Titus 2:3-5

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seth's Birth Story

Warning, this post contains birth details.

Like my late pregnancy with Aiden, this time around I also had the "wonderful" experience of "false" labour from about 37 weeks onwards. At first these bouts of contractions were short lived and several days apart. They were easily recognised as "false" labour. They were not totally false in that they did progress my body in preparing for childbirth. As I neared my estimated due date these bouts of contractions became more frequent, usually happened late at night, and each time the experience got more intense and more like actual labour. My estimated due date went by, and I was now losing several hours of sleep every other night to contractions. I was tired. I was ready to meet our new baby. I felt done being pregnant. The baby however was in no rush to be born.

The day I was exactly 41 weeks we had a scheduled appointment with our midwife in the afternoon. Rob came home from work about 1pm so we would be ready to leave at 2pm for our 3pm appointment. We had lunch together. When Rob asked me how I was feeling that day I suddenly burst into tears. I had been up most of the previous night and was exhausted. We stood in the middle of our living room, Rob holding me in his arms while I cried into his shoulder. I felt foolish. I did not even know why I was crying. In just a few minutes the tears ended and we finished lunch before waking Aiden and leaving for our appointment.

The appointment that afternoon was probably the shortest one we ever had. We were only there about 40 minutes. We talked about having to schedule a biophysical profile if the baby did not arrive by the end of this week, and scheduled another appointment for a few days. Now that I was past 41 weeks I would be on twice weekly midwife appointments. We also talked about things we could do to encourage labour to start naturally. We left encouraged that everything was good with both Mama and baby.

We were not far from our midwife's home, stuck at a traffic light where there had been a car accident, when the first contraction hit. I waited until there had been a few before I said anything to Rob. This was the first time I had contractions in the afternoon, so I knew this was different. By the time we were half way home I knew without a doubt that this was the "real" labour. We decided to stop at WalMart on the way home, as we needed a few groceries, and it would give me an opportunity to walk around before we got back to our apartment. By the time we got home it was nearly 6pm, and I had a definite pattern to my contractions. Rob fed Aiden, gave him a quick bath and put him to bed for the night. It was about an hour earlier than his normal bedtime, but fortunately 15 month old boys are not known for their ability to tell what time it is.

Now that it was just the two of us we were able to focus more on the actual labour. Rob cooked a quick dinner while I worked through contractions on the birth ball. After we ate dinner we called our midwife to let her know labour had started, but that we didn't need her to come to us yet. We then called our friend who had agreed to come over during labour to look after Aiden. Our friend was still at work and we had to leave a voicemail for her. It was an hour later when she called back. She finally arrived about 9:45pm. We prayed together for the labour and birth once she arrived. By 10pm I was definitely in active labour. I had 3 strong contractions right on top of each other. Rob decided it was time to call our midwife back and ask her to come to us. Just a few minutes later I had another 2 contractions on top of each other. There was no longer any doubt that this was the night our baby was going to be born.

At some point soon after calling the midwife we moved from the living room to the bedroom. I kept trying different positions to progress labour, but I kept coming back to sitting on the birth ball. Rob sat behind me to help me keep my back relaxed. I sat on the ball with our bed in front of me so I could lean on it to rest between the contractions. Our friend leaned over the bed and held my hands so I could squeeze on her during the contractions. She also kept me calm by breathing through the contractions with me. By about 11pm I kept asking for a break, a rest. I was so tired and really wanted to have a short nap so I would have the energy to keep going. Rob said later that his thought when he heard me asking for a break was "Oh good we're in transition, its nearly over." Our midwife arrived about 11:20pm, but couldn't get in through the security gate as the dial up from the gate to our phone wasn't working properly. Rob had to leave and drive up to the gate to let her in.

Not long after I felt like I really needed to use the bathroom. I was reassured it was just pressure from the baby. However I knew I also really needed to use the bathroom. So Rob and I moved to the bathroom. Rob was my constant support throughout labour. I leaned on him during the contractions in the bathroom. I had just stood back up when another contraction hit, and I was overwhelmed by the need to push. It caught me by surprise as my body just pushed on its own. That first push burst my amniotic sack. Fortunately some of it went into the toilet, but most of it hit the floor, and Rob's foot. I had two more pushes before the contraction was over. Our midwife wanted to check to make sure I was fully dilated before I pushed again. I still had a small cervical lip, so she wanted me to not push for 15 minutes to give my body time to finish dilating. That 15 minutes was the hardest part of the whole process. She panted with me during the contractions so I could stop myself. It took every ounce of concentration I was capable of to stop my body, and even then the first push of each contraction still got through and I only managed to stop the other two pushes. By now our bathroom was getting crowded with our midwife sitting on the side of the bath, Rob and I standing by the toilet, and the assistant next to us trying to clean up some of the mess on the floor. I knew this was not how I wanted to birth this baby, so I asked to go back to our bed. It took about 4 contractions to actually move from the ensuite to the bed. I really did not like the sensation of pushing while upright. I finally made it onto the bed and tried one contraction on my hands and knees. Again I really didn't like this position, even though I thought I would before that point. This was when I ended up lying down on my side simply from not knowing what else to do. It felt so comfortable to push in that position, so I stayed on my side, lying across the bed. Rob started out at my head, holding the pillows in place while I pushed. After a few minutes he moved to behind me so I could lean my back on him slightly. The slightly tilted angle with back support was the most comfortable position I could find. I held on to the pillows under my head with my lower arm and gripped my upper thigh with the other arm. The midwife's assistant supported my feet.

