Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a (few more) odd things...

~Although I liked the fact that our kids all had even-numbered birthdays (up to Gabe, that is), I think it pleases me even more that the new baby's birthday is exactly a week before Benjamin's...which is exactly a week before Christmas.  (We have several other one-week-apart birthdays in our own family and extended family, and I find patterns very satisfying...)

~My daughter made a charming little boy as the Toddler Jesus in our church's Christmas musical.

~I mentioned in THIS POST that Owen had been referring to his new brother Gabriel as "Rachel."  That has ceased, but funnily enough, the lady who played Mary the mother of Jesus in our church musical's name is Rachel - and over the past two days, whenever her name comes up, Owen  very sternly says, "No, it's Gabriel!"  You could not invent this kind of stuff, people. I kid you not.

~Kyle made Benjamin a birthday card, and chose to decorate it using photos he took of me during and just after Gabriel's birth.  Oy...

~Jeff and I have apparently given up on sending Christmas cards/letters altogether.  So if you're expecting one from  us, and it doesn't come, now you know why.  There are just so many other things to do. Is that totally lame?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas in Egypt

Last night was our church's Christmas musical.  It was so much fun, and the kids all did great!  Kyle nailed his lines, Benjamin was wonderful, and Elise was just about the sweetest Toddler Jesus you ever saw.  Here's a photo of my three performers in costume after the program last night - I couldn't resist sharing...

Friday, December 16, 2011

a few odd things

~Our son Owen, 3 1/2 years old, has been calling the new baby (Gabriel) Rachel. I honestly think he hears himself saying Gabriel, but it comes out as a very clear Rachel. Bizarre.

~Never could I have guessed that I would find a 22-month-old's "yes" so charming.

~Evidently the birth team thinks I'm hilarious.  Or maybe that laugh that much at every mama's jokes?

~I may be the only woman in America to feel this way, but I don't really see the allure of Pinterest.  I am on it, and I use it occasionally, but I am not as drawn in as others seem to be...

~My (youngest) son's chest circumference was 2 cm bigger than his head. Small wonder he needed that extra effort to push out!

~After bumming around in pajamas and stretchy pants all week, I'm more than a little nervous at the prospect of wearing real clothes this weekend.

~I find it amusing that, in spite of the fact that I have four sons, it is my daughter who will be portraying Jesus as a toddler in our church's Christmas musical.

~Today Ben and Kyle bring home the photos they took during and after Gabe's birth.  How terrifying is that?!

~A friend lent me a wrist brace, which I am wearing as much as possible.  In related news, I am trying really, really hard not to get any bodily fluids on said wrist brace.  Nothing else, either, but particularly not bodily fluids.  So far, so good...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Birth Story of Gabriel William

Waiting has always been a part of late pregnancy for me. In letting my little ones choose their own birthdates, I have to give up a large measure of control. And so, as we anticipated when the baby might be born into our arms, we wondered and waited...and waited.

On Thursday evening, at 40 weeks and 6 days pregnant, I had fallen on the driveway in front of my house, and hurt myself. My right wrist was painfully sprained, and I also ended up with an injured right foot and raw, bruised knee. Thankfully, the fall didn't harm my baby at all. However, it did leave me somewhat crippled - even if temporarily. I wasn't able to do very much in the following few days, but I was blessed by a loving outpouring of help and care from my family and church.

Early Sunday morning found me awake with uncomfortable contractions. This had been fairly common during the last few weeks, so although I was weary from the early waking, I resolved to not pay too much attention. I continued to have somewhat regular contractions throughout the morning. "Somewhat regular contractions" had been a pretty frequent occurrence for me during this last month or so - although they generally began in the afternoon or evening. So while morning contractions were a tad unusual, they didn't illicit much notice from me. Happily, my wrist was improving, and my foot was nearly back to normal.

I had a little time to rest after church, and I took advantage of it. During lunch, I began to notice the contractions had a different tinge to them. The dance of practice labor versus early labor had been particularly challenging as I prepared for this, my fifth journey of childbirth. How much to pay attention? How much to time things? And I'd been trying not to get my hopes up day after day.

But these felt different. And even though I had felt distinctions and changes over the past few weeks, something about the contractions on Sunday struck a chord of remembrance for me. They felt way stronger: gripping, even. These definitely got my attention.

After a few hours of this, Jeff and I had a pretty good idea that this was It. Although the contractions varied between 8 and 12 minutes, they were the kind I needed to breathe through. Around 3:00 pm we called my midwife, Katherine. I didn't think there was any reason for her to come yet, but I wanted to give her the news that we thought the day had come at last. Together she and I decided to touch base a little later. We also called Jeff's parents, who live across the city and were planning to come tend to the other kids during the birth. "Don't come yet," we said. "But start getting things in order. We'll call you in an hour or so." After an hour, we called and asked them to head on over. I wanted the kids to be well cared for, so I could have Jeff's full attention and support.

