Showing posts with label Babies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Babies. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Uncle Ronnie's chicken bog {& a list of freezable meals!}

I sat down here to write an update on the Ranger household. But rather than jot those deets, I veered off the path to share another recipe for comforting chicken stew (that makes two in a row).

Because sometimes your pal Jenny--a wonderful friend and beautiful person inside and out--asks you for easy, freezable meal ideas in anticipation of her first bundle of joy, and you must answer the call. Once a boat mate, always a boat mate. So I hope you'll forgive me for sharing this recipe instead of an update today, and I believe you will once you've learned how easy and delicious it is.

Only picture of me (2nd from left) and Jenny that I can find right now. She's the badass on the right.


My uncle that I was telling you about the other day--Uncle Ronnie of the sorghum syrup--is a wealth of information about recipes from the old south. He usually gets the tips from his Dad, who is an even greater wealth of information on the topic. So you can see, I've tapped into a great wellspring of recipes for you folks.

My latest discovery via Uncle Ronnie is chicken bog, a stew from the eastern Carolinas. Perhaps it would sound more tasty if I called it chicken and rice stew, but I prefer to let the title lie as is in all its odd, humble glory. Although the name is quirky and less than delicious-sounding, chicken bog is neither of those things.

A recipe as simple as this one deserves to be left without the decoration of superfluous adjectives, so I'll just tell you it is GOOD. And if you're a soon-to-be mom, you should also know that it is easy and definitely freezable. All you need is time, but if you're anything like I was during the nesting phase, you're spending lots of time rewashing the layette anyhow and can spare a few minutes for waiting and stirring.

Uncle Ronnie's dad dictated few instructions. Mainly he said to cover the chicken with water, simmer until it is falling apart, strain the stock into a container, top the chicken with 2 c. white Carolina rice, pour in 2-3 c. of the saved liquid, and simmer 15 more minutes. You can certainly do it as simply as that, but I added a few fussier ingredients thanks to this recipe by Vivian Howard of A Chef's Life.


Uncle Ronnie's chicken bog
serves 8

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, skin-on and cut into parts
1 onion, quartered
bay leaf
fresh thyme
salt & pepper
2 c. white rice (I can get Carolina brand at the regular grocery)
butter

Directions:

  1. Place chicken pieces in a Dutch oven. Cover with water and throw in the onion, bay leaf, a few sprigs of thyme, and 1 Tbs. salt and a few teaspoons of fresh cracked pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer the chicken over low heat for about an hour and a half or until chicken is falling apart. You will have rendered the fat off the skin, and even the breast meat should come right apart if poked with a fork.
  2. Turn the heat off and let it sit covered in its liquid for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces to a cutting board to cool. Strain the stock into a container. Shred the chicken, leaving some big pieces of breast meat, and discard the skin bones. [Note: If you are freezing the recipe, stop here. Put the shredded chicken into the stock, label it with the name and date, and put it in the chest freezer. When you're ready to use it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator, and move on to step #3.]
  3. Return chicken to the Dutch oven. Top with 2 c. white rice if you're serving 8 people (if you're serving 4, save half for later in the week at step #2, then cook fresh rice at that time). Don't rinse your rice before putting it in, since the extra starch is helpful for thickening. Follow rice directions for how much liquid to add (usually 2:1 ratio of liquid to rice). Simmer for approximately 15 minutes until rice is tender. Careful not to simmer too long, for though you want the chicken soft, you want the rice to maintain a bite. Drop in a pat of butter and maybe some lemon juice or parsley if you like it fussy. Just do me a favor and don't tell Uncle Ronnie's dad.

For Jenny & the other moms-to-be out there, here's a list of freezable recipes from the blog:

My one and only piece of advice when it comes to post-baby food is this: invest in a chest freezer! I promise you won't regret the investment even if you don't cook that often. Last I checked, they sell a reasonably large model for around $100 at Home Depot.

Good luck, Jenny! And snuggle that baby. They grow all too fast.
xoxo,
~J

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

{NPN carnival}: don't fear the tears

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.
***

Before I became a mother, there wasn't much I feared. Who needs fear when I knew everything already? For instance, I knew that by being calm, my baby would be calm. I knew that because I have always slept like a rock, I'd of course have a baby who slept well.

But I didn't. Instead of sleeping, my baby preferred to cry for three months straight from two months old to five months old. When people used to cite the incident where Michael Jackson held his baby upside down as evidence of his eccentricity, I would dryly reply they must not have ever had a "colicky" child. Like Chris Rock once said, I'm not saying he shoulda done it, but I understand.

If my experience taught me one valuable lesson, it's that you can't always control whether your child cries. 

You can cut out dairy, breastfeed on demand, co-sleep, burp the baby only while perching her at a 90 degree angle, swaddle her, un-swaddle her, use an amber pacifier, hand-knit diapers made from wool spun by Tibetan monks, add a humidifier and a noisemaker, and wash all your linens in vinegar or your own tears. You can do all that, and you might still end up with a baby who cries at all hours of the day and night.

Here's what I learned: it's okay to let them cry. 

I'm not here to judge any parenting style. I'm simply suggesting you can let your baby cry at times without applying a title to what you're doing. There's a fantastic article on Natural Parents Network that suggests allowing crying is not necessarily the same thing as the dreaded moniker "cry it out" (CIO).

You can't always prevent your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartner from crying either. You won't always understand why they are crying or be able to comfort them. That's certainly been true for my second daughter, who went from being one of the most content, sleepy babies I've ever seen to a three-year-old who cries at the drop of a hat. Literally, her hat could fall off her head, and she'd cry.