Each contraction still had 3 definite pushes. I could feel the baby move down inside me during the contractions, then move back up slightly between while I rested. I knew that this happened, but I felt so strange to experience it. The only actual effort I had to make was to concentrate on my breathing to stay as relaxed as possible. I was focusing on the directed breathing I had learned form "The Pink Kit" childbirth preparation material. In doing this I allowed my body to do the pushing by itself. My body knew how to birth this baby. I just had to stay relaxed and let it happen. Once the head got part of the way out I could feel the sting of my skin being stretched to let the baby out. Again I focused on breathing and staying relaxed and letting my body do the work. Unknown to me at the time, the reason I felt the stinging was because the baby had a nucal arm, and the elbow was causing some over stretching that made a small tear, and left a few abrasions (also called skid marks.) With the head partially out the midwife could see the fingers against the baby's cheek, and she had to pull the arm out, out of the way to allow the head and then the shoulders to come out. At this point there was a brief break in the contractions. I decided to try to push the rest of the body out on my own, but nothing happened. I had to wait for the next contraction and the natural pushes to birth the rest of the body. The pause was only a minute at most, but it felt like a long time to have a partially born baby. He was finally completely born at 1:24am, just over 9 hours from when I had those first contractions at that traffic light.

As soon as the baby was born Rob got to be the one to see what gender the baby was. I was thrilled when I heard him announce we had another son. Throughout the pregnancy we both had felt like we were going to get a daughter, but in the moment there was only joy that Aiden would have a brother to grow up with, someone who could be his lifelong best friend. Because I was still lying on my side the baby was laid on the bed next to me. It was such a precious time having those first minutes to be lying next to each other and getting to know each other. I held his tiny little hand and talked with him until the chord stopped pulsing. Then Rob got to cut the chord and hold the baby for a few minutes while I moved to a more comfortable position on my back to deliver the placenta. As soon as I was in position at the top of the bed, in a half recline, I was given the baby back. We nursed for the first time at that point, and he had a very good latch and strong suck. It didn't take long for the placenta to come out once we started nursing. Finally the birth was over. I did however lose a lot of blood, so the midwife asked if she could give me a shot of pitocin to stop the bleeding. I was given just one shot in the leg, and it seemed to do the trick.

Lying side by side just after birth

It was then time for the midwife to check for any damage. This was when she found I had two internal abrasions that would need a stitch each and that the tear would need 3 stitches. I was given a shot to numb the area for stitching, but I could still feel the movement as she stitched me up. Once this was over with Rob got on the bed with us, and we were left alone just the 3 of us to become acquainted with each other. Our friend, who had been around for the entire process, made me a cup of hot tea to drink. Eventually I felt able to get up and use the bathroom. Rob held the baby, while the midwife helped me to the bathroom. Then once I was finished she helped me to clean up and change my clothes before I got back into bed. Once safely back in bed, and the baby back in my arms, it was suggested that I had something to eat. I was given some suggestions and finally settled on some scrambled eggs and toast, which Rob went and made for me. While Rob was gone to the kitchen our friend came and sat with me and the baby. After I had eaten our friend left to go home and get a few hours of sleep before she had to get back up for work again. The midwife and her assistant stayed in the living room to fill out some of their paperwork while Rob and I sat in bed and marveled at this new little boy the Lord had given us.

Getting acquainted in bed together

After completing some other paperwork with us, including the application for the birth certificate, our midwife and her assistant finally got to go home. It was now about 4am. We were now alone, just our little family in our home. Aiden was still sound asleep, and had no idea that when he got up in the morning he was going to meet his new baby brother. We decided to try and get some sleep before Aiden woke up. Rob dosed a little on the bed beside me. I held the baby in my arm, and even though I was exhausted I could not sleep. So I lay there watching our new son as he slept in my arm.

When Rob went later in the morning to get Aiden up, he told him he had a new brother. However when he brought Aiden into our bedroom and sat him on the bed to meet his baby brother Aiden refused to look at him. He looked at Rob, and even at me, but he refused to let his eyes meet with this tiny baby in Mama's arm. It took a few hours before the curiosity hit strongly enough for Aiden to finally want to meet his new baby brother. Once he did accept the presence of the baby he got excited about him. Every day he now asks about the baby when he first wakes up.

Mama's boys

Today Seth is 4 weeks old. In some ways it has been a very quick 4 weeks, in others it seems like we have always been a family of 4. I have found the adjustment to our new family dynamic interesting. Physically it has been a very different recovery from Aiden's birth. Then I had to recover from surgery and once I had the external staples removed at 6 days I no longer felt much pain. I did have to wait to be able to use my stomach muscles, and so mobility was more difficult after Aiden. This time I have had one small abrasion that is taking time to heal, and at 4 weeks postpartum it is still giving me some discomfort. However due to location I have been told it could be 6-8 weeks postpartum before it has healed completely. Despite this discomfort I would gladly repeat this experience. Having a home birth just 15 months after a c-section birth has been an incredible experience. I was able to see the amazing power of my body work to birth this baby. We got to have a peaceful beginning to Seth's life with us. He has never been separated from me, and was not subject to unnecessary testing or injections immediately after birth. As a result he feeds a lot better than Aiden ever did, and is gaining weight well.

Seth at 2 weeks old

At birth (or at least about an hour after) Seth weighed in at 9lb 8oz, 23 inches long and 14 1/4 inches for his head. At 3 days his weight had dropped down to 8lb 14oz. Then at 7 days his weight was back up to 9lb 10oz. He was last weighed again at 21 days and was then up to 10lb 10oz. By now (28days) he should be over 11lb.

I am filled with awe at the amazing design of childbirth. Learning how to work with my body to birth this baby has been a wonderful experience. Being able to birth in the comfort of my own home, surrounded only by those we chose to be there, made Seth's entrance into this world one of peace and tranquility. It has been a joy to make this journey together with Rob. It has bound us closer together as a couple, and strengthened us as a family. I mourn for those women I know who have been robbed of this kind of experience by a doctor who told them it is too dangerous to have a vaginal birth after a c-section. I rejoice that the Lord in His grace has allowed us to have such a wonderful birth.

I pray that our testimony may encourage others to try for a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC), and maybe even to home birth.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm back to blogging.

I had no idea when I last wrote back in May that it would be nearly 5 months before I wrote again.

It was a long and very hot summer to be growing a baby inside while looking after a not quite a toddler. The pregnancy this time was much healthier than my previous one, but running around after Aiden every day and trying to prepare him for becoming a big brother didn't leave me much time for my blog.

