Tuesday, November 11, 2014

baby black magic

Since I found out I was pregnant, I have been a research junkie. Scratch that: I've always been addicted to research. We live in an amazing time with the Internet, where we have access to so much more than just one or two mainstream books to guide us through this terrifying adventure that is called parenting. You are no longer merely a good mom or a bad mom, you are a helicopter, attachment, Parisian, Babywise, baby whispering, or tiger mom. I happened upon some great reviews of this book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, and I loved the practical nature of Dr. Harvey Karp's advice. It is a short and simple method for calming a baby, and it is packaged in a way that even a sleep deprived and stressed out mother can remember.

The situation is this: your 0-4 month old baby is fed, changed, burped, and not gassy, but she is still screaming uncontrollably. This is especially dangerous for women who are predisposed to postpartum depression, as it is exhausting and frustrating. Karp talks about a "calming reflex," activated by sensory inputs that are similar to the womb environment. The inputs are neatly arranged into a 5-step practice:

Swaddle the baby tightly; she will be even madder if it's a loose fit!

2. SIDE (or stomach)
Hold the baby on her side or stomach.

Either jiggle the baby quickly or swing her in your arms. (Jiggling is not the same as shaking; you want the baby to look relaxed, not give her whiplash!)

Make a SHHHHH sound near the baby's ear. The sound of blood in the womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner, so the quietness of this world is overwhelming! If you get tired and feel faint or dizzy, grab a white noise app or turn a radio to static.

Give the baby a pacifier or one of your fingers. Everly particularly likes my knuckles and the soft part below my thumb.

The key is to match the baby's intensity. If she is screaming, the swaddle has to be really snug, the SHH has to be really loud, and the swinging has to be distracting (as opposed to a rocking chair).

Here's a video (terrible quality, sorry) of me using this method to stop Everly's post-dinner crying. Unless something is wrong (needs to burp, gassy, hungry), this works every time.

Everett refers to this method as "the baby black magic", and I agree. Check out the book for yourself and let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

turning into my mother (thank GOD)

I have a cold.

A really yucky, headache and sneezing and sore throat kind of cold. Of course, with a ten week old baby, it's tough to get the amount of sleep needed to get rid of such a cold.

But when I see her little face look up at me, my sickness takes a backseat to cuddles and silly faces and my favorite thing, breastfeeding. I love holding her little body up to mine and knowing that it is God's incredible design that allows her to get all of her sustenance from my weak and battered body.  When I'm upset, I can easily let go of my problems because I never want her to think it is her fault.

Spending time with her is my favorite thing, and I frequently refer to her as my little best friend. I want to be with her all the time, and love using our baby carrier to snuggle as I let her shadow my adult life.

It's no secret that my mom is an amazing mother, and I am starting to realize more and more how blessed I am to have her in my life, and how blessed Everly is to have her as a grandmother. My mom has been through several periods of sickness in her life, but has never let us believe anything was our fault. She is the mom that "when there are four slices of pie for five people, she will say that she never did care much for pie." I am finding that I have been in apprenticeship of motherhood my entire life, and remembering my wonderful childhood makes me so excited for every new stage with my own daughter. My mom protected my heart from the need to conform when I was the weirdest little kid, and I honestly believe that is one of the big reasons I have kept my childlike creativity and imagination. I can't wait to let Everly play with big piles of dry rice in the kitchen floor to help her tactile development, run and dance in the rain with her, or to make her Christmas pajamas to wear for the first time on Christmas Eve (a tradition my mom still does.) Mom still tells all of us how much she likes us (not just loves) and is one of my best friends. I genuinely hope Everly and I can have a relationship like ours.

I am turning into my mother, and I am so excited.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

choosing joy

Honesty hurts, but it's cathartic and releases healing. 

Yesterday I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and PTSD. No big surprises there, considering what has happened to me and my family in these past weeks. It's not easy in this culture to come out as someone with a mental disease, but I have seen the support and love that I have access to and believe that I will be able to make it through this with the help of those who love me and whom I love.

I spent some time journaling yesterday, and I asked the Lord why this happened to me. Why did I have to go through this? Why was my heart chosen to bear the pain?