Speaking about parenting styles, there's a style referred to as RIE, Resources for Infant Educarers, that has been highlighted recently in a Vanity Fair article. [Update (2/11/14, 5pm): I added a link to the Vanity Fair article that was missing. When I first read it, I felt like the author sensationalized RIE, making it seem like a fad and conflating different notions about what RIE is and isn't. But you should be able to make up your own mind.] It will likely mean RIE will be in the limelight for a while, and some RIE principles apply to this discussion.

The foundations of RIE are built upon awareness and respect. You could say it's the opposite of helicopter parenting. Instead of making snap assumptions, interfering, and rescuing, RIE followers let their sensitive observations guide their actions and listen closely before responding. What would you call that, drone parenting? Okay, so maybe I'm not all that good at describing RIE either. But lucky for you, Janet Lansbury is; her RIE parenting basics (nine ways to put respect into action) is particularly useful.

I haven't always handled my children crying well; sometimes I interfere and attempt to rescue them or even try to silence them. And hey, I'm not judging you if you've done that too! But what works better is if I treat my child the same way I'd treat a doula client if she cried during labor, with patience and respect. I'd let her struggles happen because they bring her strength.

The important distinction here is the same as one I teach parents in a childbirth education class: There is a difference between pain and suffering. To prevent suffering, we must not numb or avoid pain but be mindful of its motivation. Just as there is physical pain in labor that serves a purpose, there is emotional pain in childhood that serves a purpose. Painful emotions can be self-correcting and self-healing. Trying to quell the expression of the pain won't make it go away, and indeed it could serve to stifle their ability to self-regulate their emotions. Part of childhood is learning to express and control emotions without our interference.

[A note for new moms: If you're anything like me, on days your baby cries you might end up crying too. Take heart. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are normal! You can relieve them gradually by seeking interaction with other new moms in a support group, yoga studio, or free library music class. Friendship is just around the corner.]


***
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo 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 (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):
  • When Parents' Fears Escalate — If we didn't self-doubt, we probably wouldn't care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama's family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I'm a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Proactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son's future?
  • I Don't Homeschool to Manage My Kids' Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama's fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household - that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent - that most parents share - looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit...Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear...
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren't anywhere near as scary as she'd thought.
  • Don't fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me... — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

natural birth stories: review, giveaway, and discount!

Author's Note: You can read more about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood on my site here. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to find out how you can get your own copy of Natural Birth Stories.

When I was nearing the end of my first pregnancy, I picked up a book one day that my mom recommended called Spiritual Midwifery. It was the first time I'd read any book that Ina May Gaskin published, and I was hooked from the start. Reading the stories of those women's natural births was empowering; it quelled my anxiety while also raising my belief that I could give birth without medical pain relief.

Monday, October 07, 2013

a family dinner by any other name

Selfie in Sweden, pre-kids
After graduating college, Nate and I embarked on a journey as a newly minted family, leaving behind our home state for adventures in the uncharted beyond. Moving away from our families of origin was exciting! Graduate school and moves to the Midwest, the US capital, and across the Atlantic Ocean opened our eyes to different and interesting ways of thinking and living.

Along the way, we became parents. Welcome to the best learning experience of all! While we were thrilled about our growing family, we also encountered our share of challenges and foibles. None of our friends had kids yet, so we navigated the choppy new waters solo while they smiled and did their best to understand the dark circles and panicked voices. Without family in town to assist us, we floundered quite a bit on just what to do with our new bundle of joy. We relied on our nanny to tell us what and when to feed Vivi. I chuckle to remember how we browsed stacks of parenting volumes promising new and different ways to achieve better results, as though she were a new iGadget instead of a person.

Although advice was still only a phone call away, the temptation of “the unknown better” beckoned louder. Eschewing family secrets for propaganda, we replaced the village with pop science. Whereas pride in continuing our families’ traditions was once the goal long ago, shiny-new-object syndrome stepped in and took over.

Unfortunately, our manic pursuit of novelty did not improve our lives. The promise that the latest parenting trend would solve our problems didn’t deliver. We were paralyzed by choice and growing dizzy from the pendulum of polarized philosophies. Put simply, we were not happy parents.




******************

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

about that time I had an IUD for two days

 A few months ago, I had an IUD for a brief moment. I struggled with whether to write about my experience here, but then Jamie (aka the grumbles) blasted through with all her badassery and Hell Yeah Unicorns, and I was inspired to share my story, although luckily my story is not nearly as horrible and gory as hers. Sorry Jamie.

I am sharing my experience because my story wasn't one of the many I read about prior to getting my IUD. As a doula, I want my clients to have as much information about birth so they can make their own empowered choices. I support whatever those choices are, so long as they are accompanied by corresponding evidence. I feel the same about your reproductive choices, Reader. The More You Know, and all that jazz.

...............................

Last night I watched Lena Dunham's show Girls for the first time. We got the first season from the library, and because binge-watching is our favorite way to get into new shows, we watched three episodes in a row. I am really not quite sure how Girls is related to the rest of what I'm writing about today, but somehow it seems vaguely intertwined. Something about solidarity, mothering our female friendships, hoes before bros, or along those lines. Plus, it's really hard for me to start out by saying "So y'all, about my vagina..." and this side note is my way of stalling.

...............................

So ya'll, about my vagina.

