How to Make Whipped Body Butter

I love moisturizing my skin with nourishing creams and lotions, but the more I have been learning about living a healthy lifestyle, the more I have been learning that what you put on your body is just as important as what we put into our bodies. When we eat food, it is processed and filtered through our digestive system, but when we put things on our skin, they are absorbed and enter the bloodstream without any filters. When I realized this, I knew that it would be important to start really looking at the ingredients in all of my skin care products. Something else I learned is that there are no FDA regulation for beauty products. This means that there’s really no way to know if companies are being truthful in their labels.

There are many different recipes for body butter but the best recipe will basically have a ratio of 25% liquid oil (almond oil or jajoba oil) to 75% solid oil (coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, etc.). I’ve linked to some of the Amazon ingredients I’ve purchased, but I really love going through Bulk Apothecary for all of my wholesale needs. They have excellent products at a great price. I like to get everything organic, but they have some great naturally refined products if you’re looking for something without the odor.

Ingredients:

*After learning about the health benefits of each oil and butter, I would like to create another recipe that calls for less coconut oil, a little more cocoa butter, and a lot more shea butter. Shea butter is the least clogging and the best for your skin. Cocoa butter is really good too, but coconut oil really clogs pores. Plus, it is always makes my skin feel really dry and itchy. After using the above recipe, I feel like my hands were even drier than when I started. I would also like to make one recipe with whipped butter and one without whipping it for more of a salve. I will post an update!

**Update: I made One with only cocoa butter, shea butter, almond oil, and olive oil (because I ran out of almond oil). I didn’t whip it very much, and it hardened quite a bit and was too hard to use. So I gathered all of it up from the jars again, threw in just a handful of coconut oil, and whipped it up really well again. I still feel like it made my skin a little itchy, so maybe I’m just really sensitive to coconut oil. I’ve read that jojoba is the best oil for the skin because it most resembles the bodies natural oils. So the next recipe I make will have jojoba oil, shea butter, mango butter, and aloe vera. I also want to try and get the deodorized brands because I’m not a big fan of all the different smells. I will update when I make it!

Directions:

  1. Melt everything (except the essential oils) in a double broiler. (If you don’t have a double broiler, you can put a glass canning jar into a pot with an inch or two of boiling water or you can do what I like to do which is to place a glass bowl on top of a boiling pot of water because it’s easiest to mix that way.)
  2. Put in the freezer for about 20 minutes. It should start to harden.
  3. Use a hand mixer and beat until there are peaks (about 10 minutes).
  4. Add desired essential oils.
  5. Put back in the freezer for about 10 minutes to stiffen up (if necessary) before putting into small glass storage jars.

Notes:

  • Why Shea Butter? Raw, unrefined shea butter is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins A and E. It has a creamy color and a distinctive and somewhat unpleasant smell. It is widely used for its moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties. It also won’t clog your pores like cocoa butter and coconut oil.
  • Why Cocoa Butter?  Raw, unrefined cocoa butter is rich in essential fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants. It’s been claimed to help reduce stretch marks and help with sensitive skin issues like eczema because it contains cocoa mass polyphenol which has been shown to thwart cancer, prevent cardiovascular disease and ease arthritis. It also has a nice chocolaty aroma.
  • Why Coconut Oil? It is anti-microbial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant, the medium-chain triglycerides present in coconut oil deeply penetrate the skin for great moisturizing, it screens 20% of the ultraviolet exposure, and it has vitamin E to aid in my recovery of skin damage such as burns, cuts, scars, etc.
  • Why Almond Oil? It is loaded with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, B, and E. It has a light and less greasy feeling to it. Jojoba oil can be a great carrier oil too. It has a shelf life of five years versus almond oil’s one. But it is more of a wax and creates a barrier on the skin that doesn’t really penetrate. Plus, it costs five times what almond oil does.
  • Essential Oils: Blood Orange, Honeysuckle, Vanilla, and Lavender are some of my favorites.
Best Advice About Having a Peaceful Postpartum Recovery

Best Advice About Having a Peaceful Postpartum Recovery

Giving birth is an amazing, spectacular, and tremendous journey. You’ve waited nine months to meet your precious angel and during that time, you’ve probably thought nonstop about what the birthing experience would be like. Then it comes and goes, and you’re sort of left in shock. It feels completely surreal to physically hold your baby earthside and it takes awhile to get used to not being pregnant anymore. This time after giving birth is a very special time. Here are a few things I’ve learned after having four babies in the last five years about postpartum recovery.

1. You Only Get One Chance to Recover

If you don’t recover correctly the first time, you’ll end up having to re-recover and it doesn’t get any easier the second, third, or fourth time around. Your body has been through A LOT! You just grew a human life inside of your body, then you worked tremendously hard for a really long time to push that baby out of your vagina (or went through abdominal surgery to get it out), and now you are going to be taking care of this tiny human by making it food from your breasts. It is very important to view this postpartum recovery time as sacred, important, and necessary.

2. Have a Babymoon

I know that there’s an extreme excitement after you give birth, and you want to share your new bundle of joy with the world, but the world can wait. This time is sacred and it is for you, your partner, and any other children that you have. Before you invite over everyone under the sun to come and meet the new addition to your family, give yourselves some time to adjust.

No matter how much you read about it or talk about what it will be like, nothing can fully prepare you for how your lives will change until you experience it. If you allow yourselves a few days to a week to figure things out, it will give you a tremendous amount of confidence as you enter life with this new little person. We really adhered to a week long babymoon with our first two, but with number three and four, it was nice to have some help with the older kids while my husband and I rested.

3. Have a Support System in Place

You will need someone to take care of you after you give birth, so make plans for this, and let it happen! As women and as mothers, sometimes we tend to take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves, but if you do this now, you will pay for it later. You will first and foremost want to rely on your husband. You honor him by allowing him to take care of you during this time. Make sure he knows how to run the house beforehand, and speak up about what you need. My husband has always been fortunate enough to be able to take a week off from work (a month with our first child) after I gave birth. After he went back to work, I arranged to have help from other family members.

4. Be Prepared for Things to Run on Autopilot

Before you give birth, I’m sure you will do plenty of nesting, just know that this is a very important phase! You’ll want to have everything set up for the baby, of course, but you’ll also really appreciate it if your house can kind of run itself while you recover. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure there’s enough food stocked in the house. You might want to get some help from family and friends to have some freezer meals ready to go. In the last few weeks before birth, when I’m making something like meatloaf, I’ll make extra and freeze it to use later. Some people like doing sign up sheets for meals to be delivered after birth too.

If you have other children, think about arranging your house so that they have plenty to do on their own and with your husband or other helpers while you recover. I always like to get the other kids a gift for after the baby is born. With the new baby getting so much attention, this makes them feel special and it gives them something to do. Play-doh has been a real hit with our kids, but you could also do some kind of arts and crafts or game gift. Really, anything that will occupy them for awhile.

5. Be Prepared to Let Things Go

You might have a really high standard of cleanliness around your house (like me), but after your baby is born, you will need to let that go (Phew!). Get used to the idea of dishes piled up in the sink, toys on the floor, and unvacuumed floors, and know that you’ll get things back to things being neat and orderly soon enough. If you ferment food like sourdough and kombucha, be prepared to set all of that aside for a bit. Also know that if you have other kids, it won’t kill them to eat mac n’ cheese and hotdogs for awhile while you recover. If you homeschool, plan on taking a month off. Your kids will be just fine if you watch a bunch of educational videos for a while (or so I’ve heard).

6. Getting Sleep

You and your baby have just been through a lot, and you both need to sleep and recover. In my experience, however, during the first two nights, my babies have slept great, but not me! I am always so full of adrenaline and excitement. That in addition to the fact that I just can’t stop looking at my new little one and checking constantly to make sure they are still breathing. But even though I have found it hard to sleep, I always try. Just do your best to stay in bed as much as possible for the first few days.

