Selby’s Birth Story

I absolutely love a birth story. They are narrations of incredible power and strength, vulnerability, immense joy, uncharted challenges, and unfortunately, sometimes deep grief—but always, always tales filled with bold love. Listen to a mother’s birth story and without fail, the ambient tone is love for her precious baby. I think it’s important to document a birth story because birth is a transformative event as it brings not only a baby into this world, but a mother. It’s the beautiful start of something dynamically everlasting: matrescence, or the act of becoming a mom. 

—Here is Selby’s birth story. 

Around 33 weeks pregnant, we noticed Selby’s growth was slowing down and my daily insulin requirements plummeted which was a red flag signally that my placenta wasn’t functioning properly. Early placental dysfunction is a rarer complication of diabetes in pregnancy, but it happens. To be safe, I was booked in for a 37 week induction to bring Selby earth side so he could continue growing outside the womb as soon as possible.

My pregnancy up until this point was not an easy one filled with many, many bumps in the road. In fact, the phrase “if she makes it that far….” was frequently thrown around at my appointments due to an early placental bleed, bout of preterm labor, IV antibiotics, high blood pressure, cystic fibrosis, CF related-diabetes, and never ending early contractions. 

I wasn’t overjoyed at the idea of an early Pitocin induced labor but was ready to have our baby safely here. In the unmedicated labor and delivery world, Pitocin, the synthetic drug used to jump start labor, has a very bad rap. It can make contractions even more painful and intense than they would be naturally. I was totally aware of this fact going into my induction, but I tried to keep an open mind about what was to come. 

The goal in birth is always just to have a healthy baby at the end of it, no matter how you end up getting there. However, because I experienced a precipitous labor with Fenn (labor lasting less than 4 hours from the start of contractions) my hope was for a more peaceful and slow ease into labor this time around. In contrast, I wanted the mental clarity and time to make decisions that I wasn’t granted with Fenn’s birth—such as bouncing on a birth ball if I wanted, walking around, pushing in different positions, reaching down to touch his head, experience the motions of labor, etc. I didn’t have the time or the mental space with Fenn to choose because his entrance was similar to a Midwest tornado—quick, forceful, consuming, jaw-dropping, unexpected. 

Thankfully, my induction with Selby started in just that manner. At the beginning, it was almost boring with your typical Pitocin ramp-up starting after lunch, bouncing of birth balls, popsicles, and hospital TV. I made slow progress jumping from 2cm to 2.5cm at the start. At 5pm, I let the doctors break my water. I asked the doctors to wait to break my water delaying it for a hour, so I could get “there” mentally and eat another popsicle. I knew once they broke my water, my peaceful labor would end and be swallowed by a tidal wave.  

“We are getting somewhere,” I said about two hours later through ragged moans. My contractions were close together and growing more and more powerful. With a popsicle in my hand bouncing on the ball, I asked the nurse where she thought I was.

“Four or five centimeters, maybe? Hard to telI.” 

She asked if I wanted an epidural and I said maybe, but I wasn’t sure. I wanted to know how much longer before deciding. Our plan was to get back in bed and have them come check me and talk about the epidural thereafter. 

Honestly, I should have known better. 

I. Should. Have. Known. Better. 

Two contractions went by as I stood up from the birth ball and desperately hung on to the IV pole breathing through the peak and fall. They were so incredibly powerful and concentrated that doubt started to fill my mind. I wasn’t going to do this naturally if it continued like that, I just couldn’t. I was at the edge. 

They say history repeats itself. 

And as if it was four years prior, a sudden all consuming urge to push came barreling through my body. 

“Get them in here!!! Get them in here. I have to push, mom!” 

I should have known better. 

Peter ran and got the team in the hallway and I scrambled into bed with the help of my mom. I was briefly checked and declared to be 10cm dilated. 

The nurses started the clock. Three minutes later, a few contractions, a touch of his head, some screams from me and then some screams from baby, a declaration of “It’s a BOY!”, and Sweet Selby was here. 

A perfect 5lb 12oz baby boy born at 7:40pm out of a mix of God and science in multiple ways— fertility treatments, a miscarriage, an extremely high risk pregnancy, and most importantly highly effective treatments like Trikafta giving me this second chance at motherhood.

The flood of emotions knowing he was here was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe that I became a mom again after believing I wouldn’t be. History does repeat itself and it was glorious. Our nurses and doctors joyfully congratulated us with trembling voices matching mine. They excitedly chatted about how they didn’t expect his quick entrance and that I was born to birth. All women are born to birth—but it was an incredible compliment to the start of my matrescence with two.

As Selby laid on my chest and we began to memorize his little face, the tone in the room changed. I was bleeding heavily and the medical team said I had clotting from a retained placenta. They massaged my abdomen uncomfortably to get contractions started but the bleeding continued.  Next, I was given medications through my IV and had my bladder catheterized to relieve some of the pressure to allow my uterus to contract once more. 

(Ugh, I went 31 years without having to ever be catheterized. That streak was now over.  Selby gave me my first catheterization.)

When the bleeding continued, they stuck a different medication up my bum and called the attending on the floor to come do an ultrasound to locate the clots. I could see worried faces becoming more worried, but I was too focused on the little face beaming up from my chest. 

Following, were some of the most painful moments I have ever experienced in my very long medical history. At this point I was still completely without pain medication after just having a rapid and forceful delivery. I felt every touch, pinch, and pull. The doctor explained she had to try to manually extract the clots from my uterus internally with her hand. Although necessary, they tried over and over again, and I wailed and tears fell down my face each time.

“I know this so terrible. I am so so, sorry I have to do this to you. Can you do one more time?” the doctor asked elbow deep.

I could do one more time, but each attempt was unsuccessful and the comforting voices around me began fading from fear.

After a few more tries, I told them I couldn’t do it again and that they had to give me something for pain. They said absolutely and pushed meds through my IV. I am someone who cautiously knows I love pain meds. It’s hard not to love pain meds when you live with chronic pain. So as the world got fuzzy and warm, I sunk in and gave them the “hang loose” motion asking them to not let the baby fall to the floor as I exclaimed I felt better and that they are all wonderful people. (I’m also really affectionate and encouraging on pain meds.) 

Once the pain meds fully kicked in, the doctor warned if the next extraction didn’t work, I would be taken back to the OR for a D&C. They tried once more manually and she was finally able to extract the clots. The bleeding slowed down as my uterus began contracting again.

I enjoyed all the lidocaine and rode my high from Dilaudid as we breathed a sigh of relief and attempted to stitch me up. It was over–our sweet baby was here.

Labor can be brutal. It’s a high stakes game in an effort to gain the highest reward. I know people wonder why women choose to have unmedicated labors when there’s other options. I get it—it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  

However for me, each of my labors have healed me in a way. They have brought me peace in a body that’s often my enemy because of CF. I plead with my body everyday to work in my favor, sometimes in vain. 





Keep me alive. 


It’s exhausting to work this hard in order to do the things a body was simply created to do. All that frustration and disappointment ultimately lands somewhere and makes a home in your mind after all those years.

