Our Journey Through Wellness: A Story of Our Struggles and Accomplishments

Love this sweet pumpkin patch photo shoot with The Vintage Modern Wife! See more pictures and read about their journey through wellness. It's great!

There are many things we took for granted before we became Addie’s parents. We took for granted the ability to breathe, the ability to hold up a head, the ability to speak or hear, the ability to run and do a fast errand as a family- lots of things. For a long time, Addie was in a season of illness. She spent the first 10 months of her life in a hospital, and we’ve worked really hard to keep her out of the hospital except for small, planned procedures. It’s been a year and almost 4 months since our family was in that season of life, and I’m truly amazed at how the Lord has blessed us with a journey through wellness instead of more illness.


Love this sweet pumpkin patch photo shoot with The Vintage Modern Wife! See more pictures and read about their journey through wellness. It's great!

What we Wore

Addie: shirt / pants (similar) / vest (similar) / bow

Stephanie: shirt / scarf (similar) / pants

Mathew: shirt / jeans

Photography by Lauren Gilbert Photography

Whenever I sat in the NICU for 8-12 hours at a time, only leaving to get lunch or exclusively pump, I had a lot of time to think and a lot of time to pray. We had many talks with doctors who thought Addie wouldn’t “make it” out of the hospital. That she’d be a forever patient. As a parent, it was excruciating to watch. There were always so many tubes, cords, and probes. Nurses and Respiratory Therapists that would have to help me get her out of her little bed because she was so medically fragile. Even as she was older in the PICU and sedated in order to help her breathe easier, I never quite knew what our outcome would be. I would pray and pray for our sweet girl, and would put my best foot forward to stay happy because I knew my mood effected hers.

Love this sweet pumpkin patch photo shoot with The Vintage Modern Wife! See more pictures and read about their journey through wellness. It's great!

Being in that season of illness for such a prolonged time takes a toll on you, and to be honest, we were ready for a change. When Addie came home after those 10 months, our lives changed for the better in so many ways, and we strived to begin our journey through wellness. We worked hard to eat healthy meals and enjoyed finally eating as a family- in our own home. We took Addie out for walks at the zoo to get the fresh air we so longingly wanted during the past 10 months. We joined Young Living and started replacing toxic chemical-laden cleaners and household items with ones that were natural. Still, with all of the fun, we were extremely cautious. We had a friend dress up as Santa with a never-before-used costume, and kept Addie indoors as much as possible. I used Thieves spray like crazy whenever I went out to the grocery store by myself so I wouldn’t bring any germs home), and we made sure that any visitors that came over had not been sick or around anyone that was sick.

Love this sweet pumpkin patch photo shoot with The Vintage Modern Wife! See more pictures and read about their journey through wellness. It's great!

Our diligence paid off. We spent our entire respiratory season last year without any sickness from Mathew or me, and Addie never went to the hospital because of illness. It was amazing. I honestly wasn’t sure if we could do it, but I figured if we made sure to wash our hands frequently, use our essential oils, drink our daily Ningxia Red, and keep Addie away from public places, then we’d be ok- and we were. In fact, the Lord has blessed our family with so much wellness since respiratory season started last year.

Love this sweet pumpkin patch photo shoot with The Vintage Modern Wife! See more pictures and read about their journey through wellness. It's great!

Because of our ability to keep Addie healthy, we had a blast this summer. We took Addie to the state capitol, the zoo, a friend’s birthday party, my 30th birthday fiesta (yet another thing I need to blog about!), holiday get-togethers, a few restaurants, and even random trips out of town to Austin and San Antonio just because. Addie had her birthday party with tons of friends and she actually was able to be passed around to people unlike the year before. It was seriously a summer to remember.

