Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Practical Gifts for Expecting Parents

When my Bug was born three years ago, I was one of the first among my close friends to have a baby. Most of my friends from high school aren't even married (or in a committed relationship) yet, but that's slowly starting to change.

Now that I'm almost (gasp!) thirty years old, I imagine a lot more friends from my age group are going to start entering baby land. That biological clock is ticking, after all (forgive me for saying that, but it's actually pretty true).

Aside from that, most of the new friends I've made in San Diego are also moms, married with a baby or two, or are planning to start trying for one soon. And thus, I expect I may start hearing more happy announcements in the next few years about incoming newborns. Let the creative Facebook declarations commence!

Whether baby showers happen or not, everyone loves sending gifts to expecting mothers, especially first-timers. I know I loved (and deeply appreciated) the flow of clothes and books and toys, much of it from people who had already been in my position long before me. People who understood to offer clothes in sizes other than just newborn, so that I'd actually have enough onesies and sleepers and such to get me by for at least the first year. People who thought to offer things I'd never think of getting on my own. People who knew me well enough to not offer obnoxious battery-operated toys or boxes upon boxes of disposable diapers.

Since having my own baby, I've learned a lot about some of the more practical gifts one can give an expectant parent. Looking for gift ideas for the next baby shower you get invited to? Here are some you may not have thought of.

There are so many things to learn about pregnancy and birth and parenting. In my opinion, every pregnant woman needs a good childbirth class; why not help pay for a series? Or perhaps a breastfeeding class? Or a baby massage class? (Or maybe a prenatal massage for mama?) Perhaps some prenatal yoga classes to help her relax during pregnancy? Or think ahead and find a good baby sign language class. If an entire set of classes is out of your price range, consider teaming up with another friend to pay for the classes, or get a gift certificate to contribute to the overall cost.

Being a new mama is hard, what with the lack of sleep and lack of time for doing anything other than holding baby (or so it seems!). And it's even worse for a first-time mama, who might be struggling with breastfeeding, or who might need help just staying on top of laundry, or who would love to have some kind of meal that didn't come from a box. Consider paying for (or helping to pay for) some kind of service like a postpartum doula (who can help with baby care, assist with breastfeeding, and answer any and all questions a new parent might have) or a maid.

Well, you've probably thought of this one. I did mention it above, after all. But try thinking outside the box if you just can't resist getting clothes (and who can?). Don't just shop for newborn or 0-3 month clothes, as most babies grow out of those ridiculously fast. Look for 6 month, 9 month, or even 12-18 month articles of clothing, to ensure that baby will be fashionably clad for some time to come. Look in unusual places to find clothes too. Try online stores like Etsy for one-of-a-kind onesies, check out websites like ThinkGeek for your nerdy AWESOME friends, and look in local gift stores for outfits that you can't find at stores like Babies R Us. I've even seen some pretty awesome onesies and toddler t-shirts at my local farmers' market!

Yes, everybody gives baby blankets. But yes, new parents will probably use all of those baby blankets. As a matter of fact, there will be times when every single one of those blankets are in the laundry hamper, because they have been spit up on or peed on or otherwise been dirtied. In my opinion, new parents can never have too many baby blankets. Look for unusual designs and consider getting gender-neutral colors so that blankets can be reused for subsequent babies or passed on more easily to family/friends. Bonus points for handmade blankets or quilts!

Handmade quilts also make for great photo ops.

Enough said, right? Make sure you find out preferences first, though! If cloth diapers are the thing, are there any particular styles or brands that would be preferred? Consider gift certificates to websites like Cotton Babies, so mama can pick out her own. Consider cloth diaper accessories, like wet bags or cloth diaper wipes, or even cloth diaper detergent. If she's going with disposables, also check for preferences: bleach-free, eco-friendly, biodegradable? Something special for ultra-sensitive newborn skin, but something different when baby gets older? Going with a name brand, either due to a rewards program or easy availability or some other reason? It's important to have plenty in the smaller sizes, but also consider getting some in larger sizes that will last beyond the first few months.