7. Drink Plenty of Fluids

You’ll need to drink plenty of fluids as your body prepares to make milk. You will start out making colostrum at first to give your baby marble sized amounts of food at first, and then after a few days your milk will come in. It’s best to drink filtered water out of a glass container. If you drink out of plastic, you risk passing phthalates on to your baby and baby boys are especially susceptible to their negative effects. Phthalates can also cross the placenta, so it’s good to get in the habit of drinking out of glass while you’re pregnant too.

8. Eat Good Nourishing Food

As you are recovering, it is so important to fuel your body with healthy nourishing meals and snacks. Make some plans to have good food stocked in your house, frozen meals in your freezer, meals delivered from friends and family, and a few take out menus nearby “just in case”. After birth, I enjoy recovering by drinking plenty of raw milk, pastured eggs with lots of butter, grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, wild caught salmon, organic soaked rolled oats, and lots of fresh organic vegetables. Check out my recipes section for more food ideas.

9. Stay in Bed

Try to stay in bed and rest as much as possible during the first few days. Then, try to continue resting like crazy for the first week. If you can stay off your feet as much as possible during the first 4-6 weeks, and then ease back into things gradually gradually after that, you will be much better off in the long run.

10. Watch Your Blood

Use your bleeding as a guide to see if you’re taking it easy enough. You will probably bleed pretty regularly for the first two weeks, but after that you will see the blood lessen and darken in color. If you notice an increase in blood and it’s bright red, know that you’re pushing it too much. When your placenta detached from your uterus, it left a big gaping wound. This wound needs to heal and it heals best when you don’t move too much.

11. Enjoy It

This is not a time to “get through”, it is a time to soak in and enjoy. You are finally getting to meet your new little person, and this is a time for the two of you to really bond, get to know each other, and fall in love. I just love staring at my babies, stroking their soft skin, and cooing sweet nothings to them while they look at me with their quizzical expressions. I recommend writing down your birth story, taking lots of pictures and videos, and jotting down your feelings during this magical time. You will enjoy remembering and  sharing these moments with your children when they are older.

In Conclusion

You only get one chance to have postpartum recovery, so make it a good one. The sooner you take care of yourself and allow yourself to recover, the sooner you will be back in action and ready to face the world again.

Embracing Motherhood Keeping the House Clean with Four Young Children...Is it Possible?

Keeping the House Clean with Four Young Children…Is it Possible?

Keeping the house clean with one or two kids can be a little extra work, but when you have four children five and under and one of them is a new baby, it can be especially challenging! After our fourth child was born, I wasn’t even sure if it would be possible to keep the house tidy enough for my type A personality, but lo and behold, I found a way! This is how I do it.

1. Have an Organized System

I am very mindful about where I put certain toys and how I organize the children’s playthings. I love using baskets and boxes to sort and organize things so that similar toys stay together. I have baskets for the little figures used with the castles and treehouses for imaginative play, bins for cars, blocks, and train tracks, tables with trays of paper and pencil boxes of markers for arts and crafts, baskets with books in every room, and places for all of the stuffed animals. Everything is strategically set up to encourage play and in a way that’s easy to manage and clean. If I notice that a particular set of toys is creating a huge mess but not utilizing a lot of play time, I’ll either reorganize it or pack it away for another time. Rather than having one “play room”, I have found it beneficial to have out just enough toys in each room. I only keep out what gets used.

Our Living Room

Our Living Room

Organized Toys and Books

Organized Toys and Books

Play Space in Our Homeschool Room

Play Space in Our Homeschool Room

Organized Bins of Toys

Organized Bins of Toys

2. Make Sure Everything has a Home

I know that it’s the little things that add up and make my house feel cluttered. Every single toy, book, and marker needs to have a home or it will end up as clutter somewhere. So when I see some dolls, cars, or magazines laying on the floor, I ask myself, “Do they have a home?” If not, it’s time I found them one! I like to keep a TINY bowl on the counter for little things that need to be put away. That way I’m not running around every time I find a little hair tie on the floor. But once that little bowl is full, it’s time to put the contents away.

3. Spend Time Organizing

The key to keeping everything looking neat and tidy on the surface is to keep everything neat and tidy behind the scenes. This means that when I open up the cupboards, I can easily find my canned beans, AA batteries, and a light bulb for the night light. This also means that when I open up a drawer, I’m not searching through a pile of junk before I can find a paperclip, a pad of paper, and a working pen. To accomplish this, I know that I may need to devote an entire afternoon or even a whole day to reorganizing things. Whenever I have a hard time finding something, I know that it’s time to do some serious organizing! The bonus is being able to get rid of some of the clutter in the process. I am always throwing out things that are too junky or not being used anymore. I will save a few things if I KNOW that they will get used in the future (like hand me down clothes and baby toys from the older kids), but I am very careful not to pack things away “just in case”. Things that get packed away and forgotten just add clutter.

Organized Cabinets

IMG_3382 Organized Cabinets

4. Every Time You Move, Move Something with You

I try not to leave a room, pass by a mess, or stoop down without picking something up in the process. For example, if I’m sitting in the living room and I need to go to the bathroom, I’ll pick up all of the cups and drop them off in the kitchen. On my way back, I’ll pick up the random toys on the floor and put them on the counter. The next time I walk by the counter, I’ll pick up the toys and drop them where they go. If I don’t have time for that, I’ll at least put them in my pocket to put away later. I love working in layers and cleaning little bits here and there until the job is done.

5. Clean Every Room You Are In

Instead of having a designated cleaning time, I like to just clean as I go. At the end of the day, there is always a mass pick up and put away time, but I like to minimize that as much as I can throughout the day. When I wake up (or more like when my baby wakes up), I make my bed. It doesn’t have to look perfect, I just make it look decent. When I get the toddler up, I make sure her crib is tidied up. When I’m playing with the kids on the floor in the living room, I’ll pick up the stray toys and arrange the pillows on the couch. It only takes me a few minutes here and there, but by the end of the day the house is in fairly decent shape.

6. Distract the Kids

I love waiting until the kids have moved on to another project before sweeping in to clean up a messy room, because there is nothing more frustrating than cleaning a room that continues to get messy. I also don’t really like the kids to see me clean. I like them to think that things just magically go back to their spots! But seriously, I think that if they see me cleaning, they expect me to clean up their messes, but if it’s just done, they don’t really think about it. It’s also a bit frustrating to clean one room to perfection only to find that the next room is completely destroyed. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, I like to make sure that the kids are engaged in a non-messy activity in another room (even if it means parking them in front of a TV or ipad) while I get everything cleaned. I know that it can seem like a good idea to leave their toys out “in case they want to come back to play with them”, but from my experience, they have way more fun making a new mess rather than delving into an old one!

7. Keep a Mental List of Things To Do

Time is precious, especially with four little ones, and I try to make the most of every minute. One thing that helps me is keeping a mental checklist of the things that I want to get done. When I’m sitting there nursing my baby, contemplating the moments of freedom that I’ll have when he (hopefully) naps for anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours, I start to think about all of the things that I want to get done. Even if I know that I’ll only realistically get to one or two items on my list, I still like to think about items three through five that I might be able to get done if I have the time. That way, when the time comes, I don’t waste any time on hesitation.

8. Prioritize the Messes

Once I accept the fact that not everything will not get done on my to do list, I reduce my stress level by at least half of one percent. 🙂 When I’m faced with messes and chores of gargantuan proportion, I know that at any minute the baby will start to cry or someone will want to cuddle, and so I have to choose what things are the most important and what things I can let go of. If the living room is completely trashed and the kids are playing quietly in the next room, then the living room might take top priority. But if lunch time is approaching and the kids are starting to get a little cranky, I know that cleaning the kitchen and preparing lunch must take top priority.

