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Monday Mama: Jenna

November 14, 2016 in Love Notes / Monday Mama

You guys, I’m giddy!!! I haven’t done Monday Mama’s in SO long and after a popular vote, I decided to start back up again and start spotlighting moms on my blog. These stories are to help us find our own bravery in motherhood and I’ve found a handful of moms who have shown that and I can’t wait to share their stories with you.

Today’s post is near and dear to my heart because it involves a family that I love dearly.


Today I am spotlighting cute Jenna Richards, who actually married one of my friends that grew up down the street from me. She is from Shelley, Idaho and after being married to Chase for just a short time, he passed away. She has been able to survive this heart-breaking time with her beautiful little boy named Jack and gave me permission to share her story with all of you.



“I’ve only shared my story once, and to be honest, I don’t even know where to begin… But on April 2nd, 2016, my life forever changed.

On Saturday, April 2nd, my husband, Chase, was supposed to pick Jack and I up in Brigham City, UT.  We had been at my parents’ house, but we were going to meet Chase sometime around noon to eat at our favorite restaurant,  Maddox, and head back home. That morning I texted him at 7:30 to see if he was awake and ask what time I should head out. I didn’t hear anything back. By 9:30, I called and texted again, but still no word.  This wasn’t like him, but I still wasn’t too worried because I assumed he was sleeping in due to working early mornings all week.  By 11:00, and still no answer, I knew something was wrong. I then texted his Dad and asked if he’d heard anything from Chase.  He said no, but that he would go to our house and make sure everything was okay.  He went there with Chase’s brother, and soon after I received the worst phone call ever. His voice was frantic and he said, “Jenna, Chase is unconscious! We’ve called for an ambulance. Come right now!!” I was frantically running around bawling while trying to pack our bags as fast as I could before heading to Utah. Luckily, my Dad was able to drive us, since I was in no shape to be driving. Truthfully, I don’t remember the 3-hour drive all that much. I just remember getting updates, then that dreaded message from my Bishop saying Chase was being life-flighted  to SLC. Death still wasn’t on my mind.  I was thinking more about what we would possibly have to do for recovery, etc. As soon as we got into SLC though, the reality and panic set in and I immediately grabbed a bag and threw up. It felt like forever to get to the hospital, since it was Conference weekend and the streets were packed. I was getting frantic, wanting to scream out the window, “EVERYONE, PLEASE MOVE!! I started getting agitated and just wanted to get out of the car and start running. When we finally got to the hospital, I jumped out of the car, grabbed Jack, and ran into the lobby. As soon as I walked in, I instantly got dizzy and the nausea kicked back in. I handed Jack to my Dad, ran to the bathroom, and threw up one more time. Maybe deep down I knew it wasn’t going to be good, and I was scared to face reality. 

When I walked into Chase’s room, I was shocked and taken aback, and I knew immediately this was way worse than I could have ever imagined. Within 5 minutes of being there, Chase’s doctor walked in to let us all know things didn’t look good. It was such a strange feeling seeing someone say those words so calm and collected. Shouldn’t this guy be heartbroken to deliver such hard news? I didn’t want to believe his words, so I was grasping for straws at this point, begging people to tell me everything was going to be ok. Deep down I knew he probably wasn’t going to make it, but I refused to believe it and I was not ready to face that reality.

Chase was then placed in a hypothermic state.  The doctors decided they wouldn’t be doing any MRI’s or EEG’s for 24 hours to see if the brain swelling would go down. It was then we found out Chase had aspirated in his sleep, which deprived his brain and other organs of the oxygen they needed for many hours. The next 24 hours were hell. I felt helpless watching Chase hooked up to life support, his body quivering.  The sound of a machine pushing air into his lungs and the ominous, never-ending sound of beeping machines still haunts me. This is something nobody can prepare you for. 

One of my best friends, Kim, rushed to the hospital to take Jack for the night, and by midnight I decided to go sleep for a few hours at a hotel down the street so I could function and be prepared for the next day. On Sunday Chase’s vitals were all looking good, but he was still in a coma and we still had no idea how much brain damage had been done. By this time family and friends started pouring in and showing their support, which was a blessing. I couldn’t have done Sunday without some of my best friends and family by my side. It was a long, emotional and draining day. 

That night I got to spend some alone time with Chase and i just held his hand while I talked to him. I tickled his arm and kept telling him I was there and to not be scared, to just relax, I was right there next to him, and would be throughout everything. 

By Monday morning we knew we’d be getting the news soon on his brain function and I was physically sick. By this time I had hardly eaten in two days and I was exhausted and weak. At noon Elder Oaks came and gave him a beautiful blessing.  As soon as it was over, I knew in my heart Chase was not going to be with us much longer. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I just knew. 

Hours passed and, finally, the doctors pulled us into a room and delivered the news. Chase was showing no brain function. He was brain dead. After he said those words, I just zoned out. I don’t even remember anything else he said. At the end of the conversation, he brought up taking Chase off of life support and then looked at me to get the ok. I shook my head yes with tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t believe it. This was it. Chase was not going to be here much longer with us. 

Before the life support machines were turned off, we all took a turn being alone with him in his room for a private goodbye. I crawled into his bed, laid my head on his chest and sobbed. The tears couldn’t stop. All I could say was, “Chase, I love you so much. I love you so much.” I promised him I would always take good care of Jack and we would keep his memory alive. I apologized for all of the times I could have been a better wife, and then I gave him a final kiss on his lips. My sister then brought Jack in and we laid on the bed as a family one last time. I couldn’t believe this would be the last time our baby boy would see his Dad. My heart could hardly handle it. I just remember telling Chase that Jack would always know him, and to please take care of us. That final goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do because I knew this would be the last time Jack would ever see his Dad on this earth. 


I walked out, handed Jack to my sister, then went into the corner of the hallway and lost it. I l felt like my life was over.  How was I ever going to overcome such a trial? I had never felt so such despair in my life. I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening to me.  I was angry, sad, and broken.

