Welcome to the world Georgia Quinn.

We woke up at 5:00 a.m. like we typically do. The night before I was in quite a bit of pain. Del and I were in the middle of arguing about nothing, and every time he’d state his case the baby would make a sharp move that caused me to cringe. “She seems to only be moving when I say what I think,” he joked.

On my morning walk I started timing my contractions. Braxton Hicks seems to be something that my body loves (although I’m not as big of a fan). The week prior I thought I was going into labor because I was having contractions three minutes apart for an hour – and then they just stopped. But from 5:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., they went from every eight minutes or so, down to seven, then ranged between four to six minutes.

Around 7:00 a.m. I told Del to pack the car. We had a 9:00 a.m. check up with my obstetrician, so we were weighing whether to go to the hospital’s labor floor or go to the doctor’s appointment. We opted to go to the doctor’s appointment early.

Del’s mom has been watching Carly, and she came over at 8:00 a.m. I wasn’t sure if I was really in labor or if it was Braxton Hicks. But at one point Del was taking a very long time to pack something in the car. Instinctually I yelled, “You need to hurry up because we have to go!”

On the walk into the obstetrician’s office I had to stop walking when I had a contraction. When they did the COVID screening at the front door they asked if I needed a wheelchair. Every woman was giving me the look of “Girl, you’re in labor.”

My obstetrician did the normal checkup. He checked to see how dilated and effaced I was and said, “No change since last week.” In that moment I thought Braxton Hicks was going to drive me to insanity. Then a contraction hit me, and my obstetrician said “I was just kidding. You are five cm dilated and we’re admitting you right now.”

They wheeled me to the labor floor. They got the usual IVs going and did all the paperwork. And then my body took over.

After 45 minutes I told our nurse that within the next three contractions I was going to deliver the baby. I told her to call our doctor now and get him in here.

I did one more contraction and knew I was closer. I did another and I knew I was closer still. I asked her to check whether I was at 10 cm, and she said with one more contraction I probably would be. The last contraction took hold and the doctor walked in. He checked me over and said, “You’re ready to have this baby.”

From the time the doctor walked in to the time he left – it took nineteen minutes. I pushed twice. Before I pushed the first time they did a quick reminder of what I had to do. I repeated it back and gave it everything I had. While pushing out I let out a gigantic scream. To which the doctor replied, “You held that note a long time.” I waited for the next contraction to hit and then did one more amazing push.

Georgia Quinn Belcher came into this world at 11:09am. She is perfect. Dark hair, silver eyes, and my chin.

They handed her to me and she breastfed right away. My greatest fear is that she would not eat well, and God decided to settle that for me right away. Its a gift for which I’ll always be grateful.

Through this experience I learned how amazing my body is. I told everyone my due date of July 2nd was wrong and I was going to give birth sooner. I was right.

When I doubted whether my Braxton Hicks were real contractions, my instincts took over and told Del to pack the car faster.

When they asked if I wanted pain meds I said no. First of all, I’m not sure they could have gotten them to me fast enough. Second, my body told me I could do this. I went through 10+ years of severe neck pain. I knew I could handle a few hours of labor.

I knew she’d be there in three contractions and she was.

I knew I could push her out quickly and I did.

My body has a history of trauma. Trauma from others, trauma from accidents. Sometimes I’m frustrated at my high cortisol levels and the fact that I feel everything. However, all of those moments led me to this one. They have put me so in touch with my body that my labor was nothing short of a very fast miracle (Why have a meeting that could have been an email?).

Once again God made a beautiful thing out of me.

Welcome to the world Georgia Quinn Belcher. Our down to earth queen. The fifth in a line of amazing George’s. You will take hold of this world and make it better. You will be fast and furious, and your father and I can’t wait to help you get there.

Maternity pictures

It has been very strange being pregnant the last few months. A pandemic, protests, a continent on fire, and so much more I’m simply forgetting in this moment.

