The Birth Story of Théo Julián Carrillo-La Rocca

On May 15th, 2023, at 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant, our precious Théo was born into the loving arms of his father at Bella Vie Gentle Birth Center. Ever since finding out that we were expecting a baby again after two miscarriages, José and I were eagerly and excitedly waiting for the day to come when we could hold our baby and see his face. The birth of Théo taught us that not only is God faithful in His promises, but He truly wants the best birth experiences for us. He made our bodies with the intention of creating new life and it isn’t supposed to be something that is a fearful experience.

I am still processing all that happened, but I do know that God was with us in every moment. Leading up to my birth José and I were praying for a birth experience that was joyful, safe, and holy. We prayed over Théo while he was in my womb declaring his good health and thanking the Lord for loving him even more than we were able to. Every day I asked God for a labor that was peaceful (I know, that might sound crazy to some. But I truly knew that birth did not need to be a painful process and that God designed birth to be beautiful. With the curse in Eden childbirth became real work. Real labor. But God did not curse women to have the most excruciating experience of their lives).

Now, to the birth story. I woke up a little after 2:00am on Monday the 15th, the early morning after Mother’s Day. I got up to pee and while I was using the bathroom I felt a soft pop inside of me almost like a water balloon popping. I sat there for a moment thinking there is absolutely no way that was my water breaking, I’m not far along enough to go into labor. Nothing came out after I heard the pop so I dismissed it and headed back to bed. I didn’t get very far, however, when all of the water came gushing out at once. “Babe, my water just broke,” I said to José. He jumped out of bed very quickly and grabbed me a towel. A million thoughts were running through my head. It’s too early, I thought, even though I knew I was at term and this was perfectly safe. I’m going to have this baby within the next few days. I’m going to have my baby in my arms. I’m three weeks early. Why did I think it was a good idea to do this at a birth center with no medication? The light panic set in.

We called the midwives and they assured me that it was okay I was only 37 weeks along. They told me what I knew, that it could be hours or even a day until contractions started so it was best to try and go back to sleep and rest up to conserve my energy for when early labor began. I was to call them back when things picked up. After hanging up I felt the emotions roll over me and had to lean into José and have a thirty second cry before getting myself together. My sweet husband reminded me that I was okay, that I was safe, and that I could do this. We would do it together.

There was no way I was about to go to sleep after that so I put my headphones on and started to listen to my birth playlist to center myself and get into a calm state. At 3:16am I had my first contraction. It felt like a very manageable period cramp, except it started at my back and worked its way towards the front of my stomach. Contractions were immediately 5 minutes apart. I was sitting on my exercise ball moving my hips side to side or front to back and listening to worship music while telling myself all of my positive affirmations. No contraction will ever be stronger than me because they come from me. My body knows what it is doing. I can do anything for 60 seconds. I am safe. This is a privilege. Thank you, Jesus.

By 4:30am contractions were 4 minutes apart. I began to vocalize through them, making a moaning sound and working with the feeling to let it wash over me and not fight it. José brought me my wooden combs to squeeze (combs are believed to help with labor for many reasons. 1. Distraction from pain. 2. The teeth of the combs hit acupressure points in your hand. 3. Gate control theory. Your mind can only process so many sensations at once and the comb gives your mind something else to feel instead of just the contraction). I also had José squeezing my hips. At some point we called the midwives again and let them know how things were progressing. José also notified our doulas. I became nauseous and threw up a couple of times. My body was making sure it was empty in order to push a baby out soon!

We were given the okay to leave the house at 5:00am when my contractions were 3 minutes apart and we headed to the birth center. During the car ride I continued to listen to my worship music, squeeze the combs, and keep my eyes closed. The contractions still felt very manageable and riding in the car didn’t feel nearly as bad as I was expecting. I was practicing my hypnobreathing (in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 8). I remember José telling me to open my eyes and see the sun rising over Mt. Hood. It was 5:30am when we arrived at the birth center. When we parked I had a contraction that was particularly difficult and I couldn’t get out of the car until it had passed. I remember asking God to fulfill my wish of a joyful, safe, and holy birth.

