Monday, October 01, 2012

Adelynn's Birthday

Today is my daughter’s first birthday. There’s so much I want to say about this day, I don’t even know where to begin!
I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that I have reflected on the day she was born every single day for the past year. It forever changed the way I think about myself and what my body is capable of. More than anything, it changed my relationship with my Creator. God answered so many specific prayers in very specific ways on that day. With the exception of the day I decided to follow Christ and my wedding day, Adelynn’s birthday was the most important day of my life so far. I cried tears of joy for two weeks after the fact!
For those that are curious to read about it, I posted the (rather lengthy) story here.
           My son’s birth was not the experience I’d hoped for, so I felt pretty unsure about going through childbirth the second time. Calling it “amazing” would be an understatement. Because of the way Adelynn’s birth went, I know I could do it again and again. And it has spurred a passion in me to help other mom’s achieve a positive birth experience. I’ve decided to devote myself to the cause through education and one-on-one support with expectant couples--and now it’s something I can really see myself doing for the rest of my life! (So, you can see why I say my daughter’s birth changed my life!)
    Happy Birthday, my sweet little girl. May your birth-day be a sign of what the rest of your life will be -- giving other people stronger faith in Jesus Christ. I love you, Adelynn!

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Why Do Women Care How Other Women Birth Their Babies?

On Sept. 4, 2012 Birth Without Fear posed the question: "Why do women care how other women give birth? Genuine Question." 

I noted that just an hour later, more than 100 facebookers had posted responses. Answers varied wildly, ranging anywhere from, "I don't care; it's nobody's business." to "It's in our nature to care about others--that's just being human." (which was my husband's sentiment).

So Marcia, why are you such a birth nut? I think my feelings would be best expressed in the form of an interpretive dance. But, since I don't have time for that today, let it suffice to say that I think God just made me this way (?)

A few initial thoughts...

What I've found is that most women want to have a safe, happy birth experience, they're just misinformed. I just want people to be as informed as possible, so that they can make the best, safest choice for their family. How can we make safe birth choices if we don't even know about all our options? If we don't know our options, we don't have any. The decisions that are made on that day affect us and our baby's health for the rest of our lives. Birth is unpredictable, but parents can make a plan for the controllable parts, as well as decide in advance for different possible scenarios. We can educate ourselves so that even if something undesirable happens, we can look back with no regrets.
Giving birth is a rite of passage. It's a day that is forever etched in a parent's memory. It can be incredibly powerful, or cripplingly traumatic (or somewhere in between, but we try to shoot for better rather than worse).

We don't have to hand our rite of passage over to a care provider out of fear (or, heaven forbid, laziness). The way birth is portrayed on TV shows and in movies is all wrong. Don't be fooled by it.

We need to educate ourselves about REAL birth for the sake of our babies' safety. (Plus, it will make birth a lot easier and less painful if you know what you're going into & how to cope!)

I strongly encourage moms to: carefully select your birthing place, carefully select your prenatal care provider, and educate yourself as much as possible. You wouldn't have your wisdom teeth removed without carefully weighing the risks/benefits, and you wouldn't let just anyone perform the surgery. This concept is also true--even more so--for the birth of your baby.

So, yes, I do care how other moms birth their babies. For pregnant moms: I genuinely want them to have a positive experience and healthy babies. For moms who've been through it: sharing our past experiences is how we learn. I learned a LOT from my first birth that helped make my second birth and amazing, beautiful experience. 

That is why I am working toward becoming a childbirth educator. We are all in this together.

I look forward to your comments!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Homemade Baby K'tan Carrier Instructions

I made my own Baby K'tan type carrier!

This carrier is the perfect mix of comfortable, quick to put on, and easy to stash in your bag. If you like your Moby or Boba, you will LOVE this. It is a lot less fabric than the Moby, so you won't get too warm. The only drawback is that you need to have a specific size just for you--you'll have to buy another carrier if your child's other caregivers wear a different size. Hopefully the good people at Baby K'tan will not be upset with me for sharing this. 
I've included tying instructional photos below.

I used these instructions from someone else who made one. I've added my own notes in purple.

You'll need: fabric and matching thread, sewing machine, scissors or rotary cutter, and an iron.
You'll also need: either 2 large rings (if you want a ring sling type sash), or an extra piece of fabric if you want to tie your sash on with a knot.
Here's what I did:
1. Using a soft measuring tape, measure from the tip of your shoulder to your side just under your ribs. Double this measurement and add 2" for a seam and 2" for shrinkage. This is the length of fabric you need to buy. (My measurement was 21". So 21 x 2 = 42". Then add 42 + 2 + 2 = for a final measurement of 46")
Note a change to my instructions here: buy approximately 9 ft (3 yds) if you want to make your sash from a solid piece of fabric. Then, you can simply cut your loop pieces to the correct length.
2. Go to Joanns/Hancocks and buy a stretchy fabric of your choice. Don't go for 100% polyester unless you want to be really hot really fast. Also, don't buy something that's super stretchy. You want almost no stretch along the length and a moderate amount of stretch across the fabric. I love their 60% cotton/40% polyester interlock. Go for something that's 60" across too. This will give you enough for the two rings and the support sash.
3. Cut into 3 - 20" pieces along the length. You should end up with three pieces of fabric 20" wide (stretchy) and your measurement from #1 long (non-stretchy). You will have a scrap piece if you bought 3 yards for making the long sash. Prewash (and tumble dry!)