9. Keep a Visible Checklist of Big Projects

I love keeping a white board and dry erase marker on the fridge and keeping a running checklist going of the big and little projects that need to get done around the house. This is especially helpful for my husband on the weekends so that he can see what things need to get done without me telling him what to do. It’s also nice for anyone who visits too. When people come over, I put them to work! 🙂

10. Let Some Things Go

When my husband and I were a couple of DINKS (dual income no kids), we would do all of our major cleaning on the weekends. We would scrub the toilets, wipe down baseboards, vacuum the house, wash the sheets, clean the windows, dust the furniture and a whole list of other ridiculous things. But now we have learned what things are important and what things we can let go of. Our number one priority is keeping the kitchen clean and the house tidy. Everything after that is a bonus. Sure, we may clean our sheets, it just might only happen four times per year. 🙂

11. Spread out the Big Cleaning Projects

Now, just because I don’t clean my toilets every day doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a clean bowl! It’s just that instead of cleaning them every Saturday, I just clean them when they are getting so disgusting I can’t stand it anymore or if I know that company will be coming over soon. 🙂 I do the same thing with vacuuming, dusting, windows, and any other cleaning project that I don’t tackle on a regular basis.

12. Kids and Cleaning

My four kids are five and under, so at this point, I don’t have any huge requirements for them to clean. From time to time when the mess is small and manageable, and I am there to support them, I will enlist their help. For example, if we’re not in a rush to go anywhere and there’s a basket of dinosaurs on the floor, I will say, “Can you help me put these dinosaurs away?” Then I’ll make it fun by making them talk and say things like, “Please put me with all of my friends, I’m so tired and I want to take a rest! Oh thank you!” But for the most part, I believe that it is their job to play and my job to clean and organize. Gasp! Can it be true??? I believe that if I were to make my little children clean up every single mess that they made that it would a) Take forever and never be done to my specific liking b) Discourage them from making a mess in the first place which is part of the learning process, and c) Encourage them to become mini adults instead of curious, imaginative, and playful children. Because I keep things so organized and tidy, my children are accustomed to everything having a place and I see that they prefer it that way. They don’t usually make a mess just for the sake of making a mess, and if they do, I hold them accountable. The cutest thing was seeing my four year old put away his new toys after his fourth birthday. He had received a big dragon and some robots and he said excitedly, “I know where these will go!” and he proceeded to put them in the big bin with all of the other robots and dragons. This is exactly what I had hoped to encourage! And I didn’t have to beg, cajole, threaten, or punish in order to get it done. 🙂

Elliot's Dinosaurs, Dragons, and Robots

Elliot’s Dinosaurs, Dragons, and Robots

In Conclusion

Having children has changed my standard of clean, and I couldn’t be any happier! I love the messes and I love my job as master organizer. In order for my mind to be able to function and think about bigger things, I need to keep my home neat and tidy. I know that some people may have a higher mess tolerance than me, but in the end, it’s about what’s best for the kids. When my kids see neat tubs of organized toys, they are way more purposeful and engaged than if there was a big messy pile of chaos. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about…being purposeful and engaged in all that we do.

Julian’s First Ten Days

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I’m sitting on the couch right now watching The Land Before Time with Ruby and Elliot snuggled up close on either side of me. We just ate a huge pile of cookies and some fresh milk and now we’re all buried under silkies while Julian rocks peacefully in his swing. A fire is blazing, the snow blankets the world outside, and I feel very cozy staying inside and happy to not be tempted by the nice fall days that could lure me to do too much while instead I get to recover, rest, and recuperate. Ophelia is sleeping and Andrea just left after spending three wonderful days with us. Daddy is still at work for a couple of hours and then he has tomorrow off for Thanksgiving. Ruby had a half day today and she’ll be off from school on Thursday and Friday as well. These past ten days have been amazing, magical, life-changing, and completely wonderful and I want to go back to the beginning and try to remember how we got to this place.

For nine months we talked about what our lives would be like with a 4th. We imagined, we dreamed, we moved,  we prepared, we rearranged, we prepared some more, and we rearranged again, and again, and again. We were most concerned about how we would get through our bedtime routine and how I would handle taking care of a baby and three little ones. This new baby was the biggest reason for sending Ruby to school, and while it was difficult at first, I’m so glad that we stuck with it because she loves it so much, she is learning so many things, and I don’t know how I would have managed doing homeschool kindergarten and taking care of the other three.

But all of that planning and preparing couldn’t get us quite ready for what was to come as much as just diving in and getting used to this new life. I thought that we would need extra help especially preparing dinner and getting the kids to bed, but with a big winter storm snowing us in, we didn’t really get the help that I thought we would need, and it turns out, we didn’t need it!

I knew how important it was to have a baby moon, especially when Ruby was born and EVERYTHING was new to us. We didn’t want people coming over and telling us what to do before we had a chance to figure it out for ourselves. But with baby number four, I didn’t really think that a baby moon was possible or even necessary, but it turns out I was wrong! Whether we had planned for it or not, we got a baby moon! We had my mom, grandma, and sister there to help us on day one, and then we were on our own for the rest of the week. It was a wonderful week and it was so cool to see all of our lives transform as we became a family of 6.

Scott’s Transformation

The first person that I noticed to change and grow was Scott. He has always been an amazing father and husband, but he stepped up to a higher level than I even thought possible after this birth. I knew that I really needed to take advantage of his week off to recover so that I could take over when he left and so I spent a lot of time sleeping in, resting, sitting in one chair or another, cuddling, and demanding one thing after another. Scott was there before I could even ask him to come, he did things before I even saw that they had to be done, and he was constantly busy keeping the kids dressed, fed, and happy, the house clean and picked up, laundry taken care of, food prepared, the kitchen cleaned, and he was always there to make sure that I had everything that I needed. He was so attentive to our needs and so in tune with what needed to be done and I just fell in love with him all over again. In this week of sleepless nights where we were constantly at least a baby’s length apart, he made me feel beautiful, loved, appreciated, and so much more.

It’s just amazing how much our lives have changed since having kids and instead of trying to balance the way our lives used to be with the way our lives are now, we have simply embraced the way that they are now without any pretenses about trying to recreate the past. In some ways, I think this is an easier task for the mother. Carrying a child for nine months and then having them need you constantly during that fourth trimester forces you to be there. All a mother has to decide is if she’s going to do it begrudgingly, simply waiting for the sleepless nights and sore nipples to pass or if she’s going to embrace it with a passion that consumes her. Easier said than done, I know, but when you carry a child in your womb, you feel like they are a part of you forever and always. Even as my children grow, I still feel like we are connected by an invisible umbilical cord. Every joy they experience I do too and every sorrow they encounter is one that breaks my heart as well.

But the father is needed in a different way. One that isn’t quite obvious at first, but is just as important as the mothers’, albeit in a different way. I see our kids desperately seeking their father’s approval and love, and I see them beam and grow in very strong and powerful ways when he encourages them. He is more practical than me. Sometimes I look at my little angels as if they are perfect and can do no wrong, but he is so good about gently guiding them to learn about the rules of what is right and wrong. He tells them about the world and patiently answers all of their questions, he wrestles with them roughly when they need to fight and cuddles them gently when they need to be loved, he tells them about his passions and encourages them to seek theirs, he introduces them to new things that make them feel so cool, connected to him, and respected like how to fix computers, play Minecraft, cook, do dishes, enjoy books, and more. But the most important thing that he gives his children is his honesty. His love is honest—it is not forced, he does not do these things or give of his time because he is supposed to or it is expected of him. He truly enjoys it. He loves being a father and he tells me and the kids this constantly. To have a father who parents with such joy, not begrudgingly while wishing he could be out on the town or doing the things “he wants to do”. This is what he wants to do, this is who he wants to be, and our children will grow up with this knowledge at the very core of who they are.

