Day 1- Mental Spoke: Gratitude

Happy December! As we approach 2020, not only is it a new year, but a new decade. A chance to truly take ownership over our lives and create the life we want for ourselves.

“The fastest was to success is to replace a bad habit with a good habit.”- Tom Ziglar.

Each day for the month of December I’m going to share a good habit I developed that has helped me change my life, in hopes that I may be able to encourage others. I will rotate through the Wheel of Life, so we touch on all components of our lives. 

Day: 1

Spoke: Mental 

Habit: Gratitude as my first and last thoughts of the day  

The first spoke I’m going to touch on is mental. A few years ago I was REALLY struggling internally. On the outside I had a huge smile and appeared happy to everyone around me, but inside I was suffering. We had many stressors coming at us from every direction, and it caused me to lose my joy. I didn’t know how to get it back.

Then, I heard a message that quoted one of my favorite scriptures, James 1. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance ”

I was reminded that during the tribulations we say thank you because these are the moments that shape us, refine us, and grow us. And in the best of times, we say thank you. On the good days and the bad, there is reason to be grateful.

I started beginning and ending my day with gratitude. In the mornings, before I looked at the time or my phone I would realize I had woken up to experience another day, and I would say thank you. Before bed I would put the phone away, rest my head on the pillow and lay there thinking of things I was grateful for as I fell asleep. I noticed that soon after I began this habit, the joy began to re-enter my life. It was all mental. I had to re-frame the way I was seeing the experiences around me. 

This habit really paid off when my family faced our hardest trial yet. When my son was 2 months old we had to call 911 because he could hardly breath. He and I were whisked away on an ambulance and transferred to a Pediatric ICU for 7 days where he was put on life support fighting off RSV. It was a total of 11 days in the hospital and we came very close to losing him.

By this point, gratitude had become such an ingrained habit that it was my default method for seeing the world. In the midst of chaos, all I knew was to find the joy where I could. I survived every day through that season by being immensely grateful for the people who showed us kindness, the staff at the hospital who were absolutely amazing, the family and friends who rallied around us, my co-workers who picked up my slack so I could be there with him the whole time and the list goes on. In a dark time, through my tears, through my heartache, I never lost the joy because of the gratitude. 

As you prepare for 2020, consider what habits you could create that would allow you to experience more gratitude. 

Seeing the Cross Differently

For the last two years I haven’t posted on social media on Easter. Intentionally.

I went through a season in my Christian walk where I was deeply disturbed by the American tradition of getting dressed in pretty clothes and going to church, and then posting it to social media as a way to honor the most significant part of the Christ story.

A day that symbolizes the greatest sacrifice, unlimited forgiveness of our enemies, and the death/resurrection story paired with cute family pictures just didn’t align for me.

In fact, I didn’t go to church those two years because for me, in the season of my walk I was in, it felt forced and artificial. I’m not someone inclined to do things just for how it looks to others.

This year felt different. My soul yearned to go to a church service. I felt drawn to visit a new church I haven’t been to before. A divine encounter in the grocery store that led to an invitation to join someone there this morning confirmed for me I indeed was supposed to go.

And then this morning, I sat in church and a couple tears streamed down my face. It was a beautiful experience at St. Peter’s Episcopal. The priest’s words struck a cord so deeply in my soul that he helped to rewrite for me what I see when I look at the cross. 

Forever more, when I look at the cross I will see a symbol of unity. I will see a reminder of a man who sacrificed his life to say “we are all the same.” In a world where humanity craves labels, division and us vs them, he said “no more.” His life of breaking these barriers made other people so uncomfortable that they killed him.

For 7 years I have been going through deconstruction and reconstruction. For those of you who have never heard those terms, it’s simply vocabulary to explain a very normal process of the faith experience. Many people go through a period of time where they doubt, question and maybe even walk away from a faith experience they were handed. The foundation rug on which they built their truths gets ripped out from underneath them. And then, over time, a new foundation is set. One that they choose, they set, and is their own.

I went through five years of deconstruction. My faith was a house of cards that others built for me. One by one, the answers I was being handed did not add up and a card would come off. Eventually the stability was gone and the house of cards fell. That season was very dark, lonely and frustrating. Eventually, I discovered new paradigms that helped me lay a new foundation, one that made space for all the colors with which I now could see.

For two years I have been reconstructing that house. It’s been a very healing, restorative and hopeful experience. The priest’s message today felt like the last two cards coming together on top. This new lens through which to see the death and resurrection gives me so much hope for Christianity, a faith I heavily considered walking away from just a few shorts years ago.

Because I could never do justice to paraphrasing someone else’s words, I asked the priest for a copy of his message. This is the excerpt that spoke so clearly to me. I chose to share it on my blog for mostly selfish reasons. I would like to be able to return to these words on days I need to hear them again. But I chose to share this experience publicly in case there are others out there for whom these words could also bring healing.

May grace and peace be with you. Today and always.

Love, Sophia

(P.S. Don’t forget that if you like what you see on my blog and want updates when I post, visit the homepage of www.sophiahyde.com to subscribe to receive an email when I publish a new post)

An excerpt from the Rev. Barry P. Kubler’s message on April 21, 2019 at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Plant City, FL:

So, on this Easter morning we ask the same 2000 year old question, “what does the resurrection mean for us?”  And Holy Scripture answers us.  It means that through Jesus, God has conquered the powers of sin and death.  It means that those who follow Jesus now have a new message to proclaim.  No longer do we speak of the separation of people and of the death that separation brings.  Now we speak of unity, of fellowship, of eternal life and peace.

            Peter’s world was turned upside down by the resurrection of Jesus.  The laws and rituals that formerly set his people apart from all others had been abolished by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.  Peter had begun to learn what Paul would proclaim as the central truth revealed to him by God.  That, “in Christ we are all children of God through faith …”  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, we are all one in Jesus Christ.

            In 21st century language that gospel would sound like this.  There is no longer American or Russian, Jew or Palestinian.  There is no longer citizen or undocumented immigrant, there is no longer Republican or Democrat.   There is no longer straight, or gay, or transgendered.  There is no longer a millionaire or someone living on a meager subsistence.

            And let me be clear.  I’m not talking about political and philosophical differences over ideas and methodology.  I’m talking about every Christian’s responsibility to uphold their baptismal promises.

            My friends, when we say, Alleluia, Christ is Risen, we are acknowledging that all the barriers that formerly separated people have been abolished.  Christ’s resurrection replaces division with unity.  Christ’s resurrection challenges us to replace distrust and the fear of others with understanding and love.  And the word resurrection does not just imply the good news of life’s victory over death.  It also recognizes the challenges of overcoming the barriers, the fears, the distrust and the alienation that separates us from others.

            I know that in my own life, there have been times when I have found it difficult to face the embarrassment of my own prejudices.  I’d prefer to think that I have none.  However, that would not be the truth.  The hard truth is that all of us fear something in the other.  We fear what is different, what is unknown.  And acknowledging our fears my brothers and sisters is the first step in overcoming them.

            I have learned through uncomfortable conversations that fear is at the root of every ‘ism,’ from classism to racism.  Fear is at the root of any evil that separates us from one another.  And I continually learn that the only way to overcome fear is not to deny it, but face it, squarely and honestly.

            One way to do that of course, is to listen to those who are different.  It is in that listening that we will find the ability to replace ignorance with understanding, distrust with confidence, despair with hope, problems with opportunities, and fear with love.

            And there you have it.  A Resurrection faith is above all the faith that God has done, and is doing, a good and new thing in life – and we have an opportunity to participate in it.

            Martin Luther finally came to that understanding.  He realized that God was doing a new thing in him.  When the old understandings failed, God gave him a new understanding.  Scaling steps on bloody knees didn’t have the redeeming value Luther once thought it had.  But what does, according to the revelation Luther received from God, is faith in the name of the one who saves us.

            Like Luther, the Apostle Peter’s old understandings failed him.  But God’s revelation provided him with a new understanding, a new faith, a new word of grace.  Today, Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, the good news is that that same power and grace is available to us.

            So, my friends, let me ask you this question.  Did you come here this morning asking, “Who knows if it is really true?”  If you did, I would suggest to you that the answer to that question might be found in asking yourself if you are willing to risk listening for something new, as Peter and Martin Luther encourage us to do.  Are you willing to risk the loss of old understandings that you might feel the power of God working in you, affirming the new thing God has done on this day through His Son, Jesus Christ?




