Thursday, August 24, 2017

Best year ever.

A year ago today, I found out I was pregnant.

I had an in-service meeting at school, and in between our morning and afternoon sessions, we all went to Perkins for lunch. I stopped at CVS before going to lunch and bought a "Clear Blue" test, you know, the one that says "pregnant" for easy affirmation. The test from the day before was a cheapo one with the lines, and was hard to get a good reading.

I remember feeling really excited and weird during lunch.

During the morning session, our principal asked each teacher, "How was your Summer?" "How are you doing?" I really wanted to say, "I think I am pregnant!!" But of course kept calm and said we had a nice Summer working in the garden.

When I got home from school, I couldn't wait to take the test. The longest five minutes of your life is when you're waiting for the results. The word "pregnant" in dark gray letters showed up.

That following weekend, we were going camping at a bluegrass festival in New York. This was our fourth year going. It was a beautiful weekend. Walking around the campgrounds, I imagined what it would be like in subsequent years. We would have a little baby with us! What a strange and amazing thought!

Let's fast forward to today, to this year.

I am holding my sleeping little one, almost four months old.

My husband said this morning that the bluegrass festival is this weekend.
We won't be there. Cecilia is pretty little and my husband has farmer's markets on Friday and Saturday.

He said something else that totally threw me off guard. "It'll only be a few years more that we could go the the festival, since school starts the next Monday..."


Our little one is going up be in kindergarten in a few short years.

I don't think I can handle this.

Please  stay little.
Don't grow too fast.

What a year it has been.

I still catch myself thinking these two things:
"I'm 31 and I have a baby??"

I am in my 30s. That just sounds so old to me. Yes, I know it isn't old. Don't get all offended, please. Thinking about kids going off to college or even thinking about high school and the person I was. That seems like a lifetime ago. About twelve years since high school. Oh, goodness. Why did I have to do that math?

It's official. I am old.

A couple weeks ago, we went out on our first date night sans baby. We went to an Italian restaurant before going to a show, and I was really looking forward to a glass of wine. (I wouldn't have to breastfeed and I even wore a regular shirt!)The waitress didn't card me. Yep, I am old.

I guess Riesling is a more sophisticated beverage choice?

Thinking about the [obvious] fact I am a parent still boggles my mind. I have a little person to take care of. She is helpless. Long gone are the lazy mornings, sleeping in. Baby girl will wake me up and be hungry or need a diaper change. So long to the daily shower. (They are a hot commodity now.)

The positives outweigh it all.

The smiles she gives, the cuddles, her little hand holding tightly to my shirt as she nurses, seeing her grow and develop everyday.

Best year ever. <3

Saturday, August 12, 2017

is homesteading a fancy or a feeling?

I found myself standing at the counter shelling peas yesterday, wearing Cecilia in the ring sling since she was not wanting to nap anywhere else.

As I stood there, trying to catch my stride, breaking the stem, pulling the pea's string and opening the pod just right to slide my thumb down to finesse the peas into the Pyrex bowl, a pea shoots out and hits me and one falls on the floor.

My high school self wouldn't even know me.

It's hard to pin point when I started wanting to seek a more self-sustaining lifestyle. It has been a gradual process, of course. I think it started shortly after I got married. I began baking bread instead of buying it, and volunteered at an organic vegetable farm.

Fast forward seven years and I'm living on a farm, where we have chickens and my husband grows vegetables. It is a slippery slope, my friends.

It took me an hour and ten minutes to shell two gallon bags of peas. The thought that a bag of frozen peas cost $1.49 is insane. Also, insane that I am spending seventy minutes shelling peas, in addition to blanching and freezing them myself. (Of said peas, I only got eight cups of peas, equaling four quart bags of two cups each.) I'm a novice pea sheller, so give me a break. The third bag went a little faster.

My husband and I have been drawn to the homesteading idea for quite a while.

I'm not to the point where I'm weaving the fabric for our homemade clothes from the sheep in the backyard or milking the goats. (Milking goats is more attainable of a goal, but I secretly want sheep... the idea of spinning and dying yarn sounds so magical.)

