Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Surprise of My Life

This past Father's Day, I opened a letter from my estranged mother that I'd received a couple weeks prior. I'd set it aside to read later, because sometimes I need to be in the right emotional state to read and process her letters. You will soon see the symbolism of opening it on Father's Day...

In this letter, my mom told me a secret she'd been keeping for my 41-year-long life. She told me that my late father had not been able to have children. So she could have a biological child, they elected to do Artificial Insemination, using a sperm donor. She told me the name of the hospital, the name of the Dr, and that if I wanted more information, to call the Dr. 

Receiving this information was, as you can imagine, shocking. It still is. Less, but I'm still finding myself undoing decades of beliefs about myself and my origin, my medical predispositions, my children's medical predispositions, my characteristics and tendencies...the list is endless. 

The day after I opened the letter, I looked up the Dr's office, and called. The Dr had retired a few years prior, and all medical records from the 1970's, I was told, had been archived. There was no way to find more information. I was told that back then, most sperm donors donated very few times, and they were always promised anonymity forever. Little did any of them probably anticipate where we would go as far as DNA testing in the next few decades.

My second step to quell my curiosity, was to order a DNA kit from 23andme.com. I'd known about this website for years, and had often thought I should submit my DNA to test for the MTHFR genetic mutation that is affecting so many people nowadays. I never got around to doing it, and I now wonder how all of this might have played out differently if I had. 

I knew there was a chance of finding DNA relatives. I assumed I probably wouldn't find my sperm donor, since he probably wanted to remain anonymous, and surely wouldn't submit his DNA to 23andMe. I thought maybe I'd find half-siblings, who also came from his sperm donation. Being raised with three adopted brothers, I've always had a curiosity about what biological siblings of mine would look like. What traits would be similar? What would be different? I think this natural curiosity is what has made me revel in, and be completely enamored with my own children's similarities. I love how much they look alike! 

Mostly, I wanted to know what genetic markers for disease I have, for mine and my children's sake. I've assumed I was genetically predisposed to Alzheimer's, since my social father died from it. He was also legally deaf, and I've wondered if my own son's hearing loss was caused by an illness he had at 3 1/2 years old, or the genes he may have inherited from my father (I can now rule out genetics). 

I submitted my DNA kit late-June, 2017. They said it would take 6-8 weeks for results. 

Four weeks later, as my family was on our journey, moving from North Dakota to South Carolina, we stopped in Knoxville, TN for our last night of lodging. We got to the hotel at 1:30 in the morning. I needed to check my email, as we were in the process of buying a home, and I knew there may be important documents waiting for my review. Just before sleep, I checked my email, and found an email from 23andMe, telling me my results were in. I knew if I clicked on it, I wouldn't be able to sleep. I knew if I didn't click on it, I wouldn't be able to sleep. So, since I wasn't sleeping either way, I let my curiosity win, and opened the link. 

And I found him. 

I found the name of my biological father. He had written some personal ancestral history, had no picture, but he was a 50% match. He was my biological father. 

So, I did what any other curious adult in 2017 would do...I searched him on Facebook, of course! There were like 20 men with his same name, so I started browsing through profile pictures. As soon as I saw his face, I knew deep in my soul, that he was my father. I felt connected to him. I have his eyes. I could see my own face in his. My smile in his. The shape of my cheeks in his. I just knew, without question, that he was the one. 

I was scared about approaching him with this information (although, I was pretty sure 23andMe would be notifying him shortly anyway!). I have longed to be parented by a nurturing parent my entire life, and I wondered if he had any desire like that for me. I was scared of being rejected. I was scared of angering him by destroying the anonymity he believed he'd had. I started wondering if he intentionally put himself out there because maybe he wanted to find me too? Or others like me? (That was not the case...he submitted his DNA for the same reason--to see if he had the MTHFR genetic mutation. He never even thought about finding children from his brief time of sperm donation in his early twenties. As an aside, my belief is that I'm likely his only child resulting from his donations. I'm basing this on the information I've been given by him and my mother as to how frequently he donated (between 5 & 10 times), an how often his sperm was used for my mother (I was conceived on the 6th try). 

