31 October 2014

His Birth Story: A Guest Post by Kat H

On this here Halloween, I have a very special treat for you all. A dear friend of mine, Kat, recently gave birth to her fourth little baby and has the. most. amazing. birth story. Seriously, you need to hear her story, so I invited her to be a guest blogger and she very graciously said yes. And if you can scarcely believe her story, well, I don't blame you, I don't even think she can just yet.

At 39-weeks-pregnant, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, but with my three other bundles of joy tearing around the house, resting wasn’t exactly an option. I knew that any day could be The Day, so I was frantically squeezing last-minute preparations between my daughter’s dance class and complete strangers stopping to discuss my approaching due date. Milkshake runs, freezing meals, homeschooling my oldest, making dinner, cleaning up. I left the kids with the husband and headed over to a friend’s house for a freezer meal workshop. A few hours in, I bent over to pick something up and felt a slight pop followed by a small gush. Now, at 39 weeks, a lot of thing pop and gush, so I headed to the bathroom to debate whether this was really my water breaking. I decided that at this stage in pregnancy, anything is certainly a possibility, so I headed back out to finish up. Another small gush. As the cramps began, I started shaking, being a bit nervous that maybe my water had, in fact, broken. I finished the last meal, told the host I thought my water may have broken, and apologized for rushing out.

On the way home, I began the phone calls: Tom – the husband – and my mom. Now my mom lives an hour away and had offered to come get my kids when the time came for us to go to the hospital, but I was so unsure of what was happening – I was hesitant to have her drive so far if it was nothing. But as the pressure came and grew consistent, I called her back and asked her to come.

I got home to find Tom upstairs packing a bag for the kids. I ran to the bathroom and finally confirmed to everyone that my water had, in fact, broken. It was time to get moving. My daughter was SO excited and giddily followed me around, riling up her brothers. Cue the strong contractions. The kids tried to hug me, but with the pain, I had to ask them to back off. I felt awful when one of my boys asked me if he would ever be able to hug me again. I fought off a contraction as I pulled the kids in for a big hug and kiss.

As we waited for my mom to arrive, Tom and I started to wonder if the baby would make it the full hour it would take her to arrive, plus the 45 minutes it would take us to drive to the hospital. We called a friend and 10 minutes later, we were in Tom’s truck, cruising down the rural country roads.

Now in my past birth experiences, at least with my two boys, I was able to incorporate hypnobirthing into my laboring process: taking deep breaths with my eyes closed, listening to music, telling my body to relax, all that great stuff. But as my husband was speeding down the back roads – yeah – it wasn’t happening this time. I sat in the passenger seat with my eyes glued out the front window moaning LOUDLY. I tried to find my internal voice to tell me to relax; I tried not to tense up with each contraction; I tried to take deep breaths. None of it was working.

“Do you want me to go to the closer hospital?” Tom asked.

Really? Really? We were way past me thinking anything clearly, so I just shouted, “I don’t know!” and Tom kept driving.

I don't think I once stopped the moaning and groaning. Looking back, I think I was in denial that I was going into transition. I thought we could make it. Still making noise, husband still speeding, we're about to the freeway when things got crazy. The pain was intense. The urge to push hit as Tom asked if he should pull over.

 “I DON'T KNOW!!!”

Tom whipped in to the nearest gas station and called 911. Instinct took over as I did my best to prepare to give birth in the front seat of a pick up truck. I heard Tom shout to the operator, “No, I don’t think the head is out yet!” as I shouted what I felt: “Head! Head!”

And suddenly, there he was. My little baby boy, on the seat of his daddy’s truck.

Tom ripped off his shirt to swaddle our newest son and yanked out a shoelace to tie off the cord. I felt every emotion in the world tear through my body. I was shaking, crying, and so very thankful that it was night and there were no spectators. Mixed in with feelings of love and adoration, I felt guilt over the seat of the truck and that Tom had sacrificed one of his favorite shirts. The insanity of it all overwhelmed me as the ambulance showed up, the paramedics assessed us, and we finally made our way to the hospital. It was an incredibly fast birth, and I have no idea how long I pushed, but the midwife assured me that everything happened in the best way, given the circumstances. My son weighed in at 8lbs, 3ozs and after 24 hours in the hospital, we were given a clean bill of health and discharged. Oh yes, and a birth certificate with the local gas station listed as the place of birth.