But then things started to slow down. I was still having contractions, but they were spacing out a bit. I decided to go upstairs to my bedroom. (Jeff's parents arrived after I went up there.) I felt like being away from distractions as much as possible, and in my bedroom I paced, trying to keep things going. I also began to pray. "Dear Lord, please help these contractions to keep coming. Please, please let this be the day. Please, may we have our baby safely in our arms tonight...."

I also spoke to my baby. I coaxed him, cajoled him. I told him we were ready for him, and that I hoped he would decide to come that night. I said just about everything I could think of to convince him that it would be a good day to be born.

Another thing I did was speak phrases like "I just want to open up and let my baby out." This idea was inspired by Ina May Gaskin's book Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Other "Ina May ideas" we used, both in this labor and others, are kissing through contractions, words of affirmation, and mental imagery. And they say that what got the baby in, gets the baby out...

I spoke to Katherine again at 5:50. I told her things weren't really speeding up, and I didn't think she needed to come to our home yet. While we were on the phone, I had another contraction. When it was finished, she said "Well, that's definitely a real contraction. You are definitely in labor." We decided I'd check back in about an hour, unless I needed to sooner. I felt so much better when I got off of the phone with her! It was exactly what I needed to hear.

Finally, after trying various labor-spurring tactics, and mere minutes after I got off the phone with Katherine, things began to move faster. What had been 12 to 15 minutes apart, became 4 to 5. Jeff and I danced through a few more contractions, and then I said, "I think we ought to go ahead and ask Katherine to head over..." It had only been 20 or 30 minutes since I had spoken to her, but active labor had definitely begun. Jeff made the phone call, and soon the birth team was on its way. We started filling the big tub in our bathroom, while I breathed in the scent of my lavender candle and listened to the labor songs I'd chosen.

After they arrived, my midwife checked my blood pressure, pulse, and the baby's heartbeat. She found that I was about 5 1/2 cm dilated, and when she asked "So when do you want to get into the tub?" my answer was "As soon as possible!" So that's what I did; I think it was around 7pm.

As always, the tub was a wonderful change. The warm water felt so good, and really did ease the pain of the contractions. As I reclined in the tub, Jeff was with me nearly every moment. I also had some new members of my labor support team: our two oldest sons. Ben and Kyle spent a lot of time by my side while I was in the tub. In my memory, they were rarely there together, but one of them was present most every moment. Kyle stroked my shoulder. Benjamin brushed the hair off my forehead. Once I'm sure I heard my son whispering in harmony with his father, "You're doing so great, just keep relaxing, let the baby come..." It touched me in a way I have never known before.

I felt strangely self-aware during this part of my labor. I tend to be fairly self-aware anyway, I think (in childbirth, that is), but I found myself with thoughts like: I'm not feeling pushy yet, but I think I will be very soon. I feel like I'm almost open all the way... Once again, I used low tones to help me relax and breathe through the labor pains. "Ohhhh.....ahhhhh..."

About nine o'clock, in between contractions, I felt my water break. It was shortly after that (about 9:08 by the records) that I began to push. My first push was a tentative effort, to see if it felt right. Evidently it did, because I kept going.

In all of my children's birth stories, I have mentioned the fact that I hate pushing. It is always scary and intense for me. This birth was no exception, and I felt a little out of control at times. I yelled, I forgot to keep my vocal tones low. I...just...wanted...it...to...be...over. My two younger children were in their beds at this point, but Ben and Kyle were there, and they told me later that they went into the nearby closet to escape the onslaught of noise. I don't blame them. It was intense.

Thankfully, though, the pushing stage didn't last more than 5 minutes - just like my most recent labor. Unlike that time, however, when the baby's head was born, the rest of his body didn't immediately follow. The contraction ended, and I heard my husband say that the head was out. Katherine told him to check whether there was any cord around the baby's neck, and there wasn't. After a bit more discussion, I decided to go ahead and push again, instead of waiting for another labor pain. I gave it my all, and with loud cry, I pushed my child forth completely.

His father caught him in the water and placed him in my arms. Together we discovered that God had seen fit to bless us with another son!

And then, surrounded by people who love him, our new little boy was serenaded with our family's signature lullaby, personalized just for him.

"Gabriel fusses, Gabriel laughs
The angel who watches says
'Hey, look at that!'
There's your faith, the mountains will shake
'Cause God gladly bends just to hear Gabriel when he prays..."

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's a boy!

