Saturday, October 18, 2014

Annual Family Trip to Chester's Pumpkin Patch (and Obligatory Photo Sharing)

Fall has arrived, heralding the transition into my favorite time of year. I'm totally the sucker for all things pumpkin, and come Thankgiving afternoon I become the sucker for all things Christmas. To say that I'm fostering excitement about these holidays in my children is putting it mildly. Yesterday was among our favorite family activities, the annual trip to the pumpkin patch. We followed this up with dinner at our favorite pizza place, where we discovered an unexpected Halloween carnival taking place. It was truly a fantastic day.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The December Birthday Dilemma

Last Christmas Eve, my littlest baby boy was exactly one week old. Born in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas, this child was whisked along with us to intimate gatherings of family and friends night after night leading up to the holiday. He is, and will always be, my favorite-ever Christmas gift.

Out of what I'm sure was good intentions by all, BJ and I were repeatedly warned by people that having a baby so close to Christmas was not a good idea. Forgetting the fact that the child was already conceived, people either seemed to think that A) we could do something to stop the fact that our baby's birthday was going to coincide with Christmas or B) we would somehow change it if we could. Truth was, the baby-development train was already underway and going full steam, and the comments about an ill-timed birthday were frequent and disconcerting.

"Van will never really get his own birthday," they warned. "People will only give him one present and expect it to cover both occasions!" The warnings were oft repeated by friends and strangers alike. My common response became, "Well, there's nothing I can do about it now," before doing my best to change the subject. Truthfully, when BJ and I were trying to conceive each of our children, we didn't really stop to consider the timing of birthdays. All we knew was that we wanted a baby at whatever time we could get one, and wasting time didn't seem like a good idea to us. We don't regret that decision, but honestly, people had me second-guessing it when I was pregnant with little Van Owen.

Ironically enough, the people who seemed to think that the coincidence of Christmas and Van's birth wasn't an issue worth worrying about were the people whose birthdays are in December. Each time a person happened to tell me that his or her birthday was in mid-to-late December, I eagerly pounced with questions about if she enjoyed the timing of her birthday, if he chose to celebrate half-birthdays, etc. Of all the people I asked questions, only two people told me that they hated that their birthdays were so close to Christmas (one was actually on Christmas Day and the other was weeks before Christmas).  The rest treated the subject nonchalantly, indicating that their parents had done well to make them feel special on their special day regardless of Christmas, or that they had good friends who never lumped the two holidays together present-wise. Some liked the festivities of Christmas and felt it made their birthdays better. Personally speaking, my birthday is exactly two weeks after Christmas and I always loved it. Everything I wanted that I didn't get for Christmas, I got instead for my birthday! I pointed this out to BJ, but we thought that the proximity to Christmas may be different for people whose birthday actually falls in the Christmas season.

I was dilated to 4 centimeters by Thanksgiving, so there was the thought that Van might not be a Christmas baby after all. However, he took his time and decided that his birthday should be December 17, so a Christmas season baby was had! I found this to be the coziest, most wonderful thing I could have imagined. Middle-of-the-night feedings were done by the light of the Christmas tree, which we both gazed at afterward. Friends and family from far away were naturally gathered for the holidays, so everyone got to meet and greet our little guy when he was still tiny. Van had his own stocking, and Christmas carols last year were particularly sweet with him in arms.

Christmas-tree gazing at 4AM
Each of my little boys has a special song that I have chosen just for him. The songs were selected because I listened to them a lot during the time that my babes were newborns, and hearing the lyrics and melodies take me back to those sweet days. For Silas, it was The Decemberists' "Crane Wife 1," mostly because the lyrics described exactly how I felt about him.  For George, I chose the Fun song "We Are Young" because it was played on TV commercials in the afternoons when I cuddled him on the couch in our bedroom while we both dozed. When Van was born, the selection was easy. To my greatest Christmas gift of all time, I would bestow my favorite version of my favorite Christmas song: Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire). It's a perfect fit.