To be honest, it’s scary thinking about giving birth mid-pandemic. I worry that in my last few weeks I may get sick, and have to be separated from a newborn. Our family has gone to great lengths to stay safe. We’ve bought all of our food online, we haven’t hung out at anyone’s house, and we’re wearing masks wherever we go. If you had told me in 2020 we would be living through a pandemic I’m not sure I would have believed you. I studied the Spanish flu in school, never thinking I’d see parallels of it in my own lifetime.

We have also been incredibly fortunate in many ways. Del and I have both been able to work from home. At work I’ve been thrust into data on the pandemic. It’s both stressful and fascinating. Del’s parents moved to Jackson right before the pandemic hit. Grammy has been able to watch Carly since schools and daycares are closed. I’m incredibly grateful for this extra time we have had with family.

Tomorrow I’ll be 38 weeks pregnant. I got Carly out of bed today and sat with her. I looked at her and cried, thinking that it wasn’t long before she was no longer our only child. I’m going to miss all of the time we had with just her. Thank you Carly for teaching me how to be a mommy. You are more than I ever dreamed.

Yet, we’re also incredibly excited for our second child to come into this world. I’m sure there will be difficult times, but I know there were also be so much joy. Who doesn’t love baby snuggles?

Like we were able to do with Carly, my talented husband Del took maternity photos. A COVID maternity photoshoot. Although it’s hard to tell, downtown Jackson is fairly empty. Even though it’s empty, it sure is beautiful.

Dear Baby Belcher two, we are all excited to meet you soon.

On building a COVID legacy…

Legacy is an important thing. A well examined life means thinking about the future, but it also means reflecting on the past. It means asking “How did I live my life, and what do my actions say about me?” Many things define a person. Good or bad, right or indifferent, we can use many things to define our lives. Some use family and friends, others use cars and money. The most common measuring stick is our actions, and how we have chosen to treat others along the way.

When I was getting divorced nearly ten years ago, I had several people tell me I was being too kind. I had one person told me I should have tried to get alimony from my ex. I had another person tell me they would never give an ex-spouse a dime of money. My philosophy was that I wanted what was fair, and I wanted him to get off my back (duh). So I quickly gave up more money than the average person. I also did one other thing: I tried to never do anything I thought I would regret. When I look back on getting divorced, I have no regrets about my actions.

The last few weeks have been tough for my family and I, and tough for many people we know. In mid-March, we were supposed to attend a gala. Instead, we stayed at home. In late-March, we were meant to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday in Wisconsin. Instead, we stayed at home. Sunday was Carly’s second birthday. Instead of having that Sesame Street party, we did a fifteen minute online get together. I have left the house a handful of a times in a month; mostly for prenatal care.

No person I know has not lost something due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Every person has had events cancelled or delayed. Many have lost jobs or work. And some have lost so much more. As the death toll continues to rise, as of yesterday, our country has lost over 23,000 lives. In the next few weeks and months, we will lose more.

It isn’t just those 23,000. It is their loved ones who suffer, and they must suffer alone in their homes. If just 25 per lost life are sad or hurt over those 23,000 – that would mean about 575,000 are feeling the pain of a loved one lost. That is a few under every man, woman, and child in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (pop. 592k) feeling a sudden loss.

And what about the 580,000 Americans that have tested positive for COVID? Given the lack of testing, delayed tests, and those who could never afford treatment – that number is grossly underestimated. What if we do the same math as before? If 25 per sick person are impacted in some way by those 580,000 – it would mean 14.5 million American lives ‘impacted.’ What is impact? Just living with knowing? Holding their hand as they suffer? Bringing them a tray of food as they are quarantined inside?

While the numbers are large, the impact is exponential. And the unknown consequences of a world living through a pandemic will live on for decades. We all know that after this life will never be the same again. We are living through a trauma together.

Michigan is a following a ‘Stay home, stay safe’ order. My family has taken that to heart. We stay at home, and we only leave if it is essential. When we do go out, we wear masks and gloves. In our actions, we support our governor, white ribbon workers, and we are doing everything we can to lessen the spread of this pandemic.

In a few months, I want to be able to give birth to our new baby, and not be scared I will have to be alone in the delivery room because the pandemic has lingered.