With a little one in our lives now, I am more driven to keep farming and working the land in the forefront. I want her to know where her food comes from and what responsibility is.  Yes, my husband and I both have smart phones and we own a TV, but I hope that Cecilia chooses to chase barn cats and pick dandelion bouquets over watching a video on some screen.

Oh, but being a new Mama and trying to pick green beans and snow peas... it isn't easy. We have, what we call the "baby pod," that we put Cecilia in. It's a little screened in playpen with dangling toys to keep little ones entertained. I put the baby pod at the end of the garden bed and furiously pick in baskets until I hear her cry. Mostly it's because she's wiggled so much her body is perpendicular to where she was and her head is hitting the side of the pod. I did attempt to pick beans while holding her and, as you can imagine, it went amazingly slow.

The goal of most parents is to make a life for their children better than their own, but my husband and I both had really good childhoods. I remember swimming for hours in our pool and taking really long bike rides on back roads. (I also remember eating lots of Doritos and Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies and watching TRL everyday after school.)

Homesteading is a lesson of patience and hard work, among many other things.

Shelling peas wasn't something I had planned on doing... ever, but the seed company we order from accidently mixed their snap pea seeds with shelling peas. It was a lesson in slowing down and appreciating the time and energy required to enjoy the food. How often do we mindlessly eat, and just shovel food in our mouths because we're bored? Working for our food isn't necessary anymore and an office job doesn't allow us to.

I desire a slower, more intentional life.

I'm still going to want to go out for ice cream and ask for rainbow sprinkles.

I'm not perfect.

And I can guarantee that these peas will be saved for some really special occasions. <3

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Time is flying by

Wow. It has been well over a month since my last post. The days are just flying by. I was so fortunate last month to be able to see my friends from high school two weekends in a row! First weekend was for my baby shower and then for my friend's baby shower the following weekend.

The four of us, have kept in contact over the years and I am so blessed to have them in my life. Our friendship has now entered a new phase- Motherhood. It is amazing to see how we have changed as we have taken on this new role as Moms.

My friend told me that when her husband came home from work and asked her what she did that day, she said, "I have been busy all day, but I can't tell you what I did."

This is so true.

Being home with a baby keeps you busy, but how did the day go by so fast? Where did it go?

Having the responsibility of taking care of a little human is exhausting, but so fulfilling.

In my last post, I talked about balancing things out- tasks on my to-do list, both necessities and desires. I'm still working on that. I think I will be constantly be juggling everything and trying to find time to shower.

I still haven't sewn a dress for Cecilia and I have, unfortunately, missed the window of opportunity. (The dress won't fit her now.)

I have done some other creative projects recently. They have been enjoyable to work on, but it has been more of a challenge since it requires much more time to complete anything.

I crocheted a panda bear for my friend who is having a baby at the end of the month,

I sewed a dress for my friend's baby who just turned one,

and crocheted a cute ski hat for another friend who just had a little one in June.

I am slowly knitting a hat for Cecilia. By this rate it should be done by the time snow flies. I just haven't had the time to sit and work on it. Or if I do have the time, I'm either catching up on dishes, laundry or sitting on the couch trying to catch my breath.

I feel like time is flying by. It's hard to believe it has been three months since my little girl's memorable debut.

Let the adventure continue. <3

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Balancing act

I used to do a lot of things, like sew, crochet, sleep, shower...

Am I sad about it? Not really.

Priorities have been all switched up.

Parenting is a balancing act. Trying to accomplish everything on the to-do list isn't so much a top priority when you have a newborn. I mean, yes, I still do our laundry and vacuum. I haven't given up basic responsibilities, but I don't get upset when I can't get to a task right away.

Since we didn't know Cecilia was going to be a girl, I didn't make any cute girly things for her. I started making a Pinterest board of baby things to make before I was even pregnant. (I did crochet a cardigan, but my gauge was way off and so it won't fit her until she's in preschool. And I crocheted a pair of baby loafers and booties- gender neutral, just to be safe.)  I borrowed a dress pattern from my mother-in-law and have had the pieces cut out for about... two weeks. Good night. It's not even a hard pattern. I've made it a couple times already for friends' babies. When I get around to my "normal" tasks like dishes and laundry, there isn't much time for sewing.

