Monday, November 9, 2015

The Life and Loss of Phoenix Bliss Collelo

My Phoenix Bliss went into the arms of Jesus on November 7th, 2015.

I found out I was expecting the day after labor day. It was really early, but I was too excited to keep it to myself, so we announced the very next week when I was only 5 weeks along. Finding out so early, I definitely had more concerns about having a miscarriage, but I just prayed for peace and protection and tried to tune those worries out. Each day has enough trouble of it's own, right? I didn't want to let fear steal my joy. I had been praying and believing for twin girls and I was hoping it was them.

At 10 weeks, I went in for an ultrasound. The tech found a gestational sac but no baby. She was completely positive about it and said my dates were probably off, that's all. When we got home, I looked at the calendar and checked my dates. No, I was 10 weeks. I couldn't be any less. As a doula, I know enough about pregnancy to know that by 10 weeks there should be an easily visible little peanut with a heartbeat. It didn't take long for me to end up in a sobbing mess on the floor in my prayer room, praying and declaring LIFE and God's promises. I asked a lot of people to pray with me. On Monday, when I went to my doctor, she only briefly mentioned the possibility of a miscarriage based on the ultrasound. She scheduled a follow up ultrasound to verify that the pregnancy was okay, but she was very clear that miscarriage was not something I needed to worry about at that point. I am so very grateful to them that they did not add any doubt or fear, but that they spoke words of encouragement that allowed me to cling to hope. Even though I didn't get the outcome I wanted, I'm thankful that they didn't take that hope from me.

Almost two weeks later, I had some bleeding in the evening. I prayed, my husband prayed, many others prayed, and the bleeding stopped! The next night, it started again. I didn't really tell anyone but my husband that time, partly because I didn't want to admit that it had come back after we had prayed and partly because I didn't want to acknowledge what I was thinking was simply a fear tactic of the enemy (because bleeding happens sometimes and everything is still fine).

I was up late on Friday evening and happened to listen to a podcast called "Living in Peace" by Kris Vallotton. I know that was arranged by God. I needed those words because of what was to come in the morning. I was cramping that evening, and in denial about it. I kept trying to convince myself the pain was from something else, but it was hard to sleep.

When I finally gave up on sleep around 5:30 am and got up, I was horrified at the amount of blood I was losing. No, no, no, no, no! After about an hour with no let up, spent breathing through the cramps/contractions, crying and praying, I texted my family and prayer warriors to pray and got Nathaniel up to take me to the ER. In his sleep deprived state, he didn't understand the urgency and wanted me to lay down a while longer, to wait and see. I was still in denial but I felt concerned enough that I called my sister Rachel who is a nurse. Thankfully, she answered. I could hardly choke the words out as my voice broke. It made it too real to describe to her what was happening. She agreed that I needed to go in right away. (She later told me that I probably would have had ended up arriving in an ambulance if we had waited.)

I was feeling lightheaded as we left, and by the time we got to the ER, my systolic blood pressure was only 75 (that's the higher number!) and the nurse doing triage was immediately paging the head ER nurse and wheeling me right in. I sensed the blood loss was serious and their urgency confirmed it. They put two IVs in me to push fluids in and drew blood. I protested a little because I hate needles, but eventually I had to focus on just breathing because I was ready to pass out while already lying down because of my low blood pressure. [You can laugh at me on that one. I know it's ridiculous! On the verge of passing out from blood loss, and still protesting a needle in my arm!]

They were preparing me for the possibility of a d&c (a surgery to clear out the uterus so it can clamp down and stop bleeding) and a blood transfusion. The doctors and nurses were all so sweet and kind and gentle, very empathetic. They told me over and over, "We're so happy you came in so we can get you safe, but we're so, so, so sorry for why you're here. This is so awful." The poor ER doctor told me she had experienced 4 miscarriages and apologized if she seemed to be acting strange as she gets a little PTSD in these kinds of situations. (She had no reason to apologize, she was wonderful!) Even with all the bleeding, against all hope, I in hope believed (Romans 4:18), and so they agreed to do an ultrasound to verify so that I could have peace if we needed to go forward with a d&c. Thankfully, the little placenta came out a little while after the ultrasound and the bleeding began to slow.

When the placenta came out, I asked the OB if there was a baby that I could see? Apparently, something went wrong very early in the development so that the gestational sac & placenta grew, but my baby didn't develop enough to be visible. That was a little disappointing, but I was thankful to I know I hadn't flushed my baby. I had been worried about that.