He showed me my open hands, filling up with small rocks.  

"That's the pain," he said. I clenched my hands around the rocks and cried.

"Why did you give me these?" I wept. He then showed my hands releasing the rocks, but remaining in their wide-stretched position. He filled them with the softest flowers, and said,  

"There's room for the joy now. Give me your pain and I'll give you joy."

"How do I give you my pain, God?" I asked. Growing up Christian, this was a concept that I had heard for years but never quite understood how to practically execute.

"Look at your hands. Is there room for both the rocks and the flowers?"

"No," I answered.

"Choose to pick up the flowers and I will take the rocks that fall. Take the joy I offer and I will take your pain."

I immediately started listing joys, in the same way that Ann Voskamp lists her thanks. I felt my heart lift off the ground where it has been for days. I looked at my daughter, my sweet Everly Joy, and began to list the joys of the brief time we've known each other.

- wrinkly knobby knees
- long toes curling
- thick red hair
- squeaky little sounds

I woke up this morning after a night full of growth-spurt feedings with a smile on my face and direction in my heart. I'm not fully healed yet, but this is a great first step towards the promises he has for me.


(second photo provided by Ben Roberts)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

the depths

I have never felt so close to the Lord as I have these past two weeks. I have seen him in my nurses, in my family, in my community.

I have felt the Spirit with me in such a real way that I could name his fruit in my situation. Cracking jokes when I could barely fit a smile onto my swollen cheeks: joy. Peace and patience in the NICU. Love in the eyes of my precious husband as he held my head through labor, stayed bedside through my seizure, and held his baby girl like he had an addiction to her smell.

As I was riding in the ambulance on my way to Asheville, I heard the words "the depth of the pain will equal the depth of the joy." I had no idea how much I would hang on to that phrase as my life was changed unrecognizably.

I went into the darkest places I have ever reached, and encountered despair and exhaustion like I had never known.

Even so.

I held my baby girl with arms so swollen they could barely bend.

I held my baby girl.

I had to fight hard to leave the ICU to get upstairs to the NICU to see her smile and feed her.

Her smile could melt any heart.

In my stay here at the hospital, I moved around to 7 different rooms. I have gotten the opportunity to love and be loved on by so many amazing nurses and staff. Dorothy and Raina (pronounced Renee, which drove me crazy) were my favorite dynamic duo, and we had so many laughs about the underwear and the late night drugged conversations.

I found so much joy in my stay here that I am almost overwhelmed with happiness when I leave the grounds. A Chick Fil A sandwich is a gourmet experience. Finding a good parking spot sends me over the edge.

The depth of joy is unmatched.

Monday, August 4, 2014

made for this

I've been pretty quiet about what's been going on this week because I just wanted to celebrate every success. We have felt all the prayers and support, and have never felt more loved. I feel, however, that those of you who have been praying deserve to know what has really happened since I was admitted last Wednesday.

I was diagnosed with preeclampsia on July 22nd. Click here to find out more about this mysterious disease. I have been told since then that this is the main reason that healthy women need prenatal care; because it can only be detected by lab tests.

July 23:
I had a headache that would not go away with normal means. I decided to bite the bullet and got Everett to take me to the hospital. When we got there, my midwife met me in my room and said that she had been about to call me in to be admitted. One of the best tests to detect preeclampsia is a 24 hour urine test to see the levels of protein that are leaking from the kidneys. The criteria for admission is 300 (300 what I'm not sure); I had 4,000. The hospital I was admitted to started me on a magnesium drip, which helps to prevent the most dangerous thing about preeclampsia: seizures (also known as eclampsia. It's what killed Lady Sybil on Downton Abbey.) The worst part of magnesium is that it gives you the symptoms of the flu: achiness, fever, etc. They then gave me a shot of steroids to help Everly's lungs mature. At 34 weeks, babies lack the chemical in the lungs that tells them to take in a breath. Steroids help her little body skip a few steps. My midwife then notified me that I was going to be driven to Asheville for more intensive care. The hospital I had planned to deliver at in Boone did not have the capabilities to care for my condition. I rode in a 4WD ambulance on mountain roads from Boone to Asheville in the middle of the night, and Everett followed in our car.