I couldn’t sleep in the hospital. And I probably won't ever again. But that's what happened! I did not get my water birth or my essential oils with my dim lights and soft music. I had my baby in the car. Sort of makes me wonder about the next time. I just might stay home.

Photo by Kim Anderson and used with permission by the baby's mama : )

29 October 2014

#AwkwardSleepingPositions

This is how Eleanor fell asleep and currently is sleeping, as I type these very words - one handed. Note to self: never let the kids fall asleep in a position you can't maintain forever.


It's really cute, though.

Never Quit on Your Hardest Day

I felt kinda crummy leaving my last post full of such whining and complaining, so I thought I'd write a little something else while I nurse a hysterical Eleanor to sleep. Abigail locked herself in her bedroom with something she stole off the kitchen table, but we're going to just run with it for a minute.

This one night during the hellish first two weeks of breastfeeding, I was "this close" to begging Matt to run to the store and buy formula. It like 2:00 in the morning, Eleanor had been waking up every two hours to nurse, and watching Matt fast asleep on his half of the bed infuriated me in that irrational way that all rested people infuriate new mothers. We live about a 1 minute, 45 second drive to Meijer, which is pretty much a Target meets grocery store and is open 24/7, for those of you who've never know the pleasure of shopping at a Meijer. In about 10 minutes time, I could be sound asleep and Matt could be feeding Eleanor. It sounded downright glamorous to my sore, tired, mastitis-ridden body at 2am. But I remembered this line I'd read somewhere during one of my frantic Internet searches, looking for tips on surviving breastfeeding:

Never quit on your hardest day.

I repeated it to myself over and over as I nursed Eleanor and tried to convince her to stay asleep in her little basket instead of at my side.

Never quit on your hardest day.

I somehow survived that night, and all the subsequent nights. I now considered sleeping with Eleanor to be quite enjoyable and nursing to be one of the easiest parts of parenting. I'm so glad I didn't quit when things got tough, and it's led me to realize that "don't quit when you're down" is spectacular life advice. Never go grocery shopping when you're hungry. Never punish your kids when you're angry. Never blog when you're emotional. Never make decisions at night. It just makes sense: don't make decisions when you're weak, tired, discouraged. Wait until you've had a good meal, a few minutes to calm down, a vent-session with a friend, a night of good sleep.

So now I try to apply that advice often. I don't call Matt and beg him to come home in the heat of a meltdown. I don't make cookies when my blood sugar is low. And I especially don't have serious discussions when the post-partum depression is raging.

I file it away with the only other piece of advice that has never steered me wrong:

Never wake a sleeping baby. Waking up Abigail in hopes of adjusting her nap schedule or out of fear that she might ruin her bedtime has never once worked out for me.

The first native woke the second native and now even the cat is done with life.

C'est la vie.

27 October 2014

King Cold

You know that moment when you have a still-bleeding open wound but both your children are all, "never surrender!" so you throw on some extra bandage tape and strap on a child? Yeah. That's where we are.

But I kid. Neither of my children can actually say, "never surrender."

I felt such relief when a few days before surgery, the last of the colds finally faded away. But when a few days after I got home, a new round of colds appeared, I kind of lost it. This is the worst cold Eleanor has ever had. It's one of those "can't breath and nurse at the same time, so just cry" type colds. And it just makes her want to nurse for comfort. Like, round-the-clock. Plus poor Abigail, also sick, also wanting Mommy snuggles, frustrated that she has to miss school. Not-quite two-weeks is the longest that no one has had a cold since the preschool open house in late August. And in that time I had surgery. I'm frustrated and bitter. I'm mad at preschool. I'm mad at people who keep saying, "colds help build immune systems!" when Matt and I are coming down with every other cold Abigail brings home. We're living paycheck-to-paycheck with Matt's sick and vacation time (hindsight: we shouldn't have taken a few days off to go up north). I'm starting to think there will never come a day when we aren't sick. I'm clinging to the promises of those who go before us: "the first year is the hardest."

I'm really, really trying to get through this without resorting to massive amounts of television. Two episodes of Curious George per day is my goal. I wish instead of shoveling advice down my throat about the cry-it-out method and how baby-wearing spoils children, the people in my life would give me advice on surviving double colds with an open wound. Sorry, mini-rant there. Anyway, someone needs a diaper change and someone else needs a nose wipe. This too shall pass, I know.


