Hey there! My name is Amanda. I am a 28 year old mama & wife. My husband’s name is Ramsey (24yo) & my son’s name is Jasper (1.5 years old). We have a Texas Heeler named Opie who is 2.5 years old, a chocolate lab/border collie mix named Coco who is 1.5 years old, and a Ball Python named Monty. And currently, I am pregnant with baby number 2!! I feel soo much more prepared for my second pregnancy than I did my first.
My husband and I both grew up near Chattanooga, TN. He is the eldest of 6 children who were all home-schooled. I grew up eldest of 3 children, then around the age of 22 my father remarried and I now have 2 step-siblings as well. I attended the same Church of Christ school pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, went to the same Church of God church, and lived in the same house until I was 18 years old. My life was very structured.
When I was a sophomore, I started doing mission work in Mexico with my high school. We worked at the City of Children (Cuidad de Niños) in Ensenada, BC Mexico. I loved the children there so much that I returned with this same trip 8 times. This very trip is the reason I chose my major in college, psychology. I wanted to work with children, always. When I graduated high school, I wanted away from the structured lifestyle I was used to, away from the same people and faces I had been seeing for the past 18 years of my life, so I moved away for college. Family has always been important to me, so my choice for university was somewhat close to home (1.5 hours away). I made cheerleading in college and spent my first year busier than I had ever been; it seemed as though I never slept. My second year in college was a bit different than the first. I had decided I wanted to take some time off to travel, so I saved up and spent the summer near Four Corners in Montezuma Creek, Utah working on the Navajo Reservation, again mainly working with children. My third year, I went on my biggest trip thus far, Tanzania, East Africa. There were 17 of us from the university and we worked and stayed at the Light in Africa orphanage with a wonderful British lady named Mama Lynn. There were other volunteers there from all over the world as well. Our focus here was working with the Massai tribe, building a washateria room for the baby bungalow (to wash cloth diapers), and building a house for a recent college graduate (near the orphanage) who was taking care of his elderly grandmother. Each Saturday we hosted Boma Street Kids Club (BSKC) and had several hundred street orphans come for a huge meal of rice and beans and usually watermelon, and we played games and sang together. I learned a lot on these trips; I learned more lessons than I could ever write down. But I think the most important lesson I learned is this: a caregiver or parent can be the most influential person in a young child’s life. Children learn by example. When their example is other children with no parents and they are forced to grow up fast, they do and they can. When their example is yelling, they learn to yell. Children who are from a patient culture usually have more patience themselves. Children who grow up in a ‘rush-rush’ world seem to want everything to happen quickly.
It took me 9 years to graduate with my B.S. in Psychology because I spent much of my time traveling. I have worked in orphanages all over the world for the past 14 years (half of my life). I wouldn’t change this for anything! I learned more through my experiences abroad than I ever did in a classroom. This is just one reason I want to home school my children. I believe hands on learning worked best for me and I want to give my children that same experience. While in college, I had several different jobs. The one that made the biggest impression on me was with Environmental Water Systems, Inc (EWS) out of Madison, TN. EWS is a distributor for Rainsoft Water Treatment Systems. My job was testing and analyzing water supplies for homes and businesses. The more I learned, the more environmentally conscious I became. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I think this is where my *natural lifestyle* journey began.
As I finished my last full semester of college, I met Ramsey. We grew up in the same town, moved away to the same city for college, and never met until we moved back home. We met working in a pizza shop downtown; I worked in the bar and he was a chef. We had both recently gone through break-ups and were diving into different things to keep us busy. He was working on a farm during the day (6am-6pm) and then working as a chef at the pizza shop at night. I was making jewelry by day and cocktailing/bartending at the pizza shop by night. The first day we met, he tried to kiss me. I instantly pulled away thinking “who does this guy think he is? I don’t even know him.” But when I blurted out something along those lines, he responded, “you may not want my kiss now, but you will one day”. I laughed to myself thinking he had a sense of humor and pulled that one off nicely. We became great friends & began to hang out regularly. One day while he was at my house, I received an email from a buddy in California asking when I was going to come visit. I jokingly commented to Ramsey that if he’d go with me I was down for a road trip. He instantly responded with, “ok. Let’s just sell our stuff so we have money to travel. We can donate what we don’t sell and when we get to California, you can sell your jewelry and I’ll play music.” It sounded like a dream. I was down for a spontaneous change in life. So I did it. We packed up his house, packed up my house, had a HUGE yard/garage sale, made a ton of donations, packed up the back of his F150 and took off. We were starting new, and we were doing it together.