In one year, I want our daughters to be able to receive safe childcare where the threat of COVID is minimized.

In five years, I want to know I worked with my community to re-build our lives after this pandemic.

In ten years, I want to look back on our lives and know we did everything we could do prioritize the lives of the people around us.

In twenty years, I want to tell Carly that I put aside childish desires (like a gala, or a birthday party) for the health of a stranger I do not know.

In thirty years, I want to tell my grandchildren I was not petty or silly. I want to tell them I did not protest over dirt, knowing those in Syria and Yemen do not even have their own land to fight over during this pandemic.

In fifty years, I want to tell my maker that I did unto others as I would have them do unto me. I will tell Jesus I said kind things, I put the needs of others above my own pride, and that I did it with as much love and compassion as possible. I will tell Him that my legacy was one in which He could find great delight.

How do we see others?

How do we choose to see other people?

And what does that mean about how we see ourselves?

At counseling a while ago, her closing remark to me was, “You are doing almost everything right. And you need to start focusing on the good things you are doing.”

Like people, my view of others and myself is simple and complex simultaneously. In a moment it is black and white, and then upon reflection there are more than fifty shades of gray. There are back stories, weird moments, genetics, parenting, feelings that should have been squashed but came alive, and who even knows what else?

“Jenn is the worst. An inconsiderate and selfish thief who cares nothing for her family or for others.”

While also…

“How sad she must feel to cause herself and others such pain. She can’t be a true narcissist. I hope whatever is causing her pain ends soon.”

And on myself…

“I’m so glad I’m not as inconsiderate as <insert name of person I’m judging>.”

While also…

“What does <insert name of person I’m feeling insecure about> have that I do not? Smarter? Kinder? Better looking? A better soul? What do I lack? Where have I failed?”

In moments and thoughts my brain will drift between strange extremes. Others and myself are the best, worst, deepest, most shallow people I know. I make others and myself the hero and villain at the same time.

The truth of a person, is of course, somewhere in between those shades. Maybe they are gray, but maybe they are purple, green, orange, fuschia, turquoise, or something else? We are bright shining examples of the best of humanity is some areas. We are just plain damn average in most areas. And in other areas, we are dark, gray, weak, and struggling.

Yet it all begs the questions, “How should we view ourselves?” and “How should we view others?”

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7, 1-5 (NIV)

And also…

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13, 34 (NIV)

A person who is truly self-reflective, is often freer from judgement. The ability to look within, see your own flaws and then ask “Why am I judging this person?” is a skill. But it is also something that is demanded of us. Being cruel is easy (I know, because I can be great at it). Yet taking the plank from our own eye is the only thing that gives us a clear view of the humanity of others.

Of course, Biblical context is everything. In John, Jesus is speaking to his disciples a short time before Peter will deny him. He is telling the church that will be built what is needed of us. After betraying him, and after denying him, Christ did not falter to lay down is life for his disciples. Let’s be honest, I’m probably not ever going to reach that level of grace and forgiveness. But I let myself be inspired by His gift.

We steal, because we are lacking. We lie because we are empty and filling a void. Others are worthless, because we feel worthless. That is not how God sees us. He tells us simply that he loves us, and that in return – we are to love others. With his remaining moments, God asks us to see us and others as whole people who are worthy. Worthy of love, beauty, and redemption.

I pray I can be better at seeing myself and others with such light.

On PTSD: An Update

I love that as a society, we’re more open and honest about sharing the mental illnesses that are impacting our lives. There’s a certain strangeness, though, that I also wonder about.

I love that as a society, we’re more open and honest about sharing the mental illnesses that are impacting our lives. There’s a certain strangeness, though, that I also wonder about. If part one is identifying, and part two is stating it out loud, what is part three? My hope is that it’s “Here’s what I’m doing to try to get better.”

I wish getting better at anything took little time at all. I wish I could dream of an improvement, and make it happen overnight. But that isn’t how behavior works; especially when many of our behaviors are complex. They’re rooted in DNA, patterns we learn from parents, school socialization, tv sitcoms, trauma, and an amalgam of various things.

