Friday, April 19, 2013

It always comes back to connection.

This past week has been one of the hardest weeks of parenting that I've had in a long time. It seems that both kids hit a period of disequilibrium at the same time. It was right on time for Hayden, since she'll be having a birthday at the end of May. I'm not sure why Tristan seems to be hitting it right now too. Either it's just coming a bit late, since he's already had his birthday, or there's just something magical about reaching that three year old mark. That's a well kept secret of parenting, you know. Before you have kids, all you hear about is the "terrible twos". That's a misnomer. The twos are fun. The threes are SO difficult. The terrible twos are a big lie, not to mention a really negative way to talk about your child. But I digress.



So they've both been in disequilibrium, and it's been difficult. They've both been melting down, seem to have lost all of the maturity they gained over the past year, and have gone back to needing almost constant supervision when they're together. I've definitely been doing a lot of get-off-your-butt parenting, and have been hard to find time to get anything else done. I've particularly been struggling with Hayden. Three, while difficult, I've done before. I know a little of what to expect and that it's totally normal for that age. But I've never done going-on-five before, and so much of the time lately it's seemed like she's morphed into this angry little person that I don't recognize or have the first clue how to handle.



I've been hanging in there though. I'm experienced enough in parenting now to know that these seasons happen, and that they're not a reflection of my ability as a parent or whether or not my kids will grow up to be productive members of society. They just happen. We just have to try to get through them with as much grace and patience as we can.



Just like usually happens, I'm learning so much through this process. I've been trying to do everything right and trying to figure out what I could do to help Hayden get through this difficult patch. I thought maybe she needed more big muscle movement, so we've been spending more time than ever outside and at the park. As wonderful as that is, especially in the springtime, it didn't really help. Weird!



The whole time, I was missing the answer that was staring me in the face. Parenting is all about connection. It always, always, always comes back to connection. If you know me, you know I'm not good with connection. It's a struggle, a stretch for me. I've written before about how Tristan is the one who first taught me how to love, well into my twenties, and while that was an amazing process, it's still a process of growth for me. It's not a switch that can just be turned on, it's a daily process of learning to be vulnerable and make that connection with another human. It's difficult for me, and when I get busy I sometimes forget to focus on practicing it.



This is counter-productive, of course, because connection is one of the most basic needs of my little girl. I discovered that it was what had been missing almost by accident. Two nights ago I was tired after dinner, and decided to relax on the couch for a couple of minutes before tackling the dishes and bedtime. I turned on the tv to one of those silly cooking competition shows. Hayden snuggled in next to me and we cuddled for twenty minutes or so. It was lovely. How could I have forgotten about this?!? For all the effort I'd been putting in all week to make sure that all her needs were being met, and that I was doing everything I could to be a good parent during a difficult time, I had forgotten about actually connecting with her.



Her demeanor totally changed after that snuggle session. She seemed like she was the happy little girl that I was used to having around again. We were enjoying each other's company and she seemed to be enjoying life. Wow! And then, unfortunately, an hour later I screwed it up again. Perhaps it's my behaviour that needs more work than hers does. In a moment of frustration(it was the end of the day, remember) I yelled, and in a second's time her countenance fell again. No! I had messed it up again! At least I knew now what I was doing wrong. I apologized, and hugged her. From that next morning, I've been focusing on connecting with her, and it's making all the difference. We still have difficult moments, of course, but I'm learning to help her through them with more patience and grace now that I'm focused on connecting with her.


Connection, it always comes back to connection. No matter what else is going on with my kids, I'm learning to remember that connection is always the answer.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Journey: Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week

This is my second post for Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week. The prompt for Day 2 was:

"How has your experience affected you? What has it done to you emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, etc.? What has your journey been like? How have you gotten where you are today? Do you feel you’ve healed? What do you still struggle with?"

Good questions. Let's see- how has my experience affected me? It's literally affected every area of my life. Obviously abuse is never a good thing, and there have been many struggles along the road to healing, but I'm proud to say that I've fought like hell and come out so much better and stronger. I'm a fighter, a survivor, and I'm proud of how far I've come.

