Author Archives: Kristin Ageton

About Kristin Ageton

Wife since 2010, mother of a boy since 2014, Christian, full time educator, list maker, struggling to choose relational time over getting tasks accomplished. Trying to choose life over the to-do list.

This Bible verse is saving me right now.

A series at church was asking attendees to share a Bible verse that has stuck with them for some reason. I call it the “saving me” verse. This is your “why-is-my-life-falling-apart-around-me” verse you need to read to gain perspective when everything feels crappy. At church, I’ve heard numerous stories and a bucket load of verses, all leading up to being inspired to identify my “saving me” verse.

In the past, these verses have ebbed and flowed, mostly focusing around worry or unknown:

  • Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to you hope and a future.”
  • Matthew 6:34 “Don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow has enough worry of its own.”
  • Jeremiah 32:27 “I am the Lord, the God of all peoples. Is anything too hard for me?” (I still love this verse. Can you just hear God’s sass? I mean, maybe He’s not trying to, but I just picture his hip cocked out saying, “Girl, please! I got this!”)
  • Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous.” (and continues in verses 9, 18, 25 and again in chapter 31, verses 6, 23)

The past couple months? I’ve felt God speaking to me through 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power and love and self-control.”

Seriously, y’all. This verse has appeared in things I’ve been reading for the last two months. God is really trying to communicate to me. BAD. It started really standing out as I was feeling – for no good reason – near crippling fear about something happening to my boys. Like a deadly car accident. Or home invasion. Or…insert the scene of the crime from the latest crime investigation television show. (I avoid them like the plague because my imagination wanders.) I realize this probably sounds super humorous, but I was in tears at least once a week as a result of my imagination running wild. We all have our demons – and the devil is usually the culprit of every single one.

But another verse was just brought to my attention. Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

This verse comes from the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt as Pharaoh let them go (after a series of seven awful punishments from God). But as they were getting ready to cross the Red Sea, Pharaoh had a change of heart (again) and sent his troops after the Israelites. The Israelites freaked out (read Exodus 12:11-12; they are next-level scared out of their minds), and I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same. But that Moses…he knew who was in control. And he also knew they didn’t need to do a darn thing, because God had promised he would take care of the situation. Moses says: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the sea parted, all the soldiers drowned, yada yada, right? (I mean, not really “yada, yada,” – God did part the water through Moses, after all.) But that verse stuck with me.

I suck at being still. First, I solve my own problems. I was brought up in a home where you tried really hard to not rely on anyone. That’s the American way! But it’s really not God’s way (see: What does the Bible say about self-reliance? from openbible.info; spoiler alert: stop relying on yourself).

Second, I really suck at resting and waiting on God. (Hello…Recovering Martha is the name of this blog.) God designed me to be a do-er. But He did not design me to be angry with O when he dumps a giant cup of water out of the bathtub and onto me and the floor. Or snarky with J about all the hunting gear spread out in the basement. Or impatient with a little boy who just wants “one more, book, Mommy.” Or disobedient by not being in His Word or praying – ever. (Do you ever feel like you could write a giant list of all the things you do wrong, and struggle to think of one right? WHAT IS THAT?!)

God gave us a whole dang day of rest – which we Americans used to call Sunday but now tend to call it the “get all the things done ’til you can’t stand anymore” day. But yesterday (Sunday), I paused for a brief hour to sit and bask in the September sun while I read this book I can’t put down (“7” by Jen Hatmaker – prepare to be involved, to be asked for an uncomfortable life change, and to literally laugh out loud). And…It was lovely. I felt – dare I say – relaxed. Almost rested. Granted, the day didn’t end that way (J will tell the truth – he was definitely vacuuming at 8:15pm, per my request. Thank God for this man and how he doesn’t give up on me). But at least for one hour, I gave up the fight and let God take care of me.

Oh, Lord. Help me to be still. Help me to not get caught up in the day-to-day mess; but rather, focus on my purpose: to be in relationship with You and bring others to You via my relationships. Put people in my life to remind me of this perspective, and please send your Holy Spirit to me with a not-so-gentle “nudging” to crack open my Bible and find another verse to save me. I need all the help I can get.

