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My Birth Story & Why I will never elect for an epidural EVER again.

5.18.2017

*I haven't posted this because I wanted to add photos to make this an easier read, but after seeing yesterday that a friend of mine also had this happen to them, I had to just hit publish. I'll come back and add photos later. Done is better than perfect they say.*

This is a (long) message to all my pregnant friends and all the ladies who will be pregnant one day. Also, before people want to object and tell me I'm crazy, please know that I KNOW everyone is different and has had great experiences with an epidural... and honestly, I am super freakin' jealous of y'all right now you have no idea...

When I gave birth to Beau, I chose to get an epidural. I gave myself no other option. I even joked to friends that they could put it in my forehead because I didn’t want to feel anything. Me and pain don’t mix. Never have and never will. Call me weak, call me lame, I don’t even care. I’m mad at myself and wish I could go back in time and elect for any other option than putting that catheter and needle into my back. 

Beau will be 9 months on June 2nd, and sadly, I have been dealing with a 24/7 excruciating/bloody murder type of lower back pain, as well as other annoying and awful symptoms…all due to that epidural since. Basically, I regret this decision every. damn. day. 

My story, and my experience…the good, the bad, the ugly…it’s all here. It’s a long one. BUT I’m hoping that I can help someone…anyone. I recently just saw that a fellow instagram friend in Paris is going through this exact same thing, so I wanted to get this out there NOW. I hope to encourage women to do more research before they did what I did…NOT RESEARCH AT ALL and not give myself the option of anything else. 

The other day I looked at Drew, while laying on a heating pad in the living room after a long day, and said, “Babe. Why do you think this happened to me? I didn’t ask from an “Please feel sorry for me, Why Me?” place. I asked from more of a “Why do you think God chose me to have this happen? He thought I was strong enough to go through this, but what purpose do you think this is serving?” When I restructured my thinking and that question, it became more apparent to me that I needed to share my story. Granted, what happened to me is very rare. Let me repeat that…VERY. RARE.  But! It happens. It’s happened. It’s happening. Did I think I would be one of the unfortunate ones? No. I didn’t. What I do know is that I am not here to scare anyone. I’m here to simply “educate” about my experience and just state that this does happen. Nobody talks about it. The more I have googled, “Back pain from epidural” the more forums I have found of women desperately looking for answers.. And Drew seems to think that if I tell my story, and I’m able to help one person not feel alone in this experience, or if someone can help me figure out how to fix this, then this season has a purpose. 

Back in November, I wrote a Facebook status about my situation. I was defeated, sad, and couldn’t help but think, “MAN! I wish someone would have warned me about the potential side effects, and long-term/life altering effects that an EPIDURAL could give you.” You always hear that it’s the miracle drug of childbirth. And rightfully so. It numbs you and makes labor much more tolerable. I get it. I was signed up, I was on board, and never second guessed my decision. To me, it felt like the decision was like if you had a headache…do you take the excedrin or do you just deal with it? Ya know? I have experienced kidney stones 4 times in my life, and I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. I wanted to be present in labor but not in pain. I also know that me and pain do NOT go together. I wanted my husband to be in a peaceful atmosphere. The poor guy was scared to death. Excited, but nervous, just like any eager Dad waiting to hold their baby. I wanted to be in a peaceful atmosphere. And every friend of mine that has had an epidural, spoke about how wonderful they were. I was SOLD. I had NEVER heard of a bad experience with an epidural. 

I’ve done so much research, I’ve been in physical therapy for months, I’ve literally tried everything. Medical bills are ruling my life, and I’m 9 months into this living nightmare. The more I look for answers online, the more Mom’s I have found that who have gone through this with NO answer. “Tough luck” and “sucks for you” is basically what kind of treatment you get. NOBODY KNOWS and NOBODY will admit that it was the catheter/epidural.  I've probably cried every day since giving birth because of this intense and EXTREME lower back pain. I just can’t even describe it. I can’t move certain ways. Everything I do is hard. I feel it at all times. Even laying down. There hasn’t been a minute of relief. Some days are better than others, but there are no days of relief.  My feet feel numb sometimes and tingle often and my rear end even feels numb most of the time. I have weird electric feelings in my head, mostly behind my eyes. It’s kind of like lightening strikes going through my head, and that makes me feel like my eyes are burning out of my head. This has triggered a deep depression, crazy anxiety (even more so than I have ever had), and now, PTSD. Thinking of having another baby makes me so uncomfortable. It terrifies me, and that is HEARTBREAKING for me. It shouldn’t be this way. It just shouldn’t. 

Okay, so, my story…Here we go!

I was 40 weeks pregnant, 1 cm dilated, and miserable. (Said every pregnant woman, ever.) That was on the Friday of my due date (August 26th). I really wanted to go into labor naturally, and so I decided to basically burn my tongue off by eating all the pineapple on the planet, I walked and walked and walked (walked=waddled*), and tried everything but castor oil to get this baby out. But Mr. BBHP was nice and cozy. On Tuesday, I went in to get looked at, confident that I had progressed, and I was still at 1cm. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to cry (Okay, I probably cried) and was just ready to meet my little man. I sound like every overdue pregnant woman on the planet, I know. They scheduled me to get induced on Friday, but I would go in on Thursday night. I didn’t want to get induced but I was assured I was in good hands and all was okay. Plus my Mom was freaking out because she took all of her vacation days off to help me with the baby, and this extra week cut into her days helping me postpartum. Ha! Anyway.

On Thursday, everything felt surreal. I continued to walk that day in hopes I would go into labor naturally, and even hopped on a mechanical elephant at the outlet mall that 5 pound kids play on hoping that would kick start something. But nope.That wasn’t my proudest moment, I will say, lol but hey, I WAS DESPERATE!  All we got out of that was a good laugh! I am still surprised I didn’t break the thing. 