Kids can sense when you’re doing something out of duty or if you’re doing it because you completely enjoy it with every fiber of your being, and it is obvious to anyone who sees Scott interact with his children that he is madly in love with them and loves to be with them. I think that this stems from the love that we share with each other. When you go back to the beginning of Scott and Stacey, you will find two people that are completely, madly, and deeply and passionately crazy for each other. This passion has grown deeper with every adventure, every change, and every child and we still can’t keep our hands off from each other just like when we were in the beginning stages of our relationship. I love him so much and the thought of spending our entire lives together watching these children who we birthed, raised, loved, and cherished grow into adults and have children of their own warms my heart and makes me happier than anything money, prestige, or status could ever offer. As we become grandparents and reflect on all that our love has created as we settle into our “golden years”, I simply can’t imagine a better future.

 

The Kids Have Changed Too

The way that Scott and I have changed and grown is more obvious, but as we welcomed Julian into our lives the kids changed too, although in more subtle ways. Ophelia was quite indifferent at first, but she is going through perhaps the biggest change of us all. Now she is no longer the little baby and mommy’s lap that used to be reserved just for her is now being shared my a helpless little infant. She loves standing on my footstool while I nurse and she says, “Baby! Baby! Goo goo ga ga!” It’s so cute! She gets a little jealous if Scott gets her up and she sees Julian on my lap, but then Scott will take Julian and I cuddle up with Ophelia and then she’s just fine. Other than that, she hasn’t really shown any other signs of jealousy. We’ve treated her like all of the other little siblings with a new baby and have tried to give her lots of extra attention and we haven’t pushed her to acknowledge the baby unless she is ready to do so. She loves looking at him and saying, “Baby sleeping!” or if he’s laying on the floor she’ll pet his head and say, “Baby. Gentle.” just like she would with a kitty.

Elliot has been through the roof happy with his new brother! After being so indifferent after Ophelia was born, it’s been so nice to see him so excited for a new sibling. His enthusiasm is so vibrant and he gets so loud, but Julian LOVES it and looks right at him. I think that he heard Elliot’s voice in the womb very clearly and really recognizes it. Elliot loves cradling his face and showing him things and talking to him about fighting and video games and Minecraft. He is so excited to have a brother and wants to know when he’ll be able to wrestle, fight, and play. It has been so nice having extra time with him while Ruby is at school and Ophelia is sleeping or busy. I know it won’t be long until he’s in school too or too busy to need me as much as he does, but for now, he’s my special cuddly guy and it’s just so fun to spend all day every day together.

Ruby is a little mother hen and she is truly quite helpful. She loves to tell Julian stories and sing to him and every time she sees him she wants to see if he’s awake and give him a kiss. She is always wondering why he is sleeping so much and wants to know if his eyes are open. “Sorry dear, he’s probably more awake at night than during the day”, I tell her. She is so good about getting me things that I need and keeping me company while I’m nursing or holding him. She is also so helpful around the house picking things up and helping us with cooking or other projects. We were so worried that she would want to stay home with us while Daddy had a week off, but she was really excited to get back into her school routine and hardly noticed what was going on at home while she was gone.

But through all of the positive aspects of change, there have been some bumpy and rough parts too. It’s hard to put my finger on what has been rough exactly, but there just seems to be a bit more angst, feelings that are hurt a little more easily, fights that erupt over seemingly unimportant things, and everyone just seeming to need a lot more attention. I’m so glad that we have limited our contacts and excursions and have instead focused on being a family and meeting the needs that everyone has as we stretch, grow, and change to welcome this new addition into our family.

 

Julian and I Get to Know Each Other

With this being my fourth birth, I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing now, but each child is different and unique and while there are certain techniques that are universal, these ten days after Julian’s birth have been all about the two of us getting to know each other.  First of all, after going through thrush with Ophelia, I was very happy in the end of this pregnancy to finally beat my reoccurring yeast infection by eliminating sugar and processed foods along with buying some really great cotton boy cut underwear. 🙂 But breastfeeding and sleep were still the two biggest challenges that I had to face.

 

Breastfeeding

Julian latched on right away and I thought we were going to have an easy breastfeeding relationship, but that hasn’t quite been the case. The initial latch on was painful, but that’s kind of normal, so I didn’t think anything of it until it was still hurting over a week later. My nipples were also kind of slanted, a tell tale sign of a bad latch. So I pulled up his lip in search of a lip tie, and sure enough…there it was! Ruby had this and as a result she wouldn’t latch on for very long which resulted in her taking in too much air, getting gas and hiccups and well as not nursing long enough to get the fatty hindmilk (green poop was a tell tale sign of this) which resulted in her being really fussy. I had no idea why until our midwife pointed out Ophelia’s lip tie. She said we could cut it with a scalpel, but I simply couldn’t imagine doing that! Plus, it could heal back together. She suggested rolling her lip up several times a day to stretch it out and after she latched on to make sure her top lip was rolled up by coaxing a finger underneath and helping it to flip up. By doing these techniques, her lip tie ended up not being a problem.

So, I’m implementing the same techniques with Julian, but getting results has been slow going. I can’t get him to latch on while reclining in bed and I either have to sit up and really lean forward or go to our rocking chair where we somehow always seem to find the perfect latch. I know that we’ll figure it out eventually, it’s just hard when he needs to eat every two hours throughout the night and I’m oh so very tired.

 

Sleep

I remember reading somewhere that babies are really tired after birth and so they will sleep pretty much nonstop for two days. I think that this happened with Ruby and maybe Elliot too, but I was not fortunate enough to have that for Ophelia or Julian. Part of it are the afterpains that totally shocked me with Ophelia. I was more prepared for them with Julian, but they were still painful. The uterus has more work to do to contract and get down to it’s normal size with each child and so the contractions that help it to do so that are brought about by nursing can be as intense as labor. I had an afterbirth tincture that I took to help with this, but what really saved me was having a heating pad ready to go. I put it on my belly and it really helped to melt the pain away.

That first night, I was able to swaddle Julian and lay him between us and he slept for one five hour stretch…the most he would sleep at night for the next ten days! I usually prop up about ten pillows all around me and hold my babies close while leaning back on a well positioned pillow to sleep at night, after I tried many times with no success to put Julian inbetween us, I ended up doing this with Julian too. It just takes awhile to get used to sleeping this way, but by day ten, I’m so tired that I could probably fall asleep standing up if I had to!

The next few nights, sleep was a bit more difficult. Julian would sleep really good during the day, but at night would get a little more fussy. I kept trying different strategies until I found something that worked. Sometimes he really liked it when we did skin to skin, other times he liked to be swaddled, and when I couldn’t console him in our bedroom (we tried to be quiet so as not to wake up Scott and Ophelia) I came out to the living room where he could be awake if needed. One time I had to swaddle him, have him suck on my finger, and shush him to get him to calm down, but he usually just wanted to be awake, so I would watch some Once Upon a Time until he fell asleep and then came back to bed.

It’s so easy to get frustrated in this first month when babies do not have their circadian rhythm or produce melatonin to help them sleep at night, but I know that the best thing to do it try to sleep any way that I can, get through these first four weeks, and know that eventually he will fall into a pattern and I will get more sleep. I feel like I’m really well equipped to survive for awhile without much sleep and it really helps that we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. I took it easy as much as possible, especially during these first ten days, and that really helped.

 

My Recovery

I know from recovering from the other births that I need to take advantage of the extra help that I have in the beginning and do whatever I can to heal so that I can get back on my feet quicker and not backslide. I really didn’t bleed much at first and my bleeding kept stopping, but then if I would go up the stairs or walk around too much, I would bleed fresh blood again. I tried my best to not do too much, but there is really only so much that I can stand sitting around and running a household with three other children (even with help) requires a lot of work, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

My recovery downstairs was really quick. There was one little spot that stung if pee got on it, so I would spray a peri bottle on myself while I peed and sprayed some bactine on it afterwards. It stopped stinging on the third day. The thing that hurt the most were my hips from Scott pressing so hard on them! I think something may have gotten out of line on my left hip because it was so tender and hurt to even walk. It has taken ten days for the pain to fade and it’s almost gone now.

