Sunday, September 29, 2013

The empowering birth of Grace Adele

From the first day we were aware of this pregnancy, I firmly declared that this birth would be different. I knew that I would do everything in my power to make it that way and it was. 

In the weeks leading up to my estimated due date, we anticipated that I would likely deliver sometime during or around week 38. That is the week that both of my previous deliveries had taken place in, so we were prepared for the same sort of pattern. However, my primary midwife, M, was scheduled to be out of town, so we hoped that baby would wait for her, even though we had a backup that each of us fully trusted. Soon, M came home and week 39 began. Everyone was poised and ready for the show to begin. I began having prodromal labor, which was exhausting and just plain frustrating. A couple of times I began to wonder if it was true labor, then it would stop. Such is the frustrating nature of prodromal labor. Week 39 drew to a close and I entered week 40. How exhilarating to meet my edd! I had never done that before! Wow! A full day past! Two...three...this wasn't so fun anymore. I found myself vacillating between exhilaration and the desire to just have my baby. It was a strange place to be. On Wednesday morning, at 40+5, I woke up to large amounts of bloody show, which continued all day. I called T, our backup midwife. See...M was out of town again. The second of two trips that she warned us about when we hired her. But we never expected that I would reach or surpass my edd! All day Wednesday and nothing happened. So much for that. 

At one am on Thursday the 26th, I woke up to a contraction. Hmm...that kind of hurt. I decided that it was probably just a Braxton Hicks contraction and went back to sleep. Ouch. Another one. Hmm...that's just been ten minutes. Okay. On and on it went, contractions every ten minutes. I had to breathe through them, vocalizing through some. I sent my friend Sara a text. She was my long distance doula. Together, we decided that this definitely sounded like early labor, so I kept trying to rest. Oddly, the contractions only happened whenI was  laying down. Very unusual. Around eight am, I knew that Ryan could not go to work that day. Nope. He sent his boss a text and we mentally prepared for contractions stopped. Stopped. We wondered if he should go on to work, but I was afraid that labor would kick in hard and I would be alone with the girls until he got back from work. I was so confused and frustrated.  I called my chiropractor and rescheduled my usual Friday appointment for just after lunch, hoping that being adjusted would help start things back up again. No one in my chiropractor's office could believe that I had come during labor, stalled or not, but I assured them that it should help. Ryan and I took the girls to Burger King afterward to let them run off some energy in the play place, which was nice and empty. I waited and waited for contractions to begin. Nothing. Ryan cracked a joke that I had better go into labor since he had called into work. I was so emotional that I began to cry...for the fourth time that day. The poor guy felt so bad! We stopped and got the girls a movie at the RedBox, anything to keep our minds off of labor. We sat down to watch it and I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up around six and started having contractions again! Ten minutes apart, increasing in intensity. I decided to take a bath to calm my emotions and relax my body. At some point during my bath, I began to vocalize through the contractions, so I alerted Sara. We texted back and forth a bit, she was ever encouraging. I heard noises from the living area...Ryan was telling the girls to help him clean some because the baby was coming soon. Oh wow...this was it! I began to text with T, our backup midwife. She felt like my physical and emotional changes were enough for her to come, even though I still felt like it would be a while. She had a two hour drive ahead of her, so she wanted to leave with plenty of time. Kirsten began to get nervous because I was so vocal, so we sent the girls on to my parents' house. They were sleepy and a little anxious. Our friend and birth attendant Amanda arrived before the girls left, much to their delight. T arrived about 9:30...but the bath had slowed my contractions. My dad left with the girls, Norah having already fallen asleep on Amanda's lap, and Ryan made me some beef Ramen noodle. Healthy, huh? Haha! I ate and laid down on the couch, hoping to relax enough for contractions to kick back in. Amanda rubbed my legs and feet...and they sure did kick back in! An almost instant pattern of contractions spaced ten minutes apart. Everyone would laugh because whenever a particularly intense one was over, I would brightly announce that it was a good one. The intensity was growing and it wasn't long before the only way I could manage was to quickly stand up as one began and slump into Ryan's chest. He swayed with me and rubbed my back as I labored. The entire time, he just knew instinctively what I needed. I am still amazed by this incredible man that God has blessed me with. He is the most perfect birth partner, in addition to being the most perfect life partner. Our marriage is so blessed! I think around 3:30 or 4:00 am, the intensity was such that I said I would like to get into the pool soon, but that I was afraid to get in too soon. I had another contraction and announced that I would be getting in soon. Another contraction about four minutes after that and declared that I wanted the pool NOW. It was already inflated, so Ryan hooked up the hose to the shower head and drained the hot water heater while Amanda put water on the stove to heat. I changed into my swimsuit bottoms and climbed in as soon as there were a few inches of water in the pool. It felt amazing on my perenium! As the water level climbed, I could feel a difference in my pain level. After a while, I could tell that the baby's head was working its way down the birth canal, but I wasn't sure how long that would take. I also couldn't tell you what time this was to save my life. Between contractions, I was still fun-loving and smiling. Soon after that, I could tell that I was nearing transition. I became more withdrawn, less aware of my surroundings. 

During each contraction, I threw myself over the side of the pool and clung to Ryan as he applied counter pressure to my tailbone. It was the only way I felt that I could cope with my contractions at that point. I was very vocal (it seemed so loud to me) and several times I heard my vocalizations begin to take on a higher pitch, but was able to remember to bring them down to a low register. During a contraction, I thought that the baby was quite low, so I checked myself internally while I was still leaned over after the contraction had finished. The baby's head was low enough that I could feel it with ease. For several contractions, I had experienced relief while bearing down slightly, it was accomplishing much! I asked T to check me (I didn't tell them that I had checked myself, but I wanted confirmation that I had indeed felt what I thought I had. Everyone was shocked because I had not wanted to have any exams at all during pregnancy or labor. T got M on speakerphone, as this was her first solo birth and she wanted the security of being coached through checking me. We feel so honored to be her first solo birth!! It was great to hear M's voice all the way from Delaware! T confirmed exactly what I had felt, baby's head was almost a full finger deep. She didn't reveal how many cm she felt I was dilated, but her description to M sounded to me like I was nearly complete with a lip. Awesome! A few minutes later, I decided to get out and go to the bathroom. I felt like I needed to...lose something...but quickly realized that the change in my position was helping baby move further down, hence the sensation I was feeling. I bore down a little bit in that safe place in case something gross happened (haha!) before deciding to get back in the pool. I practically leapt into the pool at this point, the pain was suddenly too much without the water! My husband had put on some Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald at some point. It was so soothing! We also had ocean waves on. It created a wonderful ambiance. Soon after jumping back into the pool, I was pushing before I really realized what I was doing. After several pushes, I checked my progress again and felt baby's head two knuckles deep. After a few more (loud and powerful, might I add) pushes, I could feel the baby crowning. At this point, I began to support my perenium. I was still on my knees, leaning over the pool and into Ryan's chest. I wanted to say that I could not go on anymore and that they needed to pull the baby out. Then I remembered that that thought meant I was almost done and was thinking crazy. I buckled down and pushed again, the head was almost out and I was experiencing the ring of fire. For a moment I wondered if I would tear, then I decided that I did not care. I looked up and saw the sun brightening the misty gray sky and I drew strength from God's beautiful handiwork. I remember praying and calling on the name of Jesus with every contraction. It was such a holy time! Another mighty push and the head was out! I flipped over so T could check for a cord and we found that the cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, too tightly to release, so I just gave a mighty push and the entire body came out. I caught my baby myself at 7:53 am! The cord was wrapped around the neck and back around the chest, but not ONCE did baby's heart rate decel. In fact, it did not drop below 136 the entire course of labor--nuchal cords are NORMAL, people! Forty percent of babies are born easily and healthfully with a nuchal cord of some kind. I brought baby to my chest after T unwrapped the cord and baby pinked up almost instantly. It took a few moments to get a cry and first breath, but we weren't worried, the cord was still intact and baby had no need for oxygen while the cord was still pumping. Baby was lifting its head to listen to mommy and daddy speaking, very alert. I reached between the legs for a second--girl! But in the bliss of the moment...I didn't think to say anything. I still had some intense contractions as the placenta began to release and I wanted to get out of the pool. Amanda put chux pads on the couch and Ryan and T helped me out and onto the couch to finish getting the sample of the cord blood, as I am rh- and we chose to test baby so I could receive the rhogam shot if baby was positive. The placenta took less than 20 minutes to appear after birth. T said it was the largest placenta she had ever personally examined. Baby nursed very well and Ryan stepped outside to call the girls. My mom had been out of the house, so someone called her on her cell phone and she called back immediately. I told her to wait a bit before bringing the girls over so I could be cleaned up. Almost immediately, my grandmother called to see how things were progressing (apparently my mother had told her the night before that I was in labor). Ryan told her that she had called just in time! She was so thrilled to hear the news. The girls and my mom arrived sooner than we hoped, I was still laying on the couch, not yet cleaned up. We had decided to burn the cord before I got up. It took around ten minutes and was a really incredible experience. (Baby's cord fell off on Monday morning! Wow!) Amanda took the big girls into their room to play for a few minutes while T examined me, finding minor bruising and two skid marks--I hadn't torn after all! I got up and got into the shower. At this point, Ryan and T remembered that no one had checked the gender and I told them that I had and forgot to tell them. We got a good laugh as we double checked. Ryan took the baby and snuggled her as T helped me in the shower. It felt soooo good! I dressed and laid back down, snacking and drinking some water as the newborn exam was performed. The girls loved watching their new sister be weighed and measured and all that the exam includes. Baby weighed 6.12 lbs and was 21 inches long! The same weight as Kirsten and more than 2 inches longer than both sisters! (18.5 and 18.75 inches) She had nursed well during our time on the couch and promptly fell asleep after her exhausting exam. It's so hard to be a bebรจ!