Guilt-Free Working Mom

My son is nine weeks old, and I have completed two weeks back in the office full time. I have not had one moment of guilt. No tears. No pain. No heart ache. We have rocked it.
He’s my second child. The only way we accomplished this is with all the lessons I learned from my first child. I write my blog to share my stories and experiences because I believe if we all live life as an open book and share our experiences, we can gain so much from one another. Hopefully there is a mom out there, or mom to be one day, who will experience less struggle, pain and challenge than I did with my first child by reading my story.
Today I’m going to talk about GUILT in general and about mom guilt.
Before I get into the back story, I have one more preface. When I say we rocked it, I mean he thrived, and I thrived. But please understand, I’m not pretending it was easy. It is hard. He’s exclusively breastfed. I am pumping around the clock. I have my four-year-old and husband who also need me. I never stop, slow down or rest. I showed up to the staff meeting with spit up on my dress. I almost cried when three ounces of breast milk spilled in the fridge. I am juggling a million plates. I wear my hair in a clip every day because it’s a hairstyle I can do in one minute and that’s all I have. Of course it’s hard. Of course it’s a challenge. But I’m carrying no guilt or shame. That’s what I want to talk about.
In 2014 I gave birth to my daughter. Like most moms, I wanted to be the best mom I could. And in my worldview, that meant being home with her. The messaging I heard for those first 27 years of my life sounded like this:
“Daycare is paying someone else to raise your kids”
“Awww….I feel sorry for that mom. She had to put her kid in daycare at XYZ age.”
“Being able to stay home with your child is the best gift you can give them.”
“No one can take care your child as well as you can”
And many other similar messages. What that translated to for me (the over achiever who has to always be the best) is that to be the best mom I could for my daughter I needed to stay home with her. Otherwise, I was short changing her. However, my husband’s income could not support us by itself. Since I was self-employed I chose to work from home. This seriously sounded like the dream life. It was an ideal situation.
However, in retrospect, my opinion is that this is the hardest of all the options. There are moms whose full time job is their children and their home. There are moms who while they work, someone else takes care of the kids. And then the work from home moms try to do both things at the same time. My experience was that trying to do both was significantly more stressful than the other two options.
The 27-year-old me absolutely, positively, could not have put my child in day care though. My fear levels were through the roof. My insecurities were extreme. And I had a belief that I would be a bad mom if I did. Day care was only for when you have no other option.
During my pregnancy with my daughter my hips started hurting. The midwife and chiropractor said it was normal. Your hips expand to make room for the baby. After I gave birth they still hurt. I was told this is normal, they are moving back in place. I mean, you just birthed a 9lb 14oz baby. Give yourself some grace. Well, by the time she was 6 months old I had quit exercising due to the pain. I was afraid I would hurt myself. It continued to get worse. When she was 10 months old I could not sit criss-cross without severe pain. I knew something wasn’t right.
Fortunately, someone told me about John Giancarlo. He practices a form of Japanese acupressure called Jin Shin Jyutsu. I decided to give his services a try and in ONE SESSION the pain was gone. It was seriously like a miracle. While laying on his table for an hour and a half while he worked on me (you can barely even feel him touching you and you stay clothed) I fell into a very deep relaxation. I practice meditation, so while he was working I started reflecting on different words, and the word guilt came to me. It stuck. I spent a while releasing guilt from my body and eventually fell into a deep sleep.
When he finished the session we had a conversation about what was happening in my body during that 90 minutes. He explained that where I was feeling the pain was precisely where two energy centers are located. I asked what those centers are connected to, and he showed me on the chart it was joy. We talked about my meditation, and what I realized was that my guilt was causing an extreme lack of joy in my life, and my body was storing all that emotion inside.
I rarely had a moment I didn’t feel guilty. When I was playing with my baby, I felt guilty I wasn’t working. When I was working, I felt guilty I wasn’t cleaning. When I was cleaning, I felt guilty I wasn’t spending time with my husband. When I spent time with my husband, I felt guilty I wasn’t spending time with my baby. And every combination of those things mixed together. I could not find peace in the present. I was always doing one thing and spending mental energy thinking about something else I could be doing. This led to a constant state of guilt and eventually began manifesting in my body. The guilt definitely started during pregnancy when we were under extreme financial stress, and I felt guilty I couldn’t make it better.
Through that experience with my body, I began working on being present in the moment. It’s a learning process, but four years into the journey I have come so, so, so far. I release the weight of all the other things I could be doing and focus on the moment in front of me. I have found this skill to be like a muscle that must be grown over time.
Another major “aha” moment I had with guilt is one conversation with a wise woman I met at a girls night out whom I have never seen again. I truly believe she was sent to me that night to teach me this one major life lesson. The context of the situation is that we were both very clean eaters. I was detoxing at the time (pretty much every January you can count on that from me) and she just in general ate an extreme lifestyle of cleanliness for her body, many of which were allergy related. The restaurant we were at offered nothing on the menu either of us could consume so this was the conversation:
Me: “Man, I can’t eat anything here. I feel bad. I need to come up with something to order.”
Her: “Oh, you’re a guilt catcher.”
Me: “A what?”
Her: “You’re a guilt catcher. I have found that in life there are guilt throwers and guilt catchers, and I choose not to be either.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Her: “Well, you just said you feel bad. That means you are feeling guilt for not ordering. I don’t. I came to enjoy the company. The menu has nothing I can eat. I’m not ordering. But you are experiencing guilt. You feel obligated to order. You have probably had people in your life who made you feel guilty about choices you have made.”
Me: “Oh, for sure.”
Her: “Well, you don’t have to receive it. If someone is saying something to me that involves something I ‘should’ be doing, they are probably a guilt thrower. They throw guilt on other people. I won’t receive it. So if after one or two times of them telling me something I should do and me declining wanting that, I then say to them with a big smile ‘__(person’s name)____, are you trying to make me feel guilty?” And they always immediately say no and start backing off.
Mind. Blown.
I had flashes of all the conversations where someone told me something I “should” do, and I internalized it. You should eat like this, dress like this, have a job like this, practice religion in this way, raise your children this way. The messages of all the SHOULDs that are thrown at us are endless.
Shortly after that I had a friend disagree with something I was allowing my daughter to do that she would never allow her daughter to do. She kept reiterating that I “should not _____.” I found myself having to defend a choice I made for my daughter that I felt perfectly fine with. After the third time of her using different words to say the same thing I smiled through the phone and said “______, are you trying to make me feel guilty for allowing my daughter to ______.” Bam. It was over. She said “Oh! No! Absolutely not! It’s fine if you want to do that.” And has never brought it up again. All I was thinking was “Holy crap! It worked!”
What I realized is that when these people make these comments to us about what we should do, what they are REALLY SAYING is “This is what I would do.” But I think we can all agree that every single one of our lives and situations are completely different. What works for you, may not work for me. And visa versa. I have been working hard to remove the word should from my vocabulary because I certainly don’t want to throw guilt onto someone else. The word could is often a great substitute, or just personalizing it. Rather than saying “You should….” you say “If it were me, I would…” Or, just don’t give advice at all and ask more questions. That’s usually the best response.
You ready for a heart break story? My daughter was 2 years old, and I had a family friend watching her part time, two or three days a week. It was amazing. I totally regretted not getting help sooner. I needed time for myself to work and have self care. It immediately increased my quality of life.
One day I was working. I was at a meeting in Tampa, a women’s event with a panel of incredible speakers, when I got a text message. It said, “Oh my gosh. Eleanora is so cute. She just gave me a hug and said I love you ____.” I had to fight back the tears. My daughter had not said “I love you” to me yet. She told her before me.
On the way home I called my business partner and cried and cried and cried. It absolutely broke my heart. She said to me “Sophia, she’s two years old. You know she loves you. She’s obsessed with you. You’re her mother. She’s just learning vocabulary. Depending on how long this woman watches her, she may not even remember her when she grows up. But she is going to love you the rest of her life and already loves you more than this woman. She just can’t vocalize it. She will tell you I love you thousands of more times than this woman.” She was right, but it didn’t make it hurt less.
At that panel event that day, during Q & A, someone asked about how to manage work/life balance. I was struggling so hard with the fact I loved working and loved having time apart from my daughter, but did everyone else have this same guilt I did? A couple of the speakers recommended the book Lean In by Sheryl Sanberg.  So I picked it up.
Game. Changer.
I still remember the plane ride I read it on. I still remember the moment I felt free from caring that I had my daughter in child care.
All the guilt and the tears washed away. I realized that I had a calling. Yes, I was called to be a great mother. And I am. But I have more dreams. Some women dream of being a mom. That’s their happy place. That’s all they want. They want to take care of their home and raise their kids and that is awesome. It’s admirable. And it would probably make my husband’s life a heck of a lot easier if I were that way. But I am not. I burn almost all the food I cook on the rare occasion I attempt composing a meal. Truth be told, I mother better when I’m not around my children 24-7. This doesn’t make me a bad mom. It makes me ME. And I have to reflect on what talents and gifts I have to offer the world and LEAN IN to them. It is my responsibility to show up in this world in the most powerful way I can and contribute in ways only women can offer. The world needs more of our perspective around the table.
A few months after that book I upped my daughter to four days of child care a week, but I found that I was still stressing on that day home with her trying to get the work week accomplished. Soon after, I went to five days a week, and I found great happiness. It was my balance. I could set healthy boundaries on the hours I worked. I could walk away from something at 5pm knowing I was going to pick it up where I left off the next morning. When I was with my daughter I could be fully present with her. Laugh with her, play with her, and enjoy her, without thinking about the email or text message I needed to reply to within the next hour.
I realized I had dabbled in the at home world and it wasn’t me. It did not bring out my best. I became a much better mother when I entered the 9-5 world. My husband commented on how less stressed I was. I was more pleasant to be around, and he felt like he got his wife back. My daughter was three years old before I put her in full time childcare, and if I could go back, I wish I did it so much sooner.
A few months after I realized I loved the 9-5 lifestyle, I was offered a 9-5 job. It’s funny how God’s timing works. Any moment before that I would have turned that job down. I would have felt like I was putting on hand cuffs and trading in my freedom. But I accepted it because I realized it was an appropriate fit for me. It actually GIVES me freedom because it forces me to implement a schedule and routine with the healthy boundaries I need to thrive. Not to mention, the job is very unique and plays to all my greatest strengths. It’s a gift to find as much fulfillment in your work as I do.
I was in the job for 6 months when I got pregnant. It was not planned. And it was a hard pregnancy. I powered through it and then enjoyed a few weeks of no emails, phone calls, text messages or project management, but then….per my usual, I was bored. I can only change so many diapers and sit on the couch nursing so many times before I need to do something. I am a busy body, always on the go. I planned to work part time for a few months and go back to work full time when he turned four months old. However, that plan didn’t work out. I work with a very small team. It’s busy season and everyone is drowning. My husband and I sat down to figured out a new plan for the family that would make sure our son was cared for but that allowed me to get 40 hours a week in and it works.
Oh, and last but not least, I did a ton of reading. I looked up studies on success and happiness in adults. It turns out there is not one proof anyone can find that says children actually turn out better if their moms were home with them or if they were in day care. They have looked at so many different ways to measure success in adulthood and it turns out, kids come out fine either way. What matters is that they are loved, nurtured and their needs are provided for, by whomever. It’s my job as a mom to make sure my children are well-fed, well-loved, and well-nurtured.
So, how can I leave my baby for 40 hours a week and not struggle? Here’s how:
  • I love my job. If I didn’t find fulfillment in my work, it would probably be a lot harder
  • I don’t actually like being a stay-at-home mom. I tried it already with my first and it’s simply not me. It’s not in my DNA
  • I fully trust the people watching my children (His father some of the time, and a friend the other. My daughter is at a preschool)
  • He’s a good baby. He takes the bottle fine, he lets anyone love on him and cuddle him and he sleeps great. I know that he is happy whether I am there or not
  • I’m not accepting any guilt anyone tries to throw on me
  • I am fully confident I am making the right choice for my family
  • I no longer believe that it’s better for the children if the mom stays home. It’s better for the children if they are surrounded in love and have a mom who enjoys and treasures their time together
I can work full time with no guilt because I know I am a kick-tail mother and when they are apart from me they are smothered in love by people who love smothering babies and children with love. It’s a win-win-win.

My Home Birth Experience

Yes. This is a long blog post. You may want to read all of it, or you may want to jump to the end and skim the F.A.Q.’s. No worries. I hope these words bring you what you’re looking for…education, entertainment, or just satiating your curiosity. It’s all good. Enjoy.

I wanted to write this blog post because I get asked so many of the same questions when people find out I had a home birth. Many people are curious about this option but either don’t know someone who has ever chosen it or have misinformation about the topic. And then others I know just love hearing birth stories of every kind, and I know will enjoy the little details about my laboring experience. Below you will find both my birth story and some F.A.Q.’s.

The month leading up to delivery:

As many friends and family know, I planned a home birth for the entire pregnancy and then when he still had not flipped by 37 weeks my midwife referred me to an OB to have a consult about the different options I had for birthing breech. I had planned for how I would handle lots of different scenarios, but never considered what I would do if my baby was breech. I did the OB consult and cried for the next three hours. I later realized that the overwhelm I was feeling was from two sources. It was not a fear of the hospital or even a cesarean. It was the feeling of a lack of control in the situation and the fear of the unknown. Suddenly a stranger I just met was going to deliver my baby at a hospital I knew nothing about with options I had not researched. I am a planner, and I find comfort in TMI. I over-inform myself about different options so that when I make decisions I know why I chose what I did, and why I left behind the other options.