Gabriel William
Born Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 9:13 pm
8 lb 11 oz
21 7/8 inches

Gabriel had a beautiful waterbirth at home, surrounded by his family. He is beautiful, healthy, and such a sweetheart. We are very blessed, indeed!

Friday, December 9, 2011

I hurt myself.

Sad but true. Last night on my way to take the kids to musical practice for our church's Christmas program, I missed a step coming off the porch and fell. The good news is that the baby is just fine. It seems that I managed to protect my belly, back, and general torso from the impact - and though I ended up on my side, I'm not sore there at all.

The bad news is that I hurt my wrist and ankle, as well as bloodying both knees pretty good. I was hurting pretty badly last night, and this morning is much the same. But I can walk a bit better today, although I can't do much with my (dominant) wrist. In fact, Jeff had to help me get dressed this morning.

He's been such a prince. Before he had to leave for work, he prepared some breakfast to keep warm for the kids and I. He's going to come home early to fix dinner, since there is no way I can peel and chop potatoes or shred the cheese for the potato soup I was planning for this evening. He insisted on helping me down the stairs before he went, and Ben and Kyle will be my runners when we need something from the second story, as well as my hands with Elise and lunch stuff.

Oh, and speaking of my boys...they have been so, so sweet. When I fell, Ben was first on the scene. He soon assessed the situation and ran back into the house, just as Kyle came zooming up. Kyle eventually helped me turn over and balance enough to stand up (a hands and knees position was not really an option, because my knees were so scraped up and I was on pavement). Benjamin was still inside at this point, and I began to worry that he might be calling 911 or something. So I hobbled inside, and discovered that he'd hauled a stool up to my closet to get bandages for my bloody knees. I heard later that they shook hands when they talked over what had transpired, and their roles in helping me.

We managed to get to musical practice, and after Jeff met us there I was able to drive myself home to rest with ice packs (ankle and wrist) and quiet.

After they arrived back at the house, the boys were so incredibly tender and sweet with me. Ben and Kyle both made me Get Well cards, drawings, and books, and they brought me presents (a canvas bag full of stuffed animals and special blankets. Benjamin pulled back my covers for me, and arranged the body pillow I use just so.

That was last night.

To wrap up this sorry but sweet tale, I shall bring us to the present moment.

This morning finds me at 41 weeks into my pregnancy. The baby is moving plenty, I've had no cramping or spotting. The excitement doesn't seem to have done anything to spur on labor, which is probably a good thing. I doubt I could even pick up a newborn this morning, my wrist hurts so badly. I am incredibly emotional and wondering how well I'll be able to tend to my little girl today...

I am really upset about the crummy timing of all this.

But Jeff has helped so much (he even prepped a few things for lunchtime), and I have my boys to haul their sister around and bring me diapers, etc. And while I was just writing that -- my wonderful father-in-law, after hearing about what happened, has decided not to go fishing today after all, but to come here and help out. My husband comes from quality, folks.

And so, in the midst of pain, tears, and really cruddy timing, I am incredibly blessed, and I know it. Even so...pray for me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

a little perspective

Just to offer a little perspective for you: in order, my babies have been born 11, 5, 15, and 9 days past their due dates. Today is 5 days past Little Bean's EDD. So really, if I'd had the baby before this point, that's what would've have been surprising.

Yes, the baby is "late." No, I do not enjoy that fact. But we're just now getting into where my span of "days I've birthed" begins.

I suppose it's nice for Kyle that he still holds the record of being my earliest baby... (*wink*)

*Yes, I know, I know, I know I've got birth and babies on the brain. I can't help it. Feel free to skip these posts if they're growing tiresome; I understand.

I am...

...trying to work up the motivation to do more cleaning.

...really looking forward to sleeping on my back again.

...making an effort to rest up daily - usually in the afternoon. (This doesn't include sleeping - I am a horrible napper! - but still, physical and emotional rest is lovely these days.

...still doing homeschool lessons. But with a lot of flexibility. If I need to take a "mental health day," I will. (We've achieved everything I'd hoped to by the baby's EDD. Whatever we get done after this point will just be icing on the cake: a very good feeling!)

...still taking extra effort to tidy up downstairs before I come up to bed. Besides looking nicer for the birth team and our birth-time help, it's pleasant for me, too when I come down in the mornings.

...wondering when all this Practice Stuff is going to develop into something called It's Time.

...thinking about my baby for most of the day, every day.

...amazed by how much time I have to blog, now that I'm officially done with prenatal exercise!

...doing the "this is the last time I'll do __________ before the baby comes" thing.

...riding the hormonal wave. My poor boys have no idea what to do when their mama get so weepy!

...so very glad I got one more haircut squeezed in before the Time came. (It was amazing how fast my hair grew all through this pregnancy: I spent least half of it feeling something like a shaggy dog!)