 This year as the cold weather comes rolling in and my favorite holidays of all draw near, I will be eager to celebrate my son's birthday as I also celebrate Christmas. His very identity is part-Christmas to me, and I think it always will be that way.  Just this year, in the only year that I will choose his birthday theme for him, we'll have ourselves a rompin' Rudolph Christmas bash to celebrate the second-best guy ever born at Christmas. "Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe (and a sweet-smelling baby) help to make the season bright."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Guest Mama: Ada's Birth Story

My friend Keri is a go-getter with a generous heart. She previously wrote a guest post about her son Callen's birth, and she has once again graciously agreed to share a birth story, this time of her second child. Her daughter Ada was born on September 15, 2014, via a water birth in Keri's home. Indeed, she gave Ada life in the very room where she has given all of her fantastic massages (she's the CEO of Mama Kneads Massage). When she isn't working, giving massages, volunteering with the milk bank, and advocating for mothers, children, breastfeeding, and milk-sharing, she can be found enjoying life to its fullest with her beautiful family, friends, and neighbors. Keri is a positive force in this world, and those who know her benefit from her. Please read Ada's fast and furious birth story in Keri's own words!

 Ada Grace’s Birth Story:

 My estimated due date was 9.9.2014. Almost a week later on Monday, 9.15.2014, I had a regular day. My neighbor helped me assemble a bench, my parents dropped by for a quick visit, and I let Callen play across the street with the neighbor’s kids.

When it was close to 8 pm, I bent down with my hands on my knees to tell my son Callen it was time to go home and I needed him to cooperate with me. One of the kids, McKenna, scooped him up to carry him across the street for me like she always does. As I stood up, I felt some sort of feeling that was little different. I hurried home behind them and told my husband Phil on the way in the door I may need some help. He was watering flowers by the front porch. He asked what was going on and I said I wasn’t sure yet. This was around 7:45 pm.

At 7:55 pm, I contacted my birth team (Dawn--my midwife, Brandy--my doula, and Tavia--my birth photographer), showered really fast and kind of just stuck around the bathroom as I was leaking water. I told them not to come yet because I wasn’t feeling anything going on yet. I told my mom the same thing. Phil got Callen bathed, wrapped, and packed up food for him to go to Deborah’s house across the street.

At 8:20 pm, contractions started up and I pulled up the app on my phone. I was camped out on the toilet to keep from making a mess. I was tired of sitting there so I started to stand and right then a contraction hit me that made me realize they may be a little more intense than I realized because I was sitting in a squatted position. I told Dawn to go ahead and come my way because she had almost an hour to drive. I got a bath towel and waddled through the house trying to help Phil with Callen, but he told me he had it under control so I made my way to the massage room where my birth pool was set up.

At 8:30 pm, I called my neighbor Tiffany to come help me as I realized contractions were coming harder.  I needed someone to help me gather last minute items like my chapstick, water, laptop with music, etc. How funny that with Callen’s birth, I had a playlist well thought out and this time I had maybe 15 songs that were thrown together…and honestly, I never heard them anyway because things went so fast!

8:45 pm - I got on my exercise ball and would summon Tiffany for hip squeezes between her gathering my things for me. Contractions were less than three minutes apart, which wasn’t too alarming to me since they were close together with Callen as well but slowed down later so I thought it may just be a phase of labor.

By 9:23 pm, I messaged Dawn to ask if I could get in the pool. Dawn said whenever I was ready and she was at El Reno (20 minutes away). I forgot about her answer at first because I was distracted with the stupid app.

At 9:45 pm, Dawn arrived – Brandy came shortly after. Right after Dawn arrived, I remembered I could get in the water. I had asked permission because I was worried about stalling labor if I got in too early. I was dilated to a 5 and 80% effaced several days before that so I should have known things would move fast once labor started! I stepped into the pool and felt so wonderful as I sank into the hot water. I had a few more contractions that were building in intensity. I was sitting upright on my knees but didn’t have my knees far enough apart. I was holding back a little. I changed positions to get on all fours and the next contraction ended with an involuntary grunt and push. Tavia, the birth photographer, arrived just in time!