I attempted to sleep, while mulling over if and what I should say to him. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much that night. At some point, I woke up and drafted a message to him. I was cautious, tentative, and let him know I wanted to respect his boundaries and privacy as much as he wanted. I told him I wanted as much or little contact with him as he wanted with me. And I left it at that. 

The next afternoon, when we arrived at our new home, I found a message from him. He was curious about me. He seemed happy that I found him, but worried about the feelings of his four other biological children. He asked me to keep this information quiet indefinitely, until he had some time to process how to handle it. He also invited me to talk with him on the phone that night. We did. Until 6 in the morning. He has since told his whole family about me, so I don't have to keep this quiet. 

You guys, it has been the most incredible, healing, gift from God to have this man in my life. I truly believe God orchestrated all of this over the last 41 years, to bring us together at this perfect point in time. Much earlier, and I think one or both of us would have felt much differently about knowing one another. I see so many ways that God knew he and I both needed each other, at this point in time. I see ways that we are both helping each other heal from past hurts, especially familial ones. 

Only a few close friends of mine know (and obviously I'm letting the cat out of the bag now!), but the last three years of my life have been the most difficult of my whole life. I have experienced so much relational trauma in multiple relationships in my life. It seemed as though I'd feel like it had to be finally over, and then another huge, hard thing would happen in a relationship in my life. It was relentless hurt, after hurt, after hurt. I've been in counseling to try to deal with some of this relationship trauma, but even my amazing counselor told me that what I needed was beyond her scope, and that I needed to seek specific trauma therapy to help me heal. There are not many resources for this kind of treatment in North Dakota, and that is a big reason why we began looking to move out of the state. There are other reasons, but that was the driving force. I needed to be on a journey to heal, and we realized I wasn't going to be able to get the help I needed, if we stayed in North Dakota. 

I find it lovely that on my literal journey to heal (driving from North Dakota to South Carolina), I met my father, whom, I believe, God gave me as part of my figurative journey to heal. How amazing is that?!?! I get giddy just thinking about it. 

So much has come of this beautiful relationship with my father. There are reasons I want to keep it private, sacred, and close to my heart. Maybe someday I will share more. But for now, I'm just sitting here, enjoying this gift I've been given in this father who looks like me, sounds like me, acts like me in so many ways, has similar mannerisms as me, laughs like me.  It amazes me that I didn't know him for 41 years, yet I am so like him. So much nature. So.much.nature. And now we get to nurture. Nurture each other on our mutual paths to healing. 

I am so thankful for this beautiful, redemptive relationship we have both been given. And I wanted to share my story with you. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Coconut Oil Suncreen Recipe

I've mentioned before how the Princess and I have been hosting Homemade Toiletries class for our fellow homeschool friends (and their mamas!). We love this special time together, making fun concoctions of useful stuff that we can rest easy about because they're made with non-toxic ingredients.

Some of you probably already know the benefits of Vitamin D3, which is most easily obtained from direct exposure to the sun (i.e. with no sunscreen).  We try to get our D3, so we don't always use sunscreen, but if we are going to be out in the sun for hours and hours, we do use sunscreen to avoid being burned.  Here's the sunscreen recipe we used in our Toiletry Class. We love how it turned out!

Coconut Oil Sunscreen


~ ½ Cup Virgin Coconut Oil
~ 2 Tablespoons Non Nano Zinc Oxide (Non Nano Zinc Oxide does not enter the bloodstream, so it is safe to use Other types of Zinc Oxide will enter the bloodstream, so it's important to use Non Nano).
~ 1 Teaspoon Red Raspberry Seed Oil
~ 3-4 drops of a child safe essential oil of your choice

TO MAKE: Wear a mask and make sure not to breathe in Zinc Oxide. Make sure to research your essential oil choice to ensure it is safe for a person your age to put on their skin.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Transfer to your container & label your jar. 

