Monday, February 28, 2011

DIY: Rice Sock

One of the gazillion items on the list of items I had to gather for our homebirth was a rice sock. I decided it wouldn't be too hard to make, and a quick Google search turned up this tutorial.

Here's how I did it:
  1. I found a pair of clean, sturdy socks at a second-hand shop. I picked a pair of long socks that would stretch nicely around my neck. I used one for the rice sock and one for a tennis ball (which was another item on my birthing list to help with back labor).
  2. I pushed the toe end of the sock in to make a straight line. I used a sturdy zig-zag stitch to stitch across the line several times.Justify Full
  3. I filled the sock with two bags of rice. I kind of wish I would have added more, since the sock starts to stretch out after a while and the rice spreads farther apart.
  4. I folded the other end in and again used a zig-zag stitch to sew across the line several times.
  5. I microwaved the sock for two minutes at a time about 50 times in an attempt to get the moisture and the rice smell out of it.

And that's it! When I want to heat it up, I usually put it in the microwave for 1.5 minutes. So nice!

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Saturday, February 26, 2011


I think this is it! I'm having consistent contractions. I promise to update all of you whenever I update my face-to-face friends.

Thank you all for your continued support, advice, and insight. I am so thankful to have you in my life!

See you on the other side...

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Thursday, February 24, 2011


I used to be a microwave popcorn girl. Then I started reading the ingredients (or not being able to read them), and I decided to make the switch to stove-top popcorn. It's so incredibly easy that I will never go back. I thought I would share my process, in case any of you are interested!

  • Pour olive oil into the bottom of a medium sauce pan (that has a lid).
  • Let it heat up on medium heat.
  • When it's hot, add a layer of kernels to the pan.
  • Cover the pot.
  • When the first kernel pops, start moving the pan side to side on the burner. This prevents any of the popcorn from burning.
  • Vigorous popping will ensue.
  • Keep moving the pan quickly and steadfastly.
  • As soon as the popping slows, turn off the heat and dump the popcorn into a bowl. Usually, all my kernels are popped and nothing is burned!

What are your favorite toppings to add to popcorn?

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our Baby Registry

Being a new mom and trying to figure out what kind of things we would need for the baby was a little daunting. Fortunately, I created a baby registry early during my pregnancy and simply added items to it as things occurred to me.

It also helped that I started reading about infant care early on in the process. I found that there really wasn't that much to learn about pregnancy, and I saved the birthing books until closer to my due date. When I read about how to take a baby's temperature in Heading Home with Your Newborn, for example, I added a thermometer to our registry. When I watched a DVD about how to soothe your baby, I ordered large swaddling blankets.

Using the registry was a cinch. I was able to add a button to my toolbar that said "Add to Registry," which meant I could go to any website and add any product from any store to the registry.

If you're interested in seeing what we registered for to inspire your own list, you can check out our registry on Amazon.

Once I get the hang of this whole motherhood thing, I'll do a post about the specific products that are indispensable to our family. It can vary so much from family to family!

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simple, Montessori Toys

We received another item off our baby registry, which was the infant bell from Nienhuis Montessori. Its simplicity and beauty are striking. I'm a little embarrassed by how much time I could spend holding and looking at it!

I am so in love with the Montessori idea of using natural materials and paring down an object's stimulation factor to just the proper dose. The trapped bell is highly likely to provide the perfect amount of stimulation for a little baby. The object doesn't also have to be rainbow-colored, blinking, and playing a lullaby.

I think it's hard to remember that what stimulates a baby is different from what stimulates an adult. We have developed the capacity to tune out extraneous stimuli, while babies tend to absorb it all.

Of course implementing Montessori isn't just about the prepared environment and the perfect objects. It's about carefully observing how the child interacts with the environment and modifying it to meet the baby's developmental needs.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Freshly-Squeezed Orange Juice

There are plenty of ways in which I prioritize convenience over homemade quality. Whenever we make pizza, for example, we buy ready-made dough from the Whole Foods pizza section. Or if I need to make cookies and I'm short on time, I grab one of those tubes (or, if I'm really in a hurry, I get the kind that is already divided into squares).

However, whenever we have friends over for breakfast, I try my very best to always make freshly-squeezed orange juice. Nothing compares to it! I simply buy a big bag of cheap oranges from the store and break out the $5 juicer I found on Craigslist.

Freshly-squeezed orange juice just makes everything in the world feel right (even if I take lots of other shortcuts on the rest of the meal!).

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Family Mission Statement

Image courtesy Volume Twenty Five

Matt and I finished writing our Family Mission Statement together. We need to figure out where to put it, so we revisit it quite frequently. If we don't return to it often, it's likely to become a "dead document."

Hmm...maybe I could use this DIY Ketubah kit from the lovely Tsilli to make a really pretty document that we frame?

Or perhaps I could hire someone on Etsy to design a cool poster for us?

Or maybe I could buy a print that Matt and I already agree is cool and somehow incorporate the text into it (like the print featured above)?

I know! I could get this frame from IKEA and use one of the spots for the print above, one for our mission statement, and one for a picture of our family. I'm liking this idea! Maybe I'll give it to Matt as a Father's Day present?

Anyway, here's what we came up with for our Family Mission Statement. I still think we need to go back and flesh out what each of the general principles means in practice, but we'll see:

We are a family that...