Another thing that I haven't made time for is working out. I remember feeling large and in charge and looking forward to being able to do regular workouts with higher intensity. I'm only five weeks out from my delivery, so it's still early. But I'm going to be honest with you-- my recovery was pretty quick, as in, I felt pretty much 100%-back-to-normal after two weeks. In my defense, I am still adjusting to my new sleep schedule or lack there of. Getting up early to workout when I've only gotten a few hours of sleep isn't real appetizing. I would rather sleep in a little bit more and eat a donut. That sounds good to me.

Getting up in the middle of the night isn't my favorite, but when I sit down to nurse Cecilia, my selfishness fades away and I only see her. A minute before, she was crying and so upset, and then as she eats, her eyes close and she cuddles up close to me. She is at peace. She is content.

When she's done and smiles in her sleep, that right there makes it all worth it.

Last night when she fell asleep as I tried to burp her on my shoulder, her little mouth was slightly open. Her little bottom lip hung out as she snored quietly, it was perfect.

It's funny to think about what life will be with a baby when you don't have kids yet. People say, "What did I do before my baby? I don't even remember!"  Pssh, of course I remember. I used to only do things for my husband and I. There was only the two of us. Now, in this stage of life, there's a newborn that needs constant attention. It won't always be this way. Someday, our little one will be more independent and won't want to cuddle or be soothed.

Babies are only little for a short while. I will get back to sewing and crocheting.
(Well, I hope I can get this dress sewn, so Cecilia can wear it...) There's always naptime. How do you think I had time to write this? <3

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What helped me during my [natural] labor

From the get go, I wanted a natural birth and by natural, I mean no drugs, no interventions, a let-my-body-do-its-thing birth. Here are the things that were helpful in achieving this:

Read- a lot. To get my head in the game, to be all in, I read. If you read my labor & delivery story, you may have noticed I wrote "I had read that..." a few times. I hadn't noticed this until my last entry how many times it occurred, but it's true. I read as much as I could about birth. The process of birth, what happens at each stage during birth, many different scenarios, possible complications...

I remember my first meeting with my midwife. She was (and still is) very straight forward. When I told her I wanted a natural birth she asked me, "How hard are you willing to work?"


That was not what I expected, but it is true. It's called labor for a reason. It is not easy. It is work. Your head needs to be in it or you'll start asking for medicine as soon as you feel the slightest bit scared.

In all my reading that I did, I soaked in as many empowering birth stories as I could. They weren't all easy births, many had set backs or difficulties, but a woman's body is an amazing thing. It was designed to give birth! And then afterwards, it feeds that living thing!! (Even only being a Mama for three weeks, I feel like a superhero- making, carrying, birthing and feeding another human being with my body. That is powerful stuff!)

I read Ina's Spiritual Midwifery and her Guide to Childbirth. I also read Sheila Kitzinger's The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth and The Mama Natural Week-to-week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth, by Genevieve Howland was great, too. (I even brought it to the hospital with me.)

Watch birth stories. I remember telling some ladies at church that I'd been watching births, and my friend Cathy exclaimed, "Oh, honey! Why?!" She couldn't believe it, and to many, that may sound traumatizing.  I wanted to see the reality of birth. I wasn't going to believe what I'd seen on tv or in the movies. It's not all yelling and screaming. Many births I watched didn't look like the Mama was in much pain. (Not saying that she wasn't, but she was probably mentally prepared for the task at hand.) YouTube was a place I looked up birth videos and

Take a birthing class. I was skeptical at first about taking a Lamaze class, but my midwife recommended it. I have to say that it was good for my husband to hear a lot that I had read about. We watched some birth stories in the class and it made my husband really nervous. For me, it just gave me more confidence in what my body was capable of doing. If all these women can get through those contractions, can endure the long labor and all the pain that goes with it, so can I.

