Faith Coming to Life: Holy Land Exploration

In the past five years, our travels have taken us to many captivating destinations, each offering its own unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Among them, one journey stands out as particularly profound—the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Immersed in the heart of Israel, our exploration spanned the ancient streets of Tel Aviv, the sacred sites of Jerusalem, the hallowed grounds of Bethlehem, fleeting moments in Nazareth, and the serene shores of Tiberias around the mystical Sea of Galilee. Eight days in the land where faith intertwines with history left an indelible mark on our souls.

Enduring the lengthy flight, we intertwined layovers in Amsterdam and days in Istanbul, Turkey, enriching our journey with diverse experiences. Delving deeper than ever before, meticulous research punctuated our preparations, blending logistical arrangements with a rekindling of cherished biblical narratives. Both nurtured in the embrace of the church, my husband and I found ourselves drawn closer to the essence of our faith as we meticulously planned this trip. The realization of witnessing the very landscapes immortalized in scripture was surreal – a complexity of logistics met with an abundance of spiritual fulfillment.

Check out our post on how to spend a short layover in Amsterdam!

Holy Land Adventure Map
Map of our Holy Land Adventure

Stop 1: Tel Aviv

Our journey began at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv at an early 3:00 AM local time on a Wednesday, following a transcontinental voyage that began in Chicago on a Monday at 4:30 PM. Despite stealing a few hours of rest during the flight and briefly exploring Amsterdam during a layover, the transition remained a blur as we boarded yet another flight. Acknowledging the inevitable jet lag, we anticipated our first day in Tel Aviv to be a haze, a necessary respite prior to our sacred pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

By midday, around 12:00 PM, we found ourselves rested and ready to explore Tel Aviv. We were eager to immerse ourselves in Israeli culture, particularly through its cuisine. Amidst the myriad of flavors, it was here that my husband discovered his newfound affection for Shakshuka—a tantalizing tomato-based dish adorned with peppers, paprika, and delicately poached eggs. Our culinary journey also introduced us to the vibrant spices and freshness of Israeli salads and the savory delights of doner kebabs, setting a delectable tone for the adventures that lay ahead.

Stop 2: Jerusalem of the Holy Land Exploration

Arrival Day: Day 0 in Jerusalem


Opting for a rental car to explore beyond Tel Aviv, we headed to Jerusalem, knowing we’d visit multiple places. But as we neared the city, we hit heavy traffic. Arriving at our Airbnb around 3:00 PM, we found a major water leak in the main family room. Despite trying to contact the owner, we couldn’t reach them, so we contacted Airbnb for help. With the place uninhabitable due to the water damage, we quickly found another hotel. It added some stress to our day, but the new hotel was safe, clean, and offered free parking—a rarity in Jerusalem where parking can be a challenge, requiring either distant lots or regular meter feeding.

Exploration Begins: Day 1 in Jerusalem

On our first day in Jerusalem, our itinerary was packed with iconic destinations. To acclimate to the city and to see as much as possible we booked a guided tour through Viator. The agenda consisted of:

  • Old Jerusalem and Bethlehem
  • Mount of Olives
  • Western (Wailing) Wall and site of the Crucifixion (Church of the Holy Sepulchre)
  • King David’s Tomb – the site of the last supper
  • Old City of Jerusalem
  • Scenes of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Given the breadth of our ambitions, we opted for a guided tour to gain insights from a local expert. This decision proved invaluable as it provided us with a comprehensive overview of the region, allowing us to prioritize our interests for future explorations. The full-day tour was a worthwhile investment, offering a structured introduction to the sacred sites and historical landmarks. For those considering such tours, I recommend signing up for Viator.com’s email club; a little patience might just yield a money-saving coupon, adding further value to an already enriching experience.

Exploration Continues: Day 2 in Jerusalem

The rest of our time in Jerusalem was filled with further exploration. We spent one day traveling to Masada National Park and swimming in the Dead Sea. When researching Dead Sea locations, be mindful of hours and seasonality. Based on our research and recommendations from our hotel concierge we visited Kalia Beach. I recommend tackling both locations in one long day. Start your day early to allow an appropriate time. It will take you approximately an hour and a half to get to Masada and then on the way home, you can indulge in the spa of the Dead Sea at Kalia Beach.

Masada
  • Book tickets in advance.
  • Parking is plentiful, but you will encounter several tour buses.
  • Food and beverage are available.
  • Plan to visit during daylight hours.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. The Masada campus is uneven.
  • Plan for a 3-hour visit if you take the tram. If you plan to hike up to Masada plan for 5 hours.
  • The visitor’s center is ADA accessible, the Masada itself is not.
Kalia Beach
  • Visit during daylight hours
  • Parking is plentiful, but you will encounter several tour buses
  • Book tickets in advance
  • Food and beverage are available
  • Showers and lockers and changing rooms are available
  • Plan for a 2-hour visit.
  • ADA accessible

Exploring Jerusalem: Day 3

Our day commenced at the serene Garden Tomb, offering a serene vista despite its proximity to a bustling bus depot. From there, we navigated the labyrinthine alleys of the Old City, retracing the footsteps of history along the Via Dolorosa, and eventually arriving at the revered Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount. Notably, the Old City, spanning a mere half square mile, is divided into distinct quarters—Muslim, Christian, Armenian, and Jewish—each bearing its own cultural and historical significance. For independent explorers, a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall is paramount when traversing the Old City’s storied streets.

Continuing our pilgrimage, we ventured to the Grotto of Gethsemane, the final Tomb of the Virgin Mary, and the tranquil Garden of Gethsemane, all nestled within a quarter-mile radius. The entirety of our Old City odyssey consumed approximately five hours, leaving us just enough time to return to our hotel for a brief respite and to attend to practicalities such as laundry—a crucial component of longer journeys. Laundry on longer trips is highlights on our post about travel tips.

Holy Land Jerusalem map

Stop 3: Pulling into Nazareth

Embarking on the journey from Jerusalem to Nazareth, we anticipated a scenic road trip through the diverse landscapes of Israel. However, reality didn’t quite match our expectations. With a projected two-hour drive ahead, we soon realized that much of the route were long stretches of highway, offering little in the way of captivating scenery. Rather than encountering bustling shopping malls or inviting restaurants along the way, the landscape was punctuated by modest highway pull-offs, often featuring no more than a gas station and the occasional diner, whose hours of operation remained uncertain. It was unclear if many were even operational. If considering a pit stop, exercise caution, as amenities may be limited. I recommend postpone dining until reaching Nazareth.

Our rationale for visiting Nazareth was to tour the Basilica of the Annunciation. This is where the angel appeared to Mary. The Basilica was beautiful and definitely worth the trip to Nazareth. After grabbing a coffee and darting under shop awnings due to extreme downpour, we made our way to Tiberias.

We arrived in Tiberias, and I highly recommend our hotel, the Royal Hotel Tiberias. The hotel was under renovation when we stayed in 2019 and appears to be fully remodeled. The hotel was highly rated and was primarily used as tour bus stop with available meal plan. I recommend getting the meal plan for breakfast and dinner. The buffet has a variety of options, local favorites and flavors from other areas in the world. Restaurants are not plentiful in Tiberias and the meal plan allows you to focus on your purpose of the visit, the Holy Land sites.

A Full Day of Holy Land Sites in Tiberias

We had one day to explore the entire Tiberias area and definitely made the most of it. All sites require a car. Public transportation is not available. We visited:

  • Capernaum National Park known as the “Town of Jesus”
  • Bethsaida, the birthplace of apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip
  • Tabgha, where Jesus fed 5,000 people
  • Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where Jesus exorcised demons from two possessed men
  • Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount
  • The place of Jesus’ Baptism on the River Jordan. For this site, you will literally stop on the side of the highway to view the Jordan River.

