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Building a Raised Bed Garden

March 23, 2012

Mama's little helper.

Some girls dream about their wedding. This girl already had one of those and has since been dreaming about the day she could have a REAL garden. The season has come and the Hudson family is finally rooted in the slightly rolling flats of central Ohio. I never dreamt of the day I would say this … but all of my dreams are coming true in the midwest state of Ohio.

I’m in planning stage now; where possibilities are sprouting faster than I can weed out my ideas. One thing I know for sure, I want a raised bed. Most of my gardening has been limited to container gardening and this feels familiar to me. The benefits touted by many include:

  • Reduced soil compaction since you can do most of your gardening from the path. This is good because it allows the plant roots to get the air they need.
  • The elevated soil warms up earlier in the spring. Great for places with cool, rainy climates!
  • Raised beds drain well and don’t become as easily waterlogged.
  • The sides work as edging to keep out weeds and make maintainance easier.
  • Water and compost can be applied more efficiently reducing waste.
  • Plants can be spaced closer since you don’t need room to walk in between them. (Although you should be mindful of spacing needs of each plant type.)
  • Many say that because of these advantages raised beds produce more vegetables. More yield for less work!

I used the directions for a raised bed from Organic Gardening Vol. 59:3. You will need the following items:

  • Three 2-by-12 boards, 8 feet long
  • One 2-by-4 board, 8 feet long
  • 2 1/2-inch galvanized deck screws (~28 screws)

When selecting lumber make sure you buy untreated and the straightest boards you can find. Straighter boards ensure tighter corners. I would think purchasing untreated lumber would be obvious but I am also a non-toxic freak. Bottom line, you don’t want to grow your food in a box of wood treated with icky chemicals. Gross.

The following directions are verbatim from the article:

Cut one of the 2-by-12 boards in half to make two 4-foot lengths; these will be the two end pieces.

Cut the 2-by-4 board into 4-foot length, to serve as a center brace. and four 1-foot lengths for corner supports. The two uncut boards will become the sides of the raised bed.

After drilling pilot holes, attach one of the side boards to an end board with three evenly spaced screws.

Place one of the corner supports in the angle between the boards and attach it to the side board with three screws. Repeat for remaining three corners.

Attach the center brace to join the two sides at their midpoints. Use a square to position the brace at a right angle to the sides. The brace prevents the sides from bowing outward when the bed is filled with soil.

Arabella checks for board straightness.

'Measure twice cut once Da', says Arabella.

Nick screws the supports into the side boards.

Coming together...despite my trying to build and document at the same time.

Raised beds also work as toddler containment.

Corner view. My husband the rebel decided 2 screws would be more than enough.

Ta-Da!!! Now all it needs is soil and plants. And to be in the yard.

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Arabella’s Birth Story ~ Part 3

February 24, 2012

“Be not ashamed women, … You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.” ~Walt Whitman

My labor was fierce and the love that was born out of it was that much more. My chest seemed to swell with love instantly. I like to imagine the scene from ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ where his heart grew 3 times it’s size. But I wasn’t Grinchy before! That’s how it felt, my earthly body could not hold my growing heart. Not only did I love my child but I suddenly loved her father more than ever before and had enough left over that I loved every person a bit more. Thank you oxytocin! (To read about ‘the love hormone’ oxytocin, click here.)

The new exhausted little family. I'm not exactly chipper looking, but you can ceratinly see I am reaping the rewards of the 'love hormone' rush. I would have shared it with Nick if I could have. 🙂

Betty handed Arabella to me all covered in vernix and her sweet little cry stopped immediately.  She laid on my chest until the cord stopped pulsing and then Nick did the honors. We rubbed the vernix into her sweet, fresh skin and wrapped her up so Daddy could hold her. (Read more about the wonders of vernix here.) Betty and Joy did vital checks and the newborn exam with us all together on the bed.

There are many reasons why I wanted to labor and birth at a birth center. It is no big secret that I hate hospitals and being a patient and I challenge authority at almost every opportunity. This birth allowed me to have a choice – in everything. We never felt rushed or disturbed in the whole process. Birth is honored and trusted. We did not have any interventions due to how long my labor lasted and we were able to opt out of unnecessary but routine newborn procedures such as bathing, eye ointment, and being whisked away to be placed under the warmer. Being with my baby and bonding was important to me and I didn’t have to sacrifice one minute of it.

