Chelsea, the author?

So I'm going to write a book. I feel like right out of the gate, people are going to either roll their eyes or laugh. But that's okay, because I'm choosing to banish the fear. That little voice inside that squelches my excitement and passion and drive? Gone.As a child, I dreamt of writing the next great novel. I have a dirty, crumpled pile of partially-completed fictional novels sitting on my desk as we speak. I found them while going through some old boxes a few weeks ago and I can't quite bring myself to read more than a few lines without chuckling like a little schoolgirl. They're pretty terrible. Nicholas Sparks-esque, but much worse. At some point, I came to terms with the fact that I'm much more of a technical writer than a creative one, and I banished the dream that I could be an author to the dark depths of my brain. Then a few years ago, my sick little kid was born. He was healthy at birth, but as the weeks passed, it became clear that something wasn't quite right. We were sent to a specialist or two, bounced between doctors and eventually threw our hands up in defeat. I turned to food almost immediately, which was funny because up to that point, the most thought I'd ever given to food was whether I should eat a hamburger or some pizza. But for some reason, the allure of healing through nutrition came to me early on, and I've been on a long and winding journey ever since.I say winding because my faith in natural healing has waxed and waned. And life obstacles like pregnancy and side projects have sucked up my time and energy. Not to mention the financial aspect of it all, which, in a few panic-induced moments, led me to forgo healthy eating or products for the cheaper and unhealthier alternatives. As time went on and our family grew, our problems only multiplied. For most who know me or have read this blog, it's not news that we struggled with pretty extreme eczema along with a few other issues (like frequent migraine-like headaches and vomiting for Ben and digestive troubles and frequent diarrhea for all three). It was beyond health issues we could cope with. They impacted our daily living quite drastically, and ignoring them away was not even an option (though we initially did try!). I feel like God has been leading me on this journey...to this point...where everything came to a head and combined so beautifully (in a weird sense of the word). For the first time ever, my faith in our diet and lifestyle changes were so strong that I didn't revert to our old ways, as I'd done every time before for years on end, met with awful results. For the first time ever, also, our problems were so bad that I simply couldn't just give up. I suspect that all the waxing and waning was partially responsible for setbacks worse than our original problems. All my life, I've struggled with self-esteem issues just like most women. Unsure of my life's purpose, I felt direction-less so often. I suppose this is something that comes with age, but as I grew, as my faith deepened and as my children got older, I began to see things more clearly. I felt like my path was being etched out right before me, so clearly if only I had been looking. I think the gift God gave me was a fire inside. And a way to put that fire into words. I'm painfully wordy, I know. Probably because I enjoy writing so much, but also probably because I have no idea how to be short and to-the-point. While I think I'm a pretty decent technical writer, I know I'm no grammar perfectionist (and thanks to autocorrect, I'm no longer even capable of typing coherent sentences more than 50% of the time).  But those flaws aside (and with a good editor - anyone?), I believe in myself, and I believe that I'm good enough to give this authorship thing a try. My goal is not to be an award-winning author. It's not even to have a publisher or an agent. I'm not fooling myself, and I'm setting my standard pretty low here. Amazon and iTunes have made self-publishing a piece of cake (relatively speaking), so that's all I'm going for. I'm not trying to write the next literary masterpiece. Just a little piece of nonfiction with one goal: helping others. My path etched before my eyes has been one of healing. I've been on a quest to learn as much as I possibly can for years. This year, especially, I feel like I've learned so much I can truly fill a book, so I'm going to try. We found tremendous success, and even cooler than that? The journey my children went on has helped other kids just like them. Seeing that the tips and tools we used to heal my kids were used by others to heal their kids who were as bad, or even worse, than ours, is just indescribable. It truly makes everything we went through seem like it had a purpose. I had a nice little talk with a friend last night about God's healing role in our lives. He IS the healer, and I would be leaving out a huge part of our equation if he didn't get the credit. Sometimes it's so easy to focus on our own control that we completely forget that the one in ultimate control is God, and he is ultimately the only one capable of healing. I chewed on that conversation in my head all night, wondering how this could all peacefully coexist. If God is the ultimate healer, is it foolish to attempt a healing journey? Or should God be part of our healing journey, in combination with other tools? Would it be foolish to say, "God is the healer, so I'm just going to pray for him to heal me and if he doesn't, then it's not his will," without doing any work on my own? I'm in the latter camp. For us, I can't deny that God played a vital role in our journey because it was all so perfectly orchestrated. So often I cried out to God only to be met with another possible explanation, right before my eyes. I feel like God placed people in my life to encourage us to keep going. The timing was always so perfect. Just as I'd give up, someone new would speak into my heart and encourage me to keep going, to keep investigating, no matter how tiring and hopeless it all felt. And I believe deep in my soul that my passion and drive and my kids' affliction were paired together for a reason. I feel like my purpose is to use what I've learned - what God has surely lead me to - and my passion for it all, to educate others. My hubby and I had an awesome weekend alone, and on the way home from picking up our kiddos, I blurted all of this out. I've been wrestling with the idea for a month or two, but I needed his support. And because he's the awesome guy he is, he gave it to me fully. And he gave me the courage to go for it, too. He believes in me, and that is a gem to have.My biggest struggle, and one I'm not sure I'll ever be able to overcome, is the ability to share what I know in a way that reflects my heart. It's tough to share anything alternative without being slapped with a "judgmental" label. How does one communicate that her only purpose is that of helping and encouraging? There's such a fine line between sharing information and making someone feel lousy about their choices that it's hard to navigate the waters. But here's to trying!