It took us until Sunday night to name her, we chose the name Grace Adele. Grace's meaning is obvious, but Adele means "noble". We feel that her name suits her perfectly!

This birth was truly different. It was empowering, it was holy, it was beautiful. It was a birth without fear. My God is so good!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birth Lodge Entry 1 (No, the baby is not coming anytime soon!)

Some friends in a local birth group inspired me to write a birth lodge as a way to commemorate the last few weeks of my pregnancy. This is week 36...

The weeks leading up to week 36 have been tumultuous for me emotionally. During week 35 my mom and I made a hasty drive from Kentucky to North Carolina to say goodbye to my grandfather as he prepared to pass from this world to the heavenly realm all Christians look forward to. I truly feel very happy for him and very little sorrow, but there is a certain amount of emotional trauma when you watch someone go through the dying process. I had never witnessed anything like that before and am still working through it, but I am very glad that I went. He died about forty minutes before my birthday, so that added to the trauma for me. I spent my birthday making funeral arrangements with my mother and grandmother, and traveling back and forth from one place to another. It was rather dismal, not to mention that I relish spending my birthday with my husband and daughters, so there were a lot of tears as I got ready for bed that night. Plus, late third trimester hormones are a total b****. I came home after five days to attempt to get my disheveled house back in order and just found myself exhausted and emotional. Sometimes the drama just doesn't stop. Sometimes it gets worse, but we won't go there. I just hold my husband's hand and we know that everything is alright when we are together. <3

Physically I am starting to feel very pregnant. My hips hurt a great deal, my seasonal allergies are kicking my butt, I'm hot all the time, and having a difficult time getting from point A to point B. But that's all normal, so it's not a big deal. :) I can feel that baby has dropped a lot, so that is always good when you are in the last few weeks. I am in no hurry to get this baby out at all. In fact, I'm in denial that its arrival is this close. Truly! I have everything prepped for our home birth, all of our supplies, etc. We need to do a practice run with our birth pool, but that is something we keep putting off for some reason or another. Have I mentioned that we seem to be in denial? Haha! I suppose we should fill the pool this weekend, but MAN are we busy! 

A week from today, the girls and I will drive to Lexington for our cat's appointment at their local spay and neuter clinic. They charge less than half of our local clinic and include all shots, as well as pain medication--our local clinic charges extra for all of that. HELLO!! That saves us money even with the drive up there.

Here's a little funny for you: Kirsten just asked me if the baby will be here on Monday. Ummm, no. Why would she think that? Her reply was that Monday is Labor Day. I think we need to teach her what Labor Day is about, but BOY did I ever laugh!! Also, I was in the tub the other night and Norah followed me in for a chat. Of course. She instructed me to push the baby out because if I was in the tub (the bathtub, mind you) then I was surely having the baby. Kids are hilarious!!

On that note, I've decided that I'm going to make myself a birthday cake today. Maybe it will make me feel better about my effed-up birthday. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is it naptime yet?!

Our week feels like it has been crazy. But then again--I think every week is crazy-busy. Our house is almost fully ready for baby, which is good because our home visit with our midwife is tomorrow! Baby clothes are organized and put into a small chest of drawers, diapers and covers are all prepped and sorted, almost all of the birth supplies are in the birth box, I installed the carseat this evening--which feels super early, but we were tripping over it, so it needed to go someplace! The bassinet is ready, as you have seen previously...that's about it! The birth pool has been inflated once, but we are going to water test it this weekend or next. I wish I could just leave it inflated where we plan to use it, but with two kids and two cats...yeah. I'd have a busted pool faster than I could shake my fist at the offender. I want to crochet something else for baby, but I'm not sure what. I'd want it to be a clothing item. Maybe just one more pair of longies since the weather has been surprisingly cool. I need some scrumdiddlyumptious wool!

Tomorrow is my super busy day of the week: take Ryan to work, visit the chiropractor, run some errands, come home and put finishing touches on the house, pick Ryan up from work, feed my family and stick an apple pie in the oven before our home visit. Oh my word. I'm exhausted already. LOL

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bassinet Up-cycle

I mentioned yesterday that I was cleaning out our bassinet. As I removed the bunting for washing, I noted that it was getting rather old and tired looking, so when I saw the sides for the first time in three years, I realized that the cardboard would be perfect to adhere scrapbook paper to! MOD PODGE!!! Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE Mod Podge?! I have had a piece of scrapbook paper on hand for a few months. I purchased it with a project in mind and never--um--completed said project. *shifty eyes*
Anywaaayyy...I really loved that paper and decided that it would be PERFECT for this project! Here is the bassinet stripped bare and ready for transformation. 

I only had one sheet of the afore-mentioned paper, but I got too excited waiting for Ryan to come home with more and put that one on ahead of time. :)

Eeeekkkk!!!!! Isn't it adorable?! Want to see a close up of the paper? You know you do. ;) 

It's navy and cream: soooo sophisticated for either gender.

Ryan came home with the rest of the paper and I could barely force myself to prepare supper and feed my family (and myself) before fully delving into this project. It took surprisingly little time (but it DID take a good third bottle of Mod Podge) and the pattern is a bit off in some places, but it looks AMAZING! LOOKIT!

I had a leetle bit of leftover fabric from a project I began earlier this year that I knew would go perfectly with this gorgeous paper. I wanted to make an actual fitted sheet, but just barely ran short, so it's more like a mattress sleeve/cover-thing. I'm going to put some elastic "belts" on the back to help it stay in place like a sheet. It's too cute not to utilize, really. :) 

See what I mean? Adorable!!! I should find some fabric to re-cover the shade that goes on those little pegs, but I've honestly never used the darn thing. It annoys me and I feel like I can't see baby well enough when it's on. 