Wrapping Up the Holy Land Exploration

On our final day in Israel, we traveled from Tiberias back to the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport. The drive was an uneventful two hours. You will travel on the highway and there are not any significant sites to see along the way. We left Tiberias five hours prior to our flight to allow for a lunch stop, rental car drop-off, and time to relax prior to catching our flight. For our return leg, we stopped in Istanbul for three nights and also did a day Viator trip to Ephesus. Our Holy Land exploration trip was more than we could have imagined and encourage everyone to take this trip.

Overall Holy Land Recommendations

  • Research extensively and prioritize sites for this trip. There is so much to see, and you will not have time to visit every site.
  • Recommend 8-9 nights in the Holy Land.
  • Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Tiberias are must-see areas for Holy Land trips.
  • Masada is a stunning historical phenomenon; however, you will need to dedicate a day to the visit.
  • The Dead Sea is a unique experience but is not ideal for the elderly or anyone with mobility concerns.
  • Overall, the Holy Land is not ADA accessible. Streets are uneven, steps and hills are plentiful, and in areas like Jerusalem, it is impossible to park next to attractions.
  • Accommodations outside of Tel Aviv are quite different than US flag hotels. Unless you are prepared to spend $600 per night, expect older, worn hotels with limited amenities.
  • Food varieties are limited. Hummus, falafel, doner, and a variety of salads will be your primary diet.

To best prepare for this trip, check out my blog post 6 Crucial Tips for Traveling Internationally.

Happy Traveling!

Emily M

Mastering Travel: Tips for a Smooth International Journey

It’s time to dust off that passport and put those idle frequent flyer miles to good use during your next international journey. Think of international travel as a skill that, like a muscle, benefits from regular use. This blog post will refresh your travel know-how and provides a close look at the top six aspects you should focus on for a smooth international journey.

  1. Thorough Research
  2. Crafting and Following an Itinerary
  3. Mindful Luggage Management
  4. Adapting to Different Transportation
  5. Money Matters
  6. Optimizing Your Mobile Device

Thorough Research for a Smooth International Journey

Research is the first step when traveling, internationally or domestically. Jumping into your itinerary without research is similar to writing a book on photosynthesis with only knowing the basic definition.

When researching, always visit reputable and current websites. I recommend starting with facts about a certain item, and then exploring reviews from others as a secondary research option. For example, when looking to research an Eiffel Tower experience, go directly to the Eiffel Tower website. That site provides factual information versus reviews. Use that information as a starting point, then, if you want to lean more explore sites like Viator. Viator provides information on private or semi-private tours of the Eiffel tower or other tours available in the area. When researching, include items such as the following.

Research checklist for a smooth international journey

Timing of Travel

  • Seasonality: Is the location you’re considering subject to distinct seasons or weather patterns? Understanding the climate during your travel dates can greatly impact your experience.
  • Travel Restrictions: Are there specific timeframes when you can or can’t travel due to factors like weather, visa requirements, or local events? For example, unless you desire to go to the Oktoberfest, avoid Munich Germany in September.
  • Peak vs. Off-Peak: Decide whether you prefer to visit during the destination’s peak tourist season or during the off-season. Each has its pros and cons, such as crowd levels and pricing. For example, you would not want to travel to Santorini Greece in October or wine country in Spain in December. While you might find a hotel or two open, the area is relatively closed to tourism for the winter.

Available Activities and Sightseeing Opportunities

  • Attraction Prioritization: Determine what draws you to the destination and prioritize the activities and attractions you most want to experience.
  • Booking Timelines: Depending on your travel dates, find out how far in advance you need to book tickets or reservations for popular activities or attractions. Some places may have limited availability, especially during peak times.
  • Operating Hours: Confirm that the activities and attractions you’re interested in visiting will be open during your intended travel dates. Some may have seasonal closures or varying hours.

Accommodation Options

  • Hotel vs. Alternative Rentals: Explore the variety of accommodation options available, including hotels, AirBnB, VRBO, and other rental platforms. Consider which type best suits your preferences, duration of stay and budget.
  • Amenities and Services: Assess the amenities and services offered by the accommodation. Depending on your needs, you may prioritize factors like proximity to transportation hubs, on-site dining, or specific room features. For longer trips, we typically plan to do laundry. While you may not have laundry amenities available at your accommodation, laundry mats are common in large international cities.
  • Proximity to Activities: Take into account how far your chosen accommodation is from the activities and attractions you plan to visit. Opting for a central location can save you time and transportation costs.
  • Accessibility: Consider the ease of access to public transportation from your accommodation. Staying near well-connected transit options can make getting around the city more convenient.

Transportation

Prior to traveling, download transportation apps such as Uber, Lyft, country specific Taxi apps, country specific local and long-distance train applications to your mobile device.

  • Distance to Transport Hubs: Determine the distance between your chosen accommodation and the nearest airport or train station. This information will help you plan your arrival and departure logistics.
  • Baggage Considerations: Think about how you’ll transport your luggage from the airport or train station to your accommodation. If it’s a significant distance, you may want to plan for convenient baggage transport options. Not all public transportation stations have elevator access or escalators.
  • Transportation Costs: Understand the costs associated with public transportation, such as tickets, passes, and schedules. Using public transportation as your sol method of transportation is the most cost effective. Multi-day group passes are available for local public transportation options.

Airfare

  • Airlines Serving Your Destination: Identify which airlines operate flights to your chosen destination. This information can help you compare prices, schedules, frequent flyer and mile generation opportunities, and amenities.
  • Number of Connecting Flights: Decide how many connecting flights you’re willing to take. Direct flights are often more convenient but may come at a higher price, while connecting flights can be more affordable but involve layovers. If traveling with small children, or anyone requiring additional assistance, direct flights, are worth the higher cost in my opinion.
  • Best Cost Options: To find the best cost options, consider using flight comparison websites or apps to compare airline fares. If you are a frequent traveler, always explore frequent flyer perks. Be flexible with your travel dates. Prices can vary significantly based on the time of year, day of the week, and trip length.
  • Economy Plus Option: Don’t forget to explore the “Economy Plus” or similar options offered by airlines. These may provide more comfortable seating and additional amenities for a slightly higher cost. International Economy Plus is similar to domestic first-class travel.

Crafting and Following an Itinerary for a Smooth Interntional Journey

Now that you have completed your basic research for traveling internationally, it is time to start plotting how that looks on your itinerary. When setting your itinerary, be mindful that you may need to compromise on everything you want to do or see. Prior to starting, keep in mind the purpose of your trip. Is the purpose relaxation and exploration or focused solely on one or the other. You want to enjoy your international experience and therefore be aware of overscheduling.

Tips for Planning your Itinerary

  1. Plan your itinerary based on the activities/sights you MUST see.
    • Plan one structured item each day unless there are multiple activities in the same walkable area.
    • Book your structured activities in advance. If there is a skip-the-line option, pay the extra amount.
    • Double the expected commute time to each activity from your accommodations. You are staying in an unfamiliar area. It might take longer to determine the correct train, or your morning breakfast may take longer than the Dunkin Donuts drive-through.
  2. Fill in activity gaps.
    • These are items that you would like to see if time permits. Do not purchase tickets in advance for these items.
    • Add filler activities based on their location to your MUST see items..
    • Provide options: Give yourself two possible activities per day. At times your must-see item may take far less time than you anticipated. Instead of sitting at a cafe to determine your next plan, your filler activities are already lined up. If your must-see takes a long time or are just tired after, you already identified that not seeing the filler activities was ok with you. That’s one less decision you need to make while relaxing and exploring when traveling internationally.
  3. Document all logistics on your itinerary
    • Activities: Address, date and time reserved, transportation route, cost, the confirmation number
    • Airfare or Train: Provider, date and time reserved, confirmation number, seat numbers, cost
    • At destination transportation: train lines closest to your location and address of train station, cost of a single ticket or multiple-day tickets
    • Accommodations: Provider, address, phone number, confirmation number, check-in/check-out, cost
  4. Share your itinerary
    • Print a copy.
    • Email yourself a copy of your itinerary plus a copy of your passport.
    • Send a copy of your itinerary and passport to someone at home.