I showered, and remember choking up because of the nerves, butterflies and just knowing that I was about to finally meet my son. It didn’t feel real. (It still doesn’t!) Life was about to be so different, in all the best ways. My Mom, Drew and I went to Jason’s Deli, said a prayer in the parking lot, and headed into the hospital. I got all checked in, and they administered the pill that would soften my cervix over night. 

When I woke up in the morning, around 7 am, they checked me and I was at a 2. I remember saying, “WHAT THE HECK YAYA! LOOSEN UP WILL YA!?” That will be the first and last time I will ever say that. :) At around 7:30, the nurse told me I could shower, and order breakfast. I started to feel a little bit of cramping, but it kind of felt like the first day of PMS. I was told that was a contraction, and I remember thinking, “Hey, that isn’t SO bad.” Little did I know what was to come. I ordered breakfast and was about to take a shower when the nurse told me that I couldn’t do either because the anesthesiologist was going to come in shortly to give me my epidural. I wasn’t even in a lot of pain yet, so I thought it was strange that I was getting it so early. But I guess he was a busy man, and they said there was a chance that he would be too busy later to give it to me. My Mom left the room to get a sandwich, and next thing I know, the needle man was rushing in the room, with an assistant/helper of some sort. The assistant raised my bed, and had me sit on the edge, with my back curved into a C. They never told me to be still. Thankfully I knew I needed to me still, but they never even told me when they were putting it in my back. All of the sudden, I heard the girl say, “Okay, here…and that’s when I felt my life change. And not in a good way. She placed a catheter into my back, and I could feel my nerves scream in agony. I wanted to jump through the roof. She asked me if I could feel it, and when I told her yes, that it hurt really badly, she was surprised.  She said, “Hmmm” and removed it. She then placed this catheter back in, and said, how is that? I said it still hurt. I basically wanted to scream all the curse words under the sun. Dummy ol’ me, didn’t even know that a catheter was supposed to be used during an epidural. I just thought it was a shot. But nope! The shot came SECOND.  A few seconds later, they put the needle in, I felt a substantial sting (this wasn’t even the worst part) and I just remember my back being on freaking fire. I could tell that something was hurting badly, but at the time, I thought that was “normal” and that it would go away later, after birthing Beau. I asked them how often to administer the drug, and they said whenever I wanted. 

That was that. Until about 30 seconds later…the room was spinning, people sounded faint in the background, and I was about to pass out. I told the nurse I didn’t feel well at all, and that I was going to fall over and pass out. She ran over and held me, called for another nurse, who then ran over with a drug, shot it into my IV and I felt much better. My blood pressure PLUMMETED like crazy. The nurse adjusted me back in the bed, and then about 30 seconds later, it happened again. My blood pressure went down so fast. It royally sucked. The nurse ran over, injected another IV of fenagrin or whatever it’s called, and my blood pressure rose back to a normal state. 

Five minutes later…it happened, AGAIN. Three freaking times. The nurse injected me again, and told me that she had only seen this happen twice, but never three times. I’m sure it’s happened this many times to other’s before, but I guess I was her only patient that it had happened to. I know I never, ever want to feel that again. It was sucktastic. 

Little did I know, that epidural changed my well-being forever. I remember slouching over in my bed and realizing I couldn’t move myself up very well. In my head, I blamed the epidural, and figured it was also normal. I couldn’t stretch my back or move myself up in the bed. My spine kind of felt like it went from a flimsy noodle to a thick, leather strap that had a wooden stick in it. And it wasn’t because of the medicine. The nurses would every now and then ask me to move up, and I would have to have them all move me. 

I know this sounds crazy…but my back hurt worse than my contractions. How sad is that? My left side felt more of the drug than my right, and I remember my cheek being so numb that I almost didn’t want to feel that way. I was swelling like crazy from the water retention. At around noon, they checked me again, and I was at a 2 1/2. 

At about that time, I rolled over to my right side. And my blood pressure dropped, and Beau’s heart rate dropped to an alarming rate. The nurse came running in, had me lay on my left side, and Beau’s heart rate went back to normal. I was told to NOT lay on my right side. So I basically laid on my left side the whole day.

The rest of the day though was really, really slow. I hung out in the room watching TV with Drew and my Mom. I took a small nap. I chewed on some ice chips. At around 3ish, my nurse came in and checked me. They decided to scrape my cervix in hopes to get me to progress. This also really SUCKED. I didn’t ever think I would relate to a cantaloupe being gutted, but for that short moment, I did. (Gross, I know.) Just telling you like it is.   

 At 5, she checked and I was at a 4. YAY! I was progressing. But slower than a snail. I’m pretty sure my friends and family waiting were getting annoyed at my progression, because I was ready to get the show on the road. The nurse said that when she came back for my next check, she would break my water.

She wasn’t out of the room for 3 minutes, when I felt my water break. At first I wasn’t sure, but I looked over at Drew and said, “I either just peed myself realllll bad, or that was my water that broke!” I got super excited, because I knew it was getting to be go time. FINALLY! 

I called the nurse, she came in, confirmed the water breaking. Yada yada yada. Praise JESUS! Whoop whoop! I texted all my friends and family with the update and you could tell we all pepped up from our sleepy let’s get this show on the road state.

At 7 PM, I was at an 8, and at 8PM I was at a 9. I for sure thought Beau would be out any moment. I could feel pressure, and I could feel the contractions a little, but my body was so numb on the left side that I could have put a knife in my leg and not felt anything. 

