Category archives: I Wrote About...

Theatrics and Chaos of Pumping and Nursing

One thing I knew before but am ever more aware of is that every pregnancy, labor, mother, and child are entirely unique. And the combination of each of these unique pieces coalesce into an experience and relationship that can only be truly understood from within. With that preface, I will try my best as I write to share the chaotic beauty of my experience of motherhood and nursing. I do not want to create comparison but to simply lay my journey out there, vulnerable and real, so that we can relate – to some or to much – of this crazy, identity shaking transformation that leaves us wrecked and worn with the deepest of loves.

I was completely unprepared for breastfeeding. I mean, we all try to be prepared for labor and birth and everything about parenthood only to realize we knew so little… or to realize that we completely over packed for our hospital delivery! (I actually used my exercise ball in the hospital so… ha!) Perhaps I couldn’t be prepared for everything breastfeeding related anyway. But the truth is there are just some things I wish could have been different.

Pregnancy was a miracle I would relive over and over (You can see our maternity photos at Sheep River Falls here!). Labor was… well… labor. As my friend said it so well, “I have never done something so painful that had so much purpose.” Adam, our son, was born and placed on my chest. I was desperate to get a glimpse of his little face but terrified I might hurt him if I tried to lift him. I didn’t know how. He was so little. After my mom and the nurse helped lift him up for me to see, they laid him back down and there we rested, Adam hiccuping on my chest. It was surreal and yet exactly how it should be. It was so right for Adam to be here. Then the breastfeeding battle began.

Ever started nodding off during class because you stayed up way too late the night before? Well, due to my labor, I was up very late. All night in fact! But, I had a baby. So it’s all cool. What I didn’t realize is that class was scheduled to start about an hour after Adam was born. Nurses came in and out of the room every hour or so handing us pamphlets, telling us about appointments we needed to book, instructing me through each painful breastfeeding attempt, ordering us formula, teaching us about how much to use, how long breastmilk and formula were good for at room and fridge temperatures, that the amounts to feed Adam increased each day for two weeks based on his weight (Oh great. MATH CLASS!), and a million other things. I looked at them with glazed eyes and nodded politely hoping that something they said would actually stay in my mom brain (which takes on a whole new meaning after birth!).

We began painful, unsuccessful breastfeeding attempts only to have nurses request formula and hand me upside down shields and connectors within hours of our son being born. Painfully, I collected a whopping 1 mL of discouragement they called colostrum. I spent the next 24 hours collecting drops of that precious liquid gold, filling little syringes, and trying to ensure we used them within the time-frame they were still good for at room temperature.

It was a chaos you didn’t have time to stop and think about. In fact, it wasn’t until Adam was over 4 months old that I realized how different my experience was from the many other moms and babies I knew. At that point the frustration and exhaustion reached a whole new level. As soon as I could compare, hear the stories of other moms, and think ‘wow, you have it easy,’ that was when my situation seemed so much worse. But even if we think from the outside that some situations are better and some are worse, the fact is they are all just different – they have different joys and different heartaches – and while shared experiences are encouraging, comparison doesn’t do us any good.

The chaos of attempting breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding with all the set up and clean up created a 2 hour routine that repeated with each feed. It was exhausting and discouraging – at least when I had time to stop and think about it. Most of the time I just did what I had to do because I had to.

“Had to” is a strong statement. I want to clarify that it was simply my conviction to try everything I could to give Adam breastmilk. I hit a breaking point later on but at this point it was what I felt I had to do.

There were multiple reasons why breastfeeding was unsuccessful but the main one was that Adam was born with a tongue tie. A tongue tie prevents a baby from being able to create a proper latch and suck and it causes a lot of pain to the mom. At 1.5 weeks old, Adam had the tie snipped to loosen his tongue and hopefully allow us to quickly establish breastfeeding before he got too used to the bottle. As my poor baby was in pain, struggling to learn for the first time how to use his little tongue, crying out of hunger and frustration, we continued with the 2 hour routine. It’s no surprise that I had difficulty establishing a milk supply. Unfortunately, that low milk supply meant Adam was even less motivated to learn how to breastfeed. It felt like I was losing on every side. One step forward and five back. Every few days there would be one feed where he would seem to latch and feed for 5-10 minutes. But most of the time I cringed with pain as he bit on and pulled off over and over never staying on long enough to take a full feed.