Mindful Luggage Management for a Smooth International Journey

You may have dreams of dressing in your most stylish outfits while walking through the streets of Paris. While that vision may lead to great photo ops, I highly recommend you re-think that clothing strategy. Unless you work in fashion, have a lifestyle blog, or will only move luggage between the hotel and airport, a more minimalist strategy is recommended for a smooth international journey.

When traveling internationally, bring a carry-on for plane essentials and check your luggage. We’ve never had problems with checking luggage or missing luggage when traveling internationally. To avoid hiccups, always get to the airport early. Some international airports have multiple checkpoints, or the check-in process itself is longer than I have typically experienced at US airports. When leaving Istanbul, we waited at the initial check-in line for almost an hour. At that same airport, we had the initial security screening and then at the gate, we went through another screening. We were thankful we got to the airport a little over two hours before our flight.

Recommended luggage type:

Each time we travel internationally, I commit to downsizing for our next trip. Thankfully, each time I pack less, and it is easier to maneuver my suitcase. The rule when traveling is that you should be able to lift your own luggage. If you can’t, then reassess.

Select luggage on rollers or a large backpack that you carry. Avoid multiple suitcases or a suitcase without rollers or without a back strap. Purchasing the most convenient luggage will aid in a smooth international journey.

A smooth international journey
Check out these options from Amazon, if you are searching for a new suitcase:

This is the new version of the luggage set I own. I take the small carry-on for domestic trips that are less than a week in length. The large one comes on international trips. I’ve used this set for four years and it still works great.

This is the luggage, my husband owns. He’s used this for the past six years and still in great shape. This piece is slightly taller than my large luggage piece. With both of these options, due to the side be mindful of weight. In recent trips, we now only take one of our large bags and a smaller checked bag.

This is a great example of a travel backpack. I haven’t used this, however, it has received over 1,800 ratings and averages 4.5 stars on Amazon. There are less expensive items out there, but the star rating is far less.

Please note, the above luggage recommendations are linked using the Amazon affiliate program. When purchases for these items are made, I receive a small commission.

When packing, keep the following in mind for a smooth international journey:

  • Pack based on the climate at your destination. Track the weather several weeks before your trip to determine if any oddities in the weather pattern may occur.
  • Footwear
    • Avoid brand new shoes; break them in for at least one month prior to travel.
    • Treat your feet well: You will most likely do far more walking than you expect. Plan for comfort not style on high step count days.
    • Fight the urge to overpack shoes. Bring comfortable shoes that compliment your several outfits.
  • If you are staying for longer than a week, plan a trip to the laundromat. Search laundromats around your hotel and plan the time in your itinerary. Always bring your own soap and dryer sheets to eliminate the risk of a rash breakout due to unfamiliar detergent.
  • Pack clothes within a similar color scheme. Ideally, all tops you bring should also match all bottoms.
  • Bring a jacket. Depending on the weather, this can be a jean jacket or a winter jacket. Make sure the jacket can go with all your outfits, including a nice evening out casual dress.
  • Bring one nice outfit that you can dress up or down with various accessories. To dress up, add jewelry, and to dress down add a light jacket (jean jacket or similar).
traveling internationally

Adapting to Different Transportation

Transporation options differ based on where you are traveling internationally. In Europe, most large cities have a commuter train, local buses, and access to the Eurail. When planning for a smooth international journey it is key to determine how you plan to get around the city and leave the city, if you have multiple cities on your agenda.

Jump on the Eurail for a smooth international journey

When visiting locations where the Eurail is available between locations, we use that as our first option. We used the Eurail when traveling in Italy. We flew into Venice, and then took the train to Florence, and ended our trip in Madrid. The train stations are typically centrally located in the large metropolitan cities, are relatively easy to get tickets and the schedule is consistent and relatively on time. The cost of traveling by train is also quite economical.

We have also taken the Eurail for day trips. When traveling in Munich, we took the Eurail down to Fusen to see Neuschwanstein Castle. It was a great way to see the countryside and allowed us time to relax versus renting a car and navigating on our own.

Check out our blog on the Oktoberfest in Munich!

Don’t be afraid to rent a car

We have rented cars in Ireland, Spain, Greece, and Israel. Each was a slightly different experience and there are specific ways to prepare. When traveling internationally, manual cars are less expensive to rent. When we traveled in Spain, Greece, and Ireland, I was completely comfortable with the manual car. In Israel, I recommend getting an automatic car if traveling in cities like Jerusalem and Nazareth. Those cities are exceptionally hilly, and you will encounter traffic. Unless your daily driver at home is a manual, to avoid headaches in Israel, get an automatic.

If renting a car, I recommend only renting when you are traveling outside of the large metropolitan city. For example, when renting a car in Spain. We picked the car up after our allocated time in Madrid, drove through the wine country, and spent a few days in the vineyards, and then once we arrived in Barcelona, we dropped off the car. This minimized the car rental time and eliminated the need to pay for parking in the large metropolitan cities.

When renting a car internationally, bring a printed copy of your insurance stating you are covered for international driving. We have protection through the Chase credit card program to cover international car insurance. This is key, without this printed documentation, you may end up spending quite a bit on the insurance policy offered by the rental agency.

Money Matters

Making sure we have access to funds has always caused me anxiety when traveling internationally. Over many trips I have found that the following money matters tips work for me for a smooth international journey.

  • Review policies with your credit cards regarding international transaction fees. Chase Reserve is a great option if your card charges international transaction fees.
  • Call your credit card agency and debit card bank prior to your trip. Let them know where and when you are traveling. Many banks allow you to do this online.
  • I always have a minimum of three cards with me when traveling, a debit and then two credit cards (from different financial institutions). The different financial institutions are a must. If you run into fraud issues while abroad and your card is shut down, you will then have access to the other credit card from the other institution.
  • Order cash in the local currency of your destination from your bank prior to travel. You may need cash immediately upon arrival for food, taxi, luggage tips, or public transportation. Many times, there are cash stations, however, they could be out of order. We ran into this situation in Ireland.
  • Determine the cash versus credit culture. In Munich, cash is used primarily at all restaurants and really exclusively in the Oktoberfest beer tents. For retail shops in Munich, a credit card is accepted and widely used.

Optimize Your Mobile Device

Our mobile devices are our third appendage these days! We use them for talking, texting, googling, directions, social media and so many other purposes. For a smooth international journey, review your phone plan in depth. You may even want to call your provider to make sure you have a clear understanding of how and when you are able to use your phone.

Your phone will play a large role with identifying bus, train, and walking routes. Google maps is recommended for walking directions, while apple maps is ideal for bus and train routes.

Many provides will offer international packages, where you pay by day or week for international access. Purchasing this extended coverage in advance is highly recommended for all individuals traveling in your group.

Download WhatsApp, a free mobile phone application, and asking your loved ones at home to do the same. WhatsApp allows you to call using the WiFi connection at your hotel or other location versus using data. If you entire traveling party uses iPhones, then you can also take advantage of iMessage and FaceTime calling to avoid long distance calling fees.

Even though you may upgrade your phone plan, be aware that the speed will most likely differ. We have traveled with newly released phones and then older phones and each time, we have still experienced slower connections. There will also be times when a connection is not available.

D&C versus Natural Miscarriage: What Actually Happens

After my recent post on Recurrent Miscarriage, questions came up surrounding preparing for a D&C. Specifically, the difference between a D&C versus natural miscarriage, what will occur, and how do I move on after. Unfortunately, have been through this situation often. I am also a member of several infertility support groups and have incorporated others’ experiences into this blog to provide a full view. My hope is that you will come away with clarity on if D&C is right for you, a full understanding of what will happen the day of, and what recovery entails. This blog will help those working through a first-trimester miscarriage.

My spouse and I decided on the D&C (Dilation and Curettage) for all four miscarriages. This is a personal decision on how you would like to handle your miscarriage. There is no right or wrong answer, and each situation is different and may require a different treatment path. Do your research! Talk to your physician to determine the best way for you to proceed. This is a hard situation and I am sorry you even have to figure out a plan. I have been in your shoes, along with so many other women. You will get through this.