July 24:
We arrived at the hospital in the wee hours of the morning, about 15 minutes before a 3 hour computer shutdown. I honestly don't remember a ton from that night. In the morning, I was told that after the second course of steroids, we would need to evaluate my need to be induced. Imagine two sloping lines on a graph: one going downwards and one going upwards. The one going down was my health and safety, and the line going up was the benefit of keeping my daughter in the womb for as long as possible. There was no way to really tell where the two intersected, so the doctors were watching to try and make their best guess.

The next few days were a balancing act of keeping my symptoms managed and trying to keep her in my womb as long as we could.

July 26:
After a long day of being moved around departments, we were told that the doctors believed I should be induced the next day. My health was declining, and her lungs had been given plenty of time for the steroids to work.

July 27:
I was started on a pitocin drip at 9:30 in the morning, but they had me on a half dose all day to protect her heart rate. I spent 12 hours in labor. I got an epidural in the afternoon because I had not eaten anything but Jello and broth for days and my energy levels were totally depleted. I had originally planned to have a totally natural birth, but with all of the complications I found grace for myself and realized that I needed the assistance to bring my daughter into the world. I had the best team of doctors and felt completely supported in every decision. I had about an hour of really intense labor, and about 20 minutes of pushing before Everly Joy Hardin was welcomed into the world at 11:17  pm. She did not breathe right away, but part of her lethargy was from the magnesium that I had been on for so long. She was whisked away and Everett followed her to the NICU where she has been ever since. She needed little to no intervention, and in a lot of ways measured two weeks ahead of her gestational age. She weighed 3 lbs 11 oz at birth.

July 28:
I woke up exhausted and with a headache after sleeping for 2 or so hours, and the last thing I remember is eating breakfast. At 10 am, I suffered a seizure. This was a freak occurrence, as most cases of preeclampsia are resolved upon delivery. Mine had developed into eclampsia. My blood pressure had reached a point where my brain could not handle it. I do not remember waking up, but I have blurry memories of that evening.

I was then sent to the ICU where I spent a few days on monitors and IVs. Because of my swelling, the doctors had so much trouble finding my veins that they put an arterial line to allow them access to my blood at any time. However, I swelled up to a point where the line no longer gave blood. I have been poked by probably 50 needles in the past week.

I left the ICU after I had stabilized, and returned to Maternal Medicine where I spent several more days having my blood pressure monitored. That period of time was a waiting game to see if my blood pressure would stabilize on its own or if my medication would need to be increased.

Yesterday morning, a doctor came to speak with me and proposed a theory that my blood pressures were not decreasing because of the stress of not being allowed to move around and being kept away from my baby. She went ahead and released me, and my blood pressures decreased 10 points on both sides (a major improvement for me).

Last night, my husband and I went on our first date as parents and truly felt like the Lord took us out to dinner. There was a parking spot directly in front of the downtown restaurant we chose, the meters were free, the person in front of us was given an hour wait and we were seated immediately, and the waiter forgot our appetizer and gave it to us for free.

Everly Joy is doing amazing things in the NICU. Her major hurdle right now is learning to regulate her own body temperature. She can hold her own, but has to be bundled up in several layers. She is eating well and gaining some weight, but we have been given a range of 3 days to a week until we are able to take her home. We are on the top of the list for a transition room, which is where we will have 24/7 nursing assistance but will be trained in her care and given a chance to get used to having each other around.

This hospital has been such a huge blessing, and the staff is unbelievable. I will not miss being here but I will miss the new friends I've made.

In my quiet time with the Lord today, I was pouring out my heart of exhaustion. I heard these words that gave my heart a little breath of air: "Being made for something doesn't mean it will be easy." I have had no problems with my milk coming in, but I am so over filled that I ache almost constantly and need ice packs throughout the day. My baby will not go hungry, but I will not be comfortable until we are together and on the same feeding schedule. I am made for the joys of motherhood, but I am also made for the depths. 