My entire life I thought I was weird for my behaviors. I had labels of where my clothing went in my dresser. My class schedules were printed and color coded. I was rarely late, hyper organized, and terrified of failure. I hear it isn’t normal to like looking at spreadsheets?

At a counseling session I was talking about my daily routine. For fear of sounding overly type A, I won’t tell you how it goes. But very kindly, she said “In the counseling world, we can this ‘over-functioning'”. At work, my team jokes “Well, I’ll do task X, but probably not as well as Stephanie.” And Del says that sometimes I’m “Just a little extra.”

I like who I am. And my organization, flow charts, and amazing planning skills have gotten me far in life.

When you go through a lot of trauma, over an extended period of time, and experience trauma repeatedly – it changes you.

I could “Let go and let God.” But it’s unfair to say that when as a child I wondered “How did God let this happen?” It feels strange to put so much faith in something that also let that bad thing occur. You’re either omnipotent, or you aren’t – right? Yet, I know the evil that causes trauma is not of God, but of man.

Data is beautiful because it makes the world black and white and simple. And having no marriage or children is easier because it makes the world less complicated. The more things you add the harder everything gets.

There are not enough Bible passages, quips, one liners, or coffee dates to fix a world that feels constantly unsafe.

I once told Del I see all of the world, and I hate it. I can’t go into a room or on a street without scanning for every possibly of danger. I live my life at a 10, in constant fear of every threat. The car that might swerve, the woman who might launch at me. I have a very long list of things I control so I can feel safe.

I wasn’t on guard those few times, and danger struck. So if I am hypervigilant, maybe the world won’t hurt me again? If I’ve learned one thing from society, it’s that the victim gets blamed before the attacker. So I kiss Del and Carly every time they leave; certain one day they won’t come back. A deer will hit the car on a snowy day, and everything I love will be taken away.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. Life always on edge, afraid of what’s around each corner, is exhausting. And it can sometimes be exhausting for Del, who runs to keep up.

I have, in spite of this overwhelmingly sad few paragraphs, gotten better. Two contradictory things have helped me: the safety of patterns, and a messy family.

Knowing I wake up and go to bed with same pattern, day in and day out, for years – allows me to feel like the world is safe. Yet too much control would drive anymore batty. Carly and Del, are my wonderful opposites. Del and I fight a lot over the fact that he sees the world as safe. And watching Carly, fearless of everything, helps me drop my guard. If they can see this world as safe, so can I.

I can go to bed a little later, eat dinner a little earlier, and have a little extra ice cream. If I work out 55 minutes instead of an hour, the world won’t stop spinning. Little by little I arc towards better. Little by little the world is somewhat safer. Trauma fades, and in it’s place stand a husband holding me tight and a baby grabbing ahold of everything she can.

On PTSD…

In kindergarten we had a special speaker come in to talk to us about good and bad touching. We were told to just say no, and that if an adult touched us in a bad spot to tell our parents or someone we trusted. At five I remember thinking, “But, they’re adults.” Although I could not vocalize it then, I remember knowing that older people have more power. What our kindergarten teacher did not know, was that I was already a victim of an adult’s power move.

Instead of leaving the talk feeling safe I remember feeling guilty. Perhaps if I had said no that would have worked? Perhaps if I had just told an adult sooner that would have done something. At five, I knew power, and guilt, and that sometimes evil people win – and there is nothing we can do about it.

I started seeing a counselor two months ago. Since having Carly I have been having panic attacks at work and at home. I will get an email, my heart will start racing, and a panic attack begins. I had one last week driving to work when I got stuck in traffic, and I had another two days ago when my husband tried to help me when I was cooking.

Post traumatic stress disorder.

My entire life I assumed I was a naturally anxious person, and felt bad about my reactions to every day scenarios. I thought I was weak for my little freak outs. I get up at 5am, never miss a day of working out, chart my day religiously, and organize my world to a meticulous degree.