Full transparency; I am not a physician, just a woman who has been through this situation often and recently. I live in the U.S. in a large suburb and have access to top medical care. If you have been in this situation before, I encourage you to help others by sharing your experience in the comments.

What is Miscarriage: D&C versus Natural Miscarriage

Miscarriage is painful, both physically and mentally. Many women silently suffer. According to the March of Dimes, it could be as much as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage but only 10-15% are diagnosed due to the woman even knowing she was pregnant. If you are in a situation where a miscarriage is imminent, you have several options. The tissue may expel on its own or you may require surgical intervention. This section discusses the differences between a D&C versus natural miscarriage.

What is a D&C

I had a D&C each time, primarily to collect chromosomal information to better advise our next protocol and secondly to minimize emotional trauma. It is difficult to go to the hospital, know what is happening, and undergoing anesthesia, however, the process only lasts only one day.

The first step when deciding if a D&C is right for you is doing your research. WebMD provides a thorough medical explanation. I encourage you to review their documentation or other reputable sources. In simplified terms; a D&C is a procedure, that occurs in a hospital or surgical center where the fetus and all cells from your uterus are removed using suction. General anesthesia was used in my experience. I was completely asleep during the procedure.

What is a Natural Miscarriage

According to the American Pregnancy Association, a natural miscarriage is defined as the early loss of a pregnancy without intention or medical intervention before 20 weeks gestation. A completely natural miscarriage will not require any medication to start the process and after your body realizes the fetal demise, you will naturally dispel the pregnancy.

A D&C versus Natural Miscarriage

The words “fetal demise” are horrific to hear. We’ve heard them multiple times over the past few years and each time, a knife sinks into my chest. Your physician will walk you through the next step, which is dispelling the pregnancy. Your physician may provide guidance based on your medical history or will ask your preference between a natural miscarriage or a D&C.

I reached out to one of my support groups to get a broader understanding of their choices between a natural miscarriage or a D&C. This section is representative of twenty-two women, who total have experienced 75 miscarriages. Many of the women represented in these findings have experienced both a D&C and natural miscarriages (with and without medication).

D&C versus natural miscarriage

D&C Rationale and Feedback

  • If a miscarriage does not initiate on its own this option is commonly presented.
  • A D&C might be your only option if the miscarriage is an immediate danger to your health. This was the case with several women in the surveyed group, either the physician recommended due to the risk of hemorrhage. Some women in my survey group reported a hemorrhage occurring during a natural miscarriage and an emergency D&C was performed.
  • 50% of women selected the D&C to allow the “Products of Conception” to be tested for chromosomal abnormalities.
  • 25% of women wanted to avoid trauma associated with a natural miscarriage. During a natural miscarriage, you see the remains and may experience increased blood loss compared to a D&C.
  • 10% of women wanted to be in control of when this miscarriage took place. With a D&C your doctor will schedule a date and time for the procedure.
  • 10% of women required a D&C after a natural miscarriage due to retained tissue. Retained tissue can cause infection or future infertility concerns.
  • Across the surveyed group, recovery from the miscarriage resulted in less bleeding for fewer days.

Natural Rationale and Feedback

  • A natural miscarriage may include taking medications prescribed by a physician to initiate the miscarriage process. A fully natural miscarriage is not always possible.
  • With this option, you are in the comfort of your own home, with your support person near you.
  • You are in charge of your own monitoring during the natural miscarriage process. This was desired by the group of women surveyed. If significant bleeding, uncontrollable pain, or chills occur be prepared to travel to the hospital.
  • The process requires your body to go through labor. Some women reported a deeper sense of closure after going through the labor process.
  • With a natural miscarriage, you will be able to dispose of the remains on your own.
  • One woman mentioned still having the option to bring products of conception to the physicians’ office for chromosomal abnormalities. Please check with your physician, this was not an option in my case.
  • A D&C may not be covered by all insurance plans, therefore the natural miscarriage process was desired. Please check with your insurance company on coverage.

Summary Findings from Group Experiences: D&C versus Natural Miscarriage

Out of the woman sampled, 46% of miscarriages either required or selected a D&C, while 54% of miscarriages were a natural experience. The natural miscarriages statistics include natural dispelling without medication and with medication. Comments range from “a D&C is a last resort for me” to “I would get a D&C in the future”. The survey group was also relatively split on personal selection between a D&C and natural experience. Now, that feedback may lead you to more uncertainty than answers. The main takeaway is that this decision is yours. There is no right or wrong answer.

D&C versus natural miscarraige

When making a decision between a D&C or natural miscarriage, please ask yourself:

  1. Do I want to perform chromosomal testing on the Products of Conception?
    • A D&C allows this to take place at the hospital with analysis typically provided within 2-weeks.
  2. What is going on in my life, how much time am I able to dedicate to the process and recovery?
    • A natural miscarriage is a process and will occur without a set timeframe. A D&C will occur on a set date and time.
  3. What does your physician recommend based on your medical history?
    • Considerations are early miscarriage, late miscarriage, blighted ovum, or missed miscarriage.
  4. How present would you like to be throughout the process?
    • A natural miscarriage will allow you to be present while dispelling the remains of your pregnancy. This can be helpful and provides closure to some, and trauma for others. Pain management for a natural miscarriage will consist of Motrin or other over-the-counter medications.
  5. What type of recovery is best for you?
    • With both options, you may experience cramping and bleeding. Based on feedback from the women in my sample group, bleeding and cramping typically last longer with a natural experience. Healthline suggests that the natural miscarriage process can take up to 3-4 weeks or happen quickly. The amount of bleeding and cramping, unless extreme situations are encountered, will not limit normal daily activity.

A D&C Procedure

I am quite familiar with the D&C procedure and keenly aware that the anxiety of not knowing what will happen can be overwhelming. My goal is to prepare you for what will happen on the day of your D&C, even though some experiences may vary. As always, I encourage you to ask your physician to walk through the process with you, step by step to provide additional awareness. This can also help with the decision-making between a natural experience and a D&C.

One aspect to highlight, a nurse will most likely call the day before to confirm the date/time. In preparation for my first D&C, the nurse alerted me of some questions they would ask me prior to the procedure. I am grateful for her because without forwarning it would have increased my sadness.

Prepare yourself for the following pre procedure questions:

  • Would you like the hospital chaplain present?
    • Commonly a chaplain is on staff. If you are religious, I encourage you to connect with your Pastor and share a prayer of strength and peace. All of this is completely up to you.
  • What would you like to do with the remains?
    • Aside from chromosomal testing, you will need to determine what you would like to do with the remains. The hospital can respectfully dispose of them or you will have the option to use the services of a funeral home or another option of your choice. Think through all of this before arriving.

The D&C procedure timeline:

  1. Fast (no food or drink) for 12 hours before the procedure.
  2. Arrive at the hospital 90 minutes before the procedure time.
  3. Once in your room, you will change into a hospital gown and will be visited by a variety of people. An IV line is started and the Anesthesiologist and surgeon will stop by to review the final questions.
  4. You will be rolled back on the gurney to the operating room.
  5. The nurses will get you situated in the operating room and the anesthesiologist will start medications.
  6. The procedure times will vary. From room to room; estimate 90 minutes.
  7. Once you come out of anesthesia, you may feel cramping or an extreme urge to use the washroom.
  8. The observation will last an hour. A snack is provided during recovery.
  9. At home, plan on resting for the remainder of the day. You will be able to resume relatively normal activity the next day, but make sure you minimize long walks or running until your doctor gives the ok. Cramping, the uterus contracting to transition back to size, can be painful. Motrin will help.

Recovering from a D&C

Recovery from a D&C is full of physical and mental challenges. There are many women out there, just like me, who have gone through recurrent miscarriages. From my conversation with them and my own experience, it does not get easier. The anxiety of “what is going to happen” decreases, but sadness and physical pain are always there.