In my heart, I know my body has been purposefully and wonderfully made, but sometimes I need a reminder. Bringing my babies into the world in this way–fiercely and uninhibited– is that reminder for me. It washes away the doubt that I am not a capable mother. It washes away the flecks of fear that I’m simply not physically strong enough for this life. It proves I am dynamic and not defined by my disease that defines nearly all my organs. I can barely stay alive, but I can bring forth life like a badass. And for me, there’s healing in that power no matter how silly it might be.

Fenn and Selby’s births are truly a labor of love and a means of encouragement to me that I am–and always will be–enough as their mother.

They are my most beautiful moments.

A Long Overdue Update: A birthday celebration, toddler life, home IV antibiotics, and a hospital admission

Phew, it’s been awhile. Hi there!

I thought I would quickly write an update for Fenn and I while our one-year-old little boy took a nap this afternoon. There were some big moments/changes/challenges this summer both for Fenn and I, but I guess that comes with the territory of toddlerhood and motherhood with CF.


Age: 13 months
Weight: 22 pounds
Heights: 31 inches
Words: mama, dada, kitty, ball, hi, bye-bye, night-night, hot, shoe, ba-ba

Fenn turned one-year-old in late August! I can’t believe he is a toddler now! Let me tell you, that little guy had so much fun at his “Growing Up, Up, Up” hot air balloon first birthday party. He tasted cake for the first time and knew exactly what to do with it. He also loved helping us open all his presents and being the center of attention. Even though he’s just a wee little one, he totally understood the party was for him and that he was special and so important to everyone. We loved having our friends and family celebrate our sweet boy and all the joy he has added to this past year.

Fenn has been walking for a couple months now and is quite good at getting around. He loves to do laps in our house and climb up and down the stairs (it gives me a heartache every time, but we do it). He is CONSTANTLY on the move and I am exhausted 99% of the time. We have been working on adding more words to his vocabulary with the addition of baby sign language. I am surprised daily how quickly he picks up on language. We have a talker! It’s fascinating to watch him understand direction and learn to communicate with the world around him, and with us. I love hearing him say, “Mama” and then watching intently for him to motion to what he needs. I know I say this during every new phase, but I am really enjoying this age watching him learn and grow so quickly.

At the moment, Fenn really enjoys reading and looking through books, whether that’s solo or with anyone who is willing to sit read with him. He enjoys listening to songs, will do a little dance, and loves any toys that he can bang together to make noise (hmmmm, our kitchen pots and pans). His other favorite toys include stacking cups, cars, and balls. He loves to climb on everything and can get a little naughty when he wants to. He loves all different kinds of fruit, chicken, various veggies, and puffs at the moment. We are also still breastfeeding three times a day. He is always, always hungry.

Fenn is very social. I’m talking wants-to-be-friends-with-EVERYONE social. He loves going to story time and interacting with the other kids and adults. He loves being around people. He loves giving hugs and playing with strangers. He is definitely a high energy extrovert, meaning I spent 99% of the summer chasing him around. Lord, give me strength, please!

Last week, we had a very scary choking incident with Fenn. He was snacking on watermelon (which he has had 100 times before) and put too many pieces in his mouth without me noticing. He began to choke, and I quickly realized I needed to sweep his mouth to remove the pieces and then use the baby Heimlich maneuver. He coughed the rest out, but was very unsettled, drooling, and acting as if he was in pain. When Peter got home about 30 minutes later, we took Fenn into the ER because my mama intuition told me something wasn’t right.

In the ER, It took a long time to calm him down, and it was the most anxious and helpless I have ever felt as a mother thus far. He had an xray and Tylenol, and then finally settled from pure exhaustion. Because of the serious nature of choking and possible aspiration, the ER staff thought it was best to be transferred him in the ambulance to the main Rainbow’s ER for more tests and evaluation. Right before we got in the ambulance, Fenn puked on me and seemed to be better and in no pain. I think whatever was stuck in his esophagus had dislodged. We were transferred downtown, and our recovered Fenny-Boy had a blast in the ambulance–smiling, gabbing, ripping off his pulse ox, and showing off for the paramedics :|. I was just happy he was acting himself again after the scary non-stop crying and obvious discomfort. I was just happy my baby was back. Once we were there, the Rainbow’s staff checked him over seeing he was obviously improved and said we could go home after nursing him.

Thankfully, Fenn is ok and recovered quickly from the very traumatic experience. I am just thankful I knew baby Heimlich and CPR because I NEVER thought I would ever need to use such training. Everyone is healthy and happy now, but the Lord protected us throughout that night by keeping Peter and I calm and attentive and encouraging Fenn to be a good patient.

Age: 28
Weight: 106
Lung function: 59%
Words: not as many as Fenn

Personally, it’s been a very challenging summer for me in terms of lung function and health. I started the summer off with two weeks of home IV antibiotics due to feeling tired and short of breath, and eight weeks later I was back on IVs again. IVs were not what I wanted to spend my summer doing but it happened and we made it through feeling better and stronger.

Prior to the most recent round, I felt “ok” but my lung function took a big hit. At my appointment, I blew a 48% and then eventually working my way up to a 53%. I knew I couldn’t sit with those numbers below my baseline and risk a permanent decline, and so I discouragingly made the decision so start three different home IVs again only eight weeks after the first round. I was discouraged. I was sad. I cried on the way home and had to mentally prepare myself for all the work and flexibility IVs demand from our family. I was doing everything right and yet somehow, I still ended up back in that “place”. That’s one of the most exhausting and disheartening parts of living with cystic fibrosis, and it can feel very emotionally painful sometimes. All my efforts to keep myself healthy weren’t enough, I needed to spend this summer with some extra help, and that’s the reality of CF.


David Blakeslee Photography

I slowly started to notice minimal improvement on IVs, but didn’t feel I was improving, both symptomatically and clinically, as fast as I usually do. That’s when around 5 weeks in to my second course of IVs I started to feel as if I caught the stomach flu due to horrible stomach cramping and no appetite. I waited a couple days, hoping it would pass, but when the pain got more intense and I was obviously dehydrated (we were concerned for my kidneys because of the IV antibiotics), so my mom joined me on a trip to the ER. A CT scan confirmed what I feared; I had a complete bowel obstruction in my small bowel just below my stomach. DUH DUH DUH.

In the ER, they place an NG tube (a tube that goes through your nose down into your stomach) and suctioned the contents of my stomach to give me some relief. I received a bunch of IV fluids, nausea meds, and I felt much, much better. Then, I was transferred via ambulance to the main campus of UH and immediately admitted.

Over the next couple days, I was on bowel rest, nothing by mouth (not even ice chips, uhhhhh), and intermittent suction through my NG in hopes the release of pressure would relax my digestive tract. After I was suctioned dry, we then tried various solutions through my NG tube to try and dislodge the blockage. No luck there. We weren’t sure what was causing the blockage: old mucus, scarring from my appendectomy, or poop (of course). Bowel obstructions are very common in CF, but my blockage was in an uncommon location and so both the surgical and CF teams were a bit stumped at first.