I will be writing more this week as I am here waiting on my baby to grow, but for now, thank you for all of your prayers, contact and support. We have felt it all and have never been more aware of the loving community that we have.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Yesterday, I planned to go to the doctor, see an ultrasound, and go home to clean and organize baby things.

This morning, I had planned to be at work for an hour already.

Next week, I had planned to go to Charlotte and appear on one of the biggest worship albums of the year.

Instead, I'm spending the day today collecting a 24 hour sample of my own pee (I have to carry a big red jug back and forth from the bathroom to the fridge) and resting with my feet up. The next few weeks are now filled with non-stress tests and blood pressure monitoring.

I've been diagnosed with an early stage of preeclampsia. The baby is ok right now; the only thing we are keeping an eye on is a little bit of restricted growth. The tests I'll be having over the next few weeks are to monitor my condition to find out when the scales tip in the direction of needing to deliver the baby. The midwife has informed me that I need to be prepared to give birth sooner than I had expected; less than the expected six weeks and more like a hopeful three weeks.

I've started to ramp up my preparations at home since our little girl may be here sooner than we expected, and I'm getting my hospital bag ready for the unexpected.

"I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for." Jeremiah 29:11, The Message

Yesterday I cried until I was sick of my own tears, but today I am a warrior against the plans that the enemy has for my life and my daughter's. I am resting my swollen feet and giving myself the now necessary extra time to finish tasks and prepare for the uncertain future. I have a peace about the course of action that we are taking with the doctor and feel that we will be monitoring the situation closely enough to react appropriately. Prayers are welcome and appreciated, and we will need all of the friends that we have behind our backs as we begin this battle. Thank you for your support and prayers. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

loneliness within fellowship: a confessional

There are few feelings as sickening as coming to terms with lies that you have allowed yourself to believe. I have let the enemy whisper loneliness into my heart with notions of my isolation and unwantedness. Sitting last night with a group of girls who I considered to be more socially integrated and active than myself, I heard my own fears and pains echoed in their words. I began to realize how much loneliness is the hidden disease of community. We focus so much on the joys of being together that we can forget the strength of the bonds that sustain our relationships in the silent places, the isolated times.

The lie of loneliness within fellowship is a self-perpetuating one. We believe that we are unwanted, so we stop reaching out to others in our community. "No one is texting me or reaching out online," I'll whine to Everett, without remembering (or acknowledging) that I haven't texted or messaged anyone in weeks. My anxieties about someone turning me down and confirming my unwantedness often overwhelm my drive to connect. Here's my challenge to myself and anyone else who struggles with this: When you are feeling lonely and neglected, be the one who initiates contact. You don't have to plan a huge get together to fill the void of friendship in your heart; a simple text reminder that you are thinking of someone can shine a light on that relationship, and remind both of you of the connection and support you already have.

These are simple tips, but they should be considered "snacks" between the feasts of fun parties and intimate coffee dates. Next time you feel lonely, make the effort to break the cycle and connect. Chances are, you will find that someone feels the same way you do and has the same deep need for friendship and connection.

Monday, June 16, 2014


The house that we are currently living in is 860 square feet. About 160 of that is dedicated for our recording studio, so that's 700 square feet of living space for the two of us, our cat and dog, and our quickly approaching mini-me. We downsized from a 1000 square foot apartment with lots of storage to a house that technically qualifies as a "tiny house", so we had to do some serious streamlining. 

We knew around the end of March that we were serious about making this move up the mountain, and our lease ended on May 31st. We didn't find a new place until the beginning of May, but I started reducing our possessions in March in the belief that we would find a place. I was rewarded with a gorgeous little cabin in a sweet neighborhood at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.

The bulk of the packing and purging was on my shoulders, since my husband was on the road with a band for the majority of May. I actually found the house and signed the lease before he even saw it! We're lucky he trusts me with all things style and home. I did a lot of soul searching and web surfing, and found the 40 bags in 40 days project by White House Black Shutters. Her guidelines helped me a lot, and I actually (by her standards, where a "bag" is anything from a grocery bag full of things to a discarded dresser) got rid of 52 bags. It took at least 15 trips to Goodwill, a couple of sketchy Craigslist meetings, and some Plato's Closet maneuvering, but I did it.