Shortly after that, Nathaniel went home to take care of the boys, so Laura could go to work. While he was gone, I posted on Facebook for prayers, texted updates, read responses & cried. Emotionally, the hardest part was typing over and over, "we lost our baby." Those are the worst words ever. :(

I also started looking up names for our angel baby and compiled a list of maybe a dozen names. I wanted the name to express something hopeful and the idea that my baby was in paradise. Phoenix was my favorite, the idea of rising from the ashes & new birth/new life and it echoes the idea of beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Nathaniel immediately picked it from the list when I showed it to him when he returned. All I did was hand him the list and told him I liked some of them better than others (but not specifically which ones) and his heart was just completely in tune with mine. Next, I suggested Eden or Bliss for the middle name, and again, Nathaniel picked my favorite: Bliss. Phoenix Bliss Collelo. According to Nathaniel's mama, it's a girl. I like that idea.

So because the bleeding slowed and my hemoglobin levels were decent, we were able to avoid the d&c as well as a transfusion, and we were very thankful for that. My mom visited me in the hospital, then she was the one that watched the boys so Nathaniel could return to my side. My sister Rachel also dropped everything to drive all the way from St. Cloud to be by my side. After we got discharged and I had rested a little, I came downstairs to find my mom & all four of my sisters in my kitchen with a huge vase of roses. They also cleaned our house and stocked our fridge with ready to bake meals. We were so blessed by their love and care, as well as all of the love and support I received from friends and family in texts and messages and comments on Facebook.

Now both of the doctors made sure to tell me that it wasn't my fault and not to blame myself. It was very sweet, but I wasn't blaming myself. I mean, sure, randomly I wondered if something happened when I got sick at the end of September, or if I ate something bad, or whatever, but those were just kind of passing thoughts that I brushed off. God doesn't speak in guilt and condemnation, so I'm not going to pay attention to that crap.

What I know is that I put all of my heart and soul into praying for LIFE for my baby these last few weeks ever since my concerning ultrasound that was behind dates. I did everything I could and had so many others praying with me, too.

I'm not angry at God either, because I know His heart was for life for my little Phoenix Bliss, and He's holding her for me close to His heart in His loving arms until I can (Isaiah 40:11). If you are wondering if life really was His will, just think, in His perfect, original plan, no one ever would have died! We would have lived forever in the paradise of Eden! So in every case, for every person, I am fully persuaded that His first choice, His perfect dream is for a long, full, beautiful life. You can always know you're praying His will when you pray for life! But, sadly, sin entered the world, and now death happens. :( And the thief is the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but my Savior comes that we might have LIFE abundantly (John 10:10). So I know who I'm mad at.

Somehow or other, because of this fallen world, that dirty little sneak thief stole my baby from me, and that's NOT okay. He had no right and no authority BUT it's not defeat, because my little one was received into the arms of Jesus in paradise and vengeance belongs to the Lord. He also redeems and restores. So I will get beauty from these ashes, and joy for my mourning, and praise for this heaviness. I am praying, believing, and declaring that I will personally get back a double portion for what was stolen, twins for the one that was stolen, my joy girls for my mourning. The enemy will be sorry he messed with me, because he has only added fuel to my fire! I will have even more passion in prayer for little ones and I will get back many times over what was stolen as I see victory for other mamas in healthy little babies born against all odds, miracles not miscarriages! Yes! Miracles, not miscarriages!!! I have a word and a promise over my life that I am a supernatural midwife and I will see babies come back to life. And I will pursue seeing that word manifested with even more determined passion than before. If God is for me, who can be against me? (Romans 8:31) Besides, we already know who wins in the end. And He always leads us in victory! (2 Cor 2:14)

I also needed to reaffirm, I completely believe in the power of prayer. Absolutely. Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37) And my God is the God "who gives life to the dead, and calls those things which are not as though they were." (Romans 4:17) He said, "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." (John 16:24) So He is able, He is willing, and somehow He partners with our intercession to release or enforce what Christ already completed on the cross. [Read Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets for a fuller scriptural explanation of that!] I don't know how or why all of our prayers didn't result in a miracle baby, BUT I know that our prayers counted. They moved Heaven. And because of all that I and others poured into this, we have greater authority to pray for this for others. The power of those prayers said for Phoenix Bliss will be added on top of future prayers. So I will continue to stand steadfast, asking, seeking, knocking, knowing that He hears and He answers.