  • Prioritizes health and wellness.
  • Resolves problems, issues, and conflict respectfully and in a constructive rather than destructive way.
  • Does professional work that is meaningful, enjoyable, fulfilling, and good for the world.
  • Maintains a daily pace of life that allows us time to laugh together, express our love and appreciation for each other, and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Shares responsibilities equitably but covers for each other when needed.
  • Cultivates community and connection among friends, family, and neighbors and continuously seeks to expand our circle.
  • Aligns our lifestyle choices and actions with our concern for the environment.
  • Keeps our living spaces organized, calming, welcoming, relaxing, de-cluttered, and beautiful.
  • Continually explores the world through travel.
  • Maintains traditions and rituals around daily and weekly routines (like eating home-cooked meals together and prioritizing conversation and connection while eating), celebrations, and sicknesses.
  • Builds up trust through our daily interactions with each other.
  • Patiently supports and celebrates each other as we pursue our individual interests and passions.

I guess I should read the chapter in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families about writing a family mission statement before I finalize ours into some kind of frame! (Then again, it should be a living, growing document anyway, so I should frame it in a way that is amenable to revision...)

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Third Trimester Pregnancy Advice

Now that I'm officially one day overdue, I figure I'm qualified to share my advice for the third trimester of pregnancy...

  1. Don's Assume Others' Experiences Will Be Your Own: Honestly, I was dreading the third trimester because of everything I had ever read or heard about it. I thought my back would ache, I couldn't sleep, I would be tired of being pregnant--yada, yada, yada. For me, none of that is true (probably because of everything I did in the first trimester and second trimester). I am still happy to carry my little boy around with me wherever I go. I cherish each passing day that I get to spend with Matt alone. I am thankful for a little more time to get things ready for our little coconut.
  2. Savor Each Stage: One of the ways to have a positive third trimester is to maintain a positive attitude about it--which might be easier said than done, depending on your experience! Of course there are negative things to focus on. For example, I wake up every 1-2 hours throughout the night to use the restroom and then I have to roll my entire belly across to the other side and reposition the pillows that I use between my legs and along my torso. Yes, it's an inconvenience, but it pales in comparison to the amazingness of growing a new life. I could also choose to focus on how much I miss the ease of my pre-pregnancy body. But I don't because I realize that this stage is my life is so relatively short. It will be over before I know it, and I should enjoy it while I'm in it. Case in point: When I was going for a walk one afternoon, I ran into two different women along two different spots on the trail who both used to be in my prenatal yoga class. I asked both of them for some advice, and both of them said, "Enjoy being pregnant!" Both of them had been eager to "get it over with" and they later regretted it because they missed being pregnant.
  3. Be Particularly Conscious with Your Nutrition: Nutrition matters a lot throughout your pregnancy (both for the baby and for you), but it matters a whole lot during the third trimester. Your baby is putting on weight rapidly, and you want to eat as healthily as possible to keep your total weight gain reasonable. The recommended total weight gain for pregnancy is 25-35 pounds. I have gained 27 pounds, and I think keeping it on the low end of the spectrum has really helped me have a positive experience. It's not hard to carry this baby around! I can still work full-time, walk for an hour several times a week, and go to yoga (taking daily naps helps a lot!). I also don't have any stretch marks (which are partly genetic, but my mom does have them).
  4. Stay Hydrated: I think I add this to every list I make about being healthy. Water helps do so much. During pregnancy, it helps reduce swelling, and does a whole bunch of other stuff. I think it's easy to neglect hydration because it takes effort. You've got to keep your water bottle around at all times, and it means that you have to set aside an inordinate amount of time to make trips to the restroom. But it's worth it!
  5. Maintain Your Healthy Habits: I am a little more tired during the third trimester, and for the first part of this last trimester, I felt like I had a gazillion things to do to get ready for the baby. However, it's still important to maintain all your healthy habits from the first and second trimesters. For me, that looks like frequent walks, a weekly prenatal yoga class, a daily nap, no refined sugar, a green smoothie every morning, protein with every meal and snack, daily relaxation, etc.
  6. Work from a Prioritized To-Do List: It's very possible that you won't get everything done that you want to get done before the baby arrives (especially since a baby is considered full-term a couple weeks before your due date). When you might not get everything done, it is absolutely critical to do the most important things first. It's often difficult to do the most important things first because they are generally not as fun as some of the other items. But you'll thank yourself later if your list doesn't get done but the most important things are.
  7. Remember that a "Due Range" Makes More Sense than a "Due Date": The vast majority of people do not deliver their babies on their due dates. Instead, the healthy, normal range is two weeks before and two weeks after (assuming your due date was even configured accurately in the first place!). Don't think you have until your due date to get everything done, and don't start getting panicky and impatient once your due date passes. It is what it is. Your baby will come when s/he is ready.
  8. Adequately Prepare for Your Birth: Giving birth is a big deal. You are not only bringing a new life into the world, you are also giving birth to yourself as a mother and to your expanded family. To prepare, I have read lots of books about the experience, attended a childbirth class, watched lots of videos, written letters to myself, journaled about my fear, visualized the experience, and done guided relaxations. Each of us needs to figure out what kind of preparation we need to do for ourselves and then do it!
  9. Take Care of the Safety Stuff: Matt and I attended an infant CPR class and had our car seat professionally installed (for free). I highly recommend both of these to-do items!
  10. Continue Bonding with Your Baby: Your baby is aware of its surroundings even more than ever. Continue talking to your baby, reading to him/her, dancing, singing, massaging your belly, etc.
  11. Get Your Support System in Place: You'll likely want help after the baby arrives. Try to anticipate what kind of help you're going to want/need and get it lined up! I asked my mom to come for the first week, and then sent out a survey request to neighbors and friends.
  12. Plan to Give Yourself "Cocoon Time": It can be easy to focus so much on the birth that you forget to think about what happens afterward! You and your new family will need to rest, heal, and have lots of quiet time to bond. Take care of absolutely everything that can be done in advance, so you can carve out this time and space for yourselves. I am taking 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave from my job (which meant months of saving up money in anticipation of the serious drop in our income), I asked readers to write six weeks of posts for 2000 Dollar Wedding, and I wrote six weeks of posts for Feeding the Soil to run in my absence. I set up an automated e-mail message to let people know I will not be responding to e-mail for a while. I stocked up on frozen meals and all sorts of non-perishable snacks.
  13. Learn Everything You Can About Breastfeeding: If you plan to breastfeed, it pays to learn everything you can in advance. I recommend going to a class or watching a video and reading books. I also attended a La Leche League meeting. It also helps to watch mothers breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding can be very difficult (though it isn't for everyone), and it helps to learn about different ways to hold the baby and what a proper latch looks like.
  14. Continue the Conversations About How to Baby-Proof Your Partnership: Carrying for a newborn puts tremendous stress on marriages./partnerships Start anticipating what kinds of issues are going to arise, and figure out how to work through them with your partner.