California was both the longest and shortest trip of my life. It lasted a total of 2 months, but parts of it seemed like they would never end. We couldn’t find a job anywhere, we were both used to things being spread out a lot more so we felt scrunched on space, AND we were the southerners who drove a stick shift F150 all the way to California and were attempting to parallel park it on the hills of San Francisco. We had our fun. We slept on the beaches, stayed in the hostels, visited a ton of cities all over the U.S. and now, we just wanted to drink a beer next to a bon fire while staring at the Tennessee mountains. It was time to go home. The trip to California took us a few days. We took our time and toured a few cities on the way. The trip back took 22 hours–straight. Ramsey refused to stop! So, we just kept driving and drinking coffee. We drove back to Murfreesboro (our college town) where our friends were. But since we didn’t know each other in this town, we had separate groups of friends. He dropped me off at my buddy’s house, and then he left to see his friends.
A few days later, we decided to rent a house together in Murfreesboro and “see how things went”. We didn’t live together long before we were talking marriage. I called my best friend who plans weddings and had her come over to help me with some ideas. Then, a week later, I called her back and told her to come over again. I thought I might be pregnant, and I was going to take the test. We were having a baby! It was positive! I was super happy because I had always wanted to be a mommy, but I was also freaked out because my parents didn’t even know this guy, this man whom I had ran away to California with, whom I had already decided to marry, but to whom I was now pregnant by before we married. Coming from a “good ole southern family”, I didn’t know how well this one was going to fly.
We went to the health department and took a test there, just to make sure. The nurse came into our room, before we had received the test results and blurts out, “so, is this your first pregnancy?” My jaw hit the ground. Me: “So….I guess the test was positive?” (**thinking to myself, ‘geez, lady, bedside manners’**). I knew now that we had to tell our families and figure out our wedding plans soon. I sat down with Kristin, my best friend, again to go over wedding details. When we started figuring out exactly how large our families were combined, the wedding details started to look impossibly complicated. I was getting overwhelmed quickly. I honestly don’t remember which one of us brought it up, but it was like a load of weight was lifted when the topic was addressed: elope. Why didn’t I think of it before? It was so simple. It was me. It was our plan. We planned it a few days in advance, had our last shebang with our friends, and then we took two of our closest friends who lived near by and we went to the courthouse. I was wearing a borrowed dress from Kristen, and he was wearing this badass paisley print western looking shirt with snap buttons. We used bands that we already had. Each of them had special meaning to us. Mine was given to me by a little girl in Mexico when I was working at the orphanage. Ramsey’s ring was a gift from a Shaman. When we married, I was 3 months pregnant.
Now that we had a baby on the way, Chattanooga looked a lot more appealing. It was much more outdoorsy than Murfreesboro, and our families were there. With our first baby on the way, it was time to move home. We packed up everything we had now acquired since our return from California, and for the third time that year, we moved again. After we settled in our house, I had my girlfriends come help me paint the baby room. I wanted it to be whimsical and fun, so I went with a woodland theme.
My last few months of pregnancy, I spent reading everything I could get my hands on and talking to as many mamas as I could find who had successfully had a natural birth. I wanted to do it without any drugs, and I needed to prepare myself mentally. I think the statement that helped me push on the most came from my mother-in-law. She told me, “there is nothing that makes you feel more accomplished in life than the feeling of giving birth. It is the most powerful thing you can experience as a woman.” I was curious and excited! I knew I could do it, and having that attitude went a long way when I was in labor. I wrote out a two page birth plan detailing everything I could think of. My hopes were to use a midwife, but we simply couldn’t make it happen with the insurance we had and our financial situation at that time. So, I was set up to birth in a hospital with an O.B. I had decided to use the same doctor that delivered my brother. He had been my mom’s O.B. for over 20 years and he was fully supportive of natural birth. I gave him my birth plan and he read it over, asking a few questions to make sure we were on the same page. I felt confident with him as my doctor.