We left our birth bags in the car and went straight into the room where our son would soon be born. Things got harder at this point. With each wave (I was calling each contraction a wave or a surge) I would drape myself over José’s shoulders and squeeze him in a big hug while squeezing the combs in my hands. He continuously was telling me how powerful and amazing I was. The midwife asked to check how dilated I was. I felt nervous to say yes because I knew that if I was only a few centimeters dilated I was going to let fear enter my mind and question my ability to do this. I was feeling that things were very hard, but I wasn’t yet feeling like I couldn’t do it or that it was too much for me and I didn’t want to get to that point. I told her of this worry and said “I just don’t know if I am being dramatic with how difficult this is, maybe i’m not even that far along.” She told me I was definitely not being dramatic and I agreed to a cervical check. To my surprise I was 8 and 1/2 centimeters dilated! Our midwife told us she’d start the bath water so I could get into the tub.

Everything was happening so fast it was difficult for me to process. I could not fathom that I was 8 and 1/2 centimeters dilated already. I threw up once more into a bowl and then was able to get into the tub around 6:00am. Between this moment and the birth of Théo things are fairly blurry for me. I was swimming in and out of my body. The water felt amazing, but from here on out each wave now felt fairly painful, like very extreme gas pains that squeezed your entire torso, and I felt myself yelling loudly each time. My husband and the midwives kept reminding me to keep the tone of my voice low rather than high pitched. They told me to make an “ooooo” sound and use the energy I was feeling to channel it down and out rather than up and out of my mouth. This was a super helpful reminder and made each wave feel more productive. I was on my knees in the tub and leaning over the edge. José was pushing a cold wash cloth on my forehead. My chin was resting against the tub and I was still holding the combs in my hands. Between each wave I would completely relax my body. I had asked for my headphones to be taken off and for my music to be played out loud. My eyes were closed the entire time. I was only aware of peoples voices but I had no idea who was actually in the room. At some point my doula arrived. I began to feel my body bear down, pushing my knees and feet into the bottom of the tub. Later I noticed that I actually bruised my chin from pushing into the tub so hard. I began to not be able to form full sentences but was giving people one word commands. I’d tell José to make the wash cloth colder or push it harder into my head by whimpering “colder” or “harder.” I was getting very close to pushing my baby out. I began to feel Théo’s head descend and I felt a lot of pressure. I felt the urge to push with the contractions and I let my body do what it needed to do while I was roaring my baby out. I was never coached on when to push. No one ever counted to ten while I pushed. I completely listened to what I was feeling and followed it.

The moment before my baby came out I remember thinking yep, I can see why people want an epidural to do this. I muttered that I didn’t want to do this anymore. The midwife reached down and could feel the Théo’s head and told me that I was about to meet my baby. José had wanted to catch his son, so at this point he quickly took off his jeans and jumped into the tub. Since I was on my knees the midwife told me to prop up one of my legs so I was in a lunge so that I wouldn’t put so much pressure on my perineum. As I pushed I expected to feel the “ring of fire,” but to me I felt my bones and my muscles painfully stretching to fit the head out rather than a burn. I started to resist the urge to push because it did not feel good, but then I remembered that this was a privilege to suffer in this way. That this experience brought me closer to Jesus who died for us on a cross. It brings me closer to God who suffered through the death of His son. It brings me closer to Mary who suffered through witnessing her son be crucified. To suffer was to be closer to them and to be holy. In the next push our son entered the world at 7:26am. It felt amazing to have his body exit mine. José caught him and pulled him up out of the water.

I looked back in shock at seeing this wriggling baby in my husbands arms. I took in the thick blue cord and listened to him start to cry immediately. Lifting my leg over the cord and leaning back, I took my son into my arms for the first time and held him. My soul came back into my body and I heard that the song Hold On To Me by Lauren Daigle was playing, my favorite song on my birth playlist. I held Théo close to my chest in disbelief at what I had just accomplished. José was kissing my forehead and holding me and Théo in his arms. With another two uncomfortable contractions out came the placenta without any pain. And with that my five hour labor was over.

I started to feel dizzy at this point so I gave Théo back to José and sat on the edge of the tub with an oxygen mask over my face so that I could stabilize. I was given a Pitocin shot to reduce my risk of hemorrhaging. Thankfully I did not hemorrhage and soon felt well enough to get out of the tub and into bed with my new family of three. I just could not process the fact that I had just given birth, that it was all over, and that I did it!