I never feel like these lists are exhaustive! I really should be jotting notes down throughout the entire trimester. Alas. I'll just have to keep adding to it as I think of more stuff! Please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section!

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sign Up: Montessori in the Home Online Group

A few of you have expressed interest in learning more about implementing Montessori in the home, so I decided to start a sort of list-serv for us to share ideas and ask each other questions. The free group is hosted by Big Tent, which is a great tool. You can decide how you want to receive messages from the group. My favorite setting is the daily digest that condenses all the discussions/comments into one e-mail a day.

If you want me to sign you up, please fill out the form below. I promise not to use your e-mail address for any other purpose but to sign you up (and you can unsubscribe yourself at any time).

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Co-Sleeping Update

Matt and I realized that our Summer Infant Rest Assured Sleeper is great right next to our bed (since our bed is a platform MALM bed from IKEA and is low to the ground), but it's a little too bulky to fit between us on the queen bed. Further, it's up on little legs, which means we would have to go up and over to see the baby.

I decided that I wanted to have an in-bed co-sleeping option. We don't feel comfortable having the baby directly on the bed, primarily because we have a pillow-top pad that we don't want to remove (it makes sleeping heavenly!), so we went back to the Snuggle Nest we considered a long time ago. It turns out that the Snuggle Nest positioners are dangerous for babies, but those are easily removed.

I was able to find a Snuggle Nest in the classified section of my neighborhood parent group list-serv for a mere $5! Although I am trying my best not to accumulate an overabundance of baby products, I figured it made sense to have two different co-sleeping options, especially since the second option was only $5 (the first option was $60, but fortunately we received it as a registry gift). That way, we can see what works best for us at different times in the process.

Really, all of our problems would be solved if we had a king-sized bed. In that case, we would probably just use the Snuggle Nest. We decided against upgrading to a king-sized bed when I realized that we need to be saving rather than spending money as we head into my 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave!

I was able to remove the outside cover of the Snuggle Rest and thoroughly wash it, as well as the sheet that covers the little mattress. Then I decided to make one more sheet (since I'm trying to have two of everything, if it's likely to get peed/pooped upon).

Everything is ready to go (we're just waiting on the baby--who, by the way, is officially due today!).

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Monday, February 14, 2011

DIY: Baby Pants and Hoodie

I really, really don't want to get into the habit of sewing a lot of baby clothes. They grow so fast; it just doesn't seem worth the effort!

However, when I saw a picture of a baby boy in elephant pants (which I cut out and included in this collage), I knew that I, too, wanted a pair of elephant pants for my little boy.

I turned to Spoonflower for an elephant fabric, and, lo and behold, I found a nearly identical fabric. So awesome! I added a fat quarter of their organic, knit fabric to my registry (which cost $14). While I was there, I added several other fabrics--all of which I received as a gift from the Montessori team at my school.

When Matt and I were in American Apparel last weekend (I'm trying to stock up on comfortable cotton yoga pants that I can wear around the house after the baby arrives--and then wear out into the real world when I don't feel like changing!), I spotted a white, baby hoodie. I just couldn't resist it. Usually, I'm good at resisting such splurges, but there's just something about such a cute, blank canvas!

Here's how I made the outfit:

  1. I searched the internet for elephant clip art. I ended up finding a good body and then improvising the head. I put a sheet of Steam-a-Seam on the back of the polka-dot fabric, and traced the clipart onto the back.

  2. Then I cut out the elephant, cut it in half (to go over the zipper), peeled off the back of the Steam-a-Seam, and positioned the elephant where I wanted it.

