Archive for April, 2009

Errol’s Birth: A Homebirth Success Story, Part 1

We knew from the start that we wanted our next baby to be born at home.

photo by Andrew

It became one of the criteria by which we judged homes during our extensive searches.  (whirlpool tub = plus; space for a whirlpool or birthing tub = also a plus)  We were still riding high from the intensely beautiful and empowering experience of Isadora’s birth 3 1/2 years earlier, attended by the midwives at Madison’s free-standing Birth Center, and there was no doubt we would seek their services again.  Finally, with said home in place, midwives at the ready, and our lifestyle ready for a new chapter, we found ourselves pregnant again.

The early part of pregnancy whizzed by at breakneck speed, obscured by the fast-approaching holiday season as well as the daily needs of an active 3 year old.  This early period stands out as a time of lethargy, of lots of napping, and a fascinated awe with the speed at which this belly popped out and started dominating my body landscape.  There’s really only one baby in there?  Yes, thankfully, as confirmed by the 20 week ultrasound.  We also confirmed that the baby, whose sex would remain a mystery, was indeed a baby of the human variety, despite his in-utero name of Baby Fluffy, as dubbed by his eager Big-Sister-To-Be.

Lofty goals of a handmade holiday quickly banished the lethargy and took over.  This would be approximately the time that Baby Fluffy started hearing the steady hum of the sewing machine, a sound that would dominate his world for the remainder of his stay within.  Christmas came and went and the focus was now shifted to Baby.  Think about Baby.  Talk about Baby.  Prepare for Baby’s grand entrance into our world.  We agreed that Isadora should be present at the birth of her sibling and started talking with her about what that meant.  I also extended the invitation for The Moms to be present:  mine and Andrew’s.  To prepare us all and set the stage, so to speak, I required that we all watch the film  The Business of Being Born, which I thought nicely captured many of the reasons we were so deliberately choosing our homebirth as well as show several examples.  Over the course of my pregnancy, I ended up viewing the movie five times, watching it with each of The Moms (and Father-in-Law – what a trooper!) as well as with Daddio.  It firmly cemented the beliefs that I had already held about birth:

  • All women deserve access to making an informed decision about where and how they birth their babies and the ability to see that decision through
  • Birth is a natural, healthy process, not a medical emergency or illness automatically requiring a hospital
  • Pitocin = bad, bad, bad, especially if your goal is an unmedicated labor
  • C-section rates are alarmingly high, still rising, and most often not necessary or the result of other (probably unnecessary) medical interventions

We read books, like Welcome with Love and attended sibling and refresher childbirth classes.  I learned that, statistically, second or subsequent labors tend to last about half as long, and looked forward to the possibility, no likelihood, of an abridged 10 hour labor this time.  At the very least, I was deeply comforted that the 4 hours of pushing I logged with Isadora should have adequately paved the way for this baby to slide right out.

Those of you who are regulars already know that this time was also marked by an almost-super-human craftiness.  It by far marks my most prolific “making” period to date.  Amidst this frenzy of curtain sewing, bedroom painting, diaper bag making and countless other projects, I could barely be bothered to assemble the materials for the homebirth.  This includes things like sheets and protective mattress pads, hose and adapters for the birthing tub we were renting, towels, heating pads, receiving blankets, and baby’s first clothes.  Far, far more than the boiling water, bed sheets torn into strips, and knife under the pillow of urban homebirth legend, no?  (I admit to cracking more than one joke to this effect)

From the start, I braced myself for the reaction I’d inevitably get from others when announcing our intentions for a homebirth.  I was careful to specify that it was our goal, as long as our pregnancy remained “normal” and without complications.  (any serious complications would necessitate a planned hospital birth) Bolstered by hard facts gleaned from my repeated viewings of the film, I tried explaining how we believed the homebirth scenario to be safer (as it statistically is), as the introduction of medical interventions was highly unlikely, and those interventions often snowballed into more interventions and ended with a C-section.  I tried to explain the emotional and physiological benefits to being on my own turf, in my own bedroom, surrounded by a team of loving support that I knew and trusted.  I spoke of the advantages of healing and adjusting post-partum at home, without being jostled in and out of a hospital, and attended to by the midwives at home during the first week.  And always, I answered the question of “What if there’s an emergency and you need to be at the hospital?” with the simple “Then we go to the hospital, either by car or ambulance.”  Usually this question was prefaced with an incredulous “Aren’t you worried something could go wrong?”  Simply, no.  The vast majority of births, left to progress at the body’s appropriate pace, are uncomplicated, normal, and safe.  Most complications are detected before the start of labor, and would allow for a planned hospital birth.  As a sensible precaution, we were pre-resistered at the nearest hospital and were prepared to make the transfer in the event of an emergency.  In the hospital, I explained, the average waiting time to prep an OR for an emergency C-section and assemble the crew is about the same as our travel time to the hospital, so we’d likely not be losing any time or compromising safety.