It was a terrible balancing act. If I don’t attempt breastfeeding, he will grow to prefer the bottle and my supply will drop. On the other hand if I become too damaged from Adam’s shallow latch, then pumping becomes terribly painful and I will have to take days away from breastfeeding attempts to heal and that could also cause the same problem. So how many times a day can I attempt and for how long? How long do I let him feed if he does latch? The ridiculous thing is that if he did latch well for a little while, I would often go numb and wouldn’t realize how much pain and damage was happening until he released. And then I had to hook myself to the pump anyway. We attended multiple appointments with lactation consultants, tried nipple shields, positioning strategies, and even a chiropractor who specialized in babies. It just didn’t change the way he latched.

I need to take a moment to celebrate my husband. In those first few weeks, I don’t think either of us worked harder than the other. We were always on the go. If I was pumping, he was giving Adam a bottle. If I was attempting to breastfeed Adam, Jeff was preparing my supplies for pumping. If one was putting Adam down for a nap, the other was cleaning bottles and pump pieces.

I think it was two weeks after Adam was born and Jeff and I stopped to hug. I melted into him. Weak. Exhausted. Worn. I had not been physically near my husband in two weeks. We hadn’t even fallen asleep together because one of us was always up for Adam’s sake. I tried to stretch that hug into an eternity. We were giving everything to this little baby and our own bodies and minds and souls were depleted. But you just keep going.

Kaihla Tonai Photography

It is so interesting how we can experience dramatic high’s and low’s simultaneously. It is shocking to me that in those first two months, in the midst of all of this, I did a day hike at Lake Louise with a group of friends (serious shout out to those ladies for all their help and patience), attended two weddings out of town, and actually got out of the house a lot. I was mostly oblivious to the chaos I was in so I just did it and tried to enjoy the life we had at the same time, and in many ways, I did enjoy life. In retrospect I have so many incredible memories from those first few months.

At two months old, Adam had to have his tongue tie snipped further. Here we go all over again. Baby in pain. Mom in pain. All the small successes were tossed to the wind in hopes of greater gains if we could just endure starting all over… again. Unfortunately nothing changed. We kept trying but Adam didn’t take to breastfeeding any better than before. I could count on one hand how many times he actually breastfed in those first few months.

I remember constantly evaluating when or if I could go places based on not only Adam’s schedule but also my pumping schedule which left only small windows of free time – that is if I wasn’t cleaning bottles or pump supplies. I was deeply grateful for how accommodating friends and family were. I didn’t know if I felt embarrassed or just overwhelmed but ultimately I just had to be transparent – which isn’t always welcomed – so others understood what I needed in order to be out and about or attend an event. As many moms have experienced – I believe out of curiosity more so than judgment – people glance at the bottle, stare at the machine and tubes coming out from under the breastfeeding cover where you wish your baby was instead, perhaps they venture to ask a cautious question or two, and possibly just bewildered because they have never encountered a woman who couldn’t pop that baby on and nurse like nature intended. I chose to see it as an opportunity for me to share, to educate, and to receive support. If I assumed it to be judgement, it only made me bitter and, well, we all know how awesome assumptions are for relationships!.. Not.

So… “Who cares!?” That was my conclusion. Who freakin’ cares. This is what I have to do. I am more than happy to share if people want to listen and if I never get to explain myself to onlookers, I can just look down at the heart-wrenching cuteness that is my son and know that it’s not about anyone else. It’s about us.

I don’t want to make it sound like I had this perfect schedule for bottle feeds and pumping – I definitely didn’t! Did anyone else feel like they were always one step behind their kid? Just as you seem to settle into a routine, another growth spurt, teething, sleep regression or other unknown change shatters all your carefully made plans? I remember one time where Adam was hungry at the same time I was hungry just as I was needing to pump. So there I was, sitting on our bedroom floor hooked up to the pump, feeding Adam a bottle with one hand and eating my cold dinner with the other. The sight was amusing for sure! I am not sure if I felt more exhausted by the balancing act or grateful for the multitasking because (fingers crossed) I would hopefully have a longer break until the next round!