Truthfully, I do not wish a bowel obstruction on anyone. Being filled with liquid when your body can’t digest and remove it, is simply horrible. At one point, my stomach was contracting so badly, trying in effort to move the blockage and solutions and my NG tube had clogged, the surgical resident had to replace it with the largest tube they could fit. Talk about an intense nose hose! My eyes watered like crazy! Thankfully, the first placement was successful, my stomach was suctioned once again, and I enjoyed a couple rounds of morphine after because the consistent stomach cramping was unbearable. I would equate the stomach cramping equal to my drug-free labor. I am as serious as a bowel obstruction, here. I am not someone who takes narcotics lightly, since I have a very high pain threshold, so you can imagine what this experience was like.

After a couple days of no good news, I was scheduled for surgery the following day (something we were desperately trying to avoid). Abdominal surgery is tough to recover from when you cough and have to do airway clearance. Also, one bowel obstruction surgery greatly increases your risk of another bowel obstruction. We were out of time and options. Until that afternoon, my CF doctor burst into my room and said, “If we go to radiology now, I bribed a guy with champagne to do a procedure on you.”

“Cool, lets go,” I said. I blindly got in her wheelchair and off we went.

I’ll leave it up to your imagination of what they did to me. But, I can tell you it included the head of radiology, a very large tube connected to a gallon of liquid, an x-ray machine, and an inversion table….


Thank goodness it worked! And thank goodness, I have a doctor who is willing to hand deliver me to radiology and be the absolute best advocate she can be for her patients. She promised me I would get home to my baby, and she delivered. I feel very blessed I am under her care. I left a couple days later, with all my bowels in tact and a strict order to never eat Pirate’s Booty White Cheddar Popcorn again. That’s right, Pirate’s Booty betrayed me. We saw the evidence with our own eyes. (No this is no sponsored. Please drink adequate water and consume at your own risk.)

Even though it was a difficult hospital stay, the worst part was that my admission was so abrupt and unexpected; we didn’t have a plan for Fenn. Thankfully, our families rallied together and he was cared for and even came to visit twice while I was in the hospital for a week. I missed him so much and felt very anxious about being away from him. I continued another two weeks of IVs once I was home and started to work on gaining the 8 lb. I lost back. After seven weeks of IVs, my lung function went back up to a 59% and we let my body rest. Overall, the summer was fun, joyful, and busy, and we came out both surviving an ambulance ride and and some challenging moments.

Thank you everyone who watched Fenn and cared for our family this long, difficult summer. Here’s to a healthier fall!


Six Month Update

I swear time is speeding up. I can’t seem to wrap my mind around the fact that Fenn has been a part of our family for six months now! It seems impossible (and bittersweet) that we are half way through our first year together. It’s been such a surreal time for Peter and I and our families to watch him grow and change. I think so far we are doing a pretty dang good job at being his parents. I wake up every morning feeling encouraged that I was made to be a mom. I feel as if I found my calling and it fits, Fenn and I, so I can’t ask for much more. Here’s an update on our little baby boy and myself– the good, the bad, and the adorable.
Fenn Gilbert Whitworth
Age: 6 months
Height: 27.5 inches (80th percentile)
Weight: 16 lb 15.6 oz (32nd percentile)

Fenn is a special baby. Of course we all know how special he is given our circumstances; but truly he is an excellent sleeper, a laid back, cuddly and smiley baby. (I say this with a bias only a mother can have). Don’t get me wrong, he has a shriek that can shatter glass, pulls your neck skin at a strength that provokes tears, and has a short fuse when he is hungry, tired, or wants to be held. But he is stinking adorable, so in my eyes he’s beyond perfect.

As a newborn, we swear Fenny didn’t do anything but sleep for the first 2 months. In fact, I had to undress him and rub him down in order for him to nurse because he was so sleepy. He also was diagnosed with a tongue-tie before we left the hospital which made it hard to latch the first couple months of breastfeeding (more so, it was very, very painful for me to nurse). We persevered and now, I can proudly say he has been exclusively breastfed for six months and counting! I AM REALLY PROUD OF HIM AND MYSELF! 🙂 He still nurses every 2 hours during the day, which is a lot for a 6-month-old boy, but I don’t mind as long as he sleeps through the night. He just really enjoys the milks (like a lot). Because I am always on some sort of antibiotic, Fenn takes a daily probiotic to help keep his gut healthy and he tolerates my milk well. We haven’t started solids yet but plan to try a more baby led weaning approach in the near future when he and I are both ready. That will be an adventure!

From the beginning, Fenn has been a good sleeper. He was the typical newborn that woke up 3-4 times a night to eat but then would go back to bed. At about 2 months, he started sleeping through the night. We also transitioned him to his crib in his own room around that time because he was beginning to stir in his sleep when I would cough at night. He moved to his room much sooner than I planned, but I am happy the transition was smooth. Currently, he takes two 2-hour naps and a 30-minute catnap during the day and sleeps from 7pm- 6:30am at night. Our nap and bedtime routine usually goes like this: nurse, change his diaper and sing a little song, turn on the sound machine, put him in his sleep sack with his paci, and then he falls asleep on his own. Sometimes he will fuss or babble for a couple minutes, but usually he drifts off peacefully. It’s some sort of witchcraft. He is the best self-soother and that has made my job a whole lot easier. Fenn is like Peter in the fact that they both fall asleep in about three seconds while you are in the middle of telling them what you had for lunch.


Fenn has hit all his milestones ahead or on time. Although, he is a pretty laidback baby in the sense that he doesn’t care to roll over that much even though he knows how. He much prefers to sit up on his own and or be on his belly to play. He loves to bounce in the jumperoo, mimic sounds, smile, and chew on anything within reach. He recently got his first tooth after two months of teething. I thought it would never come! He is always sucking on his hands, toys, thumbs, or paci. His favorite pastime is to pull off both socks and suck on his big toe. He is a serious sucker. Fenn loves to be out and about surrounded by people. I can tell he will probably be an extrovert like his mama. He will flash anyone a smile and really enjoys flirting with all the grandmas at Aldi. Fenn also loves his daddy! I swear dads get all the glory. When Peter comes home from work, Fenn smiles so big you can barely see his eyes under those squishy cheeks. He is a lovable dude, that Fenny boy. We love him so much!


Janeil Emma Jaggers Whitworth
Age: 27 years
Weight: 105 lb
Lung Function: 55%

Motherhood is not for the weak. Add cystic fibrosis into the mix and some days, *phew*, it’s exhausting. I will be honest in saying although I have stayed compliant to my treatments and medications; my body is feeling the effects of caring for our baby boy. Physically it can be difficult to be his primary caregiver, but it has been the most joyful and fulfilling gift. I was made to be his mommy; I just know it.

After delivery, my body healed really quickly. Even with the many, many stiches, painful nursing, and interrupted sleep, I felt really healthy despite the normal postpartum woes. The first few months we did fairly well adjusting to our new routine and sleep adventures. It is common with CF to see a decline within the first year post-baby, so I wasn’t surprised in December that we decided to treat my drop in lung function with three IV antibiotics. I went from a high of 71% lung function while pregnant (pregnancy was so very kind to me) to a 55% around the holidays. Of course a couple weeks into treatment, I developed some crazy delayed allergic reaction to Bactrim leaving me with rashes, shakes, high fevers and a 2am call to my doctor. We stopped antibiotics and let my body recover until the New Year. In February at my appointment, my weight was down a little more and my lung showed no improvement, but I felt great. As long as I feel ok, we are treating the decline as a temporary state of health. My job is to focus on eating, doing my treatments, and resting when I can, and of course loving my baby boy.