So there's my super easy bassinet up-cycle! I'm so pleased with it and I can't wait to put baby in it!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Baby prep! Could this be nesting?

As of tomorrow, there are only six weeks left until my EDD. WHOAH. That isn't much. I realized that I have more than just cleaning the house to do. Baby clothes are just sitting in piles in a corner of our living room, the bassinet has yet to be prepped, I need to make sheets for the bassinet since we don't have any anymore, I need to make mama get it. Plus, my house is just not ready. At. All. Lol I need to get stuff deep cleaned, organize, steam clean the carpets, clean the couch cushions with alcohol and get it. Haha! Now who wants to come do regular cleaning every day so I can do this stuff? ;) 

Today I scrubbed my kitchen floor by hand and organized *part* of the kitchen. What can I say? I suck at keeping house and my blood pressure hates activity. Not much gets done at once before I feel the sensation that I may faint. Haha! 

Guess what I get to treat myself to tonight? I'm refinishing the bassinet!! Yep! The fabric bunting was just looking old and tired, so when I stripped it off for routine washing, I realized that I could give it a fresh new look by Mod Podging some super cute scrapbook paper onto it! I will post my results tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ukulele Challenges

My little Kirsten turned six last week. SIX!!! Where has the time gone?! One moment we are here:
 (Isn't that the most perfect little face?!)

And the next moment we are here:
(Still perfect! ๐Ÿ’–)

Her daddy and I gave her an ukulele for her birthday. We are homeschooling this year--first grade already!--and we would love for her to become musical. She is working so hard and really loves playing an instrument. But let me tell you...keeping an instrument tuned around here is easier said than done. The first time *I* tuned them (we have an old plastic one for Norah that plays surprisingly well) it took me an hour. I am not kidding. This mama is NOT musically inclined. By God's grace, I found a free app that listens to the notes and shows me on a scale how close I am. A few days later, that hour has now reduced to a few minutes. PRAISE THE LORD! Since I'm doing this multiple times per day--little fingers, you know--this simplifies my life and reduces my level of tears greatly. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I even love it so much that I think I am going to take up the ukulele myself, getting one of my own for my birthday. Don't judge, I'm actually doing pretty well and I do NOT play instruments. Haha! My husband thinks it's HILARIOUS that I can't hear a note and replicate it, especially where tuning is concerned. He's also been the recipient of a few hand gestures for laughing at me. Don't worry, the kids aren't around! ๐Ÿ˜‰

All in all, back-to-school has been a fun success. We actually started a few weeks early because we will surely take time off when the baby gets here next month. OHMYGOSH. NEXT MONTH!!! Here is the wreath the girls and I made. I finally assembled the wreath a couple of weeks ago after having had the supplies for a full year. Again, don't judge. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The apples were their craft for school today. Granted it is still August, but since it already says "fall", I won't have to change it out for quite a while! Haha!

Happy August! (Can you believe it's already here?)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The High Calling of Birth

I preface this with the statement that I am a Christian, very firmly rooted in my belief in God and His constant presence in our lives. I believe that a relationship with Him means we can and do speak openly with Him, and He with us. That being said...

Recently, our church experienced one of those great services where praise and worship just doesn't stop and the sermon never happens. Love those so much!! As the majority of our congregation delved deep into worship and God's amazing presence, I began to hear Him speaking to me about birth, my job as a doula, and the amazing act of worship that birth is. 

He began to reveal to me that birth is a woman's ultimate act of worship. Our bodies are designed and intended to bring life into the world, we should honor Him in that task. At some point, I looked around and saw a few people who just were not "into" praise and worship that morning. You know the type: arms crossed, ugly expression on their face, etc. I wondered how they could stand there so distant when God's presence was so heavy and tangible in the room. Why they would medicate their worship and keep from experiencing what He had for them. God answered me with this question: "If you wouldn't medicate your worship, why would you medicate your birth?" 


Wait a minute. Back that truck up. Oh.snap.

I'm guilty of it. Most women in America these days are. But I had never thought of it that way before. Whoa. I had to repent. In that act of repentance, I asked Him to show me more. What else were we unintentionally doing in birth that grieved Him? The answer came swiftly and was even more shocking:
God began to talk to me about the birth process. Everyone calls babies a miracle, right? How many times have you heard, "each baby is a miracle!"? A lot, right? Me too. I've said it. You've probably said it. We all say it. It's part of our birth culture. But why do we say it? I have always assumed that I say it because God so delicately designs each one of us inside our Mother's wombs. Life itself is miraculous! However, God gave me a new and amazing perspective that morning: we call each baby a miracle because He is present when that baby is born. Our labor is worship, we are preparing the way for Him to come, whether we know it or not. When that baby, that tiny, innocent baby, comes Earthside, they are coming directly from constant communication with Him and bringing His presence with them. In my mind's eye, I saw a hospital room in the first few moments after a birth. The parents are gasping in awe of the child that is laying on its mother's chest, the nurse is rubbing the baby down with a fresh receiving blanket, and over by the door is the King of all things. If the President of the United States or the Queen of England walked into that room, people would roll out the red carpet faster than anything. But the Creator is there...and everyone is ignoring Him. We forget to thank God for the gifts He has given us, and for His presence in our lives. We expect it. Take it for granted. In that moment, I realized that His heart is so grieved by that. We spend hours, sometimes days in preparation for His arrival, but He goes unheralded. I literally got on my face and wept with remorse. How had I never realized that I grieved the heart of my Father when my daughters were born? Just because our sin is unintentional, doesn't mean that it isn't sin. We are still responsible to repent for it when we are aware of it. 

On our way home from church, I recounted all of this to Ryan. He was amazed and asked me what I planned to do differently this time. 

This time, I plan to recognize my worship for what it is as labor begins. To tell God that I am preparing the way for His presence and ask Him to sustain me. Along the way, I hope to remember to continue to do that very thing. When the baby arrives, we intend to take a few moments to thank God for His presence, to welcome Him as He fills the room. 

This may seem crazy and over religious to some of you reading right now. But I encourage you to pray about it yourself and see what God has to say to you. I want to remember to welcome the King when I give birth. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Lovin'

Happy First Day of Summer!!! 

What have you done to celebrate summer today? The girls and I made some juice slushies in the freezer and lazed around quite a bit. Today also marks my twenty seventh week of pregnancy and the entrance into my third trimester. I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I'm almost reluctant to let this pregnancy go, but I may feel differently when my edd rolls around. ;) Norah was born one day shy of the First Day of Spring, perhaps this baby will make its appearance on The First Day of Autumn? That could be really fun!!

I was talking with a friend today about how EXHAUSTED I am this pregnancy, but that it is almost as bad right now as the first trimester was. You know, when you can't keep your eyes open and jerk awake because you have slumped sideways in your chair? I'm so thankful that it is the weekend and my kids can have both parents home, but we also have some deep cleaning scheduled, so thinking about that makes me REALLY tired already. The girls go to bed at 8:30pm tonight, so I may just go to sleep as soon as they do. ;)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Overcoming My Fear

This birth will be different. 
This birth will be different. 
This birth will be different. 

After Norah's birth, I immersed myself even more deeply into self-education on the subject of childbirth. So much so, that my husband told me that I should become a doula. Really? Should I do that? Ryan told me that my passion would help other parents experience birth as it SHOULD BE, not as we experienced it. He is so wise and encouraging. ❤ It felt like a pipe dream, but I knew that it would happen someday, so I kept learning everything I could. I read everything I could get my hands on (still do!) and excitedly told Ryan about what I was discovering. Poor man, he gets so bored listening to me prattle on, but he listens anyway. Have I mentioned yet how wonderful he is? ❤ We didn't plan on having any other children ourselves, but I knew that I would do things a specific way if we ever changed our minds. 