     Baby Care and First Aid Kit.
If you want to get something that will really be appreciated, consider putting together a collection of essential baby care items. First, think of the essentials: shampoo, body wash, baby lotion, diaper rash ointment (pick your favorite; I absolutely love Angel Baby Bottom Balm). Add in some other useful tools: nasal aspirator (those bulb thingies that are used to remove boogers from baby's nose) (or consider a Nosefrida if you're edgy like that), baby nail clippers. To make your collection complete, add in items like a quick-read thermometer, saline spray or drops (to help break up congestion), baby-friendly acetaminophen (Tylenol, in case of fevers), and baby chest rub (preferably a variety that is free of menthol and petroleum products). Earth Mama Angel Baby offers a fantastic Baby Essentials Bundle if you're looking for an easier option along these lines.

     Mama Postpartum Kit.
Chances are good that someone will think of getting a new parent some of the baby supplies listed above, but what about supplies to care for the newly postpartum mama? Recovering from labor and birth is tough, but some thoughtfulness from a friend can go a long way to helping a new mama stay sane. Items to consider: pads (for postpartum bleeding, or lochia) (bonus points for also including soothing freezable postpartum pads to help with healing), Epsom salt, an herbal sitz bath blend, a peri bottle, something soothing for the perineum (such as Mama Bottom Balm). Earth Mama Angel Baby also offers a Postpartum Recovery Essentials Bundle, which might be an easier route.

     Mama Breastfeeding Essentials Kit.
For the mama who plans to breastfeed, a few supplies will always be appreciated! Consider a container of your favorite nipple butter/cream (Lanolin was the only thing that worked for me, but other friends have other favorites), reusable breast pads, a nursing necklace (something pretty for baby to focus on while nursing; I love the ones by Wild Mother Arts), lactation tea. One of my good friends got me a package of breast shells, which I can say with complete honesty were a lifesaver for me. For mamas who want one, consider a nursing cover, or thin blankets for covering with while out and about. For even more bonus points, include a package (or a subscription!!) of lactation cookies.

Most women spend plenty of time during their pregnancy reading pregnancy books and learning all about labor and delivery, but not as many pick up books on actual baby care. And believe me, all new parents will be glad to find a trusted book nearby for all of those unexpected baby things that crop up in the middle of the night! So give a book or three so that mama has a good resource to turn to when questions arise. Also consider a good breastfeeding book for the nursing mother, books about fatherhood, or even a book that focuses solely on postpartum care. Or maybe just get copies of some of your favorite children's books; baby may not really be able to focus on stories or elaborate pictures yet, but reading to babies is always a great idea. Some of my favorite books for new parents:

     Other Assorted Baby Gear
Consider getting some other piece of baby gear that may have been overlooked by others. How about a vaporizer, to help baby breathe easier when congested? How about a baby carrier, like a Moby wrap or an Ergo? How about something to make bathing baby easier, like a simple baby tub or a Blooming Bath? How about some simple toys? Don't go too crazy with specialized items that aren't really that useful, but don't be afraid to think outside of the box either.

This is a Blooming Bath, which makes it easy to convert your kitchen sink to a baby bathtub.

Chances are good that in the days and weeks following the birth, mama will sometimes have a hard time feeding herself. There's simply not enough time to cook when there's a newborn that needs to be held! And this problem is even worse for a woman who is nursing, and therefore most likely ravenously hungry all the time. The solution? Make ahead and freeze meals for her, so that she (or some other member of the family) has only to throw a dish in the oven in order to get delicious, healthy food ready. Consider simple, easily freezable meals like lasagna or enchiladas, soups or chilis. Check ahead of time for dietary preferences/needs (vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, possible allergies). Consider including healthy snacks like trail mix or dried fruit. Another idea: collaborate with other friends to set up a schedule of bringing by freshly cooked dinners every day for the first few weeks after baby is born. Or bring by a few bags of groceries. One last option: gift certificates for some favorite restaurants that offer take out or delivery.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The No-Nap Revolution

It's 2:00 P.M., and I feel like I'm slowly turning into a monster.

