Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Stop talking to mama, baby (Beth-Ellen’s birth story, part 5)

January 13th, 2018

It was Christmas Eve, and given that we’d labored 24 hours for two centimeters progress, I couldn’t put everything on hold just because I was in labor.

Then again, the contractions were continuing and were requiring my total focus. They were still a minute long and five minutes apart, but I couldn’t talk through them anymore. That was enough to rule out the morning worship service.


Are you feeling lost? Maybe you’d like to read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 of Beth-Ellen’s birth story


We settled on preparing my family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal. Daniel transferred one soup from the container I’d frozen it in to the crockpot (because Daniel has tried oyster soup when we were engaged and had found it wanting). I prepared the oyster soup. I pulled out the platters and the dishes and directed Daniel and his mom as they set the table and arranged the veggies and dip, the crackers and cheese and summer sausage and cheese ball, and the relish tray with pickles and olives.

Somewhere over the course of the morning, Tirzah Mae noticed her mother’s lack of responsiveness to her (during contractions). In between contractions, I explained: “Remember how mama said the baby would let mama know when it was time to be born? The baby would talk to mama by making her belly go” and then I squeezed my belly on either side, making it bulge further in front. “Well the baby has started talking to mama to tell her that it’s about time for the baby to be born.”

We sat down for our Christmas meal – Grandma and papa and the children in chairs, mama on her birthing ball. Every few minutes, I stood up, leaned over the wing back chair behind me (in the living room), rocked my hips and groaned a bit as the next contraction hit. Then I’d sit back down and eat a bit more.

If we were in a race to finish Christmas dinner, I’d have been dead last. Tirzah Mae would have been the winner. And, as is often the case when Tirzah Mae finishes her meal before me, she wanted to snuggle. But there was no way she was getting on that ball with me. It was hard enough trying to eat and manage contractions and balance on the ball and try to be pleasant at the table. I acquiesced to having her scoot her chair close to me so she could rest her head on my belly (when I wasn’t contracting, of course.)

She laid her head on my lap, patted my belly and said in the sweetest little voice: “Stop talking to mama, baby. It makes her crabby.”

The baby didn’t listen to Tirzah Mae’s advice (thank goodness!) Contractions continued, varying from five to fifteen minutes apart, but continuing to increase in intensity. Unable to concentrate on anything too focused (i.e. a book), I downloaded a Sudoku app on my phone and began methodically working through its puzzles between contractions. As the day wore on, the contractions started more abruptly, ramping up to seven or eight right away instead of slowly increasing to a peak.

Nevertheless, we went to bed yet another evening, still in latent labor.

Getting baby into position? (Beth-Ellen’s birth story, part 4)

January 12th, 2018

We discussed the possibility of malpositioning as the allotted hour of walking came to a close. If baby were posterior, perhaps that could explain how I’d been laboring so long and hard with so little progress.

We knew with my history of severe preeclampsia that we didn’t want to do anything inverted, but my doula could do a side-lying release and we could see if that helped things out any.


Are you feeling lost? Maybe you’d like to read part 1, part 2 and part 3 of Beth-Ellen’s birth story


The doulas also wondered about nipple simulation, but I was unsure. I was still torn between the desire to get labor over with and the desire to have enough strength to bring it to completion.

The triage staff were busy when we returned after our hour of walking, so we began the side-lying release.

The resident came back to check me. No progress. No surprise there.

But I couldn’t leave yet. They needed to check the baby again. This time, I insisted on standing. I continued chatting with Daniel and Mary (my primary doula), pausing every three minutes to lean over the bedside table and sway my hips or lunge a bit as another contraction hit. These were at mid-day intensity now – but nothing I couldn’t manage by myself.

A twenty minute tracing stretched to thirty, forty minutes. Even longer. It must have been quite an emergency the other woman was having.

Mary mentioned that one of the nurses had recognized me, asked my name. She’d taken care of me with Louis and had requested to be my labor nurse if they kept me. My mind jumped to the two primary nurses who’d taken care of me with Louis. I felt sure it was one of them, and I felt a twinge of regret that I wouldn’t be staying. But I’d be crazy to stay when I was two centimeters dilated.