Looking back, I can't even remember exactly why I thought the IUD was the way I wanted to go, except that I was sick of swallowing The Pill's nasty hormone cocktail, and hormone-free birth control seemed like a good option. What I had read about diaphragms wasn't all that gung-ho either, so I figured in the realm of the sucky contraception options available, maybe ParaGard would be okay. ParaGard is the IUD made of copper, and my gynecologist assured me it's been on the market for a long time and is substantially improved from previous versions. I asked a few friends who used it, did some brief questioning of Dr. Google, and then jumped in, vagina-first.

{Warning: some graphic details will follow. Put down your sandwich}.

I'm not exaggerating when I say IT HURT LIKE A BITCH to have the IUD put in. Something about expanding a balloon inside my uterus to check its size (BLARG! hmhmhmhhmhm...I can't hear you...), then some bleeding that resulted from her pinching me from the inside. Yup, you read that right. She stabbed me in my uterus. Ever been poked in an internal organ while under no anesthesia? Doesn't feel great, amiriteladies?

Let me put it this way. I have experienced two unmedicated births, and this experience was hands-down more traumatizing. With my births, I was fully expecting the pain, and I knew it was natural, serving the amazing purpose of bringing my babies to my arms. That kind of pain I can handle. But the kind of pain where she doesn't bother even telling me it's going to hurt, beyond a flippant "this will sting a bit" as she was putting her hands in me, is another story. Once I started up my Lamaze breathing, she glanced over my splayed legs with a half-alarmed, half-annoyed look and said "You're not going to pass out, are you? I've had some women pass out on me and fall off the table." OH REALLY, thaaaaaat's quite interesting. Maybe you could have mentioned that in addition to the sting. A bee stings. This was not a sting.

I went home feeling a little shaky and tried not to think about it.

Cut to a morning less than 48 hours later. I was making eggs in a cast-iron skillet, and even when still cool, it felt hot to the touch. I ran over to the sink and scrubbed my hands clean, but the itchy, burning feeling didn't subside. The closest I can come to describing the feeling is that it's like accidentally touching fiberglass. You can't see the stuff, but it hurts acutely like you want to remove a splinter right away. My hands stayed swollen, splotchy, and red all morning.

I didn't yet connect the trouble to my IUD (Would you have? Three feet away inside me, it seemed like a non-issue), but I did consult Dr. Google with the query, "Why is my skillet giving me hives?"

[This part in the story is where I should probably pause and tell you that no earlier than a week before this problem, I had an exchange with my husband about how I never wear earrings because they are so itchy and uncomfortable. He postulated that like his mom and sister, I probably had a mild nickel allergy. It explained so much, including why some earrings were bothersome and others were not.]

Back to my kryptonite skillet. Google revealed the most common answer to be that modern iron skillets are sometimes plated in nickel because it is virtually indestructible and a good conductor of heat. Aha! That piece of information also helped me understand why our smaller heirloom skillets weren't posing a problem to my hands. They were likely made prior to nickel-plating.

What I hadn't yet figured out is why I suddenly was more allergic to the skillet now. What had changed? The IUD was made out of copper, not nickel...or so I thought? Not so fast, oh-ye-who-trusts-pharmaceutical companies. With some digging, I turned up others saying they had spoken with reps at ParaGard, who explained that while the IUD is coated in copper, it is actually comprised of a nickel core. Say what?

It's not difficult to understand why they chose this make-up because nickel is quite cheap compared with copper. What might be more difficult to understand is why it isn't written ANYWHERE ON THE PACKAGING that nickel is in the ParaGard. Is it still tough to put it together when you hear that nickel is one of the most common allergies? It's no surprise to me that ParaGard isn't advertising the nickel in their product when so many women would potentially be excluded from its use.

I immediately called the doctor, who was actually also surprised to hear that nickel was in the ParaGard. I would have almost preferred her saying "OH, you didn't tell me you were allergic to nickel! Yes, I know about it." She agreed that I should come in immediately and have the offending IUD taken out, which I did. While I may not have had any unicorns dancing around, I definitely saw Bob Marley's three little birds doing a happy dance around me on my way out of the clinic.

It's okay Bob, I'm not worried about a thing any more.

...............................

When I told my cousin this story, she pointed out how much worse it could have been if I had paid for that IUD. So true! Did you know those things can cost upwards of nearly a grand? I didn't until I had it taken out. I won't toot my horn too loudly with this next bit of info, but we have no copay for office visits. As in, I walked in and got the IUD, then two days later I had it removed, and it cost me zilch. But for people who are paying out of pocket, you'd think that medical personnel would be more committed to discovering the ins and outs of their expensive products. What do you think?



Thursday, September 27, 2012

we interrupt this program...

...to bring you a baby video of Charlotte (5 1/2 months old) I found when organizing the computer. Notice how I am barely able to keep Vivi from smothering her. That was the status quo for what seemed like forever. It's astounding how much daily life can change in two years.

video

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

the half-open door

The trouble with staying on top of clutter reduction is that occasionally I come across an item I don't feel like getting rid of but know the usefulness has expired. Case in point:

The last few remnants of Pat the Bunny and the sticky, forgotten Hello Bee, Hello Me.

These items are no longer needed. They aren't used. Most days, except for recently when I was tidying, they aren't even though about. But boy, start considering throwing them in the garbage, and bring on the w a t e r w o r k s.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

paying it forward with baby gear

When I was pregnant for the first time, I had a few showers given by friends and family, and they were a great way to celebrate my peanut and to get some of the gear I needed. Even more helpful, and completely unexpected, were the gifts from moms of hand-me-down clothes and toys. I received several large boxes over the years, and I would guess they saved us easily $1,000 and gave us the nice feeling you get from reusing instead of buying new.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

flow: a simple way of parenting


Hello, Readers!
I am pleased to introduce you to talented writer Megan Massaro, who co-wrote the book (The Other Baby Book). The authors of the book are conducting a virtual book tour, where they pop in to blogs and guest post. The Other Baby Book is linked up to my blog in my sponsorships sidebar. As with all the other "sponsors," I gave an ad spot and post to Megan because I like her and her blog and think you will too. Be sure to read through to the end of the post to see her bio and other links.