In addition to when, I had to evaluate where I could go. Because I constantly fought with a low supply, I used a medical grade pump to give me the best chance of maintaining what I had. A medical grade pump means you need an outlet. I was surprised to find out that despite our dependence on electricity, not everywhere has an accessible outlet. Not even the mothers room at the airport. This meant that I had to ask a family with little kids to relocate so I could access the only outlet in our seating area as I set up my medical device, covered up, and pumped in public. If I had a better supply, I may have been able to skip the medical grade pump and use a hand pump when I was out and about. But for me, I didn’t feel like I could take the risk of my supply dropping as it usually did when I used another type of pump. My hope was to pump as close to boarding time as I could risk it so that I could last until we landed and hopefully find a plug in the luggage area to set up all over again while my family gathered our luggage.

Now that I am thinking about our airport adventure (which I honestly just have to let go and laugh about) I remember how many bags of supplies Jeff and I brought through security. I think we had 5 between the two of us (and no, a small pretty purse was not one of them. I gave up on that the moment I started carrying a diaper bag! Haha). We had a diaper bag, bottle and pump supply bag, cooler with fresh breastmilk, my medical grade pump in its large case, and one bag with a few things for Jeff and I on the plane. Not to mention our baby. You know. The most important and wonderful reason we do it all.  I have no idea how long it took us to get through security as they scanned and swabbed our belongings and bottles. For anyone who has ever been held up in security looking at a completely disorganized person or family, on their behalf thank you for your grace and patience. I shrugged off what felt like 100 rolling eyes, to focus on just doing what we needed to do. But you can’t help feel the pressure. Sometimes it got to me, knowing I would never have the opportunity to explain my situation. But they don’t need to know. I reminded myself how important it was to us that we were going to visit family, how important it was to us that I do my best to give our baby breastmilk, and how important it was for us to not let an airport discourage us.

It was on this trip, as Adam turned 3 months old, that I realized being out and about was more than I could handle. If I had been able to breastfeed, I could have fed Adam anywhere (or at least that is the ideal scenario) but I had that stupid pump. I have a love-hate relationship with that machine. It is that pump that gave my child the opportunity to have breastmilk and that pump that clipped my wings. What was supposed to be a temporary struggle that would resolve itself ended up becoming our norm. This meant that any outing or trip required a baby-U-haul worth of effort only to come home exhausted wondering if all the energy I expended transferring ‘home’ to somewhere else actually resulted in a restored spirit or just worse exhaustion.

At 4 months I stopped trying to breastfeed Adam and adjusted to exclusive pumping – which was essentially what I had been doing up to that point. The main difference was a small bit of savings in time and pain. I made this choice at this time simply because I did. I accepted it.

At 5 months I broke. I had spent 3-5 hours a day for 5 months sitting on a couch massaging out every last drop of milk my body would make. I had watched more TV shows in those 5 months than I had in my entire life. Depressed with zombie brain, exhausted, and losing my conviction to keep going I asked my husband to find me a reason, something to motivate me to keep going or I was done.

Well, there was a reason significant enough for us to set a goal of making it to 9 months. So now I had to figure out how on earth I was going to stay sane for 4 more months. I honestly wish I had done this sooner, but I didn’t have the mental capacity to do so earlier on. But here is what I did. I gave each pump purpose. The first one of the day was always a meditation or Bible study or prayer. One day-time pump could be for a tv show. Another was to call a friend or family member. Another was to edit photos (Oh right, I guess I haven’t mentioned that I began photographing weddings once Adam was 3 months old because I didn’t have a paid maternity leave. Crazy right?). I didn’t always stick to my plan perfectly, but it made such a huge difference.

Eventually I joined exclusive pumping Facebook groups and there I was able to learn from other mom’s experiences, questions and comments. I saw new moms broken with the same chaos I felt in those first few weeks and moms of multiple children rocking life with strategies and knowledge I didn’t know was out there. A support group is at its least an encouragement and at most an actual life saver. This was another thing I hesitated way too long on. I should have joined these groups a month or so earlier when I first heard about them.