I spent the next seven days touring the hospital, learning all about rotations, induction after rotation, cesareans, “gentle” cesareans and on and on. By one week later when I went for my ultrasound to see his position and officially plan my hospital stay, I had come to complete peace. I had actually decided I wanted a planned cesarean and was ready to meet my baby on August 20. When she placed the device on my pubic bone, there was the head. He had flipped the day before. All that worrying, stressing, and crying led me back to my original plan.

I am grateful for what it taught me about myself. How I handled that situation shined a giant flashlight on my need for control and information and my fear of asking for help from others. (Because mind you, while I was processing all of that, Brandon was out of town for two weeks shooting, and I was dealing with pubic dysfunction so could barely walk some days).

So, with the date of August 20 off the table, it was now time to shift my energy back to a natural vaginal birth and getting this baby out. That same ultrasound revealed an estimated weight of 9lb 4oz at 38 weeks so I was going to have a big baby. My daughter was 9lb 14 oz and also a water birth, so I had been through this before. However, she was born at 41 weeks and one thing I was certain of was that with the adventure I had just been through and the SPD (pelvic dysfunction…meaning lots of pain and discomfort) I had been facing for months I was done being pregnant. I didn’t have it in me to carry another three weeks. So all the energy I was putting into getting him to flip, I shifted into natural induction techniques. I was ready to birth a baby.

The techniques I used were all recommendations from my midwife. She has specific reasons for which ones were appropriate at 38 weeks and which ones we waited until 39 weeks to use. The day before labor started I spent almost the whole day doing all of them. I had been seeing an acupuncturist who is also a doctor of oriental medicine who had a regime for me. I felt the baby drop within hours of my visit with her on Wednesday, Aug 22. On Thursday I was taking herbs recommended by my midwife, pumping to stimulate the uterus contracting, certain exercises on and off the birthing ball to get his head in the best position, and a few other tips and tricks. I went to bed Thursday around 11:00pm and the rest of this story I will tell by timeline:

 

Friday, August 24

 

4:30 a.m.- Woke up needing to use the bathroom. Similar to my experience with my daughter, what I thought was an urge to use the bathroom was indeed labor surges (an alternative word for contractions). I starting tracking the timing I felt the surges.

 

5:30am I called my midwife to say I was feeling the surges consistently every seven minutes. She told me to eat a solid meal, drink lots of water and try to get rest, that this was probably baby day but to call her when they were five minutes apart.

 

6:00am- I was eating some yummy leftovers when my daughter woke up at 6am. I realized this wasn’t going to work. She was asking me to play princesses with her and every seven minutes I needed to be left alone to breathe through a surge. So, I called my mom and asked for help. I knew I could wake my husband but my daughter would still want my attention. So off to Ya-Ya’s Eleanora went in her pajamas. My husband helped get her lunch packed and sent her on her way with everything she would need for the day.

6:30am- In preparation for baby, I made my husband a detailed list of what he needed to do when labor started. I learned with the first pregnancy that when I told him it was game-time, my calm, collected and thoughtful husband went into something that resembled Sophia panic mode—hair on fire, confused on where to start and what to do next, and forgetful of details because the brain is going too many directions. So, this time, I had a thorough to-do list that was numbered with what to do in what order. Deep cleaning the corner of the house I wanted the birth tub, prepping my food and drinks, changing sheets/putting plastic down on the bed, getting the video camera ready, etc.

 

So as he went into baby mode, I could start my hypnobirthing. I laid down in the bed with my meditations in my headphones and left reality. During this period of time the surges slowed down to every 10-15 minutes. I wasn’t actually sure what to do because my experience with Eleanora was once they started, they got more intense and she was born 12 hours after the first surge. So when texting the doula and midwife they both told me to get some rest.

 

9am- I was able to take a little nap.

As the day went on they went from 10 minutes apart to 20 and 30 apart.

 

12:30pm- Since we already had my weekly appointment scheduled for that day, my midwife went ahead and stopped by to check on me. I only had two surges in the hour she was there. So we went over the different options I had and we both agreed that the best choice was to let the body do what it wanted to do. There were things I could do to “get it going again” but obviously the body was ready and it was in my best interest to trust my body and not try to force or rush something. Maybe it would pick up in a couple hours, maybe it would be the next day, but she said she highly doubted I would still be pregnant come Monday so just to wait and see what the body did. Her prescription was to relax and have fun. One thing she mentioned was that the labor had begun when it was dark outside and stopped when the sun came up. She said it’s common for babies to respond to the sun/moon and to not be surprised if things pick up when the sun goes down.

2:00- I got bored really fast. I didn’t want to start any projects or things from my to-do list, and I didn’t want to go anywhere, so I found myself just sitting there staring into space. I am not a personality that knows how to “do nothing.” I don’t find much pleasure in television, and I had finished the book I was reading the day before. Finally I texted my mom and sister and asked to be entertained. Mom came over for a couple hours and sat and chatted with me and then when my sister got off work my mom took her toddler so she could keep me company.

 

5:30pm- We decided that board games and yummy food sounded like a fun evening. Brandon left for Publix in the POURING rain to get my dairy free ice cream and dairy free pizza. We spent the evening playing continental rummy. Sure enough, as the midwife suggested, once the sun went down we were back to every 7-10 minutes. We would play for little and then pause for me to breathe through a surge and then back to playing. We took a break for an hour when I was getting really uncomfortable and just wanted to sit on the couch. Also, turns out pizza and ice cream were not the wisest choices so when I told her that’s what I ate she recommend I drink two quarts of water to flush the sodium from my system.

10pm- We all laid down for a nap knowing baby would probably be coming soon. As I laid in the bed with my guided meditations in my headphones, it became harder and harder to rest. The surges were getting stronger. The more intense they became, the more I just wanted to get into a hot bath tub to ease the discomfort.

 

11pm- I woke up my husband after realizing not only were they more intense but they were 2-3 minutes apart. I needed all my energy to focus on coping with the surges so I told him to call the midwife and doula and tell them it was time to come over.

11:45pm- My photographer, doula, midwife and mom all arrived within minutes of each other. I was breathing through surges in my bathtub because it’s not only relaxing but the hot water eases the discomfort. If you’ve never experienced labor before, I would describe the surges as really intense menstrual cramps. In between surges I would pour the hot water on my belly and watch the baby move around getting into position.

(From this point forward, time is a blur so I am estimating how much time passed between the events that followed)

12:15am- They finished getting the birthing tub ready and told me it was time to move over. I had been skeptical of the inflatable tub because with Eleanora I had a nice large jacuzzi-sized tub at the birthing center and thought this option was settling since I didn’t have a large tub at my house. Man, was I wrong. That inflatable birthing tub was SO MUCH BETTER. It’s squishy and soft so it felt much better on my hips and pelvis, which is where almost all the discomfort is during labor. And the water can be filled so much higher so I was able to be fully immersed.

12:30-3:00am

When it comes to labor, you really don’t know what you will want until you’re in the moment. Listening to your body is so important. With Eleanora I wanted complete silence but with Liam I wanted the soundtracks playing in the room to help me relax and remind me to stay in the meditative state. The midwife suggested a few different positions but what felt best was to rest the back of my head on the tub and let the rest of my body float in the water as if I was floating in a pool. When I would feel a surge coming I would let my arms dangle in the water. This was great because it reminded me to not tense up, to relax every single muscle and to let my body use all of its energy to move the baby down.

Hypnobirthing teaches that you don’t “push.” When the surges begin to feel different and you have the urge to push you change to a different breathing technique and you breathe the baby down.

 

I kept asking Rebecca (midwife) how much longer I had and in her ever-so-patient way she kept saying “every breath he’s getting closer, just breathe your baby down.” So every time a surge would come I would close my eyes and just visualize him moving one more inch. I took it one surge and one inch at a time. I know it was working because in between surges Rebecca was checking the heartbeat and she kept putting the device lower and lower and lower to find the heartbeat, so I knew he was getting closer.

During the final stage of surges I found the most comfortable thing to do was to use a little energy to put my hands on the bottom of the tub and push up slightly to let everything but my fingertips float in the water. I imagined myself completely weightless and breathed through each surge taking it 10-seconds at time. To think about it lasting a couple minutes was too much, but I could count to ten, and then count to ten again until it was gone.

Rebecca kept shining a flashlight to check on him, and I would ask what she saw. She kept saying the water sac was coming but she didn’t see the head yet. My water had yet to open (a.k.a. break) which is actually great news because it works like a cushion during labor and helps provide some relief. In my mind I was waiting to hear the water opened before I heard it was time for baby.

3:05a.m.- I guess everyone was having whispering conversations I was missing because all of a sudden I opened my eyes and everyone was gathered around the tub, Rebecca had on long gloves, my husband came behind me and touched my shoulders. My sister had the video camera. Rebecca said “The head is right here. When the next surge comes, I need you to push with everything you have, it’s time for him to come.” Suddenly I went from this calm meditative state trying to relax to a feeling of “game time.”

 

She told me I needed to lift my legs and I knew I didn’t have the energy. I told her someone would have to do it for me. I had no idea who grabbed my legs but I felt them lifted.

3:10am- I felt a surge. I reached my hands behind me and grabbed onto my husband for leverage and pushed with everything I had. As opposed to the silent meditation I had been in for four hours, the only thing that felt right at this point was to scream at the absolute top of my lungs. We’re talking lion roar here. I remember shouting “IT HURTS! I CAN’T DO THIS!” and Rebecca saying “I can see him. He’s right here. You can do this.” I could hear my husband crying behind me. I knew it wasn’t out of sentiment. He hated that I was in pain and he couldn’t do anything to help me.

3:15am- Another surge arrived and I did the exact same thing. I felt his head come through. This is one of the most incredible experiences. This brief second with both my daughter and my son of the actual moment they cross through the birth canal is one of the most divine, euphoric experiences of my life. When his head came out everyone was amazed because the water sac was fully intact.

 

3:17am- This part felt like it was happening in slow motion. I was in between surges, and I could hear them talking about him being in a water sac. I knew his head was out and floating in water but the rest of him was in me. The birth assistant was reporting times to the midwife. 20 seconds…45 seconds….we’re at 60 seconds now. My mind was racing but I didn’t have the ability to speak. I assumed these numbers were how long he was in the water. Logically, I knew he was okay in the water. That he gets oxygen from the cord and everything was fine. Emotionally I suddenly wanted someone to start telling me all the details, reassure me that everything was normal and fine and going according to plan. How many seconds is too many seconds? At what point do we go from okay to panic? This whole he’s in his sac thing…what does that mean? Is that normal? How does that happen? What does it look like down there? So many thoughts racing in my mind and yet I was physically unable to say a word. I just laid there listening to my body.

