When I was engaged at 21 years old, I had no idea what NFP was. In our diocese we were required to take an NFP class as part of our marriage prep, and I decided to order a home study course because I was too embarrassed at the idea of talking about it with strangers. I started charting and reading everything I could about it.
We were married in the middle of July and by the end of August, I was expecting our first child. He was completely unplanned... during our two weeks of travel for our honeymoon, I had misplaced my chart and miscalculated peek day. I had just started my last year of college, but had to drop out because of the severe nausea I experienced.
To my dismay, my cycle came back 5 weeks postpartum. I had some complications with the pregnancy and delivery, and despite pumping for 7 weeks, my milk never came in. I was only pumping an ounce a day. I was committed to using NFP to avoid pregnancy because a) I had a c-section, b) my husband was in the Army and there was a chance we'd be moving within the next few months, c) I developed postpartum depression.
No one had ever talked to me about postpartum depression before. I didn't know that it was even a thing. Between a husband who always worked and a baby who never slept or stopped crying, I turned into a complete mess. Not knowing what it was, I just assumed I was just beyond exhausted and I'd get over it. I never talked to anyone about it except my husband, who responded by hanging out with his friends more to avoid my screaming and crying. I can't totally blame him.... I would spend the day laying in bed with our son, just crying, begging God to make him sleep because I was just so tired. I started having dark thoughts that scared me, but I had no one to talk to. I didn't know there was medication I could take, or supplements that would help.
Because my husband worked so much (frequently in the field for weeks at a time, or in other states training for a couple of months), our son and I spent quite a bit of time at my parents' house. I would pack a few bags and spend a few weeks a time at their house, only seeing my husband one week a month, if that. When he finally got on a schedule where he worked on post close to our house, he mostly worked nights - roughly 4 pm til 7 am. We barely saw each other.
I remember one night that we were finally home together after several weeks apart. Our son was 11 months old. I felt some cramping that usually indicated ovulation, but I wasn't due to ovulate for a week. I had been on a very specific schedule for as long as I had remembered. Three and a half weeks, almost to the day. That's how long my cycles were. I decided to ignore the cramping, because we only had a couple of days together before we'd be apart again for a few weeks.
Our middle daughter was born 9 months later.
By that time, we had moved 1000 miles across the country (read: away from my family), my husband had gotten out of the Army (officially: the day before we left the hospital with our new daughter, which meant insurance didn't cover that last day. We had to pay $5000 for that ONE day), his mother/my mother-in-law had passed away from brain tumors just three weeks prior.
Things were really rough, and we started fighting a lot. NFP was always a huge problem in our marriage because he didn't believe it worked. To him, it kept failing us because I kept getting pregnant. To me, I KNEW it worked BECAUSE I kept getting pregnant and knew exactly when it happened, even though both times were an accident. He would rather abstain for the rest of our marriage than trust NFP to work. He started withholding any signs of affection, even saying "I love you." He'd purposely get up earlier than me and leave the room so that he wouldn't have to talk to me in the morning.... leaving me in bed, recovering from a c-section, with my newborn and 20 month old son.
After a crying fight one night, things got a bit better for awhile. My cycle returned at 5 weeks postpartum again, but this time the depression didn't. We were happy for the first time in awhile, or so I thought.
Several months later, things got rough again, and my husband asked for a separation. I was four days into a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots to save our marriage. He had no idea I was praying it... he just knew that he was no longer happy and wanted a break. Ultimately I agreed to take the kids and move back in with my family, but in the meantime I had hopes that he would change his mind. We spent the month before I left enjoying each other's company, if you know what I mean. I thought maybe it would save our marriage. However, despite warning a week before ovulation was due that we should be careful, we weren't that one day.... and I ended up pregnant.
I denied it at first.... I thought my cycle was late due to the stress I was undergoing. With my first two pregnancies, I tested positive almost a week early. I just KNEW I was pregnant both times. This time, I KNEW I couldn't be... because why would God do that to me?
Two days before my family picked up the kids and I and drove 1000 miles back across the country in a completely full minivan with our belongings crammed into every possible corner, I tested positive. I couldn't believe it. I mean, I could.... I was just in denial. Our son had just turned two a few months prior, and our middle child was only six months old. I was about to become a single mother of three kids under three.
Fast forward an incredibly difficult three years, and here I am, writing a blog post about NFP.
I can't really say that I wish I had known more about NFP to begin with, because then I might not have the kids that I have, and I love them to death. As difficult as life has been these last six years (but especially the last three years), I can't imagine life without them.