Then came January 2013.
Whoa. We did NOT see that one coming! I actually took this test in the maternity ward of the local hospital. *snort* My cycle had been off by eleven days the month before, so I wasn't concerned that I was late again. I figured my body was just trying to find its balance again. Kirsten and Norah had recently had a 24/hr flu bug, so I assumed that I caught it as well...until Ryan asked me how many days late I was the morning that I threw up while brushing my teeth. Oh sh**. Sixteen days late. That was a lot. Well, being upset about two lines wasn't going to make us feel better, so we decided to be happy about it on purpose! It was a new life, right? We kept our news a secret for several weeks, despite me being the sickest I've ever been and actually losing weight this time around. That's never happened to me before. 
Right away, we knew what our plan was:
1. Hire a midwife and birth at home
2. Purchase a pool to birth in
3. Follow our instincts, trust God, and do it *our way*

Our midwife (whom we will call 'M' in respect for her privacy) is an amazing woman who didn't just set us at ease in the interview, she made us feel like we were family members. She plays with our girls and is enthusiastic about our birth. She and I also love to talk birthy research, etc. together. She wholeheartedly supports our decision to deny any sort of testing or interventions beyond the 20 week anatomy scan. We had that done just to ensure that baby's health was as it should be and we would not be putting baby at risk by home birthing, should baby have any sort of deformities/special conditions. We knew in our hearts that baby was fine, but we felt that it was an important decision for us to double check. (Disclaimer: there are times when the ultrasound does not correctly diagnose problems, so each set of parents must make their own decision and accept full responsibility.)

At this point of my pregnancy, I would normally be going for the glucose tolerance test with an OB's office. I can't express to you how relieved I am that I won't be doing that this time! I didn't realize with my first two pregnancies that I had the option to deny testing. I'm not at risk, so tests are not pertinent. As far as gestational diabetes goes, there are MUCH more reliable ways to confirm if a woman has GD than the GTT. 

At our most recent visit, M asked about our previous birth experiences. We shared important points and answered her questions in detail. She confirmed what we felt all along: that there was no reason for our babies to be held for "observation", that skin to skin and being cared for solely by Ryan and myself would have avoided the hospitalizations they experienced. I even read a study about three years ago that focused on newborns who were taken away from their mothers in the first hour without being permitted to Breastfeed or have skin to skin time. Most of these newborns went into some form of physical shock, most screaming inconsolably and a large number experiencing respiratory arrest! SOUND FAMILIAR?! I wish I could remember where I read this study. *grump* But I digress...

We often get people who try to scare us into going to a hospital, playing the dead baby/dead mother card. At this point, very little could scare us into going to a hospital. M is a very capable and educated midwife whom we trust with my life and our baby's life. My education tells me that there are few things that can't or shouldn't be handled at home and that those are very typically detected before they become an emergency. In the event of an emergency, M and her attendant, along with my amazing husband will take quick action. I do not foresee an emergency whatsoever, but I trust them in the event that one arises. 

Ways that this birth will be different:
1. We will be in the comfort of our own home. No rush. No pressure. Things happen at their own pace. 
2. Our kids can do whatever they want, should they prefer to remain with us. 
3. No sneaking of food and drink--we can both eat and drink what we want, when we want from our kitchen!
4. At the end of the day, we can sleep together in our own bed! This is something I am so excited about! I hated watching Ryan sleep in that awful fold-out chair while I was trapped in the hospital bed. 

These are just a few of the ways that this birth will be different. Natural. As God intended. Not in a cold, germ-ridden hospital where we are treated as if we don't matter. Care. Real care. Surrounded by love and trust. 

As our birth gets nearer and nearer, I feel trepidation, as I mentioned in my first post in this series. I am processing all of my feelings surrounding my first two births and seeking the Lord's comfort and reassurance for this upcoming birth. He is faithful and I find my trepidation passing slowly like a ship in the night. I envision myself standing on a rock as I watch it sail away. The water is as smooth as glass in its wake and I am strong. I will get birth as it should be and my journey will be peaceful. My journey will encourage and empower others as I become a doula and I will be able to help other families have beautiful births, as well. I eagerly anticipate attending births and my husband is excited for me, as well. 

This birth will be different. I will birth without fear. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Facing My Fears II

As I mentioned in my pervious post, I feel the need to share my birth journey with the world, in the event that it may touch and encourage someone else. I will continue today with the birth of my second daughter. 

Before we decided when we would have our second child, I started studying natural childbirth and evidence based studies. I was determined to have a better birth! We decided to cloth diaper and be more natural in our parenting style than we previously knew how. In July of 2010, we found out that we were expecting baby #2! We chose to find care in a city sixty miles away in order to receive more humane and personalized care. We liked my new OB, as far as OBs go. ;) She recognized that I knew what I was talking about and was eager to learn more and to take an active role in my gestation and birthing process. We wanted a water birth, but the hospital had only one labor tub, so we kept our fingers crossed. 

I'd had an intuition all along that I would go into labor on St Patrick's Day--and I did! I assumed for many hours that it was just prodromal labor, but transitioned from early to active labor that evening. Kirsten went to my parents' house that evening and we labored at home for a bit. I had an appointment scheduled for 9am the next morning anyway, so this was good timing. I was 37+6 wks. After a while, my contractions were pretty intense and moved to about 2.5 minutes apart, so we departed for the hospital. Ryan and I were in good spirits! We arrived at the hospital sometime around 11 and I was taken to a room for monitoring. I was asked to lay on my back in the bed and allow them to monitor my contractions. This felt too familiar. They checked me for dilation and I was only dilated 2cm and the baby was no longer engaged, she was in my ribs! What was going on with my birth? We were released around 4am (?), despite begging to stay since we had an appointment so early and lived almost 1.5 hrs away. We drove home and my contractions continued. Ryan slept just a little bit and I labored in the tub. We were only home about an hour before it was time to leave again. This ride wasn't as pleasant as the first. My body was definitely in labor and we had to stop every little bit so I could use the restroom. Looking back, I know that my labor was lengthened by the obstacles we had to overcome. You know, sphincter reflex and all. We arrived at the office and I'm sure I scared a family of small children sitting behind me in the waiting room every time I had a contraction. We saw the doctor and she checked me...dilated to 3cm. Oh my. So far to go. She told us that she felt I was definitely in labor and recommended that we find something good to eat before we headed to the hospital. We went to Panera Bread and I was too uncomfortable to labor without privacy at this point. At the hospital, I was told that I was the sixth woman to check in in fifteen minutes. I labored on my back, hooked up to monitors for over two hours in c-section recovery before I was given a room. Remember that episode of Friends when the woman was wheeled into Rachel's room, before being wheeled *right* back out and delivering her baby in the hallway? Yep. Happened to me. I was finally given a private room--not the one with the labor tub. I moved around a LOT, spending a lot of time on my hands and knees. Dilation was incredibly slow. Around 45 hours in, I started to absolutely lose it. I was panicking and the nurse proclaimed me a 6. I started begging for the epidural. I had been in labor for almost two days, awake longer. I was exhausted and could no longer manage the pain. My amazing husband and sweet nurse worked me through a few contractions, but in the end, I received an epidural. The anesthesiologist and nurses saw how hard I had worked and how much I wanted to go 100% natural, so they administered a walking epi without me even requesting it. I will be forever thankful for that kindness, as it made a WORLD of difference in my emotions about the epidural. I was allowed to sit and move about as much as I physically could this time, they let me do whatever I wanted!! The epi never took full effect in the left side of my abdomen, so I didn't rest, it merely served as a way for me to manage the pain while still feeling every contraction--some that I still had to breathe and concentrate very hard to get through! :) In just a little while, I told Ryan that I needed the nurse because I could feel the baby in my birth canal, there was tremendous pressure. I buzzed her in and she delightedly proclaimed that the baby was crowning and started playing with her very dark hair! Ryan went down to look and was amazed! She asked me to do a trial push while the dr was on her way and made me stop--I was too eager to get baby earth side and she wanted the dr in the room. She allowed me to do "mini" pushes until the dr arrived, then I pushed twice and Norah came out all at once! She was perfect and made her anger at entering a cold world known! Just like her big sister, she became very calm when her daddy talked to her. They still do that today. ❤ She nursed immediately and for 30 minutes! Our wishes to allow the cord to stop pulsating before clamping were honored this time, and my placenta delivered on its own! Everything was as it should have been. We all went to the recovery room together and Norah later went to the nursery...that was where our nightmare began. 