Weight plays a big role in overall well-being with cystic fibrosis. I lost the majority of my baby weight (26 lb) even before we left the hospital and had a really poor appetite for the following months. But determined as I was to breastfeed, I knew I had to fuel my body even if I wasn’t hungry. Having prepared meals in the house from friends and family for the first few months really helped keep my weight stable. Since then, I have slowly lost more weight (not ideal) but still am able to breastfeed as long as I continue to be cognizant of my calorie intake. After switching my medications around, my appetite has come back finally, and I am enjoying food once again. Amen!

Not all moms with CF are able to breastfeed, heck not all healthy moms can breastfeed, so I feel really blessed and hopeful that if I made it this far, I can make it to one year and beyond. At my recent doctor appointment, I asked my physician if she thought it was time to stop because I was declining. Her response almost brought me to tears. She said that this would be my only time to give him everything he needs—the immunity and the benefits. She knows how special it is to provide for your baby and that she would never want to take that privilege away from me. She didn’t think six more months would be so detrimental to my health that it was necessary to stop. I really appreciated the way she looked at the whole picture of my experience. As a doctor, she could have advised me that it was time to stop because of my low weight and declining lung function, but she knew as a mother herself, I would have been devastated. A lot of what it means to be a mother is sacrificing yourself because you love your children and hope to give them the best of you. You also can’t pour from an empty cup, and so I know my job is to be responsible with my sacrifices right now. Oh, how much you learn when you are suddenly in charge of keeping a human alive. 🙂

Although only half my lungs are in working shape and I’m a skinny little thing right now, my motivation to stay healthy and push through those tough moments is completely different. Caring for Fenny isn’t physically easy a lot of the time, but I enjoy it so much that it seems simple to me. You really do become a superhero version of yourself once you become a mom. I am exhausted, my body is depleted, I am multitasking always, and yet I live for the moments when he wakes up and flashes his gummy grin. I hold him throughout the day and think how lucky I am that he gets to sit on my hip and I have one less arm to accomplish anything. That’s my idea of a happy life.


Love and Light,


Our Birth Story

Fenn Gilbert Whitworth came into the world on August 25th, 2017. He weighed 6 lb 14 oz and was 20 in long. It was a Friday morning and the weather was mildly pleasant, but his arrival into our world was fierce.

At about 7:15 in the morning on that Friday, I heard a peculiar pop that woke me up out of my sleep. Drowsily, I crawled on to all fours in an attempt to get my basketball-shaped belly moved from the bed to the bathroom, and instantly felt a forceful flood of liquid hit the white sheets. Whoops….

“My water just broke,” I said out loud dumbfounded to only the cat since Peter had left early to practice a work presentation.

“That was my water. Ok, whoa…I better clean that up. Wow, that’s a lot of liquid,” I thought.

I stripped the bed and hurried myself to the bathroom. I felt calm upon realizing this was about to be a very big day. I think just maybe…. possibly…there was a chance I was too calm? You let me know what you think after reading this tale in its entirety.

Next, I called Peter (who was a couple towns away at a Starbucks practicing his presentation) and my mom (who was at home asleep) to let them know I ruined the bed. Both parties answered their phones, and I warned them not to rush. I was going to pack up, feed the cat, attempt to clean up the bedroom mess, get myself ready, do some other unnecessary things while in labor, and then finally, we would make our way to the hospital and mom would meet us there. The plan was to be induced on the following Monday, August 28th at 38 weeks 2 days, so I wouldn’t say we were entirely prepared for this to be our son’s birthday. We had some bags packed, but I don’t travel lightly, so I had quite a bit to gather up before I felt ready to leave.



Soon after, Peter arrived and we carried all our belongings to the car, double-checking we had the car seat, my Vest, my bag, the baby’s bag, etc. I started having mild cramping like contractions at this point that were about 3-4 minutes apart but still felt calm and comfortable.

Now a day, thanks to smartphones there are great apps to time your contractions. The app even warns you when it would be an appropriate time to head to the hospital. I received the “hospital warning” about four separate times before we even got on the highway. I was mildly annoyed this app was being so uptight and pushy.

Our drive to the hospital was uneventful and my contractions continued to increase in strength while I put on my make-up and made sure I had eyebrows for the big day. Once we were about 10 minutes out from the hospital, I started experiencing contractions that I couldn’t talk through. I knew this meant something about the progress of labor, but I honestly thought I was just being a big baby and labor was about to suck hardcore, so I gave it very little thought.


We arrived at University Hospitals and pulled into the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital driveway, a roundabout I have driven through many times before but for a very different reason than the present. In the past, here is where I would surrender myself for weeks upon weeks of IVs antibiotics in the interest of health. But today, I was admitting myself in the pursuit of my hope to become a mom. Life felt incredibly full circle in that moment. Usually when an expectant mother arrives, they bring a wheelchair to help the mama get across the hospital. Passing by my favorite bagel cart, I didn’t have time for those considerations and walked myself to Labor and Delivery foregoing the complementary wheelchair ride.

There, we were checked-in, I peed in cup number 200 of this pregnancy, had the monitored strapped to my giant belly, and did all the other necessary admission tasks. While in triage, the doctor swung by to double check my water had broke, and that I indeed didn’t just pee myself and mistake it for labor. That actually happens, people. Ding, ding, ding! I was in labor! The doctor confirmed my waters did break and that she could see the baby’s hair.

In response to the exam, I thought, “Cool. I must be a couple centimeters dilated and in the beginning stages of labor. This is really happening.”

Oh my gosh, I was so clueless.


This is when things really picked up. My contractions felt very close together and were increasing in strength. They would build to the point that I couldn’t concentrate on anything but getting over the hump of the pain and coming back down to the point of relief.

I looked at Peter and quietly said, “If this is the beginning of labor, I can’t do this. I think I need the epidural.”

I already felt tired and it had only been about 2 hours since I was sleeping cozily in my bed. My high-risk doctor popped her head around the curtain and said a quick hello while asking how I was doing. I told her how my water broke in my bed and I couldn’t believe I went into labor naturally. I had been hoping to avoid my scheduled induction and that my body would know when I was ready. She reminded me it might take awhile since I was a first time mom and that she would be on service tomorrow. My heart absolutely sank in response.

“TOMMORROW!?! I don’t want to do this for another 24 hours. Are they nuts?” I thought as I inwardly panicked.



We made our way to another room so that I could get my IV placed before going to the final delivery room. When the doors opened to Multipurpose Room A, it was as if a glowing angel was sitting in the chair waiting to offer guidance in the midst of pain– except it was my mom. I felt another contraction coming and waddled my way to the end of the bed so I could lean over and brace myself while doing some weird head roll to offer some relief. You seriously do some weird things with your body while in labor. So. Very. Weird.