Our eczema tale, updated!

It's been awhile since I've updated the blogaroo on the eczema tales. Last time I posted, we were celebrating a huge success. Both of my kids had seen probably a 90% - 95% reduction in their eczema. For us, after the year we'd been through, that was insane. 

I still stand by our "cure" (used loosely because it wasn't a complete elimination) 100%. In fact, the more I'm learning, the more I stand by it. Researchers are learning more and more about fillagrin, and the puzzle pieces are slowly coming together. Many researchers believe that it's a genetic mutation of this fillagrin protein that puts people at an increased risk of developing allergic disorders, of which eczema is one. It's known as a skin barrier defect.

In the same way that leaky gut syndrome can cause many problems in all areas of our bodies (because the gut lining is damaged and has itty bitty holes in it, allowing tiny particles of food to get into the blood stream, which triggers the body to create antibodies to that food, thus creating an allergic/immune response), the same seems to hold true for those with a fillagrin gene mutation. If the skin layer is weaker than most, this allows all sorts of things to pass through the skin that may not pass through the skin of a healthy individual. An article I read that I can't find now explained that this can create a rise in food allergies the same exact way leaky gut syndrome does, as it allows food particles on the skin to pass into the blood stream, creating the same antibodies/allergic response. It also explains why those with eczema are so much more sensitive to chemicals, perfumes, lotions and more. There just isn't a normal barrier to prevent this stuff from getting into their bodies.

It's all making sense. Now, this is still just a theory, and certainly hasn't been proven as the single cause of eczema. But it makes a whole lot of sense to me, and it's what I have to work with right now - that and our own experience. Until science figures this all out, this is what we've got.

Over the years, I've heard of steroid withdrawal, steroid addiction, steroid dependence. I haven't heard much about it, only brief mentions of it on this board or that forum or someone's blog post. The reasons we chose to stay away from steroids until we felt we no longer had a choice right after the eczema herpeticum scare was because some say it puts our children at an increased risk for asthma. So does just having eczema. And so does a family history. Well, we've got all of that, so I want to do every single thing in my power to give them the best odds of not developing yet another allergic disorder. Secondly, it thins the skin! To me, this is just a NO BRAINER. No. Brainer. Regardless of the fillagrin theory being true or not (but especially if it is), if we slather steroid cream, even as "benign"as hydrocortisone, on the skin of our children who already have weak skin, we are setting the stage for much worse problems down the road. The longer you use steroid cream, the thinner the skin gets. You may provide some temporary relief, but you are slapping a band-aid on the problem and not addressing the cause. And then you run an increased chance of the eczema coming back worse than before after you come off the steroids. For most of us moms of severe eczema kiddos, the idea of it getting worse is terrifying.

That's what we do with so many medical things now, isn't it? The pharmaceutical industry has done a fabulous job of convincing us that rather than dealing with the root cause of all of our problems, we should just pop a pill.  Obesity-induced diabetes? Take a pill. Heart disease? Take a pill. High blood pressure? Take a pill. You get the point. Sure, it's easier to take a pill than diet and exercise. It's easier to take a pill than radically revamp your diet by using a program like GAPS. But the beauty of natural healing is that once you eliminate the cause, you eliminate the problem. If you pop a pill and never do anything to address the reason you had the illness in the first place, you will either be dependent on the medicine for the rest of your life or you will be sick for the rest of your life. Costly (and damaging to your body in its own way) or miserable. A year of hard is so worth it. And the bonus? Living longer and being healthier overall. Once you're living healthy, it becomes habit. Once it becomes habit, that means it's pretty dang easy. I am living proof of that right this very second. I opened up about my unhealthy lifestyle just a few weeks ago, and just in that time, I've gotten into an amazingly easy rhythm of eating really well. Zero effort now. Isn't that so much easier than being dependent on a doctor and a prescription and a pill every day forever?