Here's what I want. I want Bug to play by himself for five minutes without asking me for help with something that I know he is perfectly capable of doing by himself. I want to be able to finish the day's laundry without my cat standing on my husband's half-folded shirt, every single time I have a half-folded shirt in front of me. I want Bug to be able to drink an entire glass of cow milk without spilling it on the carpet. I want to be able to do the dishes efficiently, all at once, without little hands trying to get involved. I want to go to the bathroom by myself. I want to be able to read an entire chapter of my book without interruption. I want to be able to drink an entire cup of tea... while it's still hot.

But it's 2:00 P.M., and none of those things have happened yet today, and none of them are likely to happen until sometime after 6:00 P.M. tonight. Today is a no-nap day. Today I will probably not get anything useful done, and by the time I do finally get some alone time I'll be so exhausted myself that I'll probably just end up going to bed within an hour or two of my toddler finally conking out for the night.

Welcome to the no-nap revolution.

Look at that glazed-over stare.

I feel like I often give off the impression that having a toddler is all hearts and sunshine and balloons and unicorns. I love to write about cooking with my son, or getting him involved in housework, or reading with him. I love talking about the beautiful, fun aspects of being a parent. If you read my blog or are my friend on Facebook or in real life, it might look like we have this wonderful, blissful life together, that parenting comes effortlessly to me, that I love every single second of every single day that I spend with my son. Sometimes, that's true. Most of the time, even. But sometimes I also just don't want to gunk up social media with the more negative, draining aspects of parenting.

And that's precisely what this is. One of the harder parts.

Bug has been slowly giving up his afternoon nap, and to be perfectly honest, it's making me a little crazy.

Smiling on the outside, crazy on the inside.

Naps have been an ever-evolving thing around here. When Bug was really little, he was a power napper, taking lots of naps every day, with each one being about a half hour long, maybe forty-five minutes on a good day. That eventually consolidated to the predictable two naps a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Then it was one nap a day, usually around noon or so.

It's important to know that with babies, there is no such thing as a "normal" sleep pattern that can be applied to every baby, everywhere. I know that's not what all the books written by "baby sleep experts" would have you believe, but based upon my own real-life experience and the experiences of every mother I've ever discussed baby sleep with (and believe me, we talk about it ALL THE TIME, since the entire world wants us to think that normal baby sleep is actually a problem that needs to be fixed), it's true. Babies sleep the way they need to sleep, the way their bodies need rest for their own optimal growth. It doesn't always fit nicely into our adult schedules, but that's just the way it is.

And every time you think you've figured out your own baby's current "schedule," he goes and changes it up on you.

You can't tell, but that tea hasn't been hot for a long time.

For a long time after we moved to our current apartment, Bug and I had gotten into a good nap groove. We could go out and do things in the morning, I could head home around lunchtime without him falling asleep in the car, then we'd eat, and then we'd lie down and nurse and he'd fall asleep. Usually that nap would be 2 or 3 hours long. It was glorious. I could read and enjoy a cup of tea. (Theoretically, anyway; usually it's way too hot in San Diego to enjoy tea in the afternoon.) I could get a little housework done. I could start dinner. I could read. I could take a bath.

The possibilities were endless, I tell you. Endless!

And then something shifted. I almost didn't notice it at first. It started with Bug not napping for a day. Just one day, but then he was back on schedule, and since that has happened in the past, it hardly seemed noteworthy. When Bug doesn't nap, he usually just ends up falling asleep earlier in the evening; he ultimately gets plenty of sleep, just divided up differently. And while it's hard on me, one day is certainly not the end of the world.

But it hasn't just been that one day. Bug started going for two or three days in a row without napping. Sometimes he'd only nap every other day. Sometimes he'd nap every day for a week and I'd think things were back to normal. Right now, we're down to one nap per week, sometimes two in a "good" week. It's been this way for months now. Don't get me wrong; we still try for a nap every single day. We read, we lie down, we have quiet time. Some days he falls asleep. Most days, he does not.