After everyone had their alone-time with him, we all gathered in the room.  Chase and I’s bishop gave a final prayer before we unplugged him from the machines. The doctor said Chase could go fairly quickly, but we were uncertain. By this time it was around 8pm. The nurses came in and unplugged everything.  Then we just sat around his bed, held his hand, and spoke to him, hoping he’d slip away peacefully. Quickly, his breathing became labored and he seemed uncomfortable. About every 30 minutes nurses would come in to give him more sedation and pain meds to make sure he was as comfortable as possible and to keep his body calm. Hours passed, and his body kept fighting. We even said two more prayers pleading with our Heavenly Father to take him, and that we would be ok.  Finally at 3:28am, after a 7-hour valiant fight, Chase took his last breath. I remember I was at the end of his bed and I thought I was going to collapse. I had never seen someone die, so to see my own husband pass on was more than I could see or take. My Mom quickly came to my side and held me as I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t believe it. Just like that, he was gone. I kept saying over and over, “I can’t see him like this, Mom, I can’t see him dead.  Just take me home.” So we tiredly gathered up our things and went out to the car to head home. Since my Mom didn’t know her way around Salt Lake, I drove her car with her, and my Dad drove his own. I was so numb, I didn’t even know how to get to the freeway, even though I had done that route hundreds of times. Finally, clear out in West Valley, I got my bearings and made it back to the freeway. 

I remember walking in the house at around 4:15 am with the most empty feeling I had ever felt. I knew Jack would be waking in a few short hours and I wasn’t ready to face reality so soon. I went to our bathroom, filled up the tub, and sat in a hot bath as I cried the little bit of tears I had left.  Then I went to Chase’s closet, pulled out his favorite sweats and a big oversized sweater and crawled into bed with his pillow.  The sheets and everything smelled like him, and right then and there, I didn’t want to wake up. I just wanted to go. I know that sounds selfish, but I also wasn’t  thinking clearly and going on very little sleep and food. 

The next few days were a blur as we prepared for Chase’s funeral, picking out his casket, deciding what flowers, and a million other little things. I had no idea how much planning (and money) went into something so depressing. The morning of the viewing Chase’s parents, his brother, Preston, and sister, Laura, and I all gathered to see Chase’s body for the first time since he passed away.  I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see him like that, but I kind of had no choice at this point. We were led into a room where his peaceful body was laying, and I was immediately breathless, sick, and shaking. We said a prayer for peace, then dressed him slowly in his temple clothing that he would be buried in. That moment was surreal, and to be quite honest, one of the harder things I had to do that week. I wasn’t quite prepared for that moment. But then again, is anyone prepared for something like that?

Something life-changing happened when I left the funeral home that day. I remember pulling up to a red light right by Bingham High School and I looked to my right and I made eye contact with a guy in a truck next to me. I instantly thought, “this guy has no idea what I just had to do.” And right then and there I thought to myself, “how many people have I passed who were facing something so tragic in that very moment and I just walked by them not knowing?” Because of this experience, I try harder to be kinder and more patient with strangers. 

That night was Chase’s viewing.   He had such a huge turnout, along with the funeral the next day. So many people loved Chase and he made friends wherever he went. That was one of Chase’s greatest qualities. He made everyone feel like they were his best friend and always made everyone around him feel so comfortable and special. 


After the funeral, graveside service, and luncheon, I went to our home, grabbed the last of our stuff, and got on the road to Idaho, since I would be moving back in with my parents so I could get some help with Jack and get back on my feet. 

Fast forward a few months, and here I am today.  Last Sep 6th would have actually been Chase and I’s 2-year anniversary. I can truthfully say the days are getting a little easier. I still have moments with major setbacks. But, for the most part, I am starting to slowly heal. I don’t have that panic like I did those first few months where I literally felt like my soul was broken. Not that I still don’t feel that way sometimes, but I am starting to take baby steps towards a new life without Chase. And that doesn’t mean I have to forget about him to start a new beginning, because he will always be in the back of my mind until the day I die.

I guess if I have learned one thing from this experience, it’s to always trust my Heavenly Father’s plan. His plan was obviously different than what I had in mind.   He sees the whole picture and I have to put my trust in his hands. After all, he gave his own life so I could endure this trial. My testimony has grown leaps and bounds since Chase’s passing, and sometimes I feel guilty that it took something so tragic to wake me up. But I am thankful for the many blessings and tender mercies that have come my way since April 2nd. So many life changes, mostly hard, but some, oh, so good and life altering.


Like Robert D. Hales said:


Won’t all of us, sometime, have reason to ask, “O God, where art thou?” Yes! When a spouse dies, a companion will wonder. When financial hardship befalls a family, a father will ask. When children wander from the path, a mother and father will cry out in sorrow. Yes, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Then, in the dawn of our increased faith and understanding, we arise and choose to wait upon the Lord, saying, “Thy will be done”.”




Before Chase passed away, Jenna started Munchies which is a baby clothing company. Chase was the one who really pushed her to go for it. She has a passion for baby fashion and finding good deals so she created a company of cute affordable baby clothes. Her whole site and work has been dedicated to Chase since he was her motivation behind it and gave her the confidence to go for it. She knows that she has Chase watching over her and baby Jack for the rest of their lives and holds onto that.


(You can find her over at @jackandjennablog)





Monday Mama: Sydney

January 16, 2015 in Monday Mama

Hey Y’all.  I’m Sydney and I blog at Raising Southern Grace.  I appreciate Aubrey having me today for Monday Mama.  I love finding other mothers to follow and this is a great series to get to know other Mama’s!

c/o Abby Williams
My son, Griffin is 8 months old, but I became a Mama in May 2012.  In May 2012 my husband and I decided that we were ready for children and that we would get off birth control and see what happens.  Months rolled around with no positive pregnancy test and I started to worry.  After several appointments with my Gynecologist, I made an appointment with a Reproductive Endocrinologist to see what was going on. I was diagnosed with PCOS, and was told it would be difficult for me to have children.  We started fertility treatments right away and were blessed in April 2013 with our first positive pregnancy test.  The next month we checked in on our baby and was told the most horrific news,
“There is no longer a heartbeat.”
My life sank.  I had just lost my Dad to cancer five months prior and now I had to say goodbye to my child who I wanted to badly.  We decided after this news that we would take a break for a few months because we couldn’t fathom losing another pregnancy.
After a small break, my heart still ached to have a child in my arms so we started up fertility treatments again.  Our first cycle back after the loss, I had another positive pregnancy test.  I was over the moon excited.  I knew this was a child that God would let me raise and I had no fears during the entire pregnancy.