Guess we've outgrown the Rock n' Sleeper (she upside-down in it):



At five months:



Before she got sick:



Four days post-surgery and the day before anyone got sick:


23 October 2014

Recovery

Trying to recovery from something bad enough to land a person in the hospital and caring for small children has got to be among the top hardest life tasks. Oddly enough, when they pulled the tube out of my kidney, they didn't stitch, staple, glue or otherwise assist in the closing of the open wounds, either in my skin or in my kidney. I'm just suppose to wear a large bandage over the opening, changing it often until my body closes and heals itself. For the first few days, I couldn't shake the thought that I could insert a pencil into my back and it wouldn't stop until it reached the inside of my kidneys. Weird. The goodness news is that things are healed enough that I don't need any kind of pain killers anymore.

Anyway, I can't wear Eleanor or push the stroller until at least Monday, plus Abigail came down with another freaking cold. Today is the first day I've been able to pick up either girl without pain. Aside from the physical pain, there is also the mental/emotional frustration of being stuck inside the apartment (I can't walk or stand for longer periods of time without my kidney hurting), trying to function with crappy sleep, and dealing with a screaming, over-tired-but-can't-be-worn-or-nursed-down baby and a doesn't-nap-any-more-because-of-preschool toddler who is in that sick-but-you-don't-know-it-yet, can't-tell-you-she-doesn't-feel-good-because-she's-somewhat-non-verbal crabby/bratty period of life.

At one point I stuck them in their room together, grabbed a pint of Fro Yo, a bag of chocolate chips, and a spoon and sat in my closet.


And for 15 minutes, no one cried or yelled "NO!" and I didn't clutch my phone and wonder if today I should use up Matt's last precious day of vacation time.

Oh goodness. I can't wait until this is all healed up and I can just be done with doctors for a little while. I'm looking forward to this weekend as a huge relaxing break for the whole family. On Saturday our town square has doggy trick-or-treating and we're planning to take the girls out to watch. No joke, we're seriously going to spectate dogs in costumes trick-or-treating and I'm really looking forward to it. Until then, my friends, I'm doing my best to keep my daily expectations low and my temper lower.

19 October 2014

Surgery Re-cap

It is 5:53am and I'm sitting at the kitchen table with a pint of Ben and Jerry's Half Baked Fro Yo and trying to figure out if I'm in pain. I know that sounds kind of weird, but having a tube in your kidney feels kind of weird, but in an uncomfortable way, not a painful way. I was actually doing a pretty good job of sleeping, but then I started to pass some little stones, and they are just too much to sleep through.

The surgery was very successful, both were, actually. First I had a procedure (that I was awake, but sedated, for) in which they cut a little hole in my back and my kidney and inserted a small tube. The second procedure is the one in which they broke up and extracted the stone. I was completely out for that one, and it was a good two hours long. Before I went under, anesthesia told me it would be important for me to stay on top of the pain, requesting meds before I felt like I really needed them. The longer I waited, he explained, the more I would need to control it. And he was absolutely right.

I woke up in a fair bit of pain, but it took a long time for the general anesthesia to completely wear off for some reason. I kept falling back asleep once I was transferred to a regular room, so I'm not sure if or when I got my pain meds. I do recall waking up at one point in tears and asking for medicine, but I guess my nurse didn't think I was very serious as I kept falling back asleep. Finally I did stay awake, but she wasn't returning my pages to the nurses station. I was moving around in the bed trying to find a comfortable position when I set off the bed alarm (apparently I was a fall risk and wasn't allowed to have my back leave the mattress), my room flooded with nurses and finally one flagged down my nurse, and I finally got on top on my pain.

The doctor told me in his office that it would be an inpatient deal and I'd need to spend the night, but when I was having my pre-registration interview with the hospital, they told me I was only slated for an outpatient procedure. So I called up the doctor's office and his nurse confirmed that it was an outpatient surgery and I could go home on Friday. Despite everyone saying it was outpatient, I had a feeling I would be spending the night, so Matt and I talked about what we wanted to do with the kids and I packed a few extra things. My doctor did confirm that I would be staying overnight just before I went in for my first procedure. Matt and I had decided that he would take Eleanor home for the night. We reasoned that I would sleep better (and therefore heal better) if our clingy newborn wasn't fussing in my room. I had spent a few weeks building up a supply of pumped milk at home and I did nurse Eleanor in between procedures. After the second surgery, though, I was in way too much pain to do any nursing. The nurses were adamant that I'd been given some drugs I couldn't breastfeed through, and I was in too much pain to research them myself (although I did ask for a list of everything I'd been given so I could look them up with someone whose main objective wasn't avoiding liability).