Summer has past. Hard to believe it really is October already. We are now a family of four, and adjusting to a whole new dynamic. Seth Andrew was born at home September 7th at 1:24am. I'll share the full details of his wonderful birth story in another post soon.

We feel very blessed as a family. We have two wonderful boys only 15 months and 1 week apart in age. We are so happy our baby turned out to be another son. We just know that growing up together will have them be very close friends. Both boys are wonderful sleepers, and already at less than four weeks Seth has a fairly predictable sleeping pattern, and only wakes once during the night to feed, then again early in the morning at about the same time his daddy is getting up for the day. I've even been able to get both boys to take a nap at the same time most mornings, which gives me a bit a time to get some chores done with two hands. I'm very aware how wonderful this is when there is a newborn in the home.

I will try to keep the blog more up to date, although October does promise to be a very busy month for us as a family. I'll share more about that later in the month.

For now here are a few pictures of my wonderful boys.

May you all have a blessed day


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Contemplating the season of mothering babies.

Since it has been over a month since I last wrote anything here I feel that I should.

This past month has been a busy time in our household, and I just haven't felt inspired to write much. I've even gotten slack with replying to emails from friends. I think in part I'm just in a very introspective place right now, with my sweet baby boy reaching development milestones, and the new baby making their presence constantly known with visible movement in my belly.

Aiden is doing so well right now. He is a sweet and happy as ever. In this last month he has discovered the fun of standing up. He won't pull himself up to stand, but he loves to wriggle down from our knees to stand up. Rob keeps joking about how much Aiden is his father's son. Its all about putting in the least amount of effort to get the same result. After a couple of weeks of standing he is just this week beginning to graduate to a few side shuffle steps to reach toys that are out of reach. I know he is going to be cruising sometime in the next few weeks. Right now we are still working on balance, and I'm trying to teach him how to sit down from standing, and how to pull himself up. That will certainly make life easier on my back, than the constant leaning over I'm having to do right now. I am keen to have Aiden walking before the new baby gets here at the end of the summer, but I also know this smart little boy is going to develop at his own pace, as it suits him.

The pregnancy continues to go well. This new little one is almost as active as their big brother was at this stage. The biggest difference though is that this little one doesn't seem to be showing a preference for any particular position in the womb. Aiden was head down from as early as we could tell his position. This new baby likes to move around a lot more. They did spend a few weeks lying almost exclusively transverse, which did concern me. The last few weeks though have seen an almost constant change in position, with no particular favourite so far. I try to encourage the baby into a head down position, but there is still plenty of time before I actually need to have any real concern about that. I know some babies won't go head down until labour starts, especially after you've already had previous children.

My mind has very much been filled by motherhood and all that it entails recently. I've been meditating on the changing seasons of life. I've always been a writer. It is a huge part of who I am. I've always had a very strong desire to write, and often dreamed of becoming a published author one day. Just recently I've felt that the door to writing has been drawing closed, for this particular season of my life. For the first time ever the constant desire to express myself in written word just has not been there. There is no motivation, no inspiration, no desire to write. Yet I also feel that this is only for this season in my life. Eventually I'll go back to writing. Eventually I will no longer be the mother of small children. The season of my life will change once more.

Right now instead of writing I am sewing. We splurged on a new sewing machine last November and it is finally being used. It has taken up an almost permanent place at one end of our dinning table. So far most of my sewing has been for the new baby. I've made some tie-on cloth diapers and diaper soaker inserts. Then there are the tiny newborn size kimonos from recycled t-shirts Rob was ready to throw out. I even bought some fabric to make muslin swaddles, perfect for the heat of Florida towards the end of summer. I still have more kimonos cut and ready to sew, and I want to get some fitted diapers in newborn size made too. I have even ventured to make silk diaper liners that we can use for both Aiden and the new baby. The silk feels so much nicer against those delicate parts of their bodies.

Once the sewing projects are completed it will be time for the knitting needles. I have found some very cute patterns free online for some wool diaper covers. I also found some very reasonably priced wool online. Using wool covers will be so much nicer that PUL or plastic. I also have a couple of blankets I want to crochet for the baby. I made two for Aiden, and I'd like this new baby to have their own. Aiden loves his blankets. He loves the texture of the crochet and the feel of the yarn. I don't want him to feel like we are taking those blankets away from him to give to the new baby, so I need to make a few more.

I still have a few months before this new baby arrives, so I'm hopeful that will be plenty of time to get all my projects completed. And if the baby arrives while I'm still working on some, then that will be fine too. We have all the basics we need, and then some, from when Aiden was born. The best thing about babies is they don't care what colour they are wearing. They just want to be loved, fed and comfortable. Loved, fed and comfortable we can do even if another thing never got completed.

So sorry for being such a lazy blogger. I can't promise I'll be writing much more frequently in the next few months. I'll try, but life and babies happen, so I'll just have to try my best.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

10 Months Already

Life has been more than a little full around here recently. We had two weeks where the whole family got ill, some kind of "flu like" cold that had us all doing little more than sleeping and occasionally eating. Then just as we were recovering our sweet little boy decided to get some live yogurt in his eye, and ended up with conjunctivitis. (Seriously, he won't eat baby yogurt, but loves natural live yogurt. Daddy was feeding him and Aiden grabbed at his spoon and in the process flicked yogurt across his face, and a little bit got in his eye.) The conjunctivitis resulted in a doctor visit and five days of eye drops to get rid of the infection. It took both of us to get that drop in his eye every morning and evening, and it was still not an easy feat with a wriggly 10 month old.

10 Months Old, April 1st 2011

Despite the illness it has been fun around our home. Aiden has gained more mobility. He still won't crawl in the traditional way. He won't even try to get up on his knees. However he has found that he can get to where he wants to be by wriggling and rolling, and he is getting very efficient at it too. It is amusing to watch him as he sets his sights on something then works his way to get it. He has also increased in confidence and just this past week has ventured off the rug that takes up most of the floor in our sitting area. So far he has ventured far enough to get to the dinning table, and to our bedroom door. He has said "Hello" twice, the first time while on Skype with my mum, then again a few days later when his daddy came home.