****

“Balance” is a buzz word for women, and mothers in particular.

As in, “It’s important to have balance in your life.” “Babies, career, friends, partner—it’s a balancing act.”

There’s even a book called The Balanced Mom: Raising Your Kids Without Losing Your Self. (I have not read this book, BTW. Just mulled over the title.)

Balancing sounds nice, but it’s better left to pilates classes, not moms of babies. Balancing can be scary. If you don’t hold things in exactly the right way, something’s out of whack.

Enter: Flow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

calling all birth stories!

I learned today that 100% of my Facebook followers are women. 100%! Which got me thinking. If the comments y'all leave me are any inkling, most of you reading this post are also women (which may not be fair in this case, considering the post has birth in the title. Men undoubtedly ran screaming). I'm writing today to see if any of you lovely readers are interested in posting your birth stories on my new doula website.

When I was pregnant, the #1 source of help to me was hearing and reading mothers' birth stories. I read Spiritual Midwifery from cover to cover, which is a collection of birth stories that took place on Ina May Gaskin's farm in Tennessee. It was empowering to discover that many women not only gave birth without much outside assistance but that they frequently enjoyed the birth experience. Unfortunately being pregnant also seemed to draw out the random strangers (or even members of my family) who had very challenging labors, and I heard some traumatic stories too.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

my-doula oblongata

My birth doula training (doula= non-medical labor coach) took place this weekend, and it was wonderful. I also had a great day today full of calls, texts, and emails from friends and family asking me how it went. I feel so loved and supported. Thank you!

I want to share some of the best parts of the two-day training. But first I want to share this chubby angel...


Is he the sweetest thing you've ever seen or what? This little guy is the best four-month-old baby in the world; he tagged along with his still-breastfeeding mama to the training and basically slept, smiled, and ate the whole time. After being around him for a full weekend, all I can say is that Nate is lucky he is currently across several continents and a giant ocean. I was in full-on baby-crazed mode.

Monday, January 23, 2012

croup, there it is (aka. why I didn't sleep last night)

Yesterday evening I did some yoga in the office while hubs watched the semis or the playoffs or whatever that round of NFL games was called. It was peaceful and uneventful, my kind of evening, and I went to bed early with a book and was asleep by 10pm. I should have known never to trust a calm evening, and sure enough, by midnight the storm was brewing.

Charlotte's coughing startled me out of sleep because of how pathetically weak it sounded. It was as though she was trying to cough with a ball in her mouth. I was so worried that she had something stuck in there, but since there was nothing in her crib but pacifiers, and since she had been sleeping soundly since 6:30pm, it seemed unrealistic. I bounded into her room, and she seemed upset but had a healthy pink face and no fever. Horrible, barking cough continued. Unsure of what to do, I went for the old standby of children's ibuprofen and running upstairs with her to wake Nate up.

Monday, January 09, 2012

hair club for mamas

Have I told you about my hair? Probably not; I try not to talk much about it. However, I am buoyed by other ladies with more eloquent, confident writing than my own (read: Suburban Matron's discussions of her own post-chemotherapy hair loss), and so I've decided to let you in. I have rarely found anyone discussing the topic of female hair loss on the web, so perhaps I can be helpful.

My hair is falling out, like, a LOT. I don't have cancer or anything, so not to worry. It's happened before, although both of the previous times took place from exactly three to six months after giving birth, when there are several potential reasons for the loss of hair. In fact, even excessive postpartum hair loss is a normal condition, for 40-50% of women, called Telogen effluvium. The great news is that the hair grows back.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

baby mine

There is something kind of funny about pictures of babies crying. Okay, not all babies. Maybe I should have said there's something funny about pictures of first-world babies crying. Because you can relax in the knowledge they have their basic needs met and just laugh at their ridiculousness, you know? I love how even situations as intense as childbirth can seem comical later on.





I wrote recently about the dinosaur CD Nate and I are so sick of hearing. Nate walked into the living room this morning saying "If I keep singing that 'Footprints' song to myself, I'm gonna go nuts." Clearly it's time for that item to take a little nap in the closet of missing/broken things. Do you have a closet like this in your house? It's the one that you keep the stuff you plan to fix some day but haven't gotten round to yet; it also houses the parts that you can't figure out but don't want to throw away. For us parents, it additionally includes the toys you can't stand to see for one more second.

And so, back into the music rotation is an oldie but a goodie, called 'Mary had a Little Amp.' I got it for Vivi when she was a baby, and interestingly it was just about the only music she would fall asleep to in a long car trip. The wonderful thing about this album is that even after listening to it on a continuous three-hour loop while driving to Birmingham, I still didn't want to throw it out the window.

One of my favorites on it is Bonnie Raitt's rendition of "Baby Mine." Remember that song from Dumbo? It's in the scene everyone gets choked up watching when the mommy elephant rocks her baby from inside the jail cell. I can't even write that without becoming verklempt! Talk amongst yourselves; I'll give you a topic. Cheez whiz is neither a cheese nor a wizard. Discuss.

Baby mine, don't you cry.
Baby mine, dry your eyes.
Rest your head close to my heart,
Never to part,
Baby of mine.