4. Take one piece and sew it together along the short ends with a French seam (gonna have to look that one up, don't have the room to explain it). Repeat with a second piece. The loops are done (unless you want to hem the sides- I didn't). I didn't make the smaller connecting loop because the ktan is actually easier to use without it. Go see to see the smaller loop. She's right, you don't need it.
5. Now the support sash. This uses the third piece. It isn't going to be long enough to tie in the back, so you need to either sew on some fabric to the ends to extend it enough to tie (I used a piece of an old Tshirt in a different color for an accent color. I cut the pieces so my accent fabric would be in the center.) or do what I did: Buy two rings like you would use for a ring sling and sew them onto one end (just like for a ring sling). You use it just like normal except that instead of tying in the back, you thread the free end into the rings like a ring sling.
I want to add an additional note regarding the sash: In the photos you see my sash tied in the back, but it will stay put much better if you make the sash longer---long enough to criss-cross in the back, bring it around to the front, and then tie it at your belly. That is why I have give the measurement of approximately 9 ft (3 yds) long to fit most.
6. Download the instructions and start wrapping.
I love, love, love this sling. I started with a pouch (hell on the shoulders), a ring sling (ditto on the shoulders) and then wraps (loooooved, but too much time). This sling works just like a wrap, but without the tying.
Note: I don't know how long you can use this wrap. I carried my 1 year old nephew in the front carry position and it worked really well, but I don't think the cradle or kangaroo would work at all with the stretch of the fabric. I think a lot depends on whether your fabric stretches along the length. If it does, then the wrap will really sag with a heavy baby.
I have been using this carrier with my large 11-month old, and it works great!
 Here is my French Seam. I used a 3/8" seam allowance, followed by a 5/8" seam allowance. 
I flattened it down and stitched a third time to hold the little flap down.

 Here are my two loops of fabric.

 Slip one loop over your head, and let it rest around your hips. 
Slip the other loop over your head and diagonally across your upper body.

 Put your baby in, and spread the fabric across her body. 
She should be in a seated position--her knees should be at the same level as her hips.

 Pull the other loop up from your waist to between your baby's legs. Pull it up onto your shoulder.
The two loops will now make an X across your back. Spread the fabric across your baby's body.
Note: if you have a very young baby, you do not need to put the fabric between her legs.
One option at this point: you may choose to shift the whole carrier and baby over to one hip.

 Here's my sash! You could also use a scarf if you have a very large, sturdy one.

 Spread it around your baby's back. 
If you make yours long enough, you'll be able to criss-cross it in back, then bring it around to tie in front.

 Oops, mine is too short. I just tie mine in the back.

 Here's the X on my back. You can see how it spreads the pressure across your whole body, so it won't be digging into your shoulders.

 And we're done!
Your baby's body should be above your belly button. You should be able to kiss your baby's head.

You may also choose to bunch the fabric up on your shoulders. Whatever is comfy for you.
You may even be able to breastfeed your baby without taking her out of the carrier.
I look forward to your comments.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Certified Childbirth Educator

It's pretty much been decided at this point, so might as well share: I'm pursuing my certification as a childbirth educator with (drum roll please) ...CAPPA
(Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association).

The CAPPA Vision:
Imagine a world…
Where women are encouraged to trust their bodies. Where myths about pregnancy, childbirth, the postpartum period, and breastfeeding are dispelled.

Imagine a world…
Where women are given the tools they need to make informed decisions about their pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and breastfeeding experiences.

Imagine a world…
Where education does not use guilt as a motivator but instead encourages families to make intuitive and informed decisions.

Imagine a world…
Where women are surrounded by caring, compassionate support throughout the perinatal period.

Imagine a world…
Where families are equipped to embrace parenthood with confidence.

Imagine a world…
Where there is mutual respect amongst support professionals and medical professionals, all working together as colleagues to give the best care for families.

Imagine an organization …
That strives every day to make this world a reality.

I've already read some of the required reading, but will have to read 4 books, plus the CAPPA educator course material and the HUG Your Baby series, plus pay some fees, organize my curriculum and business legal stuff etc. ...and then I will be all set to start helping pregnant couples!
I am SO excited!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Music for Labor

In case anyone is curious what we actually ended up using for relaxation during labor with my second baby: I tried to choose only things that put me into a relaxed trance, which is a very different set of music than what I enjoy on a daily basis.