c/o Wright Photography
Griffin was born April 25, 2014.  He was meant for us.  I think about the loss of my first child and I know we would not have Griffin if I didn’t go through that.  Having Griffin doesn’t make the loss any less hurtful.  It makes you really realize what you lost, but that God is still in control.
Now, I am “that mom”.  The mom who posts way too many pictures (Instagram:sydedwards22) and talk entirely too much about my child, and I love it.  I always swore I wouldn’t be that kind of mom but this is my new reality.

c/o Abby Williams
I spend my days picking up toys for the 10th time and washing bottles in the sink that are up to my eyeballs.  There are mounds of baby clothes piled up and I haven’t had a full nights rest since he was born.  All the sweet snuggles, smiles, and laughter are amazing.  I go to bed at night and all I want to do is go get him out of his crib and get some extra snuggles in.

c/o Abby Williams
Every day I am thankful.  Thankful to have a child to hold, take care of, and to love.  A child to call my own.

Monday Mama: Journey to Motherhood

November 24, 2014 in Love Notes / Monday Mama

Have you ever met someone and feel like you have known them for a long time? Meet Lauren. I met this girl the beginning of this year after I had my baby. We never really hung out but for some reason we just have similar souls and still keep in touch. I think the world of her and hope our lives cross paths again and that we stay friends for a life time! She is currently living in Utah, an amazing photographer, and a beautiful mom to her sweet boy named Holland.

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Here’s her story:

“I dropped him off at work… Started on my way back home when I found myself pulling into the parking lot of Walgreens. The thought of taking another pregnancy test made me sick to my stomach. I had grown to hate those stupid sticks after so many months of them slapping me in the face and letting me down. I hadn’t taken a test in months, but for some reason I had this voice inside me that kept saying, “it’s ok this time… It will work… Take the test.” And so I bought a familiar $8 of wishful thinking and drove home to our little house on the corner in Provo. I did the deed. Got it over with. Put the stick on the counter. And walked away…. For a long time.
I was preparing myself mentally and emotionally as I walked over to read what I thought would be another wasted test and another night of tears.

And then… I was pregnant.

I literally dropped to my knees because the shock would not allow me to stand…. I don’t know what came first… The tears or the laughs… But they eventually came together in unison along with my arms and hands folded in prayer. I don’t know how many times I said thank you in that prayer, but I know that those were the only words said to my Heavenly Father in that prayer and I’m sure He was crying happy tears right along with me.

I spent the next hour at target picking out an adorable outfit to surprise my husband Christian with. To tell him we were finally going to be parents. Our prayers were finally answered, but answered nonetheless. He opened the outfit, his eyes right along with it, and we both held each other and cried… And cried…  And cried.

And then it stopped.

Our sweet baby’s heart had stopped after it had so immaculately and meticulously formed. I was no longer pregnant, and the waiting began again. I hated being back in the same place we started after feeling so much love and excitement of a baby on the way. And so we cried… And cried… And cried… And cried. I found my hands again folded with my arms praying to my Heavenly Father… But this time they were not happy tears, they were incredibly sad but genuinely grateful ones. I remember praying the day we found out we lost our first little one, and after expressing how broken my heart was, I remember expressing my gratitude of the feeling I was able to have to finally feel pregnant, to be pregnant, to express thanks to my God who made this possible. It was possible. I could get pregnant. And I knew it would happen again. So I continued to put my faith in God. I continued to pray. I never allowed myself to be angry. Of course I was sad… But I was ever so hopeful and never stopped trusting. We kept trying. We kept praying. We kept positive.

And then it WAS positive. And this time for good!

We were ecstatic. We were hesitant. We were so incredibly happy. We were beyond thrilled but completely nervous. We were ready to jump in with two feet, but our hearts were cautious to get toes wet. But we put every ounce of faith we had in God… And hoped on. Prayed on.

I embraced every feeling of being pregnant. I craved the morning sickness and the never-ending fatigue. As long as I had these two things… I was still pregnant. I couldn’t wait to wake up every morning and read my pregnancy apps to find out what my little fruit-sized baby was up to in the growing world. Usually that was followed by the infamous “morning” sickness…. Which really should be called all day- every day- never go away- sickness. Feeling gross for so many weeks eventually I started to get a taste of defeat…

And then it kicked
HE kicked.

And suddenly I fell in love with the sickness and baggy eyelids all over again. There was a human being inside of me. Growing. Waiting to be mine. He was a he and that he was a son… To me. Suddenly pregnancy was not only my life it became my love. I loved every kick, every pound, every hiccup, and every movement. It was magical to me. It was miraculous. And then came the last 10 weeks. it became hard… It became tiring… It became painful… Oh how it was painful haha but amidst all of the uncomfortable parts of that last part of pregnancy came days closer to meeting my guy.

And then it was time.
September 24 was the day.

I had been praying for months for this day… For the past 9 months I had envisioned the moment where I would first hold my new son after he was born. I imagined it being after an exhausting but rewarding labor where I would feel this connection with my body, my epidural would allow me to enjoy labor, and there would be that perfect moment where I would push one last time and then I would hear his cry, matched by my own, as the doctor would lay him across my chest. It would be complete bliss, I would look gorgeous in the photos following his birth with our new family of three, and I would be so calm shortly after labor holding my little bundle of joy while everybody in the room gushed over my new mom glory and our immaculate new little handsome.

And then labor happened… And it was anything but what I described above.

To make a long gruesome story short… My epidural wore off. I had a gallbladder attack. I was throwing up. I was pushing for hours. My contractions were on top of each other and I didn’t even have time to enjoy my pineapple ice chips because I was in so much pain and felt so defeated. Three hours of intense pushing, followed by a failed attempt at forceps… The next thing I knew I was being wheeled into the operating room completely exhausted and disappointed I wouldn’t have the experience I had been praying for for so long. I was discouraged. I was more tired than I had ever been in my life. I was freezing. I was helpless laying there as they cut me open to bring my baby into the world… Something I wasn’t able to do on my own.