Why do we hesitate on these things? Did you? Maybe discouragement just gets to us…”What could one more resource possibly have that I haven’t already Googled or been to an appointment for?” I didn’t always know what to ask. These more experienced mom’s did. Collectively we were all better off for it. I would highly recommend it.

So what happened between 5 and 9 months? That was when my friends had their babies and I realized how different my life was. It was also when I began to lessen how many times a day I was pumping (in relation to when a baby would usually drop  a feed). As I went from 6 to 5 and then 5 to 4 it felt like I was a new person. THE TIME I HAD! THE FREEDOM! LESS BOTTLES TO CLEAN! LESS MIND NUMBING COUCH SITTING!! I COULD GO OUT MORE!! It was incredible.

What else happened between 5 and 9 months? Adam started moving and reaching and putting everything in his mouth… including the tubes and pumping pieces… whether or not I was attached to them. As much as I tried to time pumps with Adam’s activities or naps, it wasn’t always possible. There were days he would wake up earlier than normal, get hungry sooner than I anticipated, wiggle under furniture, get tired of the jolly-jumper or other toy I hoped would keep him occupied and, well, I was attached to the pump, mid-cycle, with precious milk to protect. I would try to reach my baby or try to keep his curious hands away from the pump.

What was truly hilarious, in hindsight at least, were those times when I had to disconnect the tubes so I could go over to where Adam was, praying I wouldn’t spill precious milk out of the bottles that were still attached to me. It was like engaging in a timed high-stakes obstacle course… while holding an open bottle of exquisite wine you could not replace. Imagine… The Pumping Mother Ninja Warrior…You hear the baby cry…

Will the baby calm? Nope.
Disconnect the tubes.
Move quickly.
Careful not to trip on the stairs, toys, or your own feet!
Reach the baby.
Can you give him something? Nope. He won’t calm until you pick him up!
Don’t lean too far over! If you spill the milk you get a penalty!
Dodge little hands and kicking feet.
Re-locate.
Carefully lower the baby down.
Distract the baby with anything that works.
Rush back.
You are ready to connect.
Sit.
Wait.
Silence.
Re-attach the pump.

And all of that so I can to finish as close to a full cycle of pumping as possible. Crossing my fingers he will last until the end of the cycle.

Now, here is the craziest thing of all. 9 months comes around. Was I really ready to stop? You would think after pumping in airports, closets, corners (literally facing a corner for privacy), cars and at the top of a mountain… after all of this effort, all the spilled or spoiled milk, and piercing pain I would be ecstatic to return that machine and never look back. But nope. Motherhood had something else for me. There is something about feeding your child that is so precious and giving that up is hard – no matter how it was done. However, I had a trip planned to Phoenix with some friends around the time Adam would be 10.5 months old and I DID NOT want to bring my pump through the airport and on the plane just to schedule everything around the machine and haul it home again – otherwise I may as well not go if I was being completely honest. It would have been more work than fun and I didn’t need to pay money for that. So, Phoenix gave me a little more time to transition but a pretty great reason to transition all the same.

I had a brilliant idea. I had heard of ‘back to breast’ – never researched anything about it – but figured, “Why not just swap out a pump for a breastfeeding attempt?” If Adam took, great. If he didn’t, well, I would slowly wean off the pump and be done.

He took.

WHAT!?…….

WHAAAAAT!!?!?!?! AFTER ALL THIS TIME!?????? I was actually way too surprised to roll my eyes with irritation. He breastfed. Over the course of a month we transitioned entirely off the pump to full time breastfeeding. No bottles. No cleaning pump supplies every night. No transferring my pump and supplies around the house with me. No more power pumps (2 hour commitment) to boost my supply each day. We were breastfeeding. My little boy nestled close, calm and content, nursing. (Unless he was simultaneously climbing me while nursing that is.) I was nervous for sure. I had no idea how long it would last or if he would nurse under a cover or in the airplane – but he was nursing.

I enjoyed that month. One month of cuddles with a not-cuddly boy. One month of my body and my baby connecting. One month without hauling around extra bags of supplies. And a trip that was more enjoyable than it was stressful.

And then wedding season arrived. I had 12 hour work days ahead and knew that breastfeeding would come to a quick end.