Having a baby has a way of throwing off your game. I knew going into parenthood I would need to get better at adapting to the unexpected. My friends kindly joke that I’m going to have to learn to be better at letting go of my plans (they’re right).

But let’s be fair here.

Some people get the glorious luxury of traveling through most of their lives thinking the world is a safe place. Many people get to go to age thirty before they find out about things that go bump in the night.

I was five. What they stole from me was more than innocence. They stole, for the rest of my life, that feeling of safety that allows most people to float through the world with a deep sense of trust that everything will be ok.

For the last 20+ years I have not operated in the mind set of “everything will be ok.” I operate in the mindset of “Have a back-up plan for your back-up plan.” In my patterns and plans I have found safety. I use to feel like a terrible person for being so well planned. Friends are comfortable with adapting and going with the flow. When others change plans on me it sends my heart racing.

But how could my heart not race? There was a time when the world was safe, and that was unfairly stolen. Not knowing what else to do, my beautiful and adaptive mind created a universe where I could live safely. My spreadsheets kept me warm at night. My charts tucked me into bed. When I look back at what I created without knowing why, I stand in awe of myself.

But then – Carly happened.

I look at Carly and see the world as it should be. Her world is safe, everything is new, and no one wants to hurt her. Seeing lights turn on is a magical event that for which we should charge admission. I want to be better, so Carly can keep seeing the world in a safe way that I can hardly remember experiencing. My old patterns (sigh) – I’m working to let them go.

I am trying to plan less, and be more free. I am trying to adapt when all I want to do is hide in the closet, because no one can hurt me when the doors close. Life does not exist in the dark where no one can hurt us. Life exists where there is light. Slowly but surely, I’m flicking the switches to turn the light back on. And I have sweet little Carly for showing me that everything will be ok.

Give me grace to get there. Help me to trust that this world can be safe.

On the fastest way to wash bottles…

In our house I breastfeed and then give bottles while the baby is at daycare. By the end of the day – we have a lot of bottle parts. And bottle washing takes FOREVER. If you’re pumping or formula feeding I’m sure you feel the pain. The first time I washed all the bottles it took about twenty minutes. I quickly did the math and realized that would suck the life out of me. So I vowed to find a better way! This might be where you’re thinking “Use the dishwasher!” I had that thought too – but our dishwasher kind of sucks. I did not trust that bottle parts would get cleaned, and I was concered small parts would get ruined. I also felt like washing by hand would allow me to feel like the parts were 100% clean.

WHY BOTTLE WASHING TAKES FOREVER

What takes so long in washing is individually (by bottle part) doing one step, then another, then another. You wash, rinse, and then put on the rack for each part – that wastes time. If you want to save time – you need to think of bottle washing like a car assembly line. You’re going to get all the parts together and move them from one stop to another – like Ford did the Model T.

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Dirty bottles
  • A bottle brush (OXO from Amazon)
  • A bottle rack

STEPS

  1. Get all your stuff together. Have your dirty bottles in one spot, and have a drying rack ready.
  2. Scrub both sinks so you know they’re clean. If you don’t have dual sinks you can use two tubs.
  3. Fill both sinks (or two big tubs) with really hot water. The sink at the beginning of your line put soap in. The sink at end of the line just put water in for rinsing. To save time I fill both sinks at the same time. While the sinks are filling disassemble your bottles in the soap water.
  4. Using your bottle brush, wash each part. Scrub each part. I do bottles, then lids, then nipples, then flanges. I save flanges and nipples for last because they require cleaning with the small end of the brush.
  5. Toss each cleaned part into the rinse water.
  6. Then, pull the bottles out of the rinse water and put them on a drying rack.

And – you’re done – time saved.

The 5 best things I bought for pumping…

When I was pregnant, I wrote a post about the five best things I bought for my pregnancy. Time has moved along, and I’ve gone from the pregnancy stage to breastfeeding and pumping. Breastfeeding, for me, has been incredibly rewarding. It has definitely had it’s downs (baby Carly didn’t latch for the first week) and it’s ups (baby Carly is now in the 90th percentile for everything). Along the way I’ve made a few purchases to make pumping easier. If you’re in that same life stage, here are some things that have helped me.