It sounds strange, but I feel like I this is not as hard as I expected. I'm crying, but it's not consuming me. I have smiled and laughed with people already. And I know that is completely God carrying me through this! I keep thinking of the story of David in 2 Samuel 12. His son is dying, so he fasts and prays for his baby. When the child dies, he gets up, cleans himself up, and goes to worship. I love that! He worships! His servants are understandably confused by his actions and he tells them “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” I relate to this in the feeling that my grief and anguish were almost worse in anticipation of losing my baby, in the uncertainty, but now that it has happened, I have peace in accepting it by God's grace. I will go to my baby, but she will not return to me. I will join her someday.

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Thank you for reading the story of my precious Phoenix Bliss and all of my rambling related thoughts! I love you all and I want you to know that I'm doing okay given the circumstances. I appreciate extra hugs and continued prayers, and don't worry if you make me cry but don't be surprised if I don't either. The tears come and go unpredictably right now. I am so grateful for all of your love, support, messages, and prayers. Reading through all of your messages of support helps me grieve. I am being carried by His Peace and held in His Comfort. Love to all!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Choices: Eating Whole Foods

I figured it was about time to get back to my choices series. I have a few more posts I wanted to write on that. Since I'm doing my Whole 30 challenge right now and eating mostly whole foods right now, I figured I should write this one next.

My view of foods and health has changed so much the last few years. This is what my journey toward healthier eating has looked like.

For years, I naively ate the standard American diet, lots of packaged and processed foods, while trying to make what I thought were healthy choices. Then I got pregnant. I tried to make a lot more healthy changes for my growing baby and felt pretty good about it. I still remember the reaction of the midwife when I described my diet to her. After all my 'healthy' changes, I was still far from eating her version of a healthy diet. I was discouraged by her strong negative reaction to some of my so-called 'healthy' choices, like WIC-approved cereals. So why am I not just eating Reese's Puffs then?!

I had no clue about what healthy eating really looked like.

Some of my friends are passionate about eating organic whole foods and over the last few years I have benefited enormously from reading many of the articles they have shared. Over time, I began reading more and more about our food system: the additives, the use of antibiotics, the use of synthetic ingredients, the use of pesticides, and GMO crops and how they're making their way into everything. I also watched documentaries on Netflix like Food, Inc.

As I have learned more, my shopping patterns have changed. I've switched to buying organic whenever possible, and I use the EWG's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to help prioritize my organic purchases. I try to avoid products that likely contain GMOs and I've tried to incorporate more fruits and veggies into our diets.

This Whole 30 challenge has helped me to put into practice all that I have been learning and to develop some new and much healthier habits.

I had read so much about how nutrition affects our health and now I have experienced the difference while doing the Whole 30! I haven't had an energy slump in the middle of the afternoon and I've been waking up before my alarm clock. I've been feeling really good health-wise, for which I am especially grateful after a really rough fall! I was continually ill due to my broken sleep schedule, because of my paper route, plus poor food choices. These last few weeks with proper sleep and great nutrition, I have felt fabulous! I've even felt more emotionally balanced, and the last week or so as I've loosened my rules, I've noticed a difference in my emotional fluctuations when I have more sugar. I was surprised at how obvious a difference it's been.

These changes have been hard, but worth it. There is so much healing to be found in eating food that truly nourishes your body! Any healthy change, big or small, is a step in the right direction. Start today. :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Whole 30: Day 9

I am continually amazed at God's timing. When I planned this Whole 30 plus Facebook break, I had no idea all that He would lead me to through it. I feel like one thing after another keeps falling into place. Like finally reading the Dave Ramsey books, right before tax return time, so our financial outlook is completely changed. And now I found this 'Choose Love' 21-day challenge today, when I have 21 days left! Yes! I'm accepting that challenge and adding it on to what I'm already doing!

That means my challenge now is to eat whole, healthy foods, invest my time away from Facebook, be thrifty in every way possible, and above all, choose love!

Speaking of choosing to love, any mamas need a doula? This praying mama loves to love on expecting mamas! I've been working on finishing my doula certification this past week. Papers written, forms filled out, and everything printed and ready to send. I only need to fulfill one last requirement, then I can send everything in and be an officially certified doula!