Adam turns 1 year old in two weeks. That means we made it 11 months. And for the last month before his first birthday, he is still able to have one bottle a day from the very small amount of hard-earned extra milk I was able to produce to store in the freezer.

I was in a craze for 4 months, lost my mind at 5 months, persevered for 4 more months, savored a few precious weeks of exclusive nursing and then suddenly it was over.

It feels anticlimactic. He is eating solids, walking around, growing up all strong and healthy. I couldn’t ask for more. Was it really worth all of that effort? The chaos? The hours? The pain? I believe it was for us. It won’t be something Adam will ever thank me for – and that’s ok. It won’t be something others see as one of the greatest achievements of my life – but it was. And now it is over, masked by another transition to a new stage in my child’s life.

And we just keep going.

Worn with the deepest of loves.

Recommended Wedding Planning Resources

You’re engaged! CONGRATS!!! Pop the champagne, clink the glasses and celebrate!!… oh wait, I mean shouldn’t you start looking at venues… like yesterday!? 

It can feel overwhelming when you start writing out a to-do list for your wedding! Don’t fear! There are lots of local resources that can help reduce the stress and make the time you spend planning your wedding super productive!

So let’s start here…

Engaged – A Wedding Planning Event

Website: www.engagedweddingshow.ca

I placed this one first because their very first event is being held soon on FEBRUARY 24, 2018 so you can still get tickets! Here is how they are defining their event:

“A purpose driven event that redefines the traditional trade show as an interactive experience for couples to plan their wedding together, topped off with a faux reception gala immersing you in your dream wedding.”

Essentially, you get to do two things at once: 1) meet prospective vendors and 2) actually plan your wedding. How does this happen? They have structured the event to guide you through planning:

  1. Start with the “Core Vendors” – venues, officiants, videography, wedding Planners…
  2. Then onto the “Inspiration Showcase” – photo booths, decor, design and rentals…
  3. And finally the “Marketplace” for food, wine, cake, hair, make-up, dress, suit, flowers, and transportation.

Oh, and did I mention the tickets have staggered entry times? That means…. no crazy crowds!!!! (Hallelujah!) Jasmine & Monica, the two wedding planners who designed this event, want to facilitate an opportunity for you and the vendors to actually have real conversations about your day so you can leave this event feeling awesome because some real planning took place, you may have even booked some vendors (or maybe just narrowed down what you actually want), had a lovely drink and a great time.

Click here to book your ticket!

A Practical Wedding – Blog, Worksheets & More

Check out the website here: www.apracticalwedding.com

If you are looking for a simple and straightforward plan, check out A Practical Wedding and click on their first tab “Get Started!” You will find so much more on their site including DIY, Real Weddings and Advice & Ettiquette posts, but this first tab has all the basics you need!

  • Wedding Checklist
  • Figure Out Your Budget
  • Wedding Spreadsheets
  • and more!

What I like most about this site is that you don’t have to scroll through 10 paragraphs to find the few points you actually wanted to read. It is enjoyable to read but gets to the point.

If you feel like it, they have a planner you can purchase to help you stay on task and manage those to-do’s up until your wedding day. It’s called:

A Practical Wedding Planner: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Wedding You Want with the Budget You’ve Got (without Losing Your Mind in the Process)

It’s a bit of a long title but I would say it’s SO VERY ACCURATE! To the point. Like I said.

Wedding Wire – Website & RSVP Tracking

Visit the website at: www.weddingwire.ca

This website has a lot of wonderful features including local vendor lists and wedding to-do check lists. However, my absolute favorite features include:

  1. You can create a free wedding website where your guests can find all the details and info they need AND – best of all – RSVP!! (Because as awesome as people are, we are just terrible at sending in those rsvp’s on time.) They have all the information at the click of a button and don’t need to send you a text the morning of your wedding to ask for the address of the reception… I know right?!
  2. You can manage your guest lists and food options through the RSVP’s! It’s all in one space and neatly organized!!
  3. Design the reception table layout and seat your guests! Have you ever seen couples sitting down with poster board, sharpies and a massive pad of sticky notes so they can arrange and re-arrange the plan for guest seating? Make it easy and try out this feature!