At 10:02 pm, I felt the baby drop and lots of pressure. Dawn checked and said I was crowning. She told me I could feel the head if I wanted but I waited a moment. I think I was too frozen and had to really concentrate on moving any part of my body. I could feel at least two inches of soft wrinkly head and knew baby was coming soon. At some point I said I felt a lot of pressure on my rectum too. The next contraction helped me push the head out about halfway. It was uncomfortable but I couldn’t feel enough to push without another contraction. I just had to wait for it and sit there feeling the ring of fire. I said it felt “pretty burn-y”. Somewhere in this phase of labor, Brandy said a few brief words directing me to lean back into my position and let go. I don’t remember the words but I remember her calm voice and the reassurance I felt hearing her words. I had a contraction during that time but it was like it was muted while I was listening to her speak.

And at 10:13 pm, Dawn said “Your baby is coming!! Reach down and grab it.” I gave the final push that brought the rest of the head plus the body of our baby. I wasn’t fast enough to catch her myself because she shot out like a rocket. As soon as I knew it, I flipped over and took her to my chest, looking as I pulled her to me to see that we had a GIRL!

Courtesy of Tavia Redburn Photography
 I could not believe labor had been so swift! What a change from my labor with Callen! One of the first things I noticed about her was how perfectly round her head was shaped. We all enjoyed the first moments of knowing she was finally here and I cut her cord. Then, Phil took her while I waited for the placenta to come. I can cover those details later if anyone cares, but it took a while longer than I would have liked. I finally made it to our bed to join Phil and Ada (who didn’t get a name for over a week). Brandy had prepped my bedside and bathroom with all the postpartum things I’d need within reach. Dawn took great care of me. They both assured me that I’d be fine as I worried that I’d not know how to care for a newborn again…that I’d forget to change her diaper.

Tavia Redburn Photography

Dawn let Phil weigh Ada and announce her measurements…9 lb 2.5 oz & 21” long! I’m so proud, and I tell everyone what a big baby she was and that she was born at home in the water. She has been a wonderful addition to our family already and I just love her to pieces. I also think she helps Callen because he loves her so much. I wish I could really soak up these newborn days because I know how fast they fly by but I'll always remember what a trooper she has been on this trip to Denver that we needed to take right away to address some health problems with Callen.

**If you missed the other birth stories, here they are: Van, Callen, Adelaide, Zella, Jane, Gwendolyn.
Like Mikah, Keri also used Moments of Bliss Midwifery.  **

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Guest Mama: Gwendolyn's Birth

I'm so excited to share on this blog the very first story of a natural home birth! My guest mama writer is Mikah, who previously wrote Adelaide's story. After overcoming a difficult first birth to son Harvey Danger and then successfully giving birth to Adelaide Kay via unmedicated VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian), Mikah took things under her own control even further and decided to deliver her third little one, Gwendolyn Dare, with a midwife and doula in her own home. I have to admit that the idea of giving birth at home is divine--what I wouldn't give to be in my own sheets, pattering barefoot slowly through my own kitchen, rummaging through my own fridge, and not in a hospital following the births of my children! I haven't made that leap though, and as we are thinking we are likely done having children, I will just have to relish the stories of my home-birthing friends. Without further ado, please read the story of Gwendolyn Dare's birth, told in the words of mama Mikah.
The Birth of Gwendolyn Dare
I am holding on to my beautiful water-born baby as I am trying to find the words to describe her entrance into this world. Because she was born in the water and because of my love of fairy tales, I have decided to call her my little mermaid.

I woke up with a very uncomfortable contraction around 5:15AM on Thursday, September 4th. I lay there for a few minutes and decided to get up and have something to eat just in case this was it. I ate and rocked back and forth on my ball for a few minutes. Contractions were coming, but were very irregular. I went outside and walked our long driveway. My husband Jarrod woke up and we talked about what was happening. He wanted to stay home to get things ready. I insisted that he went to work. I was so unsure that this was the day because of the irregularity of my contractions. After he left, I went back up stairs to lie down, and I fell asleep for about an hour.

My children, Harvey and Adelaide, woke up. We had breakfast and got dressed. I was still contracting irregularly. The contractions were intense enough that I would have to stop talking during them. My babes had a hard time understanding why I wasn’t answering them at times.