I tried wearing my girdle a few days after birth and I couldn’t even fit it over my belly. After Ophelia, I was determined to heal my diastus recti and I wore my girdle day and night which really helped me to get my figure back. But this time around, I knew that the process might take awhile longer and I am totally fine with that! There are more important things in the world than having a flat stomach. Once my stomach shrinks down a little more, I’ll try to wear it for a few hours at a time and then work my way up to wearing it for longer periods. I also look forward to working out again, but I’m going to give it a good six weeks before attempting anything.

 

Julian’s Growth

As soon as he was born, we saw his peaceful personality. Hardly a cry and those wide eyes looking around ready to take in everything the world has to offer. Coming into the world in such a peaceful atmosphere and settling in to the sounds he became familiar with in the womb certainly helped I’m sure, but I can tell that his personality will reflect these traits that we see right now. I am amazed at how well he’s able to turn his head to look at different voices that he hears. He does like to sleep a lot, but when he’s awake he is so extremely aware , focused and calm. Just like when he was in the womb, he likes to be awake right after we put all of the kids to bed. It’s such an amazing time for Scott and I as we snuggle up on the couch together and cradle him in between us so he can see both of our faces. And then we gently coo to him and he looks back and forth from Mommy to Daddy with his big wide eyes and his mouth pursed into a little o.

His limbs remain still and his body calm as he patiently accepts all that is happening around him, and then just like a snapping twig, he’ll erupt into a powerful and monstrous cry and we know that he’s had enough of the world and wants to be safely cradled back in his mother’s arms to nurse and be rocked back to sleep. I remember with Ruby how I would hardly be able to step into the shower without her screaming and crying, and once again, it could be just because we’re all more comfortable with this world of parenting, but Julian can stay with Daddy or others for quite a bit of time before needing Mommy again.

We bought a really nice (and expensive) swing thinking that he would like sleeping in it at night, but it’s just too loud of a contraption to keep in our bedroom so we have it in our living room and it works great for naps. After Julian was born, Scott and Elliot took a trip to Meijers for groceries and I had him pick up a little vibrating bassinet that is extremely portable and easy to move around. I drag it from room to room and Julian loves sleeping it is during the day, but at night, it’s just easier for me to hold him. We have a bunch of little bouncy chairs from the other kids, but he’s too little for them yet.

I love taking pictures and videos of him every chance I get. He changes so gradually, but when I look back to the beginning I can see the enormity of his change. I know that I am going to be busy and I may not write in my journal as much as I have in the past, but I wanted to remember every moment and feeling of Julian’s birth and how our family changed as he joined us.

 

 

 

Our Fourth Born: Julian's Home Birth

Our Fourth Born: Julian’s Home Birth

Julian William Maaser

Born: 11-15-14 (Saturday)

Time: 12:40 a.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 8 oz, 21 inches long, 13.5 cm head circumference

Pregnancy

They always warn you that the more kids you have, the less pictures you’ll take. Well…because we keep getting better iphones and gadgets, we actually have plenty of pictures and videos, but now I just don’t have the time to organize them all and do as much writing as I used to. With this pregnancy, I was so busy settling into our house, spending time with the kids, and working on my new blog www.embracing-motherhood.com that I haven’t had a lot of time to write about this pregnancy, so here’s a little overview of what this pregnancy was like.

I always love being pregnant…especially in the beginning. Just knowing that a new life is growing inside of me is so magical and wonderful, and I love thinking about the new little person who will change our lives forever. But this pregnancy seemed to bring on a few more stressful situations than the others. With this being my 4th pregnancy in 5 years and being 35 years old, I all of a sudden was in a higher risk factor bracket. Plus, welcoming a new little peanut into an already full household and busy schedule made me want to plan everything out so perfectly in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed or depressed after the birth.

The beginning of the pregnancy went so smoothly that I kept forgetting that I was pregnant. Things would settle into a really nice rhythm and I kept feeling like saying, “I’m ready to get pregnant again…oh wait, I already am!” It made me so happy to know that for the first time since having children, we wouldn’t have to move again. We were so excited to welcome a new baby into our new home and we spent my entire pregnancy doing one project after another getting everything just so.

We found a wonderful midwife near the Amish community where we get our milk and when she noticed that I was measuring 4 cm ahead of my weeks, I started to wonder if it could be twins. So we scheduled an ultrasound and it’s so funny how when you just start thinking about something that could be, it all of a sudden starts to become a reality in your mind, especially if it’s something that you’re afraid of. I cracked a double yolk that morning and found two baby mattresses at the thrift store…all signs that I was certainly carrying twins.

Andrea rode with me to the ultrasound and we chatted the whole way there about what it would be like to have twins. Scott met us there and when we found out that it was only one baby, we were kind of sad. But then the relief sank in about only needing to nurse one baby, be up in the night with one baby, soothe one baby, and all of a sudden one baby seemed easy in comparison. With the last two pregnancies, we didn’t have any ultrasounds and never found out the gender, but with the answer being right there in front of us with this baby, we couldn’t refuse. We wanted a boy soooooooo bad that we were afraid to find out, and when she said it was a boy, we just about cried we were so happy! Elliot would have a little brother and our “girl, boy, girl, boy” pattern would be complete.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound also revealed that I had a low lying placenta, so we knew that although unlikely, placenta previa which would mean an automatic c-sections was a possibility. We didn’t worry about it too much though until I had some bright red bleeding at about 34 weeks. At that point, we scheduled another ultrasound and we were sadly informed that the placenta was touching the cervix. As we started discussing the ramifications of this, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to have the homebirth that I had wanted so badly and that it could very well mean that I would need a c-section and somehow have to recover from major abdominal surgery while also taking care of 4 little ones…two of which who need to be put to bed upstairs…

But then, a miracle happened and as my bladder filled, the ultrasound technician realized that the placenta was actually quite far from the cervix. Phew! But there were a few other concerns such as significant calcification, a heterogeneous placenta with many “lakes”, and the lingering concern over the blood that we couldn’t seem to explain.

So we scheduled a meeting with an obstetrician and he was able to explain in clarifying detail what he saw in another ultrasound that he performed in his office. He said that there were also “lakes” or pools of blood in my uterus (from having so many babies so quickly) and that that would explain why the technician thought that the placenta was touching the cervix. He also did a cervical exam and determined that a blood vessel in the cervix was likely ruptured, which explained the blood loss. We had been most concerned about placental abruption, which could mean hemorrhaging and death during delivery, so we were very glad to clear that up.

We were so happy that we would still be able to plan a home birth and we continued preparing for our sweet little boy to enter our lives. At 35 weeks, I started to really notice my Braxton hicks contractions, and I became concerned that I wouldn’t be able to meet my due date. I started researching “babies born at 35 weeks” and we talked about how if he came early, we would just have to go to the hospital and do the best we could.

When I was 37 weeks, I was so glad that I had made it technically to “full term” and as I noticed the Braxton hicks increasing, I continued to try to take it easy. I knew that every day in the womb was worth three outside, and I wanted our little boy to be able to grow as much as possible before he was born. Besides, we had WAY too much to do before he came and we needed the time to finish all of our projects!

Every day I kept thinking that he would be coming any time and Scott kept reminding me that I said that with every pregnancy. So, I reread my birth stories, and sure enough, I did! I guess I just kind of start to panic a little bit in the end. I know that I want to be able to take the time to recover after the birth and so I want to know that everything I could possibly think of is done so I can rest assured. That in addition to the fact that it takes me awhile to mentally psyche myself up to go through the labors of labor. A part of me just wants to get it started so I can get through it and get the last uncomfortable stages of pregnancy over with, and another part of me feels like I’ll never be ready! Ophelia had been trying to cut her bottom eye teeth for months and she kept waking up in the night, so I didn’t even want to think about the baby being born before her teeth came in.