This website has an awesome blog where you can search inspiration from real weddings and vendors so make sure to browse!

FB Wedding Buy & Sell Groups in your local area

You bet! These groups are great for a couple of reasons:

  1. Vendors. TONS of vendors are just waiting for you to write a “Recommendations” post that they can respond to. (The response may actually be more overwhelming than a Google search!) But that is where this next point matters…
  2. Former Brides. They are more than happy to offer advice, recommendations, and to sell you their wedding decor and even wedding dresses at discounted prices!
  3. Deals. Every so often a vendor will post a promotion or discount they are offering which could help you save some $$ for another area of your wedding or for that honeymoon fund!

There are two of these groups in Calgary you can join:

Finally, the best resource there is…

You Two. 

That’s right. If Pinterest didn’t exist, what kind of wedding would make you happy? We can spend a lot of time stressing because we are so worried about having regrets like not making that super cute DIY thing that other brides are making. In the craze of wedding planning we can forget what it is really all about.

My personal advice: Before you commit to anything, ask yourself:

What purpose does this serve on our wedding day?

Does it emphasize what matters most to you? Does it reflect who you are together? Will it bring you excitement and joy or stress and anxiety? Don’t be afraid to be simple. The most extravagant love is simple in that it understands the one thing it is meant for. What is your wedding meant for?

(P.s. Want to see the groom’s reaction from the photo above? Click here: Katrina & Brayden’s Autumn Romance Wedding)

Well, I hope that helps!

And if you are looking for a wedding photographer, I would love if you would browse my blog and give me a shout! I would love to hear from you at ashleydaphnephotography@gmail.com.

Your Kids Will Love Their Photo Session. Here’s Why.

One of the greatest compliments I receive as a photographer is from parents who receive their photo gallery and exclaim, “How did you get these?!” Parents are hoping the kids will be on their best behavior, sit still long just enough to get a family shot and – the ultimate goal – actually have their kids looking at the camera and smiling naturally!

Here is the trick.

Play with your kids. Those smiling pictures are often after a family tickle fight or being tossed in the air – not because they sat still and smiled wonderfully at me, the stranger behind the camera – but because they had fun. Do you usually wrestle? Play peek-a-boo? Toss them in the air? These are great ways to help your child relax and smile!

Bring a special treat. A good bribe at the right time can totally work! So why not bring along a special snack you know they will smile for?

Bring a favorite toy along. Something familiar like a favorite toy they can hold for comfort can help ease them into the session. Allowing your photographer to interact with your child and the toy will help your child to see the photographer as someone who is friendly and kind!

Go with the flow. We want to capture your child and your family in those natural moments – not the forced ones. So be ok to let them guide the session a little bit. If they want to play, play! If they need a break, let’s let them chill. If they are curious about the surroundings, let them explore!

So what if things do go a little awry?

That’s totally ok. In fact, it is completely normal. They are in new circumstances and they are with unfamiliar people. In other words, they are probably going to act a little out of the ordinary. (I mean, even as adults, seeing a camera pointed in our direction can make us act totally weird!)

Take a break. You know your child best. If your child needs a 5 minute break, lets do it! It will make the rest of the session better. It is SO much better to pause when they begin to show frustration than wait until its too late and they are just too frustrated to continue at all. We just take a break, snap some other photos without them, and let them warm up to the camera again.

Create FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’m kinda serious lol. Who doesn’t want to be a part of a tickle fight or being tossed in the air? It may not work for every kid but if you look like you are having fun (and hopefully you really, truly are!) they might want to run right back into the fun!

Let the kids choose what kind of photos we take. Maybe they want a photo of their favorite toy! When I turn the camera around to show them the result it might make them more curious and they might want another photo! Do they want a picture of dad tossing them up and down or of mom swinging them around? Does bunny enjoy having pictures taken? Maybe they will too!

When you have a photographer capture your family, it is more than just the photo you get at the end of the day. It is an experience your child will remember. All of us want your family to have fun and enjoy this experience because if you don’t… you probably won’t want to do it again. Getting those family pictures will be more and more difficult because you and your child will remember the struggle. The photo on the wall won’t quite make up for that – at least in your child’s mind.