“How are you doing, Janeil?” she asked with a hug.

“Mom, this is the worst,” I said swaying back and forth, white knuckling the bed rail.

“How far are you?” she asked holding me at a distance. “Did they check you? I think you are further than you think.”

Honestly, moms do know best. My mom has seen me in pain many, many times before. She knows that I deal with pain mostly inwardly by becoming very quiet and stoic. She also knows that I have quite a high pain tolerance and my pain scale doesn’t directly correlate with the general public’s. It was must be a CF thing. I hopped into the bed and we started chatting once the contraction was over and the nurse started inserting my IV. A few seconds later, I told her I felt another contraction coming and the nurse asked that I stay with her until she tapped down my IV.

My mom replied, “Already? Your contractions are 45 seconds apart and lasting one and a half minutes.”

I looked at her and said nothing.

“That’s long!”



A few more contractions went by while I squeezed Peter’s hand and in between the rest period, I laid my head back and pretended I was sleeping. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me, ever, ever again (dramatic). Another contraction would build in intensity and the cycle would start again. Suddenly and surprisingly, I felt the overwhelming need to push as if it was beyond my control. My body was in command in that moment. The baby was ready, even if I believed I wasn’t.

Through labored breath I turned to my mom and said, “I need to push.”


“I need to push. Can I push??”

“No!” everyone said in unison. “NOT YET! Blow them away.”

Hurriedly, my mom requested the doctor come check me since she believed I was further along in the process than we all thought. I continued panting and blowing the urge away while we waited. The doctor answered her page to my room, did her business, and her jaw dropped while she examined me.

“What time did you come in?” she asked.

“Around 9:00am,” I moaned slightly.

“You’re all the way…,” she said as she slowly reached over and pushed the call button asking for a delivery team over the loud speaker.

“We need a delivery team in Room A,” she announced.

Before I realized what was happening, my legs were being thrown up in the stir ups, eight more people rushed into the room while snapping on gloves and gowns, metal tools where clanking together, and I was being instructed on exactly how I would bring this baby into the world.

“This is happening, now??” I asked.

“Can you even deliver in here?’ my mom added.

(The answer was yes; you can deliver in Multipurpose Room A as we would soon find out.)


The pushing began.

Suddenly, I realized with every contraction that pushing is exhausting work when you’re a tiny woman, only two thirds of your lungs function, and you’re moving a basketball through your body.

Personally, just breathing in between the set of big pushes was the most difficult part of the entire labor process. I could handle the pain, but with each big breath in I could feel myself dwindling of energy as if I wasn’t getting enough air to power my body. There was so much force and pressure from every direction, I doubt my lungs had the space to open and inhale properly.

“Can you throw some oxygen on her?” my mom suggested to the medical team.

Good call, mom! Best decision all day. I am super glad you are a respiratory therapist! Once the nasal cannula was on and the oxygen saturated my tired lungs, I felt my head clear and my energy increase.

“You’re not afraid, you’re not afraid,” I repeated to myself.

Although I had barely any time to mentally process what had just transpired over the last three hours, I knew if I was going to continue pushing and deliver without any pain medication, I had to do it without fear and with confidence. I quickly asked the Lord to deliver him safely out of my body and into my arms. Ok, I was ready!

Peter, my mom, and my nurse Eileen stood bedside and acted as my coach and cheer squad for the next 30 minutes.

“1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10,” my mom counted slowly.

“Fill those lungs, baby. Fill those lungs!” my nurse chanted while I inhaled as big as I could.

(Honestly, I can’t remember what Peter said. I recently asked him as well, and he said he didn’t remember either. I did feel his arm behind my head holding me up though. Thanks, love!)



The pushing continues.

I pleaded to know how he was doing, what position he was in, and if the head was close to being delivered in between pushes. At one point they said I could reach down and touch his head, but I could barely open my eyes and needed to conserve my energy and focus for the next limitless set of pushes, so I politely declined and told them I was ok for the moment. Other than that, I was a silent and stoic laborer—no screaming, no crying, just desperate inhalations, followed by relieving exhalations.

Towards the end of my time pushing, they told me I needed to quickly roll over on my left side to help the baby because he was under stress. His heart rate had changed and retrospectively, my mom said she felt very worried in that moment watching the fetal monitor.

“Oh, boy. Seriously?” I thought.

Even in that very intense moment, I knew that was not a pretty scene to watch. With a huge watermelon belly pointing up and my legs perched in the air, I allowed them to flip me over in between pushes and then back again.

I send apologies to everyone who had to witness that very graceful moment.


A few more pushes eagerly elapsed, and then the world went silent for a moment, and he was here.

His cries filled the room—a cry I felt I knew almost immediately, as if I’ve heard it one thousand times before. Only, this was the first time it would meet my ears.

His little body was plopped onto my chest, and in response, I made noises I never thought possible. Unearthly wails exited my body as I laid hands on our tiny baby. Those wails were powered by an accumulation of an all consuming relief. Feelings of relief that the pain had stopped; relief that he was here safely; relief that I made it through my pregnancy healthy; relief that I finally proved everyone wrong; relief that we had made a good decision almost a year ago; and relief that I, miraculously and heavenly-decided, was finally a mom. His mom.

I touched his head, his long fingers, and his tiny nose I saw on the ultrasounds with each passing week, the nose we guessed if it was Peter’s or mine. I knew he was ours. I looked at his umbilical cord that was wrapped around his neck seconds prior reentering my body and realized that I would gladly spend the rest of my life providing for him without reprisal. That love is real. The rumored love you experience watching your child enter the world—guiding them so unsure and yet determined. That love is immediate and powerful and consuming and scary. Holding him while the many bodies around me slowed to a blur, I just got it.

I so got it.

I finally understood the true nature behind a mother’s love.

Labor was unearthly. Knowing that my broken body was still capable of undertaking something it was designed to do, I never felt mightier or freer of my disease. Simultaneously, I never felt so honored to be labeled as “sick” as I held my baby boy. He is my proof that if cystic fibrosis has imparted any clarity upon the understanding of my experiences, the very brightest is that The Lord has gently humbled me time and time again so that I could experience the true influence of that moment–the power and vulnerability of bringing forth life when your body is so very fragmented. I believe my labor has set the tone for my season of motherhood.

For nine months, I wondered whether my diseased body could handle a natural labor. I prayed for a natural labor so that I could hold onto the experiences when my disease didn’t completely define me. My mom prayed for a labor I could physically manage while preserving my stabilized health. Our prayers were both answered. That morning I chose not to do my treatments and pills unknowingly believing I would have time at the hospital while we waited for Fenn to make his arrival. I never received them. And, that’s why our birth story is so precious to me, because it was a time when I was physically at my rawest, my very truest self; but by the grace of God I was blinded by certain strength and in under four hours, I moved mountains as mothers so often do.


 [Thank you to Uncle Christian for these photos of Fenn’s birthday!]