...amused by the fact that all my kids' birthdates are even-numbered days, and somehow hoping this baby shares that pattern, too.

...very, very tempted to just hole up and avoid the general public right now...but still trying to go ahead and live my life.

...just biding my time.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

belly drawing

So, Jeff and I talked our new midwife into doing a belly drawing for us. She used a Sharpie, which is somewhat less forgiving than the grease pencils my other midwife used to use...but I think it turned out pretty good.

Which is entirely different than it might look if it's still around after the baby is born, don't you think?! Let us not ponder that idea for long...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

a letter

Dear Baby,

In case you're wondering, it's safe to come out now. Our home is ready for you and our arms long to hold you. Our hearts are ready to receive you.

I know it sometimes sounds loud out here. And I'll be honest with you - it certainly can be. Sometimes it's loud, and sometimes it is cold. But still, I think it's worth it. Mostly (not always), the noises are happy ones. Your siblings know how to have a good time, that's for sure. And we know of many ways to help you stay warm - not the least of which is snuggling. Just sayin'.

I made mayo yesterday. And the granola (that long 3-day process of soaking & drying) is all finished. I've cleaned and shopped and planned and wrapped ...and cleaned some more. I'm not saying everything will be perfect when you do arrive, but it will be good. I bought toilet paper this weekend, and extra tissues. The tissues just seemed like a good idea, what with it being December and all, and a new baby joining the family.

Speaking of December...no pressure, but the sooner you arrive, the farther away your birthday will be from your big brother's own birthday -and from Christmas. Not that there's anything horrible about being close to those two dates, but still. Something to think about...give it some thought, but not too much thought.

Your Daddy and I have had a lot of dates lately. Did you notice? While we were enjoying the Weekend to Remember...while your siblings were at their grandparents' house...and even this past weekend when our church hosted a Parents' Shopping morning. I guess we're cramming a lot of "us time" in now before you arrive. It's been great, really. But with all this eating out, I'm not sure how much more my waistline can handle.

Ha, ha. Ha.
See, your mama even has a sense of humor! Most of the time...

So, I just wanted to let you know that whenever you're ready, we're ready. And of course I don't want you to come before you're ready. Truly. But really, anytime now is fine. We are so very eager to meet you!

See you soon (Lord-willing),


Saturday, December 3, 2011


Lately, there's been a lot of labeling around here.

Because really, I don't want the birth team to mistake Soap Nuts Liquid for apple juice.

And other similar reasons. People need to know what's what...ya know?

*Incidentally, I just love the fact that my husband can walk into the kitchen, find his spouse photographing a fleet of jars, and never so much as bat an eyelash. Fantastic!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

the baby's Christmas stocking

Let me say this again: I am not crafty. At all. It's true: I resist crafts like the plague. I am not a craft-lover (not that there's anything wrong with that). It's just not me.

But there is one thing I've done for each one of my babies, usually in the months before they're born. I have made each and every one of them a Christmas stocking.

It started even before I was born. I believe the story goes that my husband's aunt made him a personalized felt stocking, complete with various felt shapes, beading, and his name, as well as the year of his birth. Then when Jeff and I planned to spend our lives together, his mother made one for me. It was decorated in much the same way, and included my name in gold glittering letters.

(our collection of stockings in December 2010)

So as soon as I could get my hands on another plain felt stocking, I started working on one for the new (yet-to-be-born, of course) little one. I have some simple paper templates I drew when I made my first stocking, and I still trace with them before I cut the shapes out of colored pieces of felt. These I paste on with tacky glue.

After everything has dried, it's time for a needle, thread, and beading. I also have some shiny sequins and shimmery snowflakes. I decorate the stocking however my heart desires -giving the snowman features and buttons, the angel a songbook, crown, and face, the reindeer a red nose, and the Christmas tree its ornamentation.

After that, the only thing remaining is adding a name (and with it, a year). So while our baby's stocking hangs by the fireplace with the others, it alone is nameless. But soon (Lord willing)...soon, we shall meet our newest family member, give him or her a name...and then, at long last, I can finish my little one's stocking.

Still, for the time being it waits, patient...patient...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

how to make a nursing necklace

Make no mistake: I am not a crafty woman. In fact, in many ways I avoid crafts like the plague. But here's something really simple that I've done over the years for my little ones. I've re-threaded it a few times as it's worn out, and this is the newest recreation.

When my second child would nurse, he liked to yank on my shirt: specifically the collar of my shirt. It annoyed me to no end, so when I got wind of something called a "nursing necklace," I was game to give it a try. Even if I wasn't crafty.