Step Away From the “To-Do List”

I was with a group of young parents I hadn’t met before. And we were going to be in the same room for the next 60 minutes. We were doing the typical sharing: where you work, kid stories, etc., but I wanted to accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. I said, “This may sound dorky, but I really don’t know how else to say it or how else to know you all a bit better – quickly.” Pause. “But what are your interests or hobbies?”

If you’re a parent, you know how difficult it is to have interests or hobbies. And if someone would have asked me this question even before Owen was born, I would not have known how to respond. Because I am really into accomplishing tasks. I guess that is a hobby. But since starting this Recovering Martha blogging journey, I’ve forced myself to reconsider what I spend my time and energy on. Now don’t be fooled: I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on meaningless tasks (mostly related to way too much social media or a clean house – when people ask Jim about his wife, he describes me as “Monica Gellar“). But I’ve also learned the physical and mental benefits to a yoga workout, getting my accomplishment fix via gardening, and I’ve gotten way more comfortable with publicly announcing my wine habit. So I shared those things with this small group. And I felt like the odd one out.

I was proud of a couple people: one guy in a basketball league, another woman into home decorating (and announcing it took 3 years to build this cool bench out of 3 chairs. I was uber impressed she finished that in only 3 years. No sarcasm; I’m seriously so proud of her.)

But several people seemed to downplay their interests as something they didn’t have time for, or that it wasn’t important.

But it is important – especially to me! I know what it’s like to be completely out of whack with allowing yourself any time or enjoyment (see this beef post and my complete meltdown moment for reasons why I started this blog). And it’s important that we all find “our thing.” Because one day your kids will move out and you won’t know who you are anymore.

I have heard empty nesters describe having to date each other again once all their kids left because they didn’t know how to just be with one another anymore. I’ve heard these same empty nesters struggle to find things they are passionate about. I’ve also heard of some feeling completely lost in their own identity, and depressed because they feel like they wasted their life. Now don’t get me wrong. These women loved taking care of their children and wouldn’t trade that decision, but as they have time to think and reflect, they wish they would have spent a little more time with friends because no one is there for them now. They wish they would have had one night a week where they pursued a hobby: going to jazzercise/studio/horseback riding, so they could feel purposeful and have something to look forward to in an effort to get out of a quiet house.

I don’t want to be in that position someday. I want to feel an identity of more than “worker,” “mother,” and “wife.” I want to be “blogger,” “yogi,” “gardener,” “ wine drinker” (it’s about expectation management – and happiness). I want to be better about identifying myself as “God’s child” because I choose to spend time in His Word and in prayer. And it’s important that my husband and son see me as those multiple roles – not only full-time employee, mother, and wife.

There are a few friends in my life who help me see myself in those other roles – and encourage me to get out of the house. We might get together with our kids because we work and want to have it all: friends and family time. But I’ve tried to be intentional with at least checking in with these women so we don’t totally lose connection (or many times, they are actively pursuing me). It may be a text, email, or lunch date every six months, or it might be a quick yoga workout in a basement once a month. But I’m grateful for these women and their ability to make me feel like someone important and needed in their lives too. I hope I’m meeting a similar need in their life as we continue this struggle to be nearly everything, except, for a moment, “to-do list” people.

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Do you need therapy?

Someone I love has been going to therapy. This person, let’s call him/her “Adele” (because when she comes on the radio, that girl sings like therapy to my heart), is struggling to cope with life’s overwhelming amount of decisions and disappointments. I get it. I actually feel like that on a fairly regular basis. Honestly, I might feel better with therapy.

But why the stigma around going to counseling? For some reason, so many hear the word “therapy” and think:

Crazy.

Failure.

Weak.

Therapy does not necessarily mean mental illness (although for some, I recognize it is – and that’s not terrible either).

This may simply be a tough time.