So- physically. One thing I've learned through all of this is just how interconnected body, soul, and spirit are. When I first started becoming aware of the abuse, my health took an absolute nosedive. I went from being a relatively healthy person with no concerns to someone with serious health issues in a matter of months. My main issues were digestive, and while I'm a little embarrassed to go into all the details, just imagine the worst things you can imagine about IBS, and that's what I was dealing with.  I eventually figured out that I'm allergic to gluten, and my health improved somewhat after eliminating that from my diet, and then improved significantly again after a year on the GAPS diet and a parasite cleanse. The really interesting thing though is that I never had digestive problems before becoming aware of the abuse and before I started the extraordinarily stressful process of working through all of that. I do think that I'm legitimately allergic to gluten, but I also fully believe that my health issues were directly related to the stress of these experiences.

Emotionally. While going through all of it, my emotions were all over the place. Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, the whole 9 yards. As my sister pointed out after reading Monday's post, I also had some reactions that weren't unlike PTSD. I was a mess. I felt like I was going insane. I knew I wasn't crazy, but goodness, it sure felt like it some days. I had such little control over my emotions, and the depression was so constant and so crushing. Again, some of this was definitely exacerbated by the gluten and gut issues, but a lot of it was a legitimate emotional reaction to what I had been through and what I was going through processing it all(and the subsequent effect on my marriage).

But now? It's like night and day. Now I've found healing, now I've learned to set healthy boundaries and learned what it means to love myself. After learning how to love and accept myself, my heart has been opened to love others, to truly love others for the first time in my life. That nagging feeling that I wasn't really living my own life is gone. I feel freedom, hope, and joy. Yes, there are bad days and even rough seasons. But I know now that not only can I get through them, but HOW to get through them.

Mentally. I've learned that I'm strong. That I'm relentless. That I can get through just about anything. I've learned that I'm intelligent, that I'm not cut out to be a full time stay-at-home-mom(and that's okay!), and that I still love learning. I've learned that it's okay to think for myself. I basically had to start completely over, figuring out what *I* actually think and believe, and while that's a strange process to start so late in life, it's also been so much fun.

Spiritually. Like I described earlier this week, at my lowest point I couldn't even open the Bible, dreaded sitting through church services, and could hardly pray. To have so much trust shattered- to find your life in shambles because of what you'd been taught in the name of God- was just totally devastating. I honestly didn't even know where to begin, but for the first time in my life I decided to be honest with myself about how I was feeling. I gave myself permission to not want to open the Bible. I figured God would rather have me not open it out of an honest heart than to keep reading it out of obligation like I'd done for the past 15 years or so. I just didn't want to be fake anymore. I stopped opening the Bible unless I really wanted to. I didn't do anything spiritual unless I actually wanted to. It was so dark.

And yet God can be found in the darkness too, especially when there's an honest heart there. I found Him speaking to me, undeniably speaking to me. Still, even when I couldn't speak to Him, couldn't put any effort into it anymore, even when I was so hurt and so tired and so done, He still pursued me. It's been a long road, and I don't think I could even explain how, but He showed me grace and love. For the first time EVER, which is a complete and utter shame considering I grew up in CHURCH, I started to understand what grace and love look like. It's awakened and affected every part of me, every relationship that I have. I've learned to show grace to my children and my husband. I'm learning how to show grace to myself.

My spiritual walk is deeper and more real than it ever has been.

I feel like I've healed a lot, although this process of starting to share my story and reevaluate it has shown me that I still have a lot more healing to do. One thing I'm struggling with right now is that after so many years of trauma and going through absolute hell, I still find myself looking around every corner, expecting something horrible to happen. Sometimes, if things have been peaceful for too long, I'll find myself trying to pick a fight with Thad or subconsciously looking for a situation to be angsty about. This is obviously not healthy. I also struggle with knowing that we live in a world where patriarchy is alive and well, where gender hierarchy is the norm both inside and outside the church(but especially inside), and where women are abused every day in the name of God. I'm still trying to figure out what part I can play in helping that stop, and I think for now, sharing my story here is a good place to start.