We stopped listening to our own bodies decades ago and replaced common sense with expensive pills. We replaced knowledge that had been passed down from generation to generation with more expensive pills. The more I get into holistic healing, the more I learn that shocks me. Take essential oils. Do you know that you can rub some oil on an achy joint and your pain goes away? The oil comes from a plant. A plant that God gave us. Isn't that amazing?! We really were equipped with tools to stay healthy, but along the way, we started trusting the pharmaceutical companies more than ourselves and our historical successes in healing without drugs. Like I've said a million times before, there have been tremendous advancements in medicine and I don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water. I wouldn't trade some of the new technology we have for anything! I just hate that it became either/or. Just as with birth, we started to treat everything with medicine (or every birth in a hospital), rather than let the more benign illnesses (and normal pregnancies) be handled in the ways in which we always had successfully done.

Steroid addiction is something I'm just learning about, but it's scary, and it's not at all surprising. In the last 12 months, I've talked to so many eczema moms. There are a handful who believe in and religiously use steroids, but I'd say the overwhelming majority are now vehemently against it, or feel trapped in the cycle and have to use it, but despise that they do. I've heard story after story. Steroid withdrawal. Steroid rebound. Steroid addiction. It's worth a read by anyone who still uses steroids on their kiddos with eczema. 

Our story is hard to share for two reasons:

1. I know that not every child responds the same to treatment. Food allergies were a huge culprit for us, but it wasn't the only one. I believe the weather and climate, which is completely out of my control, is the other major causal factor for Landon. For some people, it's detergent in the environment. For some, the sun. For others, chemicals. In telling our story, I've found that many people get defensive and say they've tried. Or that our approach would never work for their kid. Or they don't believe in this diet and think it's unhealthy and detrimental. I've heard a ton of different justifications, and I completely and utterly relate. 

In our journey, one of two things would happen to me when I would read of someone's success in curing eczema. I would either light up and say, "Yes! That will be our cure, too!" or I got defensive and either slammed that person in my head for their naivety, or rolled my eyes for thinking they had any idea what we're going through (because I selfishly thought in my head that my kids' skin is so much worse, they can't possibly understand what it's like to deal with severe eczema, so their cure would never work for us.). I understand that just because we were able to reduce their eczema considerably by removing offending foods, that won't help every child. And sometimes I forget that, and I get so focused on convincing others that it has to be a food allergy that I'm missing some huge red flag elsewhere in their environment. It's hard to see outside of your own filter, you know. And if it's not a food allergy, often the person will discredit every holistic cure from then on, because they didn't see success with one. And then I've done my whole belief a disservice, because no matter what, I do fully believe that the only way to live comfortably with eczema comes from a holistic approach (whether that's living as chemically-free as possible, changing the diet, using natural things like water/wet wraps, etc.).

2. Many people are just reluctant to buy into anything natural. Like I've already said, Big Pharma did a fantastic job in championing for their cause. I would say most Americans have total or almost total trust in their doctors and the medicines they take. It's hard for me to tell my story because nine times out of ten, people say, "Oh, it's not food allergies for us. Our doctor told us that eczema and food allergies aren't related. We've tried everything. We have to take steroids and antihistamines every day." It's so hard to express how much I understand being doubtful, how much I get the skepticism. My hubby wasn't 100% comfortable when I shared pictures of the kids at their worst (well, at their almost worst...I didn't share the worst because they are too graphic), but I knew as an eczema mom that unless I saw pictures of someone whose skin looked as bad, worse, or almost as bad as my kids, I would completely discredit the cure right out of the gate. I wanted people to see that my kids' skin had been really bad and that now it's not. 

I haven't always been so crunchy Earth Mama. But I am now simply because we lived a hard life for a little while and the medical community failed us. If we had taken the advice of specialists, there's a really good chance that my children, like so many I see and hear from on forums and facebook groups, might also be stuck in a steroid dependence cycle, each flare getting worse than the one before because we're slowly learning that that's what steroids do for eczema. 

Adalyn is almost completely eczema-free! She has very light, small patches on her ankles right by her feet and in her elbow creases. She scratches when she's upset, but not to the point of ever flaring up. Her treatment is pretty much non-existent now! She sleeps through the night and she's a happy and content kiddo. I'd say we've beaten her Eczema Monster. And it feels so good to say that. 