In college, I suffered a deep depression. I attempted to spend the summer before my senior year in Hampton, New Hampshire, on a Campus Crusade faith-based summer project: living in a giant house with 60 other students for 10 weeks. I had to get a job somewhere local, with that being my first potential “mission field.” The arcade hired me and I hated it. HATED it. (But hard to tell with this happy face at a nearby lighthouse…oh, the facade we can put on…)

Hampton was supposed to be a hot tourist spot, but it rained almost every day I was there which made it really cold, dreary, and not busy. Plus the arcade games required maintenance with physical requirements I struggled with, and my hands always hurt and I had cuts after fixing machines. On top of that, I felt really out of place with all the other “happy” Christians in the house. I felt like everyone was an imposter. I felt like I was an imposter. And I broke down. I couldn’t handle it and went home after 2 weeks.

Going home was no good either. All my friends had summer plans and I was the lost puppy living in my parents’ basement. I ended up going back to the summer camp I had worked previous summers, but never felt at peace. I made some really self-destructive decisions that summer that impacted people I loved. And when I went to start my senior year of college (including as co-president of Campus Crusade on my campus), I was a complete wreck.

A friend suggested I visit the free counseling services. I had nothing to lose and it was very discreet to get to so no one would likely see me walking in. I went to those sessions and just wept. We didn’t come to a resolve, but I at least got to start somewhere. After feeling stagnant in the sessions, I stopped going, but I’m not ashamed to say I did revisit a counselor about two years later to talk through feelings of self-worth and the lies I was believing about failure.

So when “Adele” told me she was going to counseling, I was happy for her. I celebrated that she was able to push past the stigma that many times our society tells us about the weakness of getting help. But more people need help, y’all.

Mental health problems are at an all-time high, especially among youth, today. I especially love that British royalty is focusing on this issue. Prince Harry recently shared his struggle with his mother’s death and how, after seeking counseling, he’s finally been able to cope with her death – and stop the risky behavior he has engaged in for years.

I became enthralled while researching this topic, especially because I ran into two articles I fell.in.love.with. These sites are a great place to start with as you start to explore if counseling might be a good fit for you – or someone you love.

11 Very Good Reasons to Go to Therapy

14 Misconceptions About People Who Go to Therapy

But I realized I hadn’t yet asked God’s opinion about seeking out help – from others (in addition to Him, y’all. ‘Cause we should always strive to seek Him out.) And He didn’t disappoint. Here are my few fave verse:

Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Proverbs 15:22 Without consultation, plans are frustrated. But with many counselors they succeed.

We need people to help us with the journey. It’s part of God’s plan for our life.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Ooohh!!! I just LOVE that! “Bear one another’s burdens.” Y’all! God is practically calling each of us to counsel one another – He commands it, as He demonstrates that by doing so we have obeyed.

We all have issues; that will never end. God wants to help you, but He also realizes you may need a physical person and voice to help guide you out of your valley. So go to therapy. And if anyone gives you a funny look about it, tell ‘em God prescribed it. 

I punched Jesus in a bar.

I was invited to a party at a bar. Do you know the last time this 32-year-old mother was in a bar? For some, it’s normal because it may be a hang out spot, but my friends just haven’t made that “our place.”

I wasn’t drinking because I had a sinus infection and was on an antibiotic, so needed every ounce of water I could get. Then, I immediately was reminded of the loudness of a bar. I had to raise my voice and lean in close to hear others. All was going fine until…yelling. Yelling profanity. Not me; someone I didn’t know. I haven’t experienced that in years. And I was shocked. Because this other person was the same age as me: over 30. And yelling profanity in a bar.

I didn’t have time to think about what was happening because I was attempting to have the best conversation we all could muster with a group of acquaintances I hadn’t seen since college. We were catching up on everything that had happened in the past 10 years, when I suddenly let the bar atmosphere get the best of me. I used a couple cuss words – and one in reference to another person. I shocked myself when it happened. I don’t live my life potty-mouth free, but this was a really intense choice of words in front of a group. What did I just do?

Now being a Christian isn’t about avoiding bars. And it’s not about swearing. But that word vomit is a sin in God’s eyes – and certainly doesn’t impress anyone else. Then, remember that person that was yelling profanity? He – sarcastically – yelled across a few tables at our group, and…I found myself sarcastically yelling back. Because I used to do that when I was in college – at bars. What was happening?! I nearly slapped myself silly.