Little one when you play,
Don't you mind what they say.
Let those eyes sparkle and shine,
Never a tear,
Baby of mine.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm all analytical and stuff

I took a gander at the list of my blog posts to see which ones get more hits. Here are three things I've learned about my blog readers:

1) No one cares about the farm bill,

2) everyone hates Brussels sprouts, and

3) I need to post more baby stories.

I need to produce more babies to accomplish number three. I'm off to tell Nate my new angle on why we should have another child. My dedication to you, dear readers, is fierce.


Another part of my life that I am prone to (over) analyze is the amount of stuff we own. I do this activity on a regular basis in which I wander around the house, shaking my head at the build-up. The toys, the tschotchkes, the random keys, the remaining lined three-hole-punched paper from grammar school. Where does it come from, this load of absolute crap? As someone who loves to purge, I find it maddening that I still seem to own SO MUCH STUFF.

A tip I learned from my dad about the children's toys is to adopt a three-month toy rotation. This concept is likely self-explanatory, but I will briefly enlighten you on the process. I take a box, gather up a bunch of stuff they don't play with on a daily basis, and cart it down to the basement, where it sits until Vivi asks for it or until she's bored with the toys upstairs. Not rocket science, right?

There is an additional wrinkle to this shell game. If the kids never ask about it in three months, and it's a toy we hate, it goes into the Goodwill box. Sayonara, cat piano. It's been real.

Oh, also, don't let your kids see you boxing up the stuff, or you'll inevitably have a drama on your hands, starring your poor little orphan child who really waaaannnnnts that particular toy even though they haven't played with it in a month.

I had just completed two boxes worth of toy rotation when the mailman came with a special delivery of Nate's childhood stuff, courtesy of his parents' purging. I'm 100% in favor of everyone cutting down on the accumulation of things, so I support their mission. But GAWD it is a bunch o' boxes.

There are some wonderful treasures in the bunch! Do you love old wooden toys as much as I do?


I was thrilled to discover that Nate's Uncle Frank had hand-crafted a giant train set for him, and Vivi was as joyful to receive it as I was to open it. Just in time for the holidays. Train sets create a festive mood, don't they? Check out the perfect little details.



Thanks Uncle Frank!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Charlotte's birth story, aka. Nate's Talladega Run

Where the actual birth is concerned, Charlotte's story is considerably shorter than Genevieve's. I had heard that second babies came faster, but I had no idea what I was in for...

Summer 2010

Regardless of actual temperatures, that summer will go on record as my hottest ever. I do not recommend spending a summer in DC at the end of your pregnancy if you can avoid it. I have no actual footage of myself when I was very pregnant with Charlie, for the simple fact that no one needs to see that spectacle. Here's the last shot I allowed with belly showing (in May):


With Vivi, I was pregnant in the winter (aka. English spring, same diff'), when all you want to do is bundle up anyway, so you just find as many scarves and XXXL sweaters as you can and be done with it. See?


A few weeks away from my third trimester, a friend who was also pregnant asked me if I had discussed my birth plan with my doctor yet. I knew I should have, but the answer was unfortunately no. Maybe I hadn't because in the back of my mind I knew I wasn't going to like how the conversation went; to be honest, I was afraid of all American OB/GYNs. I had such a great experience the first time around with the UK system, and I didn't trust the US system to provide the same level of woman-focused care.

Incidentally, it is a very dumb reason, perhaps the dumbest, not to discuss birthing with your doctor because you don't think you'll like what he/she will say. For a while, I tried to talk myself into keeping him. So ok, I knew he was old fashioned and had long waiting room times. And ok, so one time he let a pretty pharm rep in before me even though he was running 30 minutes late. But hey, he had a sonogram machine and took pictures at every visit. That was kind of cool. And he was just down the street from my house in Falls Church. Plus, he was the only doctor I could find taking patients who had privileges at the hospital down the street from our house. Whatevs, most doctors are the same, right? False.

Anywho, so there I was sweating my ass brow off in my doctor's office. I had just asked him what he thought of natural childbirth, and I was wringing my hands with anticipation. Knowing that I had given birth naturally the first time in 10 hours, I was expecting him to say something, anything, positive. But positivity was not in the cards. Instead, he said that just because I had a shorter-than-average labor the first time didn't mean anything, and I shouldn't go into my labor expecting it to be shorter or less painful. In fact, according to him there are lots of patients who experience more pain the second time around. So I shouldn't rule out an epidural. OR A C-SECTION. Because his priority is, and I quote, "getting that baby out of there quickly and safely." Yes, he did say quickly first. Oh, and yes, he wants a fetal monitor strapped to me the whole time, and yes, he plans to give me an IV right away. He actually called it a "spare tire." To a public health professional! Ugh.

[Note: I don't want to be sued, so I'm not going to list his name here. Email me if you live in Virginia and really want to know.]

You can probably imagine where this is going. I walked out of there and did not come back. I made an appointment at a practice in Alexandria called The Physician & Midwife Collaborative Practice. It was a much farther drive both to their office and the hospital, but oh so worth the traffic. Their standard of care included one visit with an OB/GYN and the rest with midwives; the labor itself would also be midwife-led unless you had condition requiring special care. Only occasional fetal monitoring as required by the hospital, and no IV. I was in love from my first visit. No long waits, frank conversations, and almost all women providers. Perfect!

August 2010

I had lots more Braxton-Hicks contractions with Charlotte than with Vivi, which my midwife told me is common for second pregnancies. During my last week of pregnancy, in fact, I cancelled an all-day off-site work meeting because I woke at 3:30 that morning swearing I was in labor. I got up and read "The Help" for a hour with stop watch in hand. Nope, no labor.