We also gave Aiden a hair cut at home. He has quite thick hair at the top of his head. It is also the one area of his head where no hair fell out after he was born. As a result it was getting too long again, and was still brown while the new hair on the rest of his head was blonde. So Rob held him while I attempted to cut. It won't win awards for style, but it is neater and more even now. When we look at pictures of him from his first month, then look at him now, it is hard to believe he is the same little boy. His features have changed so much in these last 10 months.

New Hair Cut

It is amazing to watch all the changes that happen during this very short phase of babyhood. We know this is such a short time in Aiden's life. It won't be long before he is no longer a baby, but instead becomes a toddler. While it seems like all the other mothers around me are busy looking forward to the next developmental stage, I'm in no hurry. I want to relish each and every day that he is at this current point. The days where Aiden is completely dependent upon me for everything are already slipping away. He is developing more and more independence and autonomy. He is beginning to communicate verbally. He can feed himself table food, as long as it is in small pieces (although he will attempt to eat bigger pieces of food if he gets his hands on them.) He can move from one place to another without my help. Just 10 months ago the only thing he could do for himself was sleep, or cry.

Eating Dinner

Then in just a few short months Aiden will also be a big brother. He will be showing the way for a younger sibling. He will be learning how to share, and give, and serve. Life will no longer just be about him. When Aiden shows symptoms of being an only child, and just a little too demanding of constant attention, Rob will be heard to say "help is on the way." Being a big brother will cure Aiden of that only child complex. He will have no choice but to adjust to another baby in our home. It will be good for him.

Until then though I plan to continue relishing every moment of where he is right now. He is such a blessing, and one I enjoy sharing every day with.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Wise Woman Builds Her Home Link Up

Today I'm participating in the blog link up at A Wise Woman Builds Her Home.

You will find lots of links to other blogs to encourage you in your role as wife, mother and homemaker.


Monday, February 28, 2011

If at first you don't succeed...

I grew up hearing the saying "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." It was apparently inspired by a tale of Robert the Bruce, who while fleeing from the advancing English armies was hiding in a cave. To pass the time he watched a spider as it tried to weave a web. Many times the spider would fail to attach a strand, but it never gave up. It just kept trying until it succeeded. The Scottish King took inspiration from this and returned to fight King Edwards army and finally succeed in battle. Growing up in Scotland it didn't really matter if all the details of the story were true, it was the principle it taught us that mattered. No matter what the odds we only really fail when we give up or give in.
Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland

And so we decided to once again try for a home birth for our new blessing. However learning our lessons from our previous experience has very much been at the fore of our minds. It has only been with several months of hindsight behind us that Rob and I have been able to take a truly honest look at what happened at Aidens birth that led to our hospital transfer and unplanned c-section. I thought I was prepared, although I knew Rob was not as prepared as he could have been. I did all the reading I could. I read too many birth stories to count. Everything I read basically said the same thing, "Your body knows how to birth this baby, just trust your body." And so I went into my first labor and birth just trusting my body to know what to do. There is a degree of truth to this, but I discovered that it is not always all there is to it.

The last month of my pregnancy was not easy. I began to retain fluids and in the last week I started having protein in my urine. Both of these came down to the simple fact that I was not eating enough protein. (Not that I totally understood that at the time.) I had very little appetite as my short body held on to my every growing baby. After only a mouthful or two of food I was too full to keep eating, so I would stop. The problem was that I didn't go back to eat again often enough. I was too busy preparing for my parents arrival and the birth of this baby. I was uncomfortable and not getting enough rest either. The lesson has been learned and Rob and I have already talked about ways to make sure I eat enough protein at the end of this pregnancy. We have also decided that we will not be having overnight guests around the time of birth ever again, as it is simply too much for me to try to deal with.

Then there are many lessons we have learned about preparing for labour. Last time labour started with the rupture of membranes (waters breaking) followed about 20 minutes later by my first definite contraction. However I had been experiencing contractions that would start and stop for several days before hand. (I never really had many braxton hicks type contractions in the weeks and months leading up to birth.) The night labour started we had only been asleep about 2 hours, and in my excitement I didn't try much to go back to sleep between contractions. I was not well rested at the start of what would turn out to be a very long labour. A mistake I don't plan to repeat. When the intermittent contractions start happening I plan to start getting as much rest and sleep as I can until I can't sleep any more.

Throughout the actual labour I was so focused on "doing" labour that I used up more energy than I should have during the early labour. I also didn't allow myself to relax enough between contractions, and I didn't eat and drink enough during labour either, further depleting my energy reserves. Again Rob and I have talked already about what we can do differently and together this time to make these things different. Last time Rob wasn't really sure what he needed to be doing to help me. This time he knows he is going to have to be the one responsible for making me relax between contractions and keeping me regularly topped up with food and fluids.

The biggest surprise to both of us however has been learning that not everything comes naturally in labour. Some skills for birthing better need to be learned ahead of time. And we are making sure that this time around we both are doing the learning, together. I have two wonderful sources that we are learning a lot from. The first is the website spinning babies. From everything we have read on that website our best guess for many of our difficulties with Aidens birth is because he was asynclictic, or malpositioned during his descent through my pelvis. Thanks to spinning babies I have learned a lot about how I can try to prevent this from happening again, including staying off the sofa.

The other major tool we are using this time is a child birth preparation package called The Pink Kit. It was developed by a group called The Common Knowledge Trust in Nelson, New Zealand. A very good friend recommended it, as she used it for her first home birth after c-section. I have learned so much already from this material that I don't think I could ever recommend it enough. We have already learned how to map our pelvic outlet, to give us an idea of the space the baby has to work with, and so be able to concentrate on positions that will work best for my unique pelvic shape. I have also learned that I have a very flat sacrum, and so will most likely have some degree of back labour with all my births. The important thing about the sacrum and back labour is that last time the midwives had Rob apply counterpressure to relieve the pain, but this actually slowed things down. In the Pink Kit we have learned how to rock the sacrum to help relieve some of the pain for me without hindering the space the baby is trying to make by pushing my sacrum out. One of the skills I am most excited about learning to perfect with Rob is what they call a uterine lift, to help the cervix dilate. One of the reasons for such a long labour last time was how slowly I was dilating, so anything that can be done externally to help with that process is a great help as far as I can see.