Physical Recovery

My experience aligns with the feedback received from the group of women surveyed. Physical recovery was relatively easy. Minimal cramping and spotting occurred for less than one week. Motrin is a great option to relieve cramping. Cases have been reported where bleeding lasts a longer period of time, or other complications arise. With any procedure there are risks. Make sure to discuss those with your physician prior to deciding between a D&C versus natural miscarriage. There are risks and possible recovery complications for both.

Emotional Recovery

Emotional recovery is a far longer battle when working through a miscarriage.

  • Talk to your partner/spouse. Be open and transparent with how you are feeling. You both experienced the loss.
  • Support at the hospital. Prior to leaving the hospital after a D&C procedure, you can ask to see a support professional.
  • Seek professional counseling or group support. My local hospital offers a support group for miscarriages and infant loss. Ask your nurse or OB about groups in your area. What to Expect and Facebook also have groups dedicated to miscarriage. I have also found a significant amount of support, guidance, and answers from Facebook groups.
  • Focus on the plan. Find a specialist in your area and book an appointment immediately, if you plan on continuing your journey to motherhood. Your specialist will run tests, review results from “products of conception” if you selected that option, and recommend a plan. Ask questions and advocate for yourself if you feel that either the plan is too aggressive or not aggressive enough.
  • Surround yourself with strong women. The first few months after miscarriage it is incredibly difficult to interact with individuals who do not understand. I wholeheartedly understand the frustrated feelings when someone says “enjoy the journey” or “your time will come”. I also understand when your neighbor, best friend, and cousin post-pregnancy announcements on social media right after your miscarriage. Those situations can be very difficult. Whether it is through Facebook groups, or by talking to women who have been there, wrap yourself up in their arms. In time, you will find your way back to being that supportive neighbor, friend, and cousin and will look forward to celebrating their bundle of joy with them. In the interim, give yourself some grace.

Much love,

Emily M.

Recreating Family Recipes: Broccoli Bread

Week 2: Broccoli Bread

I was a little hesitant to try the Broccoli Bread recipe, however, the receipt card looked quite loved. My grandmother also added some commentary that this was one of the must-do church potluck dishes. I made three updates to the original recipe.

  1. Used fresh broccoli instead of chopped frozen broccoli.
  2. Swapped out full-fat cottage cheese for low-fat cottage cheese.
  3. Increased the baking time. The original recipe requested a 25 minute bake time. Mine needed a bit longer.
Broccoli Bread
Ingredients for Broccoli
Bread

Recreating Family Recipes: Praline Pecan Crunch

Week 1: Praline Pecan Crunch

I remember getting home from school and just smelling my mom’s Praline Pecan Crunch! My mom would make this every few years for the bridge group and she would always let us sneak some before, during, and after the party. Now, beware, this recipe isn’t the healthiest. It is definitely just as addictive as homemade Chex mix. My husband, who is not a fan of sweets loved this recipe! I updated the recipe slightly, it looks like the Quaker box has gained a few ounces of cereal over the years. Also, in the ingredient photo, the pregnancy brain was in full firing mode, but good thing I caught it before mixing. Make sure to use BAKING SODA not Baking Powder.

The start of the 52 weeks of recreating family recipes has been so much fun. I am excited to share more with all of you. There is something so comforting about bringing back the past. Enjoy my mom’s Praline Pecan Crunch! The recipe can be downloaded below and you can also the step by step in the video.

This recipe has definitely stood the test of time.

Praline Pecan Crunch

Praline Pecan Crunch

Serving Size:
20
Time:
75 minutes
Difficulty:
Low

Ingredients

  • 1 box Quaker Oat Cereal Squares
  • 2 cups Pecan Pieces
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 5 Tbls Butter
  • 1 1/4 tsp Vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp Baking Soda

Directions

  1. Heat Oven to 250 degrees
  2. Combine cereal and pecans in a 13×9 inch pan and set aside.
  3. Combine corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter in a microwave-safe bowl.
  4. Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Stir.
  5. Microwave on high for another 60 seconds or until boiling.
  6. Stir in vanilla and baking soda.
  7. Pour the liquid mixture of the cereal mixture and stir well.
  8. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.

Video: Praline Pecan Crunch in action

Traveling with a dog: Tips for a great vacation for everyone

Over the past two years, we have done quite a bit of traveling with a dog. During the pandemic, even when restrictions were lifted, dog sitter options were quite limited. Understandably so, people did not want people or animals coming in and out of their homes. Our dog enjoys car rides, is friendly, and under fifty pounds (most of the time), which provides her the opportunity to stay in many dog-friendly places. Due to her breed, an English Bulldog, our traveling consists of road trips.

Traveling with your dog is a great opportunity for you to see the world around you, while also providing some adventure for your furry canine. Keep scrolling to learn the top five tips to successfully travel with a dog.

It all comes down to planning when traveling with a dog.

  • Destination selection
  • Accomodations
  • Itinerary
  • Packing

Planning is the most important step when traveling with a dog. This consists of hotel selection, daily agendas, dining options, and dog-friendly attractions or parks. If you are traveling with your dog; seek out opportunities to bring your dog along. Effective planning will lead to a successful vacation for both you and your dog.

Destination Selection

When traveling with a dog, some cities and climates are better for that experience. We use the following criteria when determining if we should bring our dog:

  • Are there dog-friendly hotels with no extra pet fees? How close are green areas to the hotel?
  • What do we want to see in the city? Are they dog-friendly? If not, how long would we be away from the hotel?
  • How many restaurants in the area are dog-friendly?
  • Distance from our home. What level of confidence do we have that our dog would enjoy the ride?
  • Weather. Will it be enjoyable to do outdoor activities with our dog?

If we have concerns over any of the criteria, we either stay home or go somewhere else. When traveling without our dog, we use Rover.com. They have options for someone to stay at your home or for your dog to stay at their location. All Rover.com sitters are background-checked. I always recommend a meet and greet prior to booking with a sitter. This allows you and the sitter to determine if your dog is a match for them. For international travel, we typically like someone to stay at our home. If traveling domestically for a shorter period of time, our dog goes to their home.

Accomodations Selection

Seek out dog-friendly hotels or other accommodations when traveling with a dog. Several Marriott brand properties, such as Residence Inn and Courtyard will allow dogs, however, they commonly charge a ~$150 dog cleaning fee. Fees may vary slightly by the hotel and can be hefty, however, if staying for an extended period of time, the one-time cleaning fee is more palatable than if staying for two nights. One fee-free dog-friendly property within Marriott is A Loft.

The volume of A Loft properties in the United States is significant. A Loft is uber dog-friendly. Many locations allow you to borrow dog beds, provide dog bowls and even provide a welcome treat. Make sure to call ahead to determine what dog amenities your particular location offers. Make sure to review BringFido’s expensive list of dog-friendly hotels.

When selecting a hotel, determine the distance from the hotel to the nearest grassy area. Call the hotel and ask or look up the location on google maps. Many of the dog-friendly hotels we’ve used had green areas within a block. New Orleans was the exception. The closest green area near A Loft was five blocks. You really had to search for green areas in that city.

Itinerary

When traveling with a dog, there will be places where they are welcome and places where they are not. Planning the balance between those two scenarios can be challenging. We use yelp to plan one lunch or dinner each day at a dog-friendly location. Finding dog-friendly restaurants is much easier when visiting a warm-weather climate. When bringing your dog along for a meal, always bring a water bowl and bottle of water for your dog.

Your itinerary should include rest time for your dog. Several times during trips, our dog would stay in the hotel room while we visited museums or had a nicer meal out.

Plan for the time at dog-friendly parks, forest preserves or nature walks. This will allow your dog to get out and stretch their legs in a more significant manner.

Packing

Just as you pack necessities for yourself, spend adequate time packing for your dog. I’ve linked several necessities that you can grab on Amazon. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn small commissions when purchases are made from these links.