And this transition has been hard. It's hard for him, because his body could really still use that nap most days, so by the end of the day he's tired and slightly crabby and it's clear that he's not entirely in control of himself or his emotions. It's hard for me, because I need that break every day; I start running low on patience, and it takes everything I have to keep it from affecting my interactions with him. It's hard because we can't make any afternoon plans at all anymore, since he's just not reliable if he hasn't gotten a nap, and his naps are too unpredictable. His attention span gets shorter and shorter as the afternoon progresses, and he flits back and forth between puzzles and the train table and his coloring books and can't really focus on any one thing for any length of time. (Note that since he's only 3, his attention span is pretty short to begin with, but it's clear to me that his tiredness compounds that.) He melts down over otherwise inconsequential things like brushing his teeth or me flushing the toilet when he wanted to.

I love him, but I also wish he'd sleep.

I kind of think I'll actually have an easier time overall once he just completely gives up that nap. I can give up my hopes of an afternoon break, and stop feeling disappointed when he decides to skip the nap. His body can hopefully get used to going for such a long stretch of time without sleep every day, and maybe he'll not get cranky until later in the afternoon. Maybe we'll actually be able to get stuff done in the afternoons. Maybe we'll be able to go out for lunch with friends more often, or go to afternoon storytime at the library.

In the meantime, though, so long as this revolution is in process, things will continue to be a bit chaotic around here after lunch. So forgive me if I don't answer texts, or if I am only on Facebook in the mornings or late at night. Forgive me if I make even less plans to go out than I normally do.

Because the no-nap revolution is on. And until things settle down and become a bit more predictable again, we'll be staying at home a lot more. And I'll be trying not to turn into a impatient monster.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

DIY Nursing Bra Conversion

Welcome to the February 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Do It Yourself
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants are teaching us how to make something useful or try something new.


I've been doing a lot of sewing lately.

I bought myself a sewing machine perhaps a year and a half ago, which is something I had wanted forever. I have dreams, my friends. Dreams of making curtains, of making blankets, of making occasional articles of clothing for my family (I did make my husband, son, and myself matching pairs of pajama pants for Christmas this year!), of making renaissance faire and Halloween costumes (last year, Bug was the man with the yellow hat, from Curious George).

What can I say? I just like sharing pictures of my boy!

Of course, many of my sewing dreams are on hold. For one thing, it's difficult to hang curtains in an apartment. For another, well, have you ever tried to sew with a toddler underfoot? Bug wants to push buttons. Bug wants to help me guide the fabric through the machine. Bug wants to (un)thread the needle. Bug wants to try his hand (er, foot) at using the foot pedal.

So when I do get to sew, it's usually in my husband's man cave, which is not really set up for being a sewing room. But the important thing is that I do get to sew occasionally!

And so when I say I've been doing a lot of sewing lately, I mean I sometimes sew in fits and starts, doing a project here or there, then putting my machine back into its lovely case for a few months or so, until I find a new project I simply must try out.

Today's project: convert one of my regular bras into a nursing bra. Because I'm cheap and don't want to buy an expensive one from the store. (And because, despite everything everyone has ever told me about how being a mother gives you bigger breasts, mine have stubbornly remained quite small, which makes it ridiculously hard to find nursing bras in the store that actually fit me!) It's really quite simple to make your own, and doesn't require a huge time commitment.

The convenience!

DIY Nursing Bra Conversion

Supplies Needed:
  • bra (one that fits you well, please!)
  • something to attach the bottom of the bra to the strap (I'm going to make slightly fancier strips of flannel cloth, because I can. But you can go much simpler; for the first nursing bra I ever converted, I used a soft shoelace. I've also heard elastic works well.)
  • a clasp of some sort (hooks/eyes are cheap and easy to find; snaps might work if you're small-chested like me, some people use swimsuit hooks, or you could get fancy and get some actual nursing bra clasps; for this project, I am cannibalizing one of my nursing tank tops for its clasps, and the instructions will reflect that)
  • thread (the same color as the bra, although I used a contrasting color to show a little better)
  • needles (or a sewing machine, which I used)