At this time, my female nurse left the room, and a tall dude nurse came in. I was kind of confused at first and thought I would be super uncomfortable with a guy delivering me, but I was at the point where I just didn’t care. I will say it was REALLY awkward having my husband staring at a guy looking at my hoo-ha! I remember looking at him and saying, “So, my name is Shalyn, it’s nice to meet you. This is my husband, Drew, and well, I might as well introduce my yaya too! I’m sorry you have to do this! LOL!” He started laughing and said, “Yeeeep. Pretty sure we would get along in real life.” 

I was at a 10 before I knew it, andddd my Dr. was delivering another baby. She had came in earlier before that and did a test push with me. She told to push like I was going under water? Well, I did what she said, and yeah, let’s just say she thought it was going to be a long long night. But, little did she know that I had already been given advice from a ton of friends so let’s just say I knew what mentality and method I needed to get the baby out. :) I’ll spare ya the details. 

At 9:12 I started pushing. At about 9:50ish, my nurse said, HOLD on. Don’t push. The baby will be out if you do. Let me go get the Dr. So, I tried not to push. I looked at Drew, who was literally the most precious husband, ever, wearing his “I love my wife” shirt, and said, “Babe. I know I said I wanted soothing Christian music playing, but I just can’t push to this. I need something to amp me up!” 


“I NEED GANGSTA RAP!”

So Gangsta Rap it was my friends. I believe he put it on the Lil’ Wayne Spotify station, and next thing I know, my Dr. is running in, putting gloves on, nurses swarmed in, the big light came in (hated this lol) and Beau made his debut at 10:00 PM to the song, “Gas Pedal by Sage the Gemini…”

I know. I know. The kid is destined for greatness. 

They handed Beau to me, and he wasn’t crying. I was of course, crying, looking down at my baby, looking up at Drew, so happy. So full of bliss, and Beau still hadn’t made a peep. I asked the Dr. why he wasn’t making any noise, and she wiped his head a little. Still, nothing. He was moving, but not a whole lot. I looked at the Dr. again and concerned, said, “Why isn’t he crying?” She started to try to slap his bum a little, and so they suctioned out his mouth a few times, and finally, he cried. It was the longest 30ish seconds of my life. Dramatic, but I knew this was the beginning of what was to come. Non-stop worrying, nice to meet you!

His lungs were 2% where they needed to be, so they took Beau from me, and I didn’t get to have my skin to skin like I wanted for the first hour after delivery. At this time, Beau was gone, and the room cleared, and it was just me and the Dr. She stitched me up, that wasn’t really all that fun, and then the next thing I knew…I was in the room alone. 

I don’t know where anyone went. I was a little confused but just used that time to text friends and family that Beau was finally here. 

My Mom came in, and she and I had some time to just talk about what happened, and how we couldn’t believe he was here. Now, don’t judge me. I will be judged and honestly, I still can’t believe I did this myself. We actually didn’t make this decision until we were HEADED to the hospital. No lie. 

Back in the beginning of my pregnancy, my sister-in-law, who was also pregnant (with her second baby) asked me to come with her to a baby class. I found out that it was a Placenta Encapsulation class and thought “Hell to the no. That is literally disgusting.” I went with her, but literally just as moral support. The class was super interesting, and there were a lot of second time Mom’s in there who had really, really bad post partum depression and who were willing to try ANYTHING to not have that happen again. Or atleast as bad. I went home and told Drew about it, and was more open to the idea, but still couldn’t really wrap my head around it. I was going to wait to see what happened with my sister-in-law and if it worked for her, or if it was a joke, or if it was a place-bo effect. My sister-in-law swore by it. She said it worked. Her entire post partum recovery was world’s different, and she never had any depression. Well, depression runs deep in my family, so I secretly was a little scared I was going to have it. I had probably a tiny case of it before getting pregnant with Drew being gone so much, and working at home alone…and then when I was pregnant, I could tell I wasn’t 100% feeling myself for a million reasons (no energy, body changes, never felt good, a ton of weight gain, etc) and well, on the way to the hospital, I decided to have my placenta encapsulated as much as it grossed me out. The benefits outweighed not doing it, and worst case, I didn’t take the pills if I didn’t want to. But I had the option. 

The nurses, the Dr.’s and the entire staff knew I was doing this. It was written in big bold letters on the white board, and we had the ice chest where they told us to put it…right next the white board where it said, “KEEP THE PLACENTA!” (So gross, I know! I know.) But it had to go straight into the ice chest, because it wouldn’t be any good if that didn’t happen. 

I called the lady to come pick it up, and she said her husband would be there at about 11pm. He texted, my Mom picked up the ice-chest, ran it down to him, and that was that. 

Every hour, my nurse would come in and tell me they would have a room for me soon. But to hang tight. I got to hold Beau during this time, so time flew by for the most part. I was so freaking tired, and so I had Drew go get me a fat turkey sandwich. That turkey sandwich tasted like a 100 dollar steak y’all. I literally wanted ten turkey sandwiches. At about 2 am, my nurse came in to document something or another, and she lifted this sheet up off the table of medical tools. She looked over at me and said, “So did you decide not to keep your placenta? Or are you going to have them pick it up for you?” 

I looked up from gazing at Beau, and I said, “Oh, he came around 11 pm and got it!” 

“Ummm, well…your placenta is still here. It’s right here.”

They never put my placenta in the ice chest. They had it covered up under the sheet. Guys… I wanted to cry. I texted my lady at 2:30 in the morning, telling her what happened, she apologized like crazy for her husband not opening the cooler. I wasn’t upset with her AT ALL. Yes, that might have been a good idea, BUT I’m sorry, I wouldn’t want to open the ice chest either ya know? The hospital completely screwed that up. I remained calm though, and her husband came to the hospital at 3:30 AM to get it. I told her not to worry about it, but she sent him anyway. Customer service like whoa. I was blown away. But there was still a chance that it wouldn’t be any good…but we were going to take a chance and see. 