While I know that there are many people around us waiting to see us fail again at home birth I am confident with the new knowledge we are gaining, lots of prayer and a lot more preparation, we will be going into this birth much better able to succeed.

If at first you don't succeed . . . learn what lessons you need to and then try again.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Best Kind of Blessing

Two days before Christmas 2010 Rob and I received the best kind of blessing. We found out that the Lord had blessed us with another baby. Now that I'm officially out of that first trimester I wanted to share that blessing here on the blog.

Having another child is not the only blessing either. We have also been blessed to find a wonderful home birth midwife who will allow us to try a home birth after cesarean (HBAC) which we are very excited about. After the slow labor and complications of Aiden's birth we were not sure if we would be able to find a midwife who would be comfortable with allowing us to home birth so soon after that surgery. We happen to live in an area that is very hostile to normal vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) and our nearest hospital actually has a ban on such births. It is not only our most local hospital, but all of the five nearest hospitals with maternity services do not allow, or do not encourage a normal birth after a cesarean. This in light of the fact that it is safer to have a VBAC than to have a repeat cesarean. So we are understandably excited that we are being given the opportunity not only to try for a normal birth, but to be able to do so at home.

So far everything has been going well. The first trimester has been trying at times, as I suffer all day nausea and extreme fatigue during my first trimester. Now that I'm entering my second trimester my symptoms are beginning to ease and my energy is slowly returning. Apart from those two particular issues I have to admit that I love being pregnant. It is an amazing thing to know that another human being is growing inside of me.

We also already know that this new baby is going to be such a blessing to their big brother. Aiden is almost 9 months old, and is already showing some of the signs that show he is currently an only child. He is such a sweet child, and we really have been blessed that he is so easy to care for, but there are times when he demands constant attention. This is especially true on a Monday. It is usually impossible for me to do much on a Monday other than play with Aiden. He has had both parents home all weekend to give him unlimited attention, so come Monday morning he doesn't understand why it should be any different. In becoming a big brother he will learn the precious and important lesson that life does not always center on him. He will also eventually have a playmate for those times when Mamma just has to get some chores done. There is going to be about 15 months between these two precious children, so I'm sure they will be great friends as they grow up. There was only 18 months between my big brother and I and as children we were great friends. Rob and his brother also have less than two years between them, and are still very close as friends as well as brothers. How wonderful that Aiden will have that kind of opportunity too.

It truly is a wonderful blessing to trust the Lord with our family, and to be given an opportunity to grow not only our size, but also our hearts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Family Meal Table

My wonderful husband and I are very deliberate in some of the choices we make. One of them was purchasing a large dinning table. While I would have settled for something much less ornate than the one we eventually chose, we were very careful in our selection. We wanted a table that would accommodate a large family. The largest table we could find was the one we ended up with. It seats ten people. It only seats ten people because the chairs that go with it are very wide (and very comfortable) so that fully extended the table will take four of these chairs down each side and another each at the top and bottom. If we swap a few of the matching chairs for ordinary kitchen chairs we can increase the capacity to twelve, or even fourteen. In our current home we have removed one of the extending leaves so that we have only eight chairs around it. However it currently can operate this way as a nine person table as we have a high chair for Aiden on the corner between where Rob and I usually sit.

Our dinning table just after we bought it.

This post isn't to just talk about our dinning table, rather I want to share why we deliberately chose such a large table. From the very beginning of our marriage we agreed on the importance of this piece of furniture in our home. Why? Because having the whole family sit down together for meals is very important to us. We wanted to start our life together the way we intended it to be if we were ever blessed with children. We wanted our meals to be eaten at the table, together, and without just rushing to get it over with.

For us we knew that once children came along it would not always be possible to have everyone together for breakfast and lunch every single day. The morning person that Rob is, along with semi-flexible work hours, would often mean Rob had already left for work before the rest of the family is awake. He also works too far away to be able to come home for lunch. Those meals would be reserved for the weekends. The one meal we knew would always work, no matter what, is dinner. Our evening meal could always be the whole family together around the table with no need to rush away in various different directions.

Now that Aiden has a more predictable routine, and is staying up later than 5pm, he sits with us at the table for his evening meal. For Aiden this has become the start of his bedtime routine. He eats alongside us, then he gets some milk to drink before getting ready for bed and going down for the night. Like both his parents Aiden is a creature of habit. He likes the routine, and knowing what comes next. Now that he is eating real food, and having three meals a day, sitting at the table to eat helps to punctuate his day, and let him know what comes next. After every meal there is sleep and rest for him. He loves being able to sit with us and listen to us talk while we share our meal. At breakfast and lunch it may just be two of us sitting together, but it is still an enjoyable time of interaction.

This brings me to why we feel that having the whole family together around the table for meals is important. It is a time not just to fill our stomachs with food, but a time to fill our minds and hearts too. While we try to make all our meals as nutritionally full of goodness as we possibly can, we want mealtimes to be more than just physical nourishment. The interaction that happens around the table is just as important. It is time to remove from all the other distractions around us and focus on each other. When we do on the rare occasion eat somewhere else like the sofa, our attention is drawn away from each other to the DVD we are planning to watch, or the TV show that just can't be missed, even for food. When we sit at the table we are not just in a better position for eating, we are also in a better position for interacting with each other. Sitting around the table enables easy eye contact. We can look at our plates, or we can look at each other. The eye contact makes conversation much easier.

In eating together around the table we nourish each other relationally as well as nutritionally. We bind ourselves together as a family by spending that time together. It doesn't take much to make it happen. You don't need an expensive table either. One of my favourite Christmas memories from my childhood demonstrates this.