3:19- “Here comes a surge” I said. She told me on the next surge I would be pushing out his shoulders and to give it everything I had because he needed to come out. (With large babies, this is the “risk”. Shoulders can get stuck and you need a birth professional who knows how to safely maneuver the mom and the baby’s position to allow for safe delivery. This is why she interrupted my hypnobirthing and had them hold my legs for me.) I felt it coming and again, I grabbed onto Brandon and roared at the top of my lungs and “pop” I could feel him leave me. (There are no words in the English language to describe the feeling of a child leaving the birth canal. Pop is the closest I can get but it does not do it justice. It’s the weirdest, coolest, strangest sensation I’ve ever felt)  Quite the anomaly, he was born at 40 weeks inside of a fully intact water sac. It broke as Rebecca lifted my son out of the water and handed him to me at 3:20am. Birth truly is a miracle.

3:30am- After a few minutes they helped me transition to a bed to finish the postpartum aspects of birth. If you haven’t ever experienced vaginal birth then you may not know that after the baby is born you still have to push out the placenta.

So we did that and then Rebecca helped my mom cut the cord. Many hospitals cut the cord as soon as the baby comes out, but most midwives advocate for delayed cord clamping. That means you wait until the cord finishes pulsing before you cut it. This allows all the blood and oxygen in the cord to get to baby first. I don’t know the timeline but it was definitely more than 15 minutes before his cord was cut.

Over the next couple hours they helped me get settled. Liam latched on the first try, which was awesome. Nursing actually helps your uterus contract so it can begin its own recovery process. They did his exam and my big boy weighed in at 9lb 11oz and 23 inches long. He got his vitamin k while I held him. At some point they helped me to the shower to rinse off and cleaned up the mess to give me a comfy bed with fresh sheets and a warmly dressed baby. By about 5:30am everyone was finished and headed home. They cleaned up everything and you would have never known a birth occurred there. We were all absolutely exhausted because it had now been over 24 hours since the surges first began and we had all been up through the night. I finally closed my eyes around 6am with a beautiful little boy sleeping next to me in his bassinet.

Here are the F.A.Q.’s I get the most:

Is a home birth better than hospital?

Absolutely not. I would never answer this question with any birth option being any better than another. The birthing experience is very personal and a woman needs to seek a provider that will make her feel heard, empowered, and supports the laboring techniques she desires to use. This decision is very personal for the mother, her partner and obviously any medical needs that her and the baby are facing. I encourage all expectant mothers to research all the options available and choose the one that brings you peace. You may be surprised how many different choices are out there. Not all hospitals, OB’s and midwives are the same.

Why did you choose homebirth? 

There are a few reasons that homebirth was the right choice for me. The top reason is that I wanted to do hypnobirthing in the water, and I needed an environment that would be conducive to relaxation and comfort. I wanted silence and as little interaction as possible. Another reason was that I wanted to be under the care of a midwife. (See below where I explain the difference between a midwife and OB)

I knew I wanted a water birth because not only is it very relaxing to me in my day to day life, but it also helps to ease the discomfort of surges. So if you aren’t getting pain medication, this is one of the few options for relief. In driving distance of my home there is one hospital with one tub for moms to labor in (first come first serve) and they require you to get out once you’re at 7cm dilated. I wanted to stay in the water through birth so there weren’t any hospital options for me. There are many hospitals around the country that now offer this and it’s very common internationally, but here where I live it wasn’t available to me.

That left birthing center and home birth as my only options. I delivered my first child at a birthing center and it was an amazing experience. However, it’s a 45 minute drive from my house and you have to go there for every appointment. The schedule/lifestyle I keep now was not conducive to 3 hour breaks every time I had a checkup. I needed something more convenient. There are a couple birthing centers 30 minutes away but that really wasn’t helpful. So when I found out I was pregnant I reached out to Rebecca. I knew she was a local midwife and did homebirth. I wanted to understand the difference between home birth and birthing center. And it came down to this….either you drive to the stuff or the stuff drives to you. When I realized she could come to my home for every one of the prenatal visits and that there were no added benefits to being at a birthing center, it was a no brainer. This was the right fit for me.

Why did you choose a natural birth?

I chose to go with a midwife for my first pregnancy after I had five friends IN A ROW get pregnant, have very healthy pregnancies with 0 complications or issues and all five ended up in emergency c-sections while in labor. All five described it as scary and traumatic. Their husbands described the fear they felt too. The shiny rainbow at the end of the story is always the healthy baby and healthy mama on the other side but I knew in my gut that I didn’t want that to be my experience. Something didn’t make sense to me how all these friends could have needed emergency intervention when everything was fine up until they got to the hospital. So I started researching what led to an increased chance of emergency cesareans and it all boiled down to intervention.

Our philosophy of birth in America is broken. The World Health Organization has found that about 10-15% of births will end up in a cesarean. Complications do arise. Certain mothers are at higher risk. Intervention in those cases is necessary. However, in America, the rate is around 32%, more than double what it should be. There are some hospitals here in the Tampa Bay Area with rates as high as 42%! Now listen to me, moms who have delivered via cesarean are just as bad ass and amazing as any other mom. This is not about saying one mom is better than other. That’s ludicrous. I came days away from having one myself when my son was breech, and I was at peace with it.

 

I am pro-natural choices because the facts support it. It’s a shame to say, but the US is THE ONLY developed country where maternal mortality is on the rise. This is NUTS! As science advances, how on earth can we be losing more mothers than anyone else? Cesareans are a higher risk than vaginal birth for complications. Not to mention, vaginal birth offers a long list of benefits that you lose with a cesarean.

Sometimes things do go wrong on their own, but if you let labor begin when the mom and baby’s bodies say it’s time to begin and you don’t try to “rush things along”, you significantly decrease the chances. Women have been robbed over the last 100+ years to trust and love our bodies. Your body knew how to create a brain, heart and lungs. Your body is amazing. It knows how to create a baby an appropriate size that your body can deliver, and it can deliver the baby on its own. Seriously….think about it. Have you ever watched a cat deliver kittens? I have twice. They go into a dark corner and in the stillness you hear some moaning and then out come kittens. They don’t have to take classes, have an entourage or need surgery a third of the time. We are mammals too. Think of the stories of women who deliver in cars on the way there, or in elevators trying to get to the birthing floor. For a low-risk, healthy mom and baby there is a 90% chance that your body can do this with no help.

Our approach to birth in America is to treat women like they need to be fixed. Oh, you’re past your due date, let me fix that for you. Oh, your labor isn’t going as fast as we would like, let me fix that for you. Too often medical professionals advise moms to choose interventions when if left alone, the body would know what to do. My daughter was born 12 hours after the first contraction. After being told the second ones come faster, that was not my experience. My son was born almost 24 hours after the first contraction. Labor started and then stalled. I could have chosen interventions to get it going again because TRUST ME, when you are that far along you want that baby OUT. Patience is gone. However, I did nothing because I knew that his body and my body knew what to do. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait days, but I would have.

So, all that to say, I did not choose a natural birth because I LOVED the idea of seeing what it would feel like to push an almost 10-pound human out of my vagina with no pain medicine, lol. I was not trying to prove anything to anyone. This was all about me advocating for what I wanted for myself, which was to reduce the risk of complications. I wanted to make choices that would statistically speaking give me the best chance of a healthy outcome for both of us.

 

What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?

This is probably the question I get the most. Many people still think these terms are interchangeable and do not understand that these care providers play very different roles. The short answer I give people is that the midwife is the medical professional for mom and baby, and the doula is the mom’s emotional support. That answer doesn’t do justice to either of those roles but it works when you’re having small talk with someone. Below I elaborate about both.

 

What is a midwife? 

A midwife is a trained medical professional who is certified to work with healthy moms and babies for prenatal, birth and postpartum care. Studies show that only about 2% of OB’s have witnessed a natural birth with 0 medical intervention prior to starting their practice. Their JOB is to be trained on what to do if something goes wrong. They have a very important role in births and do save lives regularly. But they don’t take any classes on how to sit back, do nothing and let nature run its course. And if you choose a natural labor in the hospital, the reality is they won’t be there with you for most of it until the very end. It’s the nurses who end up laboring with you and then tell the doctor when to come.

Midwives are trained on how to help and support moms to have natural labor. They know the red flags to look for to know if your care needs to be turned over to an OB. They educate you on how to reduce the risks of complications through diet choices, supplements you’re taking, and lifestyle choices you’re making. During labor they support you with knowledge of a variety of birthing positions you can try. And more than anything, they support a mother’s natural instinct to trust her body and listen to its needs.

According to the American College of Nurse Midwives, benefits of receiving midwifery care include:

  • Decreased risk of needing a cesarean
  • Reduced rates of labor induction and augmentation
  • Reduced use of regional anesthesia
  • Decreased infant mortality rates
  • Decreased risk of preterm birth
  • Decreased third and fourth degree perineal tears
  • Lower costs for both clients and insurers
  • Increased chances of having a positive start to breastfeeding
  • Increased satisfaction with quality of care

So since my body is totally healthy, and I had 0 risk factors to consider, for me, being under the care of a midwife was the right fit.

 

 

Why do I need a doula? I’m going to have my _______ there. (Fill in the blank with partner, mom, sister, best friend, etc) 

Whether you are birthing in a hospital, birthing center or at home, I cannot recommend a doula highly enough. I didn’t plan to have one with my first and (spare you the details) spontaneously ended up with one the day I was in labor and she was my saving grace. I told my husband after that experience that I was so grateful for her I would never give labor again without a doula. If you are under the care of an OB then I highly, highly, highly recommend a doula because they fill some of the gap of what midwives offer that most OB practices don’t. Here are a few snippets from DONA’s website (international doula organization):

A doula is a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.

Countless scientific trials examining doula care demonstrate remarkably improved physical and psychological outcomes for both mother and baby. Doulas have a positive impact on the well-being of the entire family. Research shows that women who use a birth doula are:

·         less likely to need Pitocin

·         less likely to have a cesarean birth

·         less likely to use any pain medication

·         more likely to rate their childbirth experience positively

Some people are deterred by the cost, especially if their insurance doesn’t help pay for it. If you hire a great doula then after your birth you will say “oh my gosh….that was the best money we spent.” So often we don’t know what we need. We don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s when a doula steps in. They can guide you and support in ways you don’t realize you even needed until you are so grateful they were there.

 

What is hypnobirthing? 

Some people think hypnobirthing sounds woo-woo. Like you’re hypnotized during birth. You sorta kinda are. But you’re also in a hypnotic state when you are watching TV. Whenever you check out of reality around you and take your mind somewhere else, it’s a state of hypnosis.

Hypnobirthing teaches you how to fully relax every muscle in your body so that all the energy you have can be used for the birth. It provides you with meditations to do while in labor. Also, they have found that the FEAR of birth increases the pain. So hypnobirthing teaches you how to release all fear of birth, love your body and trust it. My daughter’s birth was a pain free experience for me, despite the fact that I had second degree tears and she was 9lb 14oz. I’m not going to lie…Liam coming out hurt. I endured hours of discomfort followed by about 15 minutes of pain and then it was over. Ironically, he was smaller and I had zero tearing. (Yes, he was smaller. Weight-wise by only 3oz but he was also 2 inches longer so he was a much thinner baby than my daughter)

If you are pregnant, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading the book Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method. Even if you choose a different laboring technique, the first half of the book is all about seeing birth through a different lens and removing the fear. I truly believe every pregnant woman can benefit from releasing the fear of the birth experience.