After all of our vitals were taken we were given the space to soak up our new baby and be together as a family. We left Théo’s cord attached for roughly an hour and a half, giving him all of his blood back to his body. José cut the cord, the midwives weighed him, took his measurements, and told us how perfect we already knew he was. All 6 pounds and 14 ounces of perfection.

We were given breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the birth center and were taken care of so well. At the end of the day a postpartum midwife drew up an herbal bath for me and I was able to soak in the tub and then bring Théo in with me, a wash cloth warming his back as he laid on my chest. We were given the okay to head home that same night. As we drove home, our baby in his car seat, we watched the sky turn pink as the sun set. We were able to see the sun rise while I was in labor and the sun set on our way back home — complete at last.

“you built a life. under ten moons, you were a house of water. you held a second heart in the arms of your rib cage, dreamed two sets of dreams, merged the rivers of your bloodlines under your skin. and then, in the early hours of a spring morning, i watched a piece of you leave, swallowed in the pain of your shattering. you broke, and the rains of new life poured out of you. you are now the mother to that dawning ground. the guardian of its soil. the mender of its aching. the gardener of its joy. this is your work now. you were born in your dying. you were delivered to a new life as you birthed one into existence. you are utter magic. building that mountain. birth. -emory hall”

You’ve got this because I’ve got you.

Today I felt the sun on my face as I walked my dog along the nature trail by our apartment. I felt the sun touch my skin. I felt God brush my cheek. You’ve got this, my daughter, He seemed to say. You’ve got this, mama, because I’ve got you.

I trust you, Lord. I give myself permission to rest fully into you. I’m okay with not being in control. I’m not afraid. I smile with thankfulness for this opportunity. I relax my shoulders, I unclench my jaw, and fill my lungs with your love. This is what it is to create somebody else. A privilege, the most important work I’ll ever do. To be a mother. A glimpse into His love for us.

Let the cloud pass

*Trigger warning: miscarriage, child loss, grief

The first time I miscarried I was nine weeks when I found out that there was no longer a heart beat. I started to bleed and released the small embryo-who we named May after finding out that she was a girl- one month later, at what would have been thirteen weeks. That loss felt like losing a child, a best friend, a daughter. The grief was incredibly real and piercing and took a long time to heal. (And it probably will always be in the process of healing).

When I got pregnant again eight months later I felt so much excitement, but unfortunately fear also clouded that joy. What if a miscarriage happened again? Would I be able to handle it? What if a miscarriage didn’t happen, then I would have a baby in my arms in nine months? Am I ready? Is my husband going to be excited or afraid? Or both, like me?

I shared the news with him. I bought an infant outfit and a child’s toy and presented it to him wrapped as an early birthday gift. He opened it and was shocked and excited. We shared joy together in that moment. For a few days I felt very “off,” not quite fully nauseous but definitely heading in that direction. But that only lasted a few days and suddenly I felt normal again. I had my blood work taken and the results confirmed my fears–we would indeed miscarry again. At five weeks and three days I started to bleed and my period resumed. I sobbed into my husbands arms that I didn’t understand. Why me? I prayed so hard and so often that this wouldn’t happen again. I had prepared so differently this time. I actually prepared this time. I took a prenatal and vitamins for three months prior, I was eating a healthy and wholesome diet, I was exercising, and had reduced my stress load. All of these things I was doing “right,” and yet it still wasn’t enough.

The doctor said that this was “so common” that they didn’t do any tests to see why this might be happening until it happened three or more times. If there really is something wrong, I’d have to lose another forming child for an investigation to be done. Or I’d have to find another provider. My heart ached for all of the women who had to suffer through this in silence. The many women who have had one miscarriage, two miscarriages, three or even more. The feelings of grief, the feelings of resentment of yourself and your body (terrible and untrue, but present nevertheless), and the feeling of hopelessness that this is your fate and you will forever miscarry your babies. To have to go through that alone, or even just between you and your husband, can be isolating and extremely depressing without a community or others who have experienced the same thing and can relate.

A dear friend who has also gone through this pain said this to me after my second miscarriage: “feel all the freedom for your grieving to look all the same, and feel just as heavy, or for it to be totally different. Give yourself grace to feel whatever comes.”

Give yourself grace indeed, friends. My fellow sisters who have experienced this. The husbands who have gone through this with their wives. Give yourself grace to feel whatever it is you feel and to not put pressure on yourself to feel more of something or less of something. Give yourself grace for the feelings to last for as long or as short of a duration as they do. My second miscarriage feels less of the loss of a person, and more of a loss of a dream, a loss of hope, a confirmation of fears. And these are feelings that I am allowing myself to feel and then I will release.