Easy Peasy! Enjoy your worry-free sunscreen!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Healthy, Homemade Hand Sanitizer

So this year, The Princess and I have been hosting Homemade Toiletry classes for some of our homeschool friends who have girls her age.  It's been super fun teaching them recipes for things we've been making for awhile, and also learning new recipes to teach for our class.  We've done some really awesome things, which I hope to catch up on in the blog at some point soon.

Today we hosted a class on Healthy, Homemade Hand Sanitizer. It was so FUN! Seriously, you guys, this stuff is so easy and cheap to make, I wondered why I haven't been doing this my whole life! It also helps us keep our hands clean, while avoiding that toxic, cancer-causing commercial stuff.  That stuff gives me the heebie geebies!  So, here's the recipe:

You'll want to purchase a glass bottle to keep it in since it contains essential oils, and those things can corrode plastic.  I purchased some like this.

For 2 oz bottles, you'll use:
1/4 cup Aloe Vera Gel
10 drops Lavender Essential Oil
10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
8 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil.

**Please note, if you will be using this sanitizer on a child under 2 years of age, please omit the cinnamon essential oil, as it is not safe for children under 2 to use cinnamon EO topically.

We put all the ingredients in a small glass jar and stirred them around with a fork.  Then, using a funnel, we poured them into our spray bottles.  You could also just put all the ingredients in the spray bottle, put the cap on, and shake it. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our Second Unassisted Childbirth Story

I've had a few friends ask me to tell our birth story, and I figured it can't hurt to document this event for our new baby's sake, so here goes.

First of all, I don't feel like this Unassisted Childbirth (UC) was as exciting or eventful as the first one we did (you can read that story here), but it was still an amazing, beautiful day, despite how smoothly it went. ;) I also don't feel the need to justify or explain my decision to UC (like I did the last time), because I believe it is the best thing for our family, and that is all that matters.  If you're curious why or how we came to decide to have a UC, read my previous post.  It was quite the scandalous decision! 

This time around, we were able to hire a home birth midwife to do my prenatal care. I wanted to make sure baby and I were healthy before going into a UC, and having a midwife watch me during pregnancy was part of that. She herself has fourteen children, and a few of them she birthed unassisted. When we met for the first time, I was upfront with her, and told her I only wanted her care before and after the birth, but I did not want her at my birth. I feel so strongly about that being an intimate family affair, without strangers in the room. She was totally cool with that idea (which surprise me a little, but I was thankful!). She met with me monthly, and gave me shining pregnancy stars the whole way, so I felt confident that baby and I were going into this birth with nothing to be concerned about.

There was confusion about my due date all along, but it fell somewhere between December 13th and December 20th (we thought). For the sake of my sanity, I chose to believe I was due on the 20th. If I thought I should birth on the 13th, and kept being pregnant after that, surely I'd go insane. Looking back, I'm so glad I had the 20th in my head, because he came on the 19th. After looking at a few different indicators of baby at birth, my midwife is sure he was *maybe* 39 weeks gestation, but definitely not full-term. Can I just tell you how happy I am that he came when he did, and didn't cook longer???  He was 10lb, 9 oz (my biggest baby by 2oz), and if he'd stayed in another week (or longer), and gained the typical 1/2 lb per week that babies gain at the end, he would have been over 11lb. I'm glad he wasn't bigger, because being pregnant with heavy babies is painful.  I've never had issues delivering them, but there's that possibility too. 

On Thursday night, the 18th of December, I took Sadie to her dance rehearsal. She was scheduled to perform her hip hop routine at the High School girls basketball half time on Friday night. We got home at 8:45, and I laid down with Sloan to snuggle him to sleep. At about 9:00, I felt (heard?) a tiny "pop" in my belly. I didn't think anything of it until I stood up to get out of bed a few minutes later. And liquid came out. I wondered if I'd just peed on myself, or if this could be my water breaking? It wasn't a lot of liquid, but I also don't usually wet myself, so I wasn't sure. I went to snuggle Sadie to sleep, and after getting up from the bed with her, I had a big gush of water.