Landon is not completely eczema-free. The winter, as I feared, has exacerbated his skin. And that's out of my control. Aside from moving to Hawaii or some tropical island, this is just the cycle we're in now. But we're managing it with wet wraps a few times a week and lotion and no steroids. We're still learning his food triggers, and sadly, his list of safe foods has dwindled. I believe that as he grows and his gut lining gets stronger and more mature, we'll see these food-related flares and food reactions slowly disappear. And the life we live now is completely manageable. No tears from me over the daily struggle! Which is saying so much, because back in the thick of it, I cried daily. I didn't know how to get out of bed some days. Now it's still sad to see him scratch, but to be equipped with the tools to help him makes it a piece of cake compared to life a year ago. He gets a lukewarm bath a few times a week and then is wet wrapped with coconut oil. During the day, when he gets really itchy, I lotion him up - currently having success with Cetaphil's Daily Advance lotion - and stick him in a dry wrap and the itchies go away. His only big flares come when he gets diarrhea, which is a weekly battle for us. His eczema will be 80% improved and then he gets diarrhea again and it flares back up. It's been very cyclical this winter and it's getting so frustrating. But it just further confirms to me that for him, his gut is very much the source of his eczema and we haven't yet pinpointed his perfect diet. It also gives me hope that he'll grow out of the GI issues that the other two had and also have grown out of, and at that time, his eczema will resolve almost completely.

His face always looks great! This is his body during a diarrhea-induced flare-up, which is as bad as he gets now. We no longer deal with blood-soaked sleepers/sheets or ripping open his face and, knock on wood, no more eczema herpeticum.


Health in pregnancy.

I love challenges.

I also love adventures and new things.

I started calling myself a "new things junkie" a few years ago because that's just how I roll. I like new projects, new goals, new recipes, new organizational systems, new decor, new room arrangements and new challenges.

Each pregnancy I've challenged myself to do the things I didn't do as well in the previous pregnancy. And it's fun, because it's a fresh start. It's a new chance.

With my first pregnancy, I did a lot of things I wish I wouldn't have in retrospect. I ate too much, gained too much, exercised too little, documented too little and didn't really educate myself much about how challenging birth was actually going to be.

Round two, I learned a little more about birth and had the experience of the previous one to help me better prepare. Even then, I went into the labor giving myself grace to get an epidural if needed, but I got through that labor without one and having a natural birth rocked my world. I ate much less (though I did still eat crap food) and gained much less and documented much more.

Round three, I wanted an even better birth experience, so we went full-fledged Earth Mama and hired a midwife who became a great friend. We had a homebirth and it was beautiful and more insanely life-changing than anything I ever could have imagined. I tried to eat better that time and did a brief stint as a vegan which totally backfired when I became severely anemic which threatened my homebirth. Once I fell off the vegan train, I spent the rest of that pregnancy eating like crap, too, and ended up gaining more weight than my second pregnancy (but at least less than my first). I got horribly depressed and didn't do enough to learn about why depression in pregnancy happens. I just popped a pill for a month until the depression subsided on its own. I did way better documenting!

Round four (still can't believe I'm saying that), I have a few more challenges for myself.