And we will try again. And no matter what cloud hangs over me in the future, I will acknowledge it and give it permission to pass. Because it does not have hold over me.

The Meaning of the Resurrection

What is the meaning of the resurrection and how do we live out our lives with this truth? Today we face the story of the women finding the empty tomb, of being told of his resurrection and their rush to spread the good news. In the beginning, the women were not believed. They were brushed aside until the empty tomb was seen by others. But soon the news spread and the proof was undeniable. Alleluia! Christ is risen!

What does the resurrection mean to us? And how do we carry that truth throughout the entire liturgical season and our lives?

John 20: 11-18: “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. She saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.'”

The cross, once a symbol of death and torture, transformed into a symbol of something else entirely: the love of God and His sacrifice for us. I can imagine the shock of the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb, as well as the joy of Mary Magdalene as she realized the man standing beside her was Jesus himself. That joy radiates throughout the Church and it is our duty as its people to spread that joy throughout the world. To be vocal about this joy requires us to live our lives with an understanding that we are loved deeply and forgiven mercifully.

From the Guadete et Exsultate by Pope Frances: “God asks everything of us, yet he also gives everything to us. He does not want to enter our lives to cripple or diminish them, but to bring them to fulfillment. Discernment, then, is not a solipsistic self-analysis or a form of egotistical introspection, but an authentic process of leaving ourselves behind in order to approach the mystery of God, who helps us to carry out the mission to which he has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters.”

Once Jesus rose, he breathed the Holy Spirit into his disciples, giving them the power to forgive the sins of others. That power of forgiveness and this moment in scripture is profound. That was one of the first acts that Jesus did when he presented himself as resurrected. It is a gift he gives us, to be able to run to confession and be forgiven over and over again in the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The resurrection to me means pure, sacrificial love and forgiveness. It means indescribable happiness and a call to never live the same. On this Easter, may we remember the emotions of this day and the power of Jesus’ actions. May we remember that we are deeply loved and mercifully forgiven.

Holy Week

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week. We have made it through the weeks of lent and now we are approaching the holy moments that lead up to the passing and resurrection of Christ.

Today I am reflecting on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, a betrayal so painful and reckless that it leads to the death of the son of God. Judas bargains for the life of Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Judas spent years with Christ and saw his forgiving ways. He saw him get rid of demons and Satan himself. He saw Jesus resurrect, heal the afflicted. However, he sacrificed this relationship for 30 pieces of silver. And yet, Jesus still invites Judas, his betrayer, to the holy meal. As stated in my lenten devotional by Cameron Bellm, this act of Jesus inviting his betrayer to the table is an example of his “radical inclusivity.” He “who never ever shuts the door on us.” No matter the sins that we commit and cannot let go of, we are still invited to his table to commune with God.

Who do we exclude from our company? Who do we withhold our love from? If Jesus can allow Judas at his table, we can too. No matter how many times we are condemned, we can still reach out our hand of love, friendship, and support in an effort to heal.

“Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him” (Matthew 26: 14-16).

“He answered, ‘He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’ Judas, who would betray him, answered, ‘Is it I, Rabbi?’ He said to him, ”You have said so.’ (Matthew 26: 23-25).

On this Holy Wednesday, I want to work to lay down the sins that I grasp onto tightly that are hindering my closeness to Jesus. My thirty pieces of silver. May we not make the same mistake as Judas and may we instead be a model of Jesus’ radical inclusivity.

Ash Wednesday & St Irmã Dulce

Ash Wednesday.

This mornings reading consisted of the works of St. Irmã Dulce, who spent her time walking around the streets of her home in Bahia, Brazil, finding the need that existed, and addressing it. “She began walking the streets, simply talking to people and paying particular attention to the desperately poor. Soon she had organized a medical clinic, followed by a hospital and a homeless shelter.”

The scripture to follow was from Joel 2:12-18. The first line is “yet even now” and goes on to talk about giving our heart to God and praising Him. Yet even now, we can worship Him. Yet even now, in this time and place, no matter what is going on in the world, we can recognize His mercy and goodness.