I had to try a few different types of string/lacing before I found something that worked. I ended up using a hemp thread. It is strong enough, and it will usually stay knotted through lots of yanking.

a small collection of large buttons in bright colors
a small collection of pretty beads
a strong string about 24 inches long (I use hemp) - it needs to withstand a lot of pulling!

To Make:
Double knot one end of the string. Choose a bead to begin with; string it, then knot the string again. I find it very helpful to place a knot between every item on the necklace, that way if the string stretches (as my hemp does), the beads and buttons are still reasonably well-distributed.

Here's where you can get creative. I have chosen a pattern of three wooden beads followed by five buttons. However, part of the fun is making the necklace into what you want it to be.

Continue stringing until the necklace is about the length you desire (you will use a fair amount of the string by making all those knots). Then knot the ends together securely and trim any excess.

I've used a nursing necklace with my last three babes, and fully intend to use it with this one as well. Obviously it's not needed with a newborn, but a few months down the road, it will almost certainly be invaluable.

Happy mothering!

Monday, November 28, 2011

a few random things

I love my red dishes. They make me happy.

It has occurred to me that I neglected to follow up on the washing machine drama. Thankfully, by Wednesday afternoon, all was repaired. I have never in my life been so happy to do laundry! It was a tiny little lesson in not taking things - things like working appliances - for granted. I was all caught up on laundry by the next afternoon, which was a good thing, because...

...the next day Jeff and I took a short vacation to Portland and attended a Weekend to Remember marriage conference. This was our fourth time to go to a Weekend to Remember conference. I love that, even after this many times, we always come at the material from a slightly different place in life. This time in particular, I walked away entirely refreshed and encouraged. I'm so thankful for my husband and his passion for our marriage - as well as wonderful parents-in-law who are willing to watch our four children while we're away.

Thanksgiving was great. Exhausting, but great. I'm glad it's over, but even more glad that I scored seven cups of leftover turkey, as well as a turkey carcass (and all I did was bake two pies). Yes! I can hardly wait to make my first turkey stock.

We put up our Christmas decor last weekend. Our Christmas tree has no ornaments up to two feet off of the floor. As you may recall, we have a toddler and two kittens.

I'm feeling like a watched pot again.

Today Jeff's mom picked up the kids, who'll be staying at Grandma and Grandpa's house until late tomorrow afternoon. My in-laws are so sweet to give me a break during these days and weeks of waiting. The last time they did this, I worked like a madwoman (it was invigorating to feel so productive!) and finished all my Christmas shopping as well as gift wrapping. This time around? I've got my eye on candy-making. Hey, nesting takes all forms...

For better or for worse, I have begun to walk away from our downstairs (in particular, the kitchen) at night with an eye of what it might look like to the birth team if this was The Night. If they walked in at 2 A.M. (and this goes for my in-laws, too), would they see a pile of scrubbed pots drying in the sink? A disheleved toy tasket? So I'm taking a few extra minutes to tidy up the play area, to dry things and put them away, to generally leave the downstairs looking a little nicer before I head up to bed at night. I'm not sure if this is good (tidier!) or bad (expectations raised, I could get jaded quickly). But there we are.

One of our cats has a serious crush on my husband. She is utterly shameless. It's really something to see. Incidentally, she is also obsessed with bleach. I completely get being into Jeff, but why on earth would you want to lick the bleach bottle, let alone chew on the toilet brush?!

Speaking of things in the bathroom, Elise urinated in her little potty this morning! I was so excited and enthusiastic (yes, I know this is terrible, horrible timing, with the baby due any day now and all), but she was very cavalier. It's really no big deal, Mama. Please.

It would seem that I have unofficially given up on exercise, at least for the next while. This is in contrast to Friday (the due date), when I will officially give up on exercise - as well as the exquisite torture of weighing myself.

Kyle auditioned for our church's Christmas musical, and got a speaking part. I'm going to try really hard to not be a stage mama. But he's going to be so good. We've always said he has a flair for drama.

At church yesterday, a friend of mine took one look at me and said "You look ready." To which I replied, "Oh my goodness, I am sooooooo ready."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

"...but I'm always late."

People. I tell you, if I had a quarter for every time I've uttered this phrase in the past month, I would be a very rich woman.

Alright, maybe not a rich woman. But at the very least, I'd have enough to go out and buy myself a new scarf.

I am unspeakably weary of this phrase. Instead of answering questions about the baby's estimated due date literally, I just need to say something like, "We're expecting the baby in mid-December." Because somehow, each and every time I say the words "Well, the due date is December 2nd, but..." (and this latter part is getting more difficult to say as time goes on) "...I'm always late," it somehow makes the waiting all the harder.