And then… He cried.
Holland was finally visible and I didn’t care anymore how he got here.

Although I did not deliver Holland how I dreamed and hoped I would, I will never forget Christian bringing him over to me carrying him with his newly-fathered hands. We both sobbed as our baby was now here. Now safe. Finally ours. Finally in our arms. Finally tangible to our newly parented hands and visible to our newly-awakened-to-life-eyes. Although I mourned the loss of the experience of delivering my sweet boy on my own… It doesn’t change the fact that I indeed was the one to bring him into this world. Even meeting my son upside down was the most majestic feeling… Complete and total bliss.

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The next two weeks consisted of total obsession. Around the clock baby loving that consumed my time, my thoughts, and all of my effort. I had breakdowns full of “I can’t believe your mine” and “how could I love you any more?” Tears. I was a complete mess in the best of ways. Then the contrast came full of “how do people have more than one baby?” And “will I ever have ‘me’ back again?” Tears. And lots and lots of them. I was tired beyond belief. I was emotional beyond measure. The baby blues had set in, and I had a few days where I was overwhelmed to the brim and starting to overflow with doubt, discouragement, and despair. Was I cut out for this? Where is this so called baby bliss? Will I survive? (I know…drama queen) Why do I feel so alone? Why didn’t anybody warn me that there would be days I wouldn’t feel bliss but only feel inferiority and insecurity? I felt so much guilt and longed for how I had felt those first two weeks. I prayed more in that week and a half than probably my whole life. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to feel the love and support of my Savior. I begged for strength. For energy. For peace. For optimism. For help to be the best mother I could be. I prayed to simply be reintroduced to the magic I felt I had lost.

And then Holland smiled.

photo 1 (2)
He looked me in the eyes and smiled clear to my soul. All of the sleepless nights, the breakdowns, the doubts, the fears, and the self-doubt disappeared in that moment. I finally felt that he knew me. He was telling me that there is no other woman in the world he would rather have than me to be his mommy. He had chosen me and loved his choice. That really was the turning point for me that picked me up out of those “baby blues”. I was still adjusting. It was still hard. But my little boy knew who I was, and we became best friends instantly.

My journey in becoming a mother has been the hardest, happiest, most rewarding and completely refining experience that has introduced me into what life is truly about. I have never felt more lucky, more blessed, more loved, more esteemed, or more confident than I have these past two months after giving birth to my son. Holland has taught me more about life than I could ever learn by myself. I love more. Laugh more. Appreciate more. Gratify more. Strive for. And yearn for all that is good. I want nothing more than to be the best I can be to never let this little boy down, but to always make him proud for the life I live. I learned really fast that my life has never had more meaning than spending my time raising this sweet little person, even if that means my life completely changing. It’s a whole new life and a whole new kind of love. My life was no longer just for me, but more for my child. My sole responsibility was to love, to nurture, to teach, and to bring him closer to his Savior Jesus Christ, and that is the best full-time job I could ever ask for.

The most important thing I have learned is that motherhood is impossible alone. Motherhood is meant to be a never-ending companionship with our Heavenly Father. Motherhood is the ultimate and perfect lesson to rely on The Lord in every thing and in every way. I have grown closer to my Savior than I ever have before. I have trusted Him completely. I have relied on Him confidently. He has lifted every burden and wiped every tear. He has taken every doubt and every feeling of despair when I have questioned myself as a mother. He has also qualified me more than i thought was possible… Helped me conquer what i didn’t think I could do… He has refined me into the most beautiful role I could ever have. And I am eternally grateful for the greatest gift he could ever give me. I can’t believe my Heavenly Father would love me enough to trust me with such a sacred and special calling. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am brave. I am tough. I am special. I am loved. I have meaning. I have purpose. I have a calling. I have a name.

And that is the name of Mother.”

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Monday Mama: These Moments Are For You

November 10, 2014 in Love Notes / Monday Mama

Today’s Monday Mama is my cute friend Heather. She is originally from California and currently living in Utah. She graduated with a teaching degree at BYU, taught for a few years, and just recently had the sweetest babe.

This is her story.


“As I lay in bed the other night, trying to quiet my racing mind, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the things I needed to get done, the stuff I had forgotten, the dinner I hadn’t made that day and the healthier food I should have given my baby for a snack instead of the bazillion crackers she begged for. I realized I still hadn’t taken “9 month old” pictures of her, and she’s already halfway to being 10 months old now. I thought of the clothes I should put her in more often before she grows out of them. I wept thinking of the minutes I had wasted on my computer or phone instead of playing with her. I felt like I was failing her as a mother because I wasn’t reading enough books to her or using enough sign language while I had the chance to teach her. And it all just got so overwhelming, so quickly.

Then, out of nowhere, the thought hit me: These beginning years of our child’s life is not for them. They have no memory, no recollection of these early stages. This time is for us, the parents!

Our child won’t remember the things we did to make them laugh or the times we messed something up. They won’t remember what they wore coming home from the hospital, or what solid food they tried first. They quickly forgot the bumps and bruises they inevitably received as they developed and learned. Our children only know what they looked like because of the pictures and videos we made the time to capture. All the worry and work we go through in these first days, weeks, months, years…It’s all important, but it’s mostly important only to us, the parents, because WE are the ones who will remember.

We will remember their first night home. We will remember their first steps, their endless smiles and giggles. We will remember the trial and error every new parent faces, and our patient (or screaming) baby’s reactions to all the new stimuli. We will be the ones to cherish and reminisce about these days. As long as we keep that little bundle of joy (and craziness) alive, they are good to go. They don’t notice if we skip our only chance (during nap time) to shower because we wanted to make our version of a sensory book for them to enjoy. They don’t see the bags under our eyes because we just wanted to hold them a little longer after they finally drifted off to sleep at night. Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t take those fancy newborn pictures or feed your second child the organic, homemade purees you made for your first. They won’t regret it. They won’t be hurting for it later because they won’t remember it! And, heaven knows, they don’t care if we do or don’t throw them a big First Birthday party with a beautiful cake and lots of presents and guests they may or may not even recognize.
But DO cherish your child and these early moments while they last. Even through the hardships, the uncertainties, the tears–hold on. Because these moments are for you.”