Today I'm linking up with Joy in This Journey for Day 2 of Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week. Click over to her blog to read other stories or to share your own. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Secret Pain of Spiritual Abuse

I found out last week about the spiritual abuse synchroblog, and at first I thought I wouldn't participate. Sure, I have a story, but I'm much too busy to sit down and try to write a portion of it out, right? Then on Sunday, inspiration hit, and I changed my mind. I've been trying all day to get my story out. I've started and stopped. I wrote a whole post and declared it crappy, started completely over and declared that one awful too. I've agonized, grieved, prayed, and been generally grumpy. How do you do this? How do you tell a story that's so deeply painful and personal? I want to get this out, I need to get this out. Where to start? If I start at the beginning, it'd take me forever to tell. Instead, I'll start at my darkest moment.


She found me after church. I knew she'd sought me out and wasn't going to leave until after she'd talked to me. I wasn't talking to very many people those days- a depressed introvert will do that. She was one of the few people I trusted that I could share at least part of my heart with. She looked me in the eye, it felt like she looked straight into my soul, and said,

"If it wasn't for your kids, you wouldn't still be here, would you?"

I was too ashamed to even admit it, but she was right. I'd reached that place where ending it all seemed like the easiest answer, where life was so painful I didn't know if I wanted to keep on living. There was so much hurt, so much pain, so much confusion. I was at the end of my rope and barely hanging on. She was right, my kids- the one in my arms and the one in my belly- were the biggest reason I was hanging on.

How did I get to this place? How does the good Christian girl who grew up in the perfect Christian family, had the perfect husband and perfect baby- how does this girl get to the place of despair and wanting to end it all? Two words: spiritual abuse.

You see, that perfect Christian family that I grew up in wasn't so perfect after all. Everyone was jealous of us- of how my mom was always smiling and how my sister and I were always obedient and always got along with each other. But behind that appealing facade was a dark truth- that we were that way because we had to be.

I don't know where or how exactly it started, but somehow my family bought into the same lie that so many other families and churches buy into- the one that says that control is a good thing. Unquestioning obedience was required. It didn't matter how ridiculous or unfair the demands were, as children we were to obey. Lack of obedience to parents meant lack of obedience to the Lord.



It would be impossible to tell my whole story. And spiritual abuse- what does that even mean? To me it means using the threat of being unpleasing to the Lord to manipulate people into doing things that are unhealthy, or using the Bible to wield control or power over another.




In my family, it looked like things like this:


It looked like the time when I was 7 years old, when I stopped reading my King James Bible out loud every morning for devotional time and started reading novels instead becaue they were more interesting, how my dad spanked me 100 times for the 100 days I'd been lying (by omission) to him about it. It looked like how he then pulled out the family photo albums and pointed out to me how "the light" had gone out of my eyes when I stopped reading God's word every day.
It looked like how when I'd forget to do my chore of washing my dad's clothes, it wasn't seen as a mistake or forgetfulness, it was seen as a serious character flaw, lack of respect for my father, and selfishness that needed to be repented of.
When I was 14, spiritual abuse looked like my father, in the name of sex education, forcing me to say words like penis and vagina. When I was too embarrassed to comply, he commanded me to say them, declared that I was not too old to be spanked for disobedience, and yes, spanked me for not saying those words in front of him. At Fourteen. Years. Old.
Spiritual abuse looked like my entire courtship with my future husband. It was securely woven in the way that we weren't allowed to make any decisions about our relationship on our own. We couldn't decide when to talk on the phone, when to spend time alone together, when to start using the titles "boyfriend" and "girlfriend", when to hold hands, when to kiss, when to say I love you- all in the name of having a God honoring relationship. Of course, God-honoring meant parent controlled. It was damaging enough for my husband to be subjected to such inane rules, but he'd already had the experience of living an adult life and making choices for himself- something I'd never done. And even then, as I was supposed to be making the incredibly important decision about the person I'd be spending the rest of my life with, the decisions were not my own.
Spiritual abuse looked like being taught that because I was a woman, it would be sinful for me to work outside of the home, or make major decisions for myself, or try to be equal with my husband, or basically think for myself at all.