I told Mark I was pretty sure my water had broken. He was excited with me, and was super helpful getting me towels to put between my legs, because it just kept gushing and gushing! Eventually it stopped, and the contractions took over.

I'd had prodromal (false) labor for at least three months leading up to this birth. Knowing what four weeks of prodromal labor did when I had Wyatt (prepared my body, did lots of work before the birth, and allowed me to have a short, five hour labor), I was sure this labor was going to be quick! So, at about 9:45, I called my midwife to let her know my water had just broken. She lives three hours away, and wanted to come up and wait at her friend's house until my birth was over, then come and check on me and the baby. I didn't know at the time, that when I called her, she had just gotten home from being in my city all day, doing prenatal visits with other mamas. She had woken up at 4am, and got home at 9 pm. She had just made a plate of food for dinner, and asked me if I thought it would be ok if she ate dinner before turning around and driving back to my city. Poor thing!!!  (I told her not to rush. After all, I didn't want her at the birth, and didn't care too much when she came to check on us after). She didn't tell me all of this until after the birth, but how gracious and kind was she?!? It ended up taking her 4.5 hours to make the drive back, because it was a super foggy night, and there was a main bridge out that required her to take a detour. She got to her friend's house at 2something am, and went to sleep.Yikes!

Back at our house, Mark and I started getting things ready for the birth. He got the birthing pool out, and set it up. I got all my herbs and homeopathy out that I might need after the birth. We lit candles, and put Norah Jones radio on Pandora. It was such a sweet ambiance. I decided to set up the pool in the living room, instead of where we'd planned in our bedroom. I'm so glad we did set it up in the living room, because I had the twinkle lights from the Christmas tree, and my wall of family photos to look at while I was laboring. I relished family memories through the years as I looked at our wall.

Here's a picture of my amazing husband filling up the birthing pool, one bucket at a time.

At about midnight, I realized my contractions had slowed down, and they were far enough apart that maybe I could rest (ha!). So, we got into bed and took a nap. Well, Mark did. I get too excited to really sleep, and well, there are those contractions every few minutes waking me up, but I at least got some rest. Mark wakes up at about 5:00 for work, and had been up for 19 hours, so I'm glad he got at least a little sleep. At 2:00, the contractions picked up, so I woke Mark up, and we went back out to the birthing pool. I labored in there until about 5:00, then decided to try to get some sleep (I was really tired!). I kept thinking how surprised I was that it was taking so long! It was supposed to go fast, right?!?? After all that prodromal labor I'd had?!?!

We slept until about 6:20, and then got back up to get in the pool. Wyatt woke up soon after that, then Sloan a few minutes later. As soon as they saw the pool, they asked, "Is baby brother coming today???!!" The looks on their faces were priceless!

While we hung out, the boys listened to Mommy's moans as each contraction came. At about 7 or 8, we told them they could go wake up Sadie. They ran in and told her that Mommy was in labor. She ran out, just as excited as them. We hung out awhile more, until they started getting bored. The boys went in their rooms and played, asking Mark to come play with them. My super awesome husband (and amazing Daddy to my kids) was balancing playing trains and Imaginext with his boys, filling my pool with warm water, bringing me water to drink, making sure I was comfortable, mediating conflicts between the kids, cleaning the kitchen...I could go on. He was doing this all on less than four hours of sleep in the last day and a half. How'd I get so lucky to have such an amazing man? I seriously love him.

Sadie, my little Mini Mommy, wouldn't leave my side. She asked me every few minutes if I needed anything. She brought me sips of water. She took pictures, and was our videographer. She was a superstar!!  I'm loving having an almost-eight-year-old around! What a luxury!!  She even got everything ready for the baby: A couple towels to dry him off, a swaddling blanket and cloth diaper (she picked the blue floral print one...because, he is, after all, a boy!), baby wipes, etc. She also kept asking if she could cut his umbilical cord when he came out. I just love how much she wanted to be a part of his birth.