When the nursery nurse brought Norah back from her bath, they told us that they wanted her wrapped up the entire time because her termperature had dropped a little and they wanted her to stay warm. I still hadn't slept, but was on a birth high, so I just complied without thinking. In reality, I should have unwrapped her and done skin to skin, but it didn't cross my mind. A while later, they took her to the nursery again for a little while to check her temperature. They brought her back, saying that it was better, but they still wanted to watch her. Ryan and I finally fell asleep and when we woke up, she was gone and a neonatologist was in our room. He informed us that he felt her temperature was too low (it had hovered in the 97* range) and he sent her to the NICU--without our consent. He informed us that it was a 4-5 day *INVOLUNTARY* stay. He left the room and I began to cry. My dreams of a "normal" hospital day were shattered. I immediately marched down to the NICU, Ryan hot on my heels and demanded to know specifics. The only specifics we were given were that she was going to be contained in a heated isolette until she could hold a satisfactory temperature on her own, but that the "testing of the waters" would take at least three days. We would not be allowed to hold her except during feeding times, which were every three hours, and we would not be allowed to stay in the NICU when it was not a feeding time. I was bullied for feeding her as long as she latched because they said that it was "interfering" with their feeding schedule. We had to stay at the Ronald McDonald house and I got caught in traffic one day, making me three minutes late for her feeding. I called to tell them that I was in the parking lot and told them not to give her formula. When I got to the NICU, they were feeding her formula!! She proceeded to throw up every little bit of it and I cried as I Breastfed my hungry newborn. 

After a four day NICU stay, they told us that she held a satisfactory temperature and could be released. They took each of our temperatures and found that both Kirsten and I had low temperatures. The nurse said that it must be hereditary. Hmmm...imagine that. A NICU stay for nothing at all. All of that stress for no reason. 

I say all of this to encourage anyone who may have a story similar to one of mine, as well as to hope that me sharing my painful past may make parents aware that it doesn't have to be this way. I could have signed an AMA and taken Norah out of the NICU, following my instincts. She would have been perfectly fine, as she was never even given medicine or treatment of any kind. The ONLY thing they did for her was monitor her temperature. We wouldn't have been bullied by the nurse system and we could have taken our healthy, term baby home. She was born at 38+1wks. While many babies do have good reason for being put in the NICU, ours did not. Every day when the doctors made their rounds, we were told that she would be held longer for "observation". Several nurses told us that they had no idea why Norah was being held, that they never would have admitted her to the NICU had they been the ones examining and not the neonatologist. 

This birth will be different. Stay tuned. 

Facing My Fears

As I approach my third and final trimester of this pregnancy, I find myself full of trepidation.
 I don't want week 27 to come. I don't want to admit that I am creeping toward the finish line. I don't feel prepared--in a number of ways!! Is this sounding familiar to anyone else?? I don't fear home birth, labor, contraction/rushes/waves, pushing, birth, breastfeeding, etc. but I am full of trepidation, nonetheless. I have explored myself and prayed long and hard about these feelings, asking God why I feel such reluctance to enter the final stages of pregnancy when I welcomed it with my oldest children. Finally, I have come to the realization that I fear my previous births and the person I was during the time surrounding them. 

I will begin by saying that I in no way mean to scare or frighten people. I know that my story is an unusual one, although there are plenty of women out there who have similar tales to tell. 