The triage nurse finally returned. She took a look at my tracing, at those every three minute contractions, and called the resident. She knew he’d been intending to send us home, but these contractions were pretty close together. Could he come back in and check me again? Or maybe she could just do the check if he was busy?

She got off the phone and I told her not to bother. These were the same contractions I’d been managing fine at home for a good part of the past twenty four hours. Contractions that had dilated me to a 2 in that time. I’d go back home and manage labor there until something changed.

Which is exactly what we did. We went home and went to bed. By this time, I was exhausted enough that I did something like sleep between contractions. I lay there in a left side-lying Sims’ position between contractions, drifting in and out of consciousness. And when the contractions came, I rose onto all fours, raising my bottom as high as I could and lowering my chest as close to the bed as I could manage. If malpositioning was our problem and I could get this baby into a better position through my own positioning, I was going to try.

I can’t have slept long, given that we didn’t get home until three or four – and the children generally wake up between six and seven.

But the rest felt delightful, and now it was Christmas Eve – when my family traditionally celebrates Christmas.

Drowning beneath the Waves (Beth-Ellen’s birth story, part 3)

January 11th, 2018

The contraction pounded my whole being awake. The sudden intensity no doubt caused me to do exactly what I shouldn’t have done – to tense every muscle.

I was still breathing hard from the contraction that awoke me when a second slammed through.

From sleeping to drowning in three minutes or less.


Are you feeling lost? Maybe you’d like to read part 1 and part 2 of Beth-Ellen’s birth story


Daniel woke up beside me. Who could sleep through such intensity? I timed just a few contractions and sent a desperate text to my doula.

I needed her to come. I couldn’t manage these. They were at least a minute long, but some were coming as close as every two minutes. I couldn’t catch my breath in between, much less still my mind.

My doula called, heard my panting hello (I was between contractions just then), and suggested we head to the hospital.

We went through the list of last minute packing items – phones and cameras and chargers and popsicles. That is, I pointed to the list in between contractions while Daniel collected items.

I paused a dozen times on my way from our bedroom to the front door. Stopping to lean against the wall, over a chair, against the living room shelving, over the children’s play table. A voice in the back of my head reminded me to keep my vocalizations low, but all that came out was cries of agony.

My mother-in-law awoke (or did she sleep at all? The terrible waves started less than an hour after I’d tucked myself into bed.)

We finally made it out of the house and into the car, where I chafed at the seat and the belt – basically at anything. The washboard road and potholes we’d been hoping would put me into labor a week ago taunted me. Was this what you wanted?

In a brief moment between those terrible contractions, I noticed that it was almost eleven. This baby would be born on Christmas Eve, no doubt. Go figure. Babies in my family insist on being born on significant days.

Then the terrible thought intruded. What if we got there and I wasn’t progressing at all? What if I were dilated to two? I started shaking, the same sort of out-of-control shaking that had convinced me to ask for c-section with Tirzah Mae.

We arrived at the hospital, drove past the ER entrance, turned around and started through.

ER was swift and efficient. They were convinced I’d be delivering on my way upstairs to labor and delivery. Nevertheless, I refused a wheelchair, remembering the agony of sitting in the car during contractions.

It didn’t matter. I didn’t have any contractions on the way up to labor and delivery. Didn’t have any until they insisted that I sit on the examination table in triage to be checked and to check out the baby.

40% effaced, the resident announced. Dilated to 2 cm.

I could have cried, but a contraction began and I was sitting on that terrible table. I tensed my arms to lift my bottom off the table and the nurse told me if I wanted to have a natural birth (she’d had two, she told me, out of seven total) I’d have to learn to relax through the contractions.

In retrospect, her admonition was completely true – but, in the moment, all I could think was “I can relax – if I’m allowed to stand up!”

The baby’s tracing was normal. The resident suggested I stay an hour, walk the halls, see how far I’d progressed by then.

And so we did. My doulas were there now, so we walked in circles through labor and delivery. I caught them up on the events of the day, explaining to them that the contractions I was experiencing right now? About a minute long every five minutes or so? These were like the contractions I’d been having at seven this morning. Enough that I had to stop and manage them, but mild enough that I could even talk through them (so long as I could move around, of course).

If I was discouraged that afternoon, it had nothing on this evening.

I was going to be cut open again. My body couldn’t do labor. Given my mental state when I came in, maybe my mind couldn’t do labor either.