Next, I texted an old friend who was planning to come to the party but was exhausted after a full day of taking kids to the zoo. I gave her some sarcastic language in a text. And felt terrible after pressing “send.”

What was happening to me? Why was I reacting like this – especially with no alcohol to use as a crutch? And as I reflected the morning after, I realized: I punched Jesus in a bar.

I mean, not literally. He didn’t show up in physical form. But I definitely went back to old ways as a result of my environment.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I was a Christian in college. I was even a leader for a faith-based organization on campus. But I also decided I wanted to have a college experience. I rarely went to parties or drank, but on the few occasions I did, I purposely tried to make at least one poor choice and seize that lifestyle – because I knew I wouldn’t seek out those experiences ever again. I wanted to know what it felt like.

But this latest night in a bar? I obviously retreated to that old mindset. I caved to the devil. And I felt so incredibly embarrassed.

Why didn’t I ask the group of acquaintances (who I know are believers) how they were doing in their spiritual walk? Or how I could pray for them? Why did I text my friend, who couldn’t make it, sarcasm instead of empathy? I always give empathy for exhausted parent scenarios because that IS my situation. Daily.

Because the devil took advantage of me in that bar – and I was unable to see Jesus in that environment.

So God and I had a conversation today as I realized all this and I confessed – apologized – for the way I didn’t reflect Him in my demeanor that night. And I’m still trying to cope with the guilt and embarrassment of it all. (So I wrote a blog. Somehow public confession helps me get over things?) Which explains my next step…

To those of you who were there: Maybe you noticed you something. Maybe you think I’m getting worked up out of nothing. But this was a big deal between Jesus and me. I’m sorry I didn’t engage with you in meaningful conversation, like about our faith relationships. And I’m sorry I did not show you or anyone else in that bar what I means to be changed because of Jesus. Please don’t remember me as the shallow woman who caved to sin in the bar. Please think of me a sinner, always trying to be a little bit better the next time. And for when we see each other again in…about 10 years? Let’s talk about some real stuff. And I’d really like to avoid yelling, profanity, and general catastrophe. So let’s try to not meet in a bar.

That Time God Showed Up

Years ago I read Stormie Omartian’s book “The Power of a Praying Wife,” a book I found while slowly looking through a Christian devotional section in the public library. It was an easy read, and more importantly, a really powerful way to view and care for my husband. I took notes, but ultimately had to return the borrowed book.

About six months ago while in a Christian bookstore, I saw that same praying wife book and another that caught my attention: “The Power of a Praying Parent” by the same author. I snatched them both up. And then they gathered dust.

I’ve really wanted to just open these two books, read a chapter and say the provided prayer at the end the chapter. That should take 15-20 minutes. But naturally, I’ve not been devoting that time to God (or my relationships with either my son or husband by choosing to not devote prayer time to them as well).

So one morning this week I forced myself to carry the books with me until I had at least read two of the prayers – one in each book. I ended up praying the first parent prayer acknowledging my limitations and seeking out God to take control. Then I read a prayer for my husband about work. It was the end of the school year for my teacher man, so you can imagine everyone in his building was ready to throw in the towel. The prayer focused on finding purpose and reward in work, to develop his skills to be more valuable, even to clearly show him a different path if this isn’t the right work for him.

These two prayers took me less than 5 minutes to read and focus on. 8:03 – 8:08am. Then I went about my day.

That same day was the last for Jim’s school year. He told me that evening the day ended with two cool experiences for him.

First, a non-English speaking mother ask Jim for a photo with him and her two boys.

These boys have a lot of progress to make when it comes to school. But they love to fish. So Jim has taken old tackle from his own fishing supplies stash and allowed these boys to earn their tackle by accumulating points through a reward system for good behavior, completing work, that kind of thing. But earlier this spring, one of the boys talked about wanting a tackle box to put all his gear in. So at Jim’s leading, the teachers set an unreasonable number of points to earn: 400,000 to be exact. Average point totals at this school are 50,000. And 10 days before the end of school year, Jim checked in with him to learn he had 250,000 points. Jim and this young boy had a conversation about how every single day had to be perfect behavior and getting work done – plus bonus points, so he needed to get his servant attitude on.