Those are glimpses of what spiritual abuse looked like for me. I lived 22 years in that world, in that box, trapped in a place where I couldn't think for myself, where I couldn't be myself, where I didn't even know that there *was* a myself that I was missing. To me, that was the worst part of it- not that I was in the box, but that I didn't know the box existed. At 22 years old, when I saw that first crack start to appear, and I got my first glimpse into the outside world, my life was changed forever.



But simply knowing and seeing the truth does not instantly make for a beautiful life, not when seeing the truth for the first time means starting over. For me it was quite literally a Matrix-like moment, as if discovering that my entire life had been a lie. And that led me deep into depression.

The Bible that I'd devoted so much time into reading, studying, and following- I couldn't even open it. I literally couldn't read it because every time I tried, reading passages that I'd read before would trigger a horrible memory, would bring back that terrible feeling like my gut had just been punched. I could barely sit through church. "What a bunch of fakes.", I'd think. "Do they realize how many people they're hurting in the name of God? Do they even care?" I couldn't sing, so I'd just stand there. I'd cringe throughout the sermon, hoping it would end soon so I could crawl back home to solitude. I could barely pray. I definitely couldn't do long, drawn out prayers on my face pouring my heart out to the Lord. All I could manage was a sentence or two. "God please help me." "Please help me make it through this." But He still heard.

And I still believed in Him. I couldn't understand how such terrible things could be done in His name, and I still don't fully understand that. But somehow, I knew it wasn't His fault, that it wasn't what he had wanted all along. I couldn't open His precious word, I could barely open my mouth and speak to Him, and yet I clung to him. I clung to hope that I would someday, somehow make it through this.

I don't remember what else that precious woman said to me after church that day, but I do remember that it encouraged me. That encounter became a bit of of a defining moment for me, a lifeline to hang onto, a confirmation that God really was still there and really did still care about me. Little did I know just how carefully He was watching me, holding me, guiding me, leading me to the place I am today.

This post was written for Spiritual Abuse Awareness Week, a synchroblog hosted by several Christian bloggers. I'm linking up with Wine and Marble today, I'll be keeping up with Rachel Held Evans' series on abuse and the church all week, and you can see the rest of the participants in the graphic below. I hope you'll read along, and find hope and healing along with me.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Do Other Introverted Pastor's Wives Hate Sundays?

*DISCLAIMER- I love being a pastor's wife. True, it's not all about me. No, I'm not always this cynical, nor do I think along these lines the whole time I'm at church. I do actually think about the needs of others, at least every other week or so. ;) Yes, there are many wonderful and rewarding parts of being in church leadership- I'm totally only talking about the negative stuff here. And finally, yes, my husband works incredibly hard on Sundays and it's exhausting for him too. Now with all that out of the way, can I be honest for a sec?

Last night I found myself googling the phrase, "Do other introverted pastors wives hate Sundays?"It was not my proudest moment, lemme tell ya. But at the same time, Sundays are so draining for me, and I need to find some better coping skills, or at least know that I'm not alone!

It's not as bad as you might be thinking. I love our church. I love that my husband is a pastor. I love listening to him preach. I love the people in our church.


The Getting Ready
Every Sunday morning, I wake up early to get myself and the kids ready for church. Of course, this involves dressing up, the most dressed up that any of us will get on most weeks, and also the earliest we'll wake up most weeks. Fun times already! Any other time we're all getting ready to go somewhere, I'd expect Thad to help me get the kids ready, but on Sundays it's all on me since he has a sermon and a million other things to be thinking about. So I'm in charge of the outfit picking, the breakfast, the snack and toy packing, the teeth brushing, the hair fixing, all on top of getting myself ready. I'm hyping myself up on coffee long before we get out the door. In fact, I'm probably on my second cup before we get out the door.