One year my grandparents decided to host Christmas dinner. Their house wasn't really furnished for a large dinner to happen, but with some imagination they made it happen. They emptied out one of their spare bedrooms upstairs. Then they set up two wallpapering tables, long ends together, covered them with a bed sheet, and instantly a large dinning table to accommodate everyone. Chairs were borrowed to make sure there were enough. My other grandparents were invited to join my Mum's family for dinner that year. In total there were at least eight adults, two children and two toddlers around that table. It was a wonderful meal, not because of the food (I can't remember what we even had to eat that day) but rather because the family, my grandparents family, were together around one table, sharing a meal, and lots of laughter.

Making the family meal table work is about making time for the whole family to be together, in one place, at the same time and interacting with one another. The physical process of sitting around a table facing each other makes it easier to remove other distractions, and facilitate better communication. It doesn't have to be a long drawn out process either. Half an hour a day, once a day, isn't a whole lot of time.

We know that those with teenagers may find this more of a challenge. For the eight months we were the host parents of two teenage boys. We understand the challenge of getting them to the table, and keeping their attention at the table. We had to make a few rules to work around the distractions those teenagers brought with them. In our situation we tried to keep the rules minimal, but some were necessary. For the table our rules were that everything electronic was switched off. There was no TV playing, no video games, and most importantly no cell phones at the table. We also had an additional rule that nobody left the table without asking to be excused, and then being given permission. Meals often only took twenty minutes or less to eat, so there were not many reasons for which we allowed the boys to leave the table early, not even homework. It didn't take the boys long to adjust to eating at the table, and it became a time where we could all connect and find out what was going on in each others lives. We certainly learned a lot about the lives of teenagers by sitting at the table together.

With the busy schedules many people live today I know many wonder how they can possibly fit this into their family. Is half an hour really too much to ask? Is the busy scheduled activities really more important than spending time together in interaction? It may be that work schedules make it difficult for both parents to be around for meals every day, especially for those who work varying shift patterns. One parent and all the children is still better than no interaction at all, and then when the other parent can make it there is less change to the normal routine. Perhaps breakfast would be a better meal to focus on, rather than dinner. If there is currently no meals in the week that everyone shares regularly, perhaps chose to start with one particular meal, and make that your priority. In an entire week is half an hour for the whole family to eat together too much to ask? If you can't fit in just one meal a week I'd like to kindly suggest that perhaps you are too busy. Maybe one of those activities that draws the family apart needs to be stopped so that you can all come together for that one meal a week.

For us as a family, as our family grows, dinner is still going to be our priority every day. Even when Aiden reaches those busy teen years he will still be expected to sit down for dinner with us every night. For us no activity is going to be allowed to be more important than spending time together as a family around the dinner table. That time is part of the glue that will hold us together as a family. For us it is important. For us it is a priority.

Why don't you try it sometime this week, and see how well it can work for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Staying Home, feeling invisible.

I recently had a friend over for lunch. She became a stay at home Mom for her teenage girls just a few months ago. However she is struggling with some of the adjustment from working for pay to being home full time. She is struggling with a common problem for women who suddenly stop working outside the home to become a full time wife and Mom, a loss of identity.

I can remember my own Mum telling me about that when I was a young adult. My Mum had always wanted to be a wife and mother. She got married at 20, had my brother just 9 months later, turned 21 the month after that, then had me at 22. She very quickly got busy just looking after two small children and running a home on a very tight budget (I think everyone had a very tight budget back in the 1970's.) Then one day it hit her. She wasn't her anymore. She was her Dad's daughter, her husband's wife, her children's Mum, but never just her. She was no longer known just for being herself. Everyone knew her in relation to someone else. It took my Mum a long time to figure out who she really was after that loss of identity.

I've seen this same thing happen to many friends. For some it is so difficult to overcome that they give up and return to the paid workforce so they can find a sense of accomplishment and identity again. It is only by returning to paid work outside the home that they feel they are still themselves.

After my recent conversation with the friend who is currently dealing with this identity crisis I've been pondering why we as women undermine ourselves in this way. Being a mother is probably the single most important job we could ever do. Being a mother is shaping and influencing part of the next generation, and beyond. It has been said that our personality and core values are shaped for life within the first 7 years. Who we are at 7 is for the most part who we will be as an adult. The single biggest influence in our life in those 7 years is our primary caregiver, historically mothers. It is a role that until recently was held in esteem. Being a mother was seen as the most important job we could do.

To me being a mother is still the most important job I can do, but somewhere in the last 50 or so years our society has began to disagree. Now we are seen as somehow surplus to requirements. Our role in society is minimalised. We are ONLY a stay at home Mom, as if we should be doing something more important instead. Staying home full time we easily get dismissed as irrelevant to larger society. Is it any wonder that so many women begin to loose their identity, or feel invisible when they do choose to stay at home?

I love being at home with my son. I often remark to my darling husband that I really admire him for being able to leave every day to go to work. I know it would break my heart to beyond distraction if I were the one who had to leave every morning to earn a living. I am fortunate. I have a husband who strongly supports me in being a stay at home wife and mother. He tells me regularly that he can cheerfully go out to work because he knows I am home taking proper care of our son. He doesn't have to give the welfare of Aiden a second thought while he is at work, because he knows as his mother I am taking care of him the way he needs to be taken care of.

I feel very privileged to be home every day, being a mother to a happy contented little boy. I get to use my creativity and intelligence in so many more ways than I ever did in any paid job I have ever done (and I've had some really great jobs over the years.) I get to watch this child grow and develop before my very eyes. I am witness to all his firsts. I am also the biggest influence in his life. Who he will become as a person is largely under my influence. The values and attitudes he develops in life will mostly be thanks to me. What he sees me do will influence what he does. How I live will be reflected in how he lives. I can take that responsibility and grow to be a better influence for him, or I can hand that over to strangers at daycare. Personally I'd rather do it myself.