At 4:00 a.m., I’m still in my delivery room. I had not moved since giving birth to Beau, mostly because I couldn’t feel my legs or my feet, and I had nobody in there with me for the longest time to help. When my nurse came in to move me, she came to my side and had me sit up to get out of the bed. The wheelchair was waiting for me, and she said, “Okay, get up slowly.” I started to get up, and quickly realized and was reminded of the pain in my back. Only to also discover that the catheter was STILL in my back. Nobody had removed it. I asked a friend of mine who is a labor and delivery nurse and she told me that it should have been removed within the first two hours after giving birth. Well, 6 hours later, the stupid thing was still in my back. She removed it, I wanted to die, and I got in the wheelchair. I cuddled Beau, and went to sleep at around 5 a.m. 

That morning, I woke up, had Drew help me shower, and his parents came to visit. I’m telling you this because this is where I started to worry, but was told not to worry. I had just taken a Tramadol about 2 hours prior to this happening, and I had a stomach full of food. The blinds were open, the sun was shining in super bright, and I was watching the Texas A&M football game. Drew’s parents were talking, and holding Beau, when all of the sudden, I felt really dizzy, really light headed, and I couldn’t hold my head up. It felt like it was 30 pounds, and I looked at Drew and said, “Something is wrong babe. Very wrong.” He was standing by the light, so when I turned towards him, I couldn’t bare seeing the light. It hurt so bad. My eyes burned. My head hurt. I wanted to go into a deep sleep immediately. It was like I took 3 sleeping pills, sleepy. (I’ve never done that, but it’s what I would imagine it would feel like.)

Drew called in the nurse, I told her what happened and she said it was probably a reaction to the Tramadol. 

Overtime a nurse would ask me what my pain was like on a scale of 1 to 10, I would say about a 5 to 6, but would remind them that my back hurt really bad. They assured me that it was from giving labor, it was normal, and would bring in hot packs and ice packs for me. I probably went through one an hour my entire stay. 

When I left the hospital, I still couldn’t walk well. My legs were so swollen. In fact, my whole entire body was swollen. I had seen a lot of Mom’s leave the hospital looking a lot smaller, but me? I was a BLIMP. I was more swollen leaving than I had ever been pregnant. It was hilarious and sad all at the same time. I couldn’t feel my feet, even 2 days later. 

To sum the next 6 weeks up: I cried every day. Between my hormones, the highs and lows, the joy of having a newborn, to the lack of sleep, to the pain down there in my lady parts, to my back radiating fire and feeling like someone stabbed me with a hot wooden stick… let me just say, my husband is a good, good, GOOD, man. Bless him. Let’s just say, more women should talk about postpartum recovery. Because we don’t and it isn’t all that great. Atleast for most of us. It really is a painful, awkward and just, raw time. 

During these 6 weeks, I assumed the pain in my back was normal. I kept thinking it would get better every day. But it didn’t. It got worse, and worse, and worse. I couldn’t do anything. I say that and you might be thinking, “YEAH OK SHAY” but I legit felt like a useless, broken and horrible mother. Holding Beau was a task. Changing his diaper was so hard. Picking him up, putting him down, sitting on the couch, getting off of the couch, walking, throwing away a piece of trash…basically anything that required your back…which is EVERYTHING, could not be done. I had never in my life felt more low than I did. Pain, in any form will drive a person mad, and sad, and into a downward spiral mentally, physically, and emotionally faster than you could possibly imagine. Especially when your 6 week check up comes, and you’re still not healed, and everyone around you that just had babies are already starting to exercise. I on the other hand felt like a carrot. I took my healthy and perfectly working back, and gave it all away. Just because I didn’t want to feel the pain of labor. I know I shouldn’t blame myself or be mad at myself, because this is just unfortunate…but I am. I struggled bad y’all…and I still do, even today. Everything I do movement wise, is restricted. I don’t ever not feel my back hurt. Chronic Pain is NO joke. It’s the devil. 

At around 7 weeks, I woke up one morning, and knew I needed to go to the ER. And fast. My back burned like fire, it cramped up so tight that I felt like if I did anything, my spine would break. Being a new Mom, dealing with the recovery in itself and dealing with this excruciating back pain…guys, it felt like I was in a horror movie. This sounds so dramatic, blame the hormones, but I was sad and pathetic. I literally couldn't move without screaming bloody murder and had to have my sister in law (my saving grace) come watch Beau so I could go to the ER because Drew had been working out of town during the week the past 7 weeks. I had no choice but to drive myself, and let’s just say, the entire way to the hospital, I was screaming in pain. Tears flowing, non-stop.

I've had more Dr. Appointments than I can count, I've been to a neurologist and I've had three MRI's. No answers... Just referral after referral. Losing weight has been a JOKE. Mostly because I couldn’t move well for months, and sat on my couch and laid in my bed 24/7. I ended up having to take steroids and I swear it’s still in my system. I am still puffy, and bloated from those suckers. They helped with the inflammation a little but the pain still continues. Physical Therapy has helped some, but I still feel a lot of pain. I have a little more range of movement, and I’m super thankful for even the smallest improvement. But even my PT guy seems to not really understand why my back is still mad. He has worked on it with all these methods guys… He works out kinks and tightness in my back, but it all comes right back…angrier, which leads me to believe there is an injury in my tendons and ligaments and nerves around where my epidural went in. It isn’t healing, so basically it’s aggravating everything around it. That in turn then sends the anger up and down my spine. 

When I walk, I have to hold my back a lot for support. Back braces don’t provide the support I need as they fit really awkward on my body. Defeat comes to mind a lot, and my quality of life is at a constant state of battle. I can’t exercise to increase endorphins, and the pain makes me want to never leave my house. The thought of just lifting Beau into my car brings me to tears. My heart feels broken in so many ways and I feel robbed of this precious time with my son. I’ll never get this time back. And the more I think about this, the more sad and angry I get. 