We bring the following items along with us when traveling with a dog
  • Crate: Even if your dog does not stay in the crate at your home when staying in a hotel or location with housekeeping, bring the crate. With individuals potentially entering your room, you do not want your dog to get scared or cause frustration to the hotel staff.
  • Leash: Always keep your dog on the leash when exploring outside the hotel room.
  • Blanket: Keep this in their crate for comfort and the smell of your and home.
  • Towel: You never know when your dog will step into a puddle. To be prepared, bring a dog towel to clean off their feet when you get back to your hotel room. Hotel comforters are commonly white and muddy paw prints are highly visible!
  • Dog food, bowls, and treats: Unless all the hotels along your trip provide bowls, bring them with you. If we are staying at multiple hotels, I divide the dog food into multiple large ziplock bags. That allows me to take in only what I need versus food for the entire trip to each hotel. If you would like to make your own dog treats, click here to review a recipe on our blog!
  • Poo bags: Lots and lots of poo bags. Always have extra with you.
  • Toys: Pack a few toys to make the hotel feel more like home.
  • Bottled water and a gallon of water: Bring a case of bottled water with you. Take this with you to restaurants or any other outings with your dog. Use the gallon of water for drink breaks while traveling in the car.
  • Dog trainer: Our dog is friendly and well-behaved, but we always bring her dog trainer with us. This collar allows you to give your dog signals about its behavior. You can use a beeping noise, vibration, or shock. Our dog responds to the beep. Use the dog trainer prior to leaving. If they jump, tell them no and use the trainer at the same time. Again, the shock button should be rarely used.

Enjoy traveling with your dog! Please share your own tips in the comments sections.

Cheers!

Emily M

Celebrating Mother’s Day Isn’t Easy for Everyone

Mother’s Day in the United States is right around the corner and for so many, this is a wonderful day of celebration. Deservedly so, Mother’s do so much for their families and it is wonderful a day is set aside to stop and reflect on their contributions. While I am talking about Mother’s Day in this post, there might be other holidays or events that trigger emotions for you.

For others, celebrating Mother’s Day is a reminder of the desire to be a Mother but perhaps they haven’t found the right partner, have not able to conceive or carry to term, or lost their Mother. In the past, this day has been difficult for me, due to experiencing four recurrent miscarriages and so badly wanting to become a Mother. The one highlight was always being able to celebrate my Mother. This year will be entirely different. After a long battle with cancer, my mother passed away in December. This will be my first Mother’s Day without her.

Celebrating Mother's Day

I used to be the person to put on a smile, attend the planned Mother’s Day activities, and internalize all the sadness. While I wholeheartedly feel that Mother’s Day should be a celebration, it does not mean that I must always partake in all activities. There are several things I have done through the years to help find a balance between celebrating Mother’s Day while preserving my own mental health.

Celebrating Mother's Day

Send Mother’s Day Cards in Advance

Sending a Mother’s Day card to those special moms in your life, whether it is your mom, sister, mother in law or friend, show them how much you care about them and what they have done for you and/or their families. Do this a week or two in advance.

When doing this in advance allows you to celebrate those women, but also eliminates a need for you to participate in the day of celebration. These individuals in your life, are probably keenly aware of the difficulty this day brings you.

Stay off Social Media on Mother’s Day

If you are an avid social media viewer or contributor, I encourage you to stay off social media on Mother’s Day. Your feed will be filled with Mother’s Day posts. You may even want to make a post yourself, but for the love of everything, do not scroll, watch stories, or get pulled into commenting on posts.

Social media, while entertaining, is an environment primarily geared towards “it’s a wonderful life”. You will see photos enhanced with the best lighting and posed scenes accompanied by the obligatory “Happy Mother’s Day” text. This may start to cause feelings of sadness or comparison to only see “it’s a wonderful life”. One of the Instagram influencers I follow, Tinx, says it perfectly “Comparison is the thief of joy”.

Plan an Outing for the Day

The outing may differ based on your situation and particular feelings for the day. You may also be aware of any triggers you might have, do your best to avoid those on that particular day. I enjoy going to church, but I know the sermon will always be about celebrating Mother’s Day, and each year I have always left in tears. Going to church on Mother’s Day is a trigger for me. Other ideas for outings include:

  • Plan an outdoor activity: A round of golf, walk through the Forrest preserve, take a bike ride, go on a hike
  • Visit an establishment: Check out your local brewery or distillery, treat yourself to a shopping trip,
  • Pay tribute: Visit your Mother’s resting place
  • Visit loved ones: If a large family celebration is a trigger for you, then plan for a small visit with your Mother or other loved one.
  • Be one with thyself: For us introverts, one of the most relaxing things that can be taken out and Netflix. For others, this might cause you to stew in your own thoughts. Again, plan an outing based on your situation and feelings.

Vocalize your Feelings when celebrating Mother’s Day

If you are in a situation where you live with a spouse or significant other, and celebrating Mother’s Day is a difficult day for you, vocalize that in advance. Let them know why the day is difficult, how you feel, and things, and make the day manageable for you.

Waking up in the morning in a sour mood without forewarning will not lead to a desirable day between you and your spouse or significant other. Prior to the day, let them know how you feel and how you would like to spend the day. Your spouse or significant other might also have a very specific version of how he or she would like to spend the day. Communicate and find common ground where you both feel supported and comfortable. While you may have faith that you will find peace in your situation or your situation may change, it is ok not to be ok all the time.

In conclusion, I appreciate the day to celebrate everyone who is a Mother and our Mother. Just like religious holidays, however, they do not need to be celebrated by all the time. Know your emotional limits, respect them and find a way to embrace the holiday in your own way. Give yourself permission to step out and take care of yourself.

Much love,

Emily M

You are a Strong Ass Woman: Loving yourself through recurrent miscarriage

My body and mind are numb as we drive to the hospital. Holding my husbands’ hand, we walk into the hospital, check-in, and are guided back to our room for the day. On the gurney lies blue hospital socks with little gripper bottoms and a light green gown. The nurse greets us, we sign the paperwork, and within the next thirty minutes, an IV is started, anesthesiology and the surgeon stopped by for pre-procedure reviews. Full of anxiety, despite medication to help me relax, my husband kisses me goodbye and I am wheeled down the hall and into a large, white, cold operating room. This has been my reality of recurrent miscarriage.

This exact situation happened not just once but four times within a two-and-a-half-year timeframe to us. I felt so ashamed and just utterly destroyed, each time we went through this. It took me a long time to feel worthy and loved again. Every day I miss being able to experience the late-night feedings and little league games that could have been with those four babies. This is the reality of recurrent miscarriage.

recurrent miscarriage

If you have been in this situation, let me remind you that you are not alone. There are, unfortunately, so many of us out there to support you. Miscarriage is not something that many post about on Facebook, rather it’s in those touching individual conversations when you realize “you’ve been through this too”. Once you open up yourself to share, others will feel comfortable too. You are not broken; the other women are not broken, we just have scars. We are strong ass women.

Our Story: Recurrent Miscarriage

recurrent miscarriage

I met my perfect match a little later in life and we married in April 2018. We had spent the past few years traveling the world while working through our infertility journey and we’re so excited to start our family. Our first miscarriage occurred a week before our honeymoon in Greece (August 2018)and the third occurred days before our trip to Israel and Turkey (January 2019). I was thrilled about a positive pregnancy test in August 2018. I kept the news to myself and put together a “you’re going to be a daddy” gift for my husband. It was such a special day and I was grateful that our journey to parenthood had finally started.

Too good to be true

Once you get that positive pregnancy test, my OB is the first call, to confirm the amazing news. They will typically check your HCG levels, progesterone, and some additional baseline blood tests are captured. My HCG levels were on track initially, but fast-forward to week seven, instead of going up by thousands, they were only increasing by 300 every three days. Everyone has their own HCG baseline and your doctor will tell you if you are on track or there is any cause for concern. In our case, there was a cause for concern.