Monday Mama: I am a Mother

November 3, 2014 in Monday Mama

Today’s Monday Mama is the beautiful and talented Dana! She is the mom to the cutest curly-haired toddler and to one on the way. Recently, her and her little family moved and are now living in Kansas City. She is one of the kindest people you will ever meet and I’m so lucky to have met her. Our lives crossed paths briefly when my husband was finishing at BYU and this girl is beautiful from the inside out and true friend to anyone she meets. Love her.

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Here’s her story:

“A few months ago, I sat at my husband’s white coat ceremony and was struck pretty hard by a lot of emotions. I knew I would feel so so proud of my husband and excited for what’s ahead of us. I knew I would feel so grateful for the opportunity he has for furthering his education and following his dream of becoming a doctor. But I didn’t expect to feel so dang jealous.

Right before they were white-coated, each student walked on stage and announced themselves ” Student doctor Tanner Staples. Salt Lake City, Utah. Brigham Young University.” One by one they got up and I didn’t expect to be surprised by all the women.   Yes, it’s the 21st century. Women can become doctors! Women can become a lot of things. But in my circles, a lot of women become mothers. At a really young age. During or right after their ungrads when they’re in their low 20’s seems to be the cultural norm where I’m from. I know dozens and dozens of them. What I don’t know are a lot of women who are going to be doctors.

So I watched all of these intelligent, confident, ambitious women stand up and announce their intentions to become doctors and I felt. . . small. No, big. I felt really really big and acutely aware of how hugely pregnant I was. I felt really conscious of my needy restless toddler and my giant diaper bag full of things to meet her needs. I felt really unsexy in my loose bright colored blouse and big necklace, while they walked up there in sleek professional black dresses and received a round of applause for what the world recognizes as a fantastic accomplishment, a noble pursuit, an intellectual achievement. I felt simple and lame. Like if I sat down and had a conversation with one of these women-my age and notably with the same level of education as I- that they would think “oh isn’t it cute of her to just want to stay home and have babies?”

There’s a video where Jane Clayson Johnson discusses her decision to leave her career in journalism to have and stay home with her children. I like the video, but there is a way her path differs from many women I know in a big important way: she proved herself before motherhood. She got the degrees and the high profile, high salary job before she quit, and that I think brings with it a huge amount of respect from others and a sense of accomplishment for herself. Even if they think she’s crazy for quitting, people saw her talent and skills.

The sense of jealousy I feel isn’t about recognition though. It’s not about pay, status, respect, or what anyone might think about me and my choices. It’s about the loss of something that would bring me great happiness to achieve. Some stay at home mom’s don’t miss work because they feel guilty not to bring home a paycheck, or because they miss the validation that comes with someone recognizing their work–for me, it’s because I miss the work. I love school and always have. I loved college and all the lectures, textbooks, papers, and studying that came with it. And I’m good at it. I’m smart, I test well, and I love to learn about pretty much anything. So every year since I graduated, when the first day of school rolls around I start wishing that I was going to get a stack of new books and syllabi. I know not everyone feels this way about school, but I do know a lot of women that get from work what I got from school–much of my sense of self, accomplishment, and progression was tied to it. Intellectual advancement and achievement gave me a high and a happiness that stay at home motherhood does not give me, even though it unquestionably has its own rewards. I want to go back to school and earn a couple more degrees. I want to have a career–probably in writing, editing, or publishing, possibly in engineering? I want to learn amazing things, expand my knowledge, develop my talents, show them to the world, improve the world, create beautiful things, advance a field.

The sacrifice of motherhood for me is not being able to do that right now. It’s a halting of my potential in certain areas while I devote all of myself to children that demand all of me. I could have been successful at anything I poured myself into, but I feel like I didn’t prove that before becoming a mother and I worry about whether I’ll have the chance in the future. Not to prove it to others, but to prove it to myself and experience the joy of becoming something that I want to become and accomplishing dreams I have. Instead, for now, I have chosen to pour myself into being a mother. All of my talents and intelligence, potential and skills, they’re all going there right now and I don’t want to feel like I need a subtitle to give myself value–a desperate grasp at validating myself– “I stay at home with my kids. . . but I used to be a lawyer!” “I’m a mom. . . but I want to be a writer someday! I’m going to go back to school!”  “I’m a mother. . . but I’m really good at math–i’m smart! I could have been an engineer.” Nope. I am a mother. Just as much as saying “I’m a surgeon” or “I’m in medical school” doesn’t need a subtitle, “I am a mother” does not and should not need a subtitle. It doesn’t mean I didn’t have other dreams or anything else to do–it just means that for now I’ve decided to devote myself full time to motherhood instead.

Where I think I’m trying to get with all of this is to a recognition of the women with talents and skills that no one ever got to see. Ones that they never even developed, or won’t develop for another 20 or 30 years, because they made the choice to be a mother. And that is every single mother, because whether you work or not, or whether or not you ever will, motherhood will infringe upon your professional development to at least a small extent, and for some women, entirely. So, here’s to all the intelligent, confident, ambitious women I know who are mothers (which is most of the mothers I know). The ones who would have excelled in medical school and made incredible doctors. The ones who would have succeeded in any field they pursued. The ones who are talented and driven, well spoken and creative and spend their days nurturing, teaching, and raising children, supervising at the playground, reading to toddlers, and soothing crying babies. Here’s to you and your choice and your way of making the world a better place.”


Monday Mama: Birth Story

October 6, 2014 in Love Notes / Monday Mama

Today’s Monday Mama is the beautiful Michelle. She is from Sandy and is living in Provo, Utah. She studied advertising at Brigham Young University and is currently an amazing piano/voice teacher and the best mama to her sweet boy. She is the cutest girl from the inside out!


Here’s her story:

From the beginning of this pregnancy, everyone would tell me, it’s all worth it.  It was so hard to convince myself it would be.  Many of you know that I was sick until about weeks 23-24.  I was throwing up a lot, getting IV fluids constantly, trying to take my prenatal every night without throwing it up, etc.  After that, I felt fine as long as I was eating a snack.  Everything seemed normal with the baby at our anatomy scan, his head was down, he looked great!