I kept laboring.

For hours.

As each hour passed, I started to feel more and more discouraged. This was supposed to be quick!!  Why was I still pregnant?!?!  My longest labor was Sadie's, which was sixteen hours. My boys' labors were five and seven hours long. I was already past twelve hours!(And ended up going for five more hours!)

Fear started to creep in. And, if you read my other UC story, you know what fear in childbirth does--it makes more pain!  And that is NOT what I wanted! I was fighting it the whole time. It was a total mental challenge.  I was telling myself that "my body was created to do this", and that it was opening, and getting ready to bring this baby out in a way that has been done successfully for centuries. I'll be honest though, there was something in the back of my mind that kept getting me worried. And as a result, I had more pain than I wanted, or expected. I think part of it was that, because it wasn't my first UC, I didn't spend nearly as much time researching and reading up on it. My head wasn't in the game. I had been there, done that, and knew how it all worked, but didn't do the work I'd done previously to let go of my fears. I also knew, by the amount of pain I was in during pregnancy, that this baby was huge. I told quite a few people, "I think he's going to be an eleven pounder."  Maybe I shouldn't have said that so much, because I think part of me wondered if I'd have problems getting him out if he was that big. I'd never had any problems getting my two 10lb, 7oz boys out. I'd never pushed for more than ten minutes! I really think God gave me some birthing hips (and I'm thankful for that), that allows them to come out pretty easily! But in the back of my mind, I still wondered...

And then my labor was taking "FOR-E-VER"!

And it was painful. More than I want to admit. Looking back, I wonder if the contractions hurt more because my water broke first.  I've been told that is the case, so perhaps that was factoring in. 

But the pain, I believe, was a direct result of my fear. Gah!  I was trying so hard to fight it mentally. It was such a challenge.

Sometime around noon, I got in the zone. The zone where mothers check out, and just get into labor mode. No talking, just focusing on getting through each contraction. It was Transition. I don't know how long it lasted, but it felt like it took longer than any of my other births. It was tiring, and hard. Even though my birth with Sadie was 16 hours, I got an epidural after nine hours. Sadie's labor may have had a long transition stage, but since I wasn't feeling it, it didn't matter.

This time, I'm feeling it.

I just kept praying for God to make my body push soon. I knew I didn't want to push before my body took over and did it voluntarily. Doing that would likely cause me to tear, and I didn't want that. I tore really badly with Sadie (because I had to push when the midwife told me to, not when my body felt like it, since I'd had the epidural). I hadn't torn with Sloan (even though he was a 10 1/2 lb baby) because I let me body take over. I knew this was important to wait for, even though I just wanted it all to end. Mark told me tonight that he walked into the laundry room and prayed to God to let this end soon. He was also having some fear about, "why is this taking so long!?"  As he walked back into the living room, I yelled, "I'm pushing!"  We had both been praying for the same thing, at the same time, and thank God, it happened!! 

I pushed for what seemed to me like a long time. Looking back on the video, it was only about fifteen minutes, but it felt long to me. It took all my strength to get his head past my bones. I could feel it very distinctly, pushing on the bones, but I just couldn't get it past. It turns out, he actually has a large head (which none of my other kids have had--they've all been pretty average). Once his head was out, it was only a couple more contractions, and his whole body was out. Once I felt him come out, I had such a feeling of relief! I turned around, and grabbed my baby, and held him to my chest. I told him, "I'm your mama!", and rubbed him until he started to breathe on his own and give a cry. My kids and Mark were at the poolside the whole time (when I started pushing, they all ran in), cheering me on, and giving me a play-by-play as he was coming out. Here's us, right after he came out.

A few minutes later, Mark called the midwife and told her we were done. She arrived about 30 minutes later, and helped me deliver the placenta. She checked baby and me, helped us clean up, weighed and measured him, and went on her way!