I pray every day. I feel guilt in every way known to man. Guilt for not being a better more active Mom. Guilt for being in too much pain to do fun things with Beau. Guilt for my moods. Guilt for getting angry with God and asking him why this happened. Guilt for questioning my faith when I’m at my lowest. Guilt for being negative. Guilt for not taking better care of my health pre-baby. Guilt for not being able to clean my house or doing the laundry like I used to because bending down is the hardest thing in the world. I could go on and on and on. I write this sobbing now, because I’m so sad. I want my old back back. I want to feel strong and healthy and happy. 

I’m eating better, to help with inflammation but I’m not losing weight. The back and forth that my heart and head and the pain that fogs any happiness from entering has been the biggest battle of my life. I want to get through this, and I have been hanging onto the small gimmer of hope that it will…because it has to. But then the devil stands on my shoulder and says, “It WON’T! Because you have read stories on the internet of women who are 20 years post part and still have lower back issues. Anxiety attacks you and you give up all hope. And Dr.’s won’t ever admit that the epidural caused this. And you signed on that dotted line without reading the fine print because EPIDURALS are administered to 2094204820 women a day and you never hear the bad stories, so you my friend, are STUCK LIKE THIS FOREVER!!!!”

Dramatic. It seems. But this pain has been trying to rule my life. I can’t let it. I won’t let it. It might be winning most days, but I can say that I am proud of myself for all the progress I have made and for doing my best, even when I feel like I am not able to.  Sharing this gives me therapy and hope that someone out there is reading this and has found relief, or hey, now has someone to relate, cry with and pray with. 

While I know many many many women will never have a problem with the epidural, and I do realize sometimes you HAVE to get one. I think just knowing that makes me so fearful for my next baby. I strongly feel that if more people knew that this could happen, they would MAYBE atleast research other ways to manage pain during labor. Because I would not wish this pain even on anyone. I might be the 5% of women who have problems after an epidural... But I’ll tell you something. This is the hardest obstacle. I can’t even imagine what people feel like when they have a broken back, or who have lived with this longer than 9 months. Because it makes living life really challenging. Never, ever take a healthy back for granted guys. Ever. If you ever have any back problem that feels like it can’t be fixed…you will know what I am talking about. I PRAY that you will never deal with this. I mean it. 

All I can do is hope, continue to pray, continue to treat my symptoms, and fight, even when I’m exhausted and at the end of my rope, to find happiness and feel better. IF this pain is forever, I pray that I can find a more graceful way to live life with a smile on my face. My Lord, my son and my husband deserve it. 

This was longgggg. Thank you for reading if you made it to this point. After seeing an instagram friend have this happen to her recently, I knew I had to just sit down and write this. NOW. And in case anyone has had this experience and can share their story with me and give me a glimmer of hope that this pain will go away or just to simply educate someone else on those crappy side effects nobody talks about. 


Thank the good Lord for Beau's smiles and my husband’s hugs, non-stop encouragement and patience. Those are the things right now that takes my mind off the pain. I LOVE being a Mom. It is my greatest JOY and honor. But I needed to share this darker side with y’all. Keep it real. Social media hides so much of our pain, and we are all guilty of it.  Don't let the idea of being a perfect human, wife, mom on Instagram make you feel less than. We are all in this together in some shape, way or form. 
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Deep in the Heart of ... Love, The Nelsons Project

2.24.2015


Growing up, I didn't live in the perfect home, with the perfect parents who had the most perfect marriage, with the perfect cars, the perfect jobs, the perfect suppers around the dinner table, or the perfect...well, life. In fact, I grew up in a broken household with a (wonderful, loving, hard-working) mother who wanted her marriage to work, so badly, and did everything it took. Trust me...I was there, even when I was that 8 year old crying, screaming and closing my eyes praying that the fighting  would all just stop. My Mother tried so hard to show my brother and I what a marriage should look like, and little did she know...I took note of it all. Every time she cried, fought for it, and dropped to her knees calling His name for help...I was there, watching. She thought she was disappointing us, but what she didn't realize is that she was teaching me everything that my heart beats for today. I witnessed things that no child should ever see, and events that will always echo somewhere deep in my heart. However, they will not be echoes of hurt, fear, or disappointment. That's not how this girl rolls! :) Thankfully, God worked wonders in my heart at the youngest of ages to show me that even though my parents didn't have the perfect marriage...He showed me how important marriage is, and the value of what marriage should be.



My Mom is one of my biggest heroes. She doesn't think that, even today. She thinks she's failed me because she's divorced, but truth is...Her heart is bigger than this earth, and I guess, somewhere in her pregnant belly 29 years ago, she was also gifting and growing another heart...mine. Even though the heart she grew for me is sensitive, stubborn in anxieties, and can get me hurt more often than not...it is probably my most favorite thing she could have given me. I treasure it, every single day and will until the last day it beats.

My Mother's parents, my Mamaw and Papaw, stepped up to play the father role after my Dad left. They loved me, supported me, and helped my Mother and I in more ways that I can ever express. When my Mom couldn't put food on the table, my Papaw would hand her a twenty dollar bill. When I couldn't meet that last $100 of sponsorship for those scholarship pageants I desperately wanted to be in, they would step up, and play that role of my father. When I had exciting news to share, I would run down to their house and tell them. They would smile and celebrate the straight A's, the blue ribbons, the trophies, and even praise me when I would get excited about the 30 doodle bugs I would dig up to show them. They wanted the best for their children, and their children's children. They helped in the smallest, most memorable ways. I don't know if they will ever truly know how much I noticed, or how much I'll truly be grateful for their unwavering love in my life. I was one of the lucky ones, I truly realize this. It's crazy how God works in your life when you're too young to truly know what's happening, but when it hits you, all you can do is look up, say Thank you, and try to live life by His example and doing the best you can with the cards that your dealt.