Learning how to breathe through the contractions is what I took away from Lamaze. I felt really silly sitting on the floor next to my husband during class, with my eyes closed, practicing breathing, but that's what got me through the first stage of labor. During a contraction, I closed my eyes and did the "candle breathing" as it's called. I didn't focus on anything else, except breathing.

Jump in the tub. The Jacuzzi tub in my labor and delivery room was amazing! Water alleviates back pain, especially if the tub has jets. Turn them on! The warm water is so soothing, too. At my hospital, they were able to continue fetal monitoring while I was in the tub, so I didn't have to get in and out to be checked. If you're giving birth in a hospital, make sure you get to tour the facility. Be familiar with it, so you aren't surprised by something that is or isn't there. 

Surround yourself with people who encourage your choice for a natural birth. As soon as people find out you're pregnant, all the Mamas in your life will tell you their stories and experiences, whether you ask them to or not. To me, one of the most amazing things about child birth is that every single birth is different. Just because your Mom or sister had a long, hard labor, doesn't mean you will. You need to choose people that will help you through the process.

There are so many choices to make during labor: Do I want my water broken or wait for it to happen on its own? Do I want to be medically induced or try some natural induction methods? Do I want an epidural? Do I want to labor in bed, in a tub or walk around? (This is where a birth plan comes in...)

Pick a healthcare provider that is on your side. Whether it is an OB or midwife, you want someone that knows your wishes for birth and won't push interventions on you that you don't want (break your water, give you Pitocin or an epidural, which may lead to a C-section if they don't work the way they're supposed to). My midwife, Kim, was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I needed to get through my labor and delivery.

If it so happens that you need an intervention and you need an unplanned C-section, at the end of it all, a healthy Baby and healthy Mama are all that matter.

I am one of the crazies that wanted to experience child birth the way it is- raw and intense. That's not how everyone feels. Many Mamas opt for an epidural. It is each Mama's choice and birth, however it is, is a beautiful thing. <3

Friday, May 19, 2017

My labor & delivery story, Part 4: I thought for sure I was having a boy

My midwife, Kim, said, "Fill up you lungs, hold your breath and push like you've never been so constipated in your life."

I pushed about three times per contraction. Kim said I could push a fourth time or rest. I preferred to rest.

I still felt like I wasn't open enough, but she told me to push. Pressure increased and Kim said, "Give me your right hand. Feel that? That's your baby's head."

I couldn't believe it! I was so close!

After about twenty minutes of pushing, out came the head. One more contraction and out came the body. The body was easier than the head!

The next thing I heard was Renee exclaim, "It's a girl!"
"What?!" I said in disbelief. We hadn't found out what we were having, but I thought for sure I was going to have a boy.

Kim had to unwrap the umbilical cord from around the baby's waist and made a comment about her jumping rope. After a minute, Kim asked Renee to cut the cord.

Next, Kim started pushing on my abdomen, which hurt quite a bit, to help my uterus expel the placenta. I felt a jelly like object come out and Kim held it up proudly. "Look at that! A placenta is one of the most amazing things. You can take it home and use it as fertilizer in your garden or for the tree you're going to plant for the baby."

Kim wiped off the baby, who was on my chest, then kissed my forehead. "You did excellent, my dear! You were born to have babies!" Then she congratulated Renee and gave her a hug. I needed just two stitches, which hurt a bit, and then got cleaned up.

Our baby girl was born at 6:34pm, weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces and was 20" long. (About 5 1/2 hours after my water broke!)

Renee was taking pictures with her camera, so I asked her to use my phone, too. She didn't know how to use it, so at first she took some selfies and then little videos of me and the Baby, (I saved the videos because they are fun to watch and remember) then finally, she took some pictures.

Twenty minutes after Baby arrived, my husband walked in the room. He couldn't believe he missed the birth. I remember him saying, "What?? Really?!" When he was told he had a girl. I still remember the smile on his face- it didn't ever go away.

