It’s been almost exactly a year since I opened up about our struggle with fertility.  When I sat down to write about it, I was overlooking the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks.  This morning, I am at Table Rock Lake with my family…including my 7 week old miracle.  It’s loud…because we’re loud…so we’ll see how much writing I actually get done.

We’re on the deck.  The top deck.  There are multiple decks.  This is a fancy house!  Mom is sitting next to me.  Uncle John and Latecia flew from Arizona to be here.  They are sitting at the table playing dominoes with Nick, Reece, Peyton and Petyon’s friend, Mea.  Drew is downstairs napping with Samson.  Darren is downstairs throwing a silent fit about his stuffed animal being ‘broken.’  Turns out Will asked, “Have you ever seen a reindeer fly?”  Darren replied, “No!”  And Will threw it off the deck.  I’m not sure where Will is right now.  Katie and Leah went to the Beer Cave with Becky and Ryan.  Cody will be here this afternoon.  I think that’s everyone.

I am so thankful for these times.  And for the fact that we can all hang out for an extended weekend without going crazy!  My favorite is waking up in the morning.  Sitting around drinking coffee and having quiet conversation that eventually gets louder as more and more people wake up.  We make a few pots of coffee….enough to go around a couple of times.  We snack on some breakfast.  Ryan makes bacon.  Eventually, the coffee drinking turns into beer drinking  around 10 or 10:30am.  John, AKA Mr. Michelada, whips up a few of those for everyone.  

Yesterday morning it was raining, forcing everyone to just stay and hang out for a bit before heading out on the boat.  Some napped, some played pitch, some just hung out.  The rain was awesome.  In the afternoon, a group headed out on the boat and the house got quieter.  Samson and I have gotten some serious snuggle time in and I just loved every minute of it.  Though, I think all of the commotions of the day wore him out!  He went to bed around 7:30 and was pretty fussy when he woke up to eat at night.  This morning, he is better!  He snuggled with Yaya and ate his mid-morning snack outside.  He’s loving being outside and snuggling with whoever will snuggle with him!

A conversation from last night stuck out to me.  I love love love the meaningful conversations that Katie and I always seem to have.  The topic was ‘STRENGTH’.  She and I pondered why some people just have the ability to hold things in.  Or at least that what it looks like to us from the outside.  We’re not those kinds of people.  And I think we’re starting to be ok with that.

I’ve pondered this a lot.  What is STRENGTH?  What is it to be strong?  I’ve decided that STRENGTH seems to have different meanings for different people.  My strength is not holding it in.  My strength is letting it out.  Being vulnerable so that others can relate.  So that I can connect with others.  It’s what I love doing.

I usually don’t end like this – but if you’re reading this and care to comment, I would love to know what your STRENGTH is.  We are all strong in different ways and at different times.  It’s what keeps us all going.