My mother is loving, sensitive, creative and wants everyone to be happy. Just like me. My Papaw loves photography, he's really goofy, has good handwriting, and he always loves to make people smile. Just like me. My Mamaw is also loving, and sensitive, however, so stubborn and particular...and has a hard time letting go of mementoes and things that remind her of the people in her life...just like me. The one thing we all have in common, besides genes? We all value marriage. Through and through. I can't think of three better, more influential people to have raised me by simply showing me the importance of having purpose at the roots of your heart.

All my life I have been a hopeless romantic, and dreamed of the day I'd meet the love of my life. I had high hopes for marriage, and even though that's hard to do in this world today...I never let that get to me. I prayed for it, from the age of 14 (weird, I know), and the Lord listened. He heard my heart and gifted me with the most incredible man to love for the rest of my life at the age of 20. I'll never be able to thank Him enough for giving me the only thing I've ever wanted the most in my life...and that's having a beautiful marriage. It's not perfect, and I would never expect it to be. I know I'm only 9 years of living life with him, and only 6 years into this crazy, beautiful marriage, but it's by far been my favorite years of this life I'm living. We have had our moments, and our fights just like every normal human being...Pshhh! I'm not here to sugarcoat anything but what's different for us, is that our hearts beat together as one, even on those bad days where we want to pull each other's hair out. The value we put into being husband and wife is the only thing that I can credit, and that's the Lord being at the center of it, no matter what.


Ask anyone who knows me...if I see an old couple...I will stop whatever I'm doing and I will just stare. Most likely, there will be a clasp of hands in the middle of my chest, and a smile beaming on my face. If they are grouchy, it makes me smile even more...because that's real life and it's just plain awesome. :) One time, I was at the grocery store and an old man checking out had milk, Goobers, and a bouquet of flowers. I instantly wanted to cry and run over to him to ask him who he was buying them for... ;) I can't tell you how many times I will spot an old couple and just admire them...wishing that I could stop them, talk to them and ask them questions...ask them how far they have come, and hear their love story.

Graduating college, I was engaged, obsessed like many new brides planning the perfect day, and had every wedding magazine on my kitchen counter. I worked for a bridal magazine for a short time, then after my wedding, I thought, "Well that was fun! I should be a wedding planner!" And then that "dream" was quickly put away when I realized how many personality traits I lacked for that job (organized being one of them!) :) I have always been a picture taker, and passionate about sharing my life, my journey, and well, everything that came into my life. Then one day it hit me after photographing a senior session for my niece that was just for fun...that is where I found myself. Behind the lens...documenting happy moments for people in the most exciting times of their lives... And well, I guess it's self explanatory that weddings quickly became my concentration in my career. :)



All in all, marriage has always been at the root of my heart, and my life. It's more apparent to me as each day comes and goes. So how did #lovethenelsonsproject come about? (Besides this long winded back story I just gave you? ;)) I attended Making Things Happen in Chicago of 2012, and at the end of the conference, we were all asked to lay on the ground, on our backs with our eyes closed. Lara asked us this question, and went around the room.

"Where do you see yourself in 50 years? What does your most ideal picture of your life look like? If you could choose the end result in your life, reflecting everything that you've worked for and towards your whole life...what would that be? Picture it, describe it, what is it? "

People went around the room and shared their dreams and it was beautiful. However, my heart was pounding and I was getting anxious about having my answer. I didn't know how many babies I would have...I mean, I knew I wanted a family...and I didn't know how many grand babies I would be snuggling, or what kind of house I would have at the end of my life that everyone works their whole lives for...all I saw was this...and answered,

"All I know is that I want to be gray, old, wrinkled, in love, and hand in hand with Drew...walking down the sidewalk...That's all I want."



My heart answered, and from that day forward, everything I've worked for has been for that. I'll continue to work towards that goal. Fast forward to April of 2014...

I was photographing a dream wedding in Charleston, South Carolina with the sweetest clients in the world, and it was Drew and my first time ever visiting. We fell head over heels with that city from the moment we landed. We decided to stay one more day after the wedding to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary and spent the day at the beach and exploring. We splurged for the first time since we got married and got ourselves a red sports car to explore the town in. We headed down to the beach with the windows down (you might remember our trip from this video) :) and on our way back from the beach...I saw an old man and an old woman, walking hand in hand, down the sidewalk. He had on a red bow tie with crabs on it, and I felt a lump in my throat as my thoughts quickly took me back to that place on the floor in that conference room telling Lara and the room of ladies what I wanted at the end of my life. And as I came back to the present in that moment, my mouth started moving before I could even process what was happening and blurted, "STOP THE CAR! STOP THE CAR!" Drew looked at me like I was crazy, as I begged him to turn around so I could talk to that "precious old couple!" "What Shay? Really?" "YES, REALLY! Please!" He pulled the car around but we couldn't find a parking spot near the way they were walking, so I jumped out, and ran towards them waving my hands. The old man was opening the car door for his bride as I approached them, and I startled the living mess out of them.

I introduced myself and said, "I'm so sorry if this is weird, I just couldn't help but admire how precious you both were walking down the sidewalk just now...and I want that, with my husband. He's in the car down there, but he doesn't want to get towed off, so he stayed." We talked for 10-15 minutes and they told me their names, where they were from, how many grandchildren they had, and I took a photo on my iPhone. I got their e-mail address and told them I would send them their photo and left that conversation with the biggest smile, and tears in my eyes.

I posted their photo and a quick version of the story to my instagram...you might remember this? :)



I got home, and wedding season started. I was busier last year than ever, and could barely keep my head above water. However, I had their photo saved to my phone (and still do) and for some reason didn't send the photo. I don't know why, or what excuse of "busy" or "I'll do it soon" I told myself, but I held back.