The Leadership Meeting and Sunday School
We get to church early for leadership meeting and Sunday school. As I've explained before, I'm an introvert. Being around people, especially large groups of people, drains me. During Sunday school, I'm often sneaking peeks at Facebook or Instagram, not because the speaker isn't interesting or because I enjoy being rude, but because those brief little escapes help me stay sane. Go right ahead and judge me for it! I know, so horrible to get online during Sunday school! (But thank God for ipads and wifi!)

The Being Friendly and Apparently Not Being Allowed to Have Even a Second to Myself
I'm the pastor's wife, so of course I need to be friendly and welcoming to everyone. It's not that I don't want to be friendly and welcoming. It's not that I don't care about every single person that comes, because I do care, deeply! It's that being friendly and welcoming doesn't come natural for me. I'm not good at it. It's exhausting for me. One Sunday I was getting a little overwhelmed so I took a quick break from chatting with people and ducked into the bathroom. A congregation member(someone that I don't even know yet, but who obviously recognized me) popped in and said, "I see you! You can't hide in here!" I'm sure she didn't mean to be so rude, but boy- talk about the WRONG thing to say to an introverted pastor's wife who already feels a bit on display and out of her element and needs just a second to breathe! I mean, really? I can't hide in the bathroom for a second to recompose myself? Okay, then how about you just watch me go crazy right in front of everyone! Trust me, you want to let me have those two minutes to myself.

There's me hiding in the bathroom. I felt a little better after just a few minutes to myself.

The Sitting on the Front Row and Worshipping Inconspicuously
Finally, service time arrives. As the pastor's wife, I sit right there on the front row. Most of the time, surprisingly, that doesn't bother me. I decided from day one that I wasn't going to let being a pastor's wife keep me from being myself. If I worship less flamboyantly than some people, that's okay. It's good for people to see that people worship in different ways, and that's normal. I'm pretty confident about that part of it.(Yay me!) However, this can be problematic if I'm having a particularly bad day(cause worshipping tends to bring out all those emotions, dontcha know), or if I have a particular hatred for one of the songs being sung. I may or may not be found singing "I really hate this song...I really hate this song..." instead of "I am a friend of God! I am a friend of God!" Thankfully, we don't sing that song very often.

The Sermon
My husband is a great preacher(not that I'm biased or anything, but really. I may be biased, but I'm also picky, and he's pretty darn good). I love listening to him preach. I'll be sitting there getting all inspired, writing notes in my notebook, resisting the urge to check and see if someone commented on my facebook post, and thinking about the blog post I'm going to write about how much the sermon inspired me. At that moment, I'm so fully of passion, so ready to run out into the world and do all of the things!!! I can make a difference in the world! I can learn and grow! Awesome Awesome Awesome!!!

The Aftermath
And then the service ends. More talking with people. More hand shaking and interacting and talking. (Again, it's not that I don't like people or that I don't care, it's that doing these things is EXHAUSTING for me and I've been at it for a good 4 hours now.) Then the kids come back in from their class, and they're in that lovely state of being excited/tired/hungry/cranky all at once, and it's just lovely trying to corral that energy. We usually go out to eat so that I don't have to go home and try to fix lunch two hours after it's normal time. I'm usually able to keep my energy going through lunch, but by the time we get home...

