Travel Nursing Update: Pregnancy, Housing, and Living in a Retirement Community

We have now lived in Ft Myers, FL for seven weeks and as of today I am exactly 32 weeks (eight months) pregnant.

How my pregnancy is going:

Pretty uneventful, to be honest, minus a few ribs that like to pop out of joint and hips that don’t like staying in their sockets.  My mother and baby chiropractor in Cape Coral is an absolute lifesaver!  At the beginning of my pregnancy, my chiropractor in South Carolina told me she was pretty sure (but couldn’t diagnose since that requires an x-ray) that I have an inherited connective tissue disorder that results in extreme ligament laxity (which was so NOT a surprise since I’ve had so many ligament-related injuries over the years).  When you mix already lax ligaments and the relaxin my pregnant body is pumping out on the regular, it means that this mamma-to-be has the structural soundness of a pile of jello.  Other than my ribcage collapsing in on itself and not being totally sure if my hips are in their sockets or not, I’m doing really well!

Since we are moving next week (update on housing below), I’m trying to make sure we clear out our fridge, which means an unending amount of smoothies!  I’m not really prone to cravings anymore (except for a regular craving for pho, which is fine since there’s a great pho place up the road), which means sticking to a pretty strict diet is doable.  It’s really important for babies to have a healthy gut flora, and a lot of newborn issues like colic and acid reflux can be due to a lack of healthy gut bacteria.  This means I’m trying to keep my gut bacteria in a really healthy place (yes, mother’s gut bacteria gets passed to babies through the placenta as well as during birth).  That means limited processed sugars, refined carbohydrates, and dairy, and adding loads of probiotics and gut healthy foods like bone broth (incidentally it also means that the usual stereotype of pregnant women having constipation does NOT apply to me!).

Ironically, the Southern tradition of a meat and two vegetables has kind of been my go-to for setting up dinner (though you won’t find any chicken fried steak or fried okra in our house and macaroni and cheese does not count as a vegetable).  Dinner usually consists of a modest sized piece of meat (usually organic chicken or salmon), and two hearty portions of vegetables of varying kinds and colors (purple potatoes, swiss chard, sweet potato, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc).  The only bread we eat is Ezekiel bread (or whatever arrives at our table when we do eat out) which is usually at breakfast.

My exercise regimen now consists of walking most days, stretching A LOT, and doing weight training a few times a week.  Since my body is getting more and more loose (and prone to injury), I’m taking it easier and easier with the weights.  It’s really important that I keep my muscles in tact for the marathon (birth) that I’m training for, so I won’t toss out weight training until I just can’t anymore.

What about your housing?

Glad you asked.  Remember the lady from the last post?  Yep, we love her.  We will be moving in with her on Wednesday.  She’s even driving us to the airport on Thursday for our flight to SC for Christmas.

The tiny house is another issue, though.  There is one bank who is deciding as we speak whether or not they’re cool with lending for a tiny house, so if you’re the praying kind, prayers would be appreciated that they will look favorably on us.

Thoughts on Living in a Retirement Community

I would say the majority of people living in Ft Myers are 55+ retirees (or at least that’s how it feels).  Especially where we live now, it seems like there are 10 silver haired folks/baby boomers for every Millennial.  These folks in particular have made it: they have retired to Florida, near the beach (or at least they have from November to April).  This means, for many of them, that they are in constant mental vacation mode.  I’m not saying that every snowbird has mentally checked out, or that everyone who retires to Florida is in vacation mode (my uncle and aunt would definitely be an exception, for example).

But you want to know something funny?  I’ve never overheard more complaining in my life than I have living here.  I’m not really sure how to account for it, either.  Maybe having a “grass is greener” mentality for 40 years just waiting for the day when life will be easier has led to permanent discontent, or maybe it’s a generational/cultural gap between me (an older Millennial) and the q-tips in the booth behind me at the restaurant.  Maybe life is just so much harder when you’re in your 60s and 70s than I ever realized.  I don’t know.  But I will say it surprised me.