In November, I was coming down from wedding season and was coming back from the deer lease by myself. I love music, and very rarely (if ever) will you find me in my car without my music on. But after a quiet few days in the peace and quiet of the woods, my body rested, my mind rested, and my heart had a chance to wind down from the past year for the first time since Charleston. I turned off my radio for the three hour drive back, and had a three hour talk with the Lord. In that three hour conversation, my heart was revealed to me...in the weirdest moment, not one I would expect to have my 'A-HA' moment where your heart beats so fast and you cry because you finally feel like you are finding your path without your blinders on. He took my mask off, and asked me to be brave...so I listened.


I got home, called my friend Nycia, and she sat there and listened to me pour this crazy idea and mission out to her. She listened. She LISTENED for TWO hours. She supported me, she lended her ears, encouraged my doubts, and before I knew it, I was planning a shoot with my Mamaw and Papaw...the biggest inspiration of marriage I've ever had in my life. I couldn't think of a better marriage to start this project out with. I was the happiest I had been all year when I stopped that old couple walking down the road that day...I was the happiest when I saw that old man buying milk, goobers and a bouquet of flowers for his wife who could have been at home waiting for him, or at her gravesite. I'll never know their story now, but what I do know is that I'm ready to change that.



I e-mailed a group of my closet industry friends who I knew "got me" even before I could explain what I was doing fully. They believed in me, and they trusted me. I will never be able to thank them enough for taking the time to answer my e-mails, to donate their time by driving two hours to my grandparents house, and gifting their talents into the best thing I ever will try to accomplish. I was trying on dresses for my Mamaw, stuffing the top with pillows (to make sure there was room lol), I ran around town trying to find a yellow tie for my Papaw, and coordinated this thing with the most awesome disorganized skills in the world, but hey...guess what. It turned out. And it turned out beautifully.


If you're late to the game, you can see the live feature on Style Me Pretty here. But if you don't want to jump over, here's what I said:

"This is simply a reminder to the world from the lens of a granddaughter who adores her grandparents and the love they share. I want to put hope and the true meaning of marriage back into the beating hearts around the globe. We are living, breathing and experiencing a world of instant gratification and noncommittal tendencies. We are so wrapped up in seeing the “instant-polariod pictures”, and not the huge hand-painted masterpiece of marriage that takes time, patience, passion, attention to detail, and hard work. What happened to being together forever? Why does our world look down on marriage so much now? It breaks my heart and even though I am ONE person…I have felt called to somehow, someway make a change. Nobody is perfect, but LOVE…LOVE is why we are here. Love is real, it’s unique for everyone and it has the power to change our world if we let it.
Marriage should be forever. It’s finding that person you pick to love and yet, drive you crazy, day in and day out. It’s more than color schemes, gorgeous gowns, perfectly crafted tables capes, and the perfect shoes. It’s growing old, hand in hand, wrinkle after wrinkle. It’s taking two heartbeats and working together to make one. It’s letting love win, always, no matter what.
Whomever is reading this…This right here is my heart. This right here is the most important thing I have ever been a part of and put together. As you read this, I am over here behind the scenes pouring out blood, sweat and tears into this passion project. I’m calling it Love, The Nelsons Project. I’m ready to show lovers around the world that true love still exists. There are so many love stories that we don’t know of out there waiting to be shared. The hard ones, big ones, small ones, beautiful ones, and stories that can change our lives and the way we view marriage. This is my pledge and my mission to find these stories and to document them over the course of the next year.
I want to put together something truly special…so here it goes! My goal is to compile a book of old love stories and that’s where I am asking for your help. I will travel to these couples, sit down and listen to their stories, interview them, and will photograph them together. Do you know of someone who has a love story that is worth knowing about? One that is worth sharing with the world to inspire, and that will help instill the true value and purpose of marriage back into our lives? The sky is the limit here! If I can impact one…just ONE marriage, ONE woman or man who are seeking their forever…my mission in life will be fulfilled. Help me tell these stories. Please e-mail me at hello@lovethenelsons.com and put “LTN Project- Old Love” in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!
There is so much more that I want to share here in this space, but please follow along my journey on instagram at @shalynnelson. Our hashtag will be #lovethenelsonsproject #oldlovebook
My grandparents have been married for 63 years. My Papaw planted a rose bush outside of their bedroom window when they built their house. He has always said, “Billie Wanda is the rose of my life…But it does have a few thorns here and there…”, which is the reason he’s holding a bushel of roses in some of the photos… :)
And to end this post, I’ll quote my Papaw…
“Walking through life together, but the trail’s getting short.”


The response has been nothing short of incredible, mind blowing, inspiring, and has left me speechless more times that I can count. Reading the comments on that blog post made me ugly cry (lol, I KNOW, I told you I am sensitive) but it was the best feeling knowing that people were accepting of my idea. That feeling of someone saying, "I'm proud of you" when you give everything you have into something. It was like that feeling but times 29829031092. :) I feel like it's been God's way of saying, "Keep going Shalyn, even though you're scared and don't know what the heck you're doing, or how crazy this experience is going to be...Keep going. Don't let money, or those things that hold people back keep you from doing this. People care. People need this. Marriages need this. The generations coming up need this. KEEP GOING. Don't. Give. Up."

So I am. I'm going to keep going. If you have texted me, messaged me, e-mailed me, liked anything related to this project, told someone about this project, commented, shared my mission on social media...I mean, ANYTHING...I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Each one of those things have meant more to me than I can possibly express...and in every way, big or small, has pushed me when I start to get scared and anxious that this project is bigger than what I'm capable of doing. I've followed God my entire life, but like anybody, I've failed him so many times. However, he's been building my core, my strength, and has pumped so much courage into my heart over the course of my life. It's time I stop climbing and sliding down the rocks. It's time I keep climbing, and not let go. This time it feels different...it feels right, and most of all, it feels like home.



