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Beyond the Booch: A Journey of Healing, Growth, and Fearlessness Part 1


Hi. I’m glad you found me. Like most things in my life, the story of 3rd Bird Kombucha is a bit chaotic and jumps around a bit. Ask any of my girlfriends- conversations with me jump around like my dog Hobbes for a peanut butter Kong but eventually the story gets tied back together with a lopsided bow. The purpose for my blog is really to connect the dots between kombucha, autism and rebuilding my identity through being fearless. 

So let’s start from the beginning- I’m Sara (Hi!). You’ll learn a lot about me and my family of 3, one dog, 1 crazy cat, 4 chickens and one fantastic husband, Kyle. We call Denver our home, however I’m originally from NJ. This story, like most of my stories, starts somewhere not quite the beginning yet certainly not the end- but with a conversation. 

Ever had one of those conversations where you walk away equally and mind blown, in awe, full of gratitude yet totally frightened about what the outcome really means? I met my dear friend, Jess, for brunch one Sunday because I want to pitch her the idea of 3rd Bird. See Jess is a marketing badass, a force in the tech world-so of course in my mind she’d tell me how amazing my plan was, we’d have a tagline for my business while sipping mimosas in no time.  How native was I- though the oat milk latte was delish.

Jess’ feedback to me was simple- yet it cracked me wide open. It’s the reason I woke up early and started typing- something I’m not known to do (the waking up early part). Her advice- I’d hate to see you fix up the trailer, selling your kombucha at a couple of farmers’ markets without fixing yourself. Damn. Damn. Damn. Cue in flood work of tears. Tears, not because of feeling attacked, but for being seen and known by someone who really knows me and could see what this fledgling business of mine was more than kombucha- it was about me figuring out who I am at 38 years old and rebuilding from years of heartbreak, depression and mounting stress. I walked away from that brunch in awe of my friend’s ability to drill down to the root and then ask (no demand) that I allow myself to be vulnerable and write it all down. Share what is driving this whole crazy venture. This isn’t something that comes naturally to me- I’m witty and outgoing- but writing down my feelings and sharing my anxieties with the world? No thank you- not even my therapist gets to see all of that. But I’m not one to back away from a challenge, so here I am. Welcome. Let me tell you my story.

Trusting Your Gut: 
I’m the mom of three- Elodie, Grier and Silas. My kids are vastly different from each other. Elodie is my taskmaster- she makes a list for what she wants to accomplish in a weekend; being late stresses her out; and she loves math. She’s a natural caretaker, she makes sure that her siblings get breakfast in the morning while I’m still trying to open my eyes; is the first to offer her bed for snuggles and is the one my friends have all claimed as their future babysitter. Grier is creative and sensitive- she’s wickedly smart (she reads books faster than we can go to the library) and makes connections among seemingly random things which come out in the jokes she tells. Grier feels the world in a way that I don’t fully understand, however it is beautiful to pay witness too. She’s the one who can get Silas to open up to the world when things are overwhelming. Despite the girls being so different (still blows my mind- they came from the same parents yet their personalities were apparent at a few hours of life), there were certain behaviors and attributes that they both shared. Both were within an oz. of each other at birth.  Neither of the girls were good sleepers; loved to nurse and eat solids when it was time; each was as heavy as bricks as babes; and loved to be outside observing the world.  They never minded getting dressed and physical milestones were met without much prompting from Kyle and I. They were challenging, sleepless, and joyous times.   

Silas was born in April, 2017.  He was long and lean- a whole pound lighter than

his sisters. From the beginning he was different- he loved to sleep (hallelujah!). He’d sleep hours on end- Kyle and I couldn’t believe it. We were giving ourselves high fives- finally a baby who slept! How lucky were we! For how relaxed he looked during sleep- that wasn’t the case when he was up. Moving his arms to get into the car seat or stroller caused him to scream. I had to steel myself for these moments because they wouldn’t end once he was strapped in- he’d scream the whole way. While the girls could be calmed down by music-it would just make Silas yell more. When G was born, Elodie quickly adopted her as her baby (she’s the caretaker remember). The girls are insanely close. But with Silas- the girls kept their distance. I wondered if it was because he was a boy, however the girls fawned all over the baby cousin, Dean. With Silas, it was almost as if there was this electric current surrounding him that the girls knew instinctively not to touch because if they did, he’d scream. I remember asking Elodie why she didn’t play with her brother and her response was that it wasn’t worth it because he just screams. She was 5. I was witnessing the seed of resentment towards her brother starting to take root.  This was the same time in our life where the girls were at a school where we had to drive too. Getting out of the house was just plain awful - Silas would see his car seat and begin screaming before he was even in it.  I couldn’t breathe. So I screamed. I screamed so one of my girls would remember to brush their hair or wear socks; to remember their backpacks; for not closing the car door or demanding 5 more minutes of morning television. I screamed just to be heard. I screamed because I was exhausted and had no bandwidth for a reason. I was unraveling and the outcome was I became a bully.  I couldn’t wait for Silas to go back to sleep- then things would be calm- everything wouldn’t be so amped up. 