Now, Fall is here and we’re getting back into the swing of being a bit more cautious due to respiratory season. We recently got to take Addie to a sweet little pumpkin patch near town and my friend Lauren Gilbert got some great shots of us. She has a little business, Lauren Gilbert Photography, and is always so kind enough to offer to take pictures of us. After our photo shoot, we took Addie out to Cracker Barrel for brunch, headed home for a little family time, and then went over to Lauren’s house for dinner and so Addie could play with her friend, Ollie. If you would have seen Mathew and me, you would’ve seen how big the smiles on our faces were. It was a PERFECT day. Perfect. I went to bed that night thanking God for such a glorious day and for our abundance during this journey through wellness. I think we also realized that night that it’s time to start winding the getaways down, which is what made the day even more special because it went so well. We have plans for a fun Halloween as a family (so stick around!), but not quite sure yet if we’ll hit up a church fall festival or just stay home all dressed up. I’d love to take Addie out, but it just depends on the wellness of others, to be honest. Either way, it’ll be a blast! We also are in talks of what we’ll do for Thanksgiving this year (it’s insane how fast time is flying.)

Love this sweet pumpkin patch photo shoot with The Vintage Modern Wife! See more pictures and read about their journey through wellness. It's great!

Our journey through wellness is always evolving as we research more about toxin-laden products (Have you tried the Think Dirty app?!), use essential oils, eat a more “clean” diet, and have a strong wellness plan with Addie’s specialists. With the tools and resources we used last year, we are praying that we continue to have an abundance of wellness! It’s not an easy task, but we’re up for the challenge!

What are your favorite ways to stay healthy in your journey through wellness?

I am 1 in 4: Recounting Our Personal Struggle Through Miscarriage

If you didn’t know it, October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I wasn’t sure how I was going to write this post, because I’m still trying to put the pieces together in my own life. Usually when I write, the words just flow from my head onto my fingertips, and today, for the first time, I’m struggling to discuss this topic: miscarriage. What do you tell others? How much is too much? Am I even knowledgeable enough to write about this?

The Vintage Modern Wife recounts her personal struggle through miscarriage during pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. A great read for those that have or haven't experienced a miscarriage.

Our readers know how much our family has gone through in the past two and a half years. I had a very rough pregnancy with Addison and pretty much had every complication known to pregnancy. Not only that, but at 18 weeks when we went in for our anatomy scan, we found out our sweet baby (girl, yay!) had, what we would later find out, a sacrococcygeal teratoma. We were devastated. We had a special Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor that we saw every other week, an amniocentesis, and we even took trips to Texas Children’s in Houston to monitor sweet Addie. We prayed over our baby constantly and one specific prayer I had was that the Lord would use sweet baby Addie for His glory despite the outcome. We were choosing life for her and wouldn’t have had it any other way. Once she was born, Addie stayed in the hospital 10 months. 6 months in NICU, home for 6 days, and then 4 in PICU. But ever since? She’s been home- and it’s been over a year that she’s been at home thriving.

Fast forward to June of this year. Mathew had brought up the idea of another baby the past few months but I wasn’t ready. It finally hit me in June that I was ready to start planning for another baby. I looked at my fellow Go Shout Love mama, Katie Ewing, and how her special needs daughter Paisley, has the most adorable little sister, Ivory. The two of them are the perfect little pair. I remember watching a video of Ivory cheering on her big sister when Paisley was learning to run in therapy. It melted my heart and I knew that I wanted that for Addie too. Someone to love on her and cheer her on. Someone to snuggle with her. Someone to just be her best friend. So in June, after lots of conversation and thought, we started the process of planning for another baby.

July was a crazy month for us. I had just gotten home from Young Living Convention, I had my 30th birthday Fiesta (I still need to blog about BOTH of those, geez!), and I was preparing for my trip to Branson with my mom and sister. On July 20th, several days after I should’ve had my period, I took a pregnancy test and found out that I was 4 weeks pregnant. I was SO excited and scared! This was really happening. I ran out the door and told Mathew I had some errands to run. I went all over town looking for some kind of “big sister” outfit for Addie so we could surprise him the next morning. Keeping it a secret from him was the hardest thing, but I wanted my announcement to him to be perfect. The next day, I got Addie dressed for the day and she wore this outfit.