The Exhaustion
I'm exhausted. Physically exhausted from getting everything ready and doing and being the whole time. Mentally exhausted from interacting with all those people. Emotionally exhausted from the worship time and the inspirational sermon- and oh yeah, remember all those excited feelings about all the awesome things I'm going to do and awesome blog posts I'm going to write? They're still there, I'm just too exhausted to do anything about them. I don't know if you've ever experienced that before, but it's one of the most frustrating feelings. So not only am I exhausted, I'm exhausted and frustrated. And remember, I still have two small children who are wanting to play and eat and drive me crazy for the rest of the day until bedtime finally comes around, when all I want to do is lay on the couch for the rest of the day. And of course, totally understandably, my husband is also pretty much down for the count by this time also. Someone should start a business where pastoring families can drop off their kids after church and someone wonderful will take care of them for the rest of the day, feed them, bathe them, and drop them off asleep into their beds shortly after bedtime. They'd make a killing, I just know it.

So after all of that yesterday, (and then with DST thrown in, making my kids stay awake nearly three hours after their normal bedtime), I found myself on the couch at about 11PM, googling "Do other introverted pastors wives hate Sundays?" The bad news is that a link from came up, condescendingly telling me that I should sacrifice *all* of my own needs, even those related to my specific "personality"(as if that's a fake thing!), for the needs of the congregation members. It was the whole "You can't hide in here!" all over again, with an extra dose of "die-to-self!" thrown in for good measure. (I knew I shouldn't have clicked that one, but I did anyway.) The good news is that I also stumbled across a ministry for pastors wives and female church leaders that looks pretty awesome. I'm going to check it out further- maybe it's just the encouragement I need.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Back to the Blog(Again)

So, it's been too long since I've blogged. Sorry about that. But I'm excited to be back and I'm going to try really hard to start blogging more consistently. I think I'm also going to try to do shorter, more frequent posts- hopefully not in a quantity over quality way, just in a, "Geez, Anna, not every post has to be a perfectly composed argument about a serious topic" way.


The biggest reason I haven't been around is that our church now has it's own building! This is a great thing, but the downside is that the interior needs to be totally rennovated. This means that my super busy pastor husband is now even busier, and those Tuesday afternoons off that I was using to do most of my post writing are now non-existent. After three weeks of that, I decided that this wasn't working and went on strike decided to hire a girl from the church to babysit the kids one afternoon a week. No matter what else happens, I've got to have my mental health time, you know?!


We also had somewhat of a family crisis last week, but thankfully that's all been worked out and things are looking up. But I don't write while I'm emotional, and like I said before, y'all should be thankful for that. ;)


While I've been away, Tristan turned three, almost completely weaned(more on that later), my grandma came to visit, and I cut my hair and streaked it red!



Oh yeah, and I'm also on Twitter(@annacaltagirone) and Instagram now if you want to keep up with me there!


It's good to be back! You'll be seeing a lot more of me around these parts. :) What's been going on in your world? Any great posts I've missed?


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love God. Love Each Other.

Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said until him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 

                                                                                          Matthew 22:36-40

This cornerstone scripture encompasses what I believe to be one of the simplest and strongest arguments in favor of the concept of egalitarian marriage. The message in this passage is clear- the two most important commandments are these: to love God and to love each other. These two commandments are so fundamentally important that all the others can be contained within them. There's not a simpler way to explain God's desires for us other than to say that we are to love Him and to love each other.

It's no coincidence that these two principles are also the foundation of an egalitarian marriage. Love God. Love each other. Yes, of course, things can and do get more complex when we look at any specific couple's marriage, and yes, there are other principles that can be beneficial. But if we reduce the concept of an egalitarian marriage down to the bare bones, down to it's essence, the principles are these: Love God and love each other. There's nothing else that's absolutely necessary. These two principles alone, when applied to marriage, define perfectly the essence of an egalitarian marriage.

Love, amor, aimer, amore

Not so with complementarianism. Of course, complementarians would say that loving God and loving each other are essential to their beliefs about marriage. But just by stating those two things, you do not have a picture of a complementarian marriage. You don't start to see a picture of a complementarian marriage unless you add things like, "the man must humbly lead and the woman must graciously submit", or "the husband is the head and the wife is the follower", or "here are certain things that the woman must do and must not do". That sounds incredibly like legalism to me- to add strict rules to the beautiful simplicity of God's concept.