 

Did it hurt?

I describe labor as the worst menstrual cramps you’ve ever experienced. And then they get more intense as labor progresses. My experience with both pregnancies was that the hours of labor were fine. I was absolutely miserable and uncomfortable, but I was not in pain. The actual pushing out hurt, but it’s the shortest phase of the labor. The craziest part about birth is that literally immediately after the worst part is the BEST part. The feeling of that baby passing through the birth canal and “popping” out is euphoric. Both my children’s births are engrained in my memory in slow motion, and I will never forget that feeling. It’s absolutely amazing. Not to mention, the immediate release of oxytocin helps too. The body is pretty amazing; once the baby is born the body works like a light switch and pumps happy hormones through your body. You get this immediate rush and high that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s pretty amazing.

 

I hope you found this helpful. If you would like to receive an email anytime I update my blog, then just subscribe on my home page.

Feel free to ask additional questions in the comments section of my blog. Also, I would love to hear your birth story if you want to share it. Every human walking this planet has a mother who is brave and strong!

 

Links and resources:

My midwife: Rebecca Finklea with Precious Blessings

My Doula: Yamel with One Love Doula

My birth photographer: Running Circles Photography

Birthing Center I used for first pregnancy: Labor of Love

Books I highly recommend for pregnant mothers:

Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

The app I used to track my surges: Labor Signs Contraction Timer

Great app for after baby arrives: The Wonder Weeks

More info about midwives

More info about doulas

Documentaries I highly recommend:

The Business of Being Born

Why Not Home

 

Learning from Jealousy

I’ve always heard jealousy framed as a very negative emotion. Being jealous or envious of something someone else has is taught to us as a sin. We should ignore these emotions and be content. What I have learned over the years, however, is that if leveraged properly, jealousy can be a tool.
It’s so very important to slow down enough in life to be aware of what we are feeling. When emotions pass through our body, they are telling us something about ourselves. I used to bury those instinctual reactions and try to live from the logic center of the brain. However, when I meditate over why I have emotionally responded to something a particular way, I can learn so much about myself. This can apply to a vast array of emotions, but let’s use jealousy as our example today.
When I was a teenager, the things that stimulated jealous emotions in me were quite shallow. I was jealous of girls who had a boyfriend, which was simply a reflection of my desire to receive affirmation I was beautiful and worthy because I lacked the confidence to believe it on my own. When I would see someone driving a VW Beetle I felt a twinge of jealously because it was my dream car and my family couldn’t afford to buy one. Before I was 21 I met and married a guy who loved me unconditionally and purchased a brand-new custom ordered Beetle. Those things no longer fueled jealousy in me because I had it for myself.
Fast forward to my thirties and after years of watching the patterns change of what stirs up this emotion in me, I realize I can use it as a guiding post. A way to listen to subconscious thoughts I may be too busy to otherwise hear. I’ll give you two examples.
I very, very, very rarely ever feel jealous for something someone else has on social media. I am quite content and grateful for the life I live. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a friend post “I just finished my life coaching certification!” Despite the fact I am usually super encouraging of anyone pursuing their goals I had a negative thought about her post. “Yeah…good luck with that pipe dream,” I thought to myself sarcastically and kept scrolling.
Then, less than year later she posted again on Facebook and said “I just quit my full time job because I have replaced my full time income and can support my family of five on my coaching business.” The biggest pit grew in my stomach. Completely uncharacteristically of myself, I couldn’t be happy for her. I was jealous. I closed out of Facebook and moved on with my day.
Later I was meditating over why I couldn’t be happy for her and realized how much it said about me. I had entertained the conversation in my mind of being a life coach. I had shared with a few friends that I found it an interesting career path and thought I would be good at it. What I didn’t realize until that moment was that it really mattered to me. It was something I deeply desired. I was not taking any actions toward the goal because it was just one of my million ideas floating around in my head space. My inability to celebrate my friend’s success revealed to me that this was actually an idea I cared about and something I really wanted. After that realization I began taking small actions. I started sharing with my husband how much it mattered to me to pursue this goal, and I started researching the path I wanted to lay out to get me there. Step by step I am laying a foundation and a groundwork that will get me the results I want. I no longer consider it just a pipedream in my life. It’s a goal that I will accomplish…it’s just a matter of when, not if. And I leveraged that experience of jealousy that day to springboard my actions. (By the way, I have continued following her journey and am so, so very happy for her. The jealousy was completely released once I took ownership over my feelings)
Now, in a contrary way, jealousy taught me something else about myself. About five years ago I set a career goal that I cared deeply about. I rearranged almost everything in my life to pursue this goal. I poured blood, sweat, tears, money and everything I had into pursuing this goal. I often had to check and re-check my priorities because the goal kept climbing to #1 on my list at the expense of self care (my physical and spiritual health practices), family time and other things that should stay at the top.
Then, around 4 years into the journey and over half way to goal, I lost my desire to pursue it at all. It was one of the strangest journeys I have been on yet in my life. It took me at least a year of meditating on it almost daily over, and over and over again to give myself permission to let it go. I am not a quitter. Everyone who knows me well knows for a fact that when Sophia decides she wants something, either help her get it or get out of her way because she isn’t stopping until she’s arrived. I pursued this goal with that stubborn energy for four years and then without notice other things popped up in my life that mattered more to me. As I began to evaluate what options were out there and how much time, energy and resources I possessed, I realized it didn’t all fit. Something had to go. And it was this massive goal that took the back seat.
I struggled with it for such a long time. Was I a quitter? Was I making a mistake? Was this really what I wanted? Am I a liar because I spent 4 years saying I wouldn’t stop until I hit the goal and now I’m walking away? Does this mean I don’t have integrity? Do I have to prove to myself or someone else I am capable? Will I look back in my life and completely regret changing directions? And then my answer came to me in the form of jealousy, or lack there of. Over the course of a few months I witnessed a few friends achieve the goal I had been working towards. Friends I had been working alongside of for years who hadn’t detoured and were still on the path were crossing the finish line. As I watched them cross the finish line and celebrate, there was not one piece of me that wanted what they had. I had absolutely zero jealousy. I didn’t long to be in their shoes. So what emotion did I feel? Relief. I felt relieved that I wasn’t running anymore. I felt relief that I wasn’t on that road and my new road had different scenery. I was so genuinely happy for them, but no part of me could see it for myself. In the past when I would see others accomplish this goal I would celebrate for them and also long for the day it was me. Those emotions were non-existent. In that moment I again used jealousy to leverage my path. Realizing that no part of me wanted what they had, I finally felt free. I gave myself full permission to walk away. I gave myself permission to lean into the new path and the new goals and look back at the years gone by as a gift, a learning experience to get me to this place in my journey.
It’s quite interesting how maturity can completely shift the things that motivate us. As I shared…in my teens it was boys and cars that caused jealousy to creep in. In my twenties it was career ambitions. Now? Do you know what stirs up that little emotion in me sometimes? The only times I witness someone else’s journey and think “Man, I want that to be me one day” is when I hear of people who are living completely debt free, including their mortgage. What freedom that opens up. When I hear of people who have a garden in their back yard and grow all their own vegetables, I long for that. Especially if chickens are running around back there too. And ironically, even though I am writing this post with a baby in my womb and am 32 weeks today, I also feel that little voice when I see someone announce on social media they are adopting. I have this calling inside my soul to adopt from foster care and firmly believe there is, or will be, a child in this world that is mine but grows in another woman’s womb. So when I see others posting about their adoptions I envy that they have gotten to meet their children and it’s not my time yet. I realize some people may think I am crazy because the classes are available year round and there are adoptable children today, but my soul tells me it’s not time. That if I start today my child will not be there. So I am waiting. Waiting until it’s my turn.
What experiences stir up jealousy in you? Does this tell you anything about yourself? Have you ever reflected on the emotion of jealousy or envy and learned from it? I’d love to hear your experiences too!
P.S. If you actually made it to the end of this post and want to receive an email when I randomly update this blog, then go to the homepage of www.sophiahyde.com and subscribe so you can be notified.
Much love to you all!
Sophia

Life in Transition

On March 20 I recommitted myself to my 2017 goals. I started waking up at 4:45am every day to read, exercise, meditate and pray before anyone else woke up. I started looking at the goals every single day and being intentional about achieving them. There were many goals but they mostly fell into the categories of improving my health, my finances and my relationships with those I love. For about six weeks I was ON IT. I was seeing progress and success in many of the areas. For the areas I wasn’t, I had a game plan for improvement.

And then, I was blindsided. Like often happens in life, a life change comes along and disrupts your “normal.” In this case, mine was a positive change. It was an opportunity that crossed my path that I had absolutely no way of anticipating. It practically fell out of the sky. I was offered a short term contract to take on a full time job at a non-profit I care a lot about. It was no where in the life plan. It wasn’t one of the steps in my custom-made planner. A full-time entrepreneur for the last six years, I had never predicted I would ever have a “j-o-b” again. Yet, everything in my body, heart, mind and spirit was telling me to say yes. So, I said yes. I jumped in with both feet and said “I’ll figure the rest out on the way down.”

The last 90 days have been thrilling, fulfilling and simultaneously exhausting and overwhelming. When you add a full time job to an already full plate it naturally is going to push other things to the sideline. There’s only 24 hours in each day. It seemed on a day-to-day basis I was just balancing what would get neglected. Sometimes it was sleep, sometimes self care, sometimes one of my businesses (which by the way had to keep operating through this change), and other days it was quality time with my daughter, husband, family and friends. All in all, no one thing was flushed down the toilet but everything gave a little bit to create the space. Oh, and mind you, six weeks of that time my husband was on back to back large projects for work and GONE. For a few of the weeks he was physically gone as in living in a hotel and I didn’t see him. Other weeks he was sleeping in his bed but not able to contribute his normal weight of the household responsibilities. Simply put, I went into survival mode. Most days, I was not intentional with my time; I just did what I had to survive. Hopefully the friends and family who were used to me being more available are understanding rather than upset that I pretty much disappeared. One of my BFFs said “yeah…when Sophia text message replies started being one word replies instead of novels I knew you were probably just running from one thing to the next constantly.” Haha! She “gets” me.

I feel like I’m on the other side of the chaos now. I am regaining a foundation under my feet and getting a better glimpse of what the “new normal” looks like. Here’s the crazy part…..I would not use the word “stressed” to describe any of it. I had such a strong feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be that I had massive internal peace. It was crazy on the outside, but not on the inside. On the contrary, the years leading up to that moment felt quite the opposite. On the outside everything was together and on the inside I was frustrated, stressed, “stuck” and anxious.

I have come to realize that life is just a series of seasons. Sometimes the transitions are obvious, like a new relationship or the birth of a child. Other times, we don’t realize we are in transition until we’re on the other side. From season to season we are just adjusting to what the “new normal” will be. The last 90 days have been a transition for me. I have a grip now on what this new normal is going to be in this season and I have an internal confidence that I will be here long enough that I can use it as a foundation and start building some structure on top of it.