  • Keep up the documenting (and make something more awesome now that I'm actually proficient in Photoshop)
  • Eat healthy - whole foods almost the whole time, super rare fast food trips, way more water, big loads of veggies every day
  • I'm on an awesome vitamin/supplement regimen these days that has given me a whole new outlook on life! Seriously. Natural Calm (incredible stuff) + 5000 IU/day vitamin D drops (also incredible and what I credit the very most for my shift in health),  Adrenal Health supplements because mine are shot, Green Pastures butter oil/fermented cod liver oil (finally found a way I can take these!), and some iodine drops (though doc says only safe for short periods during pregnancy) have made me feel like a new person, so I want to keep these up. For me, the starting point is always the tough part. Once I develop a routine, it becomes easy to stick to. But I have to force myself to do it for a few weeks before it becomes second nature. This little regimen is finally second nature, so I really want to keep it up! And I want to drink a cup of this Dandy Blend every day, too, to get a dose of beneficial dandelion (now I sound like a crazy person, I know). I've been drinking it for almost a week and love it. Even my cousin was a convert! 
  • EXERCISE. This and laying off fast food are the two toughest challenges of pregnancy I've never been able to succeed at. We're getting ready to buy a treadmill and Lord willing, I am hoping that this is it for me! I truly despise exercising outside. I guess I have exercise-induced asthma (which could not be a more embarrassing diagnosis, am I right?!) because I always end up a wheezing, red-faced mess when I come inside. The only times I've ever maintained exercise for anything longer than a week have been when I had access to a treadmill either at the gym or when I was younger at my parents house. I want to do an hour on the treadmill 5 days a week. HUGE goal for me, but it's my #1!
  • Learn more about essential oils and herbs. I've become about 86 times more crunchy since Landon was born, and dipping my toes into essential oils has been quite the experience! I've always been a little (orrrrrr....a lot) skeptical of herbs and oils. Until I got my first order from Young Living. So far I've had huge success with kicking Ben's headache, my joint pains and using Peace & Calming to relax me in the evenings (That + Natural Calm before bed equal a sleepy mama without wine! Miracle!). Plus to finally get to have a yummy smelling house again (we gave up the Scentsy and candles and air freshener awhile back)? Yes, yes, yes! Love having an essential oil diffuser. Since we've had such tremendous success with oils, herbs seem logical, too. Mother's Milk tea did always help me, even if only a little. So I'm challenging myself to learn more about beneficial herbs and oils in pregnancy and labor and use them!
I'm not setting a weight goal for myself because if I'm following the above, I don't care what I gain, because I'll know it's what my body needs to gain to create a healthy baby. I can get super obsessive about my weight in pregnancy, so another huge bonus of going the midwife/homebirth route is the choice not to be weighed. 

That's all she wrote! But for entertainment purposes, I leave you with the largest 4 week belly ever. For real though, I'm embracing it. I solemnly swear not to complain about it this time around because even though I'm a freak of nature, the pregnant body is gorg.


A Hibbz Family Outing

Take a quick peek at this video and then scroll down. :)

Oh heeeeeeyyyyyy.

That's how I told hubby we're gearing up for baby #4. I suppose I could have waited 24 hours for this to pop out and it could have done the talking for me, but I'm glad I found the coolest way yet to tell him!

This baby was very much planned and as that was a first for us, it was so exciting to anticipate it, go through negative after negative test, counting this month out completely, then being a few days late and randomly testing to find a suuuuuuuuper faint line staring at me. My heart about jumped in my throat as I grabbed another brand, tested, and waited with shaky hands to find a slightly darker line greeting me.

Since we planned this baby, I wanted to take some time to put together a cool announcement. Something memorable that will be ours to cherish forever. I'll always adore the video we have of Ben telling Tim we were expecting Adalyn.

While my sis-in-law was here last week, being the budding videographer she is, I asked her if she could take some video footage of our family hanging out in downtown Greenville to help me put together this little surprise for when we eventually (God willing) got a positive. I told Tim I wanted more pictures/videos of us documented (which was partially truth) and I quickly began editing in iMovie, so excited even though I didn't think I was pregnant at the time. I figured I had at least another month to finish it up, so I put it aside to tackle some work projects instead.

Then a few days ago, I took that random test while I was getting into the shower, set it on the counter and forgot about it. I knew I was already two days late, and I've always gotten crazy early positives. So I'd written off hope for that month but some tiny voice inside me told me to just take one more for the...fun of it or something. A few minutes after I got out of the shower, I happened to glance down and just as I was getting ready to toss the test in the trash - BAM! A teeeeeny, tiny faint line. 

I wanted to tell Tim right that very second! But I couldn't because I hadn't finished this stinkin' little video and I was bound and determined to make it cool (our last pregnancy was announced by me calling him at work, crying, asking him if he was sitting down and proceeding to sob like a baby - I had a six month old colicky baby at the time, so that pregnancy came as a complete and utter shock). 

I threw together the ending of the video as quickly as my little fingers would let me and told him I would love it if he could give me 3 minutes to check out the video I put together from all the footage his sis took. I tried to capture his reaction on film, but the guy moved the laptop where I had it all set up to show him (he wanted to sit on the couch to watch it), so that part was a bust. 

/////Just insert awesome reaction here/////

We all know that I look six months pregnant the day I get the positive (even with my first, but it just keeps getting earlier every time), so just roll with it. At least by now I don't have to fear looking like I've got 8 babies in there by the end. I know that as some point I slow down and catch up to normal pregnant women. But this time it's so crazy that when we showed my mom and dad the video yesterday, my mom said, "You know, I suspected it! I just didn't want to insult you by asking you why you looked pregnant." There no hiding this baby bump! So at 4 weeks, there's your announcement.

Although we are hopeful to foster at a later point in our lives, this little babe should complete our family  for now and my heart is about to explode with anticipation. :)