I think you see where this is going…The kid got the points. And my husband went and spent part of his monthly “blow” money on a little tackle box for this box. This is money that Jim and I don’t have to justify to one another what we spent it on, or save receipts for the monthly budget meeting. I’ve used it on a massage, new items to decorate our home, or…other selfish things. But my husband used some of his cash to buy his student a tackle box.

And this boy’s mom just gave Jim the “thank you” eyes because she didn’t have the English to say any more.

(gushing wifey moment)

Second, Jim’s students have crazy barriers. Some never really gain the ability to read well. Do you have any idea what your life would be like if you couldn’t read? Especially as an elementary student with a minimum of 10 years of school left? And on the last day of school, a dad walked up to Jim, shook his hand, and said, “You’re the reason my kid knows how to read. Thank you.”  

After he told me this, I shared the prayer I had said just that morning. You know? The one about finding purpose and reward in his work?

I’m not crying! You’re crying!

Seriously. God showed up, y’all.

It’s so interesting that I wrote a blog last week about being reminded of all the ways God has “shown up” in my life. This leads to my lesson learned this week:

When I engage with God, he engages with me.

It’s not a surprising lesson to me. I know it to be true. But how very often, I forget.IMG_20170520_083420

It works the same in my human relationships too. When Jim and I prioritize date night, that time together improves our communication, our affection, our respect for one another. When I prioritize Mommy-Owen time, that kid cuddles me more, he’s open to new experiences with me, and I start to understand him a little better. But I make that choice. That decision.

I can choose Instagram or Facebook scrolling. I can choose the ever-disappointing news feed about our shrinking federal budget or discrimination against a local non-white family. I can choose cleaning up the house.

I’ll certainly still choose those things (I really like a clean house. That one really pained me to write down). But sometimes I need to refocus. Now, I won’t lie: I won’t just pick up my Bible. Where the heck do I even start? It’s so overwhelming. And often difficult to read.

So sometimes it’s easier to start with reading a faith-based blog (Her View from Home is my favorite).

It’s easier to call and have a conversation with a friend about what’s going on – and being intentional about finding God in our situations (especially after a negative vent session).

And even though it can be difficult to get out the door and survive the hour that is church with children, sometimes it’s easier to listen to worship songs and a pastor share a message of Christ’s love. And you just sit with a lump in your throat the whole time trying to not feel because you don’t need everybody seeing you totally lose your composure in church. (But when I see some other woman start to bawl in church, I never judge her. Because I get it. You think I’d allow myself the same freedom.)

But don’t always choose the easy way out. It’s not easy, and I forget the reward so often, but it’s oh-so-good when I choose things God blesses. Choose to find a faith-based book about something you’re struggling with. Choose to rest and enjoy His presence. Choose to engage with God so He can show up. 

I’m Spent

I’m tired, exhausted, and just want to close my eyes. And to top it all off? Both O and I got ourselves infections this week – his bronchial, mine sinus. Both related to our love of allergens (insert sarcasm font here). In short: I’m spent.

Late May signals the end of seasons in our home. End of school slows down my job and totally halts my husband’s (after grades are due, mind you – a deadline we’re both anticipating) and we’ve ended another soccer season for those high school girls that J coaches too.

We’ve run our tails off the last couple months and are ready for a heck of break – which is coming. Summer is a time of reflection and planning for the next year at my job. J kicks into summer soccer mode (which is much more subdued) – and, I hope, restful fishing time too. And our family time becomes rich: playing on the deck in the kiddie pool while daddy grills and mama drinks a glass of wine.

But lately, J and I haven’t been reading our Bible passage together at night. I haven’t been opening my Bible app or reading any of my faith-based books. I haven’t written a blog post in a month. In short: I haven’t made an effort in my relationship with God.