My husband and I have a vision. We want to establish a godly dynasty with our family. It is having that vision that helps us both keep going in our respective roles within our family. I stay at home on purpose. I also have a purpose in staying at home. This is not idle time in my life. Rather together we are building foundational blocks in Aiden's life that will work towards our vision. This will extend to future children too. As our family grows, so our vision will grow. By the time they are adults we hope and plan to raise godly men and women for the Kingdom of God. We pray daily for our children to catch a hold of our vision and legacy and for them to then pass it on the the next generation after them.

The problem as far as I can see it is that so many of us have lost sight of our purpose and responsibility as parents. Our society tells us that it isn't important, that anyone can raise our children. When we loose sight of just how important we actually are to our children, then we begin to listen to all the negative voices around us. When we don't have a purpose and a vision for staying home, we get lost in the maze of emotions and other peoples comments. When we see ourselves as ONLY a stay at home Mom it gets too easy to feel invisible, unimportant and swallowed up in life.

If we want to avoid feeling invisible and lost we need to find our purpose. We need to ask ourselves why we are doing this? We also need to ask ourselves what can possibly be more important right now that investing in my child's future? The truth is that NOTHING is more important, no matter if your child is an infant or a teenager. Nobody can be a mother to your children as well as you can.

Feeling lost, get a vision. Feeling invisible, get a purpose. After that your imagination is your only limitation.

Let us all remember that stay at home Mom's are not JUST, they are ALL.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Crock Pot Yogurt

Yesterday/today I made my very first batch of crock pot yogurt.

It was so easy I can't believe I haven't tried to do this before now.

I ended up with 7 cups of yogurt and 2 cups of whey from this process. The whey we will keep and use in smoothies or soup to add extra protein.

So here are the ingredients:
1/2 gallon (64fl oz) milk (must not be ultra pasteurized)
1/2 cup plain live yogurt ( I used Greek style as its what we had in the fridge.)

Heat the milk in a crock pot, on low for 2 1/2 hours.
Turn OFF the crock pot.
Leave to stand for 3 hours.

Remove 1-2 cups of the milk, and mix thoroughly with the 1/2 cup of live yogurt.
Add the milk & yogurt mix back into the crock pot.
Wrap the whole crock pot with a large towel to insulate the warmth inside.
Leave for at least 8 hours. I left it overnight.

To remove some of the whey strain the yogurt through a coffee filter. Removing whey produces a thick consistency.

Best served cold from the fridge.

You can also just keep aside 1/2 cup of this homemade yogurt to be your yogurt starter the next time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some thoughts on Motherhood

I love being a mother. Even since I was a teenager I knew I would love being a mother. When asked what I wanted to do with my life I would always, always answer "be a wife and mother." Being late to the game I have spent more than my fair share of time out in the paid workforce. I can tell you honestly that I don't miss it, not for a single second.

My life is so tied up in the care and nurture of my wonderful husband and adorable little boy that I don't even want to contemplate life before them. I know I am very blessed. My husband wants me to stay home to look after and nurture our son. He is committed to do whatever he needs to do to enable us to live on a single income. One look into my baby boy's eyes and we both know that no sacrifice is too great for his well being.

I also know that most of the people around us, family, friends and acquaintances do not understand all of our parenting choices. That is alright, I don't need anyone else to understand or approve of what we do. I also know some of these same people find our choices a little too extreme for them. They are our choices and we are not forcing them on anyone else. It works for us that I stay home. It works for us to trust the Lord with our family size. It works for us to put the needs of our family before other, worthy but lower priority causes.

When I say that I'm a stay at home Mamma, I really mean I stay at home. Our sweet little boy is now in a great sleep routine. We struggled with daytime naps for the first five months of his life, and now that he naps we don't mess with it. Aiden likes to go to bed with the sun (just like his Daddy) so right now he is going to sleep for the night about 5:30pm. He sleeps for about 12 hours, so that means getting up about 5-5:30am in the morning. When a lot of other people are just getting going he is getting ready for his first nap. Depending on exactly when he got up that morning he is going down for his morning nap between 7-7:30am and sleeps for about two hours, maybe a little more. Then he goes for his afternoon nap around 12noon and will sleep up to three hours. That doesn't leave much time for going out anywhere. So I don't. Most weeks the only time Aiden and I leave our neighbourhood is to go to Church on a Sunday morning. I haven't been back for the evening service since early November. I do miss Sunday and Wednesday evening services, but not so much that I'll sacrifice my son's sleep for my convenience.

I have to confess that the more I stay home, the more I want to stay home. There will always be Church Socials but my first born son will only be 7 months old for one month. Next week he'll be 8 months old. I want to be able to enjoy each age, each stage of his babyhood and infancy for as long as it lasts. He isn't crawling yet, but I'm good with that. Once he is mobile things will change again. We aren't even sure if he will crawl. His Daddy never did. Aiden has never been keen to be belly down. We are slowly getting him to cooperate on this, but it is taking time. When he has had enough he lays his head down and eventually rolls back over onto his back (a position in which he can travel across the floor!) He sits up unsupported and loves to watch everything going on around him, so I'm sure once he gets the proper motivation (whenever that may be) he will start to work on his mobility.

I also know that the more time I spend around this fascinating little person the stronger my desire for more children. Aiden is a very social little boy who loves to interact with everyone he meets. What better gift to give him than siblings. I'll gladly take as many children as the Lord chooses to bless us with. While we will never be a mega-family, we started too late for that, we hope for 5 or 6, and would be delighted if we could get to maybe 8, but that is one choice that we are placing in more worthy hands.

While my lifestyle and my choices may run contrary to the majority of my peers I would say that I have never been happier, more content or more at peace than I am right now. I have a life (contrary to what Ms Germain Grier may say) and a very joyful life at that. I choose to submit to my husband's headship. I choose to obey my high calling to motherhood. I choose a quiet, peaceful life. In doing so I am choosing the life I was designed to live. I am being who I was always meant to be, and there is no better life than that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Some frugal ideas for around the home.

As tempted as I am to just blog about my darling little boy these days I thought i would take a break from just being a Mamma and instead go back to blogging about running a home.