Anyway, this diet change has been challenging me. I've considered quitting it more than once and continuing on a modified version, but I really want to complete the full 30 days. My determination to reach the goal has won out each time so far, and now that I'm nearly 1/3 done, that helps! Larabars have also helped. ;) Thank God for whoever it was that mentioned those to me!

I also want to say that finding the 'Choose Love' challenge right now is perfect timing, not just in that the 21 days coincides with the last 21 days of my Whole 30, but also because the last few days I have been a rushing, harried, impatient mess. I've gotten so excited and motivated to move on so many different things (all good things!), but I've been trying to do them all at once in my own strength. As I read today's entry in Jesus Calling this morning, God was reminding me to sloooow down. This challenge is another God reminder to slow down and choose love. So I will choose love. :)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Whole 30: Day 4

Four days in. My meals are a routine, just using up the items that I bought. I plan to try some new things next time I go shopping and use some new recipes. It's good to try new things, right? Send me suggestions if you have any!

The good:

I don't feel guilty about anything that I am eating in terms of nutrition or toxic ingredients. My boys are also eating more prepared meals and less things out of a box, although they still reject most of what I'm eating. At least they're getting some of it!

I've had more time to invest in various things have have been going undone. Yesterday, I worked on completing my doula certification by revising my resource list and writing the first draft of the essay required on the topic of "The Purpose and Value of Labor Support." Feels good to have that done! I also was drawn to the Dave Ramsey materials we borrowed from my parents ages ago. I skimmed through Financial Peace Revisited as a refresher, and then I sat and read through The Total Money Makeover yesterday and today. A few years back, we got started on the "baby steps" and at some point lost steam and got off track. I'm feeling really motivated on that now, and so I've been talking with my husband about going hard after paying off our debt and following the rest of those baby steps! I've caught the vision again and I'm feeling inspired by all the success stories!

The hard:

Cravings.... Bread. Sugar. More sugar... The first day or two, I was craving salty things like chips. Now I'm mostly craving sugary treats. I read recently that cravings only last for three to five minutes, and it seems fairly accurate. If I just ignore it and lock into what I'm doing, I tend to forget, because I'm not actually hungry.

I've also noticed my sugar cravings are strongly tied to my emotions. Yes, my name is Shelly and I am an emotional eater. Feeling sad or upset? I would like some chocolate with that or maybe ice cream! Hopefully, that particular bad habit will be gone after these thirty days.


Overall, this is hard, but worth it. I'm learning meal planning and how to incorporate more whole foods into my diet and hopefully into my family's diets as well. For the sake of our long term health, this is a necessary change. I'm resetting my time-spending and turning it into time-investments. I'm also dealing more directly with my emotions and going to my true Comforter, instead of covering by finding comfort in sugary treats.

Twenty six days to go!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Whole 30: Day 1

I'm not sure if I will blog about this every day of the challenge, but I kind of want to capture this journey.

Day one of The Whole 30 done! I'm combining it with some additional supplements and a Facebook break, too. This 30 day (I may go longer) challenge is exactly what I needed to break my current food habits and build some new ones to start eating more real, whole, healthy foods. It's my crunchy boot camp to get me eating the way I know I should be but haven't taken the time to put into practice yet. I'm also trying to break some unhealthy time-management habits-- too much Facebook!

I've been preparing the last week or so. I have a plan for meals and I did my grocery shopping yesterday based on that plan. I know what I'm going to make for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Sooo hoping that this habit carries over once the challenge is done! It's so helpful!) That made day one pretty easy meal-wise. I had some snack cravings after lunch, but otherwise, I've been feeling full and feeling good.

I also made two "food discoveries" thanks to the Whole 30 stretching me to look for approved meal options.

First, on my salads, I tried a mixture of mostly white wine vinegar and a little red wine vinegar, as well as olive oil. It tasted just like the vinegar at Subway! (Found the "recipe" earlier this week through a google search, here.) I was pretty pumped that it was legit! It really does taste just like Subway!

I also had spaghetti squash for the first time today-- easy "noodles!" So fun! Glad I had learned of these through my mama group on Facebook. It was about time I finally tried it! I'll have to see if I can find a Whole 30 approved marinara sauce and try that out on it.