Then, the third trimester started.  No one told me about the uncomfortableness I would feel during this time.  My hips hurt.  My sciatic nerve would hurt occasionally.  My bladder was getting, what I thought, punched at all the time.  I was going to the bathroom constantly.  My feet swelled up no matter how much water I drank.  Every pregnancy “con” I experienced during pregnancy.

It wasn’t until Sunday, August 25th, that our little man gave us a little scare.  I started bleeding a little bit and that whole weekend was experiencing some back pain.  By Sunday, the back pain felt worse.   With the small, yet constant bleeding, and the back pain, I had a feeling to get checked out.  We went to labor and delivery, I got hooked up on monitors and was apparently having contractions.  I couldn’t feel the contractions at all.  I was also dilated to a one.  We also found out that our little boy was breech.  The nurses and midwife gave me some medicine to stop the contractions and I was sent home to be on bed rest.  It wasn’t strict bed rest, but I was ordered to take it very easy.

On Tuesday, August 26th, I went in to my check up.  I learned at this appointment that because of my partial bicornuate uterus, I couldn’t have an inversion to have the doctors try to flip the baby.  It would be too dangerous for them to try it as my uterus could tear during the process.  So, we scheduled a C-Section for September 15th.  My goal was to take it easy so baby boy could stay in until that time.  I followed the instructions and took it really easy.  And, I also started preparing myself emotionally for this surgery.

We were (and still are) taking a hypnobirthing class to learn breathing and visualization techniques to get me through a natural vaginal labor.  I always expected to have perfect births.  For Derek to be right by my side, holding my hand through it all, or whisking my arm with his fingers while I mentally push through contractions.

The next few days, baby boy was kicking me very hard in my bladder.  It was so hard that I would wake up in the middle of the night because it hurt.  On Thursday, August 28th at about 1:00 AM, I woke up to him kicking.  As I was laying in bed, I felt him kick me really hard and my water broke.  I knew it wasn’t urine because I couldn’t control the gush.  I woke up Derek and I walked briskly into the bathroom.  Sitting on the toilet, I kept thinking, this is it.  We are going to have a baby today and I’M NOT READY.  I hadn’t had time to prepare myself for this.  The baby’s room wasn’t even fully organized or ready.  It was too early.

We got in the car, drove to the hospital, and the calling of the parents began.  I tried over and over and over again to call my parents and let them know my water broke and we were having the baby.  They didn’t pick up their phones.  I called Derek’s mom, and both her and Dad Nielsen had just taken sleeping pills.  They couldn’t drive from Ephriam to meet us at the hospital.

Because of my scoliosis, I have 15 vertebrae fused, I knew that an epidural or spinal might not work. I was probably going to be put under generally and not be awake for the birth of our son for the surgery.  I wanted so badly for my mom to be there, for anyone to be there with me when I woke up from surgery.  I told Derek no matter what, you go with the baby and hold him so you can bond with him.

I finally, after trying to reach my parents so many times, got a hold of my little brother, Nate.  He lives close to the hospital and came right over to give me a blessing with Derek.  There was only like a 10 minute span where they could do a blessing since the prep for the C-Section was going so fast.  After the blessing, I had a thought to call my parents next door neighbor to go wake them up.  She answered the phone and was able to knock on their door and wake them up.   They got there after the baby was born, but before I woke up.

Derek came with me to the operating room and the anesthesiologist tried doing a spinal.  I sat on the edge of the operating table and was shaking because I was nervous.  I put my head on Derek’s chest and held his hands, due to nerve damage from previous back surgeries, I didn’t even feel the prick of the needle.  It’s sad that I get more nervous for the needles than actual surgeries.  Sadly, the spinal didn’t work and while got moved to the operating table, I had to watch my husband bravely walk away, holding the I love you sign with his fingers, and tears in his eyes. 

The anesthesiologist put oxygen over my mouth and I started hyperventilating.  I was scared.  It wasn’t just me having to go through the surgery, it was the baby as well.  I would be put all the way under, having no control of the situation.  I then started doing my calm breathing, that I learned in hypnobirthing, and I felt the presence of my grandfather (whom our little boy is named after) and my great grandmother around me.  I knew they were watching out for me and little boy.

When I awoke from surgery about an hour or so later, my little brother Nate was right next to me to feed me ice chips.  My parents got to the hospital about 30 minutes after the baby was born.  They showed me pictures of him, though I was still a little out of it.  I remember Derek coming in the room and warning me of the IV’s in our baby.  He had low blood sugar and needed a little boost-this is very common in late pre-term babies. 

Then, the miracle happened.  Our little son was brought into the room, IV and all.  I held him for the first time on my chest and everything miserable about pregnancy and everything difficult about how I gave birth went completely away.  The morning sickness I encompassed during the first 20 weeks or so, the discomfort in my hips in the third trimester, the no sleep factor with getting up to use the bathroom in the last weeks of the pregnancy…it was all worth it.

No matter what way babies come into your family (IVF, adoption, C-section, Natural, etc.).  No matter how hard it may seem to get them here, it is all worth it to hold that little baby in your arms the first time and staring into their eyes.  I thought I knew what love is, but it’s so much more.  I’m so glad that my birth went well.  It wasn’t was I expected and I didn’t give birth how I wanted to, but I did get the most perfect son.  We love him so much.

Meet Dexter Ronald Nielsen.  Dexter is a mix between Derek and Derek’s father, Rex.  Ronald is after my Mom’s dad who passed away a few years ago.  He was 6 pounds 14 ounces and 17 inches long.  We are smitten and in love as every parent should be over their children.  (And we are exhausted too.)

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Monday Mama: Ashley’s Story

September 29, 2014 in Monday Mama
Today’s Mama is the beautiful Ashley! She is one of the sweetest girls I’ve met and is as down to earth as they come. She is from California and currently living in Utah. She has a smile that will brighten up anyone’s day and her hair is naturally AMAZING. She suffers from Postpartum Depression and I love how honest she is about it. I think it’s good to read other’s experiences and not feel like we have to suffer alone when we go through trials. Thanks for your words Ash! You are such a good Mama!
This pic of her and her baby just melt me:
Here’s her story:

“I hope you will read this post as if we are having a frank, but heartfelt conversation. I have spent months wrestling with how to write this. I have difficulty doing many things since Blake arrived. The first 6 weeks were really hard. Aren’t they always!? Then we learned our wailing, grumpy baby had acid reflux. We got him on some medicine. Things got a lot better. Everything was starting to feel brighter, except for me. Life was in fact, getting harder.