 

Nick and Arabella sat beside me while I delivered the placenta. To quote Joy, it feels kinda like pulling out a big, soaked tampon. I know, I scrunched my nose at that image too – but the point is it did not hurt! And now for the part that may make a few of you queasy, you know, assuming anyone reads this besides my whole 2 followers. I wanted to see the placenta. This fascinating organ that grew inside my body alongside Arabella, supporting and nourishing her. Betty brought it over and showed my the smooth fetal side with the amniotic sac and cord. She flipped it over and showed me the maternal side which was bumpy and textured and a rich color of red. It really was beautiful. For the next hour or so Joy came by every 15 minutes or so to check my vitals and massage my uterus . I love Joy, I do. I do not however love a uterus massage.

Joy helped me out of bed to get cleaned up and I had to hold on to her the whole way to the bathroom. My body was just shaking and quivering all over – part fatigue and part high on hormones. After a quick clean-up and a new pair of lady diapers she wrapped me up in a big, cozy robe and fluffed me back up in bed with my baby. Joy sat in bed with Arabella and I to help us with our first breastfeeding lesson. I had read plenty and watched videos of how to get the correct latch and how to make a boob sandwich for the baby but experience beats study any day. I’m proud to say Joy made Arabella’s first boob sammich! Hey, it’s a lot to be holding your wobbly newborn for the first time and coordinate all the proper latching components!

Despite the wonderful help we did not have the magical first feeding in the first hour she was born. Arabella was simply not interested in eating. I joked that she must be full of poop since there was meconium present at birth. (Don’t worry, she didn’t aspirate or have problems.) We latter had the full of poop confirmed when Nick went to change the first diaper and meconium was coming out like play-doh out of a play-doh squeeze. It was totally awesome!  She was ravenous after that!

Before being released you have to eat a meal and keep it down. Nick went to the store and used this time to call his family and friends to share the happy news. When he returned he fixed one of my favorites – breakfast for dinner! Double score, I got fried eggs since I hadn’t eaten them during pregnancy. It was delish!

Our team, my mother, Nick, Betty, and Joy sat around with Arabella and I just taking in the miracle of life. I felt so grateful to be in the presence of such loving and warm people. Betty reviewed my labor notes briefly with me and discussed my care for the next 3 days until I came back for our post-natal check-up. It was then I learned how very close I came to a c-section. She told me there were a couple of times in my labor that she started to consider a transfer but that every time I would show her something that made her wait. She said she could see me fighting for it and watched me turn it around both times. Had I been in the hospital I would have most likely had a c-section; that was my biggest fear going into birth. I will be forever grateful for Betty’s trust in me and my body to birth Arabella.

All that remained was getting me and the baby dressed. We dressed in warm, comfy clothes and then packed up our things. A mere 4 hours after Arabella’s birth we were on our way home!

That is our story. I was born a mother. And this exquisite child was born from me. The transformation of heart, mind, body, and life.

This is the path/walkway to the birth center.

* I’d like to add that this is my story. And my next birth will have a completely different story all it’s own. I did what felt right for me and I’m proud of what I accomplished. Whether a birth takes place at a birth center, a hospital, an operating room, at home, or even in the car – it is to be honored and celebrated. What I’m getting at here is that your story is unique to you. Connect to your story and embrace it with a loving heart.*

Arabella’s Birth Story ~ Part Two

February 7, 2012

This is the door to the birthing suite where Arabella was born. I loved the quiet symbolism of a door opening…

What are the odds, really? This was the EXACT scenario that all three midwives had discussed in my recent appointments. Rule of thumb being that if my water broke at midnight, I should have a glass of wine and go back to bed – for I would need my rest as labor would likely last all day. (First time moms often labor for 12 – 18 hours) At the time this sounded perfectly logical…in reality, well it was about as feasible as nailing jello to a tree.  Nonetheless, I headed to the kitchen rinsed the dust from non-use out of my wine glass and poured a glass of pinot noir. I practically chugged it and went straight back to bed, eager to attempt sleep.  HAHAHAHA My contractions were consistently no more than 8 minutes apart; no amount of wine was going to lull me back to sleep at this point, I was having far too much fun timing contractions. And since it was still fun, I knew I was far from the real work.

Since we’re still having fun here, I suppose I’ll confess my labor duds. Depends. Yes, as in adult diapers. Go ahead, get it all out. It’s important to laugh it all out here. Now, are you finished? OK good, because what you need to know is the oh-so-sexy-trim-fitting-lady-briefs are fantastic for labor. Why you ask? Simple, when every 8 minutes or less a contraction hits and you gush fluid you don’t have to change clothes or clean the floor or risk sliding off your birthing ball to the floor! I highly recommend them for labor and postpartum if you have heavy bleeding.