When I carried my oldest daughter, I was young and naive. I put full trust in my doctor and the stupid critically-acclaimed book they handed me at my doctor's office. I did no research of my own and allowed myself to be fully consumed with planning for what we would need/want for her once she had already arrived, rather than finding balance and planning for our journey in her arrival, as well. I knew that I wanted a natural birth and informed my doctor of this on our first visit. She wasn't pleased in the least. My husband supported me fully, but he was pretty much the extent of my support. My entire pregnancy, people would do what they could to convince me that I could not handle the pain of childbirth and that I *needed* the epidural. My resolve was strong until I started experiencing prodromal labor. I had no idea what prodromal labor was and merely thought that my body just couldn't or wouldn't labor correctly. I was tired. I was uninformed. I was emotional. After an especially long and frustrating bout of prodromal labor, I told my husband that I wanted our doctor to induce me, that my body was failing me. I was still two weeks from my estimated due date. A few days later at our appointment, the first words out of my doctor's mouth were, "You look exhausted. Let's induce you and get this over with." Those words sounded like relief at the time, but they would cause a downward spiral. 
A few days later, we excitedly arrived at the hospital, still determined that I would birth with no pain medication. I was given pitocin and AROM (artificial rupture of membranes) immediately upon arrival. I was treated very roughly and inhumanely, almost six years later, I still suffer pain in my right wrist from the violent way in which my iv was inserted. I was told that I would not be allowed to walk around, that I was not allowed to be in any position but laying almost flat on my back, and that I was expected to urinate *ON MYSELF*, rather than being permitted to use the restroom like a normal person would. My pregnancy was extremely low risk and both my daughter's and my vitals looked FANTASTIC on the monitors. There was no reason for this sort of treatment. After about six hours (?) I started to experience a great deal of back pain in relation to both baby's position and a previous tailbone injury. The nurses took advantage of this and pushed me from a sitting position (which was providing minor relief) to the reclined position again and pushing pain medication on me. I started to cave. I asked what my options were other than the dreaded epidural and was told that my only option was Staydol. I asked if it was like Demerol, stating that I would *NOT* allow the administration of a narcotic into my or my baby's bodies. I was lied to and told that it was NOTHING like Demerol and not a narcotic at all. For fifteen minutes it was bliss, I laughed hysterically over everything and nothing at all. After that was a nightmare. I experienced what I later learned is an allergic reaction and became so sleepy and lethargic that I could not remember to breathe. My terrified husband had to remind me to "breathe in, breathe out". Not once did a nurse come in to observe me, even when he alerted them of the situation. We were simply informed that it would wear off. Once I drew near transition, I was still experiencing some of the ill-effects of the Staydol and would black out entirely during a contraction. I begged for the epidural and my husband was relieved. This was not the labor we had expected, but we were too uninformed to realize that this was *NOT* how birth should be. Per protocol, my husband was made to leave the room while I got the epidural and all I could do was sob into the nurse's shoulder. She and the anesthesiologist were The ONLY kind souls that we experienced during labor and delivery and I only saw them once. I was a mess. My husband, my best friend, my rock was not in the room when I was facing one of my biggest fears. I was terrified. The epidural took effect and I wanted to try to sleep a little...they upped my pitocin above the legal limit. I don't know what the numbers were, I just remember someone saying that in hushed tones. I rocketed from five centimeters to ten in less than two hours and was forced almost flat on my back again so I could "push effectively". I was not elated or excited, I was almost entirely numb and was falling asleep during contractions from the sheer exhaustion. After about forty-five minutes of pushing, my doctor gave me an episiotomy. Then a second one. Kirsten was born screaming and perfect at 11:37 pm. I was never told her APGAR scores, but I am sure they were both nines or tens. She pinked up almost instantly and didn't stop screaming until her father spoke to her while she rested on my chest. She moved easily and with strength, a very healthy girl. Our doctor did not abide our wishes to allow her umbilical cord to stop pulsating before clamping and cutting, she clamped it even before placing Kirsten on my chest. After a few moments, the awful nurse put Kirsten in the warmer because I "had to deliver the placenta". But I was not given the chance to be natural there, either. No. My doctor forcibly *PULLED* the placenta from my uterus. I could not feel my extremities in the slightest, but that felt like someone had a blow torch inside of me. Family was ushered in and my baby was passed around. Then she was escorted to the nursery for a bath before I was allowed to nurse her. My husband was not permitted to accompany her. Their reason for both? It was "too late at night". We were taken to recovery, but the nurse threw a fit because I could not move myself into the next bed. I still couldn't feel anything and they mentioned that I had lost "a lot" of blood, but I was never told how much. My husband was made to leave the hospital, as we were given the only shared room in the maternity ward. Again, I was left without my rock, but what he witnessed was worse. He promised to check on Kirsten in the nursery on his way out and was denied access to her because a nurse was screaming about a baby being blue. As the door was shoved closed in his face, he saw that it was *OUR* baby. He drove home exhausted and terrified, alone to pray until the next morning. 
At 4:30am, I was woken up by a gruff nurse who demanded that I use the restroom. My legs and feet were still barely functional and I was very dizzy. She left me on the toilet and the last thing I remember is blood clots leaving my body and blood flowing freely into the toilet bowl as I looked at that string that is labeled "pull in the case of emergency". I must have pulled it. I awoke slumped against the wall with a kind nurse patting my hand and telling me that I had been passed out for more than ten minutes. There were four other nurses with her. She helped me gently back to my bed and I began to inquire about my child. She suggested as she tucked me in that we call the nursery, so she dialed the number and handed me the phone. I was informed that my baby "stopped breathing for a bit, but is fine now".  **WHAT?!?!?!** I started to bawl as the nursery nurse told me that I could not see her and they didn't know when I could, then proceeded to hang up. I don't remember the kind nurse leaving, I just remember praying as I drifted in and out of consciousness for the rest of the night, feeling helpless and alone. At 7:30am, I called my husband bawling my eyes out and begging him to come immediately, describing the situation with our baby. He jumped into the shower and headed straight over. As I hung up the phone, a nurse came in with a bassinet. She told me that she had my baby. I teared up again, saying that I had been told that my baby wasn't able to leave the nursery. She took the baby out of the bassinet and began handing it to me without checking our wristband numbers or asking me the "password" of the day. She told me that she didn't see why not, he was hungry. *HE?!* I drew my outstretched arms back and told her that I had a *girl*. She asked if I was sure. I said that I was VERY sure and she replaced the baby in the bassinet, hurrying from the room. I laid against my pillow and prayed for that poor baby and his mama, that his nurse would check wristbands before delivering Ny more babies to their parents! When my husband came, my nurse told us that I was too weak to go to the nursery, but my husband could visit her. He brought back pictures. I was allowed to visit her when she was 12 hours old. I sat on a pillow in a wheelchair and he took me to the nursery. She had iv's and was hooked up to monitors, I was allowed to touch her foot. After a few minutes with her, I started blacking out and had to be taken back to my bed. Four hours later, they brought  her to me and I was allowed to Breastfeed for the first time. She was sixteen hours old. Things began to improve from this point, but it was never a pleasant experience and we had to stay for four days. We were never told details of her "episode", or given a diagnosis. They behaved as if it never happened. It has taken me almost six years to realize that my experience was an abusive one. I pray that it was unusual, but I know that there are lots of women like me who have similar stories. Gradually, I came to realize that birth could be different and knew that the birth of our second child almost four years later would be different indeed. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wooldn't It Be Loverly?

This morning I lanolized the soakers I have on hand, two were gifted to me and three I recently made myself. :) Honestly, lanolizing was a little daunting to me until I found a tutorial that showed me how simple it is. Truth be told, I had envisioned myself rubbing lanolin all over the soakers and all kinds of other difficult ideas. Go ahead and laugh--I am. ;) Anyway, it truly couldn't be easier. 

Here's the awesome thing about wool:
Pretty much everyone knows that wool is waterproof to an extent, but what I never realized is that lanolin--the oil that lies on the sheep's skin and at the base of its wool--is what really makes wool so special. When you lanolize wool and use it as a diaper soaker, the urine actually turns to a neutralized soap like substance. WHAT?! WHAT?! Yep. God truly gave us everything we need in nature. EVERYTHING. You don't have to wash wool soakers but once every three to six weeks, just depending on use, etc. You will know when they need to be washed and re-lanolized when they start to leak and/or smell of urine. How do you lanolize? Super simple. 

Fill your sink with cool to lukewarm water. Hot water will cause your wool to felt and shrink up. Get your lanolin--most people seem to recommend this!
You probably have that on hand for your tender breastfeeding nipples, huh? I used about 1/4 inch of lanolin per diaper. Squeeze that stuff right into a cup and add about 1/2 cup boiling water. Swish around until the lanolin is liquified. The lanolin is oil, so it won't mix with the water. Pour this mixture into your sinkful of water. Slowly submerge each soaker into the water and allow to sit. I set my timer for 30 minutes. If you are washing your soakers after use, add a small amount of gentle soap such as you would wash the rest of your cloth dipes in to the boiling water and lanolin mixture before mixing it with the rest of the water. :)

Look at how pretty! Who says gender neutral colors have to be boring?!

After your timer has gone off, gently squeeze--don't twist/wring! It will alter the shape!--the excess water out of each soaker and lay them flat on a towel, rolling them up tightly to encourage more water out of them. I did this twice, using a fresh towel each time. I've read that it can take 24 hours to dry. I think I will set them outside in the shade for a while, but be careful that they are not in direct sun! You don't want those gorgeous colors to fade! 
Look at how blue the water is from those orange and aqua soakers! Haha!

I'm so excited to put these beauties to use when baby gets here! Next on the list? Baby leg warmers and wool breast pads, although I think I will toy with felting the breast pads for extra softness. ;)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Busy Life and Crochet Work!

Busy schedules and a crazy life make it hard to remember to blog sometimes! :) It seems like there is always something to be done and no time in which to do it. (Oh...I need to switch laundry while it's on my mind...) Anyway, Norah has been potty learning this week and is doing great! I'm really proud of her. I wasn't totally sure that she would want to give up her diapers, but she is loving her panties and having few accidents--yay! On the subject of diapers, we are going a slightly different route for this baby. We used covers and prefolds for Norah in the first few weeks, but went solely to pockets/AI2s after that. I really wanted to go the prefold route this time, so we are collecting covers and I am making wool soakers and longies, which are SOOOOO ADORABLE!!!! I cannot express to you how cute they are--really!! Look at how cute! Yes, the hat is a Breastfeeding support hat!
 I have more wool and will be making plenty in all sizes, but this is what I have made since last week. Crocheting is easy to do when you have a toddler attached to you. ;) 

I'm about halfway through my pregnancy now and our anatomy scan is scheduled for next Thursday. We are both excited for this chance to get a peek at "Bilbo". We still don't intend to find out the gender, by the way. I've always secretly wanted to keep it a surprise and my wonderful husband conceded to my request, even though he wants to know. Isn't that so sweet of him? It's something that people don't usually do anymore and one of the last sweet surprises that life holds in this world run by technology. I often find myself questioning God, not in a challenging way, but in wonder as to why He would plan this little life that we did not. I won't lie, I'm terrified. I didn't plan on being a mom of three, but I know that He knows best and that He knows our faith and trust in Him will see us through. God trusts us. Isn't that a crazy-wonderful thought? That God trusts us enough to give us a responsibility? Hmm...worth a good ponder, that is. 