At Silas’ four month well-baby visit, he stopped nursing. Just flat out refused. There was no antecedent to predict this behavior- he just stopped.  The girls both nursed to the first birthday and then some- but 4 months? I wasn’t ready. This isn’t how I pictured the end of my nursing relationship with Silas because honestly this was one of the only times I feel connected to him while he was awake. And he just stopped without warning. So started my relationship with an industrial breast pump. I was working full time in a new position at school- hybrid teaching/instructional coach- while lugging around this massive machine. Anytime I wasn’t teaching or in a meeting- I was pumping. It should be noted that my school is a beautiful building from the 1920’s and there is no air conditioning. So I'm in the only space that wasn’t being used as a classroom- a small eastern-facing office off of the 7th grade Dean of Students’ office on the 3rd floor, sweating and attempting to squeeze out whatever liquid gold my body could muster. Sometimes I’d get stuck in the room because parent meetings were happening and I didn’t want to walk out all wet and rung-out. So I’d stay in the room and just cry feeling deep in my bones that this wasn’t right, I wasn’t right and this message started my belief that I wasn’t enough. If I was enough, this all wouldn’t be so dang hard. This message took root in my brain and became my reality. 

This cycle ended- not because of my own mental choice- but because of a physical one. Silas went in for his 6 month appointment and at this time he wasn’t hitting any of the mile markers one would expect- sitting up; rolling over. In fact- for him to sleep (and yes, he was still a great sleeper) he had to be propped up with a mattress wedge otherwise his reflux would act up. Since he was now bottle-fed, he was throwing up more. He always needed a change of clothes. However this was challenging- because  his body became more rigid and inflexible. He was in a constant state of stress and couldn’t relax. The two of us were feeding off of each other. But in my mind I thought everything would be okay because at least he was eating and sleeping. 

But when we went to the doctors, he had stopped gaining weight and in fact was losing weight. His pediatrician used the phrase, “Failure to thrive.” I went into tunnel vision, “How could this be?” I was pumping what felt like all the time- I knew exactly how much he was getting- and yes he had reflux but so did the girls. So I doubled down on pumping and committed to weekly weigh-ins with Silas.  However your body can only take so much. As Rashard Mendenhall said, “If your body’s telling you something, it’s not lying. If you feel like you want to do something else or be somewhere else, and that feeling stays in your body, and it’s not going anywhere, listen. Your body doesn’t lie.” Unfortunately, I was listening. 

I started to complain to Kyle that I felt a burning in my back- a pinprick of pain.  He encouraged me to see a doctor. I ignored him because who has time for seeing a doctor for yourself?!  I just powered through the pain.  Until I couldn’t. I woke up one morning with the pain radiating from my back, around my left side and landing straight on my nipple. Yup. My nipple. (I wish I could insert an emoji right here- the one with the wide eyes and mouth is a straight worried line. You know the one?)  One could track the pain by the bright red line wrapping itself around my body squeezing me in searing hot pain. 

So it was this that finally brought me to the doctors however not without pumping first.  This would turn out to be my last session with the machine because it turned out I had shingles. Shingles! Isn’t this an old person's disease? Well turns out one can get shingles if your body is in a constant state of stress and deprivation. Yup. So not only did I have shingles in the most uncomfortable place ever- I needed to stop pumping cold turkey. I think I blocked out this portion of my life because of the trauma of it all. I remember leaving the doctor’s office, driving home, and not reemerging until several days later, feeling deflated and extremely hormonal. 

After a very intentional effort, Silas started to gain weight and was back on the growth chart. Since he wasn’t meeting physical milestones, he started therapy once a week.  Here is where I started to learn about the connection between gut health and physical well-being. Since he had such terrible reflux, he’s muscles were high and tight, restricting his movement and flexibility. In addition, because of his gastro-intestinal problems, Silas struggled to build up the core strength needed for basic gross skills. Through the teachings of his very patient PT, I learned the mechanics of sitting up, how to give baby massage and the importance of good probiotics to counter the reflux that Si was experiencing. 
And while Silas’s physical strengths was developing, his communication skills started to quickly disappear. Gone were ball, blue, moon, dog. .. momma and dada. We were told not to worry by our team of therapists- kids can lose language before major physical milestones.  “Don’t worry, Sara. He’s fine.” So anxiously I waited for Silas to make that next step- the physical movement towards independence. And we waited. I asked his PT if she thought Silas was autistic and she assured me no. Same with his pediatrician and speech pathologists- he laughs! He has a sense of humor. He wants to be around people. The markers of a “typical” autistic person were not evident in Silas.  But in my gut, I knew. 

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