St. Irmã Dulce did incredible work in her hometown, her own city where she was born and grew up. By walking around and opening her eyes to what the need was. I so often think that I need to get out of my town to make a “real difference,” and yet this Saint shows real work can be done, and SHOULD be done, right where you are at.

Let us thank God for where He has placed us and open our eyes to opportunities to serve where we are, here and now.

Draw Near to Jesus This Lent

Lent has become my favorite liturgical season to participate in. It’s the perfect time to let go of what isn’t serving you. To readjust your New Year’s resolutions and intentions with what has happened so far in the first few months of the new year. Lent is a great opportunity to walk through the desert with Jesus. To suffer with him and get a taste of what he sacrificed for us out of the purest love. Lent is about courage, self-restraint, intentionality, and presence. Let go of your shame that you aren’t doing life good enough. Shame doesn’t come from God; he only desires your heart and presence, not your perfection.

This year for lent I am following a lenten devotional- “Draw Near: A Lenten Invitation to Lay Down Shame and Embrace Intimacy With God” by Cameron Bellm and Brick House In The City. Every week we will be studying a saint, reading from scripture, praying, and writing. I love following devotionals to guide me towards certain scripture readings, guided prayers, and provide me with a bit of wisdom each day. Not only does this devotional have a beautiful cover, it is also beautifully laid out and written. Ash Wednesday is in one day and I cannot wait to break this open and dive in!

Other ways I am participating in lent this year besides the devotional:

  • Max of 1 hour on social media a day (this is a huge cut down for me! I personally felt that a complete social media detox was too extreme. Instead of going “cold turkey” so-to-speak, I am cutting back to 1 hour a day. And, yes, I am using the screen time feature on my iPhone to hold me accountable)
  • Filling up the time that I am usually on social media with reading, writing, connecting with my friends and family, cooking/baking, and moving/setting up my new apartment
  • Nightly prayer with my husband
  • Intentionally seeking out time to pray the rosary
  • Nourishing my body with modest portions of nutritious foods and fasting on Fridays with bread, butter, and milk or water
  • Attending mass every Saturday night or Sunday morning

Similar to how I created my New Year’s intentions, I am trying to keep my goals realistic and attainable, and yet also ones that are going to make my lent experience one of growth and peace. Once Easter arrives, it will be my one year anniversary of being Catholic! I am already excited to attend Easter as a married family and rejoice in all that God has provided for us over the past year. He has done some marvelous works in my life and I know that it will just keep getting sweeter.

Here is a prayer that I have borrowed from the website on “The Synod on Synodality”:

We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name. With You alone to guid us, make Yourself at home in our hearts; Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it. We are weak and sinful; do not let us promote disorder. Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path nor partiality influence our actions. Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right. All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever. Amen.


What does it mean to be a homemaker to you? 

To me it means cultivating an atmosphere of love and safety while ensuring that our needs are met. Being a wife has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life so far. I love making our home whatever we want it to be. Upon getting married we had a clean slate. A fresh open space that we could mold into our own. Our adorable small one bedroom loft has been our first home together. It’s where my husband first called home in the United States. It’s where we came back to on our wedding night. It’s where friends have (tightly) gathered and meals have been shared. This home is where difficult, tear-filled conversations have been had. It’s where we’ve had most of our “first-year-of-marriage-trying-to-figure-each-other-out” fights. We have prayed in this space. We have laughed uncontrollably here together. It’s where I first moved by myself and breathed the most releasing sigh of relief to have my own space for the first time. In this space my husband and I have created our first child. And then lost that child in a painfully vulnerable, gut wrenching experience that will be imprinted into our minds forever. This space has held beautiful memories and difficult ones too. It has been a wonderful first home for us. And as we prepare to move on from it, holding onto that feeling of home is important to bring with us. 

So, being a homemaker to me means cultivating an atmosphere of love and safety while ensuring that our needs are being met. Homemaking is a shared responsibility of both husband and wife. We can play off of both of our strengths and gifts to create the most beautiful home and family. 