So, snuggled up in my Depends and robe I ‘rested’ for about an hour. At that point my contractions were already 6 minutes apart I decided I may as well get my things together. Around 2am I decided to take a shower and clean up; I savored every moment, rinse., lather, repeat, repeat, repeat, figuring this would be my last luxury shower for quite some time. By 4 am my contractions were 5 minutes apart and had been so for close to an hour.  Had the roads been clear and the birth center closer we would have labored at home longer…but those were not the circumstances so we hit the road around 4:30 am and gave Betty a call.

My Mom drove and the road were mostly ok until we hit Denton where the built up ice and snow had left deep frozen ruts on the road. The bumps were kinda fun during a contraction. Nick and I had decided no cells phones for the labor so I went ahead and texted my sisters and my bestie Val before turning my phone off. The contractions stayed 5 minutes apart and lasted about a minute each for the duration of the trip. The contractions were still just a sensation in my body. They lulled me inward and I left my body sway with the music that was playing in the back ground.

We arrived at Inanna just before 6 am and Betty was right behind us. She invited us in to get settled and we talked about where I was labor wise. I was 100% effaced and dilated 2-3cm. Cool. Since it was early in the process she went into the kitchen to do some paper work while Mom, Nick and myself hung out in the bedroom. I labored standing and walking around the room mostly.

By 8 am my contractions had been coming every 2 minutes and lasting for a minute for the last hour. Hip squeezes, birthing ball and paint roller to the back just weren’t cutting it anymore. I wanted in the tub! I had been told by other moms that it was like their epidural…you know, except for the part where you still feel everything! But really, buoyancy and relaxation sounded good. Let’s get in. Betty checked me first and I was 4-5 cm dilated. I was excited. Contractions were knocking the wind out of me but I was half way there in no time flat….or so I thought.

The bathtub was nice. It was just relaxing enough that I was almost nodding out between contractions. During the contractions I often just opened my  mouth and hummed an ‘O’ sound, low and slow. The vibrations in my throat and chest were comforting. At this point I had been awake for over 24 hours and the excitement had started to wane allowing the fatigue to wash over me. Betty brought me frozen grapes and juice to keep my energy up.

Joy, the wonderful woman who taught our childbirth class was also there. I was so excited to have her attending as our birth assistant/doula.  She checked Arabella and I’s vitals every 20 minutes or so. Her nature is such that I never felt interrupted in my laboring. She checked me in whatever position I happened to be in and kept me comfortable.

Sometime just after 10 am Betty had me get out of the tub for a check. My contractions had been coming hard and fast with growing intensity; she thought I may be in transition. I.was.still.at.5.cm. No way I thought! NoWAY! This is intense. In the most motherly way she told me that the baby was asynclitic and that was why I hadn’t progressed any further. I would later learn that asynclitic presentations often result in longer labors, stalled labor, and intense contractions that are all flow and no ebb. To read more about asynclitic presentation click here. To learn about the differences in OA and OP labors (Arabella was also some version of P), click here.

This is what asynclitic presentation looks like. Photo from spinningbabies.com

To my dismay she said I would need to stay out of the tub to work this baby into position. The next few hours are a complete blur. My contractions never slowed. They stayed 2 minutes apart and lasted a solid minute each time. We were all over the room. I sat on the birthing ball, leaned on the birthing ball over the bed, squatted while holding onto the bed (it was a large 4 post bed), an even did lunges. Yep, lunges people, for real leg hiked up on the bed deep bend lunge into the contraction!

At 11:30 am Betty checked me again. Thank the lord, progress. I was now dilated 6 -7 cm but the baby still wasn’t in position for delivery. Betty thought I should try side-lying in the bed for a bit and try to get some rest. That position made the contractions high-grade pelvis crushing and I said no thanks, I’ll take the lunges please! (Did you know that the uterus when contracting can exert up to 40 pounds of force?)  Next suggestion was to sit on the toilet facing the tank and lay my head on a pillow on top of the tank. I didn’t even make it through a whole contraction before I shot straight up. No judgement, Betty and Joy just kept helping me try positions that would allow the baby to drop and me to surrender in the contractions.