We went to church today for the first time in weeks. (We’ve decided to spend Sunday mornings at home as a family because we’ve all 3 been in the same room for about 3 waking hours total each week.) And today as I listened to a child take a simple proclamation of faith, I felt so emotional. But not out of guilt (pretty sure that’s the first time ever – I tend to let guilt hang when I’m not meeting “expectations”). I felt tears welling up because I was reminded of God. I was reminded that He’s been with us these past couple months. Even when we just put our heads down and survived one-day-after-another, God was there. Even though we were ignoring Him.

And I felt compelled to write. But about what? My mind felt totally blank. All I had were deep breaths (slowly – it helps the oxygen get to my brain and give perspective).  I hadn’t been talking – or listening to God in a while. So I sat and listened. And He told me to read my own damn blog.

So I did. And started to bawl. I mean just ugly cry. (Which are the best kind because I feel so much healthier afterwards – it’s like a renewal of my heart.) I cried about every time God has showed up for our family in the past couple years. I cried through the lessons He has taught me. I rejoiced in writing these stories down because I needed those very personal moments to remind me that we are so cared for. We are so ok. And we’ve got so much more living and struggling to do.

Don’t you sometimes hate how God is always right? I mean, c’mon!! Stop being the Creator and Awesome Manager of Everything! It makes me feel inadequate.

And that’s exactly the point. As my husband would tell me, “He’s in charge. He’s got this. All you have to do is let him.”

So what happened after the ugly cry? I felt physically spent. (Anybody else gotta hydrate after crying?) But emotionally – well, not totally renewed. That is going to take a few sleeping-ins, cups of hot chai, and a screaming O in the swimming pool having the time of his life. But I feel…better. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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I almost died while giving birth

The doctor walked into my dark room and woke both Jim and I up only after an hour of us falling asleep.

“Kristin, you were suffering from HELLP syndrome. We’re lucky your husband will be taking you home too and not just your new baby.”

I didn’t know it, but apparently, I almost died while giving birth.

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Pregnancy felt awful. I was sick all day, every day for at least 8 of the 9 months. I ate little more than fruit and vegetables. Meat was terrible. Sauces: no thank you. And anything greasy? Ugh! I finally got some relief in month 7 and had a craving for real food: BBQ ribs. So Jim took me out to a local restaurant and we chowed down. There were appetizers, several entrees, and dessert, y’all. It was ridiculous and wonderful all at the same time.

I was finally living the “I finally feel good again!” again for a few weeks.

And then my feet started to retain water. And my stomach aches came back. My feet and hands started developing a red, dry, itchy rash. I wondered where in the world I would have picked up athlete’s foot and how it could have moved to my hands. I used an obnoxious amount of lubriderm to try to stop the irritation, to little avail. I was back in the hell of pregnancy. I was feeling unsure of my ability to give birth with what little energy I had. I was dreading waking up each day. I was feeling hopeless.

The stomach pain started to hit an intense level on a Saturday, and I struggled to sleep through the night. I reached out to the on-call doctor and he suggested I was likely suffering from the flu, and to keep my Tuesday afternoon appointment with my regular doctor. I felt really discouraged and not confident he was right. But it was the same-old pain I had been suffering throughout my entire pregnancy, so why get all worked up?

I stayed home from work on Monday because I simply hadn’t slept or eaten due to the stomach pain. That night, my feet reached a heightened level of itching. I actually got out of bed and put together an ice pack that would lay on my propped-up feet to make my toes go numb so I wouldn’t feel anything. By Tuesday morning, I told that doctor’s office they had better get me in ASAP, and when I walked in for a 1:30pm appointment, I was on the brink of tears from little food, extreme pain, and exhaustion. They took my blood pressure (a common action of every prenatal visit), and it was extremely high. My blood pressure had never registered as a concern to them in the past, and suddenly I was their number one priority. I was taken for an ultrasound to check on baby’s health, and they determined baby was ok but I was not. I completely lost my composure (from the hunger, hurt, and the unknown) and sobbed, while Dr. L came in and informed me to run home to grab a sandwich and meet her at the hospital in an hour. I was being induced.

As Jim and I met up at home, we realized: we were going to go have a baby. This is actually happening. And something’s not right. He reassured me the best he could, and we ventured to the hospital to meet life’s next journey: parenting.