The most notable places we downsized (aside from our closets) were the kitchen and bathroom. I got rid of so many toiletries that I didn't need (easy pickings) and then went for the towels. Practically speaking, we need one clean one and one that's either being reused or washed per family member. Right now, that's four towels total. I kept my favorite four and chucked the rest. No longer do I have a pile of towels waiting for more towels to make a full load for laundry. I never had room for that anyway!

In the kitchen, I got rid of all but one full set of silverware (four of each utensil), a ton of plates, cups, kitchen gadgets we'd never used, and bakeware duplicates. How many times am I going to bake 4 pies at once, or need 5 cupcake pans? We've already seen the difference this has made since we can't let things pile up in the sink and grab an extra from the cupboard. We now have to wash the dish every time we use it, right away, in order to have a functional kitchen. Some of you that have your lives together may think this isn't a big deal, but for me, this is a revelation. I hate doing dishes, but if it's only a few, I can manage.

When it came to our clothes, we had to make a big change. We had a huge bedroom with a giant closet and room for two antique dressers at the old apartment, but the room we moved to had one small closet and we needed the extra floor space for baby. (I'll address the nursery/cosleeping plans later). If you've never moved from two dressers and a closet to one closet, I will warn you that it is something that should only be attempted with a full belly and tons of nesting energy. I built shelves and hung lower bars like a crazy lady, but I managed to make an efficient and kind of nice looking closet.

In the living room we got rid of our TV and stand, and switched out a bulky sectional for these two cozy red couches. We've had a few friends over, and the community building power of the seating being in a circle is unbelievable. Conversation flows freely and people are so comfortable.

Here's a couple of tidbits I picked up along my journey towards a tiny house:
  • Do your research and find "rules" that work for you. Look for closet purging guides and other downsizing ideas. This helps you be more objective, in order to better...
  • Be ruthless. You definitely don't need everything you think you do. Don't be gentle with yourself and say that you'll wear it when you lose weight or have a special occasion that calls for it. Save the space and spend a little money when the time comes for either of those things.
  • Charge your stuff rent. Not literally, of course, but take into account that you have to pay for every square inch of space that an object occupies. To do that, divide the square footage of an item by the total square footage of your house, then multiply by your rent or mortgage. Take my craft dresser, for instance. It cost about $4 worth of my monthly rent in floorspace! That's $48 a year to house a dresser that held miscellaneous craft stuff that I "might use someday". I chucked it immediately and went for shelves on the wall, and I am so much happier. 

  • Don't forget about your extra room. Which room? Outside!! We're excited that our house came with a giant front porch, but any outside space will do. If you are living on a city block, treat the park like your backyard. This helps if you have a fight and need some space that can't be provided by your minimal walls and few doors.
If you are attempting this journey towards a smaller, more affordable house like we did, let me know! If not, I encourage you to take a good look at what you have and consider what impact it's having on your life. It may do you a world of good to take a few bags to Goodwill. Either way, I'd love to hear from you!


Friday, June 6, 2014

the great transition

I am sitting on the couch in our new house looking out at the trees glitter green in the wind. We have officially lived in this house for a week but it still feels brand new. Everything here feels like a strange combination of fresh and familiar, with the local bakery's scones bringing me to tears and a deer slowly crossing the road making me laugh and roll my windows down for the rest of my drive.

I've been pregnant now for 6 months and it's starting to feel normal. I'm settling into this season and finding more happiness that I have in a year. I've decided to start this blog to bring the readers of MRS Degree into this new place with me as I myself move out of the target audience of that blog. My perspectives on life and love are still in line with the message of that blog, and I'll continue to talk about many of the same things.

I can't wait to tell you all about the exciting new places the Lord is bringing me and my little family. Here's a brief glimpse of some of the things I'm going to bring you up to date on soon!
  • Pregnancy so far
  • Downsizing to a tiny house
  • Hand lettering tutorials (by popular demand!!)
  • Godly community living
Follow along on Instagram @hardincaroline and be sure to check out the Etsy store for new additions!

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