  1. Cut the strap from the bra cup. Make the cut right about at the level of your armpit, which will likely be about an inch above it, depending on the style of your bra.
  2. Measure out whatever you plan to use to reattach the bottom of the cup to the strap; this will provide a little bit of support, and keep your bra from just falling apart when you detach the cup to nurse. Make sure that whatever you use follows the curve of the cup, so that it won't be cutting against your skin in any way when you are wearing the bra. And then add an extra inch or two, just for good measure. Cut two (one for each side).
  3. Attach the bottom of your fabric strip/elastic/whatever to the cup. You may want to have it toward the middle of the cup, for a little support, or you may want to just attach it near the edge, if you worry about it being uncomfortable. Definitely make sure it's not going to be in a place where it will interfere with baby latching on!
  4. Here's where the instructions get a little muddled, as it kind of depends on what kind of clasp you are using on your bra. I used nursing bra clasps for this one. Take the bottom part of the clasp; attach the top of the bottom clasp to the bra strap by threading it through the slit, folding it under, and sewing it closed. Attach your fabric strip/elastic/whatever to the bottom part of the bottom clasp, in the same manner as you attached the bra strap.
  5. Attach the top clasp to the cup of the bra, by threading the very top of the cup through the slit, folding it under, and sewing it closed. Make sure you have the piece the right way so that it can attach to the other part of the clasp!

Various steps in the process. Feel free to leave comments if you need clarification, and I will try to explain better! And as you can see, you don't need to be good at sewing to make your own nursing bra.

And that's that! Pretty simple; the first one you make might take awhile, but even with no experience in the process it's a pretty quick process. You'll never need to buy a nursing bra again!
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • DIY: Homeschooling — Have you considered homeschooling but aren't sure how you could make it work? Kerry of City Kids Homeschooling offers some do-it-yourself encouragement in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Super Easy Berry Freezie — Tracy at Raised Good shows how to make healthy, delicious, dairy-free ice-cream for toddlers and their families in under 10 minutes.
  • How to Get Kids to Behave in Church — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook explains how she's been able to participate in religious activities that mean a lot to her, without being separated from her kids.
  • Valentine's Slippers — A sneak peek at Life Breath Present's crochet process with some slippers for Hun for Valentine's Day this year!
  • DIY Nursing Bra Conversion — Holly at Leaves of Lavender provides a quick tutorial for how to convert your favorite regular bra to a nursing bra.
  • Make your own soothing postpartum pads — Lauren at Hobo Mama shows you how to freeze padsicles for perineal comfort after birth, plus bonus healing options.
  • Beginning Knitting Project for Kids: Knit a Pikachu — What do you do with all of those practice squares you knit when you are a beginner? Turn them into Pokemon! Kieran, 7-year-old son of Dionna at Code Name: Mama, brings us a video tutorial for this awesome knitting project for kids and adults.
  • Name Creations: An Inspiring Project that Builds Self-Esteem — Children love their names. Learn easy instructions for children, tweens and teens to put a dramatic name on their door or room wall from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., at Parental Intelligence.
  • Water-Bead Sensory Bottles for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares a tutorial for making a rainbow of water-bead sensory bottles along with ideas for using them with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

This post is shared at the Healthy, Happy, Green, & Natural Party Hop on 2/9/2015.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Birth of Little Bug

I originally wrote about the birth of Little Bug, my son, on my infrequently-updated blog, Plentiful Thoughts of Miscellany. I haven't gone back and looked it over in ages; it's amazing what the passage of three years can do to one's perception! There are details in that initial telling that I had actually forgotten. There are also some things that I know more about now, after having spent so much time reading and learning about birth.

This version of Bug's birth story is not precisely the same as it appeared on my original blog. Instead, this is an updated version, with some interesting tidbits thrown in as well as just a little bit of clarification on some things that I did not fully understand before.

I present: a birth story!


I spent at least half of my labor denying that I was in labor.

My baby decided the time had come when I was a few days shy of 38 weeks. I had spent much of my pregnancy firmly believing that my baby would be born late; after all, as my midwife pointed out, first babies are nine days late, on average. Friends and family had been gleefully telling me how their first babies had come days or weeks late, and I had read many positive birth stories where firstborns came after 41 or 42 weeks gestation. So you might understand why, when people asked me when the EDD was, I would tell them February 19, but then assure them that it would probably be late February, maybe even early March. [After awhile, I stopped even giving out the EDD. I was not looking forward to those daily phone calls and text messages asking if baby had come yet!] In fact, I was secretly hoping for a Leap Day baby, and wasn't shy about telling anyone who asked. [I still think that would have been neat. But my Little Bug chose his own birth date, and I had no say in the matter!]