  3. Next, I followed the Steam-a-Seam directions and ironed the elephant onto the shirt.

  4. Then, I used my sewing machine to stitch around the edges for double security (and for a nice outline).

  5. To make the elephant pants, I used this pattern. I had a lot of trouble following the pattern (my spatial reasoning skills are truly lacking!) but after a quick consultation with Matt, I was able to figure it out.

  6. Voila!

Sadly, he'll probably only be able to wear it for a month or so, but I'll just have to take lots of pictures during that time!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Montessori Nursery Tour

Our nursery is finally complete and ready for the arrival of our sweet little boy!

On the one hand, I've tried to put a lot of thought and time into its design because a "prepared environment" is one of the hallmarks of the Montessori approach. On the other hand, I've tried to prioritize other important things, like exercising, eating healthy foods, thinking about how to strengthen our partnership in preparation for the baby's arrival, reading about birth and parenthood, etc. It can be easy to get consumed with the physical and material preparation required for a major life transition (hello, weddings!), as an unconscious way to avoid thinking more deeply about the impending rite of passage and what it means for our ever-shifting identities and lives. I think I was able to reach a good compromise between these two approaches by stretching out the nursery process over several months.

Our goal for the nursery was to create a simple, calming, and functional space. Since we only have two bedrooms in our tiny, 1930s bungalow, we had to give the space multiple functions. Here are some of the many hats it wears:
  • Guest Room: It's important to us to have a welcoming and private space for guests. We don't have overnight guests all that often, but when we do, we want them to be able to have a comfortable bed to sleep on and a door to shut. That's why we decided to get a sleeper sofa for the baby's room [Extorp from IKEA]. If we're still co-sleeping with the baby (like when my mom and brother come to visit right after the birth), then it won't be an issue at all. Once the baby transitions to sleeping in his own room, we can simply move his Montessori floor bed (i.e., crib mattress) to our room for the night.
  • Office: The baby's room is my favorite room in the house because of the way the light comes in all day long. I didn't want to give up my office to create a nursery that we barely ever used. Also, in the Montessori philosophy, babies are supposed to be incorporated into the activities of daily life as much as possible. I decided to set up a desk in the room, so I could do my work, while the baby does his "work" (basically lying on his Montessori floor bed and staring at his mobiles or working on lifting his head and building his core muscles by looking in the mirror right next to his bed). Because of the size of the sleeper sofa, we had to work hard to keep everything else small. The desk is a vintage child's desk that we picked up on Craigslist. We can either use a smaller folding chair we already had, or we can sit on an exercise ball, which is great for our posture. We also worked hard to minimize the amount of stuff on the desk, so we would have maximum room for a laptop. The only thing that sits on the desk is a small lamp. The desk has a small drawer that we use to store scissors and pens. I found a vintage sewing drawer and drilled it to the wall to serve as a shelf for a tape dispenser, a stamp set, and sticky notes. We use a vintage matchbook dispenser to hold markers. We moved all of our other office supplies to other places in the house.
  • Craft Room: Crafting is a big part of our lives, and we wanted to be able to continue with our passion once the baby came into our lives. Fortunately, we have a giant closet in the nursery, so we use half of it for the baby and half of it for our crafting stuff. Although it means we had to move some things to the attic (like our costume box) and we have to get our sewing machine out of the closet when we want to use it, it really hasn't been too much of an inconvenience. The little desk is a perfect little sewing spot.

Despite having many different functions, the room is still a very child-centered space. It is designed to meet the infant's needs, and we will continually update it as he grows and his needs change. Right now it includes:
  • Montessori Floor Bed: In the Montessori tradition, we avoid using devices that limit the child's independence and natural movement. For example, instead of using a crib to safely confine the baby, we turn the whole room into a "crib" (by completely child-proofing the room and closing off the entrance to the rest of the house with a gate). Right now, the room is not completely child-proof. We will be more meticulous about it once he starts rolling. Twin futon mattresses work well for Montessori floor beds, but, again, we were working with very limited space, so we opted for a thin crib mattress [VYSSA SLOA from IKEA]. The mattress is only three inches off the ground, so a baby is not likely to hurt itself if it rolls off (our plan is to add a thick little rug right next to the bed to ease the transition). The sheets are from DwellStudio, and I made the house pillow.
  • Montessori Mirror: We put up a giant acrylic mirror next to the baby's bed to encourage him to raise his head and strengthen his muscles and to allow him another angle for viewing the entire room. We bought a $12 wooden frame from an antique store and painted it. Then we ordered a custom-size piece of acrylic mirror from this company. Initially, they accidentally sent us a piece of acrylic without the mirror. Then they shipped us the acrylic mirror but the corner was shattered. Finally, I just asked Matt to drive to their Houston warehouse (we got lucky!) and pick up a new piece. I used a piece of the cardboard shipping box to hold the mirror against the frame. Then I took the whole thing to Hobby Lobby and asked them to shoot little pieces of metal all around the cardboard to secure everything in place (like the little tabs of metal that hold a picture into a frame). They provided this service for free! Finally, we drilled the mirror securely into the wall.
  • Montessori Mobile: During the first couple weeks of a baby's life, they are working to strengthen their eyesight. Black and white mobiles help provide the perfect amount of stimulation and important work for the infant. We received an acrylic mobile hanger and a whale mobile off our registry. This mobile will be changed out as our baby grows and his needs change.
  • Artwork: Artwork is an important part of a Montessori environment. It helps to beautify a space and cultivate a child's appreciation for art. It's important that it be hung at a lower level for the child. We bought a book of Charley Harper prints and then framed them using IKEA frames.
  • Montessori Shelf: In a child-centered environment, child-sized furniture facilitates independence. Along these lines, we purchased the Expedit bookshelf from IKEA and turned it on its side. We used the Branas baskets that we already had around the house to store the baby's blankets, our wireless modem, extra baby supplies, etc. Initially, the storage is more for us, but once the baby starts moving around his environment, we will switch out the stuff in the shelves. On top of the shelf, we have his books (organized into fiction and non-fiction), a natural wood container from Target that holds a fish rattle and a circular rattle from Nova Natural Toys and Crafts (since rattles will be his next Montessori development tool after the mobiles), two plants, and a sock monkey held in a wooden box. We tried to keep with the Montessori tradition of using as many natural materials as possible.
  • Comfortable Rug: The large rug will allow us to find comfort on the floor in a house that only has wood floors. We purchased the soft rug from