When we were at the midwife appointment two weeks before my due date and she started making plans for our next appointment ON my due date, I only half-heartedly made it thinking that there was NO WAY I would last that long. But sure enough, my due date came and went and still no baby. Every morning I excitedly thought, “This could be the day!” And then when night time came around I became worried and thought, “I’m not ready yet! We’re too sick, too tired, there’s too much to do!”

But then four days after my due date (and one day before my original due date – based on the date of my last period rather than the ultrasound’s diagnosis), things began to happen.

Early Labor: Out and About

It was a Thursday night in the middle of November, and winter was coming much too fast. We knew that it was our last evening of mild weather, so Scott and I moved all of our yard furniture, toys, etc. closer to the house in preparation for the early nights and blowing snow. I had really been trying to take it easy because every time I walked a lot or exerted a lot of energy, I noticed that my Braxton Hicks contractions would increase, but I just really wanted to get this done, so we pushed through it. “I’m probably going to put myself into labor now!” I told Scott. And sure enough…

For the past few nights, weeks, I would feel contractions intensify in the evening after putting the kids to bed, but then they would die down as I slept. So after all of our moving on Thursday night, I wasn’t surprised to feel them again. I slept peacefully that night until about midnight and then they started to become too painful to sleep through. So I got up to make sure everything would be ready if I DID go into labor. Ruby still needed her lunch prepared for the next day, I needed more sourdough muffins, another batch of kombucha, the mirrors were streaked, there were dirty dishes, and of course I needed to get some coffee ready for the next day.

Scott came into the kitchen groggy and excited, “Is it happening?” he wondered. “Maybe, maybe not” I said unsure. While he was there, I got on my hands and knees and he really rubbed on my lower back and the back pain that I had been feeling for weeks finally melted away. I think that our little boy was in a somewhat of a posterior position and we must have helped him to turn and descend into a more optimal position. I shooed Scott off to bed and stayed up for a few more hours getting everything ready. Finally, at 5 a.m., I went to bed and the contractions died down while I slept.

I was up at 7 a.m. to help Ruby off to school and once her and Scott left, I called my mom to tell her that even though I wasn’t feeling contractions at the moment, I had felt them pretty intensely in the night and that things would probably be starting again soon. She had already planned on trying to work from home that day and so she said she would be there at about noon to help out just in case.

The evening before, Scott started feeling really sick and I knew that he would need his strength to take care of me and our family during my labor, so I strongly encouraged him to take the day off and rest. He came home from work, reluctant to take the day off when he wanted to save up as many days as he could for after the baby was born, took a bunch of herbal “get well” pills and slept all morning long.

I sent a Facebook message at 10:00 a.m. to my midwives to let them know that things were starting to happen. With Ophelia’s birth, I had started feeling contractions for her in the morning, things got intense by noon, and I told my midwives that she would probably be born at 7 p.m.…she was born at 7:20. But this time around, there wasn’t any time that I felt comfortable making a prediction about when the baby would come. About 6 weeks prior, however, I had written on the calendar that I thought he would be born at 10:59 p.m. on November 15th. With that prediction, I was less than 2 hours off.

So anyways, while Scott slept, I took Ophelia and Elliot to the thrift store to get Scott a really cool coat that I had seen earlier. I was starting to have contractions that were definitely more than Braxton’s, but not enough to stop me from moving around. It was half off toys day and Elliot loaded up on his favorite toys of all…little figurines of superheroes, fighters, and the like, and Ophelia got a cool little ferris wheel/merry-go-round toy. I got Scott his really cool winter coat and one for myself as well, plus this amazing white chair that we needed for the dining room.

I was about to drive 40 minutes to get our milk on my own, but I was relieved when I called my mom and discovered that she would be there soon. I really wanted to be able to get milk and go to Meijers before labor kicked into full gear, so I was really driving fast, passing everyone and speeding quickly to get it all done. Elliot and Ophelia enjoyed getting out of the car with us and playing in the barn as I filled up our 8 gallons of milk. My mom helped me to carry them to the car and we just laughed about doing all of this work during early labor! It was so fun to have my mom there with me and I really enjoyed chatting with her on the drive. We both agreed that staying busy during early labor was so good because it doesn’t make you feel like a watched pot and get too nervous about what’s to come.

Getting Milk at the Farm

Getting Milk at the Farm

Elliot and Ophelia Pretending to Switch Seats

Elliot and Ophelia Pretending to Switch Seats

When we got home, Scott was feeling well rested and much better, and we decided to pick up Ruby early from school (2:00 p.m.) and try to head to Meijers. Ruby felt so special to have us both there to pick her up and she said that if the baby was born in the car, he could have her coat to stay warm.

After we dropped Ruby off with my mom and got about one third of the way to Meijers, contractions were picking up and becoming too intense for me to feel comfortable being out and about. So we turned around and went to Vics, the local grocery store, instead. While we were picking out cheese and sour cream, my midwife Laurie called us to see how things were going. The store was really busy and it was fun trying to talk quietly about my mucus, cervical dilation, and pain level. Contractions were about 5 minutes apart, lasting for about 35 seconds, and intense enough to make me pause, but not too strong to talk through.

Pre Labor: At Home

I told my midwives that when I got home and started to relax that things would probably start to move quickly. I don’t know, I just kind of assumed that with the fourth baby in five years, things would just progress rapidly, but they never really did. The entire labor was just slow, easy, manageable, and calm…just like our little boy would be.

So Scott unloaded and put away the groceries, my mom had just pulled out a fresh batch of my sourdough muffins from the oven, and the kids were all playing quietly throughout the house. I started putzing around slowly folding laundry, checking on the kids, tidying up the house, and walking around. During contractions, I would just sway back and forth, but they still weren’t getting very intense. In the picture below, I was leaning against a chair to get through a contraction when Elliot climbed on my back to “help” me, and if you look at my face, he actually did!

Elliot Helping Me Through a Contraction

Elliot Helping Me Through a Contraction

After the bath, we all got the kids dressed in their snowpants and headed outside for a fire in the early November snow. My mom kept saying that she was going to lay down for a nap, but there kept being one thing after another that kept her on her toes. I even put on some slippers, coat, hat, scarf, and mittens, and rolled my ball out by the fire.Scott unpacked my birth kit and made our bed with the plastic and extra sheet and we got ready for things to progress. I started hanging out in our bedroom a lot. Scott drew a nice warm bath with music and soft lights and I enjoyed relaxing in the tub for awhile. I kept trying to check myself, but for some reason, it was really hard to tell what was going on. After the bath, I told the midwives that I couldn’t be dilated more than 4cm. There was also some more blood that came out, but I think it was from the placenta, not the mucous plug. I’m not really sure that I ever lost my mucous plug during early labor, maybe I lost it awhile ago???

The first midwife assistant, Julie, arrived and hung out with us by the fire. We turned on the back porch lights since it was completely dark, and the kids enjoyed playing on the slide and eating snow. It was such a fun distraction to keep busy during early labor. When I bounced on the ball during contractions, I could hardly feel them.

Having a Fire

Having a Fire

Ophelia (1.5 years old)

Ophelia (1.5 years old)

I was getting so excited about the impending action, but also a little anxious wondering when things were going to get going. Julie reminded me to keep eating and drinking water and I suddenly remembered I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, so Scott brought me a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes. That food gave me instant energy and I could feel my contractions intensify almost immediately!

Grandma Reading with Ophelia

Grandma Reading with Ophelia

When we came inside at 7:00 p.m., I realized that things probably wouldn’t be happening until after the kids went to bed, so we moved all of the birth supplies to the new birth location…the living room. I set up a bunch of candles over the fireplace and Scott got my Enya/Joshua Radin mix going on the tv. We got the kids in their pajamas and I enjoyed watching them do their nightly wrestling in our bedroom.