I had a 16 hour labor and natural birth to a 9lb 3oz baby boy. After Jasper was born, we got our skin-to-skin time immediately. He latched on like a champ and we were breastfeeding! I had a few complications and was very thankful for my mother-in-law, who is a lactation consultant. Having that support and guidance was so important in those first few weeks. When Jasper was only 1 day old, they took my son and circumcised him. I researched everything I knew to research while pregnant, and somehow this one slid by me. I felt like I was prepared for anything. I clearly wasn’t prepared for this one. I did not know the truth about circumcision, that it was simply cosmetic, that it was damaging, and that no health organization in the world actually recommends it. All I “knew” was that it was done, my brothers and husband were circumcised, and it was “normal” for a reason. So I signed that consent form, and my son was taken away from my arms. To this day, I regret that decision. It makes me cry now that I know the truth. He had complications; the skin reattached to the head of his penis. The pediatrician told me “it was normal” and “he had to retract it to prevent further issues” then he ripped the skin apart again. Jasper cried. He screamed. I cried. It broke my heart to hear my baby’s voice so shaky. He looked terrified and in pain. Once I got home from the doctor, my research began. I found several different groups speaking out against circumcision, for the problems my son was having, and for so many more. I couldn’t believe I had allowed this to be done to my precious baby. I felt like I had failed him. This was the point that I decided I would speak up. I had to take a stand to make sure other mamas had the info they needed to make informed decisions. This is when I found Motherwise. I knew that these mamas could use my voice to help others.
Now came the learning. I was determined to breastfeed, determined to use cloth diapers, and determined to make my own baby food. I had fears that something would go wrong, but I kept pressing on anyways. So far, we are 11 months BF and going strong! I love my cloth diapers and cloth wipes! And Jasper has never had processed baby food or formula. There was a period about 6 weeks post partum where I was unable to breastfeed due to medicine I was on for a week. I received donor breast milk from a few women locally to ensure that my baby still received the best I could give him. Those women were such a blessing to me. It is because of their kind hearts that I have decided to pump and donate as well. I recently partnered up with another local mama who needs milk for her 9 month old little girl. What a blessing to be able to pass on a gift that was given to my son.
Jasper is now 19 moths old and doing well. We bed share and baby wear. I love my Ergo. When he was a newborn, the Moby Wrap was my lifesaver. I adore my cloth diapers! BumGenious4.0’s and Honeybuns Cloth Diapers are my favorites. I make my own cloth wipes from up cycled hospital blankets. My husband and I have a compost and a small garden. I hope one day soon to live off the grid. I want a few chickens and goats, a bunch of dogs and a HUGE garden. I plan to have my next baby at home with a midwife or doula. I would like to go back to school to become a midwife myself. I am interested in art and music. My hobby is making jewelry. I own my own business named “Hippie Tree” which you can access on ETSY or Facebook. I also make all my families cleaning and personal care items from scratch. I am a WAHM (work-at-home-mom). My husband works at a craft shop & plays music. In order to live the way we do, we choose to live simple. I wouldn’t trade our family time for all of the money in the world.
*Side Note* When I was a baby, I broke out in welps. My parents took me to see quite a few dermatologists until someone finally told them I was allergic to chemicals in most detergents. My mom tells stories of pulling every piece of fabric in the house to re-wash it in special detergents while praying that my welps would go away. That allergy carried with me through life. Now, I make all my detergents and personal care items. It is much more simple than worrying about what is in my products and if I’m going to react to them.
In closing, I look forward this journey called motherhood and can’t wait to share my knowledge and life journey with you wonderful wise mamas!