Renee had been undergoing radiation treatment at the time, but had to cancel her appointment for that afternoon because she was with me. She left shortly after her son got there. Later, she told me she was getting shaky because she was really hungry. She hadn't eaten since lunch time and it was almost seven o'clock at night. Renee gave me a hug and kiss and said she was thankful she could see her second granddaughter be born.

Another nurse came in and asked if I wanted to take a shower. I rinsed off and then after a bit of story swapping with my husband, and skin to skin time with our baby girl, we went down to our recovery room on the maternity floor.

It was about 9 o'clock when we got to our room and I was really hungry! It was too late to order room service, so we got sandwiches delivered from Jimmy John's. Because Renee drove me to the hospital, my car was still at my sister-in-law's, and because my labor was so fast, my husband's coworker ended up driving them right to the hospital instead of dropping my husband off to get his truck, so delivery was our only option.

It took us until the next morning to decide on a name.

Our baby girl was named Cecilia Rose. It wasn't the name that I thought I'd pick, but again, I wasn't even expecting a girl.

She is so precious and sweet. We think it fits her perfectly. <3

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My labor & delivery story, Part 3: Steadily more intense

We went right to triage and up to the labor and delivery floor. The nurses strapped me up to the monitor for fifteen minutes. One nurse put in an IV site, just for emergency reasons, if something were to happen and I needed one.

Kim got there after a bit and asked, "Are you ready to get in the tub?"
I asked, "Has it been fifteen minutes? The nurses said I needed twenty minutes of monitoring."
"They listen to me. I'm the boss. You're ready for the tub," Kim replied.

As I took off my gown and just had a sleep nursing bra on I thought, "Renee is going to see a lot more of me than she ever has before."

I was in the tub for a while, but can't say for how long. Time passed by fast. Contractions got steadily more intense. I just did my candle breathing I learned from Lamaze and held onto the two bars on the sides of the tub. I bent my knees and would move my feet to try to get through each contraction.

Renee finally got a hold of my husband. I heard her ask, "Where are you? Colleen is in labor! Do you want to talk to her?"

She handed me the phone and I heard my husband say, "Hey babe, how's it going?" in a softer, more gentle voice than usual.
I said, "I'm OK. Where are you?" Then a contraction started and I couldn't talk.
He asked, "Are you there?"
"Yes, I'm having a contraction."
"You sound like you're doing really well. I'm proud of you. You're doing great. I love you."
"I love you, too."

During my labor, I occasionally heard the nurses say, "You're doing awesome" or "great breathing." Maybe that would be helpful for some people, but I really just wanted quiet and to focus on breathing through each contraction. Renee sat on the couch crocheting a prayer shawl. She knew I was doing well on my own. She would get me water when I asked for it and gave me some chapstick to use.

One time, Kim was right next to the tub as I opened my eyes. She asked me if I liked the smell of lavender. I said yes and she put some essential oil on my temples and on a tissue that floated in the water directly under my chin.

After a bit, I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. I remember reading that you should keep your bladder empty to help during labor. I couldn't remember how long it had been since I'd gone to the bathroom. The nurses had a large, warm towel for me and after my next contraction, I shuffled over to the bathroom.

I don't know how long I sat on the toilet for, but Kim brought a stool over and sat right in front of me.  I was slightly bent forward with my hands on my thighs. Kim told me to slow my breathing down and then I started to moan and groan. There was a lot of pressure and I felt like I needed to push, but I didn't feel dilated enough to do so. Kim had to keep reminding me to moan lower in my throat, to not strain or tense up.

I was getting really sweaty. I was dripping onto the floor and my hands started sliding down my legs. I wanted to lay down and get more comfortable. I shuffled over to the bed and laid on my left side. I knew I didn't want to labor on my back and I didn't want to squat because I read that may increase chances of tearing.

Kim had ice cold wash cloths and put them on my neck and head. They felt so nice! When I had really close contractions and the urge to push, Kim said I could. She then asked Renee to be the towel lady and take over putting new cold cloths on my forehead. Renee didn't feel like she had done much, but having her be there was a comfort. I didn't want to be there alone in this moment.

I held onto the handle on the side of the bed. When Kim said to push during my next contraction, I just held on tighter.