So when my water broke around 2:30 in the afternoon of February 1, I assumed I had just had an embarrassing bout of urinary incontinence. [I know now that my water did not actually break this early. Instead, I'm pretty sure that I just sprung a leak, high up in the amniotic sac. Fluid leaked out, but my waters did not break completely!] Yep, I thought I had peed myself, and was quite thankful that only the cat was around to witness it. I still had the presence of mind to note the time (halfway through Fresh Air on NPR!) and to sniff it (I know, gross, but my birth class drilled that response into me). [Note that this is one of the few things I actually learned and remembered from that birth class. It was not a very useful class. Part of the reason why I later decided to become a childbirth educator myself!] It didn't smell like anything, which meant it could be amniotic fluid, but it could also just mean that I was really well-hydrated; after all, I had been drinking water like a boss. I should have contacted my midwife then, but I suppose I didn't want to sound a false alarm and be that pesky first-time mom who saw labor around every corner.

Sometime after that, the contractions started. [You would think I would remember when the first one hit, but I totally don't. Seriously. Not at all.] I assumed that I was finally starting to feel the Braxton-Hicks contractions that had apparently started at least a week earlier. At my last prenatal appointment, my midwife pointed out when one was happening; I couldn't feel anything, but she (and my husband) could clearly see that my uterus was contracting. These new contractions felt uncomfortable, but definitely were something I could handle.

In hindsight, I should have taken notice of the fact that these contractions made my back hurt. [Or maybe I should have taken notice of the fact that I noticed them at all?!] Aren't Braxton-Hicks supposed to hurt in front, while real contractions hurt in back? I didn't remember this, or didn't make the connection, and since the contractions were no real inconvenience, I kept going about my merry way.

I next decided that this was a good time to go get a haircut. [I think some part of me realized that I might not get another opportunity to do so anytime soon. Instinct? Belated nesting urge?] But as I was on my way to Great Clips, I got a call from a friend inviting me to come over to play board games. (No, I am certainly not too old for board games, thank you very much.) Clearly, the hair cut could wait until tomorrow.

Famous last words.

As we played a few games, the contractions kept getting progressively worse, but I continued to willfully ignore them. [Progressing contractions - longer, stronger, and closer together - and knowing what I know now, this was a glaringly obviously sign that I was in labor.] Even when they got to the point where I could no longer sit through them, I still refused to recognize that these contractions might be something worth taking note of. Never mind the fact that I was still leaking some kind of fluid; I suppose I thought I had lost my ability to hold in my pee properly. And never mind the other fact that I had lost at least part of my mucous plug a week or so earlier. [It was pretty gross. My midwife told me at the time that it simply meant that my cervix was starting to change, but that it didn't necessarily mean labor was imminent. She probably meant that I was starting to efface. In reality, there's a good chance I had already dilated a few centimeters by the time of that appointment.] I simply refused to entertain the idea that I might actually be in labor. There was no way; it was too soon! [Not true. Labor at not-quite-38 weeks might be on the early end of the spectrum, but it was still perfectly normal. The "average" length of gestation is anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. Only about 5% of babies come on their EDD. Depending on what source you consult, 70-95% of babies are born within 10 days of their EDD. So, of course, I was part of that minority that was born more than 10 days before it!]

The ten-minute drive home was distinctly uncomfortable. [How I managed to stay sitting in the car during the few contractions that happened is beyond me. I think at least one happened at a stoplight, which I am thankful for. It was late at night by that point, so there weren't many other cars on the road anyway. I think I may have pulled over for one of the contractions, too.] I decided that a hot bath was in order; I think I recalled reading somewhere that a bath could make Braxton-Hicks contractions subside, and I definitely wanted them to subside at this point. [See, if I had acknowledged earlier that I was in labor, I would have tried to rest more and sleep! A good birth class emphasizes the importance of rest during early labor, but I don't think I got to that part in my birth classes. But I hadn't rested. And now it was late, and I desperately needed to sleep if I was going to finish this.] So I filled up the bathtub as much as I could, which unfortunately wasn't much, since the geniuses who designed my apartment complex decided to put in the smallest hot water heaters available. [Seriously. Stupid thing couldn't even fill my tub halfway. The apartment I moved to after that had in-line hot water for every building, which meant unlimited hot water! All apartments should be built that way! For the record, taking sitz baths during the early postpartum days was a pain with such a puny hot water tank, but at least then I had people around to heat additional water on the stove and bring it in to me!] So with bathtub half full (and that's after adding a few pots of water heated on the stove), I climbed in and tried to relax myself. My mama called, and I told her what was going on; I learned later that she suspected it might be real labor but didn't want to shatter my disillusionment, figuring I would come to the right conclusion eventually. [I did!]