Samson’s Birth Story

Hiring a Doula for my first pregnancy and birth was the best decision!  I loved having someone I could text/call/email during pregnancy with any questions or concerns and get a quick reply.  Drew and I were so thankful to have her helping us during Samson’s delivery.  I feel like we both really had a great experience (other than it just really hurting like hell!)  I highly recommend Carol at Salina Massage Therapy to anyone in the area.
The Labor and Birth Story of Samson Robert Duskie from a Doula’s Perspective
by Carol Rubino
Welcome to the world, Samson!  Your labor at the hospital was the perfect example of how the miracle of birth can be experienced.
You see, it all started Monday, May 29, 2017, the day before you were born.  Your mom heard a story about a woman who did a modified CrossFit workout to start her labor and it worked.  Being dilated at 2 cm your mom decided to try the same thing and it worked!  Later that evening she contacted me (Carol-the Doula) with questions about contractions.  She had started feeling tightness in her belly and some pressure. Later that evening they were sporadic, not super painful but a lot of pressure coming and going.
At 11:03 pm she sent me a picture of 30 minutes of timed contractions and asked my thoughts on it.  I told her it looked fairly normal for early labor.  I advised her to sleep for awhile and if they woke her up then try timing 5-6 contractions in a row and see how they were. She agreed.
At 11:56 pm I received a message stating that she definitely couldn’t talk through some at that point.  She was trying to relax but stated they may head to Salina soon.  At 12:15 am your mom called me and said they were leaving for Salina Regional Health Center and it would take about 90 minutes to get there.
At 1:24am on Tuesday, May 30th your mom sent me another picture of 20 minutes of timed contractions and she was definitely showing a pattern of labor.  They were 12 miles outside of Salina.  I told her I would meet them at the hospital.  I asked if she could talk through the contractions or were they requiring her full attention.  She replied with “Pretty full attention. Trying to breathe and sing thru them!  Some I just whine through! Drew (your dad) says yes.  They require my full attention.” I told her she was doing great, love the ways she was coping with them and I would see them soon.
I arrived at Salina Regional Health Center and your parents arrived shortly after.  We met in the parking lot and started walking towards the ER.  A black cat appeared but did not cross our path.  We paused and made small chat about the superstition, laughed it off and kept walking.
During registration, your mom had a few strong contractions.  Casity, our nurse from the OB floor, met us in the ER with a wheelchair.  Your mom, the champ that she is, asked if she could walk instead of using the wheelchair.  Casity took us to our labor room and your mom was admitted and cervix checked.  She was dilated 3-4cm and cervix was very very thin.  You and your mom were put on the monitors to get a read on the contractions and how well you were tolerating them.  Your heartbeat was strong and steady before, during and after each contraction.
Your mom was not thrilled about being monitored for 30-60 minutes.  During that time I rubbed and applied reflexology pressure to her feet to help keep her calm.  She was feeling a lot of discomfort in her lower back.  Your dad went to the car to grab some stuff.  On his way back to the room he got stuck in the elevator, was able to get out and then walked into the room next door by mistake.  I think your dad was a little excited or nervous or a little sleepy.
Casity attempted to put in the Saline Lock but was unsuccessful.  Another OB nurse was called in to assist and finally, it was in.  At 2:28 am the monitors were removed.  At 3:40 am portable monitors were applied so your mom could move around freely.  Your mom got up and walked around in the labor room.  Then we ventured down to look at the tub which was still filling with water.  After a bit of time, Casity checked on the tub only to find out that was filled with cold water.  It was emptied and filled with warm water.  Your mom wanted to stay in her room.  She swayed, walked, danced, sat on the labor ball and leaned on the bed and stool.  Finally, tailor sitting in bed seemed to be the most comfortable labor position for her.  She asked if we could diffuse some essential oils. I started the diffuser with Clary Sage, Lavender and Peppermint oils.  Casity informed us that the tub was ready.
After some time your mom was unsure about getting into the tub.  The contractions were feeling more intense.  We also wondered if the tub water was still warm.  I went and checked the water temperature.  I returned and suggested she try the tub for awhile to help keep her comfortable.  She agreed and off she went to labor in the warm, soothing water with the jets on her low back.  Contractions seemed to slow down but she was able to rest which is key to a successful labor and delivery.
We returned to her room and your mom requested the diffuser be turned off.  The contractions were picking up again and felt more intense.  She felt like she was leaking fluid.  Casity check her for membrane rupture and dilation.  Membranes were still intact and her cervix was dilated 4-5cm.  Making progress, slow and steady.
As time passed so did each contraction and each contraction was getting her closer to meeting you.  Many times she used profanities like “sh#*t “and “f#*k” and “this sucks!” through the pain of each contraction.  During her rest time she found her mantra of “I can do this” or “Shannon can do this” quietly under her breath.  She kept looking at the clock and I would tell her “Stop looking at it.”  Your dad and I listened for her cues like “rub my back”, “no stop”, “water” and so on.  Oh, and you were still tolerating contractions very well!
At 7:00 am shift change happened and our new nurse was Sara.  She checked your mom’s blood pressure, pulse oxygen and monitor readings.  At this point, your mom was dilated to 5-6cm.  Shortly after shift change Dr. Ablard arrived and heard about the progress you two were making throughout the night.  She felt good about it and let you both continue laboring with your team.
The next few hours were a whirlwind of activity.  Your mom decided to labor in the shower.  The warm water felt good on her low back.  She alternated between leaning on the shower chair and squatting.  Squatting felt good for her.  All of a sudden she was feeling a slight urge to push.  Sara asked your mom to come back to the bed to be checked in case she was fully dilated.  Your mom was dilated 7-8cm with a little bit of cervix still remaining.  Laboring in bed was not an option in your mom’s mind.  She got back into the shower and continued laboring with warm water on her back and belly.  Suddenly her water broke.  Sara asked your mom to return to the bed to be checked again.  She was dilated 9cm and still had some cervix present, probably a cervical lip.  At this point in labor, it was important for your mom wait to push in order to keep her cervix from swelling.  So, here’s where the breath work came in handy.  Again tailor sitting seemed to be the most comfortable position for her.  I told her to focus on her breath and “breathe in breathe out” with me.  She would do it for awhile and then lose her focus when the urge to push was too strong.  Finally, I told your dad to sit in front of her and breath with her.  That was the magic that needed to happen.  Your parents were in sync with their breath.  Your dad gazed at your mom with so much love and intention.  It was so beautiful to watch.  After awhile she quietly said to everyone in the room, “Breathe with me.”  We did and it helped with her focus and kept her in control.
During this time, OB nurses brought in Dr. Ablard’s delivery cart and pediatric nurses were prepping and warming the crib for delivery.  Dr. Ablard came in, gowned up and suggested that your mom recline with her feet in the stirrups or grab her the back of her legs and pull them toward her.  Your mom questioned that position and Dr. Ablard said it would allow her to curl around you for productive pushing.  Your mom started pushing you out at 9:37 am and at 10:17 am you were born weighing 7lbs 7.4 oz and 19 3/4 in. long.  After the umbilical cord stopped pulsating Dr. Ablard asked your dad if he would like to cut it.  He was unsure, your mom was saying “no” and Dr. Ablard handed him the scissors and guided him through the process.  He was a trooper and what a surprise to all three of us!
The motto for this whole experience has been “SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE” with a little cursing and a lot of breathing along the way.  Shannon, you made this labor look easy, you stayed with your labor process despite the pain and fatigue.  Drew, you were rock solid with Shannon.  You kept her focused and in control to the very end.  Samson, you chose the best parents.  Teach them well and learn from them.
Thank you for the privilege of assisting and witnessing your labor and delivery.  I wish you many blessings on your new journey as a family.
Carol Rubino
Professional Labor and Birth Doula