Anyway, Matt left in the evening before Abigail went to bed (we left before she woke up and we didn't want her to go an entire day without seeing her parents). Matt assured me that everything went well once he got home: Eleanor, who refused to drink a bottle at the hospital, realized she was starving and chugged a few ounces, she slept quite well through the night considering, and Abigail was so stoked to see Daddy that she acted out in every way possible to try to get attention. (Or back at us for leaving her. Something like that).

The night for me went about as well as trying to sleep in a hospital can. The nurse who came on duty at midnight was significantly more attentive and never forgot my pain meds. Between the nurse, the tech, and the blood draw lady, I was up about every two hours, which I definitely utilized for pumping to be sure my milk supply stayed strong. I actually even increased production by over-pumping. (I did pump and dump since I hadn't done any research. Plus I don't need a stock-pile any more).

So I actually did have a stent overnight, but it was a bit different that the stent I had last year and I also had a catheter - the combination wasn't as painful as last year's stent, but it did still cause a bit of pain. Thankfully they pulled them both on Saturday morning; I was pretty eager to have them gone. I was discharged around noon-ish and made it home in good shape - it's hard to be jostled around in car when you've had your insides all scraped up. When I had the stent in last year, I threw up from the pain every time I rode in the car and it lasted about a day after I had it removed.

I do still have a tube running from my kidney through my back. It's connected to a bag that I have to carry with me. It doesn't hurt per se, but it feels really, really weird. Like when I shift around, I can feel the tube against my kidney. It's weird to feel things with your kidney.

The doctor thinks they got everything out, and they're testing the fragments to see what is causing my stones. I'll go in on Monday morning to have the final tube taken out and hopefully get some answers. In the meantime, I'm passing a few little stone chips that didn't get suctioned out, avoiding any lifting, coughing, sneezing, or laughing (my back muscles are sore from where they cut into them), and trying to figure out if I'm in pain.

Overall, though, I think I'm doing well - stable, and not in too much discomfort. I was able to successful continue breastfeeding Eleanor, who was pretty excited to be getting her milk from the source again. Thank you all for the prayers!

16 October 2014

Pre-surgery Freakouts

If nothing else, at least the apartment is ready for surgery. Despite my best efforts, I still ran around the apartment in freak-out mode today, trying to accomplish every single little thing I could possibly think of. Cleaned the fridge, wiped the cabinets, trimmed the girls' nails, did lots of laundry, packed bags, laid out clothes, jotted down some notes for my mom about Abigail. The teeniest little thing would send me into a panic: "WHY THE HELL ARE THEY STARTING PRESCHOOL 15 MINUTES EARLIER? OBVIOUSLY I NEED MORE THAN 4 DAYS NOTICE. SERIOUSLY. I NEED, LIKE, A FEW WEEKS TO PREPARE." And when Abigail came home with a note in her backpack that a few students in the mainstream classes came down with hand, foot, and mouth disease, and another note about a class costume party on the 30th, I had to call Matt again. "SERIOUSLY? HAND, FOOT, AND MOUTH DISEASE? I HAVEN'T GOOGLED IT YET, BUT I WILL. AND WHEN I DO, I'M GOING TO FREAK OUT ABOUT IT." I found myself staring in disbelief at the paper, "WHAT IF DURING THE HALLOWEEN PARADE, ABIGAIL COMES INTO CONTACT WITH SOMEONE WITH HAND, FOOT, AND MOUTH DISEASE? WHY ISN'T HER CLASS BEING QUARANTINED? MAYBE I SHOULD PULL HER OUT OF PRESCHOOL."

I tried, I really did. I even went for an hour-long walk today to try to drain myself of nervous energy. I'm so nervous about being in a lot of pain after the surgery. Oh goodness, please pray for me tomorrow. Pray that I won't need a stent. And pray for Matt, who is going to be trying to pacify an exclusively breast-fed baby who will be away from mommy for a good half of the day.

Bleh. In the meantime, here are some pics I finally downloaded off my camera. Lazy morning snuggles:

Abigail never did this:

They are working on counting in preschool. Abigail loves to line up my crafting magazines and count them. "Sies, sies, two, one."