Not surprisingly, in retrospect anyway, the bath didn't really help. As I rested on my side in the hot water, the contractions just got worse, more painful even. [Well, the bath didn't help in the sense that it didn't make the contractions subside, like I had been hoping it would. It did feel very soothing, and allowed me to relax somewhat. I think I initially stayed in the tub until the water started to cool, kind of dozing a little bit. Water is amazing for pain relief in labor!] Worse yet, when I got out to use the toilet, I found myself with a little bit of what could only be the bloody show. [One of those things I had completely forgotten about! Yes, I did in fact have bloody show. It really is amazing how the mind blurs out the less-pleasant parts with time.] Resigned to the fact that I might actually be in labor, I decided to call my midwife.

No answer.

I left a message. An hour later, I left a second message. I sent several text messages. No answer. All the while, the contractions were getting stronger and closer together, and I was slowly becoming more convinced that this might be the real deal. [Progressing contractions!] In a moment of frustration, I remembered that the midwife's apprentice had called me a few weeks back; I hadn't saved the number, but I hadn't cleared my recent call data either, so it should still be in my phone somewhere. Eventually, I pinpointed which one I thought was hers and called, hoping I was right since by now it was pretty late at night. Success! While she worked at getting in contact with my midwife (she had other phone numbers to try) [I probably had those other numbers somewhere in my paperwork from her, but I was in no state to remember that], I tried to lie down and sleep some.

Sleeping didn't work. The contractions were pretty close together now, and every time one hit I absolutely had to sit up. [Sleeping during labor did not happen for me. I really started to wish I had rested more earlier!] Eventually I resorted to pacing my house, while my worried cat tried to act as my doula. (He had good intentions, but just didn't know what to do when I was so clearly uncomfortable.) [He did keep me company though! He was quite a trooper through the whole thing.]

Soon enough, my midwife finally called me back. After getting my rough analysis of the situation, she advised me to get my husband home (he's in the Navy and was supposed to be staying on base that night). I had been texting him all afternoon and evening to let him know how uncomfortable I was, so he suspected something was up; he didn't seem entirely surprised when I woke him up around midnight and asked him to come home.

After that, things get kind of hazy, time-wise. I know I filled the bathtub again, and my husband continued to boil water on the stove to keep it warm for me. I know the two of us were in regular contact with my midwife, and it wasn't long before she (and her apprentice) were both on their way to my apartment. I had planned to give birth at their birth center, but an hour-long drive was clearly out of the question for me at this point. [I don't know what ever made me think that it was a viable option in the first place. If I could barely handle a 10 minute drive, how could I manage an hour?! And this was hours after that 10 minute drive, so labor was pretty intense at this point.]

I know I asked my husband to provide counter-pressure on my back during my contractions. I know I pooped a little in the tub during some of the contractions, but my husband showed his worth (not that there was ever any doubt) by putting on rubber gloves and scooping it out. [He's such a rock star!] He also brought me applesauce (the only food I was interested in eating) and kept me drinking water between contractions. [I have learned so much more since then about good comfort measures in labor. I managed just fine with my limited repertoire, but sometimes I wonder if having my hips squeezed might have helped...]