In this day and age (and economy) everyone I know is looking for ways to save some money. I have a friend who is very good at extreme couponing and often has savings of over 70% on her grocery shopping. I admire her dedication, especially with five growing children to feed and living on a single income. However I also know that couponing just isn't for me. It involves too much shopping for me, and I like the predictability of a planned menu that means not having to think about what we are going to eat every single day/week. I wrote a post about our 8 week menu plan some time ago. You can read it here. We have revised it a little since then, but it is pretty much the same idea. We have a rotating menu with lots of variety, and a grocery list so we can shop every few weeks for everything we need.

Living on a single income with a baby has so far not been as expensive as most parenting articles would suggest. Firstly we decided ahead of time to use cloth diapers/nappies. We bought 5 packets of Gerber Premium Prefolds, 3 snappis and 3 econobum one size diaper covers. We used a gift card to purchase the prefolds so the total cost to us was just over $40 (with shipping etc.) We were able to have enough supplies to diaper our baby from birth to potty training for less than the cost of 2 months supply of throw away diapers/nappies.

Now that Aiden is eating some solid food I save on that cost by making my own baby food. He will eat any fruit as long as there is some mashed banana mixed in, and almost any vegetable as long as there is some sweet potato. I like using only organics for baby food, so I buy several of any item, make them up and then store in the freezer in little tubs. I'll mix up a couple of days worth at a time from the freezer stock and store in the 'fridge in little double portion glass jars. When its meal time all I need to do is put half a jar in his bowl and I'm ready to feed him.

We are also in the process of transitioning our own food to healthier organic or naturally produced food. The first meat we have chosen for this is chicken. We used to buy chicken breasts in bulk at Sam's Club. I would put each one in a ziplock bag before freezing them, that way we could just take out what we needed. We eat chicken probably three times a week most weeks, so we use a lot of chicken. Then we found whole chickens at Publix for less per pound than the chicken breast at Sam's Club. Obviously you're paying for the skin, bones etc too. As we talked about it we realised that we could save some money through this too. We use a lot of chicken broth. We were buying cans of chicken broth, again in bulk at Sam's Club. Rob also likes to have chicken wings and over the last two years we've noticed they have become rather pricey, more expensive per lb than chicken breasts. So we buy a couple of whole chickens at a time. I butcher them myself at home. The only part I throw away without using is the skin. I bag the breasts as before. I cut up the wings and bag them up for the freezer, and likewise with the drumsticks and the thighs. I then keep the carcass and bag it up for making stock. I currently have 4 chicken carcasses waiting in the freezer to be made into chicken stock, and then I'll pick the bones for the left over cooked meat to add to soups, curries etc. All we need is to go and buy some reuseable mason jars for the stock and I'll be good to go. By using every part of the chicken I'll actually be able to save money in the long term while still feeding my family hormone and antibiotic free meat. We did this with the leftover Turkey carcass at Thanksgiving and it was surprising just how much meat I was able to pick out of the boiled bones, not to mention how tasty the turkey soup was that I made with the stock I produced. We just finished using up the leftover turkey just a few weeks ago.

Finally, for this post anyway, we switched to cloth napkins instead of paper ones. We bought a couple of packs of plain white cloth table napkins so that we would always have plenty, even when some are in the wash. We chose white so that when they get stained it is easy to add a little laundry bleach to make them all white again. We also stopped buying paper kitchen towels and just use dish towels and hand towels in our kitchen. It is amazing how quickly the savings add up when we switched to reuseable products instead of disposable. One of the nice things about this is that it not only cuts the cost, but it also cuts the environmental impact too. We can be good stewards of our money and good stewards of our planet at the same time.

Monday, January 3, 2011

All change for the new year.

It seems that life won't ever get dull, when it is constantly changing.

Now that we're settled in to our new home, we've finally found some time to have some fun as a family. This past weekend we managed two trips to our community pool. They were short and sweet visits, but still it is one of the benefits of living in South Florida. The pool at our new place is heated, so we can use it all year long. After purchasing Aiden a pair of cloth swim diapers just before Christmas, we were able to take him into the water. What can I say? My son is just like his Daddy, a water baby. On Saturday it did take him a few minutes to relax and start enjoying the water. Yesterday when we went back for another quick try he relaxed right away and looked like he had been using a pool for months. I have a feeling Aiden is going to be able to swim before his Mamma.

Another change happened this past weekend. Aiden decided to change his nap routine again. Just as we were getting a handle on the 90 minutes awake and 60 minutes asleep our precious blessing decided this wasn't working anymore. He's just finished a growth spurt. This one happened virtually over night. On Christmas Day he had these enormous fat rolls at the top of his thighs, and could only reach the floor on his tip toes when playing in his Jumperoo. On Boxing Day (the next day) we noticed his feet were almost flat against the floor in the Jumperoo, and that his fat rolls seemed to have shrunk. A week later he starts to refuse to go to sleep for one of his naps. Yesterday I spent an hour and twenty minutes trying to get him to sleep for his second nap while we were at Church. Concerned he would have a melt down during the sermon we left early to come home and put him down to sleep. We thought he would fall asleep in the car, as he usually does when he's tired. Instead our little boy was wide eyed all the way home and for an hour afterwards. When he eventually went down for a nap he slept for two and a half hours.

So today we decided we would try keeping him up a little longer and trying a two nap routine. He stayed up for two and a half hours before his first nap. This gave me time to feed him his second breakfast before his first nap. He then slept for nearly two and a half hours. Then he stayed up for another two and a half hours. Right now he is down for his second nap, and is still asleep after nearly two hours. I guess Aiden decided that turning 7 months meant it was time to switch to a two naps a day routine.

I think the next few weeks will probably also see some changes to the amount of solids he eats, and hopefully the first of his teeth with make an appearance soon. I know that mobility will soon be upon us too, then it'll be time to train him where the safe areas to play are.

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Lilypie First Birthday tickers

Baby Mordecai

Our blessed first baby, Mordecai, gone to heaven on July 23, 2009 at 13 weeks gestation.

You will never be forgotten by us.