Since I've been single for three years, I've been studying more about NFP, tracking my cycle (not doing anything fancy, just marking certain days and for sure my period on my iPhone and MAC calendars), and just preparing myself for the future in case I ever remarry. I don't know if it's in God's plan to ever have more children, but it is incredibly heartbreaking to hear my son ask why I don't have a baby in my belly, and tell me that he really wants a brother.
We've had our fair share of difficulties.... my car died six weeks after my first child was born, and I wasn't able to get a new one until three years later, after I had been living with my family for 7 months. We had to wean our son from formula almost a month early because we couldn't afford to buy even one more generic can (ps: don't join the military strictly for the money... they don't actually pay that well.) Everything we wear is a hand-me-down, from Goodwill, or from the clearance rack at Walmart. Some weeks we have lived on generic mac n cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or bowls of cereal with watered-down milk. I have had to ask for help from complete strangers on multiple occasions, and I got a credit card for groceries and toiletries for when things are particularly tough (thank God for Amazon prime and grocery delivery).
But we have also been blessed in more ways than I can count. Between a friend's fundraiser and a gofundme page, my van was entirely paid off. My uncles gave me a tv and dvd player for Christmas a few years ago. Friends from church have given us furniture, clothing, toys for the kids, delivered meals. We've had people come clean the house a few times, visit me at the hospital during various stays for myself or my kids. My business has grown beyond my dreams, and my customers and followers have been so incredibly generous and understanding during periods of difficulty.
My kids are happy, healthy, and thriving.
That's all that matters.
I am not a gentle person. I try so hard to be…. I study books and blogs on gentle parenting. I try to be calm and patient with everyone. I try to let go of my own ideas of how my life should be and just follow along with God’s plan, but I am truly awful at all of those things. I frequently complain and question why God allows certain things to happen. I try to take charge and then get frustrated when things don’t go according to plan.
To read more, click here.
I admit I haven’t spent much time studying Job, but from what I know about his story, I often feel like I can relate. It seems like no matter how hard I try to do the right thing, everything just gets worse and worse. A quote from Aragorn in The Two Towers sums up my feelings well – “Alas! An ill fate is on me this day and all that I do goes amiss.”Yesterday was the first day since Easter that I have been able to leave the house and go to Mass.
To read more, click here.
Three years ago, my marriage was in trouble. We had only been married for just under three years and already had two kids, moved four times, lost his mother/my mother-in-law to cancer, and dealt with lots of military drama. We had been dealt a very difficult hand, and things were just getting worse.
I had heard amazing things about the Undoer of Knots novena and figured if anything would save us… that would. Between fights, crying babies, fixing up an apartment that should’ve just been condemned, and missing my family 1000 miles away, I prayed the novena–without my husband knowing. I had hope that things were about to get better.
To read more, click here.
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I don't know about you, but I absolutely LOVE Amazon Prime! The convenience of having things delivered for free two days later, not having to leave my house for diapers, watching things that aren't available on Netflix, and Audible... oh how I love Audible.
Our house is FULL of things we have purchased from Amazon. From the mattresses in our bedrooms to the toilet paper in our bathroom to the trampoline in the kitchen (Yes, you read that right!), there isn't a room in the house that doesn't have at least 3 things that were purchased from Amazon.
Tomorrow (July 11) is the third annual Prime Day, a day full of incredible deals just for Prime members. It is supposedly bigger than Black Friday, so it is kind of a big deal. First, if you don't have a Prime membership yet, you can sign up for a 30 day free trial here.
One of my absolutely favorite deals is for Audible. New-to-Audible Prime members can listen to audio books for only $8.95 per month for the first 6 months, a savings of 40% or $36. Plus, as an Audible member, you also get 30% off all audiobooks. They have been having amazing sales this summer, and I've gotten a variety of books for myself and the kids for under $5! Sign up here!
If you enjoy reading books on the Kindle (app or device), this deal is for you! Through July 11, 2017, enjoy unlimited reading from over one million titles on any device. Prime Members get 25% off a 6-month Kindle Unlimited membership, get 33% off a 12-month Kindle Unlimited membership, and get 40% off a 24-month Kindle Unlimited membership.
You can even purchase Amazon gift cards to give as gifts.
Some of our favorite Amazon items are listed below (not all are Prime Day deals - though that might change as deals are revealed tomorrow - but they are highly recommended regardless):
Instant Pot 7-in-1, 6 qt. - My family has two, and they are used daily. We use them to make rice, meat and potatoes, hardboiled eggs, stew, even yogurt! We usually have one going with the main dish and one with a side dish. For Christmas, I had both of them cooking a breakfast casserole with hashbrowns, sausage, cheese, and eggs. It was absolute perfection, if I do say so myself ;) **EDIT: The 8 qt Instant Pot is on sale right now!