It was a beautiful birth, despite the challenges of working through my fear and pain. I'm so glad we were at home. I'm so glad my kids got to be a significant part of their brother's birth. I'm so glad everything went smoothly. I'm glad I didn't tear, too!

Sadie did end up cutting the cord. Here's a picture of that exciting moment.

It took us an entire pregnancy, and four days after birth to pick a name, but his name is Adler Jackson Pursell. Jackson is after my late father. 

He was born at 1:42pm on 12/19/14.

He weighed 10 lb, 9 oz, and was 22 1/4" long.

Here are a few pictures of special moments we've had with him during his first few days on earth:

(I told Sadie she could "babysit" him while Mark and I snuggled Wyatt and Sloan to sleep. I left her in the living room with him. When I came out a few minutes later, I found them in bed like this. How precious is that?!?! What a good little babysitter I have, huh? I'm going to be so spoiled with all this help this time around!)

Here's the sweet cherub:

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Five Years

Today marks five years since my brother died. Still, not one day goes by that I don't think of him. He crosses my mind every.single.day. I've also now lived a longer life than he was afforded. Sometimes I am shocked by that fact.

I dread this day coming every year.  I dread it because with each passing year, I feel further away from the time when he was here with us.  I hate that distance. I want to undo it.  I want to go back in time, and make everything happen differently.  I wish I could. 

But I don't want this blog post to be about the sadness, or dwelling on what can't be undone.

I want to talk about how this has changed me. 

As a mom, I often look at my children, and think, "What if that happened to me one day?" Having this thought in the backdrop of my mind has made me cherish my kids, and each passing day, in a way I never could have, or would have, had Andy not been killed.  It sounds so cliche to write that, but cliche is not how I feel.  I feel sincerely, that this loss has caused me to value each day I have with my kids, and my husband.  My biggest fear is leaving them too soon.  I want them to know how much I love them. I hope I'm telling them through my actions each day.

Yesterday, we were talking about some Aunts and Uncles in our family. My middle child started to ponder. 

A few minutes later, he asked me when I was going to die. 

I think he has made the connection that his cousins are still kids, but their Daddy is dead, and could that happen to him?  He was worried, and he wanted me to tell him when I was going to die.  He wanted me to assure him that I would "be alive when [he's] a grown up."  I feel sad that he's worried about that.  I wish I could assure him that I would be alive when he's a grown up.  I want to be alive when he's a grown up!  I told him that for sure! It was a good lesson on death, and life, but not one I wanted to have, because it seemed like it was coming from a place of fear inside him.  And that makes me sad.  I just hope, again, that I'm telling him that I love him through my actions each day.  Not just my words, because those mean nothing if my actions don't confirm them.  I'm not a perfect mom.  I make lots of mistakes. Lots.  But I hope my kids know that I love them to the moon. I would do anything for their little hearts to be protected.  I  hope they never have to experience the pain of losing a parent before they hit adulthood.  No child should have to experience that pain.

I feel like I have let go of my anger toward these two men who took Andy's life.  They were high, and stupid, and should not have been doing such a heinous act, but they are now paying the penalty for their decision.  I'm sure they are suffering, and I feel sad for them.  I feel sadness for their kids, who also lost a dad that day.  I feel sad for my sister-in-law, and my nephews.  My heart breaks for them often.  I just wish I could fix it for them.  But I can't.  I feel sad for my kids, who never got to know their Uncle.  Or for my new Sister-In-Law, who never got to meet her Brother-In-Law.  And for hers and my brother David's kids, who will never get to meet their Uncle.  There are so many people who were affected that day.  Even unborn people.  The consequences are so widespread.  And so is the sadness.  But in the end, I want to focus on the tiny good that has come from this.  That being that some of us are cherishing life just a little bit more because of it. 

{If you are curious about the outcome of the people who murdered my brother, this article, and this one are good summaries.}