So Thankful for the Rain

No – I’m not a farmer.  Nor do I have grass planted this year.  I am thankful for the rain because God knew I needed my husband today.  We didn’t get much, but just enough that he didn’t work today.  I’m sitting here being a slave to the breast pump, power pumping to try and increase supply.  The baby is actually sleeping and Drew is in the back bedroom playing his guitar and singing.  In this moment, I am happy.  I just pumped more than I ever have and it’s so calming hearing Drew play and sing.

Samson tricked me last night.  Two times during the night, he fell right back asleep and I was able to lay him down and go right to bed.  I was hoping to do the same this morning at 5 am, but he had other plans.  Clearly, it was time to get up.  As my husband kissed me goodbye to go to work, I was weeping a little and whining “I just want to sleep!”.  Only weeping, not sobbing.  That’s progress!  He returned home around 8:30 when Samson and I were napping in the recliner in the nursery.  Thank God.  

After Samson ate again, Drew and I decided we were hungry.  We decided we would both LOVE to go to Hebrews for breakfast, but felt it was a little risky.  We called the order in to go.  The drive to Glen Elder and back almost felt like a date and the coffee was SO GOOD!  We flipped on The Price is Right and ate our breakfast.  Best date ever!

Today he’s been helping me around the house here and there and truthfully, it’s just calming to have him home.  He sterilized the bottles, emptied the trash, changed one big ‘ol dirty diaper and helped me make homemade ice cream.  That man! He’s just so amazing!  I cannot count how many times during the day when I think to myself “How does anyone single parent?  I am so incredibly blessed to have such a loving and serving husband!”