Here's the deal (again). I choose to let my babies come in their own time. This is a choice I make because I believe that, generally speaking, it benefits both the mother and the baby. (Yes, I know that there are definite exceptions, and I fully believe that it is a choice each expectant mother has to make for herself. So please, please don't be offended if you're the "let's get this ball rolling" type. I just choose to wait.)

This isn't easy for me. I don't really enjoy being "late" each and every time. With every single labor, it's an exercise in patience. And I'm not the kind that enjoys exercise all that much.

My problem is, I'm too prepared. I nest like a crazy woman in the month or two leading up to the EDD, and then tend to sit and twiddle my thumbs. Granted, there are still a lot of tasks around my house to keep me occupied: spills, laundry, and my ongoing war against crumbs. And then there's dusting. I did that the other day, and found that it forced me to come to terms with just how infrequently I do dust. So yes, I'm sure I can find things with which to occupy myself.

Still, once I'm ready, waiting, eager to meet my new little one, it can be hard to wait.

But that's the way it goes. And so, I suppose that I shall keep having to utter the Dreaded Phrase. I will do my best to enjoy the flexibility I have now with my time. I'll cuddle with my husband in the evenings after the kids are in bed. I'll clean my home. I'll read to my children. I will plan my life as best as I can.

I'll make peanut brittle.

And I'll dream of that moment when the day arrives: when I'm holding my snuggly, sweet-smelling newborn and settling into our babymoon.

But for now, it's still time to wait.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I get by with a little help from my friends

Our washing machine stopped working last Wednesday.

In case you're paying attention, I have four children. This home houses six individuals, some of them prone to making messes. I use cloth diapers for my toddler, and last but not least, I am in the throes of nesting.

Oh, and also, I don't buy paper towels.

Needless to say, this was not a welcome development - at all.

Fortunately, we were able to have the machine looked at right away.
Unfortunately, it needed a replacement part, which would need to be ordered. The estimate: early this week. Well, it's after 4pm on Monday, and I'm still waiting.

Thankfully, we had a few offers for help. Two loads of laundry were washed at my neighbor's house. I took our diapers, very much overdue for a wash, to a friend's house. I cannot express how thankful I am to have these options, these people willing and ready to open their laundry rooms to us.

As I was gathering up the loads to trek down the street to my neighbor's house, I asked my two oldest boys which items they most desperately needed to be clean.

"Socks," said one.
"Underwear," said the other.

I was mightily relieved to know they've got their priorities straight.

Yet now the soiled piles are growing high again. My head swims at the thought of the mountain of laundry waiting for me when everything is fixed and operating once again. Still, I know it'll be a relief to finally be able to do something about the growing stacks of clothing, floor cloths, and bedding. Not to mention diapers. I'm trying not to think about the diapers, frankly.

I have high hopes for tomorrow, but I guess we'll see. If I need to haul laundry down the street again, I can. But for now I think we're all right, unless our household is struck by a stomach virus.

Or, you know, I go into labor.

Friday, November 11, 2011

how I'm feeling

Today I am 37 weeks pregnant.

And how I am I feeling, you may ask?

Well, I'm feeling incredibly excited to meet this new little one, but am bearing in mind that considering my history, I may well have another 5 weeks to go. Yes, I'd love to be surprised with an "early" delivery, but I daren't hope for it too much.

I'm achy. Sore. There's no denying it. But in all honesty, I'm feeling only marginally worse than I was, say, 3 weeks ago. So although I tire more easily these days, and my stride resembles a rusty old robot when I rise from my seat, I can't complain. A month ago, I struggled to imagine how I'd last until after my baby's (estimated!) due date. Now, with a month or so to go, I feel that I can.

At any rate, I had a great appointment with my midwife yesterday, and I'm feeling good about preparations for the birth of this little one. The baby and I are both healthy and doing well, and I can't ask for much more than that.

And so, I'm using my waiting time well, for the most part. I've been nesting like mad. Organizing, cleaning, making lists. I'm all done with Christmas preparations - even the wrapping. The baby's Christmas stocking is made (all except adding the name!), and I'm planning to share a little bit more about that in a future post. I even re-threaded my nursing necklace for a few months down the road - and made one for Elise to wear with her "babies," too.

There are a few things left on my list, but all in all I'm feeling very prepared. It's a nice balance at the moment -mostly all ready, but thankful for a little more time to accomplish a few more tasks.

Yes, I'm ready to meet this precious one, but I'm also a big nester. So I'll let this bundle of joy continue to grow beneath my heart, and count my aches and soreness blessings. I'll prepare my home for the holidays, and dream of cuddling with my newborn under the glow of the Christmas lights. I'll do some more cooking and pack a few more things into the freezer for a more needful time. I'll try my best to keep things clean and organized, and when they get dirty and tousled, I'll fix them again.