But at least I hadn’t progressed far enough that they’d suggest me staying. If there’s one thing I knew, it was that being at the hospital would erode my chances of a vaginal delivery even more.

So I walked and talked with my doulas, biding my time until the hour was up and the resident could send me home.

Attempting to Labor by the Book (Beth-Ellen’s Birth Story, part 2)

January 10th, 2018

The laboring notebook I’d so carefully prepared from various sources said latent labor lasted 8-12 hours on average. And first time laborers (which I was) tend to labor longer than experienced moms.


Are you feeling lost? Maybe you’d like to read part 1 of Beth-Ellen’s birth story


So when Daniel woke up at 4, I explained that labor had started and begged him NOT to call his mother just yet.

Let his mother sleep, I thought. Call her at six when she’d normally be getting up.

But Daniel insisted that his mother had told him to call as soon as we knew we were in labor – and so he did.

Still holding on to the delusion that I’d be able to get some sleep, I texted my doula to let her know that things had started – and then laid back down.

My labor notebook told me that my priorities in latent labor were two-fold: 1) conserve strength and 2) distract myself.

But sleep continued to elude me. Lying down was certainly not conserving mental strength – it did nothing at all to distract me. Every bit of my mental and physical energy was focused on trying to relax through the contractions and the continued pressure. After another hour or so, I gave up and got up, joining Daniel in the living room.

I’d try that distraction thing.

I wrapped the last of the children’s Christmas presents. I started the new year’s bullet journal layouts – indexes and future log, a calendar page for January. I read from my NIV Sola Scriptura Reader’s Bible.

Contractions were still coming every 3-5 minutes, 30-60 seconds long – but the distraction let me (mostly) ignore the pelvic pressure in between contractions.

The kids woke up and I retreated back into the bedroom, where I napped-ish for an hour and a half or so.

Grandma arrived around 9:30 am.

I returned to the living area and puttered about, doing a little laundry, a little tidying, a little this and a little that. I turned on the “worship to sing” playlist I’d prepared for laboring. Contractions continued, a minute long every 3-5 minutes. When the contractions came, I lunged in place or rocked my hips to the music.

We ate lunch together and I retreated back to the bedroom in an attempt to get a little more sleep. At this point I’d been laboring just over 12 hours – what my book says was the upper limit of a usual latent labor.

“I think I need to conserve strength if possible”, I told my doulas via text, right before I headed to bed.

An hour and a half later, I texted them again: “Huh. Well, I got a bit of sleep and it’s like things have just stopped. I still feel a bit crampy, but I haven’t been feeling any contractions.”

But within another hour, we were back to where we left off. Contractions every 3-5 minutes, had to stop to focus on them but could still talk through them. When I sat down (even bouncing on the birth ball), they slowed down and lost some intensity – and as soon as I stood up they increased in frequency and intensity. I was becoming discouraged and confused. This was still obviously (to me) not yet active labor – I was managing on my own, not needing Daniel’s help to manage contractions. But should I still be trying to conserve strength? I’d had three or four hours of sleep in the past 36 hours. Maybe I should instead stay standing, try to get things to intensify so we could just make progress?

One of my doulas reminded me of the verse she’d read earlier that week, when I’d been fretting over how long this baby was taking in coming: “The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth” (Psalm 29:9) The Lord’s voice would bring forth my baby as well, at just the right time.

We ate dinner, put the children to bed. I had some diarrhea (a good sign, my book told me), took a bath, went to bed.

By now, I was ten hours past the book’s 12 hour upper limit for latent labor. I knew better than to place too much stock in the numbers, but it was still discouraging. I’d tried so hard to act according to the book, to conserve strength and to distract myself. But my body just wouldn’t stick to the book at all. The contractions started where they stayed, 3-5 minutes apart. They increased in length and intensity – but slowly. And the latent phase was lasting forever.

Lucky women labor late (Beth-Ellen’s Birth Story, part 1)

January 9th, 2018

Lucky women begin latent labor late in the day. I don’t remember when or where I read it, but I hoped to be one of those lucky women who could sleep between contractions as the time between contractions decreased from 30 minutes at the onset of latent labor to 5-6 minutes apart at the beginning of active labor.