Love this sweet baby announcement for a big sister!Mathew was thrilled. He couldn’t stop smiling and giving Addie and me hugs. It was such an amazing day and we were on Cloud 9. The weeks that came after were joyous. I was nauseous and tired but found Ningxia Red helped me feel more like myself. I was diligent about taking my prenatal vitamins, and scoured my copy of Gentle Babies to see how I could use essential oils during my pregnancy, since I hadn’t even known about essential oils when I was pregnant with Addie. We talked about baby names, where we’d keep the baby (we currently still have a pack and play/ bassinet in our bedroom from when we prepared for Addie to be born), and spent hours researching double strollers that would work with our particular needs. All was wonderful.

Love this sweet baby announcement for a big sister!

We had our very first appointment at 6 weeks on Monday, August 1st. It was such an exciting time for us that we ended up making a family trip out of the appointment! Mathew and Addie came and it was just everything I envisioned. We got a picture of our sweet baby and asked a billion questions. Would we need another MFM doctor? Would we need another amnio? Would we need to speak with the genetics team? There were so many questions. Our doctor suggested we just take things as we went, come back in 2 weeks, and we all agreed that was the best idea. Two weeks later on August 15th, at 8 weeks and 4 days, I decided to go to my appointment alone. Mathew watched Addie and I excitedly went to the doctor. While getting my ultrasound, I noticed something was wrong because there was more pushing around than usual. That’s when I was told that our baby hadn’t made it. That our baby lost its heartbeat maybe 1 or 2 days before the appointment. We would be going through a miscarriage.

Wind chimes- a wonderful way to remember loss through miscarriage.

We had been told through genetics, in the past, that our chance of miscarriage was higher than most people. In fact, roughly 1 in 4 women will experience this type of loss in their lives. Still, we were given the clear to grow our family because the odds of a baby having the same genetic issues with Addie was pretty unlikely. But when my doctor told me our baby lost its heartbeat I was floored. I wasn’t expecting it at all. I tried not to cry, but to be honest, I was in pure shock. I was told I had several choices with our sweet baby. I could 1) Take some medicine to help me speed my miscarriage up faster. 2) Have a D&C in the clinic. 3) Not do anything and wait for my body to take care of things on it’s own. Although I was told I didn’t need to make my decision right away, I chose option 3. I checked out at the doctor’s office (painfully, as the receptionist asked if I got my “payment plan” for my pregnancy. She hadn’t gotten the memo.) and called Mathew immediately once in the car. I sobbed the entire way home.

Love this sweet baby announcement for a big sister!

We’d only known about our baby for a month and were so heartbroken over our loss. Just a few days before our 8 week appointment we had taken birthday pictures for Addie and had a couple announcement photos taken by our friend Lauren Gilbert at the same time. We planned on announcing to friends and family at Addie’s 2nd birthday party. In fact, we had this whole plan that we’d open one of her birthday gifts and it’d be the pictures we took along with a “big sister” outfit. To know that we wouldn’t be doing that, it was heart wrenching. Mathew and I sobbed for days just out of nowhere. It was especially hard because it was supposed to be a fun week with Mathew’s birthday. Going to dinner that week on his birthday and Medieval Times with him was much needed over that next weekend because we had been devastated all week.

Love this sweet baby announcement for a big sister!

We told close friends and family that we had been expecting a baby and our baby had passed away, but we were still awaiting a miscarriage. Friends and family showed so much love towards us, I’m honestly so humbled by it. Dinners were brought, friends came and shared their stories of loss, texts were sent, and the flowers- there were SO many flowers you would think I opened a flower shop. It was beautiful. Although we hadn’t told many, we knew we had so much love and support by others. We needed it all so badly, and I just still am amazed at all the people we had at our side during that time.

Gorgeous white flowers from friends during a miscarriage

On August 30th, a few days after Addie’s 2nd birthday (which I’m thankful for), I officially miscarried our sweet baby. It was awful and traumatizing, and I did it by myself at home. Mathew watched Addie because I was in no shape to do so, and I was in intense agony for hours. I won’t even get into details, but I will say, the process is just like giving birth, because that’s exactly what you’re doing, except with a smaller baby.  I tried to be strong and do it all by myself, but started to feel very faint and dizzy after laboring all day. I finally admitted to myself that I needed to go to the hospital. Thankfully, my in laws were nearby and took me. Triage was wonderful and they got me right in after uncontrollably sobbing that I was miscarrying. Turns out, the stress made my blood pressure so high that it’s no wonder I was so faint. After several tests and some pain meds, I was told that my body did what it needed and there was nothing more to do but rest.