I am on a roll. So I'll try to be patient as I wait for the right time, the right day. I know my babe needs time to be ready to face the world outside mama's womb, and I'm prepared to give that.

But if, just if, that day comes sooner than expected, I would be nothing less than thrilled...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

mama's trauma

Alright, so it wasn't really trauma. But it felt like a big decision. And I had definite butterflies in my stomach during the days leading up to it.

What could it be, you ask? Why, only my daughter's very first haircut.

My friend Erin came over. She gives great haircuts. I wasn't at all worried about her skill. Only the fact that we'd be losing some of the length we've fought so hard to achieve here.

So we only took a little bit off. Just a trim, to even up the ends. Besides, I'm told that a child's hair will come in more thickly when it's been trimmed.

Elise amused herself by playing with some jewelry I had provided for that purpose, and spraying herself in the face with water. She was a pro!
And here is the end result. We really didn't take much off...and Erin, as always, did a fantastic job.

As for my butterflies, they've calmed down. And happily, a ponytail is still entirely possible. Yay for that!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

how sweet is this?!

(I know, we need to work on word spacing as well as punctuation. But still.)

I think my heart just melted.

Friday, November 4, 2011

my journey to homebirth, part 2

During this busy season of my life, as I anticipate the birth of my baby in a month (or so), I have decided to recycle this series of post from a few years ago. Whether you have read it before or not...enjoy!

In September of 2002, when I was 7 months into my very first pregnancy, my husband and I made an exhilarating choice. We decided to walk away from my OB, and instead hire a midwife to attend our child's birth. In fact, in that moment we also walked away from hospital birth, standard interventions, and the "norm." We were planning a midwife-attended waterbirth, at a freestanding birth center.

It felt huge. It was huge. People tended to be pretty stunned when we told them. "What about the drugs?" they'd ask. (Answer: no drugs. I didn't even want the option of any drugs.) And "wouldn't the baby drown?" (Answer: no. Babies don't inhale until they get into the air, anyway.)

The change in my prenatal care was astounding. Instead of the short, hurried appointments we'd experienced under an obstetrician's care, my prenatal visits now lasted around 1 1/2 hours each. There was no rush. They offered us ice water or hot tea. There were questions such as "How are you doing, emotionally?" and "How are you eating?" Although I stepped onto the scale at each visit, no comment was ever made about how much weight I gained.

When my estimated due date came and passed, no one mentioned induction. At my 41-week appointment, my midwife brought up the subject of a non-stress test, but that was all.

My labor felt long. It began one evening and ended around 14 hours later. We were up all night, and the baby was born just before noon. I remember feeling so tired during the last part of my labor. Jeff and I drove to his parents' house across town and labored there for most of the night. Their home was considerably closer to the birth center than ours. We decided to wait to go to the birth center until the morning, and when I was checked upon arrival, they found that I was 8 cm dilated. Wonderful! We got into the birthing tub for the rest of the labor. It was hard work, but I did it! My midwife was wonderfully attentive, and my husband was an amazing support. After my baby was born, I wasn't tired at all anymore. I was riding high on a wave of adrenaline. And being at the birth center was wonderful; we received such tender care.

When Jeff and I began talking about the birth of our second child, he brought up the subject of homebirth. I admit, I was shocked. I didn't know anyone who'd chosen homebirth...except my midwife, who'd had her baby a few months after ours. And I had always thought that a strange thing. Why had she not chosen to have her baby at the wonderful waterbirth center?

Yet the more we spoke about Jeff's idea, the more it seemed like the natural next step. Have things set up at home, stay where we were, and have the birth team come to us. We took a while decide for sure, and I still received prenatal care at the waterbirth center. It was very similar to how the last part of my previous pregnancy had been. The difference was, that when it came time for the baby to be born, we didn't leave home.

Birthing at home was wonderful. I still remember that first homebirth as the easiest of my births.

Part of the beauty of homebirth is that the mother is in her most comfortable, familiar place. She doesn't have to fight for her privacy. She has control over who is present during her labor. She has the freedom to move, eat, and drink as she desires. Many of these factors were present during my birth center experience. But this time, I didn't find myself hitting transition inside a car, on the highway, during rush hour.


When it was time for our third birth, Jeff and I chose homebirth again. That, too, was a wonderful experience. I know that the day may come when I will bring forth a child in a hospital setting. We may not be able, financially, to always manage the kind of births we love. Or, conditions may arise which would necessitate more complicated medical care.

But for the time being, I am so pleased to be planning for another birth, at home.