  • Nature Sounds for Pregnancy and Birth
  • A mix playlist I created myself
I Surrender All - Jadon Lavik
Into the West - Howard Shore (Lord of The Rings)
For the Beauty of the Earth - Laura Jewel & Steve Ivey
Beyond the Veil - Clyde Bawden
For the Beauty of the Earth - The Lower Lights (yes, two versions of this song)
Consider the Lilies - Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Calling All Angels - The Wailin' Jennys
Redeemer - Darla Day
At Last - Etta James
Dream a Little Dream of Me - Michael Buble
Seascapes - Paul Brooks
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz

  • Hypnobirthing (this isn't music, but rather a spoken word CD that comes with Marie Mongan's book)
I used these during the months leading up to the birth as well as during labor. I'd encourage moms to make their own, and if you don't end up using it, you'll still have something to relax to after baby arrives!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Baby Won't Nurse!

Refusal to nurse is a common problem breastfeeding moms will face with their little ones. Babies wail or fuss at the breast. They push away or arch their backs. I've encountered it dozens of times with my little ones, and it's enough to make a mom want to throw in the towel (or burp cloth) on breastfeeding. To date, I have more than 24 months of breastfeeding experience under my belt, but only because I refused to give up. Most often, waiting it out seemed to be the key. I thought I should share some of the reasons why babies may fuss at the breast:
  • Needing to burp: If baby's been nursing just fine for five minutes or so, then suddenly refuses to continue, the most common explanation is the need to burp.
  • Simply not hungry: Young babies will generally need to eat every two to four hours. If you suspect your baby might not be hungry, try again in another 30 to 60 minutes. Don't wait for your baby to become overly-hungry, though.
  • Indigestion: The foods a mother eats change the content and flavor of her milk. Babies may get some indigestion from certain foods or simply not like the flavor of the milk after mom had something spicy.
  • A cold: If your baby has a stuffy nose, she may not be able to breathe very easily when she sucks in milk. Try a little bit of baby nasal saline solution followed by a nasal bulb before nursing.
  • An ear infection or teething: If this is the case, the action of nursing can sometimes be painful for some babies. If you suspect teething, give your baby a teething toy. Wait an hour or so, and keep trying. If you suspect an ear infection, use an otoscope to check your baby's ear for redness, or see your child's pediatrician.
  • Too tired to nurse: Occasionally, babies are just too tired to want to do the work of eating. Sometimes a difficult afternoon or a busy day full of new experiences makes babies overstimulated. Put baby down to nap.
  • Distractions: A room full of other people or sounds can be distracting or overwhelming, especially for babies about six months old or older. Do your best to dim the lights and find someplace quiet for just the two of you.
  • Bowel movement: My children would refuse to nurse if they were trying to poop, no matter how hungry I thought they must be (especially as very young babies). As soon as they were done and in a fresh diaper, everything would be fine.
  • A sore shoulder or neck: There was an instance with my son when simply the act of placing him in a side-lying posture seemed to set him off. I realized I had been repeatedly holding him wrong. If you haven't been diligent about how you position your baby's spine, neck and shoulders, your baby could develop sore muscles. (Baby's ear, shoulder and hip should be aligned). Try making her as comfortable as possible, possibly placing her atop a soft pillow or nursing in a different position than usual. The problem should remedy itself in a day or so.
  • Other explanations can include colic, thrush, a food sensitivity, milk flow (too fast or slow) or hyperlactation syndrome. And sometimes babies go on a nursing strike for reasons we don't understand.

Even if you cannot determine the reason your baby won't eat, there are things you can do.
  • First and foremost, soothe your baby and wait for him to be calm before trying again. You don't want him to associate frustration with the breast.
  • Propping baby's head and torso in a more upright position. I found this to be especially effective if I could hold the baby in such a way to nurse while walking around and gently bouncing.
  • Keep trying. If you've tried a few times and aren't making progress, give it an hour. Keep trying! In the mean time, use a breast pump every two or three hours to relieve engorgement and keep your milk supply.
  • Try giving a bottle, just for one or two feedings. Sometimes babies who are refusing to nurse will take a bottle. Try breastfeeding again later in the day.
  • Call a support person: a lactation consultant, an experienced mom, a pediatrician, or just a friend who will help you relax.
If all else fails, be sure to see your doctor and don't feel guilty or ashamed if you aren't able to continue breastfeeding. You need to what's best for baby AND you.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Fear in Childbirth

For the Mommies-to-be: Are you afraid of giving birth, maybe just a little?
...Pretty sure you share that sentiment with about every other female in the U.S., so you're not alone. But, take heart! There's really very little reason to be! Today I want to share with you something very personal that I hope will be encouraging.

