I am strong because I labored for 12 beautiful hours and gave birth to my stillborn son in a silent room.
I am strong because on October 22, 2010, my husband and I buried our first child.
I am strong because 12 weeks after we buried our first son we found out we were expecting again.
I am strong because on May 2, 2011, at 18 weeks pregnant, we found out that our second son Jacob would not be coming home with us, he was given a fatal diagnosis.
I am strong because despite having a fatal diagnosis we chose to carry Jacob and do everything we possibly could.
I am strong because during the next 18 weeks Jacob’s diagnosis changed into something no medical doctor had ever seen before and his prognosis became unknown.
I am strong because on September 5, 2011, our son Jacob was born via c-section. He cried even though we were told he would not.
I am strong because for the next 2 1/2 days Jacob fought so hard to stay with us and we fought so hard to keep him comfortable and did everything we could.
I am strong because at 7:45 p.m. on September 7th, we had to make a decision no parent should ever have to make; we pulled his life support and Jacob peacefully passed away.
I am strong because on September 14, 2011 we buried our second child.
I am strong because nine months after we buried Jacob we decided to try once more.
I am strong because we became pregnant with what we hoped would truly be our rainbow babe.
I am strong because at 18 weeks we found out we were having a healthy little girl.
I am strong because I carried her for 36 1/2 weeks all along knowing we could lose her too.
I am strong because on January 8, 2013, I was induced and we were on the way to meeting our miracle babe.
I am strong because after 16 rough hours of VBAC labor, our miracle baby, Phoebe Faith, was born. Crying, screaming, healthy and alive.
I am strong because even though I only parent one child, I am a mother of three.
I am strong because I have carried three children full term but two already reside in Heaven.
I am strong because I chose to cling onto hope and faith when everything else was against us.
I am strong because parenting a rainbow baby is a challenging time in life.
I am strong because I now live with PTSD and fight with it on a daily basis. But I REFUSE to let it define who I am.
I am strong because my hopes and dreams have been shattered, but I chose to hold on and now have a beautiful little girl who is the light of my life.
I am strong because I am sharing my video about my journey with you.
Please know my video does contain pictures of my boys after they have passed. If this is too much for you, please do not watch.
Mamas who have endured loss, don’t ever give up. Your rainbow could be one more rainy day away.
This post originally appeared on Birth Without Fear’s Facebook page, as part of the “I Am Strong” series.
With our extraordinary brains and other unique attributes, we humans think we’ve got it all figured out. But others in the animal kingdom have some life-affirming tricks to teach us — if only we pay attention.
Here are nine life lessons we can learn from animals:
1. Take more naps. Cats know how to catch some good shut-eye. They sleep 12 to 16 hours a day. What can napping do for humans? Boost alertness, increase creativity, and improve learning and memory, among other benefits.
2. Don’t neglect your friends. Did you know bats hang out with their besties too? So do elephants, dolphins, horses, hyenas and chimps. Some animals stay friends for years — like female humpback whales, who reunite with their buds every summer.
Why do we all need friends? Friendships are evolutionarily advantageous. Studies have shown that social bonds can reduce stress, increase lifespan, and improve reproductive success.
3. Get addicted to exercise. Exercise has many health benefits for the brain and body. It reduces stress, improves sleep, alleviates depression, and enhances learning — in addition to controlling weight and reducing risk for many diseases.
If you find you have to drag yourself to the gym, the animal world can provide some inspiration. Mice actually crave exercise and experience withdrawal when their wheels are taken away. Sled dogs can run 1,150 miles in 10 to 17 days.
That may be a lot to expect from yourself, but taking Fido for a walk can help you meet your fitness goals. A recent study revealed that people who walked their dogs were 34 percent more likely to reach benchmarks for physical activity.
4. Love learning. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is crack open the books. But brain studies have shown that we’re actually wired to feel rewarded by learning new things.
Maybe you’d expect apes to get a rise from picking up new skills, but even cows deserve some credit. Research has shown that heifers get excited about their achievements — their heart rates go up and they move more quickly after improving at a task.
5. Play fair. It’s not always easy to tell right from wrong. But evolutionary biologists say that fair play helps animals (and humans) survive — it boosts physical and cognitive development, and establishes rules so society as a whole can flourish.
Even dogs have a keen sense of morality, following their own “canine code of conduct” when they play.
6. Share and learn from each other. It’s easy to get caught up in achieving your own goals — but some species remind us that sharing information is important for survival — like whales, for instance.
“Our study really shows how vital cultural transmission is in humpback populations — not only do they learn their famous songs from each other, they also learn feeding techniques that allow them to buffer the effects of changing ecology,” Luke Rendell, a University of St. Andrews biology professor, said in a written statement.
7. Slow down. Ever think to yourself “where did all the time go?” Birds and insects don’t. A recent study found that small animals perceive time in slow motion.
It has to do with an ability to process more visual information at each moment — and humans can get better at it. Research has shown that elite athletes can perceive time slowing down during a game.
8. Be empathic. You might feel awkward walking by someone who’s crying. But dogs will comfort you whether they know you or not. A study showed dogs respond and markedly change their behavior when people cry. They lick and nuzzle their owners and strangers indiscriminately.
9. Don’t give up easily. Need inspiration to keep going? Salmon swim for thousands of miles upstream, somehow making their way back to their birthplace so they can spawn the next generation. If they can do that, you can probably tackle that seemingly impossible task on your to-do list.
“A house is just four walls, but to us I think a home has a story to it, it carries more weight and meaning,” John says in the video.
“Home is really a lot more about the feeling you get and the soul of a structure,” Sherry says. “It’s the noises, the smells, the people who live there, the memories. There’s a peace that comes with being in your home and feeling like you fit in there.”
One of John and Sherry’s many DIY projects is a wall in their home covered from floor to ceiling in family photos, quotations and meaningful trinkets. “This is sort of like the heart of our home,” Sherry says. “From the minute that we moved here we thought, let’s wallpaper the walls with memories. Like a time capsule of these moments we’ve had together.”
Though some might say that John and Sherry’s home looks picture-perfect, they say they’re not seeking perfection.
“I think having to go through renovations and projects together where things don’t go smoothly also is giving us an appreciation for working together and being comfortable with each other’s imperfections as well,” John says.
“We go all in — we sweat, and we get dirty, we cry and we make up, and we make mistakes, and we course correct as we go,” Sherry says. “And by some miracle we step back and blink our eyes, and we’re right where we need to be, and we feel like we’re where we belong.”