My mom came in town the day before the due date picked by the sonogram, Saturday the 28th. But that day came and went with no signs of labor. I prepared myself for the possibility that I would be a week, or even more, late. As it turned out, I needn't worry because my original DC doctor, the same guy who correctly predicted Vivi's due date with a tattered paper wheel he kept in his pocket, was right again. So much for advanced science, amirightladies?

August 31, 2010 (wheel-predicted due date)


On Tuesday, I woke early once again with the feeling that I might be having a contraction. Mom, Nate and I went for a walk. After another hour of only random, intermittent contractions varying widely in length and strength, Nate left for the office. Then the contractions stopped altogether. Mom and I did tons more walking in hopes of getting things going. We went to Home Depot for the thousandth time for supplies to get the house in for-sale shape. We had spicy lunch at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Four Sisters. Then we decided the best course of action in the afternoon was yoga and a nap.

4:35 PM. I wake from my nap with a start, knowing what I am feeling is for-real, ass-kicking labor. I wait for a few minutes, timing contractions and hearing my mom talking to her sister on the front porch. 5 minutes apart, almost a minute long, hella strong. I tell mom and immediately call Nate. I may or may not say something to the effect of "Come home now. This is serious. Thundercats are go!!!!" Nate calls David (our friend and labor babysitter) and goes to get Vivi.

5:10 PM. Nate arrives with Vivi in tow. I immediately run to the bedroom and shut the door, knowing I can't be around her while I'm in such agony. I inflate my birthing ball. Mom starts my iPod labor music, and I soothe myself with the Beatles and wide hip circles.

5:35 PM. I ask Nate to get an ETA on David. Contractions are already almost to the 4-1-1 "come to the hospital" red flag, i.e. 4 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. David is stuck in DC traffic. This is not good. I ask Nate to call a back-up to come NOW. He calls our friend Alastair who lives in N. Virginia.


5:50 PM. Nate asks me if I want him or mom to come, if I have to choose only one. I shoo him away, unable to think of such a dire circumstance.

6:00 PM. I start moaning and ask Nate to call Alastair again. He is minutes away. I go wait by the front door. Nate calls our midwife to say we are on our way to the hospital.

6:10 PM. I see Alastair's car and rush out of the house. I pass him on the front sidewalk. He asks "How's it going?" All I can say is "Not good." I hop in the back of the Honda and wait.

6:25 PM. We are stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital. I am rocking in the back of the car like I think it will make us go faster. Mom is lying to me about how far apart the contractions are. I say "What happens if I start giving birth in the car?" Nate starts jumping curbs and dodging cars.

6:50 PM. We finally arrive at the hospital. All I can say is I am lucky I married a helluva good driver.

7:00 PM. We are buzzed into the labor ward, and in a deja vu moment, no one takes us seriously. I try to talking to an eye-rolling nurse, and mid-convo I have to find a gurney to writhe around on during my contraction.

7:05 PM. The nurse asks Nate some questions, gives us a room, and tries to strap a fetal monitor to me while I have monster contractions and wish I could either rip her head off or curl up in a ball and disappear. She still isn't getting it.

7:10 PM. My midwife enters our room to introduce herself and assess me. She apologizes for not wearing scrubs yet but says she wasn't expecting to be needed so soon. She says something, somebody laughs, and I set the building on fire. But not really. She goes and changes into scrubs.

7:15 PM. My body starts involuntarily pushing while I am still standing, waiting to get in the bed. I scream some stuff, somebody yells back, and I am shoved onto a bed.

7:28 PM. Less than three hours and few pushes later, Charlotte is born! She is almost a full pound lighter than Vivi (7.15 instead of 8.9) and is just as perfect. She has the Pointer cheeks and my lips from the start. I am elated.

A few minutes later, I am chatting with the labor and delivery nurse about how wonderful my midwife Trish is. I happen to mention how I switched to the midwife-led practice from my previous doctor. When she hears the doctor's name, her eyebrows go up, and she then proceeds to tell me she used to work at his hospital and that he has a 90% c-section rate. There's even a running joke at the hospital when someone delivers naturally: "How'd one slip by him?," they laugh.

Your lesson, boys and girls, is to ask questions. Stand up for yourself. If you don't like what you hear, go somewhere else. My mom was very educated about natural childbirth, knew my wishes, and was willing to stand up for me, so in a way she was a lay-doula. But if you don't have a mom like that, I definitely recommend hiring a doula.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vivi's birth story, aka "Mind if I eat this sandwich?"


I gave birth naturally to both of my girls, and I've often been asked about their birth stories. I know I've already forgotten some of the details from Vivi's birth that I didn't write in her baby book, so I decided to tell her birth story on the blog. I know she will enjoy reading about it some day, and I also hope to inspire other women to try natural childbirth.

April 2008

Nate and I were living in the UK when Vivi was born. He was on a temporary assignment with his job in US gov't intelligence. I had just gotten my Master's degree in public health and did not have a job, so I spent my time nesting, taking long country walks, drinking tea in our local shop, and making granola. What a paradise.

Even though I was not a citizen of the UK, I received excellent and free health benefits, which included weekly visits to my midwife and pregnancy classes with the other pregnant women in our little town, Oundle. We would all waddle together to the local tea shop after class was over to chat nervously and excitedly about our upcoming births. I grew so fond of these women, and it was a wonderful connection to the culture and people, who were difficult to get to know without such an easy conversation starter.