I'll start by saying that in the old days, a girl would have learned everything she knew about birth from firsthand experience. She would have witnessed her mother or sister or aunt or cousin giving birth. She probably would have seen farm animals giving birth to their babies. Today, we've removed ourselves from all of this. Few things irritate me more than how the media has portrayed labor in movies and TV...and basically ruined childbirth for us. I promise you it is not like how they show it on TV! (Well, at least not for most of the moms I've heard from). If that's the only videos you ever watch of a woman giving birth, then of course you will be terrified! It's not all screaming and flailing around on your back. Watch some REAL videos of women giving birth. And there are things you can  do to try to make it an empowering, spiritual experience.

I have been meaning to do this for some time, but I realized some of my friends are due to have their babies very soon and might benefit from this, so I have to stop procrastinating. Below, I have scanned and posted the little documents that I created during my pregnancy with my daughter. I meditated on them daily through the last few months of that pregnancy. I had learned about the "sphincter law" and began to think up ways to allay my fears so that I could have a better chance at the birth experience I hoped for. I prayed, read books, talked to friends, and scoured the internet: every time I came across encouraging words and images, I collected them.

These are my personal words of encouragement and images that I needed to meditate on each day to psych myself up to give birth. I included images of things from the happy moments in my life, my husband, my son, a blooming flower, and art by Amy Swagman (among others). There are scriptures and song lyrics. This is one small part of what made me feel totally at peace about the whole process (you can read about the rest here). I encourage future mommies to make a list of everything you're afraid of about giving birth, and to pray about those things. Then, you can make your very own collection of encouraging words to meditate on throughout your pregnancy.
(I have transcribed everything at the bottom of this post for you)

I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and peace of heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid. - John 14.27

To everything a season
A time for every purpose under Heaven...
...A time to be born
- Ecclesiastes 3.1

I prayed for this child and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the LORD. For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD. - 1Samuel 1:27 & 28

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour; for if they fall, one will lift up his companion. ...again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm...Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. A threefold cord cannot be broken. Ecclesiastes 4.9-12 will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. - Isaiah 58.11

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." - Matthew 11.28-30

...perfect love drives out fear... 1John 4.18

Let your eyes look straight ahead.
Fix your gaze directly before you.
- Proverbs 4.25

...And the Lord God formed a man's body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And the man became a living person....And the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him..." "At last!" Adam exclaimed. "She is part of my own flesh and bone!"....This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one."

Those who love your law have great peace and do not stumble. - Psalm 119.165

And Eve said, "With the Lord's help, I have brought forth a man!" - Genesis 4.1

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of Grace, that way we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4.16

But when we ask, we must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed about by the wind. - James 1.6

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. - Hebrews 11.1

They will not work in vain, and their children will not be doomed to misfortune. For they are people blessed by the Lord, and their children, too, will be blessed. I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking, I will go ahead and answer their needs. Isaiah 65.23-24

Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word. Psalm 119.37

I tell you the Truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. - Mark 11.23-24

You will keep her in peace, perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You; because she trusts in You. - Isaiah 26.3 (modified)

for God did not give us a Spirit of fear, but a Spirit of power, of love, and of self-control. - 2Timothy 1.7

Stand still and consider all the wondrous works of God. - Job 37.14

I sought the LORD and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. - Psalm 34.4

The Lord is my deliverer!
Be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead! - 1Peter 1.16

Be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion!... - Philippians 1.6

Children are a blessing from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. - Psalm 127.3

Cast all your cares upon him, for he cares for you. - 1Peter 5.7

...I will sustain you and I will rescue you. - Isaiah 46.4

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!...Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" - Luke 1.42-45

My Grace is sufficient for you. My power works best in your weakness. - 2Corinthians 12.9

I am your God; I will strengthen and help you!

I will uphold you with my righteous hand. - Isaiah 41.10

For you formed my inward parts; You covered my in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and [that] my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, [And] skillfully wrought in the lowest parts...Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when [as yet they were] none of them. - Psalm 139.13-16

Seek his path in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. - Proverbs 3.6

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety. - Psalm 16.9

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. - Romans 8.37

It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. - 2Samual 22.33

By You I have been upheld from birth; You are He who took me out of my mother's womb. My praise [shall be] continually of you. - Psalm 71.6

The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Hebrew women (God-fearing women) are not like Egyptian women, they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive." - Exodus 1.19

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. - 1Corinthians 6.19-20

...[Jesus said] whoever receives one such child in my name receives me...  - Matthew 18.1-5

...How joyful are those who fear the Lord--all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor. How joyful and prosperous you will be! Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine, flourishing within your home...That is the Lord's reward for those who fear Him. - Psalm 128.1-6

Surrender, wait Patiently on the Lord

It is well with my soul

May the hope of God fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15.13

For you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. - Revelation 4.11

...Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the Earth. Genesis 9.1

"May I always see, Lord, in every waking hour, your majesty and grace in this delicate flower."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Advantages of a Small Dog

When my husband insisted we needed to get a dog, we had the inevitable debate about what type of dog to get. He, of course, wanted a larger dog. I was not convinced that I--who would be doing the majority of the care during the week--could  handle a large dog in our tiny apartment, let alone walk and train a larger dog with my tiny stature (I'm still not convinced I want a dog at all, but alas).