I think the antidote to perpetual complaining/discontent is to avoid “someday” thinking: someday when x happens I’ll be happier, someday when I lose x pounds I’ll be happier, someday when I get x object that will make me happy, someday when I’ve saved x dollars my life will be easier.  The problem is “someday” may never come, or if it does “someday” looks nothing like you imagined and you’re left facing the bitter reality of “now.”  Focus on gratitude and contentment in your present.  Make life meaningful now.  Try to stay mindful of the times you complain.  Catch yourself complaining and ask, “How many times a day do I complain?”  It might be a lot, and you may realize that you’ve been a total Debbie Downer to the people around you for years and never known it.  Just a thought.

BUT the other thing I’ve noticed is the obvious lack of smartphones in the hands of said silver hairs.  And you know what?  It’s so refreshing.  It makes me catch myself a little when I realize I’m the only one in the room staring at a glowing screen.  Life is slipping by and I’m checking email (and I don’t even have a real job, what is wrong with me?).  Put the phone down every once in a while, friends.  Or better yet, turn it off and enjoy your surroundings.pexels-photo-386148

Parenting Lessons and Christmas Insights from Traveling Tiny

On Thursday, I closed my laptop and started sobbing.

I had spent the day before visiting bank after bank after bank all day long with my husband asking for a loan for our tiny house, and we got ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no.’  Well, really the responses were, “Oh my gosh how exciting!  I’ve seen tiny houses on TV, I really hope we can help you,” only to be followed by, “I’m sorry, we just can’t finance a tiny house.”  More on that later.

On Thursday, I had spent hours and hours on the computer and the phone trying to find a place for us to live after Christmas.  We are staying in an AirBnb apartment that will not be available after Christmas.  We had originally thought, “We’ll easily find a place to live after, and then hopefully move into the tiny house before the baby is born.”  But after a whole lot of searching I had zero success.  There were no AirBnb’s in our area that were available for the time we needed within our budget, no apartment complex in town would do a two-month lease (trust me, I called every last one), and there was nothing to be found on Craigslist or anywhere else online that I could find or afford.  Finding a place to live was starting to feel utterly impossible.

Cue the sobbing.  After two full days of slammed doors, I was completely overwhelmed.  I felt like I was already a horrible mother for not providing a place for my baby when she’s born.  Would we have to sleep in the car?  What are we going to do?  How can I bring a child into the world in a life like this?  I felt like a mama bird with no nest for her little chick.

Let me say for starters that I’m not a Catholic, but the Virgin Mary has never meant more to me than she has the last few days.  If anyone in human history would know how I feel, she would and then some.  This Christmas will mean a lot more to me from that regard than ever.  I’m not sure I could look at a manger scene right now without tearing up.

The day after this intense sob-fest, I decided to go to the Friday night Eucharist service at a local church we had visited a few Sundays previous.  I needed some soul care.  After the service was over, the priest was excited to meet a new face and ask about me and my husband.  I was a young face in a church of mostly elderly faces. I told him my husband was a travel nurse and that we would be staying in town until February, just after the baby is born.

“If there’s anything you guys need while you’re here, anything at all, just let me know.”

I pounced.  I told him our living situation and that if he happened to know someone with a guest house or finished basement or something (not that anyone in southwest Florida has a basement, but you never know) to please let me know.

“I’ll see what I can do.”  He handed me his card and told me to call him next week.  And with that, I had a glimmer of hope.

My husband and I decided to visit the church again this morning.  It’s definitely a “high church” Anglican type service, complete with bells and incense (or “smells and bells” if you like).  Before the Eucharist, a layperson in a white robe walks to every part of the church swinging the censer filled with the perfumed smoke of frankincense in front of the people, signifying our prayers going up before the Lord as we come to His table together.  As he walked to the corner of the church, the little clouds puffed up blue, purple, pink, and yellow as it caught the colors of the light in the stained glass windows behind him.

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And with this sight filling my eyes, I could feel God say, “I am writing your daughter’s story.  You cannot write her story for her.  You are part of her story, but I am the One writing it.”  And with that, I knew we would be okay.  God allowed His own Son to be born in a cave in totally unpredictable and less than ideal circumstances.  That doesn’t make Him a terrible Father.  I knew He would bring one of His people to provide hospitality to us and to open their home.