I put lots of pillows on the couch to facilitate breastfeeding, and my portable breast feeding station is on top of an old table we sanded and painted. The table lamp is from Target. The basket under the table holds more stuffed animals and toys for the baby that we will switch out when he needs new simulation. We wanted to keep the environment as de-cluttered as possible.

We opted for a large laundry basket from World Market for now (new baby = lots of laundry!) but will move it into our room and purchase a smaller basket for our child to carry when he's old enough to help with chores.

Our family has already been using the room a lot. I work in there every morning before school, and oftentimes, Hoss, Matt, and I spend our evenings in there. I work on my computer or do some sort of craft at the little desk, Matt practices his banjo or watches TV on his laptop on the couch and ottoman, and Hoss sprawls out on the comfy rug (after we kick him off the baby's bed). I look forward to introducing our little boy to his room and to adapting the room to fit his growing and changing needs!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why a Midwife and a Homebirth Make Sense for Me

When Matt and I were planning our wedding, I would go through phases of insecurity related to blogging about the experience and sharing it with others. I would write a post about how we were doing x, y, and z, and then I would stop and wonder, "But what if it totally fails? What if the event feels completely 'budget' and 'tacky' because we did x, y, and z? Maybe I shouldn't be putting any of these ideas out into the universe until I know they actually work?"

I think I've been feeling something similar about our home birth experience. I haven't talked much about it because if something goes terribly wrong and I wish I would have given birth in a hospital, I might feel terrible that I promoted home birth for the previous nine months.

However, Matt and I are having such a wonderful experience with our midwife, and with each passing day, we are more and more convinced that we chose the right path for our family. At this point--even if we do have some rare complication/emergency that can't be solved by our midwife or by a hospital transport and could only have been successfully dealt with if we had already been in the hospital--I still think I would be an advocate for home birth. That's why I feel like it's important to write this post (while the outcomes are still uncertain).

But let me back up and say that I am not proselytizing about home birth. I don't believe in a "one-size-fits-all" approach to birth. I think each of us needs to find the path that is right for us. I would never recommend a home birth to someone who isn't completely comfortable with the idea and who couldn't bring themselves to feel safe in that environment. It's important for all of us to feel safe and confident as we head into birth. Also, the kinds of care that are available to each of us varies so much from city to city and town to town.

The only thing I am dogmatic about related to this issue is that we should each find caregivers who respect us, listen to us, and make us feel comfortable. There are a lot of recommendations and decisions that go into the entire prenatal and birth process. The more we trust our care providers, the more stress-free and smooth our pregnancies and birth experiences are likely to be.

My first exposure to home birth was back in 2005. One of my best friends had a home birth, which I didn't even realize was an option. Seeing her go through the experience helped normalize it for me. Then, years later, Matt and I watched The Business of Being Born, and I started to open my eyes to some of the shocking realities of our mainstream, modern maternity system.

When I started preparing for conception and doing research about birth options in Houston, I quickly realized that my options weren't all that great. Most of the birthing centers aren't near hospitals (and they look like ugly hotel rooms), which kind of defeats the benefits of a birthing center. We do have a wonderful group of midwives that works within a hospital setting, but the hospital doctors are ultimately in charge, and the midwives are still bound by hospital protocols. Further, I wanted to see the same person for prenatal care and delivery. I didn't want to take my chances about who would be on call when it was time to deliver. Also, I wanted to be able to labor in a giant birthing pool, not just a bathtub.

Fortunately, there is a very prominent and experienced midwife in Houston who has delivered over 1,700 babies (and she happens to be the same midwife who delivered my friend's baby). She used to run a birth center, but she prefers to do home births (since she can bring all of the same equipment to your home that she used to have in the birthing center). When Matt and I met with her before we conceived, we immediately felt completely comfortable and knew that we wanted to ask her to be our midwife, once we conceived.