Holy Tits Breastfeeding is Hard

Samson is 3 weeks and a day old today.  Physically having a baby was hard, but I was prepared for that.  I knew it would be no piece of cake.  I was ready for the most exhausting workout of my life.  I was not, however, prepared for breastfeeding to be this hard.

I’d read some about it and Carol had given me some information on it, which I briefly looked over.  It seemed from what I read that this was going to be a ‘natural’ thing.  I mistakenly interpreted ‘natural’ for ‘easy’.  So many emotions are stirred up with this process.  Inadequacy.  Failure.  Stubbornness and an attitude of “I can do this”.  Excitement.

Everything you read nowadays gears you toward breastfeeding and how superior it is to formula.  Of course, I want my baby to get the very best!  But not only that, I want to be the one who comforts him.  It’s just something that I saw myself doing when I became a mom.

During our first three days at home, I tried every little tactic they showed us in the hospital.  Each time we tried to feed him while we were there, we got different advice from different nurses.  Each time, it was quite a stressful situation.  Samson was so worked up he wouldn’t eat.  I would calm him down and he would go right to sleep.  Not knowing any better, we thought perhaps if he was sleeping, he was content.  I started getting concerned that he was sleeping too much, not eating enough and that he hadn’t peed or pooped very much.  

“Don’t give them a pacifier, it’ll cause nipple confusion.”  “You don’t need a nipple shield unless you have inverted nipples.  So try and stay away from that.”  “You can’t force feed a breastfed baby.” “Just kind of stick is head on there even if he’s wailing.”  etc.

After our weekend in the Beloit hospital, things seemed to go better.  By this point, we just needed to get some fluids in him, so we introduced a bottle.  I would pump, then try and nurse him, then give him the bottle with the remaining breast milk.  Was I producing enough for him?  Was I pumping too much before feeding him?  I felt inadequate; like I could not provide for my baby.

I called the volunteer for the Mitchell County Le Leche League and spoke with her quite a bit.  She offered some more advice that I tried and it seemed to help a little.

One afternoon last week, Drew came home one early afternoon to a sobbing wife.  I’d just gotten Samson to sleep, but only after pumping and feeding him the bottle.  He would resist me each time I tried to nurse him.  I felt so rejected.  I wanted him to be comforted by me!  Not the dang bottle.

Another rough night,  I had a fever and was exhausted.  Samson would eat, but it would take nearly an hour to get him to settle down and he was still kind of showing signs of hunger.  I broke down and we supplemented with formula.  And the waterworks came again.  I felt like a failure.

Yesterday, Sam and I went to a lunch and learn event at Heart Choices for breastfeeding.  Hannah told me her story and why she’s passionate about breastfeeding.  I told her about our experience and the problems we were having.  I told her I would have probably given up by now if I wasn’t so stubborn!  I want this to work!!  After we watched a short video, I was able to stay and nurse him there.  It was still pretty rough, but the video and Hannah had provided some new ideas to try.  Sometimes, I think what seems to help the most is being encouraged by another mom who has been there.  My husband is supportive, but encouragement is different coming from another mom.  It’s much more calming.

I was very somber yesterday, as my husband described.  Today, I am happy to finally get to the last emotion described.  Excitement.  Samson and I are both a little calmer since yesterday and I’m doing my very best to keep our nursing time stress-less.  I even moved our spot from the chair to the couch because I felt stress was associated with that chair!  Our feedings last night were better and today he latched on very quickly!! YAY!!!  We’ve now gone through a few feedings without the bottle at all.  I’m so excited and praying that this continues.  I feel like things could change any minute so Samson and I decided we’d start saying a mealtime prayer each time he eats.  Sure doesn’t hurt to have God help us through this!


Samson’s First Few Days

My heart is so full of gratitude.

Looking out the east-facing hallway window this morning, I caught a glimpse of the brightest star.  Chances are, it was actually a planet.  Back in high school, one of my good friends told me that the really bright stars that don’t twinkle are planets.  Planet or star, it held my attention.  I snuggled my new babe and remembered the morning of the day we first knew about him.  How I’d prayed and wished for him as I laid on our front patio that morning.  This morning, Samson and I gazed at the stars together, and I thanked God for such a beautiful blessing.