I imagined myself trying to conserve strength if labor started during the day – and almost always imagined myself failing. I’m not good at doing nothing, especially if I know I’ve got a baby coming imminently.

So every night for the previous 3 or 4 weeks I’d been tucking myself into bed, praying that tonight would be the night – and that I’d sleep right through most of it.

By this time, though, my hope was wearing thin. This baby was showing no signs of budging. My cervix was firm and closed, as closed as it’d been at 37 weeks – 4.5 weeks ago, when we’d declared this baby free to come. In my most discouraged moments (and even in some of the less morose ones), I was sure we’d get to 43 weeks, still closed and I’d be cut open again, effectively barring me from any hope of a normal delivery ever.

So I wasn’t hopeful the evening of December 22 as I fell into bed exhausted at nine or ten.

No matter. Babies do not seem to pay much attention to their mother’s hopes – or if they do, they do so only to tease.

I awoke to strong contractions at eleven. These were clearly different than the Braxton Hicks I’d had on and off for the past many months. I could not ignore these. Nor could I rest between them. The contractions ebbed and flowed, but the incredible pressure between my sitz bones did not.

I moved to the couch lest I wake Daniel. Even if I could not conserve my strength, I’d try to conserve his. I writhed, I breathed, I tried all the distraction measures I’d been practicing to try to take my mind off the pain, the pressure. After an hour, I decided to go ahead and focus on the contractions enough to time them.

A minute long. Six minutes apart. This was not what I’d read to expect. These were supposed to be shorter, further apart. I was supposed to be able to sleep between them.

I went to the bathroom around one, now on December 23rd. The bloody mucous plug told me that something really was happening.

But I wasn’t managing this early part well. It started so much more intensely than I’d expected. And I knew from a quick check in the bathroom that it wasn’t because my cervix was opening rapidly.

I debated a bath. I needed relief from the never-ending pressure, but I didn’t want to slow down this labor that had taken so long to start in the first place. If I’d read it once, I’d read it a half dozen times. A soak in early labor will slow things down. Wait until you’re in active labor to get in a birthing pool.

The need for relief (and the desire to maintain Daniel’s strength for the active part when I was sure I’d need him) won out. I took the bath, experienced sweet relief from that awful pressure. As promised, the contractions decreased – somewhat. They were now only 15-45 seconds long, but still coming every four minutes.

I felt relaxed enough when my bath was done to get into bed and try to sleep. I texted Daniel that labor had started and that I was going to try to sleep (still trying to conserve his strength – especially because he has a hard time napping during the day).

The pressure returned. I could keep myself in a left-lying Sims’ position only by mentally singing through my trouble hymns.

I breathed my way through “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, through “How Firm a Foundation”, through “It is Well with My Soul”. I started over, the songs the only thing between me and tears. It was so intense, so early. How would I manage active labor if I was having so much trouble with the latent stuff?

I couldn’t think about that, had to stay in the moment. I sang through my trouble songs again, reminding myself of the strength outside myself, by whose strength I could endure whatever might come.

Finally, it was 4 AM, five hours in. Daniel woke up.


Read the rest of the story: part 2

A Christmas gift

December 26th, 2017

After 55 hours of labor, we were pleased to welcome Beth-Ellen Irene Garcia into the outside world on Christmas Day.

She was born at 42 weeks, just like her mother before her, and, by the grace of God, via an unmedicated vaginal birth after 2 cesarean sections.

Welcoming Beth-Ellen into the family

She is the answer to prayer, a delightful Christmas present. But, as the reporter from our local news forced me to clarify, Beth-Ellen is not the greatest Christmas present ever.

As I told the reporter (unfortunately, the most important part got left out of the news clip), that distinction is reserved for another baby, one born over 2000 years ago. Because while Beth-Ellen came on Christmas to be a part of our family, Jesus came as “not just a member of our family but someone who came to make us a member of God’s family, and that’s truly the greatest gift. And what a treasure we have to be able to share that with our daughter, our Beth-Ellen.”

Rejoicing in the Incarnation – and in this precious gift we get to share Christ’s gift with.

41 weeks: Repenting at Leisure

December 18th, 2017

Three months ago, I wrote of the “countdown“:

But all mothers can agree: the time will come when you feel SO PREGNANT you just CAN’T WAIT for this baby to be BORN ALREADY!