With that said, for my friends that follow my blog or follow me on social media, here are some of the changes I am going to implement:

– I will be blogging more regularly. I have come to realize that writing is a top priority for me and it’s necessary for me to guard and protect it from being one of the things that falls to the waste side

– I am changing my “Sophia’s health journey” Instagram and Facebook page. This was meant to be something that followed my weight loss journey and yoga practice. Now, I find that a boring and uninteresting conversation. Not that I am not still doing those things but it’s just so surface level. My pursuit of becoming my best self has shown me that so much of what’s happening on the outside reflects what’s happening on the inside. When I was in survival mode the number on the scale went up, the amount of time on the mat went down, and I felt ashamed. I felt like I couldn’t share in my journey if I wasn’t showing success. However, I was learning and growing so much on the inside, and I missed opportunities to share that with others. Health is holistic. It’s not just the body. It’s the mind and the spirit too. I will be combining my writing on this blog with those accounts. It’s going to incorporate anything that I want to share happening externally or internally on my journey to become the best version of myself.

There are two major motivations I have in investing my time into this. First, when I share the journey with others it makes me feel accountable that I need to follow through with doing what I said I was going to do. Second, I believe my purpose in life is to help others grow into their greatness. How can I lead others where I have not been? How can I encourage someone else to do something I’m not willing to do? My hope is that if I am vulnerable in letting you see the steps I take to achieve what I desire, that it will inspire, motivate and encourage you to take the steps you need for you journey too.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear stories of when you have transitioned seasons? What was helpful to you?

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30-Day Detox

I am crazy passionate about sharing this 30-day program with others because of the tremendous positive impact it had on my life. The first time I did it I lost 15 pounds in 30 days, increased my energy significantly, got rid of a “brain fog” I didn’t realize I was suffering from, eliminated my digestive issues, and discovered that my reoccurring colds and allergies were diet related. Although I still battle my weight swings because of my love/hate relationship with sugar and carbs, I have yet to have any of the other symptoms return because I am empowered with the knowledge of what ingredients trigger inflammation in my body.

If you have any health goals you’re looking to accomplish, I highly recommend you consider trying Arbonne’s 30-days to healthy living, sometimes referred to as the Arbonne 30-day detox. (There’s also a 10-day version if 30 days seems intimidating to you)

Detox is a buzz word that gets used in many different contexts so I just want to hit on a couple common FAQ’s:

  • What is a toxin?
    • When I say toxin I am referring to anything you put into your body that your body cannot use as fuel and therefore must remove through its natural detoxification pathways
  • Do I have to give up food, go hungry, and drink some weird beverage?
    • No. You should never go hungry on this program, your body needs fuel. It’s centered around a whole foods meal plan
  • Do I need access to get to a bathroom quickly/frequently?
    • No. If the recommendations are followed you will not experience any abnormal bathroom experiences

So what is the detox? Well, let’s get real here. There is NO QUICK FIX to a healthy lifestyle. There is no magic drink or pill you can take that cures your body. Your body needs REAL FOOD. The detox is essentially a commitment to take 30-days and cut out all the commonly inflammatory foods and give your body a break. To let it heal itself.

Many people are very successful using all whole foods to maintain a great state of health. In an ideal world, we would all grow our vegetables on our small farms and raise our own meat if we choose to eat it, and follow a perfectly balanced meal plan each day that has the right amount of all the vitamins and minerals. We would eat every color of the rainbow in our veggies and fruits and live off the earth the way nature intended.

But let’s get realistic…when you tell the average American that they cannot eat gluten, caffeine, dairy, alcohol, sugar or soy for 30 days they feel like the rug has just been pulled out from underneath them. They question their ability to stick to the plan and lack the belief they can do it alongside a busy lifestyle. There’s a reason the entire center of the grocery exists. People want something convenient. This is why I love recommending the Arbonne 30 Day’s to Healthy Living. It’s the ABC plan to give someone the step by step directions of a grocery shopping list, meal plan guide and products to help support their body to be successful, but without all the awful ingredients found in most products.

Why purchase products? I find many people trip themselves up here. They become hesitant when I recommend they spend money. Once I show people how to buy these products at a great discount (I help most people buy it at 40% and 50% off), it comes out to less than the cost of eating lunch at Panera Bread every day but you’re getting SO. MUCH. MORE.

With products that deliver key nutrients like protein and fiber, this healthy combination supplies probiotics and enzymes while supporting energy metabolism and elimination.

Here are the products that come with the most popular package:

  • The plan has a protein powder. A delicious, convenient option, these great-tasting ready-to-drink shakes contain 20 grams of plant protein from pea, rice and cranberry. They also deliver vitamins, minerals and flax seed for targeted benefits. I use the shakes as my “fast-food” when I need something healthy and nutritious but have limited time to prepare a meal or am traveling.
  • The fiber powder is essential when detoxing because fiber acts like a sponge for toxins keeps things moving along through your body.
  • The plan includes flavored energy fizz sticks. These have B-vitamins and green tea extract to power you through the day. These are a great alternative to using coffee, soda or energy drinks.
  • The plan also comes with detox tea which supports the liver and kidney’s so the body can detox gently
  • Digestion Plus is a prebiotic, probiotic and digestive enzyme. This is one of my favorite products because of all the health benefits. It helps with digestion, absorption, immune support and elimination.
  • The plan also includes the 7-day cleanse. This is an INCREDIBLE product Arbonne has created. It includes many marine botanicals that help to detoxify the system while supporting the gastrointestinal tract. The Proprietary Superfood Antioxidant Blend featuring carrot juice, elderberry fruit, chokeberry, hibiscus, blackcurrant juice, blueberry juice, pumpkin, cherry fruit, lemon juice, and apple juice powders.
  • The Greens are an optional piece I always recommend because they are adding all those fruits, veggies, antioxidants and phytonutrients that your body as been craving and you haven’t maybe taken the time to eat the amount that your body needs based on your busy schedule.

 

I am so passionate about sharing this with others because I have seen so many people completely transform their lives by taking control of their health. Imagine how much more you could accomplish in life if you weren’t distracted by discomforts of achey joints, low energy, migraines, colds, digestion issues or other physical ailments. If you could restore your body to its full health, what could you unlock in your life? If you had more energy, which dreams would you start pursuing? Watching people become the greatest version of themselves lights my fire and gets me so excited about sharing this gift.

If you would like more information about getting started on the 30-Days to Healthy Living (or the 10-day “green-tox”), contact me here.

30 Days to Healthy Living and Beyond_instagram_image

Sticking it where it belongs

My daughter has a toy similar to this. My husband and I called it the “toy from hell” from about ages 12mo-24mo because Eleanora would SCREAM and throw tantrums when she couldn’t get the shapes to fit into the hole she wanted them to fit into. She would get so frustrated. She was such a good baby but this toy brought out the evil deep inside. When she would finally get one right she would smile so big and clap her hands and then go right back into anger with the next shape.

One morning, I was sitting at home by myself in my happy place. Doing things I love doing while someone else played with my daughter. Someone whose greatest joy comes from raising small children. They have so much fun together. In that moment I realized, we found the right shapes for the right holes.

For two years I lived in guilt, guilt that I was supposed to have a desire in me to be a stay at home mom. I was supposed to feel guilty about working.

Here I am filing taxes, editing images, replying to emails, writing a blog post, and holding 4 meetings today. And I couldn’t be happier. This morning I made breakfast with Eleanora, watched her push her baby doll around in a stroller while I got everything ready for the day, and cuddled with her in bed. Tonight I’ll laugh and play with her, make bubbles in the bathtub and snuggle with her to fall asleep. And there is nothing to feel guilty about. Everyone is experiencing joy all day long today and that’s a great thing.

I want to send a message to my former self, the mom of that six month old. You absolutely, positively, DO NOT have to do it all. Go. Get. Help. You are suffering unnecessarily. There is a reason moms who work outside of the home drop their kids off at daycare….their bosses want them to focus on work. You thrive when you’re doing what you love, which is (cover your ears) NOT playing toddler games and changing diapers. Go reclaim your identity as SOPHIA, not as Eleanora’s mom. Staying at home full time does not make you mom of the year. It makes you crazy.

Now Eleanora is three years old and in full time child care. She is thriving, and I am too. Now, I actually enjoy playing games with her. I enjoy putting my phone away for the evening and being present with my family, not throwing her on my husband and wanting to spend the evening getting my work done while she begs for my attention and my husband struggles to un-cling her from me.

I resisted living with a regimented schedule for so long, but now I am, and we’re doing so much better. I block off my work time, my family time, my ME time, and I’m not stressed. When I leave the work unfinished I say “no problem. I’ll take care of it Monday morning when I’m home by myself and can focus again.” And I throw my 100% attention into my family and their needs.

If we have future children, I won’t be staying at home again. And I don’t feel any guilt about it. I thrive when I can live my entrepreneur and philanthropic dreams, and I NEED to pour myself into them.

If you look at this toy you will see there are different shapes. We need to honor and respect each. We need stay at home moms and dads. We need women owning it and transforming the business community. We need women who are somewhere in between. What we need more than anything else is for everyone to get really honest with themselves about who is inside. Are you being your truest self or is there someone screaming to get out? Do you feel you have aligned your life with your gifts or are you a square beg forcing yourself into a round hole?

If you are where I was, move. Go find the square hole. It will make room for the circle to use her or his gifts.

How Being Bullied Changed Me

I have cried many tears over the years from this experience. It’s time I talk about it publicly.

At the time I was 14 and in the moment, I didn’t realize I was being bullied. In fact, I’m just now realizing it at age 30. For the past 16 years it’s simply been a memory. A season of my life I powered through, and an event I allowed to rewrite the wiring in my brain of how the world works.

Built into my DNA is a drive, a hunger for achievement. I desire to always be the best, perform the best and win. In elementary school this manifested itself by always earning straight A’s. In the fifth grade when I got my first B on my report card in reading, my mom had no idea what to do with me. I cried on the couch for at least an hour. It was devastating to the 10-year-old version of myself.

In middle school this desire for achievement began to manifest itself with titles and influence. I set goals, and I achieved them. By November of 8th grade I was at the top of my game: President of the student body, Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook staff and first chair clarinet. I remember being disappointed over a 94 on a science quiz because it wasn’t 100. I also remember being an ass about all this. I remember flashing my straight A report card to people. I wanted them to be impressed. I remember getting a 100 on some test and leaning over to the person next to me (after peaking and seeing they got a B) and saying “I got 100, what did you get?” Oh my gosh. It’s so embarrassing to think about. I really did need a good humbling, so in many regards I had it coming to me.