But I was also filled with dual comfort and terror that I have no real control at all over my child’s life: God does.  He is knitting her body together.  I can fill my body with nutrients, rest, exercise, and do everything I can to make a healthy baby, but her growth and her birth are up to the one building her up neuron by neuron.  Her little personality is not up to me.  Her will is not up to me.  Her sins are not up to me.  I can teach her, love her, feed her, and provide for her, but how she turns out in life as an adult is not up to me.  She could reject her upbringing entirely and go her own way, or she could use what we teach her and choose a path we’re happy with.  She could come down with a disease when she’s ten, or she could live to be 95.  Either way, I have no real control over my child’s life: God does.

I’ll give you a parable: I had six tomato plants in my back yard in South Carolina before we moved.  I cared for these plants so well because I really wanted a good crop of tomatoes.  I raised these plants from seedlings, giving them little light baths during the day until they were hardy enough to stay outside.  I fed them, watered them, sheltered them during storms, pruned them, weeded them, and gave them mulch.  They grew and grew until they were each six feet tall.  But after a whole spring and a whole summer, not one of those plants produced one single tomato.  NOT.  ONE.  On our side yard however, a sweet potato plant grew completely on its own from out of the compost pile.  I did nothing at all to make the sweet potato grow, but it grew.  I bent over backwards to make the tomato plants produce fruit, but I got no fruit.

I plan on smothering my child in love because I don’t think I’ll be able to help it.  I plan on teaching her how to live a healthy, Godly life.  I plan on giving her structure and discipline in love.  But I know full well now that my child is not a robot and that I cannot write her story.  God is writing her story.

As we left the church the priests shook the hands of those leaving.

“Hey!  Don’t go away, I may have already found someone for you.”  Long story short, a widow in the church who is a retired trauma nurse heard that this travel nurse with a pregnant wife needed a place to stay for a few months, and she didn’t hesitate.  “You may get other offers that suit you better, but if all else fails, she will take you in.”  There is room in this total stranger’s inn.  We haven’t spoke to her yet, but I’m hoping and praying that this works out, if nothing else does.christmas holly decoration

Adventures in Pregnancy

cacti“Two or three quiet years.”

That’s what my husband and I both really wanted. When we discussed having children before we got married last year, we both wanted a few kid-free years, just the two of us. So when I took a pregnancy test three months ago confirming that I was pregnant after only seven months of marriage, my reaction was less than joyful. It was so not what we had wanted. We had both waited so long to find each other, so we wanted to enjoy the short time that we had as a couple before life got crazy. Now, it would seem, that time would be even shorter.

I was in shock. I was sad. I was angry. I was a million miles away from being happy, which made me feel guilty on top of everything else. I felt like I was supposed to feel joyful and happy, but all I could feel like was that the whole rug of my life had just been pulled from underneath me. It seemed all our plans would have to go out the door.

Would my husband still travel nurse? Would we still build a tiny house? Would we still rent our house out? Would I still pursue a life as a writer and health coach? Won’t pregnancy be awful? How will I have a baby on the road? What if we don’t get the house built in time?

The answer to most of those questions was, “Yes. You’ll be fine.” But it’s taken me three months to settle into that reality. After a whirlwind of emotion, I’ve settled into a mostly peaceful acceptance of our situation, and a burgeoning excitement to meet my child face to face. There are still hard days where I pine for the early days when we were first married and life felt open and exciting (thanks, hormones).

But, if anything, this baby has forced us to fast track the life we wanted. We are nearing the end of our first travel contract, saving like crazy for a tiny house, and I’m trying to finish my novel by the time this little person arrives. If anything, this baby has asked us, “Are you going to live the life you really want or not?”  Thanks, kid.

So, how are we traveling tiny and living healthy with a baby on the way?

By being really, really intentional and letting go of outside expectations about what babies need and what pregnancy is supposed to look like.

Eating healthy is a MASSIVE challenge when you’re pregnant (especially if you’re in the dreaded first trimester).