  1. A Spectra S1 pump

If you are a woman that likes to do things and not hold two bottles to your boobies – this is the pump for you. It has a battery! So you do not have to be chained to an outlet to pump. I can pump at night while cleaning the kitchen and making iced coffee for tomorrow. It is also a closed system, which means you do not have to wash the tubes out. And if you learn anything about pumping it is that there is a ton of washing. Also, it has a “massage” function. It doesn’t actually feel like a massage, but when you’re having milk sucked out it’s nice to have options. Insurance fully covered my pump, so I got the one that had a few extra parts and pieces.

2. A feeding/pumping bra that isn’t super gross

Why Victoria Secret is not all over this is beyond me. When you look at pumping bras online, they’re disgusting. Imagine a gigantic rubber band you strap on. Just because I’m a mom does not I have lost my sexuality and want to wear gross underwear. This bra is pretty dang good (I haven’t found the perfect one yet). It is kind of bulky and more on the pricey side, but it looks beautiful and holds bottles super well. Plus, you can wear it to breastfeed AND to pump. Overall, it’s a win.

bra

3. An all-in-one back pack

My third week back at work I almost threw out my back hauling my laptop, lunch bag, bottles, and pump from meeting-to-meeting. I was tired of my shoulders and back hurting from lugging around so much stuff. Enter in: this backpack. It holds everything! There’s a space for my laptop, a space for the pump, and a little cooler section for bottles. Plus, there’s enough extra space for my lunch bag. Now, when I need to go to meetings I just throw it all in one backpack and go!

backpack.PNG

4. One of these ice packs

I walked into my six month check up, and there were packs of formula, a baby toy, and this ice pack. I grabbed the formula for a few families I know, took the baby toy for Carly, and then snagged three of these ice packs. I like them because they wrap around the bottles to keep them cool when I’m travelling around. Plus, they also work to keep cans cold.

ice pack

5. Extra parts

One of my current fears is running out of flanges, bottles, or extra parts. I do not want to be at work and feel like my boobs are going to burst. So ease my worry, I bought one extra set of everything. Although Amazon has a lot of stuff, I’ve found great prices on lactationconnection.com. When Amazon has not had the parts I wanted, Lactation Connection has items in stock.

Happy Pumping Y’all!

On a more efficient way to meal prep…

We just had a baby, and she the most wonderful addition to our lives. However, between the baby, trying to do some extracurricular activities, and working full-time – it was difficult to think of when we would have time to make dinner. We thought about eating out more frequently, but that gets expensive quickly and I have a lot of food allergies. We thought about eating more pizzas and pre-prepared meals, but we prefer cooking fresh food.

At work I’m on the performance improvement (PI) team. Basically, we’re a team of people that sit around and think of ways to make everything more efficient. We help the people we work with plan their days so they can get more done. So I figured, why not PI our food? A co-worker had told me, “We just eat the same thing all the time.” At this point in our lives, I thought that was a fantastic idea and a great way to simplify a family that just added a new human.

Enter – meal prep Sundays. The idea is that we:

  • always buy the same food, so we do not have the spend time coming up with a new grocery list
  • except we have ‘Wild Card’ days where we either make something from what we have in the pantry or we go out to eat
  • we prep a egg casserole to make for morning breakfast
  • we make enough food for dinner so we can take it the next day for lunch
  • we prep everything in 2 hours on Sunday – then on the day of we cook what we prepped
  • we also found that this saved on doing some dishes. Because everything prepped in one sitting we wash fewer knives, cutting boards, pots and pans

If you want to make this happen, here are the two tools you need:

  1. The grocery list. I keep our list on google drive so my husband and I can access it whenever we need to. We also get everything at Aldi because it is more affordable and takes way less time than going to a larger grocery store.GROCERY LIST
  2. The meal prep chart. I printed this out and pinned it on the fridge. When Sunday hits we move along and make everything.

food prep

I wanted to share in case it saves any of the active people in my life some time.

Enjoy! And happy cooking.