First Trimester Recap- Week 1 to Week 13

I consider myself one of the lucky ones looking back on my first trimester. Really, I don’t think my first trimester could have gone any smoother than it actually did. I believe everyone around me has lovingly been a bit surprised by that fact as well–I know I am not the only one. If I am being brutally honest, I thought those first 13 weeks would be a sh** show, and I had realistically prepared myself (and Peter) for the shower of preemptive baby poo coming our way. My initial thoughts: First trimester horror stories + CF = I am going down. Way to have any confidence in your abilities, Janeil. ☹

The reality was I was very aware there were women who spent the first three months with head hanging over the porcelain throne. Honestly, I thought with all the morning coughing I do, I would spend my fair share of time locked in the bathroom with my supreme gag reflex. Instead, I celebrated every time I puked because I knew that was just part of being wonderfully pregnant. I thought with already underlying chronic fatigue, the first trimester would wipe me out completely. Again, that wasn’t the case either. I felt an influx of energy and used that timely wisely. I worried about making it through the first trimester with no IV antibiotics to avoid exposing my developing babe to the harsh drugs. No harsh antibiotics here (minus my necessary daily ones)! I did it! I made it through the first trimester, and I did it with relative ease and healthy lungs!


So, I consider myself extremely blessed because I know I fall into the minority group of “easy first trimesters”. Maybe the first trimester was so enjoyable because as Peter so eloquently put it, “You are used to feeling crappy”? Better yet, maybe it was all the prayers, support, and well wishes we received lifting me up to a healthier place? Either way, I truly felt great, hungry, a normal amount of tired, avoided IV antibiotics, and more excited with each passing week while baking that babe. Amen! My subsequent thoughts: I would do that 1,000 times over again!

Here’s a little more about my comfy and joyful first trimester being pregnant with cystic fibrosis:

Finding Out: I guess when you are so in-tuned with you body like I am, the benefit of having that connection is finding out you’re pregnant freakishly fast. At just 3 weeks 5 days pregnant, my body told me, “Get up out of bed and go take a pregnancy test because you are pregnant, girl!” And my body was right! Cue tears and hyperventilation.

I told Peter the next day and he was overcome by shock, just as I was. I think we both expected our TTC journey to play out differently and had our doubts we would ever be successful. The stats were not in our favor: about 1/3 of CFers need assisted reproductive technology to conceive and about another 1/3 only conceive after a year or more of trying. So to find out we made a human early on was very much our own little miracle! Overall, the first trimester felt long because we found out we were expecting so early, but it was incredibly joyful.


OB Visits: Because my pregnancy is considered high-risk due to cystic fibrosis and also cystic fibrosis related diabetes, I am being monitored entirely by a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor, basically an OBGYN with extra training to handle complicated pregnancies. We decided a normal OBGYN just wouldn’t know what to do with me, and I am ok with that! The following things typically happen at my appointments: I usually get an ultrasound to make sure baby is growing correctly (it’s crazy to see the changes so far– the above ultrasound is 9w6d and 8w6d respectively), we go over my medications to make sure there have been no changes and everything is still safe to take, we go over my blood sugar numbers and adjust insulin as need, we discuss how my lungs are doing, and we discuss my weight gain. Starting at 20 weeks, I will get a growth scan at every appointment to continue to monitor baby’s growth. And from there, we see how things progress and adjust my care as needed!

CF Visits: I am also seeing my CF team on a more frequent basis to make sure I am the healthiest I can be during this time. As usual, I do a pulmonary function test (PFT) to determine how well my lungs are working, discuss my weight gain and calorie intake, adjust my medications, discuss my energy levels and other symptoms, and do a full physical exam. Surprisingly, my PFTs have gone up from 64% to 67% in the first trimester. YAY! Of course, everyone from my team comes in to see and touch my belly while asking all about my exciting pregnancy! I love my CF team so much and their constant support and detail to my care during this time is such an encouragement. I know this pregnancy feels like a huge victory for them as much as it is for me, and I hope I can make them proud by being a healthy mama!


Morning Sickness: I had a touch of morning sickness up until about Week 8 but focused on keeping my stomach filled to help with the nausea and random vomiting, and it worked! After Week 8, the sickness was gone and there were only random moments of feeling queasy. I felt my morning sickness was very tolerable and ultimately, I knew I had the skills to deal with it (vomiting isn’t really a novel thing in CF).

Appetite and Cravings: Smoothies, fast food (Chick fil A, Taco Bell, etc), pizza, tacos, fresh fruit, cheese danish, different cereals, raw carrots, and brussels sprouts were some of my cravings. Basically, any time I overheard talk about food on the radio or while eavesdropping on a private conversation, I needed said food item ASAP. Pregnancy cravings are really just a step up from my already CF-induced food cravings. Poor Peter has spent a lot of time driving me to different food establishments, but he has always been a good sport about it!

Weight Gain: From December to Week 13, I gained around 8lb (104lb to 112lb), which was very desirable since I was struggling with poor weight gain during the holiday season. My goal is to eat an extra 300- 600 calories a day on top of my minimum ~3000 to 3500 calorie demand to gain between 28 to 40lb. Geez! I just keep telling myself, “Food is fight. Food is growth.” I believe I can get there slowly and surely, and so far I have! I think my healthy weight gain has been the most shocking aspect of this pregnancy so far. Eating appropriately and seeing such fantastic results on the scale is such a foreign concept to me in my normal CF life. As an result, I am so thankful I am putting on the weight we both need to stay healthy, and I am slowly learning to love my new maternity body that can’t fit into any of my previous clothing.


Fatigue: My fatigue level from the beginning to Week 13 was very normal for me, even less burdensome than normal. There were days were I felt I had more energy than usual and was wondering when the impending fatigue would hit. There were also days were I napped and felt refreshed, and then days were I was tired. Overall, I personally feel CF-related fatigue is much more intense than pregnancy-related fatigue but that just might be me. Hopefully this energy will continue to transcend through the second trimester and beyond!

Other Pregnancy Weirdness: I had your usual cramping and twinges for the entirety of my first trimester. I now realize that all that stretching and pulling was needed because I started to show fairly quickly and developed a bump around Week 9 (and, I know it’s almost anatomically impossible at that point). People kept telling since I am petite, there’s nowhere to go but out. ☺ Who knows! I just went with the bump and embraced the congratulations and belly rubs from strangers.

With all the stretching, I experienced my very first round ligament pains pretty early on around Week 8 during hard coughs. I felt sharp pulling and tightening on the sides of my belly after coughing and then the pain would relax after a few seconds. My MFM agreed such strong coughing can definitely tighten all those muscles surrounding your belly causing sharp pains, and that I better get used to it. I am used to it at this point.


CF Weirdness: The number one CF/pregnancy question I was asked after announcing we were expecting was, “Can you still use your Vest twice a day for 30 minutes for airway clearance?” The answer is yes! It won’t harm the baby a bit and is an especially important tool to keep my lungs as clear as possible. Eventually, I will have to unclip the bottom buckles to fit my giant belly and possibly have Peter “clap” me to target my lower lobes (form of airway clearance that looks like pounding with cupped hands) but for now, it’s all Vesting. Some women even say their babies are comforted from the shaking and noises of the Vest after delivery because they were so used to hearing it in the womb. ☺

I think the baby will also be used to my coughing, or at least I hope so. On my 12 Week ultrasound every time I coughed, the baby did a little squirm, floated up, and then back down from the force of the cough. It made me laugh and feel a bit bad for the disturbing poor thing. Eventually, baby will learn coughing is just a thing mama does, along with many other weird CF things.