If you have a love story to share, please e-mail me at hello@lovethenelsons.com. I'll be in touch as soon as I can.

Dress: The Ivy Retreat
Hair and Make-Up: Makenzi Laine
Florals: Bristol Lane Florals
Developing: Photovision Prints


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2015 Yearly and February Goals

2.03.2015



Before you read this post, I request that you watch this video first. 

Did you watch it? 

Good. Because there are a lot of GOALS in this post and you're gonna need that song to get you through this! HAHA. I'm kidding. Kinda.

Alright, now that you're going up, on a Tuesday with me, let's get to it!

In case you missed my post yesterday, you can read how I spent my January here or scroll down to the next post.

These were Drew and My 2014 Goals 

1. Stress less = less busy. Simplify our lives, commitments and schedules.
2. Mentally prepare and get comfortable with the idea of Baby Nelson's in 2015 or 2016.
3. Vacation - Just the two of us.
4. More fun. More spontaneity. More adventure. More dates.
5. Meet Steph and Neal.
6. Figure out our housing situation. To build or buy? Save. Save. Save.
7. Count Our Blessings, Daily.

We were able to complete all but number 3. BUT we did travel a bunch and made some really awesome memories! :)

Personal Goals from 2014

Learn Film
Host The Glow Workshop again
Cook and Prepare more meals for Drew ( Betty Crocker hates me )  Still need to work on this, though.
Gain more confidence/Stop apologizing for who I am  Some months were better than others.
Guest speak at a conference/Inspire/Teach/Help the growth of others
Limit the amount of weddings I photograph/More selective  Will be doing this again and applying what I learned this year.
Travel to a place I've never been - We went to NYC and Charleston (both places we had never been before!)
Take more photos of MY life - FAILED. BIG TIME. Does my iPhone count?
Own a bike with a basket - BEST DAY EVER
Try something new  I tried calligraphy, and other fun things throughout the year!
Be BRAVE.
See my work published in a magazine (DREAM BIG! WHY NOT!?) -  I had a photo of mine featured in Southern Weddings! :)
Less complaining & Less Wanting - I am blessed! I have all I need.
Trust my gut instinct. It hasn't failed me yet but I've failed to listen to it, way too many times
Stop holding back in fear of what other's will think/ BE FREE - I was up and down with this.
Finally make the Vegas trip happen with my blog girls we've been talking about for two years

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2014, you weren't too shabby my friend! There were ups and downs, just like any year…but you were different. A good different and a pivotal year for me. I felt you change doubts in my heart, in big, big ways…and you helped me get outside of my comfort zone. I learned A LOT about friendships and this business, you helped me test new waters, gifted me with a bible study with amazing women and budding friendships…you opened my eyes and helped me see the value of my work, my time, and my profession more than ever before. God was bold in my life and lead me to have deep conversations with Him that I won't ever forget. He helped me navigate through those deep dark woods and swim through troubled waters which helped reveal the core of my heart. He showed me how you want me to use my gifts and how I should serve others well. The unknown place of "success?"at the end of the road that I've been thinking I've been traveling towards like every person in life…was the wrong path. I didn't realize it until that day in November when you and I had that hard three hour conversation full of tears, worry, anxiety and frustration that turned into an understanding of meaning, love, faith, hope and purpose. I'm jumping in to this new year using everything He has taught me and letting him guide EVERYTHING I do, rather than letting Him guide most of my steps…It's all Him now. I'm all in, with more understanding of why He choses our paths and steps…so with one foot in front of the other, here we go, with all the faith, hope and trust you've instilled in me.

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2015 Yearly Goals with Drew

1. Take a trip, just the two of us to Lake Louise.
2. Establish and Build Savings Account by 30%
3. Plan our forever home
4. Finish remaining renovations left in our home (Master Bath, Yard/Landscaping, Countertops in kitchen)
5. Start a "Nelson" book club between the two of us.

My Personal Yearly Goals

1. Go all in with #lovethenelsonsproject and not look back.
2. Photograph a wedding in Europe
3. Have a full shoot of mine in PRINT
4. Finally get a business website up
5. Floss Every Day

It's now officially LOVE MONTH!!! Bring on all the puffy hearts, chocolates, teddy bears, and cheesy cards! This month has shaped up to be extremely exciting and FULL of fun!

February Goals

1. Announce My Passion Project…I have butterflies in my stomach just typing that.

2. Get published in a magazine … My very first film session is going in Magnolia Rouge and I can't breathe. Basically.

3. Travel to Memphis for a girls weekend.

4. Share some fun features with you guys that I will get to be a part of this month

5. Photograph The School of Styling Workshop

6. Photograph Three Engagement Sessions

7. Photograph One Bridal Session

8. Visit my friend LEAH in Houston when she comes visit from Michigan

9. Host Steph and Neal here in Austin (Can't wait!!!)

10. Attend the She Inspires Experience that my dear friend Nycia is hosting! YOU SHOULD COME!

11. Go on a fun Valentine's Day adventure with my sexy husband

12. HOLD MY BABY HEDGEHOGS FOR THE FIRST TIME!!!

13. Buckle my seatbelt and proceed with the #lovethenelsonsproject adventure

14. Limit myself to one diet Dr. Pepper a day

15. Drink MORE water

16. Start Pilates Classes, again to get myself in shape so I can have energy again!

17. Start THIS program with my friend Brittany

18. Take a hip hop dance class and shake my tail feather like a boss!

19. Finish Season 2 of New Girl with Drew

20. Pay it Forward, every single week.