An ultrasound took place the following day and my worst fear turned reality, no fetal pole. It was clear something was wrong when the ultrasound tech quickly wrapped up and told me I could get dressed. The next step included a quick walk over to the doctor’s office where he shared the news. There was a gestational sac and fetus but no heartbeat. We left the building in silence and I cried for what seemed like days. I was so ashamed that my body let our baby down, I felt completely responsible. It had to be something I did.

Preparing yourself for the miscarriage process

Miscarriage is painful, both physically and mentally. Many women silently suffer. According to the March of Dimes, it could be as much as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage but only 10-15% diagnosed due to the woman even knowing she was pregnant. I had a D&C each time, mainly to capture the chromosomal information to better advise our next protocol. It is difficult to go to the hospital, knowing what is happening, and undergoing anesthesia. The process itself, however, is a day versus multiple days if you were to miscarry naturally at home. To learn more about a D&C versus natural miscarriage, please check out my recent post. Each hospital or procedure location has a different process.

A D&C Procedure

Three days later my husband took me to the hospital for a D&C procedure. Thankfully, a nurse called me in advance and walked me through what would happen. She warned me about two particular questions they would ask, “what would you like to do with the remains” and “would you like a chaplain present”? She walked me through common options for both scenarios. I was so grateful for the opportunity to prepare for those difficult questions.

I held back the tears until I was wheeled back to the operating room. In my mind I was screaming, “This can’t be happening. We just need to double-check”. With tears streaming down my face, the last thing I remember was a nurse holding my hand and telling me that I’ll be ok. Thank god for nurses. I needed someone else to be strong for me at that moment.

The D&C procedure timeline: What to Expect.
  1. Fast (no food or drink) for 12 hours prior to the procedure.
  2. Arrive at the hospital 90 minutes prior to the procedure time.
  3. Once in your room, you will change into a hospital gown and will be visited by a variety of people. An IV line is started and the Anesthesiologist and surgeon will stop by to review the final questions.
  4. You will be rolled back on the gurney to the operating room.
  5. The nurses will get you situated in the operating room and the anesthesiologist will start medications.
  6. The procedure times will vary. From room to room; estimate 90 minutes.
  7. Once you come out of anesthesia, you may feel cramping or an extreme urge to use the washroom.
  8. The observation will last an hour. A snack is provided during recovery.
  9. At home, plan on resting for the remainder of the day. You will be able to resume relatively normal activity the next day, but make sure you minimize long walks or running until your doctor gives the ok. Cramping, the uterus contracting to transition back to size, can be painful. Tylenol will help.

It will be a rough day, you might be angry and sad. Recurrent miscarriage is difficult, painful, and stressful. You will get through the day and you will pick yourself back up because you are a Strong Ass Woman!

Off to the Infertility Doctor

Due to my age, my OB referred me to an Infertility specialist at our local hospital. I know that God had a plan for my husband and me. It is just so incredibly hard to keep faith in the plan. After the August 2018 miscarriage, I had another in January 2019, the third in July 2019, and the fourth in March 2020. Each miscarriage took a piece of me, however, having regular appointments with an action plan provided relief.

Specialist after Specialist

Over the next two years, we tried various treatment protocols and I saw multiple doctors. I became a human pin cushion and truly had every infertility test imaginable. I transitioned to another specialist after my first infertility doctor retired. The doctor was very knowledgeable, however, the support team did not meet my expectations. My expectations are; return phone calls, answer insurance questions, and communicate timing with adequate notice. After wasting six months trying to corral the nurses, I opened up to someone I barely knew at the time. It turned out her journey wasn’t the easiest either. She is a huge support for me. I am grateful for her referral to yet another doctor. Many times, when you feel things crumbling, reach out. There are other women who have been there and are willing to help. Recurrent miscarriage or other reasons for infertility should not take control of you. Thank god for strong ass women always picking each other up.

recurrent miscarriage, shots
Light at the end of the tunnel

This new doctor was direct and was determined to get this process moving for us. One positive thing in our scenario is that we are able to get pregnant ourselves, the problem is staying pregnant. After additional tests, we finally had a possible cause for recurrent miscarriage; I have a blood clotting autoimmune disorder and thyroid elevations. I felt in control. We finally had an answer and a protocol designed to help. We tried two rounds of the protocol, complete with an increased amount of vitamin supplements, medications, and daily shots to help control my blood clotting disorder. I had a black and blue stomach for about six months. Not taking into consideration black and blue arms from weekly blood testing. Before starting this protocol we had just experienced miscarriage #3 and daily shots and weekly blood didn’t phase me anymore.

The first time trying the protocol resulted in miscarriage, but we decided to try one more round. Our doctor was direct, IVF, although not as effective in our situation but surrogacy should be on our radar. We moved forward with another round of the existing protocol. The protocol worked! I don’t know how this pregnancy will end, but we are already in our third trimester. Surrounding IVF, the only variable this eliminated was chromosomal abnormalities. The benefit allowed the strongest embryo to be selected, although this did not solve the problem of sustaining a pregnancy. This route could easily end with another recurrent miscarriage and significant expense.

Preparing for IVF when not covered by Insurance

The hard truth about IVF is that it is incredibly expensive and hard on the body, but let’s be honest, I’d already been giving myself daily shots and a variety of other medicines. We ended up sustaining a pregnancy and did not have to follow this process, but we were within a week of pulling the trigger. If your insurance does not cover IVF, you have options.

IVF Financial Support options:
Recurrent miscarriage, IVF support
  • Military service: Do you or your partner have any prior military service? Our provider offered a significant discount for veterans or active military.
  • Marketplace: Many people think the insurance marketplace is only for people who do not have insurance or need the support of Medicaid or Medicare. That is not the case. Through Obamacare, we found plans, in the private market that covered a large portion of IVF.
  • Grants: There are several resources online that offer financial support for IVF if you meet certain criteria. Fertility Within Reach is a great site that educates on available grants for Infertility and Adoption.
  • Experimental trials: Ask your doctor if they are aware of any trials in your area where you might be a candidate.

Thankfully my husband served our country and we were eligible to receive a generous veterans discount. We planned to pair the military discount with a private insurance plan from the marketplace. The marketplace plan we looked at was around $450 a month. It covered a majority of the costs associated with the retrieval and implantation procedures, and about 50% of the $7,000 in medicine per cycle. Be mindful that marketplace plans differ by state, and not all states cover IVF. In Illinois, as of 2020, some plans did.

Loving yourself through it all

Miscarriage and recurrent miscarriage may be one of the most difficult scenarios you will encounter. After the first and second miscarriages, I felt lost. I was letting down my husband and was struggling with the realization we may never have the family we desired. Through the following tactics, I was able to develop trust in my body, control my mind and realize it was not my fault. I am not a psychologist, therapist, or academically trained for this topic, however, I have significant experience.

Recommendations to support you through the process:
  • Talk to your partner/spouse. Be open and transparent with how you are feeling. You both experienced the loss. Share with your partner what you need from them to heal and ask what you can do to help them.
  • Support at the hospital. Prior to leaving the hospital after a D&C procedure, you can ask to see a support professional. Hospitals will have a person on call who will be able to speak with you then or schedule a time to connect.
  • Seek professional counseling or group support. My local hospital offers a support group for miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage, and infant loss. Ask your nurse or OB about groups in your area. What to Expect and Facebook also have groups dedicated to miscarriage.
  • Focus on the plan. Find a specialist in your area and book an appointment immediately, if you plan on continuing your journey to motherhood. Your specialist will run tests, review results from “products of conception” if you selected that option, and recommend a plan. Ask questions and advocate for yourself if you feel that either the plan is too aggressive or not aggressive enough. If you do not feel the support or plan is sufficient, get a second opinion.
  • Surround yourself with strong women. The first few months after miscarriage it is incredibly difficult to interact with individuals who do not understand. I wholeheartedly understand the frustrated feelings when someone says “enjoy the journey” or “your time will come”. I also understand when your neighbor, friend, and past acquaintances all post-pregnancy announcements on social media right after your miscarriage. Those situations can be very difficult. Whether it is through Facebook groups, or by talking to women who have been there, wrap yourself up in their arms. In time, you will find your way back to being that supportive neighbor and friend and will look forward to celebrating their bundle of joy with them. In the interim, give yourself some grace.