She rolls over now. Every time I put her down. And she always forgets she hates being on her tummy until she's back on it. She appears to be on the early side of her milestones, which has me excited. If she's walking by May, she can be a flower girl in Aunt Kate's wedding with Abigail.

Poor girl has my nose:

We're always enchanted when the kitty walks by.

Eleanor looks so much like my grandma. My grandma said she looks a lot like her mother, who was all Swedish. Except she has Matt's hair, who has his mother's hair, who is all Polish. So this is my Swedish baby with Polish hair.

15 October 2014

Preparations

A lot has happened since we last spoke, my friends. It all started last Wednesday in the early morning when pain from my bad kidney was strong enough to wake me up. I had to get some fasting-necessary blood work done that morning, and of course, I had to drag both girls with me. I returned home, packed for our trip up north, stared in disgust at the five bags I needed for us three girls for two days, unpacked, re-evaluated and repacked, and ended with four and a half bags. By the time I arrived at Matt's work to pick him up early for the drive up north, I was passing a rather painful kidney stone (how the hell is the boulder not blocking any littler stones from passing?!). I was crying, yelling, stressing. I think it says a lot about Matt that he didn't turn around, get back out of the car, and go back to work. We calmed down and let the stone finish passing while grabbing some food and I regained my composure.

A four hour car trip and two sobbing, car-weary children later, we spent a few days in a not-in-any-way child-proof cabin relaxing in that "on vacation, yet I have small children" way that is only sort-of a vacation. I drove home with the girls by myself on Friday while Matt stayed up for the weekend for the annual whiskey tasting. Eleanor broke Abigail's record and scream/cried for 1 hour and 25 minutes in the car, I managed to keep my temper when hauling both girls to Mass, and there was one point when I was trying to move a bookshelf across the living room by myself and it started to collapse with two small children running/rolling around underfoot. Yet somehow I managed to keep my temper from exploding by burying everything inside and when Matt returned on Sunday night, both girls were in bed, the house was clean, and I was quietly reading a magazine.

Oh, but it keeps going. The girls' dresser is - literally - falling apart and I would love to replace the long-and-short piece with something more efficient. After a few weeks of mulling over options, I finally decided what I wanted and checked out Craigslist to see what our budget should reflect. When I found what I wanted for an amazing price, I set up an appointment for early Monday morning. Monday went something like this: Get everyone up, fed, showered, in the car, drop Matt off at work, drive another 30 minutes, meet my mom at the dresser, buy it, follow her back to my parents' house, drive home, get Abigail to school, do some laundry, pick Matt up from work, drive out to my parents' house, begin restoring the dresser, drive home, put the girls to bed, make bread, collapse in bed myself. Get everyone up, fed, showered, in the car, drive 30 minutes to my parents' house, drop the girls off, buy paint, work on the dresser, drive home, get Abigail to preschool.

As I was finishing up at my parents' house yesterday, Abigail expressed her complete frustration in the long-lasting upset in her schedule by throwing my dad's drill bit set down the basement stairs. The girls need some normalcy before the craziness of surgery; we all do, Matt argued. I agreed to shelve plans to finish the dresser until after surgery and try to relax.

But that very same afternoon, I realized the dozen things still left to do before my surgery and panic set in, so I continued the freakout at home. Surgery has prompted nesting instincts as if I were pregnant: the fridge needs cleaning, the cupboards need inventorying, the bathrooms haven't been cleaned in an embarrassingly long time, I need to get a few things from the store, the bookshelves need another round of baby-proofing. Ugh. This morning, the girls were totally feeding off my panic. There was crying, biting, hair pulling, and more crying.

We over-exerted ourselves, yes - but life is always oscillating between bored out of my mind and so busy I can't sleep, so why the heck did I keep resorting to adrenaline-fueled panic get to me through it?

But it took me writing this post to realize that the reason everything kept turning into panic and desperation is because I'm scared. And I'm channelling my fear into panic. I'm scared of surgery. And for three reasons:
-I'm scared that it will end my breastfeeding
-Or that the decreased time nursing will bring my fertility back (which of course my paranoid mind has decided will mean we'll get pregnant right away and I'm not ready yet).
-I'll have to have the stent put back and re-live the most painful experience of my life all over again

I know that I'm largely being irrational. I have strategies in place to make sure I am still nursing; if my fertility does return, we'll re-read the NFP book and figure it out again, just like we did after Abigail was born; and, well, the stent is the most legitimate fear, but it's only a possibility that I'll need it, so I shouldn't waste energy worrying about it right now.