If you have stuck with me through this mindless rambling, I applaud you! I am going to get to my laundry while I am still thinking about it and take Kirsten outside to play in the sun before it rains again. 

Happy Thursday!!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chicken, Potatoes, and Cheese? YES, PLEASE!!!

Last night brought about such a delicious and amazing meal! I had cleaned and de-cluttered all day--even though I seemed to make a bigger mess--and I was exhausted. My separating abdominals hurt and I was walking oddly due to my discomfort. My plan was to make chicken Marsala, but Ryan wasn't in the mood for it, so I invented something new. all likely know that meal inventions either flop BIG time, or are a HUGE success. Which do you think mine turned out to be? ;)

Hot Chicken Salsa and Monterey Potatoes

Three chicken breasts (I only used two, but wished that I had used three)
1 can of corn, drained (I had Mexican corn on hand, but regular corn should be fine!)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 jar salsa
^ Can you tell that I was using whatever I found in my cupboard and fridge? Heehee
Cheddar and Monterey cheeses
Spices such as cumin, salt, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

Preheat your oven to 425*F and season your thawed chicken in an oven safe dish, baking it for about 40 minutes, turning once halfway through. When the 40 minutes is up, immediately put the breasts into your mixer and use the paddle to shred the meat up. Put the meat back into the same dish and add the black beans, corn, and salsa, stirring together. At this point, I have turned my oven off and just put the dish back in. The oven is still hot enough to make the other ingredients nice and hot!

While you are waiting for the chicken to bake, prep your potatoes and set them to boil. After the hot salsa is back into the oven is the perfect time to mash your potatoes and add milk, etc. I seasoned them with salt and cayenne pepper, then added the cheeses. I didn't use much cayenne as I do not like spicy foods, and I added PLENTY of cheese! They were delicious!! I did need to put the mashed potatoes into a microwave safe bowl and heat them a little more to melt the cheese well before serving. We put the potatoes on our plates and spooned the hot salsa mixture on top. DELISH!! Now I wish that we'd had sour cream (it's almost grocery day. Haha) because a dollop of sour cream on top with some more cheese would have made it perfect! This was eaten with lots of "yummy noises" from my family and declarations that I must make it again. There are leftovers and I think I will get sour cream at the grocery store and make baked potatoes served with the salsa in too for a lunch! YUM-O!! <--- I think Rachel Ray would be proud of my meal, what do you think? ;)

Happy Noshing!!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Seriously? Really?!

Today was filled with lots of ups and downs! After a lovely breakfast of chocolate waffles fresh from the iron and drizzled with strawberry syrup, then sprinkled with powdered sugar, Ryan and I attacked the laundry room. The laundry room has been the catch all for boxes that we aren't sure what to do with since we moved in several months ago. We spent hours in there not only rearranging, but purging junk that we don't need at the same time. As we reached the end, we wondered aloud where on EARTH our dishes must be. We've been looking everywhere and had not found them. We've been using plastic kiddie plates all these months. ;) All of a sudden, I moved a box and asked if he thought they could be in that red and white box underneath the one in my hands. It was literally the ONLY box in the house that we had not searched. Ryan started to say that he thought it was too small to fit the plates into, but stopped short as he opened it and saw the plates! It had been laying upside down and we could not see the label. We stood there and laughed until the tears nearly ran down our cheeks! The best part? That box was right in front of the door, so we'd been walking past it every time we went into that room!! It's been an entertaining day around here. :)

So, on to our continuation of freezer recipes! Today I will share my favorite recipe for:

Hashbrown Casserole
Bag of frozen hashbrowns
8 oz sour cream
2 cans cream of mushroom
1/2 lbs shredded cheddar cheese
2-4 chicken breast

Start by seasoning your chicken according to your personal taste, putting it in an oven safe dish with half a cup of water or chicken stock and baking it at 425*F for 40 minutes, turning over halfway through. When the chicken is done, you can put it into your mixer and the meat will shred nicely!

Pour the hashbrowns into a 13x9" casserole dish, or divide into two 8x8" dishes. Season with salt and pepper, then add sour cream and cream of chicken. Combine well, then stir in your cheddar cheese and shredded chicken. I often add more than 1/2 lb of cheese. :) Bake at 425*F for 45-60 minutes until golden bubbly! This is such a delicious meal!

Now I am off to enjoy some of my delicious apple pie and a cup of coffee while I watch Friends! Happy Saturday, ya'll!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Planning Ahead I

Today I sat down to make my menu and grocery list for the week. Upon reflection and weekly planning, it dawned on me that I should really start planning some freezer meals for when the baby gets here. Those of you who know me in real life will chuckle because you know how quickly I bounce back, but every mama wants to be lazy a few nights a week, especially when she has a new squishy bitty to snuggle, right? ❤ So I sat down today and came up with a list of some of our favorite meals that I know will freeze well. If you are expecting or need freezer meals for any reason, you may find this list helpful.

Tater Tot Casserole
Kielbasa and Yellow Rice
Hashbrown Casserole with Chicken
Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Corn
Chicken Broccoli Braid
Fried Rice
Spaghetti Sauce

The first meal I will showcase (and have to add a photo of later) is our favorite: Tater Tot Casserole

This will make a 13x9" pan, so it is easily divided up into two 8x8" dishes for freezing.
1lb ground beef
1 can (or equivalent homemade) cream of mushroom
1/2 lb (you can use more or less, depending on your personal preference) shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag tater tots

Season and brown your ground beef and drain any remaining grease. Stir the cream of mushroom into the meat and spread into a greased dish. Cover substantially with cheddar cheese and top with tater tots, sprinkling with salt. At this point, you can cover the dish well with aluminum foil and freeze. Take care that you don't use a glass dish, as you put this directly into the oven without defrosting. Bake at 400*F for approximately one hour until cheese is bubbly and tater tots are crispy. This is a delicious meal that my husband and daughters frequently request and takes very minimal time to prepare.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Days spent out of doors

Oops! I got really busy yesterday and didn't post, after promising myself that I'd post every day for a week. Darn.

I love watching my girls play outside. It is my favorite kind of play! They run and scream happily as they pick flowers with excitement. They are enjoying the beauty of God's nature and they appreciate fun and games that don't happen in front of a tv. I miss days like this in the Winter. Truly. Very soon, we will light the fire pit and have a s'mores night...once the evenings are a little warmer. ;) Every morning, they get out of bed and run to check on their vegetable seeds, which have begun to sprout. Kirsten so enjoyed picking her vegetables and eating the "fruits" of her labor last year, I know they will both enjoy the variety of vegetables they will be able to harvest this year. What are some things that you enjoy doing outside with your children?

Broccoli sprouts!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Toys. They are EVERYWHERE!!

I struggled finding a topic that inspired me today and tossed around ideas with my friend Amanda over at A Sweet Serenity. Can it really be this hard when I am the kind of person who ALWAYS has something to say?