We ended up settling on a Schnoodle. This was the breed of dog my husband had grown up with, so he was happy with that. They are known to be relatively shed-free, smart, friendly and patient with grabby children, so I was happy. We found a puppy for sale nearby by a Mennonite family, and they were asking less money than either the pound or the shelter. She is a cross between a mini Schnauzer and mini Poodle. We brought her into our family, and named her Calamity Jane. Today, at 10.5 lb, she fits squarely in the "small dog" category (between "toy" and "medium").

While I'm still not a huge fan of all the care that goes into owning a dog in addition to caring for our two small children, I stand by my claim that there are definite advantages to small dogs. Owning a small dog virtually removes the issue of teaching her not to take food from the table (unless she's a climber). A baby gate works just fine to keep her contained. When she 'thwaps' me with her tail, I barely notice. She is much less prone to knock people/children down if she jumps on them (though, even at just 10.5 lb, my dog has knocked my toddler over on occasion). My son wrestles with her quite a bit. She gets nearly all the exercise she needs just scampering about the apartment. Her bark--while high-pitched--doesn't carry throughout the neighborhood when she's on a barking spree after a wandering cat or deer. I don't have any trouble controlling her if she pulls on the leash with all her might. There's always room for her to snuggle on the sofa, even with three adults. She can easily ride on my lap in our compact car. Her coat takes less time to groom. She eats far less than a large dog, which saves money for sure. Cleaning up her "little messes" are less of chore. And, if all else fails, I can easily pick her up in my arms and put her where I want her.

That's not to say there aren't advantages to owning certain types of larger dogs--there definitely are--but I wouldn't trade. Not until my husband buys me an acreage!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Favorite Books for Parents

Some of my personal favorites I have on my shelf right now.
  • The Everything Potty Training Book - Linda Sonna
  • Games Babies Play - Vicki Lansky, Has cute songs and games to play with infants and toddlers arranged by age.
  • Raising Puppies and Kids Together - Silvan and Eckhardt
  • The Name Book - Dorothy Astoria, Has 10,000 names with meaning, origins and Biblical significance.
  •  Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for Dads - Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden, Has a great sense of humour about infant care.
  • The Baby Signing Book - Sara Bingham, A great first book for communicating with your infant/toddler.
  • The Nursing Mother's Companion - Kathleen Huggins, An indispensable guide for breastfeeding.
  • Hypnobirthing: the Mongan Method - Marie F. Mongan, I especially love the history of medical birth in the U.S. in this book.
  • Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin, Definitive natural birth book. So many encouraging stories!
  • The Birth Book - Sears & Sears, Basic guide to giving birth and preparations.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Birth of Adelynn Elizabeth

If you want the short story, here it is: It went well.
If you want the long story, here it is...

The Birth of Adelynn Elizabeth

“Gooood girl.”

That's what my labor doula, Theresa, was telling me as stronger contractions were coming on. Hearing those wonderful words made me feel like I was doing something good and strong and positive (instead of feeling that my body was out of control.)

This birth journey began more than a year prior with a loss. In September of 2010, my husband (Ian) and I were reunited after more than 8 months of separation for military training. We were excited when we became pregnant immediately, but our joy was squelched by experiencing a miscarriage in October. In January of 2011 we conceived again. Initially I was very happy, but I was also filled with fear that we would miscarry again.

It took a lot of time and prayer, but my fears were eventually completely replaced with excitement and a deep peace—a confidence—that the pregnancy and birth were going to go smoothly. I began making preparations for our family addition: shopping for baby items, investing in cloth diapers, researching about how to make my labor go smoothly, reviewing information I learned during my first pregnancy, and praying all my fears away.

The pregnancy went about as well as a woman could ask for. I didn't experience the problems I had with my first pregnancy: irritation on my finger under my wedding ring, edema, stretch marks, stress, horrible acne, and low iron. My weight gain was healthier, and my back pain and morning sickness weren't nearly as bad. I loved seeing midwives at my prenatal visits, instead of an obstetrician. They made me feel encouraged about my pregnancy and having the birth I wanted. They didn't insist on giving me a bunch of unnecessary ultrasounds, urine tests and cervical exams as the O.B.s had done during my first pregnancy with Samson.