That’s a wrap, people! Thank you for all your prayers and encouragement. I am happy to report how well babe and I are doing so far. Please let me know if you have any questions about this special pregnancy and I would be happy to answer!

Sending love and light,

J and Babe

Our Favorite Announcement

Our hearts grew a little bit bigger this winter as Peter and I learned we are expecting a precious addition to our family. It’s true! WE ARE PREGNANT! And we are so excited to share our happy news with you all!

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I’m not sure Peter and I know how to truly express the immense joy, crazy love, or gratitude we have felt already at this point in our pregnancy. The depth of our emotions just can’t be translated to a screen because they are much too big and mighty. At the start of our attempt to expand our family, I think we both expected there to be some disappointment and heartache, a lot of patience, and more faith than we were ready to give, instead the Lord simply decided our time was now. His perfect timing and His certain decision to make us parents of this special baby will always humble me. I still can’t believe we have been so blessed.

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Truthfully, the past three months have sort of felt like a whirlwind; like we are stuck in a long anticipated dream with no desire to get out. My belly is growing by the day, I cruised through the first trimester as healthy as could be with little discomfort, and I am rejoicing in the weird and lovely terms of pregnancy. I can honestly say I have enjoyed every single day of this new adventure so far and cannot wait to meet our sweet little dream all wrapped up baby-burrito style. This time has been so very special to us. Telling our friends and family have been some of the happiest moments in our lives, and we can’t wait to further share our unique journey of pregnancy and parenthood with cystic fibrosis.

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Our special little babe is due to make their arrival on September 9th, 2017, but until then please join us in praying for an enjoyable, healthy, and stable pregnancy. Specifically, pray that my lungs stay clear and unchanging, I can maintain good blood sugar control, and that I am able to gain the necessary weight to keep our babe and I strong and growing. Please keep in mind our physicians who have the difficult task of managing a complex, high-risk pregnancy. We ask that you pray for wisdom, knowledge, and skill while they care for the both of us (Oh, goodness—“both us of” feels so weird to say!). Also, pray for the dad-to-be who will inevitably pick up the slack as I get more and more pregnant, and we experience a bit of transition from just two kids with a furbaby to eager parents with a human baby (+ furbaby). I know we are in for a crazy ride, but as always I appreciate your kindness, love, and support you have given our family.

Overall, we are uncontainably excited, deeply humbled; and most importantly, growing a human. We just couldn’t be happier!

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Stay tuned for more love and more baby,

J + P

(A big thank you to my cousin-in-law, Dave Blakeslee, at David Blakeslee Photography for capturing this special moment for us to have and to share. We are thankful for your talent!)

Podcastin’ Adventure

HELLO, HELLO, HELLO! I have missed you all so much and am excited to be getting back to blogging and sharing. I hope 2017 has been joyful and productive so far for you!

This past weekend, Peter and I sat down with a special dude, JD Caminero, who is the creator of a Cleveland-based podcast. “Quote Unquote” is a podcast focused on simply just telling people’s stories, and I was excited to get the opportunity to share mine. It was fun, difficult, and emotional to voice the special way I get to live my life because of CF. So, thank you JD for having us as your guests! We enjoyed connecting with you and hearing about your hope for your podcast.

If you choose to listen to the podcast, you’ll hear me coughing and clearing my throat; you’ll hear me get out of breath and struggle to talk for long periods of time. I thought I might be embarrassed hearing that, but honestly that’s daily life with CF. It was hard to talk for that long without working my lungs! Great job lungs!

I hope you enjoy what I (breathlessly) have to say and take something from it. I hope 2017 is a year where you turn your face towards the sun.

Sending Love and Light,





Working to Live, Not Living to Work

You know what I have been thinking about a lot lately?

Our innate desire as humans to spend our time pursuing work and what happens when that doesn’t happen.

Last fall, I made the decision with the guidance from my care team and family to stop working full-time permanently. You got it– I am 26, “retired”, and ready to talk about it.

The choice to stop working full-time wasn’t exactly an easy or normative decision to be made in my mid-twenties while everyone around me was in the thick of building their own careers. Truthfully, the reality of it all swooped over me, approaching at a speed I couldn’t foresee and with a certain level of stealth I couldn’t possibly avoid. At the time, I was close to finishing my master’s degree in public health and enjoying my full-time job as a nanny when I felt my “career days” were coming to an end, even before they had officially started.

As an adult with CF, this isn’t technically uncommon. Many CFers stop working long before their peers for various reasons due to deteriorating health, increasing treatment burden, and the typical energy demands of traditional employment. Recent research shows that the act of limiting or discontinuing work is associated with preservation and improvement of lung function, making it a popular choice for individuals at various stages of disease. I was one of the many in this particular situation, but in retrospect, I was a very heartbroken individual.

Outside our little CF world, we don’t talk much about losing your ability to work. Maybe it’s because the stigma and judgment that can come with the territory of an invisible illness– sickness that can’t be seen with the eye; maybe it’s due to the internal grief we experience ourselves from the loss; or maybe it’s because we strive for normalcy and stopping work in your mid-twenties is the opposite of normal. I’m sure there are many other reasons, many other fears, and many other silencers that bury this dialogue deep from the outside world, but having faced it myself, I think it’s important to provide it some sunlight.

Last fall, I felt incredibly trampled by my disease’s unwillingness to compromise to the rigid expectations that were set before me– both my own and of those crafted from the outside. Larger society expected me to work as a well-educated, young, ambitious, and assumingly healthy adult, and I equally expected to somehow manage it all without fail. My body was incredibly worn out, but my mind and expectations were alive and well. It was the first time I failed to meet expectations as a whole, and it also was the first time I comprehended how attempted “normalcy” could jeopardize the quality and quantity of my future.

Consequently in the months following, my medical documents were reviewed and benefits filed. My five-year plan erased and purpose transformed. My schedule shifted and priorities realigned. I quickly recognized that for the first time in my life caring for myself and managing my disease was my actual profession. And, it felt weird. It felt isolating. Suddenly, I wasn’t 25 anymore– I was 65. But unlike those eligible for retirement, I found myself mourning the loss of something that passed long before its time: my opportunity to explore the typical working domain (i.e. social support from co-wokers, financial freedom, occupational purpose), to give back to society and make a difference, and to experience this particular hallmark of your twenties in a conventional way.

Something else that weighted heavily on my heart during this time was a sense of panic that people would assume my decision to stop working translated to laziness—nothing about CF life is lazy. (I know, it was really stupid.) I also hoped people would agree I was still filled with potential and value sans successful career. (Again, stupid.) Finally, I dreaded the unfair assumptions, beliefs, and judgments from overly critical individuals who frankly were clueless to my situation. (Sometimes, Janeil, you are just stupid.) For some preposterous reason, we care so much what others think of us that we sometimes lose our own measure of value. I think last year leading up to my decision, I lost my measure of value and success. I was trying so very hard to be “normal”—to fit into that stock mold of college, career, kids, retirement, etc. When in fact, I’m more than normal; I am extraordinary (just as you are)! When you are extraordinary, developing personal expectations that respect your own physical and mental parameters is the smart, healthy, and brave course to take.