I did not enjoy life as a mom. There, I said it. 

I did not recognize that sentiment for what it was until I lay in my living room with my three month old, sobbing in the fetal position and praying my life could end. Not only was I suffering in silence, but I assumed being a new mom was supposed to be this hard; I just wasn’t handling the adjustment well.That’s what I thought.

I have postpartum depression. For each woman, this disease may take on a different face or manifest in varying ways. Many women I know have not had severe symptoms as I am about to describe, while others experienced much worse. My Postpartum Depression (PPD) symptoms have included anxiety, rage, restlessness, inability to concentrate, apathy, dizziness, insomnia, depression, suicidal thoughts and feeling overwhelmed, irrational, worthless, “out of control” and resentment towards Blake, Trent and God. I have felt on edge for so many days in the past 9 months, feeling despair, and mourning my former life as a normal, happy person. I have spent hours on my knees crying, begging, pleading to have the strength to make it through another hour with Blake because my sanity was hanging by a thread. There were days when I wished I could leave this earth. There were days when I longed for the freedom to make that choice. They are feelings that are so heavy, dark and real. The scariest part is that those feelings did not always terrify me. They were a welcome relief and escape. They would haunt my mind and linger until a priesthood blessing could finally free me of the cankering weight that day. I have felt trapped in my own crazy pseudo-reality. 

In a word, I have been living in my own private hell. The mind is a wonderful, glorious thing. When physical chemistry is off and the body is sick, this affects the mind in ways I had never before imagined. I would never wish this illness on anyone. I have been unmotivated, stagnant, and almost childlike on some of my worst days. I needed to have someone there to hold my hand and walk me through the motions so that I could make it. I have been so grateful to those along the way who recognized my suffering and loved me all the more. I have never accepted so much help, from perfect strangers even, in my entire life. 

You’re reading this and thinking, “Now, wait a minute! I’ve seen Ashley. She gave me a big hug and a smile and we had normal conversation. She cannot be serious!” I am fabulous at putting on a happy face. Plenty of people are, actually. [I served as a full-time missionary, where I perfected that unhealthy adult trait.] Many days I need to put that happy face on to get a semblance of normalcy and control and cheer. It’s draining, but I can do it. So if you’ve seen me any time in the past 9 months, please don’t think of me as disingenuous. I have been struggling to reconcile my craziness with the real world around me. This is not uncommon; It’s uncomfortable in our society to discuss and share our personal experience with mental illness. You don’t want to be labeled a “psychotic”, “crazy”, “unstable” person. You may as well be a social outcast! And yet, here I am.  

 I have had dozens of people comment on what great joy I must be feeling as a new mom. “Sure, it’s hard, but it’s all worth it“, they say. Well, to be honest, I’m not there yet. I have not and do not yet enjoy it. I do not celebrate my new motherhood. To be perfectly honest, I feel guilty because we do not have any pictures of Blake in our house. Not one. Until I can stand on my own two feet (so to speak) and have restored mental health, I am quite incapable of fully embracing this new life. And it’s unfortunate because it has affected my relationship with Trent and with Blake. I love them DEARLY. SO MUCH!!  However, I struggle daily to bond with both of them in a healthy, appreciative, loving, enriching way. I don’t say this to be dramatic or for pity. I am being frank because my story needs to be told. I feel the need to share with you how real this disease is.

Upon hearing of my struggle with PPD, one relative said:
“You need to spend more time around other people and get out of the house.” So this disease is my fault… I’m just not taking care of myself? Brilliant… 

I have had friends tell me that they, too, suffered from PPD:
“Yeah, I had that for about three weeks…and then it went away. It’s manageable.” As if I one simply waits PPD out and in a few months feel like a new person again. [By the way, what this friend described is likely “baby blues”, not PPD, although baby blues are truly awful and jarring to a new mom.  PPD is akin to having a broken leg or any other physical malady; it requires rigorous treatment to properly contain and eradicate it.]

But this response from a close friend scared me: 
I did not realize until well after my second baby that I had experienced postpartum depression since my first child. Anytime I was left with both kids alone, my heart would race and I would have panic attacks and symptoms of depression. I felt that I had no control over my life. I couldn’t change it because I was a mom dealing with the growing pains of having two little kids. I just dealt with it.”  My friend, like so many other women, suffered in silence because she did not know she had the right to have help! There is no shame in asking for help with anything you feel is bigger than you are. Period.  

I have been to counseling for the past few months and will continue for some timeI have had multiple blood tests to determine which course of action would be the best with my bodies’ chemistry. I have been on a strict diet to maintain the best chance possible for having a healthy body to work effectively through this labyrinth of raging hormones, chemical imbalances, and new-mom fatigue. I am doing everything I possibly can within my power. Physically, spiritually, mentally. I am still looking for answers and still hoping and working towards being “myself”. 

I am open to questions. I am open to hearing your words of encouragement and support. I am open to your concerns. I would love to hear your personal experiences. I know that in keeping this quiet for so long, I have only perpetuated the problem we see with this and many other mental diseases: that it’s largely misunderstood and  socially “taboo” to discuss. But please know this has been an incredibly raw, painful and seemingly endless journey. I have not conquered it yet. We have not conquered it, yet. 🙂 I have great medical professionals cheering me on, a network of family and friends, a tender, loving husband and a beautiful little boy who gives me daily glimpses of the pure, unselfish love that exists in this world. I am getting better and slowly seeing improvement. The days aregetting lighter and the future less bleak. 

I know that I can and will be Ashley again. I can enjoy my new life. I can be whole. I hope you will take this experience and look to the women in your life. Offer support. Tell them how real motherhood is, not just the joyful, fun moments. Tell them of your own struggles. Share with them about postpartum depression. Not to scare them, but to let them know who they can trust if they are unfortunate to experience such a thing. No one should suffer in silence because they are afraid and feel misunderstood or ashamed. We need more love, more acceptance and more understanding for these diseases. We need to hear these stories so we can better love those around us.” 