Passive positions seemed to be the least comfortable. Of course that is a relative term. I mean, comfortable in labor with a malpositioned baby, how comfortable can you really be? The best position was the one that was the most work for Nick and I both. I found squatting and holding onto a bed post in between contractions to be the only way I could release my pelvic floor and try to soften. When the contractions would hit I would have Nick squat behind me and I would sit on his thighs and dangle from the bed post. Sounds pretty kinky huh? I found out in my studies of asynclitic presentation that this position is very helpful in getting baby properly positioned and it has a name…. it’s called the ‘Dangle‘.

Noon came and went. No baby. When I was in the tub I thought for sure I’d be holding my babe by lunchtime. I was exhausted. I was starting to wonder if this baby was going to come out. Enter dear sweet Joy. Almost if she could see the fear and panic in my face. She came and sat close to me. Her voice was like the sirens…when she spoke I channeled in to her calm. She spoke affirmations, gently reminding me that I could do this, my body was meant to do this. She stayed with me in the contraction and gave me my favorite imagery. She had me imagine the contraction as a wave, I just needed to surf the contraction, ride, staying  just in front of it. She brought me back from the fear into a place of confidence and surrender.

I’m not sure how many more times I changed positions. I was in labor land. All concept of time and space was gone. Betty had me come back to the bed for another check, I’m told this was about 2 pm. She slid my oh-so-sexy-lady-briefs off and with a big smile proclaimed, ‘alright, lots of bloody show, this is great!’. My check revealed that I was still, 2 and half hours later, only dilated 6-7cm. I was stalled out. Being in bed only made the contractions more intense. I was now going to lose my shit. Women say that, they talk about losing it in labor. I got it now. The contractions were crushing me and I could no longer soften or surrender. I had less than a minute to recover in between and that wasn’t enough time to catch my breath.

Betty sat with me in the bed. I was on my side and Nick was holding me. Keeping my eyes locked on his and helping me to remember to breathe. In between the next set Betty said we needed to try something else to help the labor along. She wanted to give me Nubane to help me relax and get some rest in between contractions. I remember feeling like a deer in the headlights. Panic-stricken, I looked at Nick for an answer. He said yes, let’s give it a try. I think the letters o and k fell out of my mouth.

Betty told me she would only draw up a half dose. She knew how important being present and of right mind was to me. Knowing that I was disappointed at the thought of needing drugs she reassured me that this dose was only equivalent to having a margarita. THAT got my attention. Yes, a margarita! Why hadn’t I thought of that?! Let’s ditch this place and go get some ‘ritas!

There is a brief moment of clarity in my labor land fog here. Betty comes back to the bed and lovingly cleans my arm to give me the itsy bitsy little injection. She takes my hand and tells me that it will sting a little but only for a second. God love her heart, I almost busted out laughing! A needle and a bit of a sting weren’t anywhere on my pain scale anymore! I don’t recall even feeling a prick.

I asked to get back in the tub at this point. I have no really memory of getting there but I’m sure it took every one on the room to help. I stayed on all fours for a bit. Floated, kinda. I kept waiting for the pain to subside. I thought the drugs were going to take the edge off. My contractions were still coming in strong waves at 2 minutes apart. The only thing the Nubane allowed was for me to fall completely asleep or perhaps just unconscious, I’m not really sure. These moments of unconsciousness allowed my whole body to go limp which is just what Arabella needed. I however, was NOT a fan of these microbursts of sleep.

For the sake of you first-time mamas out there I’m going to include a part of this story I’d rather not. I include it because you deserve to know about real birth – not the televised image that our culture has learned. When I took the birthing class with Joy we talked about the reality of poop. I mean c’mon, do the math, you have a 7+ pound baby moving down through your pelvis – everything needs to move out and make room! When you take a birthing class and you’re all cute baby belly and properly groomed you can’t really comprehend what your body will do in labor. Joy told us about a gal in one of her classes that was worried if her husband saw her poop she wouldn’t be a princess anymore. Hhhmmmm….I thought, what was that gonna be like? Being the wonderful natural birth advocate she is she offered up her experience in a way that made me say, ‘OK, no big deal. I’m making a baby here!’. This is what she said: ‘Think tootsie roll’.

Um, yeah, they do….we just don’t talk about it. Except in birth stories.

So here I am, some hours into hard labor and I’ve missed my regularly scheduled morning poo. Get over it girls, the formerly taboo topic must be aired out! I think I was in transition at this point and the midwife wanted me to push. I think the goal was to help me get some relief and bring the baby down/open my cervix. The Depends came off and the chux pads went down. I resumed holding the bed post and squatting while I pushed. Yep. Tootsie rolls. Plural?!? Dang it Joy! You didn’t tell me it would be more than one! That is all I can remember from that episode. The chux pads quickly disappeared and I went on exploring labor land without a second thought. Although now as I write this I can’t help but wonder….who wiped my rear? Sorry Joy. You really are my hero.