photo by Andrew

photo by Andrew

The dates of the calendar sped by, dancing their way from present to past, and our due date quickly approached.   And we were ready – physically, emotionally, and otherwise.

We turned our focus to the Egg moon, watching it as it waxed to full, bringing our baby ever closer.

(Part 2 found here!)

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I can’t remember the last time we bought bread.

I’ve been meaning for some time now to report on our new bread program, but have been delayed for a number of reasons:

1.  I just had this baby.

2.  I couldn’t seem to remember to take any impressive “fresh out of the oven” pics before our pack of salivating bread bandits attacked the newest loaf.

3.  I really, really enjoyed the wide-eyed admiration I received when showing up with or presenting a fresh-baked loaf to guests.  Revealing how disgustingly easy it is for any Joe Schmo to make equally-impressive bread will surely taint the Domestic Goddess Rock Star status I’ve attained.  It’s an illusion, folks.  Sadly, an illusion.

4.  Soule Mama recently posted about her own bread program, and while I think the sun pretty much rises and sets over the Soule house in Portland, I am trying very hard to resist the temptation to turn my own blog into a cheap imitation of Soule Mama’s.

The bread program we’ve been following now for a few months comes straight from the popular, much-blogged-about Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  Really, who doesn’t have 5 minutes a day for fresh-baked, crusty bread?  I bought the book after reading Angry Chicken’s rave reviews, but like many books that I have to immediately run out and get, dropping everything else in mid-air, it arrived home to sit on the shelf and percolate for quite a while.  Over Christmas, I aquired some bulk flour bins (shown above), as well as some bulk flour and shortly thereafter made my first loaf.  As cliche as it is, the rest is history.  With this simple method, I’ve managed to kick my addiction to locally-made sourdough baguettes, saving us some money on the weekly grocery bill as well as adding some whole wheat flour to the diet.  We also stopped buying the multi-purpose soft sandwich bread.

How does it work?  It’s basically a No-Knead bread that you mix up in bulk, refrigerate, then forget about for 2 hours or until you’re ready to bake.  Then you pull out a piece, work it for about 30 seconds, let it rise for 40 min to 1 1/2 hours, and bake on a stone.  Easy-breezy. So easy, in fact, that you could find yourself pulling out a batch to rise and bake in the wee hours of your early labor, making sure that all present for the birth of your baby have access to fresh bread.  It is that good and that easy.

I’ve experimented with baking it free form on the stone, for a beautiful, rustic-looking loaf as well as in a loaf pan, for a more sandwich-friendly shape.  Equally good.  Above is about half of a pan-style loaf.  Below is a free form loaf, again half-eaten.  Let that be a testimonial for how good this bread is.

Isn’t it beautiful?  I might add that it’s the perfect companion to a mouth-watering mix of olive oil and basalmic vinegar or goat cheese or anything else you can muster from your fridge. Store it standing on end on your bread board to keep the crust from going soft and to keep the crumb from getting too dry.

Would you like to try it?  You can find some background info and also THE RECIPE here, from the generous folks at Mother Earth News.  I adjust the recipe by replacing about 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat bread flour to add some nutritional value.  It seems to be a good proportion and doesn’t weigh the bread down.

And with that, I’ve blown my cover, shattered the myth that I am Bread Baker Extraordinare.  Sigh.  It was fun while it lasted.  Do me a favor and act real impressed the next time I show up with a loaf to share.

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Finding ourselves anew.

Oh, the highs and lows of the newborn period.

It’s a time of extremes, to be sure:  extreme elation, fierce protectiveness, awe, intense love, all counterbalanced with a sort of befuddlement, a detachment from the workings of normal life, and a loss of self.  There seems to be very little middle ground in this early period of new family life, heavily influenced by  fleeting doses of postpartum hormonal Molotov cocktails.    We’re reweaving our family tapestry, adding a brilliant new color, but doing so mindfully takes some delicate skill.  How do we work this new fiber in harmoniously without obscuring the others, while still honoring the brilliance of the colors already present?  With much finesse, we’re learning.