Something that recently struck me was this: recently I heard someone comment on the language women often use when they speak of birthing in a hospital. "They let me move around." "They let me eat." "They let me labor in water until _____." These kinds of statements speak volumes about where the control lies. In that kind of setting, it comes down to having permission, or not. A laboring mother is dependent on the benevolence of the setting where she has chosen to birth.

At home, it's quite a different story. I have control over how I labor. Afterward, I can crawl into my own bed with my baby and my husband and rest.

With a low-risk, healthy pregnancy, under the guidance of a wise midwife, homebirth is a wonderful option. I'm so glad I found my way to it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

my journey to homebirth, part 1

During this busy season of my life, as I anticipate the birth of my baby in a month (or so), I have decided to recycle this series of post from a few years ago. Whether you have read it before or not...enjoy!

I haven't always been an advocate of natural childbirth.

In fact, my views on birth used to be very much in harmony with the status quo. Use an obstetrician, birth in a hospital, go with the flow. Why not?

When I became pregnant with my first child, I was seeing an OBGYN. And so, seeing no reason to change that, I continued to make my appointments with the same office. I liked the doctor; she was energetic and personable.

Jeff and I signed up for a class which taught the Bradley Method for childbirth. We knew someone who had spoken well of the Bradley Method, and we decided to check it out. As it would turn out, that decision changed everything for us.

The class was taught by a nice woman, about our own age. She had two children, and taught the classes in her home. Her first baby had been born in a hospital: the second in a freestanding waterbirth center. We took in that information, but it wasn't until a few weeks later that we ever really started to entertain the idea of not birthing in a hospital. We learned so much from that class: about how a woman's body functions before, during, and after labor, and about a slew of interventions commonly pushed on birthing mothers.

I was 7 months along. Jeff joined me for my prenatal appointment, as he always did. I remember that it was my birthday. We had come to the doctor's office with a few new questions this time.What did she think of routine fetal monitoring and IV use in labor? What was her position on episiotomies? Was there a time limit for the pushing stage of labor? These are just a few of the questions we brought to the table that day. In retrospect, we may have put her on the defensive just a bit. Two earnest, eager parents-to-be, wanting some answers. We did get answers, but they were not the ones we had hoped to hear.

It was a beautiful autumn day. We walked out of the office building that day with the distinct sense that we would have to argue for what we wanted all through the childbirth process. We would have to be constantly questioning, reminding, being on guard. We stood there under the fall leaves, in the dappled sunshine, and we both knew that this wasn't how we wanted to bring our child into the world.

I believe that it in that moment when Jeff's thoughts turned toward the waterbirth center. I was a bit slower than he was, still thinking of finding another OB. But the more we talked, the more I liked the idea of visiting the birth center. We could at least check it out. Besides, if we were going to fire our OB at 7 months into a pregnancy, we had better examine all of our options.

So we went. The birth center was 45 minutes away from our house, but as we made our way inside the door for the first time, it felt almost like a homecoming. Everything was lovely, comfortable, and relaxed. We were ushered into a room called the "Lavender Room," where we spoke with a midwife named Desiree for more than an hour.

We'd brought our list of questions again. I remember being nervous as they were pulled out, but with each answer we heard, Jeff and I relaxed more and more. No routine episiotomies? No electronic fetal monitoring or standard IV use? I could push as long as I wanted to, as long as everyone was doing well? Really? We were thrilled. And all the while we talked, Desiree had a little smile on her face, as if to say, "Of course."

I've heard it said this way: most obstetricians consider birth to be complicated, until proven otherwise. Midwives consider birth to be a normal, usually healthy process, until proven otherwise. For many doctors, "normal childbirth is a retrospective diagnosis." (fromBabycatcher by Peggy Vincent, pg. 58)

And so, in a way we had come home. Home to the place where our first child would come into the world. Home to the very room where we would spend the first night after his birth. And home to a view of childbirth which would change the way our family grew, forever.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

she needs me

In the middle of the night, I am awakened by a familiar cry. Among the unintelligible sounds, I can hear her calling my name. "Mama....Mama..."

I drag myself out of bed and pad down the hall to her bedroom door. Entering, I find that she is sitting up and waiting for me. In the glow of the nightlight, I see her brown eyes shining. She is no longer crying - she is rapt with attention, focused on me. I snuggle her close to my body, and she wraps her arms around my neck. She is perfectly content in that moment, held securely in arms where she feels safe and loved.

We stay like that, she and I, daughter and mother, she a minute or two more. In the quiet of the sleeping house, it feels as though the world consists of just us two.

I whisper in her ear, give her a last, lingering cuddle, and lay her back in her bed. She blinks back up at me, and I feel sure that, whatever the reason, for those few brief moments...

...she needed me.

Father, may I be found peaceful and content in your arms during my times of need.

Friday, October 28, 2011