Landing in the hospital after miscarriage

Now, a month later, I’ve rested, we’ve prayed, we’ve cried. We’re still confused about it all. We thought this baby was our redemption baby. After everything that went on with Addie and the struggles we faced within the first year of her life, we truly thought this was our chance to have a child that would be Addie’s best friend, her confidante, her cheerleader. We’d experience what it was like to have a baby come home from the hospital as a newborn, and those sleepless nights that a baby brings. However, the Lord had other plans. It wasn’t time for our sweet baby to meet us. So now, it’s time to wait. We will wait for the Lord to make the perfect rainbow baby to come from heaven to join our family. We have no idea how long that will take, but we have hope that it will happen someday. While thoughts of planning another baby are now pushed aside for a little bit due to fear, we know that the Lord will help us realize when the time to plan to grow our family will be. There are still many days that we cry out of nowhere and are so hurt and confused. Other days, I take great comfort in knowing that our baby is waiting for us in heaven and we will one day see him/her.

I am 1 in 4. A sweet friend of ours recently wrote, “The loss of a child divides your life into two parts, before, and after.” It is so very true. If you have personally mourned the loss of a baby through miscarriage or infant loss, I am so very sorry for your loss.  If you haven’t, I urge you to talk with a friend that has. Bring them meals, send them flowers, just let them know you’re thinking of them. Let your friend know that they aren’t alone.

An Itty Bitty Christmas Nativity with Hallmark Gold Crown Stores

Christmas time is incredibly important to our family. It’s no secret that Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, you get to have amazing food, gifts, and more, but the absolute true meaning of Christmas is what’s important to us. Being 5 hours away from my family isn’t easy, but thanks to technology, I’ve been able to spend Christmas with my family in Corpus Christi even though I’m still in Waco.

Looking for an adorable nativity set the whole family will love? Hallmark Gold Crown Stores have an Itty Bitty Christmas Nativity that is not only cute, but perfect to display! I love it!

When I was growing up, Christmas was always at my Aunt Gloria’s house. I absolutely miss it. The day before Christmas Eve all the cousins sit together and make Christmas cookies JUST for the party. We go all out and buy special decorating tools just so the cookies can be as picturesque as they would be in a magazine. We also make tons of food and get ready to have at least 40 people in her house. Then, on Christmas Eve, we laugh, we share stories and catch up, we eat, and then we do one of my very favorite things- the advent “service.” During this time, at the very end of the evening, our whole family gets together and sits around the living room. Everyone is given a piece of paper with a script to read, and we each read various parts about Jesus’ birth. At the end, my Uncle Pete reads Luke 2, and tells the story of Jesus’ birth. I look forward to it every single year, and when I saw the itty bittys® Nativity Set from Hallmark Gold Crown Stores, I just lit up.

It’s hard being away from my side of the family. We haven’t had a Christmas with them in several years in person, but FaceTime makes it easier. I think what also makes it easier is seeing cute things like the itty bittys® Nativity Set and being able to grab them for Addie. It reminds me so much of our Christmas Eve nights at Aunt Gloria’s house and I want Addie to have sweet memories of Christmas like I do. Addie collects Hallmark itty bittys and if you remember, last year Santa brought her some itty bitty Disney Princess dolls for her stocking. They are cute, tiny, and fit perfectly in her little hands. Plus, she loves cuddling with them at night because they fit in the crook of her arm. This nativity set is going to be the best set yet!

Mathew and I made a video that we want to share with Addie on Christmas Eve nights from now on. We had fun making it and we hope you enjoy it! Give it a thumbs up if you watch it, or comment and tell us what you think! Also, if you’re searching for some sweet and fun gift ideas, check out Hallmark. Not only do they have the itty bittys® Nativity Set, but they carry beautiful Christmas cards, sweet-smelling soaps, and their oh-so-popular Keepsake Ornaments.

What are some of your favorite traditions that make Christmas special for you and your family?