We spent our first week with Errol operating out of our bed.  Our bedroom underwent yet another transformation as it morphed from Baby-Birthing Central to Baby-Integrating Central.  Subtract a birthing tub, add a rocking chair, a hot pink kid-sized tent, dog pillow, laptop and the transition is almost complete.

Becoming a Big Sister and moving over to share Momma and Daddy’s spotlight has been a challenge.  Daddio, in his wisdom, had a magic bag of tricks on the ready to help take the sting out of that transition.

1.  Camping.  Isadora got to “camp out” each night in her special tent, safe in her own space but still with us in our room.  Brilliant.

2.  Bed picnics, served up on trays, featuring delicious meals handmade by Daddy and Daughter.  Delicious.

Still, the transition has been challenging.  I had both forgotten and underestimated the magnitude of adding a family member.  And taking to the bed for week, while an enormous luxury, starts to magnify the need for normalcy as the week comes to a close.

So now we’re stalking the Normal life, searching desperately for new family rhythms, figuring out how to again do what we did, where we can, while adding new routines to the mix.  Each day brings a bit more clarity, a little more confidence, more familiarity with this little guy, and brings us further from the old “life before baby” to our new orbit.  Soon, I know, the transformation will be complete and we’ll hardly remember what life was like before him, much like life pre-children seems to us now a dreamy blur.

This is the paradox of Newborn Time – crawling painfully slow moment to moment while simultaneously flying by, leaving us to mourn the end of the newborn stage before we’ve fully acclimated to it.  Pondering these things over the last few days, I’m reminded of how important it is to not lose focus, to ignore the pileup of “normal” chores and grasp as fully as possible this fleeting magical time.  Burying my nose in the intoxicating headiness of Him, caressing his whisper-soft skin with my cheeks and my lips, yielding to the almost-imperceptible weight of his milk-drunk head resting on my shoulders, and attuning my ears to the nuances of his decidedly “boy” noises seem to be the best ways to embrace this time.

Slowly, slowly….we’re making our descent from the expansive, soaring heights of New Baby!, where the view is spectacular and mind-boggling, but the air is too thin for a long-term stay.  Slowly, slowly, our feet are creeping closer to the ground, connecting with the earth and drawing forth the strength and stability to again reach upward and revisit those magnificent heights while simultaneously remaining planted on the ground.  Rooted.  Stable.

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Scenes from the bed.

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We now have a son.

He is Errol, born on the tail end of the Full Egg Moon on Friday night.  That he chose to be born on his actual due date fits perfectly with the Be Punctual, Don’t Procrastinate, Get it Done Now energy that had permeated my last months of pregnancy.  What a marvelous gift he brings to our family as we slowly get our sea legs, relearning the tenuous balance of a growing family.

I have so many things to say about his birth.  It was remarkable in every way, if I may say so without being too trite.  I hope to get to that soon, before the details are obscured in the fog of sleep deprivation.  But for now, I’m completely immersed in the task at hand:  memorizing every square inch of this little man, attuning my senses to his breathing, his movements, his fleeting, erratic newborn expressions.  I’m also quite busy making and delivering milk.

Blessings to everyone and I’ll check in again soon.

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An artist emerges.

A few weeks ago, I was presented with this portrait by an exuberant little girl.  “That’s a picture of me, Momma!”  Indeed, it is.  It’s not only her first self-portrait, but her first “depiction” of something specific.  To this point, lines and scribbles have dominated her drawing world.  It’s an exciting developmental milestone for any parent, but for this Art Major Momma, it’s especially sweet.

Most of the portrait is self-explanatory, but I do want to point out that the round-ish shape that you might think is a nose is in fact a big belly.  Like the kind that contains a baby.

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Still goin’…

Let’s start off the week with another round of Show and Tell.

A few thoughts on the color grey:  has this color existed prior to a few months ago?  I’m not sure I ever noticed if it did.  Regardless, it’s made a big splash in my design world of late, with its particular skill of setting off other colors. (like pale yellow)  Mmmn.  I’m loving that color combo right now, and am in danger of overusing it.  This sweet sweater is a little something for the baby that I finished this weekend.  I saw it on another blog, but was so frantic to find the pattern that I forgot just where I was when I saw it.  If you feel a similar “Must Have It” magnetism, you can find it here.  I didn’t stray too much from the color and yarn of the original.

