Written by: Anna Sibal
12/12/2014 9:30 AM
There is an old adage that says when a pregnant woman goes into labor, she puts one foot in the grave even as she lies down on her birthing bed. Since time beginning, women all over the world lovingly take this huge risk whenever they bring forth new life into this world.
Amy Payton risked her life and almost lost it when she gave birth to her third daughter. She didn't have a reason to believe her third childbirth wouldn't go well. After all, she's healthy and she didn't go through any hitches when she delivered her two older daughters.
However, the unthinkable happened - Amy experienced placental abruption, a very rare condition where the placenta detaches from the uterus and comes out first before the baby is born. Occurring in only 1% of women throughout the world, placental abruption can be lethal for both mother and child depending on its severity.
It was, needless to say, a traumatic birth experience. And while Amy and her baby, whom they named Nova Irons, did survive the birth, the thought of dying and leaving her husband and her daughters haunted Amy. But instead of dwelling on what could have become a tragedy, Amy chose to heal, move on, and help other mothers and children at risk so they won't have to go through what she went through.
As part of this healing process, Amy and her husband Ryan established Hippi Longstockings, an online store that sells natural baby attire and accessories, such as leg warmers and blankets. The Paytons donate part of their profits to charities such as Hearts4Africa. They also donate clothes and blankets to mothers and children in local shelters, as well as feed the homeless and host birthday parties for at-risk children.
Right now, the Paytons are on a "Gift of Good" tour, where they travel as a family in an RV across the country. CampingRoadTrip.com was able to have a chat with Amy, and here's what she shared with us:
CRT: Why "Hippi Longstockings"? What's the story behind the name?
Amy Payton: There are many different factors in the choosing of our name. Our eight-year-old daughter loves the show Pippi Longstockings after I introduced her to it because it was my favorite show growing up! Being naturally minded parents ourselves, we knew that we wanted our products to reflect that and we have been called hippies by most of our friends. Finally, our first retail products were leg warmers, which kind of fit the stockings theme. All of that together is how the name was born.
How did you come up with the "Gift of Good" tour? What inspired you to reach out to people through this tour, of all the many other ways you can help?
When we were expecting our third daughter we weren't expecting her birth to be so traumatic! I almost bled to death, having a severe placental abruption which has a less than 1% survival rate worldwide. After our youngest daughter's clarity saved our lives, we had an epiphany! We needed to change our entire lives. Our focus had to be on what mattered, living simply so that we can help other people. For every single purchase made on our website, we donate money and supplies to Hearts4Africa. They are working to build the first lifesaving birth center in Iganga, Uganda. In addition, we donate supplies to The City of Children Orphanage, Rady's Children's Hospital, and many other organizations. We continue to work in our community, feeding the homeless and throwing birthday parties for children living in transitional housing.
Did you have a set goal for the "Gift of Good" tour this year? How close are you to fulfilling that goal?
We had a tour mapped out across the country, traveling in our RV. We were following a naturally minded baby fair called MommyCon, as well as a supporting childbirth conference called Birth Without Fear. In every city we stopped in, the profits from the conferences we attended went back into supporting the people in need in the city we were in. We didn't have a set monetary goal, just a goal to live simply so that we could donate more time and money to helping people in need. Everything was going great until our youngest daughter Nova, two years old, was severely burned. At that point we had to completely stop the tour for three months while she was in the hospital. Other than that I would say our goals were met!
Do you have an idea of how much impact your mission has made so far?
So far, we have donated 200 blankets to mothers and babies in need, over 400 pairs of socks, 25 jackets and 50 pairs of pants to children in need! We have worked with six different shelters all over the US throwing birthday parties for kids in need and have served hundreds of meals to people in need. We are almost two years old so we are hoping to double our numbers next year!
Your birth story is gripping, frightening and inspiring. What's the typical reaction you get from people when they hear about your story?
I know this sounds silly but I initially had no idea that my birth story affected people the way it did. In the weeks and months following Nova's birth, I was paralyzed with fear on a daily basis. I was consumed with thoughts of dying and leaving my children. My husband and my midwife suggested that I write everything down to try to help myself heal. When I did, I posted it on Facebook for my friends to see so they would understand why I wasn't myself and why I was struggling so bad. The immediate response from everyone was tears and validation. No one knew what had happened. After sharing our story and starting Hippi Longstockings I started to heal. I truly believe helping other people is why I am ok!
How did your children take to the idea of traveling across the country? How did you prepare them for the journey and the change in lifestyle?
When we left, our kids were two, three and eight years old. Our eight-year-old was very excited! She mapped out all of the things she wanted to see and was excited to be included in the planning. We are so lucky to have her because she makes new friends wherever she goes and loves new experiences. Our younger two didn't really understand until we were on the road.
Do you home school your daughters? What's your approach to homeschooling?
Yes, we home school our fourth-grader and do preschool with our now four-year old. With our fourth grader, we have sample curriculum so we know what she needs to be learning. That way, if we do integrate her into public school again, she will not be behind. However, we create our own curriculum based on those requirements and we use our environment as a guide. For example, we were in the Philadelphia area for a month in October. We had so many historical landmarks near, as well as Washington DC being a short drive and Amish country and the season changing so beautifully we couldn't help to have those things be our main focus for that month! It was really a lot of fun for all of us!
What's the typical day for the Payton family on the road? How do you keep your kids occupied in your RV?
A typical day is Dad home schooling early AM while Mom works. We trade off teaching and working as Ryan runs the technical aspect of our business and I run the creative end. After that we usually take full advantage of the new place we are in and try to visit and see as many new things as we can. We go on a lot of field trips and integrate our surrounding with school. We have a lot of travel car games. Auto bingo is one of our kids' favorites. We also do travel flashcards, which is like a constant scavenger hunt looking outside for new things. We never really watched much before we left but on those really long travel days (we made it from Austin to Newport Beach in two days once) our DVD player was a lifesaver!
With full time RVing with a family, what are the top 10 essential road trip and travel items that your family could not live without?
Walkie-talkies, granola bars, baby wipes, first aid kit, crafts & travel games, 50 to 30 amp plug adapter, 15 to 30 amp plug adapter, tent (it's like an addition to a house at campgrounds), Berkey water filter, headlamps for everyone, a kids' potty for emergency stops and overnight stays when you aren't plugged in, a crock pot/french press/ electric tea kettle, appliances that don't require propane.
How are the next few years shaping up both for your family and your "Gift of Good" tour? How long do you see yourselves on the road?
Right now, we are in San Diego until early next year, then we are heading up to Portland and then to Denver for another Birth Without Fear conference. How long we continue hinges partly on the future of our youngest daughter. The injuries she sustained this summer will require several more surgeries so we are just taking things as they come. No matter what happens we will always have a place to stay and enough so that we can continue to help people in need.
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