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.