I phoned my midwife Dawn around 8AM to tell her what was happening and see where she was doing clinic that day. She was in Oklahoma City, which is two hours from me.  We decided to give the breast pump a try to see if we could get the contractions to organize themselves. I turned on a movie for us to watch while I used the pump. It seems that soon after is when my contractions did start to even out to around 10-15 minutes apart. However, between taking care of two toddlers and the tidying up I was doing, I was not timing them and focusing on them as I should. I changed our sheets, swept, vacuumed, changed diapers, and prepared lunch as I normally would, leaning on the furniture and swaying my hips during contractions.

I talked to Jarrod and told him I was still unsure. We decided that he could leave work after lunchtime, and that I should call him to let him know. At 2PM I wrestled the kids up the stairs for nap time. Contractions were so strong at this point and about seven minutes apart.  I was able to lay Adelaide down, but did not even attempt to get Harvey down for a nap. I needed my husband. At 2:45PM, I called Jarrod to come home and called to update Dawn. I told Dawn I would call her in an hour to update.

Jarrod found me lying in bed with Harvey.  When he got there, I think I realized that I had been holding my body back. As soon as Jarrod got home, I was able to relax and labor the way I prefer. Having him home freed me to focus on the work my body was doing. I turned on some music and got on my ball. I inhaled essential oils and eventually got in the shower to let the hot water run on my back. While in the shower, Jarrod set up the birth pool with the help of Harvey, who was so fascinated and excited about “the baby being pulled from the water.” I was in the shower when I noticed just how fast things were moving, contractions rolling in at 5 minutes apart and so strong. It had only been 45 minutes, but at 3:30 I called my birth team and said that I needed them to head this way.  They were still in OKC at the time.

I dressed and got back on my ball. Jarrod joined me upstairs as I leaned on the bed, swayed on the ball, and held his hand through contractions. Jarrod told me he needed to finish getting the pool ready. He helped me down the stairs. My dad came home, concerned about the pain I was in. I again sat on my ball and leaned on the chair. Jarrod had a hard time with the pool. The pump we borrowed would not work right, hoses leaked, he forgot the liner, and the hot water ran out. He was problem-solving this while stopping to hold onto me during contractions, which were about three minutes apart now.  My sweet three-year-old son held my hands during a few contractions and offered me a drink of chocolate milk. The milk was not what I wanted, but I was amazed at his perception that mommy needed to just hold someone’s hand.  Then I threw up; I knew I was getting close, probably in transition. I really began to focus on the words of the music in the background. I can remember, “Take the World, but give me Jesus.” As contractions rolled and crashed in, I took comfort in those words and surrendered to what my body was doing.

Harvey helping out during a contraction
 My friend Adrea and her daughter Bailey arrived at about 5PM. I could not talk or even look up to acknowledge them. Adrea sat quietly, offering help where she could, and praying for me. Bailey helped keep the kids occupied in the next room. The pressure began to build up and by 5:30 I could not sit down during contractions. Adrea and Jarrod were boiling three pots of water at a time to fill up the pool.  At 6PM I told Jarrod that I was close and to call the midwife to see if they were lost. Because of construction, they were still about 20 minutes out. My mom arrived at around this time as well.

So, in the living room of the house I grew up in and the house Jarrod and I were married, I got into the pool ready to bring my baby into the world. The water felt so amazing. I do not talk during labor but I was able to look at Jarrod and say, “This feels wonderful.” The warmth helped soothe my back labor and the water made it easier to move and change positions, which is normally incredibly difficult for me this far into labor. They continued to bring in hot water from the stove at my request. I was able to lean back to rest and quickly move to my knees during a contraction. Jarrod knelt just on the outside of the pool and I would put my head to his and hold his hands to ground myself. To help relieve the pain, I began to follow my body’s urge to push. I kept looking at the clock knowing that soon the midwife and doula would be here.