We’re slowly adjusting to this new life of ours.  Boy, the first few days were rough.  We got home from the hospital on Wednesday and on Friday we called to see if the doctor could see us that day.  Samson was showing signs of jaundice.  Fussy, Lethargic, and I thought he was looking a little yellow.   Both Thursday and Friday morning, I passed him off to Drew in tears after being up trying to feed him unsuccessfully.  I was exhausted and at a loss of what to do.  Thankfully, God blessed me with a husband who simply asked his mom.  Per her recommendation, we called the doctor.

Our appointment was scheduled at 12:30 and they were very quick to see us.  We spent the next three hours with the doctor and nurses helping us with breastfeeding.  At least once, the doctor actually ran to her house to grab some things to show me.  She called a nurse over from the hospital to help and that nurse called another nurse.  By the end of it all, Samson had finally eaten and everyone in the room had touched my boobs.  They pricked his heel for a blood test for jaundice.  We left to go grab something to eat while we waited for a call with the results.  The results showed a bilirubin level of 16 and Samson was admitted to the Beloit Hospital.

We headed home so I could grab a few things and try to feed him again.  In Samson’s room, I sat in the rocking chair sobbing and pumping.  Drew held our screaming baby and did his best to try and console us both.  How does anyone do this on their own??  On top of that disaster, our air conditioner started leaking and the water was pooling up on the floor and soaking the sheetrock.  Finally, we made it back to the hospital, got checked in and settled.  The nurses placed a goofy looking mask on Samson and stuck him under the bili-light.  I thought it would be best for Drew to go home and get some rest away from his two crying humans.

The hospital stay was certainly a blessing in disguise.  The night nurse specialized in post-partum care and she was absolutely wonderful.  She came in and woke me up each time I needed to nurse and helped us through it.  Each time we worked with Sam, she added in little tidbits of information.  I was able to really sleep hard in the few hours between feedings because I knew she was coming in and I didn’t have to worry about waking myself up.  It was also super nice to just have someone there to talk to.  I learned a lot about Courtney that night and it was refreshing to have a conversation about something other than the baby.

Mom and Drew showed up at the hospital on Saturday morning around 8am.  They switched on and off keeping us company.  Samson was doing much better by the time the doctor came in but he still had to poop before we could go home.  That happened around 7pm Saturday evening and who knew we could all be so excited about a big ‘ol poop!!  I texted Drew a picture of it.  I’m sure he loved that.  We decided to stay another night and Mom stayed with us.

I thought we’d be able to just wake up in the morning and head home, but that wasn’t the case.  We had to wait for the doctor to come, which didn’t happen until about noon.  By then it was time to nurse again so it was 1pm when we were checking out.  We pulled up to the house and I needed a little space and a little normal.  Drew and I went for a short walk together and afterwards, I put my podcast on and tidied up the house.  Ahhhh….

We went back to the doctor on Tuesday for a check-up and all was well!  Samson even decided to show off his skills and pee all over the clinic bed while we changed him.  It was the classic pee up in the air move.  Thanks dude!

That evening, I spoke with a volunteer for the Le Leche League here in Mitchell County.  She gave me some more helpful feeding tips.  After I spoke with her, I was able to just calm down a little more and I feel like our nursing sessions have been much more relaxed.  Things are not necessarily where I’d like them to be at this point, but it’s so much better than it was!  Hopefully, with a little more work and different techniques, we’ll get the hang of things.  Clearly, neither I or Samson have that instinctive skill that the books speak of when it comes to breastfeeding.

We will keep praying for this to click for us.  Then we go ahead and pray for all breastfeeding moms and babies!  I like to think that when Samson and I are together – which is all the time at this point – my prayers are his prayers too.  That’s two humans praying – which gives us better chances, right?

The Flowery Dress with Pockets

I remember buying this dress.  I bought it with you (Drew) in mind.  