Before you start imaging me as Lindsey Lohan from Mean Girls, let me explain how this could not be further from the truth. I was the fattest kid in all my classes from 4th grade through 7th grade. My mom used to shop for me in the Liz Claiborn (think old lady) section of the department store because she wanted me to have nice clothes, but I didn’t fit into anything in the juniors section. I so desperately wanted to wear clothes from The Limited Too like all the cool girls in my class, but I was too big. In sixth grade my grandmother found an XL sweatshirt from there I could fit into, and it felt like winning the lottery. Finally, I could be cool. It was black and white and the logo was a shiny sliver reflector that washed out in photos from the flash.

I remember walking down the sidewalk and a kid who didn’t even know me saying “Hey fat b****” because my P.E. uniform was a larger size and fit much tighter than everyone else’s. I remember being a safety patrol kid in 5th grade and the orange belt being too small for me even with the buckle at full length. I had to suck in and squeeze the fat in my stomach in to force the latch closed. But dude, the power of that orange belt that gave me permission to tell 1st graders they had to walk not run was so worth it.

Fast forward to 8th grade. Puberty hit and my weight started falling off like a magic trick. I squeezed into my sister’s baggy pants (remember JNCO’s?) from The Limited Too, and I thought I was the s***. Granted, they were too small. I could barely button them, so I totally had a muffin top and did not care at all. I was fitting into pants from The Limited Too.

In most schools, and definitely in the movies, you win class president by being the most popular and getting the most votes. I think I had this belief system that if I could just win class president THEN I would finally be a pretty popular girl. It just so happened that no one from our class wanted to run. The teacher said I wasn’t allowed to run unopposed, so I talked a nice girl from my English class into running just so there could be an election. Her words were literally “sure, I’ll run so you can have it.” The election was on! I made flyers and stickers and posters and put them all over school. Election time came and it was a landslide! I peeked into the teacher’s folder and found the count…something like 851 to 110! AMAZING! Now I would finally be liked and popular.

Oh, and the other two titles that went to my head, editor and 1st chair, were legitimately because no one else aspired to have them. They were signs of how nerdy I was. I spent all my free time working on yearbook designs, taking pictures (still a thing in my life!) and practicing my clarinet. I’ve always been obsessed with hard work.

I wasn’t in the friend group of the kids who were pretty and wore clothes from The Limited Too but honestly, that didn’t bother me at all. I loved my friends. Fiercely. Those kids weren’t that nice to others anyway. (In true mean girls fashion). Like always, for as long as I can remember, my friend group was the nice kids who were the inbetweeners. The group that often gets left out of the stereotypes. The ones who are nice to everybody, usually smart but not to the level of nerdy and dressed somewhat trendy but not to the point we would obsess over our looks. Did anyone else have this friend group?

Like most experiences, at the heart of all of this was just a desire to be loved. I was trying to overcompensate for my lack of self-confidence. When I looked in the mirror all I saw was a fat girl. The story in my mind was that fat girls couldn’t be cool. I just wanted to be liked and feel loved. Now, now I was worthy of love. The pounds had melted off, I was class president (that’s always the coolest kid in school right?), and I was perfect at everything. Finally, people would start liking me. Except, this plan totally backfired more than I could have ever seen coming.

December of that year my little rock-star-status belief about myself came crashing down. A girl in our class started a rumor about me. I don’t even remember the story; I don’t think I ever found out. I just remember the whispering and the staring. I remember walking through the halls and people looking at me differently. I remember my “best friends” no longer wanting to sit at the same lunch table as me. All I can remember is the feeling of having absolutely no friends. And worse than that, seeing the glares of disgust on people’s faces when they looked at me differently. The judgment was piercing at the soul level.

At our school, first thing in the morning when you were dropped off by bus or car, everyone gathered on the patio. You weren’t allowed in any of the classrooms until the first bell rang. For a social butterfly like me, this was fantastic. Everyone is just standing around, and you can run up and talk to whomever you want. I would b-line for my friend group and talk about absolutely pointless things that seemed really important then.

But now, this same morning routine was miserable. The “cool” thing in school became to be mean to Sophia. No one would talk to me. I remember walking up to two girls who had been my “best friends” and saying “Hey Guys. I really want to talk about this. What did I do that has everyone so mad at me?” To say they ignored me is an understatement. They didn’t acknowledge my presence and continued looking at each other continuing a conversation as if I wasn’t standing there. They were making it very clear that I wasn’t welcome there.
When you’re 14, having no friends is the bottom of the pits. And for someone like me, so eager for attention and praise, this was absolute worse case scenario. I didn’t know how to handle it other than to pretend it wasn’t actually happening. I kept it a secret. For a month solid I would arrive to school and head straight for the band room where Mr. Murray would let me in early to practice my clarinet. Social awkwardness avoided. Check. Next time I had to interact with my peers was lunch, which was really easy to get out of because there was so much work to be done for yearbook I could just say I wanted to skip lunch and get caught up on designs. Sweet. No social anxiety there.

I distinctly remember the day that I attempted to eat lunch with the students because my yearbook teacher was absent. I tried walking up to a couple different tables and kids shuffled around to take up all the space so I couldn’t sit there. At my school, 8th graders sat outside and underclassman sat inside. I didn’t know what else to do so I wandered into the cafeteria with my food and found my 7th grade friend who I rode the bus with and pulled up a chair to sit with him and his friends (which felt so belittling in my brain but I had no where else to go). And then the Assistant Principal walked by and reminded me of the seat rule (only so many chairs allowed at a table), and I had to move. This was miserable.

The last social time of the day was P.E. where there was rarely any structure at all. It was pretty much put on gym clothes and walk around the track with your friends. I don’t even remember how I pulled this off, but I managed to get some pass from my band teacher that allowed me to be exempt from going to P.E. class. I could go to the band room and practice more.

This routine worked. The teachers didn’t know I was struggling because I was just my normal workaholic self. My parents had absolutely no idea because I didn’t tell them anything about it. I had developed a survival routine. As long as I didn’t have to be reminded that I had no friends, I could handle this.

I remember walking home from school one day and having suicidal thoughts. Until writing this post I don’t recall ever telling anyone about this. It was an awful, awful plan, but I remember saying to myself “I wonder if I drank a bottle of nail polish if it would kill me so I wouldn’t have to go back to school.” Isn’t that awful? Ugh. I’m tearing up just recalling the memory. Within two minutes I decided it was a bad plan because I was in charge of watching my little brother and sister after school so this would present a problem. Plus, it would taste really bad and had a chance of not working but hurting my stomach badly. However, because I know how I felt in that moment, and I know the thought crossed my mind, even if it was brief, when I read stories of these middle schoolers committing suicide from bullying, and I read about how much worse their environments were, I get it. When you’re that young and immature you can’t see a life for yourself into adulthood with the freedom outside of a school environment.

One morning on the patio I went up to this bubbly girl in our class. She was super sweet, lots of fun and loved by everyone. “Why doesn’t anyone like me?” I asked. She responded by saying,

“Everyone wants to feel good about themselves. When you show off how well you’re doing it just makes other people feel bad about themselves. That’s why I’m so goofy and silly. I’m actually really smart and get good grades but I act dumb because it makes other people feel good about themselves.”

Years later I would realize that this one comment rewired my brain. I would spend the rest of my life (up to this point at least) trying to correct the messaging.

I took it to heart. All of a sudden flashing that point card of President’s Honor roll that I thought would make people like me because they were impressed suddenly become an embarrassment. From that point forward, no one could know about my success.

I think it was around a month that what I now realize was bullying went on. Something happened…some boy who had a crush on my used to be best friend asked me to ask her out for him (because guys are completely oblivious to girls’ social drama) and she started talking to me again. From there everything was back to normal and the girl who started the rumor backed off and left me alone.

Four years went by before I even thought about that experience. I forgave everyone, moved on, and was just happy to have my friends back. I remember getting out my sticker calendar that hung on the wall in my room and placing the “Best Day Ever!” sticker on the day I got my friends back. Life moved on.

I went on to enter high school and we all ended up at different schools. I made a new friend group and no one knew that about my past. The school I went to was one for the academic achievers in the county. You had to apply and be accepted, mostly based on grades and test scores, and you had to be willing to work your tail off for four years. So naturally, it attracted the other high achievers in the county and we were all bused to a central location.

Being surrounded by other high achievers definitely lowered my ego because it wasn’t easy to be the best anymore. I forfeited the fight before it ever began because to climb your way to the top would mean no one would like you. I became quite satisfied being average.

At the very end of our senior year we got our class rankings. On a GPA scale of 0-4, we were all above 6. It was mere decimal points that separated us. Out of my friend group of 7 girls, I ended up with the 3rd highest GPA. I remember one of the girls said “I at least thought I would do better than SOPHIA.”

That hit me. It hit me hard. What did that mean? Did they not realize I was actually really smart? I rewound over those four years and realized I had completely changed my behavior based on the patio conversation in the 8th grade. So in high school, the sharing of grades was reversed. When I got an A, I would slip it into my backpack and not tell anyone. When I got a C or a D I would whine and grope about it so that everyone knew I struggled too. It worked. No one thought I was better than them. I had amazing, wonderful friends who loved me, and I wasn’t an overachiever. There was still something sad inside though. I could feel a part of me had died.

The girl was still inside who loved the fight, the climb to the top, the exhilarating feeling of winning. She was in my core. I just buried her. “You can’t come out. People don’t like people like that. It makes them feel bad about themselves.” So I settled for living a B life. I came to LOVE second place. It showed I was “better than average” but I didn’t have to deal with glares people give first place. I could happily float along in just above mediocrity.

But here’s the problem. My inner wisdom knew that “good enough” wasn’t “good enough” for me. So verbally and mentally I would strive for first place, desire first place, want first place, but would subconsciously self-sabotage. Right on the brink of crossing over into success, I would back down. I would do something to throw myself off and have to start all over. I had no idea I was doing this to myself until I was introduced to a book that opened my eyes.

In The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks, he explains the 4 hidden barriers that hold us back. At the point in my life the book was introduced to me I was 29 years old and frustrated as hell. I was an entrepreneur with multiple businesses that were stuck a mildly successful. Well enough to keep my family of three self-employed but not doing well enough to create the life we wanted for ourselves. The story of my adulthood. I KNEW there was this woman inside capable of achieving whatever she set her mind to but no matter how hard I tried I continuously would reach “almost there.” And almost might as well be last place.

Gary explains that we all have a success barrier. It can apply to money, or weight, or any area of our lives. We believe we are only worthy of achieving X and we can’t seem to cross over that line. If we do have a breakthrough and cross over it, we seem to fall right back to where we are used to. It’s the classic case of losing weight and a year later being back where you started. It’s our comfort zone. Something at the subconscious level is telling us we are only worthy of X, and anything beyond that is more success than we deserve. In his book, he explains that there are four barriers holding most of us back:

Hidden Barrier One: Feeling Fundamentally Flawed: You feel that something is wrong with you.

Hidden Barrier Two: Disloyalty and Abandonment: This is a belief that achieving success essentially means you have to leave your tribe.

Hidden Barrier Three: Believing that More Success Brings a Bigger Burden. This fear will immobilize you because you believe that the life you create will burden others and triggers the emotion of guilt.