The smooth pregnancy boosted my confidence about my impending labor. I knew I wanted things to go differently than they did with Samson's birth, and I wanted to work hard to achieve a better birth if at all possible. With Samson's birth my water began leaking, but my body didn't go into labor spontaneously. I labored for 12 hours while they pumped Pitocin into me via IV to induce the contractions, which made the entire experience extra painful. I later learned I am one of only a handful of women who accomplish this without an epidural. My doula, Linda, really made a huge difference in helping me through that labor, so I knew I would want to hire a doula again. Through a series of fortunate accidents, I found the perfect, affordable labor doula (Theresa). I had wanted to labor in the water with my first birth, but there wasn't a hospital with tubs near where we lived at that time. Our local hospital in Northern New York does have tubs, so I wrote that as a request in my birth plan for this birth. I also knew my body would be stronger this time, even if only because of toting around a 32 lb. toddler all day.

As the big birth day got closer and closer, I concerned myself with many things. What would I do with Samson, when I go to the hospital? How will Samson deal with the day of separation? What if too many sweets makes me have a very large baby? What if my water breaks and my body doesn't go into labor spontaneously? What if I can't keep the house clean and I come home from the hospital to a big mess? What if my loose belly muscles keep my body from doing what its supposed to? I even worried after I read one woman's experience about a prolonged pushing stage due to her baby's arm coming out of the birth canal alongside the head.

I am SO thankful that none of my worst fears came to fruition.

At first I thought for sure that I would go into labor early. Based on the reactions I got from strangers around town, you would have thought I was 43 weeks pregnant when I was only 6 months. People I met on the street insisted on telling me that my due date must be off or that I was having twins (I tend to have an especially protruding belly due to loose belly muscles). Samson had been born at 38 ½ weeks, which is somewhat early, so I assumed that my second birth would be similar.

My due date was set at September 28, which happens to be my husband's birthday. Fall is my favorite season, so I was pleased with the idea of having a baby in the cool autumn weather. The 38 week mark—the earliest time I would expect to go into labor—came and went. I got the midwife to check my cervix, which she informed me was soft and slightly dilated. I thought that was good news and that I would go into labor soon. She told me to go ahead and go to the baby shower the ladies at church had planned for me, and then have the baby. I laughed and agreed that was what I should do.

While I waited, I used the days to prepare myself more and more for the big birth day. This turned out to be a huge blessing. I took evening primrose oil to help soften my cervix. I kept practicing the hypnobirthing techniques from the book and CD I'd purchased. I put together several pages of encouraging images and scripture verses which I meditated on often through the last weeks to put me in the right mindset. I chose a few hymns, several other songs, and some nature sounds which I compiled onto CDs to listen to during labor for relaxation. While I'd originally not planned on using the birth ball, I had time to buy an air pump to refill it and decided to bring the ball to the hospital just in case.

Probably the most helpful thing that prepared me came as a mixed blessing. During the last several weeks of my pregnancy I found I would experience terrible pain if I reclined on the sofa with my torso at about a 45° angle. If I stood up quickly the pain would subside immediately. I kept having it and I kept changing positions. This actually ended up training me to just try different positions if I was in pain, because changing positions made the pain go away. What great preparation for labor! It also reminded me that I did not want to be reclining on my tailbone during the pushing phase of labor.

When the 39 week mark came and went, I got pretty restless. I was having an awful time remembering anything for more than 10 seconds. My sleep was increasingly restless. I was basically running around like a chicken with my head cut off and accomplishing very little. The midwife once again told me my cervix was soft and slightly dilated. She also did an ultrasound to be certain the baby's head was in the right position to be born. She showed me that she could see hair on the baby's head!

Around 40 weeks, I gave serious consideration to trying castor oil to induce labor. Something stopped me: a nudge from the Spirit, I suppose. I just had this feeling that God had this all planned out to go a certain way, and I shouldn't mess with it. I had read that making love is often very effective at inducing labor (if the body is ready). We tried this, but all it did was give me a “false start.” The evening that we tried it, I began having contractions at 10 minute intervals which continued for 12 hours. I even had my doula come to my house! She did some acupressure techniques to induce contractions. The contractions didn't increase in intensity or frequency, and then the contractions went away as suddenly as they'd come.

I was seen by an O.B. after my due date passed. He recommended induction, but was willing to let me pick the date. I hated the idea of choosing my daughter's birthday. We set an induction appointment for the next Thursday, and I went home praying against it. I didn't want Pitocin again!

In hindsight, this time of waiting was very valuable. All the extra little things I learned in my reading and my prayer time--God really did have the perfect day chosen for us.

The Saturday after my due date passed I woke with contractions that were more intense than what I had been having. I got up to go to the bathroom and I lost my mucous plug. I was thinking that was a good sign that labor was coming within the next few days, but I didn't know if I should let myself get too excited. I woke my husband up to let him know what was going on. I checked the clock and it was 8:52 am. I remembered I had complained to my doula in a phone conversation, “Why is it that labor always seems to start at some crazy hour like 3:00 am.? Why can't labor start at some convenient time like 9:00 in the morning and have the baby that night?” I thought to myself What if this is it? What if I'm having the baby today?

I started to try to get ready for my day and realized I needed to start sounding through the contractions (meaning I had to make sounds to cope with the intensity). I didn't even feel like brushing my teeth through the contractions. I moaned loudly and Ian started asking if I was OK. Hmm. Maybe its time to call Theresa?