April 29, 2008

I drove to the train station to pick up my mom and her boyfriend. They flew to London from Atlanta and then bravely took the hour-plus-long train ride up to us. I had been working my way up to being able to drive long distances on the "wrong side of the road," so I was proud to be able to pick them up by myself. I think they were both surprised by how big I was since they hadn't seen me in four months. They were tired but glad to have arrived.

We were all so happy that even though we cut their arrival close to my due date, I had not gone into labor yet. I had some signs of pre-labor that day, so I barely slept with excited anticipation that Genevieve might be born the next day.



April 30, 2008 (My due date!)


2:12 AM. I woke up and sat bold upright in bed, knowing that what I was feeling was a real contraction. I grabbed my stop watch, slid out of bed quietly and crept downstairs, enjoying the silent elation of being the only one to know what was happening for a few hours. Contractions started at about 7 minutes apart but quickly progressed to 5 minutes apart and lasted around 30 seconds each.

3:00 AM. I put the bags I planned to take with me to the hospital by the front door, and I checked and rechecked my packing lists. I sat down on my balance ball in front of the computer to burn my CDs of labor music and noticed that our friend David and my Uncle Joe were both online, so I chatted with them for a few minutes. It was strange that for a few hours the only two people who knew I was in labor besides me were thousands of miles away!

5:00 AM. Labor was in full swing with contractions four minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 30 to 70 seconds. Having labored for three hours on my own, I was at the point where I decided I needed other people around to distract me and to call the hospital to let them know what was happening. I woke up Nate and then my mom, who hadn't even been in the country for 24 hours yet. I can't imagine what her jet lag must have been like at that point. If I had known we would be in the house for another three hours, I certainly wouldn't have woken her so soon.

5:30 AM. Nate called the Hitchingbrooke Hospital labor ward and spoke with one of the midwives on duty to find out when we should come to the hospital. She asked to speak with me, and the first thing she said when I got on the phone was that if I could speak to her without having to stop talking during a contraction, then I wasn't yet ready to come. I was a bit nervous about laboring at home by then but was committed to arriving at the hospital ready to give birth so I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time laboring in an unfamiliar environment.

[Note: Most women in the UK begin the labor process with the idea that they will labor naturally and add medications as they see fit. UK hospitals have all the medications we offer in the US plus a few others we don't. More on that later.]

6:30 AM. My memory of laboring in front of Mom, her boyfriend Kippy, and Nate was that the men sat on our smaller couch trying not to look like they were staring at me, and my mom rubbed my back constantly. I sat on my birthing ball and rocked in circles while I leaned on four pillows propped on the couch. Our cat Sally tried to sit on my head. I would ask Nate how long a contraction had gone on, and he would say "When did it start?" I could tell we had needed a trial run before the big day, but I let it go and started timing them myself.

8:00 AM. We called the midwife again, and this time I couldn't speak through contractions, so she gave us the green light to come on in. We piled into the car, and mom sat in the back with me while I was on all fours and spent the next forty minutes trying to find a comfortable position and cursing our rural lifestyle and choice of a hospital so far away. I asked seventy trillion times how long it would take and if we were there yet.

8:45 AM. We finally arrived at the hospital. Nate dropped us off out front so he could find a place to park, and I spent the following 20 muddled minutes trying to locate the labor ward in between incredibly painful contractions. We finally arrived to a bit of eye-rolling when I could barely think or speak from the pain. They handed me a cup and walked off, and I think that's when I started to cry. My mom helped me with the cup situation and talked me off the ledge, and Nate attempted to persuade them that I was actually quite far along in my labor.

9:15 AM. I finally got checked into a room and assessed, and I could see the look of shock on my midwife's face that I was 8 cm dilated! The nurse was apologetic that she hadn't realized how far along I was; "You weren't even screaming or carrying on at all!" I was so relieved that the pain I had been experiencing was not for nothing and felt a renewed sense of resolve that I could actually achieve a natural childbirth. I was offered a bit of what's called "gas and air," which is basically oxygen with a bit of nitrous oxide. It has been compared to having a cocktail; rather than taking away the pain, it basically takes away the nervousness and concern over the pain.

[Note: Unfortunately, the last time I checked when I was pregnant with Charlotte, gas and air is still not offered in the US. I cannot find an acceptable reason for this conspicuous absence with the exception that it can result in respiration trouble for infants. As that is also a potential side effect of Demerol and some other pain meds that are offered, I don't think it's a viable answer. My guess is that it could have something to do with the lack of infrastructure and the cost of installing the product being less than the benefit/return.]

9:45 AM. The gas and air lived up to the out-of-body experience promised, and I continued to labor through horrendous contractions but suddenly had something I could do during the contraction to take my mind off it. I think I might have said some weird stuff about monkeys. My mom was an endless outpouring of positive energy and support, continually reminding me of how well I was doing and that I could do it. If I hadn't known she had given birth naturally to me, I'm not certain I would have found the strength within myself to do it.

10:15 AM. It was somewhere around now when Nate went to get a sandwich and asked me between contractions if I cared if he ate it. I wouldn't have cared if he had taken off his clothes and drenched himself in mayonnaise at that point and often make fun of him for asking about eating during my labor. He swears it was only his concern over my super sense of smell that prompted him to ask.

10:45 AM. I was assessed again and thrilled to be at 10 cm dilated and fully effaced. My midwife cut off the gas and air, and I got into my birthing position kneeling over the back of my bed. I found laying on my back unbearably painful, so I requested to be in that position as rarely as possible.