Around 6:20PM the midwife Dawn and her doula assistant Brandy arrived with smiles and set to work. Dawn told me I was doing great and that she would check me if I wanted. Brandy quickly came in to check the baby’s heart rate. Baby sounded great and was very low; I could tell by were she held the Doppler. Dawn came in to check me at my request. I was at 9 ½, very soft, my water was still intact, with baby’s head at a 1+ station. Dawn told me to do what I felt was best. I told her it was more comfortable to push. I stayed leaning back for a few minutes to prepare myself, then moved to my knees and leaned over the side of the pool and on Jarrod. I began to push, gently because honestly my body was doing most of the work.

My water broke and it was clear. After that, things went so fast. I continued to lean head to head with Jarrod and pushed. It was so gentle and controlled that Jarrod had to ask if I was pushing. I told him it hurt and then I felt the ring of fire, so amazing. It was then that I put a little more effort into my pushing. Dawn said she heard me moan and rushed in. I said, “The baby is coming!” and out came the head. Jarrod went around to catch the baby and I had to ask if they were ready before pushing out the body. I quickly turned around and grabbed baby. We were all so happy. I looked up and my parents were beaming and in ran both Harvey and Adelaide.

A warm towel was quickly thrown over us. Brandy sucked out the baby’s mouth. I then got to look and see what little person we had been given. A little girl, with long black hair, born at 6:37PM and her name is Gwendolyn, my little mermaid. She was born just 17 minutes after the birth team arrived, beautifully and gently. I was amazed at her, especially her hair, and we talked about how different she looked. I relaxed there in the water as we waited for the cord to quit pulsing and to deliver the placenta. I let her do the breast crawl and begin nursing, which she took to right away.

Gwendolyn, eyes open

I have normally ended my birth stories here, but I must add to this because the care and attention I received from Dawn and Brandy was wonderful. I wish every woman was treated with such respect during and after birth. Delivering in the water was very protective of my modesty, which I did not think was possible during birth.

After I delivered the placenta, Dawn and Brandy helped me out of the pool and got me on the couch. Her daddy and family held Gwendolyn while they checked on me. I had no need for stitches and I told Dawn she was my hero for telling me this! I just rested on the couch while baby doll nursed and was held skin-to-skin. Every 15 minutes I was given an herbal remedy to ease after-birth pains and my blood pressure and temperature were checked. Dawn and Brandy cleaned up the pool and my parents cooked dinner. All of her measurements were done right there close.  Then Dawn sat with me and wrote out her birth certificate info and did her footprints. They helped me to go to the bathroom and got me ready for dinner. Brandy also went upstairs to prepare my bed and bathroom. When I went to bed that night, everything was so neatly set up and easily accessible. I think she might have even wiped our toilet down. Brandy also delivered my placenta for encapsulation. They stayed for several hours cleaning and caring for baby and me. The next day, Dawn came back to our house to check on us.
Open-mouthed kisses with sister Adelaide

The Danger loves his newest little family member
 I have spent the last week trying to breathe in every bit of Gwendolyn’s newness. Her birth was perfect. Giving birth is hard work and requires everything you have, and eventually you have to surrender yourself to the amazing creation you are.

**Mikah chose to utilize services from Moments of Bliss Midwifery.**

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Boy's First Official Race

The proud mommy

The pep talk from Pop
The gun fires
 (notice Grammy pushing George and Van in the blue double stroller to the right!)

The little brothers

The big finish

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pop Quiz

Which of these things has happened in the last week?

a. Van spat up a dead fly.
b. Silas wore the same outfit two days in a row, unwashed in between.
c. George enjoyed a sucker at 9:30 one morning.
d. I ate a big piece of chocolate cake whilst watching "American Ninja Warrior" until 1AM during a night of single mommyhood.

Okay, fine, you got me. They're all true. In my defense, Silas asked to wear his t-shirt and shorts to sleep in, and the next morning as I was frantically getting ready for work I saw him already dressed and thought, "Yippee! One less thing to do!" Four hours later it randomly hit me that it was all the same clothes. As far as George, we were on day four without daddy, I was on the phone dealing with strange and unsettling extended-family medical circumstances, and it seemed a great way to keep him quiet for a couple of minutes. As far as Van, there's no telling. I'd like to think the boy is a master at killing flies in mid-air. Most likely, however, he just found a dead one on a windowsill. I have since detailed my windowsills.