This is why finding a photographer that understands and values children makes all the difference. We realize what is going on and try our best to put you and your child at ease. Let’s navigate the unfamiliar environment together.

Here’s the main thing: If you want your children to smile, let’s give them a real reason to smile! Nothing forced or coerced. The goal should always be genuine, playful, joy-filled smiles.

Then we all just might relax and enjoy the session.

And, you’ll get some incredible photos too.

Why Saying “No” is a Gift to Others

I was completely terrified to say no.

Why? Because I found a lot of my value in compliments like, “Wow! You did such a great job! You are so reliable. Thanks for showing up! I really needed help and you came.” And on and on it goes.

The hard part is that these people didn’t see what was really going on in my life. In order to do those things, I was compromising my own health, my family, my husband, my sleep, my eating and just plain old fashioned fun.

I was so busy that I lost touch with what really mattered.

You know, like FOOD. Because apparently that was just an inconvenience. Not nearly as important as all the commitments I had made. (Come to think of it… I may have been in a perpetual state of hangry…) Not to mention, I rarely had time for regular life things like laundry. Ok, so I might still put off doing laundry until I’m on my last pair of underwear… but at the time, pretty much all of my priorities were really REALLY backwards.

As a result, I asked others to give beyond what was reasonable. The standards I held for myself were crazy high and my expectations for other people went right along with it. If you weren’t willing to push through the exhaustion or hunger, you were ‘obviously’ not dedicated to the task.

I remember being so busy that my family and boyfriend (now husband) were constantly rescuing me from the chaos. I was always desperate for help, on the verge of breakdown, and running on empty. I would beg others to help.

But then, the moment would come. The moment I met that deadline and all the compliments poured forth – BOOM! So worth it! SO TOTALLY WORTH IT.

I was so terribly mistaken.

I remember this one particular time when I was panicking to find help and someone, for the first time, without apologizing, holding themselves with a sincere confidence, kindly said: “no.” I remember that sickening feeling in my gut. “But that means, I’m going to fail!”

They didn’t become worried over my worry. They didn’t feel compelled because of my stress. They didn’t even feel bad for saying no. They just so kindly said it and went on to have a good day. (how dare they!) I walked away discouraged.

Reality Check: I needed to drop the ball. I needed to stop creating situations where the people I loved had to come to my rescue. I needed to learn my limits.

One of the reasons I never pulled back is because I had always been rescued – it just never clicked that I might actually be doing too much.

I was doing WAY too much.

Over the past number of years I have slowly de-busied my life. A slow, painful and yet strangely rewarding process.

I discovered laughter.
I discovered the gift of unscheduled space in my calendar.
I discovered naps (my husband is a pro)!
I discovered un-rushed exercise.
I have time to learn how to cook!
I feel a million times better.

It started with someone saying ‘no.’ I tumbled down from my pedestal of achievements and landed in the puddle of chaos below that was my life. But it started me on a healing journey.

I believe that life is spiritual and there is a loving God who created us and wants to show us real abundant life. I had to figure out my identity, my values, and my worth was not wrapped up in all these achievements – and the value of other people wasn’t either.

I was surrounded by incredible people (like my awesome family above) who prayed with me and taught me the way of Jesus that was not caught up in busyness and compliments. The way of Jesus was purposeful work, harmony with all things, holistic health, and rest (to name a few) that led me to experience a more abundant life than I had ever had. Every day I am grateful to know Jesus and humbled that He loves me enough to help me every day.

Once I saw how upside-down my values were, I could begin to untangle them.
Once I saw how I devalued my relationships, I could begin to make amends.
Once I saw how unhealthy I was (body, mind, and soul), I could begin to find health.
Once I saw how chaotic my life really was, I could begin to seek peace.

It all started with the gift of someone simply saying “no” because they knew their values and knew the cost of the compromise.

I didn’t know this yet. I needed to see it demonstrated.

Now, I get to demonstrate this for others.

It is never fun to say “no,” especially when you can see how overwhelmed someone is. Sometimes we do step in. But, in other cases, the best thing we can do is demonstrate to that person why ‘no’ is actually a good and healthy choice.