And surely this is a common experience for many mothers….
But some of us, we mothers of preemies who persist in getting pregnant, have a different experience.

I think I can understand how normal women feel, how impatient they become with the waiting, the comments, the ungainliness of a heavily pregnant frame. But I can’t imagine ever feeling so pregnant, so eager for my pregnancy to end.

Instead, I tease about inducing at 44 weeks, about making up for lost womb-time.

Well, now, at 41 weeks pregnant, still healthy, I understand how normal women feel.

I’m tired of waiting. Tired of getting up each morning and trying to get my house clean because “today might be the day”. Tired of analyzing every little change: “could this be the beginning of labor?” Tired of telling Daniel every morning that yes, he should still go to work.

I’m tired of worrying. Tired of mentally estimating baby’s position every time he kicks (baby was engaged head down at 37 weeks – and flipped head up and completely out of my pelvis by 39 weeks before heading back down again.) Tired of wondering whether my body is even capable of initiating labor, much less going through with it. Tired of worrying that I’ll have my longest, healthiest pregnancy yet only to be cut open again – and never have a chance for a normal delivery.

Even when I’m experiencing the pregnancy I’d only ever dreamed of – healthy, normal, active – I’m still filled with envy. Envying my friend (due after me, of course) who delivered naturally at home at 37 weeks. Envying my cousin’s wife (due after me, of course) who delivered in the hospital ten days early. Envying another friend (due two weeks after me, of course) who delivered on her WAY to the hospital last week.

Even as I’m living the happiest-yet ending to one of my pregnancies, I’m crying and complaining all the time.

Oh, who will deliver me from this body of death?

I thank God, through Jesus Christ my Lord!

Playing Pregnant

December 3rd, 2017

I remember it clearly.

My mother drawing the hopscotch board on the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Drawing it properly – with a big square at the center, diagonal lines dividing it into four equal triangles numbered 4 through 7.

My mother, showing us how to hop on one foot and then on two. One. Two-three. Four. Five-six. Seven. Eight-nine. Ten. One last hop across the line.

My mother, showing us the tricky part. Throw the beanbag on a number. Hop across, skipping that number. One. Two. Four. Five-six. Seven. Eight-nine. Ten. Hop across the line. Returning to pick up the fallen beanbag. Ten. Nine-eight. Seven. Six-five. Balance on one leg on four while picking up the beanbag on three. Now two. One. Hop to return to the starting line.

I was five. Anna was six. Joshua was almost four. This was our homeschool P.E.

As clearly as I remember it, one detail escaped my notice.

Thankfully, it didn’t escape my father’s notice. He took a series of pictures, which made plain upon later inspection what my memory does not.

My mother taught her four oldest children to play hopscotch while heavily pregnant with baby number 5 – at least eight months pregnant with baby number 5.

If pregnancy slowed her down, we didn’t know it. Pregnancy was part of her life, and of our lives by extension. We had no idea that pregnancy meant altering much of anything.

Maybe the relative ease (at least to all outward appearances) with which my mother carried and bore her children influenced my early desire to have a whole slew of children myself. Certainly her example made me confident that healthy pregnancy, natural childbirth, safe homebirth was possible. After all, she had seven healthy pregnancies, seven natural childbirths, five safe homebirths (the other two were planned hospital births).

And then I had two pregnancies that were anything but healthy. I had two births that were about as far from natural as you can get. I had a month’s worth of hospitalization between the two births.

Our maternal fetal specialist told us he didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t continue to have more children – but that we should expect similar outcomes each time. We should expect preeclampsia, preterm delivery, NICU stays.

And so we did. I wrestled with the idea of hoping for a normal pregnancy for a while before deciding that the specialist was right. Better to expect the most probable circumstances and be pleasantly surprised if things don’t turn out that way than to set myself up for disappointment by hoping for an improbability.

And then we passed the point where we had been hospitalized with Tirzah Mae. We passed the point where Tirzah Mae was born. We passed the point where we were hospitalized with Louis. We passed the point where Louis was born. I was more pregnant than I’d ever been.

Then I was term.