Most people who choose home birth for their families find their way to it after a less than satisfactory first birth experience at a hospital. As first-time parents, Matt and I didn't really know what we were getting ourselves into. However, the more we read, watch documentaries, attend child birth classes, attend prenatal appointments with our midwife, and talk to others about their prenatal and birth experiences, the more confident and excited we feel about our initial decision. Here are some of the benefits we've encountered:
  • Amazing Appointments with Our Midwife: Prenatal appointments are a prominent part of pregnancy. Initially, they are once a month, but by the end, they are every week. Because our midwife works very flexible hours, we've been able to schedule every single one of our appointments after work or on the weekends. Starting in the third trimester, our midwife started coming to our house for visits, which makes the whole experience even more comfortable and convenient. Further, each appointment lasts an hour to 1.5 hours because we talk about a range of issues, including nutrition, the emotional aspects of pregnancy, preparation for parenthood, etc. In my experience with doctors, I usually wait 45 minutes for a 15-minute appointment.
  • Proactive Rather than Reactive Care: Our midwife emphasizes a very proactive approach to health and wellness. She is a huge advocate for strong nutrition during pregnancy, and she recommends all sorts of natural supplements (like red raspberry and nettle tea to promote a healthy uterus and alfalfa to prevent hemorrhage). She examines my diet logs and helps keep me on the right nutritional path.
  • An Environment that Makes Natural Birth Easier: Regardless of whether I were giving birth at home or in a hospital, I would still be aiming for a natural child birth. I'm wary of using drugs that could potentially have unintended consequences, and I believe that a woman's body is built to give birth. However, I believe that it is much easier to have a natural birth at home or in a birthing center than it is in most hospitals. At home, I will be in a completely private environment that I can control. I can decide what kind of lighting and music make me comfortable. I can labor in any room of the house and in any position. I can get into the giant tub that will be set up in our dining room, or I can shower. I can labor in the comfort of my own bed or couch. I believe that I am much more likely to be able to bear the pain of labor in those conditions.
  • A Caregiver Who Believes that Gentler Births Make for Healthier Babies: Oftentimes, people think I'm simply choosing a home birth for my own benefit. Although the reasons I listed above are about my comfort, I believe in the synergistic connection between mother and baby. The more comfortable I am, the more relaxed I will be. The more relaxed I am, the more efficiently and effectively my uterus can work. The better my uterus works, the smoother the birth will be for our baby. Further, midwifery emphasizes more baby-centric practices. For example, once our baby emerges, Matt will be the one who wipes him clean with blankets. Then I will be encouraged to breastfeed on and off for three hours. Next, the baby and I will take an herbal bath together to promote healing. Throughout the whole process, Matt and I will not be separated from the baby. After several hours, our midwife and doula will tuck us into bed and say goodbye.
  • Decisions Based on My Situation, Not Protocol: There are certain unnecessary things that hospitals are required to do by law or by hospital protocol that many midwives are willing to ignore, based on individual families and their needs. They have more freedom to make decisions on a case-by-case basis rather than being obligated to apply blanket policies to everyone. Sorry for being so vague; I just don't think it's wise to publicly broadcast specific examples of law-breaking activity!
  • A Culture of Confidence: My midwife completely believes that birth is a natural, empowering experience that women are built for. For this reason, she tries to use as few interventions as possible. Every conversation with her is soothing and empowering.

I'll definitely report back after the birth. Maybe I'll crave an epidural so badly that I'll be cursing my decision to birth at home. But I wanted to share an update with you now, after nine months of working with my midwife.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food for Labor

Some homemade hummus I made a while ago

I joked with Matt, my marathon-running husband, that the only marathon I'll ever run is giving birth to our children.

As I prepare for The Big Day (or The Big Two Days or The Big Three Days!), I'm trying to figure out what kind of food I'll want to consume during labor to keep my energy up. My midwife has recommended that I eat at least every four hours and consume at least 8 ounces of water or red raspberry tea every hour.

I've heard that my appetite will start to disappear as I get deeper and deeper into labor, so I'm trying to pick things that will be as appealing as possible. (However, I've also heard that things that are normally appealing might not be appealing...)

Here's what I'm thinking so far:
  1. A banana peanut butter smoothie or a chocolate almond smoothie
  2. Pita chips and hummus
  3. Simple quesadillas (mozzarella cheese microwaved in a tortilla)
  4. Cereal
  5. Dried fruit
  6. Bolthouse juices
  7. My favorite Jamba Juice smoothies with added protein (my doula recommended freezing them and bringing them out when I least want to eat)
  8. Protein bars (I've only been able to eat sugar-free ones throughout the pregnancy; I'm looking forward to a little sugar during the birth!)
  9. Pretzels with peanut butter inside

We also want to have snacks on hand for our birthing team (midwife, labor assistant, doula, and Matt). Our doula recommended that we pick up:
  • A veggie tray with dip
  • A bowl of fruit
  • A vegetarian sandwich tray
  • Tea

Any other ideas for good labor foods?

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Cloth Diapers

It can be a bit overwhelming to pick out products before the baby's arrival. I mean, there are simply so many options. Luckily, one of Matt's colleague's gave us this book early on in the process. It helped a ton. For example, I read their advice about car seats and just picked one.

In all honesty, I don't get that much enjoyment out of doing all the research it takes to find the most perfect option. Luckily, I have lots of people in my life who enjoy this kind of work (like my best friend, Andy, who told me exactly what kind of laptop to get).