I was offered an epidural, but was basically told because of my situation, it would be a good idea because they didn’t know how this labor was going to play out – and they knew I was already in a lot of pain, wanted to alleviate it, and prepare me for a long night. I was so incredibly miserable that I agreed to anything providing relief. They also began pumping magnesium into my body, in an effort to avoid seizures. A short while later, around 9pm, I was feeling a break and actually closed my eyes to sleep. It was the first time I’d really rested fairly comfortably in four days, as a result of feeling numb. Every hour, I remember being awakened by my nurse to check the dilation of my cervix. And every time I woke, I shook uncontrollably for several minutes, hence the need for the magnesium. It was scary, annoying, and frankly: I just wanted to be left the hell alone. We finally hit pushing levels at 5:00am.

And did I push. In every position. With every little ounce of strength I possessed. For three and a half hours. There were a lot of nurses in the room, and I wondered if that was normal, or if they were anticipating issues and needed “all hands on deck.” Mostly, I was just trying to not pass out. Or vomit again. The one time was enough.

The nurses gave those encouraging little cries every time I pushed: “Oh, you’re doing so good! Yes, keep coming!” But I knew when they weren’t good pushes. And it’s not like you’re not trying to give a good push. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. But Jim knows those encouraging little quips don’t help me, and he was dying to say, “You’re sucking! You need to do a better one! Step it up, girl!” But he was in a room full of medical professionals. He feared the repercussions of police questioning him and asking me, “Do you feel safe?” or “Blink twice if you need help.” And he feared the judgement of all those female nurses watching a husband be a total dick to this laboring wife. But I’m a tell-it-like-it-is kind of person. And negative criticism swings me into action faster than a polite comment on how I can improve something.

That baby FINALLY came out at 8:30am, and I just wanted to be left the hell alone. new-babe-owenI was so incredibly thrashed by the whole experience, and to be honest, struggling cognitively to take in my surroundings. I held Owen for a few minutes and then the nurses started to do their typical checks before taking him to the nursery. The medical staff recommended Jim and I get some sleep, and they’d holler at us in time to order lunch from the cafeteria.

At 11:00am, a male doctor (my doc went back to the office to see her patients) walked into my dark room and woke both Jim and I up only after an hour of us falling asleep. He proceeded to explain the complications I was having: low blood platelets not causing the blood to clot, my liver shutting down, and a red blood cell breakdown. Apparently my itchy extremities were a sign of my liver shutting down. And the magnesium was pushed to prevent seizures of preeclampsia. So every time a nurse woke me up, my body would shake for a short time – a lesser version of the seizure. If I had waited any longer, the outcome may not have turned out so well.

“Kristin, you were suffering from HELLP syndrome. We’re lucky your husband will be taking you home too and not just your new baby.”

I later learned I pushed for 3.5 hours because my doctor feared doing a c-section. She didn’t know if my blood would clot, which was necessary to survive surgery. She figured I’d have a better chance of survival with a vaginal birth. Jim told me later he’d notice Dr. L deeply thinking, perhaps about how to get Owen out. He didn’t realize she was weighing the options of how to keep both Owen and me alive. A friend later told me she believes God worked through Dr. L to make the best decisions to keep both his babies (Owen and me) on this earth a bit longer.

HELLP syndrome is a serious form of preeclampsia. It was only first named in 1982, and women are dying of it in 2016. Globally, mothers die at a rate of 25% once diagnosed. I know people who have friends who have died of this in the United States – in the past two years. I’m 25% likely to have this syndrome again if I become pregnant. I’ll be considered high risk. So I don’t know if we’ll ever have another baby. Because I’m scared of the 9-month nausea, the intense sickness and exhaustion, and the chance that I won’t live to see my babies grow up. I’m afraid of dying again while giving birth.

I hope parts of this story resonate with other mothers, and more importantly, I hope others know that if something feels wrong, speak up. Doctors are humans too, and we all make mistakes. Make the doctor’s office take you as a same-day appointment. Make them check twice. Don’t be embarrassed. You know yourself best. So always trust your gut. Especially your pregnancy gut.