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Monday Mama Moment

September 16, 2014 in Monday Mama

This week’s Mama Moment brought to you by the one and only Loriel. She is 34 weeks pregnant with a baby boy and I love what she has to say about it! P.S. this girl is a total babe!

“…Pregnancy is a partnership with God. I have spent many many hours of this pregnancy praying for strength, comfort, and understanding in how I can be the best Mama God wants me to be. It’s a scary, beautiful thing, but I can’t wait to meet this baby boy.”

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Monday Mama Moment

September 8, 2014 in Monday Mama / Uncategorized

We’ve had family in town the past few days so we’ve been runnin like crazy showing them everything there is to see.

So this Mama Moment is just short and sweet because it was a good one:

Having a baby has taught me to slow down and enjoy the little things that are really the big things. 
Happy Monday!

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August 25, 2014 in Monday Mama / Uncategorized
I have the cutest friend back in Provo who wrote a post about baby blues and postpartum. I wanted to use it as this week’s “mom moment” because I think so many go through it and it’s not talked about very much. 
You can find her blog here. Thanks Meredith!

I just wanted to do a little post on a topic not spoken of often. I am not comfortable going into how it affected me personally, but the topic I’m referring to is Postpartum Depression. I had maybe 5 different drafts about this in a lot of different views and writing styles, but I continued to put it off because it’s a hard topic to write about. I decided for my friends I better just post SOMETHING.

I decided to break up what I’m talking about by addressing some thoughts or stigmas about Postpartum Depression and Baby Blues. Let’s see if I make any sense.

Although in the back of our minds we know that Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression do occur in most moms, we tend to talk ourselves into thinking that it isn’t happening to other people. Most moms are posting on social media cute little baby photos with captions that say “I love this baby!” and “Being a mom is the best!” but inside they are thinking “What did I get myself into!?” and “Take it away!” We have conditioned ourselves to think that all other moms are faring well and we silently suffer alone behind closed doors. There is this thought that moms should be able to bounce back and love life. One of the things I hated the most was when friends would ask, “How are you? How do you like motherhood?” Because how do you respond, “Life sucks right now; I hate it,” and “Being a mom is horrible!” Nobody wants to hear that and nobody wants to say it out loud; to admit that you actually might not like being a mom. That you are not completely in love with your baby like you thought you should be. That you are not happy! And so outwardly all these moms are trying to put on a happy face for everyone to see while they are secretly suffering alone.

2. It’s NORMAL.
I was always told that Baby Blues was a normal thing to happen. Pretty much everybody gets it. So when it happened to me, I just waited and hoped for it to go away. It shouldn’t be a problem because it’s normal! During those critical first weeks, moms are just suffering, waiting for this thing to go away and trying to hide how they feel. My doctor had me under the impression that it was normal UNLESS it lasted more than 6 weeks. Somehow anything before that timetable was normal and anything after it was not. But then in my reading I learned that Baby Blues average 3 weeks, so if that’s true, shouldn’t it be gone by 6 weeks? It is so confusing knowing what really is “normal” and how to handle something that needs attention even if it is “normal.” Since when did “it’s normal” mean “it doesn’t need treatment?”

This was a big one for me. It seemed everywhere I looked for information online I got one message, it’s either “normal” Baby Blues or it’s Psychotic symptoms. Everything was implying that you only need to seek help if you are suicidal or homicidal, or if you are having extreme hallucinations, extreme anxiety, or extreme OCD. So what happens to these moms who don’t have that extreme Postpartum Depression? They don’t recognize there is a problem at all! A mom might think that if she doesn’t care if the baby rolls off the bed and gets hurt that it’s not a bad thought because it could be worse- it’s not as bad as thoughts of intentionally killing her baby. A mom might have anxious thoughts and not want anybody to hold her baby, but maybe that’s normal for a new mom to not want your baby to be given to others. That sounds reasonable, it could be worse. A mom might be having hallucinations of the baby being somewhere he’s not, but they happen when she’s tired and it’s not terrifying hallucinations so it can’t be anything bad, can it? It’s not as bad as hallucinating a dead baby, so it could be worse. A mom might be awake 24 hours a day, but chalk it up to adjusting to this life she didn’t prepare herself for. Where does it become “bad enough” to need help!? That’s where it’s confusing, especially when your mind is not thinking straight anyway. I think because we have been told about an extreme part of Postpartum Depression that we brush off the less extreme aspects of it. And then we get confused as to if we are suffering depression or if we are overwhelmed and exhausted. If we don’t know how to recognize even slight Postpartum Depression, how are we supposed to know when to get help? I’m the type who doesn’t want to go to the doctor unless I absolutely HAVE to. So if my hallucinations aren’t of anybody dying, then I’m fine, right?

Lastly, the timetable. As I mentioned earlier, I was under the impression the Baby Blues was before 6 weeks, depression was after 6 weeks. What I didn’t know was there is such thing as depression beginning before baby arrives and even delayed postpartum depression. For moms who experience depression symptoms during pregnancy it must be horrible! Nobody knows that’s possible, you’re supposed to be so happy and excited. I wonder how many moms are hiding those unwanted feelings because they’re expected to be full of joy at the thought of having a new baby. And then the delayed postpartum. You get past that supposed “time marker” of when depression is “supposed” to occur. You’re so glad you’re one of the women who don’t experience depression. But a few months later things aren’t right. But you don’t know what it could be because you know you already made it past the depression mark. There’s so much that people don’t know about this stuff. There’s nobody who understands and is accepting of all the weird stuff you’re going through! Postpartum stuff sucks!

The further from Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression I get, the more I recognize the state of mind I was in. It’s like climbing out of a canyon. There are moments you are higher than you were before so you think you’re in the clear, then when you get even higher you realize you were still pretty far down that canyon and didn’t even recognize it. It has sparked some change in who I am and the tendencies I am prone to do have only magnified. I am glad I have a husband you still accepts me even when I’m not the same girl I used to be. He really helps me as I go through difficult moments and hard days. It would be so hard to figure this out on my own.

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