When it came to cloth diapers, I read a lot on this website, but I ultimately decided to follow the advice of my "internet mentors," John and Sherry, over at Young House Love. They opted for bumGenius Elemental One-Size cloth diapers with snaps.

Here are the benefits:
  1. They are made with organic cotton, which is super-soft.
  2. They are "all-in-ones," which means you don't have to mess with separate covers and inserts.
  3. They are designed with many, many snaps that supposedly allow you to adjust them to fit children from 7 pounds to 35, so you don't have to waste a lot of money investing in different sizes that your child inevitably grows out of way too quickly.

We ordered 12 of them so far. John and Sherry said that 18 cloth diapers seems to be the magic number for families that use cloth diapers.

Our stash arrived last week, and now we have to wash them 5-7 times before using them. We quickly realized that the reviews were right: These suckers take way, way too long too dry. Honestly, if we dry them in the dryer, I feel like we would be negating all of the environmental benefits of using cloth diapers.

So, we need a solution. Matt and I ordered this drying rack and figured that we could let them air dry. Before we ordered it, we searched high and low for a concealed place to use it in our house. We are trying to minimize baby clutter as much as possible. We seem to have two good options.

Once the drying rack arrives, we'll see how long it takes for those suckers to air dry. My brain is guessing it will be a while! Depending on how long it takes, we'll probably have to order more diapers to use while the other set is drying.

And for those of you who are interested, we ordered this trash can with two of these liners to hold our dirty diapers. We are using cloth wipes, mainly just old cotton flannel receiving blankets that I cut with pinking shears to prevent the edges from fraying. For the first few days of meconium, we are using disposable diapers and wipes. For diaper changes on the go, we still plan to use cloth and store them in this wet bag. We also bought a sprayer for our toilet to clean off the poop before we put everything in the washing machine.

I think that's everything! Let me know if you have any questions...

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Fearless Sewing

One of my most intense sewing projects ever (9 hours of work!)

I've been meaning to write a post about how to start sewing for a while now. Sewing is such an empowering part of my life, but it can be an intimidating hobby for people who are considering it for the first time.

My journey into sewing started when I was approximately eight years old. I was obsessed with Ramona books, and I was inspired when I read that Ramona sewed a pair of pants for her stuffed elephant (at least that's what I'm remembering). I decided that I would sew a scrunchie (it was, after all, the 1980s). I simply cut a rectangular piece of fabric and sewed it (by hand) onto a hair elastic. Trust me when I say the end result was nothing to write home about!

In high school, I was inspired by my crafty best friend to start sewing again. I used my great-grandmother's sewing machine to make boxer shorts. I still can't believe I wore them to summer school my sophomore year.

My best friend and I also decided to sew each other dresses for our friend's Sweet 16 party one year. Believe me when I say we had no clue about what we were doing. In the end, she couldn't fit the dress I made her over her chest, so I solved the problem by hacking away at the back of the dress to create a plunging V (which made it possible for her to get it over her head). Again, I can't believe she actually wore the thing!

All this time, I didn't know much about sewing, except that you should fold the seam under twice to prevent fraying. I quickly realized that using a sewing machine is really, really easy. The hard part is figuring out the threading and the bobbin and all that stuff, but actually sewing in a straight line is a cinch!

Based on my experience, here's what I recommend to anyone who is interested in pursuing a sewing hobby:
  1. Enroll in a Sewing Class at a Cool Studio: There are amazing craft stores with cool classes all over the country, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in a single beginner's sewing class (or a short series of them). You can walk out with a complete project!
  2. Start with a Cheap Machine: As I mentioned earlier, I started sewing on my great-grandmother's machine. You can learn to sew on anything! While you're trying to get a feel for whether or not you like sewing, I would suggest starting with a cheap machine. Once you decide you're in it for the long haul, I suggest splurging on a fancier machine. Matt and I actually bought a very expensive machine together when we were dating (he sews, too). When I asked him what our plan would be for the machine if we broke up, he suggested that we simply break it (it's a good thing we got married). A fancier machine does make sewing a lot easier, and if you're going to sew a lot, I think it's a worthwhile investment for your lifetime. However, you do not need a fancy machine to start. Anything will do.
  3. Keep It Simple: When you're first starting out, it helps to stick to easier (but nonetheless satisfying!) projects, like curtains, pillows, basic bags, etc. For many, many projects, you simple hold fabric straight and let the machine pull it through and sew it together. Seriously!
  4. Make Friends with the Seam Ripper: The thing about sewing is that you can pretty much undo anything you get wrong. How liberating! Of course, it's a pain in the butt to rip out seams, but it's good to know that you can if you need to.
  5. Be Fearless: The thing that has helped me most along my sewing trajectory is simply my willingness to try. For the most part, fabric is cheap, and it's not the end of the world if you botch a project (I have botched many!). I'm not afraid to try something that I've never done before. When Matt and I were planning our wedding, for example, I decided to make him a tie, even though I had never attempted such a thing. I simply used my trusty seam ripper to pull apart an old tie, and I followed the makeshift pattern to create a new one. When I needed more support, I simply turned to Google and YouTube.

It's truly empowering to be able to make something for yourself that you need!