12:12 PM. Genevieve Jane was born after exactly 10 hours of labor. She looked so perfect with a lovely round head and ten chubby fingers and toes, and I couldn't believe she was mine. To say it was all worth it would be such a huge understatement. I would have gone through days of labor to have such a wonderful gift at the end of all that hard work.



May 1, 2008

After an absolutely awful night of no sleep for either of us in a room full of seven other new moms and babies, we finally were picked up in the morning by Nate and my mom, who both had had to leave after visiting hours ended the evening before. I will never forget how breakable Vivi felt in our arms as we tried in vain to strap her in the car seat without her screaming. We were pushed aside by a capable and impatient nurse who told us we weren't going to kill her by buckling her in. Looking back, all I can think is, "Welcome to parenthood. You have no idea what you are in for." But I think it's better that way.


Update 2-9-12: I had to move this post to a new URL because I inadvertently included some personal information that I had to wipe from the old link. Also, when rereading this post, I realize I may not have portrayed Nate in the best light in my attempt to make a joke. I am so thankful to have chosen such a levelheaded mate; in every emotional or harried situation in our lives, Nate rises to the occasion and is a smooth operator, keeping me calm and making logical choices. I couldn't have done either of my births without him and have fond memories of his contribution beyond sandwich questions.

Update 3-1-12: I am pleased to have been invited to share more of my birth story on another blog, which is dedicated solely to birth stories. I was more candid about the memories of the experience there than I was in this initial post. I am trying to learn how to be more honest in my own blog too.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

my baby days are numbered

 A baby crawled up to us at the library today, and I was shocked to see how tiny she was at 10 months old up next to my giant 13-month-old. It was at that exact moment that I first felt sad about my child's constant growth instead of thrilled about it as I had been up to now. I also simultaneously realized why the moms with five-year-olds never leave me alone. They remember all too well what it was like to have the squishy-faced munchkin, and they want that time back! They aren't as happy for me as I had imagined; okay, maybe there's some happiness in there, but alongside their joy is perhaps a tiny bit of seething jealousy. When your hubby tells you the baby factory is closed, it can make for some mixed feelings.

Although part of me will be sad to lose my baby, I do love when the kids hit new milestones. Maybe it stems from my love of developmental psychology, which reminds me of a cartoon only one of you will like, but here you go anyway. Charlie took her first steps a few days ago! We had a room full of spectators for the big event, including Nate, the grandparents, and a few ladies who were at our house to evaluate Charlotte's development. When she was five months old, I was worried about her delay in babbling, so my pediatrician suggested I take part in Massachusetts' Early Intervention service. We've been in the program for six months and have had weekly in-home visits with an early childhood specialist. While I quickly figured out that everything was fine with Charlotte, it has been nice to talk to someone about her motor skills and budding vocabulary. The ladies came to decide whether she should continue to be in the program, and it was a fitting end that she decided to walk during the evaluation. She was as proud as we were.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

baby dhal

Remember how I said I am making vegetarian Indian food? Well, I figured there's no reason Charlie has to miss out on the fun. Can you believe she loved it from first bite? I figured we'd have to go with the 8 tries until success, like the general wisdom suggests. Here's a recipe from my favorite baby food cookbook. As with most baby food recipes, I always double it.

baby dhal

3 c. low-sodium vegetable stock
1/2 c. dried red lentils, rinsed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 c. cauliflower florets

In a medium saucepan, combine stock, lentils, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients; cover and simmer until vegetables and lentils are very tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Transfer to blender and puree on high speed until smooth.

Update (1-28-12): As Charlotte gets older (17 mon.), I still make this for her and Vivi too, but I add ground ginger to spice it up, and I only puree half of it in a food processor to keep it chunky.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

boring AND dangerous

I suppose it goes without saying that I love my kids dearly, yes? But inevitably there are phases in babyhood that drive me crazy, and right now we are entering such a time with Charlie. I call her boring because for the most part, that's how I view babies in general and truthfully even my own. Chubby and adorable, yes, but beyond that they don't really do very much. Except of course when they become mobile, and then they do things all day long, only they are things you don't want them to do. Hence the dangerous part. Where I once was able to plop her down with some toys and complete a 10-minute task out of the room (is it ok to admit I do this? I'd hate for the parenting police to come knocking), I now have to try to do things in the room with her or else drag her along with me to the next room and put her in some kind of contraption (read: doorway bungee jumper). Vivi was interested in taking the DVDs down off the shelf just as Charlotte now is, but that is where their mobility-related similarities end. Vivi mostly enjoyed cruising around the furniture and playing with the remote control, whereas Charlotte enjoys slinking off to a corner where she can put a small object in her mouth or remove the outlet covers from the wall. I can't tell you how many times I've walked in to find her smiling with colorful teeth because she has yet again found a crayon under the couch or between two cushions. As with all phases, I repeat my "this too will pass" mantra, but this one can't pass soon enough. Of course the next phase is walking, which brings with it all sorts of new issues. Careful what you wish for, right?

I included the video below in this post because it accidentally captured some of what I'm talking about. I was trying to video Charlie dancing to the Beatles' song "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da." Earlier in the day I listened to an NPR segment about songs played during childbirth, and when a bit of that song came on, she clapped and giggled and danced in such an adorable way. So of course I tried to recreate the scene, but I didn't realize bringing in the camera would elicit such a different reaction. She LOVES electronic stuff.

video

On the plus side, Charlie gives the best big slobbery kisses, and she has such a cute laugh. I love being with her, and I love it even more when I watch my two girls interact together. With great gifts come great responsibilities, I suppose.

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