Hidden Barrier Four: The Crime of Outshining: You believe that if you become too successful you will make others look bad.

Bam. I was listening to this audiobook driving down the road, and I started crying. The author said, “This fear is prevalent among gifted and talented children, and often plays out into their adulthood. Children are blamed for taking the spotlight away from others.”

Memories started racing through my mind. The patio conversation. My youth pastor at church asking me not to wear all my honors cords with my cap and gown because it would make the other kids who didn’t have any feel bad. Being told I needed a smaller role in the play because I’m too strong at public speaking and it will make other students too intimidated to perform.

I remember driving down the road and tears streaming down my face the entire half hour to my destination. I arrived and had to sit in the car and sob. This was my life. Not only did this come up on so many occasions but it translated into every moment of my ever day. The tiny, seemingly insignificant thoughts started racing through my mind:

“I’ll eat this cookie in front of them so they don’t feel bad about how unhealthy their plates are,” after losing weight and feeling amazing because I was strictly eating clean foods. When friends or family around me were staying the same or even gaining weight, I would be more likely to make bad choices IN FRONT OF THEM rather than in private. I would hit my goal weight and then return back to my comfortable zone around 170. At this weight I wasn’t fat and could fit into clothes at any store I went to (wearing medium to large) but I still had some chunk on me. That way other people would know I was relatable.

“I shouldn’t wear makeup today,” because the last three times I saw that person I had on a cute outfit with my hair and makeup done so it will make them feel better about themselves to see me in yoga pants with no makeup. When truth be told, I love wearing makeup and looking in the mirror and feeling pretty. I’m totally content without it, so it’s not a superficial matter. I genuinely don’t care who sees me without make-up; I just honestly enjoy wearing it and feeling girlie and pretty.

And then one of the largest hurdles in my life, money. I can’t tell you how many times I would hit an income level for a month and feel AMAZING and then the next month have the worst month of the year, completely robbing the success of the month before because I now had to use that success money just to survive. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. I had so many financial goals and yet I could not seem to break through this limit that the months had to average out to me making X (which was just enough to get by). I made it to the top 8% in my company, but I LONGED for the top 1%. I was banging my head up against the wall.

It’s been about a year since I listened to the audiobook version of The Big Leap. It’s one of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve ever had. I listened a second time and then bought it for my kindle and hardcopy. There are so many nuggets. I highly recommend this book for everyone because he goes into so many other areas of life as well. Most of us have a story in our minds that was rewired when we were children. We adopted a belief about how the world works, and it’s holding us back.

This is not the point in the story where I say “And now I am a fitness champion, making a million dollars and look amazing every morning before I leave the house.” HAHA! Sooooo not the case. I’m a work in progress. What I can tell you is that one year later, I’m less quick to be concerned with what other people think about what I am eating, wearing, or not wearing. I am getting more comfortable in my own skin. I am giving myself permission to let that achiever out. One step at a time. It’s been 16 years since I buried her. One day at a time, I let her out a little bit more. I feel very confident in saying just give me a little bit more time. Soon I will finally hit, and keep my goal weight. I have gone from wearing makeup once or twice a week to probably three or four times a week. Eventually it will be part of my morning routine, only because I want it to be. I can already see the progress financially. I’m not crushing my goals, but I have raised the bar. That number I used to feel comfortable with is now bigger. It’s been six months straight of a new number. I would like to double it so my husband and I can get out of debt, build a large savings, remodel our house and be able to adopt children. Those things will happen.

Now when I look in the mirror I don’t look at the outer layer. For the last few weeks when I look in the mirror I talk to the girl inside. I sing “this little light of mine” to myself, and I am determined to let her shine. I’ve been wearing a lampshade for 16 years. I so desperately want to take it off and let her shine in all her glory. It’s just a comfort zone thing, and I’m expanding. I used to feel the flab on my stomach, arms or thighs. Now I ignore it. I acknowledge the muscles I can feel underneath, and I tell them “I’m working to remove the layers. I’ll allow you to be seen soon. Just keep growing in there. You’ll come out soon.”

I know this was a long post. If you made it this far, I appreciate you. Writing these words brings me so much healing. Hopefully there’s a nugget or two in here that inspires you to let your inner light shine too. We all have greatness within. We all have a comfort zone. What’s holding you back? Do you know what your fears are?

The Night I Envied the Lesbian

I believe the greatest benefit of our emotions is they are a window into our subconscious. They can be a powerful mirror if you are quiet enough to listen. I was 19 when I first heard “you only judge others for what you judge yourself for” and suddenly the people whom I couldn’t stand to be around, the personalities whom were nails on a chalkboard to me, suddenly became a reflection of my fears.
Jealousy is not an emotion I encounter often. She rarely shows up in my life. I have a “bloom where you’re planted” mentality and little aspiration for material wealth, so there isn’t much to envy. I am grateful for an amazing husband, a sweet little girl and a great family support system. Seriously…what more could I ask for?

Until I saw the woman on the dance floor.

I am a wedding photographer. In December I was shooting a reception and couldn’t help but notice this confident woman. She and her partner were having the time of their lives. She was cute as a button in her suspenders, top hot and crazy tie. She brought so much life and vitality to the room. The other guests seated at her table were constantly erupting in laughter when she was talking. I noticed that everywhere she went people just perked up. Her energy was contagious.

But why couldn’t I smile around her? Why did looking at her bring up these strange, unfamiliar emotions for me? What did she have that I wanted?

When the dance floor opened, she owned it. Whether her skills were good or not was completely irrelevant. She was out there for every song, never dropped her smile, and drug everyone along with her.

With one hand on my lens and the other hand on the trigger I just kept photographing her. Mesmerized. Trying to figure out the source of these emotions. It wasn’t attraction. “I’m not jealous of her being gay…what is this weird feeling?!?!?”

It hit me. Freedom.

She was free. Her posture and confidence screamed “I am who I am. It’s out of the closet. There are no secrets anymore. Hello world. This is me. Take it or leave it. I couldn’t care less what you think. I own who I am and am going to enjoy every second on earth that I can.”

Authenticity. Freedom. No skeletons. That’s what I want.

The hour drive home from that wedding and the days and weeks that followed I couldn’t get the image of her carelessly moving about the dance floor out of my head. Why did I feel like a bird in a cage? What is it I feel I need to come out of the closet about? What part of me is hiding in there?

Fast forward a couple months and I can’t answer this question clearly for you, but this is what I can tell you.

My motto for this year is to “fearlessly be my authentic self.”

What I have learned about myself is that I have been desperately searching for a label to put on my forehead to say “This! This is what I am. This is how I can be defined.” And it’s not there.

Our human minds desire labels. It allows us to put things into boxes. We hear one part of a person and fill in all the gaps so that we can make our assumptions and decide where that person fits in our organizational system.

I am stuck in the middle everywhere, which can feel quite lonely. There aren’t many places I can go where someone can get to know me and walk away saying “oh yeah, she’s totally one of us.” It’s usually like “Man, I absolutely LOVE this about her, but yeah….that part of her life I just cannot relate to/agree with/understand,” whatever the word may be. I’m craving a community where I can feel at home. A place where once a particular belief ,opinion or practice comes out of my mouth I’m not suddenly feeling awkward because people’s energy or tone has shifted. The feeling of “she’s cool, but she’s not really one of “us.” I want “my tribe,” fellow in-betweeners.

Want examples of what I’m talking about? Where do I even start….

I’m a Jesus follower…who doesn’t “go to” church. I respect people of all spiritual faiths and believe we have much more in common than separates us. I want to fight to protect their freedoms as much as my own.

I’m a crunchy, granola mom who co-sleeps and breastfed to age two, who also loves being a self-proclaimed work-a-holic. The season of my life I tried doing the at home thing were my least favorite of my 30 on earth. When I look back on those days and how NOT MYSELF I was, I just want to run back and rescue her. I love my time away from my daughter as much as my time with her.

Absolutely no political party fits me. I want to just put all of their “issues” stances in a line and cherry pick the ones that seem like common sense to me and flush the rest. So no matter who is “representing me” it’s going to be someone who I hope does some good and doesn’t absolutely screw up an area that is going to affect my life and our world.

I absolutely LOVE to travel, except that I don’t. I love being at home, inside my four walls. The best part of traveling is leaving and the best part is coming back home.

I am an introvert interior with an extrovert exterior. I absolutely love my time alone, deep conversations and introspection. But not at the cost of my FOMO. I love meeting new people, making friends with strangers, meetings and talking until I finally crash on the pillow.

I crave having my hands in multiple pots. I tried that whole “cutting it back” thing and it doesn’t work for me. I own a photography business, a network marketing business, am getting yoga teacher certified, and feel a deep desire to start this blog too. I’m on a board and involved in two organizations I love. Oh, but I also value quality time with myself, my husband, my daughter, my family and my friends. Everyone in my life and every book says it’s too much. But I don’t care. This is where I thrive. There are occasional days I think I’m insane but most days I’m really damn happy.

So when I meet someone new and they ask, “what do you do?” I cringe inside and have no clue how to answer this question. I spend more time with my family than any other area of my life so do I answer by saying I’m a wife and mom? I pay my bills primarily through my photography business and my Arbonne business, so do I tell them about those income streams? I’ve felt a calling to start this blog for years and now I am, so am I now a blogger? I teach two classes at the yoga studio a week, so I just let me students assume I’m a yoga teacher.

When I’m asked that dreaded, confusing question, I usually just grab one of my roles and present myself as that person, knowing I am leaving behind so much, and I have no idea which perspective of “who I am” they’re wanting to see. I know they’re just wanting to make conversation and figure out which box to file me inside their brain’s organizational system and if they knew it all they would just be confused and walk away.

So yeah….this blog is finally starting. I’ve been creating it in my mind for 6 years. I have so many things I know I am called to share, but I have been holding back. Why have I held back? Fear of judgment. There are people I love so much who may read my posts and love most of them and then come across “that one” that rubs them the wrong way and suddenly they don’t see me the same. At least this is the story in my head. That someone, somewhere will get upset, not like me, be offended, etc.

Here’s the problem though…I’ve known for six years that I’m supposed to write these stories down. The experiences I’ve had were given to me that I may share them. Allowing fear to stop me is ultimately, selfish.

So here’s my “coming out of the closet” moment. I’m an internal hot mess, doing the best I can with what I have and dead set on creating a better life for everyone: myself, my daughter, my community, my family, my friends, America and humanity. If I don’t take the veil off and show you who I really am then I cannot fulfill my purpose on earth.

I am here to tell you stories that will hopefully inspire you to look inward too. To continue your own personal growth curve. And to empower you to step into your purpose.

Subscribe on the homepage if you want updates when I post. Like I said earlier…there’s a lot going on. So I cannot commit to regularly scheduled posts. When something is on my heart, when I feel inspired, when I know I cannot stay silent, I will share. And if you want to listen, subscribe.

Question……do you have a skeleton in the closet? Are you living a life true to who you are? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail (and that everyone would still love you after you did it)?

Love,

Sophia