IMG_1157The night before I left to study abroad in Prague in 2009, I slept on the couch in the living room of my apartment.  My apartment next to your apartment.  You sent me a text that said something along the lines of “When you get back, can I take you on a real date?”.  My heart jumped.  It always seemed to a little around you.

Over the next few months, we talked a little.  Through Facebook messages and through Skype a little.  I wish I still had those messages!  The time difference was always kind of funny.  I remember one weekend morning about 8:00 my time, you were just coming home from the bars and decided to call me.  I was awake and you didn’t expect me to answer and said “oh…I was going to leave you a message!”  I told you I could hang up if you wanted!!  So instead we talked for a bit about who knows what.

Back to the dress.  At some point, you asked me to go to a wedding with you over the summer.  I was so excited and wanted to get the perfect dress to be your date.  This is the one I chose.  From Zara.  It had pockets for my lipgloss.


For whatever reason – I always like to start with where I am.  I feel like when I read through it later, it takes me back to what I was doing at that time.

7:08am Kitchen Island.  Ate my eggs; now drinking coffee.

    This morning was purposeful and happy.  I drug myself out of bed after pondering going back to sleep or not.  I decided it would be a happier day if I just got up, so I did.  I liked the workout today and it felt good.  It was measurable, and I like that.  Everyone rushes out of the gym in the morning – off to start their day.  I typically stay and stretch and it was nice to talk to KC for a little bit too.  Human interaction! YAY!  I headed home, hopped in for a quick shower and started breakfast.  While eating my eggs & avocado, I read more of my bible study book Walking with Purpose.  Why didn’t I think of this yesterday?  When I felt like my life was so purpose-less!?!  Probably because I was an emotional disaster and it wouldn’t have sunk in yesterday anyways.  God purposely brought this to me this morning.
    I read the sub-title; OBSTACLE #3: I DON’T KNOW IF HE REALLY UNDERSTANDS HOW HARD MY LIFE IS.  I thought Yea. Yea. I know He understands how hard my life is.  To think He doesn’t is just a little ridiculous.  As I read the next 8 paragraphs, I marked and starred and underlined practically all of it.  He certainly understood what was going on yesterday…which is why He brought me this today and intentionally not yesterday.
    The section started with a short story of Mother Teresa and how although she did such great work in lives of others, there were times where she experienced times of loneliness, doubt, and abandonment.  How in the world could this be considering all the great things she did?  The truth is – even though most of us aren’t out doing what Mother Teresa did, we all experience doubt – wondering if what we’re doing has any purpose at all.  Being all alone for a solid 12 hours yesterday, I was thinking this all day!  How could I possibly be impacting the lives of others and why do I care so much?  I was an emotional wreck by the time my husband got home.  God bless that wonderful man!!
    “Satan sees your weariness as a perfect opportunity to discourage you and tempt you to give up.  He wants you to give in to despair. One of his most effective tactics is to whisper in your ear, “is that all you are doing?  What value does that have in the big scheme of things?”… He will try to convince you that because you aren’t doing more, God isn’t pleased with you.  But nothing could be further from the truth.”
    This makes me wonder a little bit.  So – were those thoughts yesterday really mine?  Or were they really not mine?  Am I going crazy and making a big deal out of nothing?  Or is this a push for me to keep trying to find something that fulfills me more?
    “You need to accept yourself as God sees you – as his beloved daughter.  Your dignity does not come from what you accomplish or from what you do.”  
    As an achiever, I think this is hard for me.  It’s hard for me to find where my identity comes from.  During my first few years out of college, I pulled so much satisfaction out of being great at my job.  Though I’m still good at it, after more than 6 years of doing the same thing, that satisfaction has rapidly decreased.  Though I am good at motivating myself to keep doing it well, where do I find purpose?  How can I stop feeling ‘stuck’?  How can I grow? Where do I go from here?
    “What God calls you to do, he does not expect you to do on your own strength.”  
    Great!! Becuase most of the time I have no idea what He’s calling me to do!
    “He will give you the strength and the endurance that you need for every task, for every day.”
    Also Great!  Because sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing with myself!