I know that after all of the books I had read, all of the stories and such I had read on the Internet, and the birth class (of which my final class was supposed to be in a week), I remembered only two things. First, I remembered to keep breathing deeply and evenly throughout the contractions; I also remembered to take a really deep breath at the beginning and end of each so that my husband would know a contraction was upon me without me having to tell him each time. [That worked very well for us. The breathing was my ritual to get through the intense contractions, and the deep breaths provided a beginning/end point to help keep me focused. And it helped my husband to be involved, to know exactly when the contractions came on.] I also remembered Ina May's concept that the uterus is a sphincter; as I breathed through the contractions (and squeezed first my husband's hand, then a rolled-up towel after he decided that he didn't want broken fingers), I actively kept my jaw loose, all the better to allow my uterus to open freely.

At some point, my husband became concerned about the water being contaminated [from my having pooped... going to emphasize that because, no lie, it's pretty common to poop during labor; I wasn't bothered by it at all though. I probably barely noticed it at the time.], so we emptied the tub and I decided to try laboring in a few different positions. Hands and knees didn't work for me. Standing with my arms around my husband's neck while he supported my weight didn't work either. I ended up doing most of the rest of my labor sitting on the toilet, of all places. [My own personal birthing stool! I also know now that many women find labor more manageable in an upright, somewhat forward-leaning position like on the toilet, and many women do, in fact, spend time there during labor. After awhile, I was just settled in there. I was focusing on my breathing, keeping my jaw loose, and just letting my body open. I lost any and all interest in trying other positions.]

I started feeling the urge to push. When I think about the pushing stage of my labor, I'm not sure I can understand the concept of coached pushing; when that urge came, I pushed, and there was no way I could stop myself even if I had wanted to. [I did try to hold back a little though, to not push quite as hard. I was hoping to not tear, or to not tear as much. But there was no way I could have stopped pushing entirely!] I assume I was fully dilated by this point, but since I never had any vaginal exams throughout, I can't say for certain.

My water had broken earlier [or, rather, started leaking],  but as I breathed through my contractions, it became apparent to me that the amniotic sac hadn't completely burst. Nope, when I felt down between my legs, there was what I can only describe as a bubble coming out of me. It was a very bizarre sensation. [For reals. I also am fairly confident now that my strong attention to the protein in my diet, and my continuous efforts to get at least the 80 grams per day that my midwife recommended was the main reason why my amniotic sac remained intact for so long!]

The haziness increased. The midwife's apprentice arrived first. [I feel like she was there during some of the position changes, but I can't be certain. It's all a blur in my head, especially this long after the fact.] She came to see how I was doing, then went to prepare supplies for the birth. [My husband says she checked my vitals and monitored the baby through a few contractions, but I honestly don't remember. I was so focused on what my body was doing that I just didn't notice unless she was speaking directly to me. Which she didn't do very often, since she was very aware that I was concentrating inwardly.] Eventually my midwife appeared. And, I was told later, my water broke for real about fifteen minutes later, and the baby came out in the same push.

I gave birth in my bathroom. [I feel like I should mention that the bathroom in our apartment was HUGE. As in, you could easily fit in me, my husband, and two midwives, and have plenty of extra room for equipment and towels and such. And as far as clean-up purposes go, that was definitely a good choice of birthplace!] The placenta followed soon after, and I sat in the re-filled tub for awhile while the midwife checked my son over. I hadn't received any medication of any kind during labor, but I gladly accepted a shot of Pitocin after to help stop the bleeding. [Note that I was not hemorrhaging, or even close, but just losing a bit more blood than my midwife wanted to see. If she had thought it at all necessary, we would have transferred to the hospital in an instant, but she was competent and well-trained and had everything under control.] Eventually I moved to my bed. [The best part about home birth: getting to have your immediate postpartum check in the comfort of your own bedroom! Well, maybe not the best part, but definitely something that I thought was fantastic.] While the midwives checked my bottom area, my wonderful husband held our beautiful baby against his chest; we had decided to wait to cut the cord [delayed cord clamping for the win!], so the placenta sat next to him in one of our mixing bowls. [I dearly wish I had a picture of that... it's one of my fondest memories of the birth, which probably sounds weird, but is totally true.] I had one tiny tear, which took two stitches to close up.

My son was born at 5:43 am on February 2, 2012, fifteen hours after my water broke started leaking initially. No medications, no interventions; a completely un-complicated home birth. I couldn't have asked for a better experience.