Love God. Love each other. It really doesn't have to get more complex than that. Jesus condensed the entire law and prophets down into these two basic commands, and they just happen to also perfectly describe the essence of egalitarianism. I think that's incredibly significant.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 
                                                                                         Galatians 3:23 

Photo Credit

Friday, February 15, 2013

My First Doula Experience!

I've been waiting until I could get permission from the momma to share, and now I'm free to announce- as of last weekend I've had my first official doula experience! And boy was it an experience- I was with the momma for 30 hours straight, including a planned home birth turned hospital transfer. I'm so thankful that this momma was being cared for by a super skilled midwife who puts a priority on safety. I'm also thankful that she got great care at the hospital and was able to avoid a c/section like she was hoping.

The whole process was a great learning experience for me. It's one thing to read about the challenges and experiences of being a doula, and it's another to actually experience them. (And I'm saying that after just one experience- I'm sure I'd feel even differently after more!) I definitely have a new respect for the wonderful women that are full time doulas, for the sacrifices that they make, and even a new understanding for the reasons they charge what they do!

I knew it would be challenging to be on call 24/7, and it really was. I was constantly checking my phone to make sure I hadn't missed any calls. I had to miss an event that I was wanting to go to because going to it would have put me too far away from the momma if she had needed me right away. One day, I lost my phone for about 5 minutes, and had a mini-panic attack trying to find it. (Nevermind the fact that I had given her Thad's number too as a backup, I was still frantic that I couldn't find mine!)

One thing I learned is to ask for details whenever the expectant mom or dad calls to ask you to come. I just said, "Okay, I'll be there as fast as I can!", instead of asking how long and far apart contractions were, if she was still talking through them, etc. If I had known I didn't necessarily have to rush right over ASAP, I would have taken a quick shower first. My hair would have appreciated that 30 hours later. ;)

I'm not going to give details since it's not my birth to share, but like I said earlier, we did end up having to transport to the hospital. I wasn't expecting that to bring up so much emotion for me, but it did. I was definitely having flashbacks to our own hospital transport with Tristan just hours after he was born. I'm confident that my feelings didn't effect the level of support I was able to offer, so no worries there, but those are definitely things I want to take some time to process more between now and the next birth I attend.

Another big thing I learned was that it takes time to process each birth. Doulas are present for life changing moments, and even when there's a perfect outcome, birth is still a big deal and still a lot for someone to process. The day after I got home(and slept the rest of that day), I was still feeling pretty out of it emotionally. I don't know how to describe it, except that it felt a little like I had given birth too. It seems  a little creepy to me to say that, and I don't mean it in a creepy way, or in a way that would take any of the credit away from the mom for the amazing job she did. And I obviously don't have a baby to take home. But just by going through that process with her, and being present for that intense, life changing moment- it's definitely a lot to process. I don't know how you ever get used to that! The good news is that it took me less time with this birth to get back to feeling "normal" than it did with Jessica's birth in April, so maybe it is something that you can get used to, at least to some extent.

I was also able to chat with a doula friend over the phone a couple of days after the birth, and that was really helpful. I'm thankful that she took the time to do that with me. She shared some of her experiences with me, and how she's had to take some time to process birth experiences too- and even felt like she needed therapy a time or two after a rough experience! I can definitely see that. If this is something that I continue to do on a regular basis, my processing skills are going to have to get really good!

I don't mean for all of that to sound negative, and it wasn't a negative experience at all. Intense? Totally. Negative? Definitely not. It was beautiful experience- to see this woman's family rally around her in support, to see the tears from everyone as the baby was born, the fun of finding out the sex of the baby, the wonderful surprise of a homebirth transfer momma getting great care in a hospital- it was a wonderful experience. I'm so thankful, blessed, and honored to have been a part of this family's process, and to be able to help and support them through their journey. I have such a heart for empowering women and mothers, and to be able to do that in a tangible, practical way was just wonderful.