As the day went on and the contractions were not letting up, I decided to make preparations to head to the hospital. Our friend Benjamin came over and started washing the dishes and tidying the kitchen (which was huge blessing, considering my fears about coming home to a messy apartment). Ian helped me finish packing bags, making phone calls and loading the car.

There were a series of (God-ordained?) circumstances led us to end up leaving Samson with another Army family from my husband's platoon. We waited for them to pick up Samson, and our neighbors from down the street picked up the dog. We were finally off to the hospital.

I had been timing my contractions all day and they were averaging about 4 minutes apart by the time we climbed in the car. This is considered to be just about the right time to go to the hospital. I kept timing contractions as we headed into town, but they seemed to have slowed (it was about a 20 minute drive). I was worried about my labor stalling or even stopping, so I tried some nipple stimulation. This made the next contractions extremely strong, so I stopped doing that right away! Theresa called my cell phone, and we realized she was at the hospital waiting for us! We got to the hospital at about 4:00 or 5:00 pm, and made our way through the cold rain to the back entrance.

I had called ahead, so the nurses were expecting us. They wanted to put an ID bracelet on me, but the bracelet had my birth date wrong. I can laugh about that now, since that was about the only thing that went wrong. The only other hang up was the fact that I had tested positive for Group B Strep. The nurses hooked me up to an IV to administer antibiotics so we wouldn't pass GBS onto the baby. (Group B Strep is a colonization found in many healthy women, but can sometimes be fatal to their newborn babies). While they were getting this ready and getting me checked in, Theresa massaged my low back and buttocks. I had instructed her and Ian to clog my nervous system with other sensations to block the intensity of the contractions. This type of massage totally fulfilled that request, and she kept doing it at the height of each contraction for most of the rest of the labor until the pushing stage. Her strong hands pushing on my back in just the right spots made it so I felt almost no pain whatsoever until toward the very end of the labor when things got very intense. There was one other main tactic that helped to clog my nervous system with pleasant sensations. I kept asking Ian to kiss me through the contractions. (He is THE BEST husband ever for doing this, because my breath must have been pretty gross after throwing up three times.)

As soon as we got checked in and settled, Theresa ran the water so I could get into the jacuzzi tub. I laughed as I felt the warm water swirling around me. It felt SO good. She left Ian and I alone in the bathroom for a while, but I called her back in to massage me some more. I have no idea how long this went on (time became a blur), but I imagine Theresa must have been exhausted from leaning over that tub to massage me. Ian sat on the edge of the tub supporting me with his words and his touch.

They suggested we listen to some relaxing music/sounds which helped a little during early labor, but I was pretty unaware of it at the end. Having trained my body to relax completely by practicing with a hypnobirthing CD for months really came in handy, especially since I could no longer focus on the words the woman on the CD was saying. Theresa spoke imagery to me about mushroom hunting in Iowa. It kind of helped me go out of myself and out of the hospital for a moment so I could regroup.

At some point I had to get out of the tub. I don't recall what the reason was, but after I got out I spent a bunch of time dancing around the room (while using my arms to hang on the nurse or Theresa or Ian), sitting on the birth ball, and squatting/kneeling. I'm not kidding when I say rocking on ball and kissing Ian felt almost orgasmic. Theresa had brought two pads to kneel on on the floor, which was a Godsend. I just kept changing positions and I did not feel that I wanted to sit down in the bed. I am really glad I learned to speak up for myself after my first birth. I was able to ask my birth assistants for water, Gatorade, and energy gel packs (these are what marathon runners use for a boost). The nurse and both of my birth assistants were so in tune with what needed to happen, and they were at my side from the beginning to the end. Theresa was noticing when I seemed to really lose all my composure and she'd tell me to take a deep breath. I would take a deep breath & try to let my body breathe in relaxation, and that would really help me (at least for a couple minutes). She helped me sound my way through the contractions by making the sounds with me and bringing the sound to the lowest tone my vocal chords are capable of making: a big, long, loud OH-oh. Theresa called it my beautiful birth song (it really was like singing).

Eventually they checked my cervix again, and told me I could end this all very quickly by letting Dr. Dembski sweep the membranes with a gloved finger. This was because my cervix was very open, but my waters hadn't broken. The baby just hadn't quite moved down far enough, but if the water broke she would probably move right down. Laboring with the waters unbroken sort of acts like a cushion making it more comfortable, so the fact it had taken this long was an answer to my prayers. They asked if I wanted to think about for a bit or just send Dr. Dembski in.

I thought about it really fast. I'm getting so tired; do I want to get to the pushing stage soon? “SEND HER IN!”

