety, and cooked us healthy-ish meals, but because I was nursing, ate so many carbs, and not the healthy ones like fruit, whole grains, or potatoes. The carbs I consumed were more along the lines of bread with refined sugar and flour, brownies, cookies, ice cream, doughnuts…you know. Carbs, dairy, and sugar are the staple comfort foods when you’re feeling depressed and anxious…but in reality, only make things worse.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2018, Zemirah and I were living with my parents while David was deployed, and I wanted to lose the rest of the baby weight before he came home. I found this “diet” called Whole30, and knew a few friends who had done it. It seemed hard, but I love a challenge, so with nearly all my family joining me, we tackled our first round of Whole30! I was discouraged to learn that I had only lost 5 pounds at the end of it (others in my family all lost 10-15!), but felt so much better about myself that I kept it up, not a strict Whole30, but very clean eating. When I moved back to California, I was surprised to learn that I had lost a few more pounds, now totaling 12 pounds lost! I kept exercising to tone up for David’s return; he was so surprised to see how different I looked! He had just come from a steady diet of pizza, ramen, and soda, and I really wanted him to experience how wonderful the Whole30 was, so we tackled a round together: his first, my second. It was during this round of Whole30, that I really began to notice my non scale victories.

I noticed that my anxiety was greatly reduced; even though we were starting to prepare for a huge career change, I felt down in my spirit that everything really would be okay.  I also no longer struggled with insomnia! I used to take a Melatonin every night before bed just so I could fall asleep, and hardly slept through the night even when Zemirah did, but that was all changing. During my second round of Whole30, I stopped taking Melatonin, and would fall asleep peacefully without help and sleep hard all night, and even if I only got 6 hours of sleep (because, let’s face it, babies wake up early), I would feel so rejuvenated in the morning.

(Just a side note: we are currently a mere four days away from a cross country move, and, though I have my freak out moments, I still generally feel calm, with no chest pain and no insomnia. That is huge for me!)

After that second round of Whole30, I was beginning to notice how much I truly enjoyed working out; I started going to Stroller Strides and doing those hour long work outs twice a week, and on the off days, walking and/or running. I hadn’t run in a while, but I noticed a dramatic increase in my energy levels, and even ran my personal fastest mile! (Once we get moved, I am going to try and break that record again 😉 ) Exercise is much more fun now than it used to be, and I appreciate seeing all that my body can do!

In addition to the changes in exercise, sleep, and anxiety, my IBS is all but gone, and I now know with certainty which foods trigger it. And emotionally speaking, my relationship with food has changed entirely; I don’t view foods as “bad” anymore, but just as something to have very sparingly, and I choose to focus instead on which foods make my body feel good! I’ve found that going through life focusing on the good things (whether food, people, circumstances) as opposed to the bad is a much better way to live.

So, counting from around December of 2017, I have lost a total of 23 pounds. That doesn’t really seem like much; you hear the stories of those pills/shakes/wraps and how you can lose 30+ pounds instantly, but I love seeing the slow change of my body. I have been learning which foods fuel me, which make me feel yucky and anxious (hello, refined sugar), and have been slowly enjoying the process of a true lifestyle change. Weight will fluctuate, and that is simply a fact, so the number on the scale is not as important as the non scale victories! Because, yes, I lost fat, but I’ve also lost anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, mood swings, and low self-confidence!

I am working on, with the help of God, losing the desire for other people’s approval, and finding my true worth in Him! It is my prayer that you can do the same. Celebrate your non-scale victories…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!