Nightly Wrestling

Nightly Wrestling

After that, Scott brought my ball upstairs and we were able to pretty much go through with our normal bedtime routine. Scott cuddled up with Ruby and Elliot and read them three books. I read Ophelia a few of her favorite books and when I felt a contraction, I would sit and bounce on my ball. When Scott brings Elliot to his room to read him three more stories in bed, I usually read Ruby three more stories in bed while Ophelia reads to herself, but on this night, my mom read Ruby a whole bunch of poems from A Light in the Attic and I was able to take Ophelia downstairs to put her to bed.

After I kicked my big ball down the stairs, I was a little worried about managing my pain during contractions while I read Ophelia stories. But I just kicked the ball into our room and things seemed to stall out just long enough to have her sit on my lap in the rocking chair, give her some milk, and read her three stories before putting her to bed.

Active Labor

While we were putting the kids to bed, the other two midwives Laurie and Jillian arrived and got all of their things set up. After that, they checked the baby’s heart rate and took my blood pressure. I felt so bad that I had encouraged them to come out so much earlier and now here they were getting here so much later and still nothing was really progressing very fast. After I apologized, they said, “Don’t worry! We’d rather be here early than get here just as you’re pushing him out.” My mom was so sweet and showed them where the food was, the extra beds where they could rest, and chatted with them for a bit while Scott and I got things settled in the living room.

My mom soon joined us in the living room and we talked excitedly about the day so far and what was to come. I kept waiting for things to pick up, and they didn’t. My contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting for less than a minute, and still not very intense. I kept trying to check myself to see how far dilated I was, but things were just too mushy and I couldn’t tell. One of the midwives said she would check for me and even though I typically don’t like being checked by anyone ever after feeling violated during Ruby’s birth, I was very curious to see just how far along I was. It wasn’t easy for her to tell either, but she guessed that I was at about 6 cm. At least there was some progress. I couldn’t imagine being at a 6 and having things fizzle out overnight.

At about 9:30 p.m., my mom finally went lay down. “Wake me up if things start happening,” she said. I felt so bad that things weren’t progressing, and that all of the midwives had to just sit around waiting for me. But I put all of those feelings of being a watched pot out of my mind and knew that this time was all about me and whatever I needed. I let everything else melt away and focused on my body and what it was telling me.

During contractions, I would bounce on the ball and the pain would just melt away. I didn’t really even feel the need to vocalize, but I did anyways just so that the midwives would know that something was going on. They were set up in our little homeschool room staying out of sight, but within earshot. They would come in to check the baby’s heart rate periodically, but basically let us do our thing which is just what I wanted.

By 10:00 p.m., Scott wondered if I was up for some video games. That sounded perfect! So Scott and I played this silly fighting game called Altered Beast where you have to punch and kick all of these evil creatures and every time you kill the white wolf you power up to become an increasingly more muscular man or ferocious beast. The midwives later told me that it was so funny because they would hear all of these sounds and rush in to see what was going on only to see us excitedly talking about the game. Even during contractions, I would keeping pushing A and B to fight the evil creatures.

By about 10:40 p.m., I suddenly got really tired and just wanted to lay down so I closed my eyes and rested on the couch for awhile. I almost felt myself slip into a deep sleep and contractions seemed to stop. After laying down for about 20 minutes, I felt another contraction coming, so I slipped onto the ball and rocked through a very mild one. I laid down for another 20 minutes or so and expected to get up to a very powerful contraction, but once again, it was very mild.

I went to the bathroom at 11:25 p.m. and told the midwives after I checked myself that it felt like the baby’s head was lower and that I was dilated further, but that contractions had died down, so I didn’t know what was going on. Jillian told me that my body was probably saving its strength for the final push, but I was starting to feel like maybe things wouldn’t be happening that night after all. I was starting to get really tired and feeling a little shaky. I was also getting really anxious about how long things were taking, and I didn’t know if I would be meeting my sweet little boy soon, or in hours…how many hours? How much longer???

I was determined that I didn’t want to go to sleep and wait until things picked up the next day, and even though I was tired and really just wanted to lay down, in between each contraction I would squat and sway, or pace the room, or go to the bathroom, or bounce on the ball.

When the midwives came in to check on me, I apologized once again for things taking so long and Jillian said that her and Julie didn’t get to see each other very often and were really having fun catching up. I said I wished that I had some wine for them or something! Scott remembered our kombucha and offered them a glass. He ran to the kitchen and came back with two little glasses and a bottle of our red raspberry leaf kombucha. They loved it and just before I could give them the recipe, I felt a powerful contraction coming on, so I got right to my ball.

Active Labor

Active Labor

Transition

I’m not sure if I was quite to transition at this point, but by about 11:30 p.m., contractions started getting intense to the point where I needed Scott to start rubbing my back. He reached into his old bag of tricks and pressed really hard on my hips massaging them with all of his strength. I didn’t feel like doing our “washing machine” move from Ophelia’s birth, but just steadily bouncing up and down on the ball during each contraction. A low guttural moan started to escape my lips at the height of each contraction and my entire focus was on that moment and what I needed to do to get through it.

But as each contraction ended, the pain completely melted away and Scott and I would joke and laugh and putz around getting ready for the next contraction. At one point during a particularly powerful contraction, I yelled at Scott, “What are you doing! That really hurts!” He had been rubbing my hips pretty intensely and all of a sudden it got painful! “Push in the middle of my back!” I commanded. He did, but it didn’t really do much. (Sidenote: For over a week after the birth, the only thing that really hurt were my hips from Scott pushing on them so hard!)

With just about every other labor, I had experienced back labor and these techniques really worked, but maybe this baby was in a better position because I never once felt any back labor. The peak of each contraction lasted about 20 seconds and was intense, but manageable. I never felt out of control or that the pain was too much. I just knew that I needed to get through it one contraction at a time and that every one brought me that much closer to holding my sweet baby boy in my arms.

This went on for about an hour and then at 12:30 a.m., Laurie told us that she had another mom in labor with contractions 2-4 minutes apart and lasting over a minute. “Well,” I said, feeling like a failure, “she sounds closer than I am.” Laurie explained that she would be sending her backup midwife, Dorthy, to come and assist us. “My last two births happened with the midwives getting there five minutes before I pushed, and now our midwife is going to be gone for five minutes until I push,” I joked.

I knew things were feeling close, but I guess in some ways, I was still scared and I realized that there had been a small part of me that had been holding back this whole time. The part of me that didn’t want to quite accept what was happening, the part of me that kept feeling like there was one last thing that needed to be done before he could be born, the part of me that didn’t feel like I could handle it, the part of me that was afraid.

Scott asked Laurie if he could help her out with her second load, and in that moment, I just let it all go. The fear, the worry, the pain…I let it all go and went inside of myself and felt like something deep within was finally able to exhale. In that moment, I was rocked by a huge and powerful contraction and then I felt a pop and a warm gush. “My water just broke!” I shouted.

Pushing

The other midwives came rushing into the room and yelled to Laurie, “She’s pushing!” Laurie quickly came into the living room where I had slipped off from my ball onto my hands and knees and started leaning against the coffee table. Scott helped me take off my underwear, and I almost knocked everything off the coffee table in one fell swoop until I realized that it was a candle and half drunk bottle of kombucha beside me. So I gently moved them aside and grabbed onto the side and back of the table while I rested my head in the middle and let my body get to work. I could hear the midwives scurrying about getting their supplies and laying chux pads underneath me.

I felt that familiar urge to push that took over every sensation in my entire body, and I knew that I would soon be meeting my son. The thought thrilled me, and I felt the adrenaline surge through me as he traveled down the birth canal. I remembered to take it slow and gently let him enter the world so that I wouldn’t damage myself too badly.

When it felt right, I pushed. In a few minutes, I could hear Scott yell, “I see the head!” I heard other voices too saying things like, “You’re almost there!” and “You’re doing great!” I love hearing words of encouragement when I get to this pushing phase. Feeling that ring of fire is intense and I like to hear that it will be over soon and be reassured that everything is okay. Scott just told me as I’m writing this that as the head was crowning, Laurie said, “This might sting a bit” as she poured some kind of black oily stuff all over my perineum that they had been heating up in our crock pot all evening. I will have to ask them what that was at our next appointment! I have no recollection of that by the way. Then the intense feeling of him crowning was over and I knew that I had delivered the head and that the rest of him would be slipping out soon.