My favorite way to cultivate an atmosphere of love is in the simplest of ways. Making fresh banana bread for us to share together. The smell of the bread baking fills up the home and brings back memories of our mothers and grandmothers baking in our childhood homes. I love making dinner for my husband so that he has it to enjoy when he gets home at night. It’s a small gesture that when he is gone he can come back and find a nourishing meal waiting for him. Or even offering to give him a massage after a long day on his feet. This act shows love and selflessness and an attentiveness to each other’s needs. I like to create an atmosphere of love and warmth through lighting a candle or starting an essential oil diffuser to fill up the home with a calming scent. Writing affirmations down on notes and spreading those throughout the house to read throughout the day. I can cultivate safety in our home by cleaning up and organizing the space. I deep clean once a week and do lighter cleaning on a daily basis. Organization is one of my personal skills, so I take time after work to organize our belongings and have them ready for use. My husband has his own talents and homemaking qualities. He’s incredibly nurturing and selfless. He does the laundry every week for us and always takes out the garbage, recycling, and compost. He’ll clean the bathroom, vacuum in all the hard to get places, and pick up what we need at the store. He’ll go out of his way to get me flowers to make me feel loved and place them on our dining room table. He makes me tea with just the right amount of milk and honey. All of these acts make our home a home. It makes the place that we live in a place to enjoy rather than a place to come just to eat and to sleep. It’s a place that you long to spend time in, together. 

In every simple act that we do, we are creating our home. We are putting forth effort to do simple acts that make our home welcoming and peaceful. My heart leaps for joy at the thought of one day filling our home with mini versions of us. And we can extend that love and safety to them as well. So that they can come home to a place that they love. A place that they will never be scared to enter. That they will long to be in. As I get older and I reflect on my younger years, I increasingly long to create a family and a home that is filled with the spirit of Jesus and the heart of God. No matter if that is in a loft, an apartment, or a house. That atmosphere of home will be with us because we are homemakers, together. 

Nourishing our bodies in the simplest ways

What if the answer to most of our physical, emotional, and mental health struggles was in fact very simple? What if it was not as complex as we made it out to be?

Body image is a sensitive topic and having a struggle with your own body image is something that I am very familiar with, especially most recently in my life. I find myself frequently wanting to go on a special diet or exercise a ridiculous amount because I feel that I need to be punished in some way. I’ve been told that I would look good in an outfit if only I just went on a low carb diet for a few weeks. I’ve been asked why all of I sudden I had developed a tummy. These comments and the images and advertisements we see on social media create this idea that there is a better way to look than what we see in the mirror right now. And that we are not healthy as we are. The way to be healthy, they claim, is to starve yourself or fast or eat vegan or take supplements or exercise multiple times a day or count your calories. What if instead of punishing ourselves, we nourished and loved ourselves into the best versions of who we were created to be?

God gave us the plants and animals of this world. He gave us the abundance of resources on our earth to nourish ourselves and our families, but our society has convinced us that we need to limit ourselves instead in order to be the perfect body size and be healthy.

Instead of counting our calorie intake obsessively, maybe we should try to be getting enough calories on a daily basis. Enough nutrients. Enough vitamins and minerals. Most people actually need more calories than we are lead to believe. Especially mothers, active working people, people dealing with sickness, and people with busy schedules. We need proper plant and animal nutrients, body movement, rest, and sunlight.

I want to try to give to my body instead of take from it and see what happens. I want to nourish my body so that it feels safe and has everything that it needs. Once it does, maybe it will release any excess fat it doesn’t need. Maybe then my blood pressure will lower, my stress hormones will lower. I want to work out and move my body when I feel that I need movement. I want to rest when I am tired and take naps frequently. My body was created to thrive, to heal itself, to adapt. I want to listen to what it is communicating. Instead of making my wellness so complicated, I want to simplify it. I do not want my journey towards health to become unhealthy.

This time when I went grocery shopping, instead of buying my usual meat alternatives, non-dairy milks, chips, and snacks, I bought grass fed meat, grass fed organic milk, and an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables. This time when I go to the gym I will work out with radiating appreciation of my body. I want my body to feel loved, strong, and nourished. I want my pursuit of health to be life giving.

Being Okay With Where You’re At

Growing up I convinced myself that in order to be successful, accomplished, and experienced I needed to live outside of my home town. I went so far as to believe that even if I left my home town for periods of time and then ever ended up living back there I would be a failure–unaccomplished. One of those people who lived where they grew up and didn’t explore more of the world. Anyone else think this? I think it’s a fairly common thought in young people today, especially if you are from a smaller town.