As usual, Amanda and I talked about our girls during the day. We text a lot since children ALWAYS need something when you are on the phone. We talked about how much they are growing, the adorable things they are doing, and the ways that they are testing our parenting skills. *twitchy eye* Doesn't it seem like they are continuously finding new ways to be delightfully devious and test us? Today was no exception at my house. If your kids are anything like mine, it is a constant battle to get them to keep their room clean. I would love if their room would stay clean enough so you could see the floor. I dream at night about rooms that are actually categorizable as "neat and tidy". I'm doubting that will ever happen, especially because my husband and I are rotten housekeepers. (I can't take ALL of the blame, folks!) So today I sent Kirsten to her room to clean up a portion of it. You couldn't even see the floor, so I knew this would be a task to spread out over the next few days to keep from overwhelming her. First, I explained to her that she needs to keep her toys in the proper bins and her clothes in her dresser so we could find them when we need them, as well as not get hurt when we ventured into their room. Second, I sectioned off a small portion of her room like I always do and told her clean up the items in that area. I set the egg timer for thirty minutes and told her that if she did not have it cleaned by the time it went off, she would lose her tv privileges for the rest of the day. I also told her that throwing a fit of any kind or complaining about her task would result in me deducting one minute per complaint. She did quite well and didn't complain once, so I secretly gave her about fifteen minutes more because we all know how slow five year olds are. ;)

It wasn't until I was making supper that I knew what I would write about today. How many times have we wondered as Christians why there seems to be a never ending list of things that God needs to change in us? Why does He not change all of these things at once, say: the day we give our lives to Him?! Because, just like my five year old will cry and moan and scream, "It's too much! I can't do it! It will kill me!" we would be so overwhelmed that we would give up. Give up on God, give up on ourselves. He truly knows that parenting is hard. He parents adults. That must be WORLDS harder than parenting children! So He sets clear boundaries in the areas that we need to work on. He encourages us and lets us know that there will be consequences if we continue to make the choices we have thus far. He knows exactly when to reveal the things we need to fix in our lives to keep us from losing it. I am so grateful for a God who is a better parent than I am. I want to be like Him in every way. ❤

Monday, April 22, 2013

Burn, Baby, Burn.

It's Monday. Yes. Yes, it is. We are currently outside having a picnic and poor Norah is crying herself to sleep because she is just too tired and cranky to eat. Bless her little heart. Let me tell you about an interesting tradition that greatly intrigued the girls last night...

Cord Burning
This is a technique that we heard about quite some time ago and and I quickly declared that we would use it if we ever found ourselves expecting baby #3. Wasn't that lucky? ;) Cord burning began--to my knowledge. I looked for more history, but found none. I would love if anyone has something else to share!--in Thailand after the horrific tsunami that rocked our entire world. Tetanus was rampant and newborns were dying from infections of all kinds. Some midwives had the idea to burn the umbilical cords in lieu of cutting them with surgical scissors. Burning the cord cauterizes an otherwise open wound, virtually eliminating the deadly infections and saving precious lives! Just think about this: for 40-ish weeks, your baby has received 100% of its nutrition from this cord, an open passage between the placenta and its abdomen. When baby is born, this passage becomes an open wound, if you will. This is why many people are now choosing lotus births, which is where you leave the baby completely attached to the placenta until it dries up and falls off on its own. I the case of cord burning, you place some sort of barrier between the baby and the candles. Often, this is as simple as a piece of cardboard large enough to cover all of baby's abdomen with a cord-sized slit cut into it to allow the cord to be in a natural position. When the cord has completely stopped pulsating and is void of that wonderfully nutrient-rich blood, mom will likely have delivered the placenta. After this has taken place, people have different preferences on when to sever the cord, but none are the "correct" way, just personal preference. The barrier is put into position and two taper candles are lit. This can be a very sentimental and symbolic act. Our daughters will help Ryan and our midwife perform this task. ❤ The flames are positioned about six inches away from the baby and will begin to cauterize the cord. This process can take up to fifteen minutes. There should also be a bowl of some kind underneath the burning area, as there are often fluids in the cord and parts of the cord will liquefy. There will be some hissing and popping, along with a mild odor--all things that come with burning of any sort. The baby is typically very alert and calm during this process. When you are finished, the cord will be longer than you would see in the hospital, but you will find that it dries up and falls off VERY quickly! I have heard reports from friends of cords falling off around days three and four. I can deal with pretty much any bulky inconvenience to have a cord that falls off in less than a week! :) I am very excited to experience this (new?) technique and hope to see it become a major trend in birth. It just makes good sense. A great site with more information is This midwife is apparently credited with bringing this technique to the United States. Google also has some great photos if you search "cord burning". Try YouTube, as well! I think many people will be intrigued by this process and I will be sure to thoroughly document our experience and share it!

Now for a Monday Meme I created this morning! I don't have any personal experience with this...
(^Those are my shifty eyes.)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Back That Chariot Up!

I just have to say how much I love our church and the wonderful people who go there! They are truly like extended family members--we know that someone always has our back and is praying for us, even if they don't know why we need prayer. They are just that committed to community and we are so blessed to be a part of this fellowship.

In my women's class this morning, many ladies were absent because they were on their way back from an encounter retreat--I AM SO JEALOUS! ;) They had a truly blessed time and I am so excited for them. My experiences on the encounter retreats have been life-changing in fantastic ways. God is so good! But I digress...It was a small group of us this morning, just five. Our topic was "self esteem", but it strayed from what we commonly think of as self esteem and delved deeply into the power of God and how He has equipped us with such power...but are we willing to make the effort to tap into it? I can't even tell you how exciting this class session was! Paul wrote that the same power which raised Jesus from the dead has been placed inside of us. Back the truck up, people. Digest that for a minute. For a long minute. As Christians, we know in our heads that the same power Jesus had on earth lives inside of us, but how much do we *truly* understand that? TRULY?

This morning, we read the definitions of two Greek words that Paul used when he talked about our God-given power. The first of these words is "kratos". Kratos means: "Demonstrated power, eruptive and tangible." Think about a bomb--we all have bombs on our minds after last week, right? Think about how that power is burning and exploding inside of whatever vessel is used to create that particular bomb until the force becomes such that the vessel can no longer contain the power! This is essentially kratos, the power God placed inside of us. The second word we discussed was "ischus", which means "ability, force, strength, might". Our lesson likened it to God's muscles. Want to know what I saw when I started to digest this in my spirit? I saw Jesus in hell battling Satan for those three days (ever wonder what THAT looked like?!) with the explosive and tangible power of kratos, while the ischus dwelled in the tomb with his body. I could just see the ischus power swirling around his body in eager anticipation of the fulfilling of prophesy. Then Jesus is done with His battle and His spirit with the kratos power join His body and the ischus power...BOOM!!! Dynamite explosion and resurrection! Now, I'm not saying that's what happened...but it sounds pretty awesome and we know how mighty our God is, so maybe it is! :) Just chew on that power and those thoughts for a while. It's rocking my world and I hope it does yours, too! Happy Sunday, ya'll! ❤

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Step Back, A Step in the Right Direction

All of the troubles and hatred in this world have inspired me to step back from social media and stop allowing my peace to be taken from me so easily. I'm hoping that I can become dedicated to blogging: an attempt--yet again!

Yesterday afternoon, the delightful and mouthwatering fragrance of banana bread wafted through our house as a loaf baked to perfection in my oven. This morning, my excited family got to cut into it. Our culture has forgotten how pleasing the little things in life are. I am a prime example: The other day I played Monopoly with my daughter. We had a great time and played for over two hours, but I kept sneaking peeks at my phone and social media. What is that about? We are robbing our children, our friends, our families, and ourselves of precious moments and for what? To scroll through our news feed and find out what nasty, grease laden fast food joint someone is eating at? To see yet another meme featuring Sweet Brown? To see a post from that one friend who persistently "vague-books" and whines and moans about people in their lives without implicating them fully by using their names? We are wasting our precious moments...for this? I don't want to waste my moments on that anymore. I am going to take this week and separate myself from my chosen form of social media and challenge myself to spend downtime blogging about the moments that would otherwise be wasted. Who wants to join me?