And then, today, just shy of thirty-nine weeks, over eight-and-a-half months pregnant, I stood with my preschool Sunday school class and led them in singing:

“Hallelu- Hallelu- Hallelu – Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord
Hallelu- Hallelu- Hallelu – Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord
Praise ye the Lord
Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord
Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord
Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord”

The gals who had been visiting at the desk outside our classroom’s big window turned around to watch as I squatted down low to the ground on each “Hallelu” and popped up with my hands in the air for each “Praise ye the Lord.”

And I thought of my mother, eight and a half months pregnant, teaching my siblings and me how to play hopscotch. And I rejoiced, thankful that I’ve now been able to experience what I never imagined, on this side of preeclampsia, I’d be able to experience: a perfectly healthy pregnancy.

39 weeks pregnant and still playing with the kids.

Any day now Sometime next month

November 21st, 2017

With my other pregnancies, I was reticent to make predictions about when baby was coming. I told my due date with Tirzah Mae (Christmas Day is a pretty spectacular due date), but always immediately clarified “so we’re expecting the baby to come around the New Year.”

Louis was due July 31, and the last thing I wanted was for people to get “due in July” in their heads and therefore get impatient and start asking me when the baby’s coming too soon. I told everyone I was due at the beginning of August.

Left to themselves, many babies go past the due date. I myself went two weeks past. And that’s just fine. “Late” generally means “not yet ready to face the outside world”.

And I was (and always have been) determined to let my babies choose their birthdays.

But after two babies born prematurely due to severe preeclampsia, and with our maternal-fetal specialist telling us we should expect a recurrence, I gave up on obscuring my due date. After all, it’s not like I’ve ever gotten close enough to the due date to feel pressured.

I haven’t scheduled anything besides doctor’s appointments for two months now, because I expected to go to the hospital for bedrest at any time. For two months now, my fellow Sunday School teachers have been telling me they’re hoping to see me again next week – explicitly or implicitly expressing their hopes that I not have a baby just yet.

And every week for the past two months, I show up to Sunday school or Bible study and see the relief on all my friends’ faces. I’m here. I’m still pregnant. Friends and acquaintances, all of whom have been praying, catch my eye and we share a look of rejoicing, thankful for God’s grace in prolonging this pregnancy.

And then, yesterday, I reached 37 weeks. Term.

The baby can come now, at any time.

Now that we’re term, “stay pregnant” doesn’t apply.

We have. We are. And now the baby can come, whenever he chooses.

After two months of expecting the baby to arrive at any time, of praying the baby won’t, of counting down first to “more pregnant than I’ve ever been” and then to “term”, it’s time to switch gears.

Now that everyone knows it’s only three weeks until that magical “due date”, now that everyone knows we’re term, now it’s time to switch gears.

For months, it’s been “any day now” I expected my health to head south – now I need to adjust to “could be another five weeks”.

Because I still believe it best for baby to choose his own birthday. And I don’t want my excitement over making it to term to rob this little one of his final fetal triumph – that of initiating this amazing process we call “childbirth”.

36 week selfie

November 13th, 2017

36 week selfie
Me this morning, at 36 weeks. (Also, a really dirty mirror. This picture actually convinced me to clean the mirror today.)

New to me as I experience 36 weeks for the first time:

  • I look pregnant. Undeniably pregnant. Not “could-just-be-android-obesity.” Pregnant.
  • My pelvis feels like it has a hinge in the middle front (because it does!) My body is preparing to birth a baby.
  • Movements at 36 weeks and however big this baby is are way different than movements at 32 or 34 weeks and ~3.5 lbs.
  • I can’t for a moment forget that I’m pregnant. Whether it’s kicks or Braxton Hicks or not being able to reach my feet, I am constantly aware that I am pregnant.
  • Did you catch that, folks? I’m pregnant! I’m STILL PREGNANT! Despite the increasing discomfort, the euphoria at that constant reminder has not faded.

That said, please continue to pray for me. Pray that I would fix my eyes upon Christ and praise him whatever may come. As I approach term, still healthy, I find myself becoming more and more excited at the prospect of having a normal birth. But with the excitement comes fear. What if I get my hopes up for a term pregnancy, for spontaneous labor, for a successful VBA2C… only to have them dashed? A friend encouraged me to set my hope in Christ rather than in a specific birth – and while I know that is the absolute best advice anyone could give, it’s easier to assent to it mentally than to put it into practice.

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