My home town is plentiful and cute and homey. At a bit over 30,000 people it is bigger than the surrounding small farm towns but significantly less crowded than the big cities 45-60 minutes away. Here we are known for our rolling vineyard landscapes, the most delicious restaurants you’ve ever tried, beautiful family friendly neighborhoods and parks, and mostly-traffic-less roads. It is a town that is easy to get around, most people know each other, and most people care about living here. We are the type of town where the residents wear t-shirts, sweatshirts, and key chains with the towns name on it because we’re proud to live here.

However, when I was in high school I made a decision. I was going to go somewhere else for college. Somewhere out of the state, but close enough to come back and visit without an expensive plane ticket. I did it. I went to college a state away and had an amazing experience and fell in love with a different town. I even studied abroad twice during that time and experienced two different countries for an extended period of time. At the end of my college years, I had to make a decision yet again. Grad school was the obvious next step but I couldn’t decide yet what to study. Going back to my home town and working seemed out of the option. Again, I didn’t want to be someone who lived their fun college years and then were thrown back again in the same town with their parents.

So away I went into the Peace Corps. I lived in Guatemala for seven months and had a great time and learned a significant amount. When the pandemic arrived and I had to leave Guatemala my plans were thrown up into chaos. I was back in my home town. I was living with my parents. I was unemployed. If I had to be there for a while, then I was going to make sure that it was for a short amount of time, I convinced myself. I would get a job there temporarily, save up money, get married and then we’d move away together. Where? It didn’t matter much to me as long is it wasn’t here.

With marriage comes growth and with age comes wisdom. My advice if you are stuck in your thinking on a particular subject? Surround yourself with friends and a husband that will set you in your place. That will lovingly point out the flaws in your thinking and show you the beauty of where you are right now. It took a hard conversation with my husband where he pointed out I kind of just decided that we were going to move away for my grad school without consulting him what he wanted (which I totally am guilty of) plus a conversation with two of my closest friends where they told me that being comfortable where you are is okay. I am QUEEN of preaching to get out of your zone of comfortability because that is where growth happens. Which I still stand by. However, it doesn’t need to be taken to the extreme and that’s where I was taking it. Yes, you grow when you are doing things that aren’t easy. You grow when you are stepping out of your norm and experiencing something new. However, you don’t have to do that 100% of the time. And you can get experiences that challenge your comfort where you are right now. You don’t need to move out of the country in order to challenge yourself.

My word for 2022 was presence. We’re only two weeks in and it’s already kicked me in the butt.

I have not been pleasantly present where I am because I am still holding on to my teenage expectations of myself. That, plus I haven’t sat back to realize the things I have actually accomplished. I graduated with a bachelors degree, I studied in Oaxaca, I studied in Tobago, I served in the Peace Corps, I am about to commit to a graduate school to start my masters. I got married. We live in our own apartment. We just bought a second car (a family one for when we have kiddos, yay!). I have an amazing job. Those are accomplishments. Those are successes. And yet, I still always feel like I have to keep going. I can’t pause. I can’t rest. And most of all, I can’t live in my home town! Ugh. What exhausting expectations I have for myself.

I can live here. Because I actually enjoy it here even though I am too stubborn to admit it. And living in my home town doesn’t make me a failure. It’s actually great that I have taken the things I’ve learned in my studies and my travels and have applied them here to serve my home town. My husband loves it here. He came from a big city and loves the feeling of a smaller town. He can see himself starting a career here. He can see us raising our family here. And that doesn’t mean that it is forever. Realistically, our family will be frequently going between Guatemala and the United States. Who knows where we will end up raising our kids or where we will settle down. Or if we will ever “settle down.” All I know is that home is where Jose is. And this place we are in right now isn’t so bad after all.

All this is to say that we need to release ourselves of our child or teenage expectations of ourselves. We are different people than we were at 8, 12, 15, 18, or even 22. And we’re going to keep evolving. It’s okay for our priorities to change. It’s okay if you thought your biggest goal in life was to get a masters degree and have this mind blowing career where you change the world (speaking from experience), but now you kind of think you actually are being called to be a mom and you really want kids (also a mind blowing experience that changes the world). Whatever you want right now, allow yourself to want it. Be present in the now. Let’s let go of thinking we failed because we don’t want the same things that we used to.

Cheers to that my friends. And cheers to those around me helping me to realize the hard stuff. The life changing stuff. Those are the people that make up my community. This community.