The hardest part, honestly, was staying off Facebook today! I was not expecting that. I was surprised by the urge to constantly check for notifications, on my phone or on the computer. The addiction is strong, people! And also realizing how much time I had been spending that I was able to spend with my boys, preparing my whole food meals, or other things today. I love all my Facebook friends and the groups I participate in on there, but I also spent too much time browsing and then getting sucked into random links and videos. Breaking that habit now! When I go back I hope to have some healthy boundaries set so that my time spent on Facebook will be about connecting and not just wasting time. That's the goal anyway!

So that is day one! Blessings!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Testimony of Transitions

I've been away from this blog for a few months. Let me tell you the testimony of God's faithfulness and provision in my season of transitions.

Back in September, I attended the first annual picnic at the Morning Star birth center and mentioned to the director my dream of becoming a midwife. She informed me of a midwife's assistant workshop that was happening in a couple months and encouraged me to go for it soon if I wanted to go the apprenticeship route. It was a spark that lit a fire in me that became a blaze!

It seemed impossible, but I wanted more than anything to attend and start pursuing this heart dream. The morning of the 21st, I laid my requests before God (Phil 4:6). I wanted to go to a Graham Cooke conference, attend the Prepare Ministries' Passion & Purity weekend, and attend the midwife's assistant workshop, if this was indeed His timing for me to pursue becoming a midwife. We only had one car, so transportation was an issue, as well as cost (about $1500 total!) and childcare. It all looked impossible.

That evening I saw this on Facebook:

Then, the very next day, I received a reply from the Duluth News Tribune to an email I had sent weeks before and forgotten about regarding paper routes. The biggest route available was in Woodland (my first choice) and over the course of three months or so on that route, I would make enough to cover everything I had asked for and more! Suddenly, things weren't looking so impossible!

God began speaking to my heart that I was in a season of transition. I would be transitioning back to work and using this season of transition to launch into my dream. We were (and still are) working on potty training and weaning, more transitions there, and schedules were transitioning as Nathaniel began reffing football in the evenings.

But God had a double meaning in choosing that specific word to speak to this aspiring midwife's heart. You see, if you know birth, transition has a very specific meaning in that context. It's when a woman is dilating from 8 to 10 cm and it marks the shift to the pushing stage. It's a challenging and emotional period of intensive stretching right before birth. God was speaking to my heart that this was the season of transition and next would come the time to PUSH for the birth of my dream!

So I was using all of my birth thinking to get me through that tough season. I knew words and how I thought about it were important. In birth, I refused to speak in terms of pain, but rather spoke of the hard work of contractions, and I focused on the prize of the coming birth. I did the same for this season, choosing positive words and focusing on why I was doing it. Transition is hard, but worth it. It's necessary to get to the birth. I even modified one of my birth mantras to help me remember. Instead of "Every contraction brings me closer to my baby" it was "Every paper brings me closer to helping those mamas and babies!"

In early October, God also resolved my transportation issue through the generosity of my parents. I told my dad that we were looking at getting a second car, because he has helped my sisters find really great used cars at good prices. Within a week, he had discussed it with my mom and they offered us her car for about half it's value! And just like that, we had a much nicer second car than we could have hoped or asked for! Now I could get where I needed to go!

With provision and transportation taken care of, child care was easy! My mom or my husband were able to take care of the boys for each event. I got to go to the conference, the ministry weekend, and the workshop. I also got certified in CPR and Neonatal Resuscitation.

I'll be honest, it was a tough, intense season like transition is in birth. Plus I faced interrupted sleep, illness, and injury. It was a battle. And if I had known everything about what goes into a paper route before hand, I probably wouldn't have done it. But God kept giving me just enough information to take the next step and then He carried me through when I learned the rest and thought it was too much. I had asked and He provided a way. It was not easy, but it was worth it because I was pressing on toward a prize, my dream! "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4)

I presented my requests to God and He truly did immeasurably more than I could have asked or imagined (Eph 3:20). I watched as every seemingly impossible obstacle melted away. He provided and arranged for everything and I saw that "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37) as I moved toward the beginning of this dream.

Now I am done with my paper route, my season of transition is over, and it's my time to push into the birth of my dream as I reach out to midwives and seek a place to start as an apprentice or an assistant. Once again, I am laying my requests before Him and I am waiting and watching with confident expectation to see how He provides and where He leads. (Psalm 5:3, Hebrews 11:1, Psalm 130:5-6)

The One who calls me is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thess 5:24)