As soon as his head was born, Laurie suctioned out his nose and mouth right away. There was a big smear of something dark on his face. They thought it was meconium at first, but realized later that it was just blood because all of the water that came out was completely clear. As I prepared for the final push, Jillian cradled his head and said, “I’m going to bring him up through your legs,” and with one final giant push, our little baby boy was born. I reached down and picked up his small slippery body and drew him close to me. Nine minutes after Laurie started heading out the door, and there I was holding my sweet little boy!

Everyone helped me turn over and I brought our son up to my chest. He looked a little pale and I quickly wrapped him in a blanket and brought him to my chest. I cooed to him and rubbed his sweet little head in complete awe of the miracle of life as I held him. He never once cried and his bright eyes looked calmly right into mine. Within a few minutes, he started to pink up and I suddenly felt the urge to push again. Out came the placenta.

After I held him for a few minutes, the midwives noticed that his cord had stopped pulsing and so they clamped it and with a few snips, Scott cut his cord. At this point, I was kind of awkwardly propped up on the floor and Scott helped me up while the midwives ushered me to the couch where they had prepared some more chux pads and pillows.

After the Birth

Scott texted my mom to let her know that something had certainly happened. He sent her one word…it said “born”. She was so sound asleep that someone had to go wake her up, but I knew she wouldn’t want to miss this for the world. As I settled onto the couch with my sweet little boy nestled against my chest, Scott cuddled up next to me and we looked into each other’s eyes with that look that says, we just went through something amazing that has changed us once again forever. We looked at his sweet little face and couldn’t believe how alert he was and how simply peaceful he seemed. He was such a beautiful baby!

He latched on right way and ate hungrily. The midwives were busy filling out paperwork and I asked Scott, “Should we tell them his name?” We had decided a while ago what we wanted to name him, but of course we had to meet him first and see if the name fit. When we said it out loud – Julian William Maaser – we knew that it fit him perfectly! Soon, my mom joined us and couldn’t believe that he was here. We joyfully told her the rest of the birth story and she was so happy to meet her little grandson.

Julian William Maaser

Julian William Maaser

Julian and Mommy

Julian and Mommy

Julian, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma

Julian, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma

IMG_4100

Mommy, Daddy, and Julian

After Julian ate to his heart’s content, they were ready to do the newborn screening. They gently looked at his reflexes and checked over every inch of his body while I sat right next to him talking gently and rubbing his head. He made one little cry of protest, but otherwise continued to display his calm and gentle demeanor that he had shown since the moment of birth. He was a perfectly healthy little boy and there were no concerns. I dressed him in a little onsie and footie pants that I had picked out weeks before. After that, I swaddled him tightly in really nice new swaddling cloth I splurged on from Amazon.

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening

Newborn Screening

Mommy's Here!

Mommy’s Here!

When they checked me over, I just had one little “scuff mark” down there, but otherwise things looked great. My blood flow was normal, my uterus was contracting as it should, and I felt great. I had sent Scott to look for the cats who went outside when we were by the fire much earlier in the evening and hadn’t come back in yet. He kept calling and calling but they didn’t come. Jillian asked me if I’d like to go pee, so I handed Julian to my mom and hobbled to the bathroom with Jillian’s help.

Later, when I asked my mom about holding him for the first time, she said, “It was a magical moment because I was all alone with him. Scott was out looking for the cats and both of the midwives were with you. The room was dim. It was just precious. I didn’t have any pretenses or feel like anyone was watching me. I just looked at him and felt so honored and in awe and sort of in shock a little to hold this precious little being that belonged to you.” When I came back to the living room, Scott was expertly rocking Julian, and just like with Elliot, he was soothed by a pinkie in his mouth.

Julian and Daddy

Julian and Daddy

Julian

Julian

I was determined to get those cats inside because I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest easy unless I knew they were safe and sound, so I sent my mom outside to do her loud, “Here kitty kitty kitty!” that was so loud I’m surprised all of the stray cats in the neighborhood didn’t come running. Eventually, both of our cats came running from half a block away and they were eventually corralled inside. Ahhhhhh, now I could sleep!

After that, we said goodnight to my mom and the three of us headed off to bed. It was about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at that point. The midwives came in to tuck us in and gave us a few postpartum care reminders. Scott drifted off to sleep immediately, but I was up checking my facebook status that I had posted of our new family, and felt like I would be too excited to sleep. But at some point I drifted off. Julian was swaddled beside me and slept soundly for five hours (the best he would sleep for the whole first week, so it’s nice he started off with some good sleep). All of the other children slept peacefully throughout the whole labor and birth. We were so excited to think about their reactions to their new baby brother the next day.

Midwife Notes 1

Midwife Notes 1

Midwife Notes 2

Midwife Notes 2

Midwife Notes 3

Midwife Notes 3

Midwife Notes 4

Midwife Notes 4

The Next Day

Elliot was the first one up and came into our room at 5:30 a.m. So early! He is usually pretty good about sleeping in until 7:30-8:00 a.m., but he will wake up early if he has to pee. He cuddled up in bed with us, so happy to meet his little baby brother! He giggled and laughed and loved his little brother as he snuggled under the covers with us. After that, Scott took Elliot out to the living room and I continued to sleep.

Ruby woke up at 6:30 a.m. and joined Daddy and Elliot. Then Ophelia, who usually sleeps in until 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., woke up at 7:30 a.m. and that’s when Ruby and Ophelia came in our room and met Julian for the first time. Ophelia said, “Baby, baby!” but was really pretty indifferent. Ruby was sooooooooo happy! She cuddled right up to him and started talking to him right away. I don’t remember her first words exactly, but I think she started describing the world to him right off the bat and explained how much she loved him and was so happy to meet him.

At about 9:00 a.m., my mom woke up and joined Ruby, Elliot, and Ophelia who were all dressed and fed and playing with Daddy in the living room. She took over and let Scott come back to bed. I tried sleeping some more, but I was still just too excited. Plus I felt really gross and wanted to take a bath and brush my teeth. My mom brought in the herbal bath mixture and I enjoyed a nice hot soak in our walk in tub while Scott cuddled up with Julian. It felt AMAZING!!!

I was so happy to bring Julian out to the living room and to have our whole family was together for the first time. My mom took such good care of us that day. She brought us food, played with the kids, and kept the house clean. At about 2:00 p.m., Grandma Gene and Andrea joined us. It was so nice to have a few extra hands to help keep everyone entertained. Scott and I were able to slip away for another nap and my mom brought us out an amazing platter of dinner when we awoke and came back into the living room.

That night, we were able to easily pick up our bedtime routine with one extra person in tote and everyone went to sleep on time, peacefully, and easily. I am sooooooo glad we had some good bedtime routines in place and were so settled in our home. Scott and I sat in the living room with Julian, who just like when he was in the womb, would wake up after the kids went to bed. He was so peaceful and calm and Scott and I chattered away excitedly about all of the events that had taken place. My heart felt so full of love that it could just about burst.

Elliot, Ruby, Mommy, and Julian

Elliot, Ruby, Mommy, and Julian

Ruby Holding Julian

Ruby Holding Julian

Ophelia Isn't Quite Sure What to Think

Ophelia Isn’t Quite Sure What to Think

Grandma Di is Helping

Grandma Di is Helping

Grandma Gene, Grandma Di, Ruby, and Julian

Grandma Gene, Grandma Di, Ruby, and Julian

Elliot Holding Julian

Elliot Holding Julian

Elliot, Auntie Andrea, and Ruby

Elliot, Auntie Andrea, and Ruby

In the Living Room

In the Living Room

Grandma Gene Holding Julian

Grandma Gene Holding Julian

Julian William Maaser

Julian William Maaser