I don't know how long I labored after she swept the membranes, but it wasn't very long and I started to feel the urge to push. I can't recall who was coming or going or who was saying what. “Transition” made everything extra blurry. I was kneeling on the bed facing away from everyone, and I started making big, throaty groaning sounds like I was Conan the Barbarian or something. They told me to stop making that type of sound, because they were worried about getting a sore throat. Someone helped me bring my sounding to an appropriate level and figure out how to push more effectively. They let me push when I felt like pushing, which was a marked difference from the directed, “purple pushing” I experienced with Samson's birth. Each time I felt like I wanted to push, I let my breath out very slowly, and pushed as hard as I could, but only for as long as I wanted to. No one was telling me to keep “push- push-pushing”. They did make me change positions. I was in a semi-squatting position, but I had to rest on my tailbone. It worked alright, though. I think the pushing stage lasted for about 30 minutes, but it felt like less than that.

When her head crowned, it felt like a big, warm, smooth ball. Her head came out, then her body. I heard them say the cord was wrapped around her neck once (this is common). Very shortly, they handed me my purple, wiggly baby. Being purple is pretty common, but she “pinked up” pretty quickly. At some point someone cut the cord, took her APGAR scores, and used the bulb to suction fluid out of her lungs, but this was all a blur to me. She was born at 9:04 pm and weighed 8 lb. 7 oz. Later, someone told me that one of her hands came out at the same time as her head!

When I was sitting there holding her for the first time, I was suddenly a burst of energy and very talkative, even though I had been exhausted minutes earlier. I was singing and saying all kinds of crazy things, like how her squinty eyes made her look like a little Asian baby. I think I was a little nuts—like how you'd act if you just won the lottery.

Very shortly after birth—I'm not sure how long, but it felt like an instant—I was able to nurse her and she suckled for what seemed like a really long time before they told me it was time to take her to the nursery and me to the recovery room. I didn't mind handing her over, because I was ready to rest. They later brought her to me in the recovery room, Theresa went to sleep in the waiting area, and Ian & I fell asleep around midnight.

The hospital staff took great care of us, being so polite and trying not to wake any of us unless it was really necessary. They were very attentive. I had some little problems like the shakes and some pains and cramps. They helped me with all of that and helped me walk to the bathroom (I did end up taking a little Motrin for the cramping). Each time they took me to the bathroom I'd look up into the mirror and be so pleasantly surprised at how I looked. I felt gorgeous! I didn't have any broken blood vessels in my face—my skin and hair looked radiant!

The delivery nursers at that hospital were so awesome. Sometime the day after Adelynn's birth, one of the labor nurses walked to our recovery room after she got off her shift. She just wanted to check on us and tell me how happy she was for us. Talk about going the extra mile.

While I was disappointed in Samaritan Hospital for not having a lactation consulntant on staff, they were very good about the breastfeeding. No one told me I needed to force her to stay awake and nurse every so many minutes or that I needed to thump her foot if she fell asleep (as they told me when Samson was born).

The family that watched Samson brought him to the hospital for us the afternoon after Adelynn's birth. They were so happy with the experience! Apparently he was no trouble at all. Then, Samson stayed with us in the hospital until we were discharged. I gave him a new Transformers toy, which kept him pretty well occupied. He was very excited about a new baby sister (he hasn't stopped wanting to hug her).

We were all very pleasantly surprised by the hospital food. I'd go back to eat there again!

The pediatrician checked Adelynn a couple of times before we went home. She had had good APGAR scores (8 and 9) and healthy weight. She lost just 2 ounces in three days, which is very healthy. They checked her twice for muscle tone which was good. (This was a concern of mine; Samson had been born with low muscle tone.) No cone-shaped head here!

My parents-in-law and grandma-in-law drove out to stay with us in New York. After we came home from the hospital, I cried for joy every morning and every night for nearly two weeks. Ian said he thought I must have been high, I was SO happy. I felt completely overwhelmed by how well everything went. I felt completely blessed. The family cooked, washed dishes, helped care for Samson, held the baby, and Ian entertained everyone. All I had to do was focus on recovering and taking care of our new little addition.

I felt an extreme closeness to my husband and my Savior during those days following Adelynn's birth. I felt like they both came through for me far beyond what I'd even hoped for or expected. I didn't even have a tear or need to be stitched up! I just kept thanking and praising God in my heart. My husband has been more in-tune with my needs and done even more around the house—served me in ways he never did before. I didn't have a lot of the post-birth problems I'd had with Samson's birth, such as edema, over-producing milk (that was messy!). I did have muscle soreness, of course. Adelynn developed a little baby acne and a short-lived diaper rash.

Overall it was the best birth a woman could have asked for. My most important remarks would be that by the time I felt like I couldn't take it anymore, it was time to push the baby out anyway. So, an epidural would've been pointless. I've heard this time and again from people in the natural birthing community, so I like to encourage women with that information. The whole experience was a resounding testament to God's grace and faithfulness.
I'm going to say here that I'll reserve the right to add/subtract from this essay later.