This is a little Easter basket I whipped up in less than an hour one day while Isadora was pretending to nap.  The rag ball was from my stash of vintage, family-made beauties.  All I had to do was figure out how to crochet in the round, which turns out to be pretty easy.

This will be the first year of putting out a basket for Peter Cottontail to fill – somehow we didn’t get to introducing the concept last year and it quietly passed by without notice.  The basket I had picked up from a thrift shop and planned on embellishing ended up buckling under the weight of all of the other random Easter decorations that Isadora has been stuffing into it and parading around the house.

This project is a very direct, unabashed homage to Maya*Made.  While on a weekend getaway a few weeks ago, I became the proud new owner of this burlap coffee sack, which I thought would make a lovely laundry bag for the baby’s room.  It’s lined in a creamy canvas and the stiffness of the burlap makes for a nice dirty-clothes-vessel, but after sewing it late Sat. night I came to the conclusion that Maya can’t possibly be charging enough for hers.  Sewing with burlap takes a special skill and patience, so hats off to her.

And then I spent Sunday whipping out two of these.  Really, folks, this is pure insanity.  One of them was for a Thank You gift, and the other is a super-surprize-prize for a friend because, really, you might as well make two at the same time.  Really.

All this, and my studio is once again clean!

The baby’s clothes and drawers are still a jumbled mess, the bathrooms need to be cleaned, I deferred all meal-making to my wonderful husband, and there are bills to pay, but LOOK AT ALL THE GREAT STUFF I MADE!

Just when I thought I might be nearing the end of my Feverish Sewing Escapades, Meg at SewLiberated posted this.  REALLY?  (how could I resist??)  I wasted no time calling my local fabric shop to see if they stocked the pattern.  They did.  I easily worked it into our in-town errand-running and it’s now taking residence on my sewing table, waiting, just waiting for its turn.  I’m pretty sure the baby clothes can wait a few more days to be organized…..

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My crowning achievement, if a bag to carry diapers can be considered an achievement.

Curtains, please.  Here it is – the crowning achievement of my lastest “making” frenzy:  our ultimate diaper bag.

Born out of necessity, as our previous bag had served us well but was in retirement, I set out to explore the world of diaper bags already made, patterns to make your own, and fabrics that would look nice on both my and Daddio’s shoulder.  After weeding through all of the options, I finally found this fabric and was sold.  With some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, I splurged on a whole half yard.  And I used every single piece of that half yard, as you’ll soon see.

I used no pattern, but based the design loosely from our previous bag, adding some length and harvesting some of the hardware to reuse.  That lovely little skunk applique was a freebie I got years ago with an order of a hand-printed shirt.  I wish I could remember where it came from; I’d love to see if she was still making the appliques.  We call her Skertie Gunk, from Shel Silverstein’s backwards book Runny Babbit.  Skertie also graced the front of our last diaper bag, so she’s a well-seasoned veteran and seems to be the perfect diaper mascot.  The yellow fabric came from my stash, as did the trim and the heavy upholstery fabric you can’t see that is sandwiched between the layers to give it all some body.

The blue lining fondly remembers its days long ago as a table cloth, but recognizes that day in the thrift shop when I selected it as a turning point in its life of service.  The yellow pouch is from my surplus of canvas/vinyl pouches, which I have for sale here.  It was the perfect “cheater” pocket, as I only had to sew it in, rather than construct it from scratch at 11:30 pm Saturday night after my epiphany that an interior pocket was indeed necessary.

The back pocket houses the changing pad.  The magnetic closure and all of the zippers came directly from my stash, thoroughly justifying the “it’s only overkill until you need it and don’t have it” principle.  So satisfying to go to the tangled mess of zippers and select from a few the best suited for the project at hand.

The changing pad used up the last two tiny strips of mushroom fabric.  The red vinyl on the reverse came from the old diaper bag’s changing pad.  I don’t stock vinyl in my stash.

Oh, the process was slow-going, as I tried to pre-sew it  in my head to figure out the best way to put it all together.  I was pretty poor company this weekend in the few moments I wasn’t physically in my studio sewing, because I was so busy sewing in my head.  It was a bit OCD, and Andrew joked that he hardly saw me all weekend.  But the end result is just what we were looking for and I’m quite sure it will serve us well.

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