I'm a little scattered at times, but I still can rock this mommyhood thing. Just ask these guys!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Hand Tied

Last week in the news, one of the primary topics (sadly) was the hacking and leakage of nude photos of several female celebrities, most notably Jennifer Lawrence. Images that were taken by these women and were intended for private, personal use were hacked from their cell phones and put on the internet for a world of Peeping Toms to see. Apple has reported that the leakage was not due to a vulnerability of iCloud, but the images were taken from online storage devices that I can't begin to explain. See BJ's blog if you're interested in that techy kind of stuff.

Much of the response to this exploitation seems reasonable to me: a large number of individuals see this as a breach of moral conduct on the part of the hackers, believe that the hackers should pay for their crimes (yes, I said crimes), and do not place blame upon those whose photos were stolen. There is a subset of society, however, that immediately lashed out at Lawrence and others, blaming them for their role in the 'scandal' and admonishing them to do better next time. I won't even link to these latter articles because I don't want to draw further attention to them.

The complexity of problems within this culture is too large in breadth to expand upon here, but much of it boils down to one very large dysfunction: the sexualization and objectification of women. It is undoubtedly one of the largest problems that our society has created, and it is also one of society's biggest stumbling blocks in terms of social progress. If women are not viewed as more than what they can do for men sexually, then this country is essentially operating with one arm tied behind its back. We will never succeed and reach our potential as a collective unit if one half of us is limited by the other--generally speaking, as I am fully aware that there are decent, active men working to silence the idiots amongst us.

Why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? The 'blame the victim' mentality held by so many people, including many women, is as damaging a notion to the women's rights movement as has ever existed. Doesn't a woman have the right to wear the clothes she wants without being held responsible for how it makes a man feel? Doesn't a woman have a right to have a drink too many and not get sexually taken advantage of? Isn't it unfair that a woman gets raped by a turned-on male who says he couldn't help himself because she was 'asking for it' by the way she looked or the way she flirted with him? Doesn't it suck that a woman can get raped by a man and, when she tries to press charges against him, the fact that she was drunk is a strike against HER? And here, with the Jennifer Lawrence situation, isn't it scary that a woman can take nude photos in the context of a private relationship, have those photos unethically hacked, and then we turn to her and chide her for not being more responsible, for not having stronger passwords or for having a nude photo of herself in the first place? Imagine this for a moment: replace the words "Jennifer Lawrence" with "small business" and replace " nude photos" with "financial statements." If a hacker got into iCloud and accessed the financials of a business, then blackmailed that business and made their account information available for all to see, that would be a legal issue. What in the world is the difference? Is it because Jennifer Lawrence is a person and not a business? Or is it because the nature of what was leaked is not as important as money---it's only the body of a woman?

So, again, why is this country so uncomfortable with the idea of women having sexual rights? I think it's because, in acknowledging those rights, society has to embrace the notion that women are individuals with faces, aspirations, and personalities--and sacrifice the deeply, long-held notions that women are just faceless bodies, just hot commodities to compare or disparage, just bitches when they're angry and hos when they're participants in sexual activities, just punching bags when others are angry. When we as a society can learn that a woman has a voice and right when it comes to her own decisions and her own body, and that her body is for herself to share with whomever she chooses, then a huge number of problems in this country will begin to subside. We will see less violence against women. We will see less pornography. We'll see more women contributing with their full potential, in whatever way they feel most enriched, and we will see more fulfilling sexual relationships. We will see more legal action when women are sexually exploited, and we will see less blaming the victim when sexual assaults do take place. We will see a return to the normalization of breastfeeding in public, because people will reject the notion that breasts are purely sexual objects and thus won't be disgusted and uncomfortable with the idea of using boobs to feed babies. We will essentially see a country operating with no hands behind its back, with all of its brains and talents being used to drive us full-throttle into the betterment of life for us all. Be you female or male, use your voices, and use them for good.You may be surprised to find out just how loud and strong they are.

Sesame Street approves!

For a similar past musing, check it.