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Letter to Myself as I Prepare for Birth

Dear Sara,

You are about to undertake the most difficult and simultaneously profound task of your life. You are giving birth to your little boy and to yourself as a mother. The task of birth is a metaphor for the task of motherhood. You will be called upon to bring forth your resolve and your determination and your perseverance and your patience and your trust in yourself and your community of support.

You have gathered together an awe-inspiring team of people to guide your way along the journey. You have done everything in your power to build a solid foundation for the gentlest and healthiest birth experience possible for your family and yourself. Now it is time to surrender to the experience and let your body do its work. Your work will be to stay out of your body’s way.

Your body will warm up with mild contractions that will gradually intensify. You will be excited and possibly anxious about the onset of labor. You will get through this early stage by working with your life partner to get everything ready. You will set out your supplies and fill the birthing tub. You will tie up loose ends so that you can focus and enter the chrysalis that will give birth to the transformation of yourself as a person and of your expanding family.

You will practice relaxing into your uterine waves. You will practice surrendering to your body. You will trust that your body is positioning your baby for an optimal birth experience.

As the pain intensifies, you will work harder to turn inside, relax your face and your entire body, and surrender to your body’s work. Your doula will help you move into different positions and breathe through the pain, one contraction at a time. You will have to decide over and over again that you can do this. You will nurture yourself with food and drink, and you will make frequent trips to the bathroom.

Your uterus will continue its miracle of pulling the cervix open and thinning it out. Your baby will position himself in the most efficient and effective way to descend the birth canal. You might think you are losing control. You might think you can’t do it anymore. Do not despair; these signs mean you are getting close to bringing your little boy from the inside to the outside. Turn your fatigue into an even more relaxed body. You will get a burst of energy soon.

Trust this process. Trust your body. Trust your baby. Trust your self.

Your perineum will stretch and your baby will practice entering the world. Out and in. In and out. When he finally emerges from his chrysalis, you will bring him to your chest and embrace his sweet body. Your partner, his father, will begin the important work of drying off the baby’s water-nurtured body. His cord will continue to pulsate. You will bring his sweet lips to your breast.

Afterward, you will bathe together to heal, bond, and return to the water’s embrace. Then you will head to bed as a family. Your home will be restored, and you will settle into the peace.

If, at any point, the birth deviates from the plan, you will rest assured that you have done everything within your power. You will relax into the Universe’s intentions and embrace the expertise of your team.

Through it all, stay focused on the healthy birth of your sweet baby boy and the birth of yourself and your partner as strong, patient, resilient, intentional, optimistic parents and to the birth of your expanding family that laughs together, learns together, and loves together.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February: Reflection & Rejuvenation

From the Nikki McClure Calendar

February is upon us! I am entering into the month of my birthday and the birth of my son.

January was quite the busy month, although my busy-ness also included daily naps and regular walks! I managed to accomplish all of the following items on my massive Birth To Do List:
  • Create a packet for visitors who want to help us (it's not helpful if you have to answer a gazillion questions as they are trying to help)
  • Schedule and attend an infant CPR class
  • Get car seat installed
  • Finalize birth announcement
  • Make comfrey tea compresses and red raspberry tea ice cubes for the birth
  • Go on a massive shopping trip for all the birth supplies we need
  • Write birthday cards for the next couple months
  • Create a "room service" plan for after the birth (including a list of places that deliver)
  • Type up directions to our house
  • Finalize our transport plan and post it
  • Create a cheat sheet for birthing positions and reminders about drinking, eating, and urinating
  • Visit the back-up ob/gyn
  • Meet with the pediatrician for a new mom consultation
  • Update our scrapbook
  • Get the baby's scrapbook ready
  • Read more about birth
  • Buy everything off our registry that we didn't receive as gifts but still need
  • Send thank you cards
  • Finish bathroom changing station
  • Schedule blog posts for my maternity leave
  • Create new Life Binder
  • Install the infant adapter on our BOB Revolution stroller
  • Review notes about how to take care of an infant
  • Watch Laugh and Learn about infant care
  • Make e-mail list for baby announcements
  • Set up auto-reply for e-mail
  • Make sheets for co-sleeper
  • Finish family mission statement
  • Return a duplicate gift we got off our registry
  • Return the baby's rug to Home Depot, since we found it for $100 less on Overstock
  • Attend a La Leche League meeting
  • Sync iPhone

I know the list was crazy-long, but I promise I just tackled it one task at a time, from more important to less important (however, I tended to do the more important things at the beginning of the day before work, and the more fun things as relaxing activities in the evening). I think it's important for mothers-to-be to feel calm and confident as they head into the birthing experience. For me, this means crossing off to-do items that will help ensure a smoother transition into motherhood. I want to be able to focus entirely on our newly expanding family and not worry about any other obligations.

I still have a few things left (and small things get added each day):
  • Bring our living Christmas tree to school to be planted
  • Work on the crafts on my craft plan
  • Get my car emissions tested
  • Go in for one more ultrasound
  • Pick a name
  • Learn how to use Moby and Ergo and practice swaddling
  • Select the baby's first outfit
  • Mail directions to the labor assistants
  • Clean out the inbox in our dining room

But mainly, my intentions for the month are to finalize my preparations for the arrival of our baby and the start of my maternity leave, continue to prepare myself for the birth through reading and guided relaxation, and enjoy our first couple weeks together as an expanding family!

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