Viva Naturals Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser - I currently have two diffusers in the house and hope to get two more. I diffuse in the kids' room every night and in my room frequently. I'd like to get one for the bathroom and one for the living room. **This is on sale**
Planet Earth Giftset - My kids actually really enjoy watching Planet Earth. I put it on in the background while they play on the floor during quiet time, and they ask lots of questions about the images shown. **This is on sale**
Erin Condren Hardbound LifePlanner - If you've had your eye on an Erin Condren planner for awhile, it's one of the Prime Day deals! Isn't it gorgeous??
Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet - We have two of these kid's tablets and I love them. They come with a no-questions-asked 2 year warranty and one year of FreeTime Unlimited which gives your kids access to 15,000 popular apps and games, videos, books, and educational content from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney, and more. You can have different profiles for each child (up to 4, I believe?), and set a time limit so that the tablet automatically locks when their time is up. **This is on sale**
Regular Kindle Fire 7 with Alexa - This is on sale for only $29.99! I've used it before and it is great. Especially for older kids or teens.
Osmo Genius Kit - My mom has this for my 9 year old sister, and my kids love to use it as well.
Skywalker Trampolines Round Bouncer Trampoline with Enclosure - Remember how you read that we have a trampoline in our kitchen? This is the one, and it is used daily. All three kids can jump on it safely because there is an enclosure with a bar that they hold onto. We've had it for almost 3 years and it is still in great condition.
Portable CD Player with AM/FM Radio - The kids have this cd player in their room and listen to audiobooks every night while they get ready for bed and fall asleep. It is simple enough that the two older kids can start and stop the cd on their own, or skip to their favorite stories. I need to get a second one for the living room. Right now we just use the dvd player for cd's, but I don't like having to keep the tv and dvd player on instead of just a cd player. Waste of electricity, I think.
Regalo 192-Inch Super Wide Gate and Play Yard - We have this around our wood stove and it keeps the kids away from the hearth, wood, stove, and also trash and recycling (which are next to the hearth). I love it because I was always so worried that the kids would fall and hit their heads on the brick hearth, or touch the hot stove and burn themselves. My parents also have one across their living room to keep the kids out of the kitchen (like my newly-crawling nephew).
My computer is about to die and I need to get the kids to bed, but check back here throughout the day tomorrow as I plan to update the list with deals and more favorites!
Crowds. Noise. Bright lights. Explosions. Food.
All of these are to be expected during 4th of July celebrations.
But when you have a special needs child, things are different. Most kids today are going to be eating hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, apple pie, cherry tarts, desserts decorated with strawberries and blueberries, etc. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder. He hates crowds. He hates noise. He hates bright lights. He has major food aversions.
He also suffers from (currently undiagnosed but sadly obvious) anxiety, and his anxiety sometimes manifests itself as excitement. He knows he doesn't like fireworks. Yet, for a week, he has woken up in the middle of the night - wide awake - to come to my room and tell me how many days til "Fireworks Day." He spends the day talking about fireworks and how he's going to stay up to watch them. Normal bedtime is 7:30-8 pm in the summer. Fireworks aren't going to start before bedtime, so we're either going to have a meltdown about missing the fireworks that he isn't going to like anyway, or he'll stay up late, freak out over the fireworks, and be difficult to get to sleep.
Another thing he does when he is anxious is ask non-stop back-to-back questions, talking a mile a minute. It's like his brain just can't slow down or shut off, and he barely gives me a second to answer one question before spitting out another one.
When he finally takes a minute to slow down, his anxiety turns into anger, and he starts screaming at everyone, he starts hitting and throwing, and he ends up going into full meltdown mode - he gets completely sensory overloaded and can't handle it. I have to pin him down between my arms and legs until he settles down, while dodging blows from his head, keeping his hands stiff so that he can't tear at my skin.
He doesn't have a good enough concept of time to understand that fireworks aren't going to start for at least 10 hours from now, so every minute or less he asks when fireworks are going to start. This has been going on for almost two hours so far this morning, and it's almost impossible to redirect him and distract him from the fact that there aren't any fireworks yet. It is all he can think about.
My hopes for the day are that we can keep the meltdowns to a minimum, enjoy a few patriotic movies or episodes from favorite tv shows, spend several hours outside in the pool, and maybe catch a couple of small fireworks before bed - just enough to satisfy his want without scaring him too badly. We'll make homemade gluten-free/dairy-free muffins, homemade strawberry jello, and maybe some chicken nuggets and tater tots. We'll play with playdoh and listen to audiobooks and maybe even play with the neighbor kids without screaming. If we can make it through the day without going on timeout several times, that'll be a win in my book.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! God bless America! I hope you and your family have a fantastic day. Eat a hamburger and some watermelon for me ;)