But that doesn't change the fact that I am scared. Now that I realize what I've been doing, I plan to re-channel that energy to do something productive, like getting the apartment ready for me to be off my feet for a few days, finishing off this baby weight, or doing Abigail's homework with her (it's like 4-6 pages a week! She's three!).

Oi. Deep breaths, slow breaths. Writing really helps me sort everything out, bringing about a sense of calmness in itself. Thank you for listening.


07 October 2014

Fail

We're going on our first family vacation with Eleanor (back to the cabin) soon and I was desperately hoping I could whip up a few loaves of cinnamon bread to take with us. I wanted everyone to oooh and ahhhh over my amazing bread making skills. I know, really humble. I also wanted to make food to eat on the trip to impress my husband with my money-saving skills. And I wanted to bring up some food to make when we get there so we wouldn't have to depend on my in-laws to provide all the meals for us. And I wanted to bring the food with us because I'm not going to be up there very long and I didn't want to waste precious vacation time grocery shopping. And before we leave I'd hoped to buy cat liter and replace the battery in my watch, which has been dead for an inconveniently long time. But it doesn't look like any of that is going to happen. At all. Except maybe the cat liter. Because I can't exactly leave kitty without a full liter pan.

I am having a seriously hard time letting go my desire to do everything and be perfect. Cause the only way getting it all done is going to happen is if I turn into a freaking basket case of stress, plant Abigail in front of a movie, and let Eleanor scream. And I don't want to do that because it's not healthy for anyone.

I just told Matt the probable fate of our meal plan and he called the local bar/restaurant in the area to discern if they sell pizza. They do. My husband is amazing.

That is all my friends. Thank you for letting me spill my failed super mom/wife guts to you.

I have 28 Years

I like that way of describing age. It's probably just the novelty of it, but thinking of age in such a way makes me more conscious of my time.

I'm so happy with what I've done with my 28 years. I'm in a happy, loving marriage. I have two amazing kids, and I get to be home with them everyday. I life in a safe, warm place, and we drive a car we could afford to buy new and pay in full. I graduated college in three years and with honor. I got to live in a town voted by the Travel Channel to have the best beaches in America. I got to live in Chicago. I opened up an Etsy shop. I wrote a book. I think I'm strong and I even think I'm kind of pretty.

My childhood was a lonely and depressed one, and I remember thinking as a 12 and 13-year-old that I was never going to get married or do anything fun with my life. I remember thinking that since I had no dreams or goals that maybe I was suppose to die before I was an adult. I remember being in college and desperately wishing I had life stories to share with people. I wish I could tell that little girl that everything was going to be just fine. I wish I could tell her that she was going to be so very pleased and thankful.

Do you want to know what got me on the "I love my life bandwagon"? I heard back from the publisher about my book. Spoiler alert: they are not going to publish me.

But I can't talk about it without a huge, glowing grin because of the why. "The people in our marketing department say they do not want to take on another personal account related to Down syndrome at this time, as they feel they're struggling to get attention for the books we already have."

The editor wrote, "We all think you write very well" and that "you have a story that's worth telling." She said, "We admire your ability to express your thoughts and feelings so candidly and eloquently."

Is isn't that I'm not good enough. It isn't my writing or the length of my book. I write a dang good book, it's just that everyone who wants a book already has one.

It was hard to submit that book. I was really stepping out of my comfort zone - thinking about my life, my reflections, my vulnerability, and my growth in tangible, legible format for everyone to read. I wondered how people would respond, how the people I've parted ways with would respond. I wondered if some people who are near and dear to me would recognize the less-than-flattering depictions of themselves. I wondered if the girl who stopped being my friend because of Abigail would ever read it. If our mutual friends would recognize her.

Lots of things in the last 28 years where hard - taking college classes in high school and summer classes in college to graduate early, packing up everything I owned into essentially the space of a large walk-in closet and moving 1200 miles away from everyone and everything I'd ever known, giving birth after an emergency c-section and a miscarriage.

But it has all been so worth it.

I'm not necessarily happy with all the tiny details (living in an apartment and living in a rural town), but I'm so overwhelmingly in love with my 28 years as a whole.