If anything, a great lesson has sunk in and made itself home within my heart in the course of my short retirement: I am the only one who can decide what is right for me. You do not live in my body, you do not walk in my shoes, my heart is not yours, and vise-versa. I hope I give others the same respect in the way they choose to live the course of their precious lives.

I made a smart, healthy, brave and equally painful decision to hand over one large aspect of my life to faith last year. I released another piece of normalcy from my grasp. It definitely wasn’t easy, but there were so many immediate and delayed benefits that a year later I know I made the right decision. With clarity and perspective that can only be gifted with time, I am able to see how the Lord closed one door in the face of an incredibly hesitant and disappointed Janeil last November, while simultaneously handing me the key to my very own door factory. Beautiful opportunities were presented to me over and over again—things I couldn’t have done if I was working full-time and exhausting myself of my resources. I have crafted a lovely, but unique vocation for myself and I am so proud.

It’s true that the best part of having something taken away from you is the empty space it leaves to be filled.

I became a more helpful wife following my “retirement”.
I became a more trusting follower of Christ.
I released a significant amount of burden and guilt I carried around.
I started this blog (ONE YEAR AGO LAST MONTH!).
I learned to rest, heal, and renew when my body needed it most.
I became a more responsible and compliant patient.
I found fulfillment in sharing my thoughts and investing in the CF community.
I gained more mental and physical energy.
I joined The SaltyLife Magazine team and had my writings published.
I volunteered with our CF clinic’s Quality Improvement Team where my unique opinion was valued and I was able to give back to my care team.
I was asked to share more about my special life at speaking events.
I participated in important clinical trials that paved the way for a better future.
I had more time and energy to spend with the people I love.
I had the occasion to enjoy the many simple joys that filled my days.
Finally, I had an abundance of health essential to plan and prepare for a family.

What changes in your life are you hesitant to allow because of fear? Try to be brave and look for the other doors.

Always with Love,

Aging With Growth in Mind– Not Decline

Today is my birthday! 😀 I turn 26 years old today, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.


Before you throw your birthday cards illustrated with adorable cats out the window, hear me out. I don’t think I am alone in my approach to adult birthdays, aging, growing old, etc. It isn’t really a secret that in our modern society, aging isn’t a necessarily welcomed friend. We don’t celebrate gray hairs or wrinkles, and we don’t brag about our age after a certain point—we may even hide our true maturity, drop a few years when we can, and celebrate when randomly carded at a bar. Even more so, research now says that Millennials (that’s me!), specifically, fear aging more than any other group. Now, I can’t speak for an entire subpopulation, but I can confess that I, Janeil Emma Jaggers Whitworth, am afraid to age—even when it’s staring me in the face on my own birthday.

There, I said it.


To me, it seems there is some indiscernible indent in time when we stop thinking about birthdays in terms of growth and milestones, and start thinking about them in terms of decline and degeneration. We stop asking what the birthday boy or girl wishes to do in their 30th year of life, 55th year of life, or even 83rd year of life. We stop imagining growth and ultimately, presume decline. I suppose we do a great disservice to ourselves when we buy into the myth that our best years- our healthiest, most joyful years- are behind us. I have fallen victim to this way of thinking. I see it in the way I view my own aging process with CF, and I am challenging myself to stop it right now– at age 26.

Moreover, specifically in the world of cystic fibrosis, aging and adulting with this genetic disease is a relatively new phenomenon. Two decades ago, CF was once considered a pediatric disease but thanks to better care and research, the CF population is now composed of more adults than children. It’s exciting! It’s hopeful! It can feel like we are entering uncharted and anxious territory. That being said, the very nature of CF is progressive. As time passes, we are expected to get worse and birthdays can serve as a metaphorical reminder of that detail. Even when we talk about treatment, we chatter about halting the damage, or stopping the effects of time—we talk about only maintaining with each year.

We stop imagining growth and presume decline.


Today at age 26, I will be dropped from my mom’s health insurance and have spent the last few months choosing a new plan, coordinating benefits, and praying I haven’t made a mistake overlooking a minor detail. Today at age 26, I am 10 pounds lighter, my lungs are weaker at the moment, and I am on IV antibiotics following a bout of unknown sickness that slightly rocked my little 25-year-old world.

Maybe I needed to be at this point the moment I turned 26 to really test my belief that aging can be focused on improvement. At this point, I have more room to grow–more space to advance and rally than my previous years. I have percentage points to gain and goals to work toward once again. I am firm believer that things happen for a reason, and maybe that reason being I personally needed a reminded to view my own movement of “progression” in an upward slope, instead of a downward one. To start at the bottom and find my way back up– to appreciate that if this is my “bottom”, than I am more blessed than many.

So as I turn 26, more than ever, I am now holding onto the belief that this will be my best year yet! There is so much beautiful opportunity to look forward to. So many things I wish to see, do, and especially, eat. Twenty six and counting is my new motto.

Let’s party! Bring on all the queso and all the cake! I have work to do.
Thank you for all the birthday love and wishes! Let’s make birthdays about celebrating our lovely potential surrounded by the people who help us achieve it.


Preparing for Pregnancy, Oh My! 

Once again the great folks at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation allowed me to write for the Community Blog about a recent appointment Peter and I attended. As I write below, we are tiptoeing into the process of extending our little family and I feel honored to be able to share my experiences with an array of audience members. 

Read it here.

I realize that the journey to parenthood can be quite an intimate process- a secret kept between two partners and then eagerly shared when there is news of an actual baby. Once again, our process is a little different. There’s more planning before conception, more risk to discuss and questions to answer, and a closer watch by a large medical team (already not so intimate)- a type of process many have so little knowledge of. 

It was just this year that the CF Foundation added a portion on their website highlighting reproductive health. In 2016, we are finally ready to say having children when you have CF is plausible. It makes me incredibly happy that we are at this point in our fight on the grasp of CF, but there is a substantial lack of research and resources for women in my shoes. 

The truth is, we are our best resource. That “we” being the community of women with CF who hope to become moms and those who have simultaneously mastered both roles, patient and mother. Facebook groups, Instagram, and texting have connected me to women who have experienced it all in their journey to motherhood and they are willing to share. 

Essentially, I felt compelled to share my own intimate journey as a means to repay all the women who have offered up their own stories, experiences, advice, and encouragement to me over the last couple years. It always helps to know what you are facing, to have a source for answers to questions, or a friend to confide in. 

I hope my blog can be added to the wealth of knowledge. If by chance, young women with CF stumble upon this blog, I hope they will be encouraged to take the very best care of their bodies in preparation for what the future may hold. I hope they’ll be calmed and they’ll be informed on the hills and valleys before them. More importantly, I hope they’ll know they are supported by a group of women who understand the road to parenthood with CF may not be the smoothest, simplest, or most conventional route on the map.