The first trimester was so hard. All the lovely healthy foods I normally enjoyed eating seemed to be nauseatingly foul and all I wanted was boxed macaroni and cheese and fried anything. Everything made me gag. I couldn’t even look at raw meat without wanting to die. Exercise was always shortened or totally curtailed by extreme exhaustion or nausea. Smoothies were just about the only way I could get anything nutritious down my gullet. But I wanted to try to be intentional about what I ate (which was all day long, btw) since those first few months are so crucial for baby’s development. I knew my cravings would go just as quickly as they came, so it seemed a little safer to ignore my cravings than give into them (save a few runs to the Thai restaurant and several to the taco place).

In my second trimester (currently), my nausea and food aversions have pretty much totally subsided, and my energy levels have returned.  Hooray for a window of opportunity! My green juices and most veggies are now back on the menu! I’m trying to avoid junk (especially sugar), and making sure that I get plenty of water and micronutrients and minerals so that baby and I are both feeling tip top. I’m back in the gym with lighter-than-usual weights, and trying to focus on keeping my core and my legs strong to keep my body prepared for labor and to avoid diastasis recti (hint, not crunches!). I figure that keeping my body ready to have a child is a little bit like training for a marathon: it’s not something to start thinking about two weeks beforehand! And, for those who think pregnant women are fragile lilies who should never move a muscle while they’re pregnant, that’s actually far more dangerous for mom-to-be than going to the gym and doing some light to moderate weight training (provided that was her custom before she was pregnant. If you never lifted a thing before you were pregnant, stick to healthy cardio). If you let your muscles turn to jelly, birth and recovery are going to be tough!

As we let people know we were pregnant, we got quite a few questions and comments about living tiny.

“You’re not still planning on building a tiny house, are you?”
“So you’re still going to travel nurse?”
“You can’t be a minimalist and have a kid – it’s impossible! Kids come with too much stuff.”
“You guys will do great!  I’m excited to watch your adventure!”

I realize having a baby in the midst of a gypsy life goes completely against the grain for most people. But if Mary and Joseph can have baby Jesus in a cave while on the road and then have to move Him to Egypt and back, I figure our kid will be fine. Billions of women since the dawn of time have been having and feeding babies without a Boppy and without wipe warmers and without 18 million toys.

So where will our baby actually sleep you ask? He or she will sleep in a baby box next to us, to start off with (in lieu of a bassinette). We’ve planned a few spaces for baby and things in the actual tiny house that should last for years. By the time we settle somewhere more permanently and have a slightly larger house (read slightly), little person and any others who have joined the tribe should still fit in the house fairly well.

There are a lot of “things” that people go hog wild for that supposedly come with babies when they’re born. I’ll tell you what comes with babies. Nothing. They literally come with nothing. You are the one who gets to decide how many toys they have, what kind of “mommy is actually the one who needs this” items, and which items you register for. Just because people tell you need something doesn’t mean you do.  My sister was good enough to send me a list of the bare minimum essential items that I’d need in a tiny house.  “Everything else is just extras!”  Thanks Jules!  My mother in law has also been amazingly encouraging (I struck actual gold in the mother-in-law department!).

But I knew I would be walking into a tsunami of advice, so at the beginning of my pregnancy I chose to trust the opinions of three women in regards to this: my mother (and mother-in-law), my sister, and my naturopath. All other opinions would be graciously smiled at. I’m 31, I have 13 nieces and nephews (some of whom I’ve lived with for stretches), I’ve been a nanny of infants/toddlers several times over, so I’m no stranger to babies or kids (I know, I know, I know: having your own is different). My mom has had six kids, my sister has had six kids, and my naturopath is also a midwife who had delivered countless babies.

So why do I want to avoid all the excess (other than I’ll be living in a 350 sq foot house)?The first days of bringing a baby home are exhausting and stressful. There are so many changes and transitions to deal with. The last thing I want to have to worry about is dealing with clutter or having to clean (there will be ENOUGH to clean if you know what I mean!) and then the eventual guilt that I shoved out a ton of money on an item I never used.

So, I’m curious (women who have already birthed babies): what was the weirdest food you wanted when you were pregnant, and what were two baby related items you wished you hadn’t invested in? Which Item was the major lifesaver? What was the worst advice you got while pregnant?