Miscarriage does not define you

Whatever your outcome, I can guarantee that you will feel comfortable knowing you gave it everything you had. I told my husband that five miscarriages were my ending point, and at that time I would feel like I truly gave it everything I possibly could. Through this entire process, I truly realized that I am stronger than I thought possible. You are too. This will always be part of your story, but it does not define you. Why? Because you are a Strong Ass Woman!

Much love!

Emily M

Dog Approved Pumpkin Treats using Brewing Grains

We have now transitioned to Pumpkin Dog treats! I have created a monster, my dog now just begs and begs for homemade dog treats. Her desire is my command, plus my husband has been brewing more, so getting spent grain is pretty easy. Over the past two months, I have been baking her peanut butter treats and wanted to switch it up a bit. I had a lot of whole-grain flour left over, so decided to come up with a recipe eliminating the wheat flour. When buying wheat flour some of the companies add a whole lot more than wheat flour and for the pure wheat flour, the price tag goes up. Now the one downside of this recipe, although a cleaner option for your dog, is that the treats are more brittle. If you are used to the traditional Milk bones, these will have more of a grain look.

Pumpkin Dog Treats

Pumpkin Dog Treats

Serving Size:
1 cookie
Time:
3.5 hours
Difficulty:
Low

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups Spend Grain Flour (see this post for how to make your own)
  • 5 cups Spent Grains (Fresh from the brew day. Make sure the gains do not contain hops)
  • 2 1/2 Tbls ground Flax Seed mixed with 6 Tbls water
  • 1 can (16 oz) Pure Pumpkin (Make sure the only ingredient is Pumpkin. I use Libby’s)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 300 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the spent grain flour and spent grains.
  3. In a small bowl mix together the ground flax seed and water. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the 1 can of pure pumpkin to the spent grain mixture. Mix well.
  5. Drizzle the flax seed and water mixture over the spent grains.
  6. You will now need to prepare the treats for the oven. I purchased paw and bone shaped cookie cutters from Amazon that work great.
  7. Place 1/2 of the spent grain mixture on your prepared surface. Using your hands, make a rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick. The thicker the longer they will need to cook. Using a knife to cut in squares of cookie cutters, cut out the treats.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the treats on the parchment paper.
  9. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
  10. Decrease temperature to 170 degrees and bake another 2 hours. Baking time will vary based on size of treats. Large treats may take 3 hours. The treats are done when they are hard and cooked all the way through.

Tired of wasting Cardstock? Complete projects in Design Space

Over the past few weeks, I have created beautiful giant cardstock flowers for the nursery. They look great, but my gosh, so much cardstock is wasted! I shop the sales at Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and was able to get the cardstock on sale, but still, cardstock is expensive. I’m the queen of repurposing, my husband is a bourbon drinker and cigar smoker and low and behold there is a market for selling empty bourbon bottles and empty cigar boxes on Etsy! So, up those went on my Etsy store. I also created outdoor tiki torches with Bourbon bottles and those help keep the bugs away in the muggy Chicagoland summers. You see my point; I had to find a way to use these cardstock scraps! I looked through all the cardstock projects in Design space to determine the most simplistic designs where your time will be well spent, fit the cardstock scrap size and could be used the most in a variety of ways.

Picnic Labels using Cardstock

In Cricut Design space, search for Picnic Labels under Projects. Instead of using the pen color and cardstock colors the creator recommended, I just used three colors from my scraps. The creator recommends adding ribbon and placing around a napkin. The outcome is adorable, but I could see for an indoor dinner, you could use these for seating assignments. The project took me less than 30 minutes to complete.

Design Space Project  Picnic Labels

Oh Happy Day – Gift Tag using Cardstock

Design Space cardstock Gift Tag

Now this one could not be more simple. If you typically find yourself without a tag for a gift bag, this is the perfect simple solution. In Cricut Design space, search for Oh Happy Day – Gift Tag under Projects. This will pull up a variety of gift tags. All of these tags are great for using scraps. . This craft uses very little cardstock. You will need a piece that is 3×6 and another piece that is 4×4. With leftover flower scraps you will have enough cardstock to make a nice stash of these gift tags for the future! This craft took me less than 10 minutes.

Graduation Cap Cake Topper

We are nearing graduation season! Instead of purchasing a cake or gift topper, use your cardstock scraps for this design. I used the colors I had on hand versus recommended by the creator. You can also re-size this design in the event you would like to put it on a poster board or another sort of display. Craft took a piece of 3×5, a 2×2 and 3×4. This craft took me ten minutes to complete.

Design Space project Grad

Holiday Place Cards

Design Space cardstock Place Cards

If you ended up making flowers for a particular themed event, this design is perfect for your cardstock scraps. In Design Space under Projects search for Holiday Place Cards. For a total of 4 place cards, I used two, 4.5×10 pieces of cardstock. In this design you swap out the names on the cards, cut the design and then use adhesive to create the layered look. If you want to make the cards look perfect, I recommend curating the letters so they attach instead of the individual letters. There are so many great tutorials on YouTube on how to curate letters in Design Space. If you just need a quick refresh, detach the name from the card, highlight the name, click on advanced in the toolbar and click ungroup to letters. After you make edits, group the letters, weld the name, and then attach the name back to to the card. If you do this, budget to spend an extra two minutes per place card. Without curating the names, to complete four place cards it took me less than ten minutes.

Just one More Page Bookmark

I really liked this simple bookmark. Whenever giving a book as a gift, add a bookmark, when sharing an old book, add a bookmark. I did, however, make a few customizations to this design. I started with the Just One More Page Bookmark under the Design Space Project section. In this design “just one more page” is a cut-out that you then adhere to the bookmark. Instead, I added pen text using the babette font, welded the words and then attached the text to the bookmark. I also used the cardstock scrap versus recommended materials. You could also add saying such as; No Spoilers Please, Do not Disturb, or In the Zone. Even with the edit from cut out to pen, this bookmark took me less than ten minutes. Now that I have the template all set, I could cut a dozen more and have them ready in two minutes.

Design Space  cardstock bookmark

Create your own card

There are so many elaborate cards on Design Space, but telling someone you are thinking of them, wishing a happy birthday or thank you does not need to be an elaborate process. This is also a great way to use your cardstock scrap. The larger scrap pieces are used for the actual card and then smaller scraps for some of the design items on the front. I wanted to keep this option under fifteen minutes, and therefore worked through a basic Happy Birthday card. If you create the envelope yourself, budget another 10-15 minutes.

  1. Take your largest piece of scrap, I recommend at least 4.5×9 and that will be your card. Create a rectangle in design space and add a score line at the half way point.
  2. Add a text box, select a writing font, under cut select pen and craft your inside card message. If you do not have pens for your Cricut or would prefer to hand write your message, this step is irrelevant.
  3. From the picture section in Design Space, select a nice saying such as Happy Birthday with a cake or balloons.
  4. Now if you would like an envelope, you will need to use a full sheet of new cardstock. Unless you have a scrap piece that is 2/3 a sheet. The easiest way is to find an existing card design under projects, delete the card, keep the envelope and resize to the size of card you just created. If you want to spend a little more time, you can create the envelope yourself in Design Space. You will have a rectangle the size of your card, and then create circles or triangles to fold in on the sides, up on the bottom and down from the top. The side inward folds on each side should be 1/3 of your card width. The up fold should be anywhere from 5/8 of your card to 3/4 of your card. The down fold will overlap the up fold. I recommend 1/2 of your card length.
Creating your own card with cardstock scraps

More to come with using Cardstock scrap

Design space regularly updates their library and I will continue to hunt for simple, scrap size, low time consuming projects. In the meantime, if there are other Design Space projects that you use for your scraps, please share those in the comment!

Best!

Emily M

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