The next place I remember is being in the bed. What was happening was I would sleep through the build up to a contraction. Meaning I would awake to full on intense contraction. Those moments of building where I would try to stay in front of the wave were lost. My beautiful image of surfing in front of the wave had turned into a churning sea. Have you ever tried surfing or getting out past the waves in the ocean? You know that point where a wave crashes down on you and you get churned about like a sock in a washing machine? And then, disoriented and in need of air you get your footing and stand only in time to have another wave break on your head? That’s where I was. The waves were coming and crashing down on me. I was in survival mode.

I honestly can’t tell you how long this lasted. Perhaps an hour? No more than 2.My contractions were a minute apart and lasting 60-90 seconds. At 3 pm I was dilated to 9 cm. What happened between that time and 3:40 pm is a mystery to me.(This may have been my pooping time.) I just know that at 3:40 Betty pushed back what little bit of cervix I had left and said it was time to push.

Going into labor I had hopes of delivering in the water. At this point the midwife asked me be in the bed. I didn’t ask why. Perhaps it could be because I couldn’t stay awake in between contractions or because I had now been awake for 30 some odd hours and fiercely laboring most of the day. I trusted Betty, she was going to help me bring my baby into the world and that was all that mattered. All attachment to my ideas about birth had been set free….back in dream land where they belonged! 🙂

Something glorious happened when I got in to bed to push. ALL of the pain subsided. Arabella was finally in a good position and my hips were happy! Contractions felt like they had the night before. Merely a sensation. I loved these contractions. I could tune back in to the important work my body was doing. I became aware again that I was not the only one going through this. Arabella was in labor too. I focused on my baby. I breathed as deeply as I could down to her. I opened. I opened to labor. I opened to birth. I opened to life and love.

Nick sat curled beside me helping me to stay more upright while Betty and Joy were on either side helping me push when it was time. I was scarcely aware of their presence. I know they spoke but I was tuned in to me. I felt safe and calm. I knew they were with me. My only job was to be with Arabella.

This photo is snapped just a few minutes before Arabella is born.

The next 40 minutes I carefully and gently pushed. While there was no pain, no ring of fire and no tearing the pressure was immense. I won’t lie the pressure in my bottom is almost unbearable, it’s a bit frightening, but in comparison to the contractions, it is not what I could classify as pain. I no doubt could have pushed harder and had her a bit quicker but I was cautious about the pressure. Although when they told me how much hair they could see I wanted to tell them to pull her on out! I recall at one point Joy asking me if I wanted to reach down and feel Arabella’s head. I don’t think I registered the offer. It was only later that I wish I would have come out of myself a bit and reacted.

Then, at 4:19 pm, with one last gentle push Arabella was born. The feeling of her body leaving mine is nothing I could describe. Surreal. Epic. Heart-aching love. Any and all memories of any discomfort vanish and I immediately feel like super woman. Betty lifts her up, shrouding her with a towel so that Nick can announce the sex. The silence seems to last forever, I think Nick is completely awe-struck. Betty smiles and says welcome your daughter to the world and places her on my chest. Tummy to tummy and heart to heart we lay gazing into each other’s eyes. My daughter is born, and I am born a mother.

This is the moment that Arabella is first placed in my arms. I blurred my nipple out…I don’t care who sees it, but y’all might not be interested. This is a side-effect of birth – it’s all been seen!

To read Part Three, click here.

Arabella’s Birth Story ~ Part One

February 4, 2012

The ‘due date’ ~ January 31st, 2011

My due date was January 31st, what I got was an ice storm, no baby. With the roads icy and Inanna Birth and Women’s Center over an hour away I decided to cancel my 40 week appointment. My pregnancy had been healthy and as a first time mom I expected to go past my due date. (average first time mom goes 9 days past her due date per my midwife) My midwife rescheduled me for that Friday, February the 4th, which was my ‘measured’ due date.  Early in the pregnancy I had a sonogram that placed my due date as 2/4.

I woke up that Friday morning and knew that it was my day. Throughout the night I had practice labor, not consistent enough to call the midwife but contractions were certainly stronger than the Braxton-Hicks I’d been experiencing for the last few weeks.  As Nick got ready for work I told him that I’d had contractions most of the night but that he should still go to work because I wasn’t in labor yet. He grabbed my belly and looked at it and said ‘Now you just get ready to come out at about 10am tomorrow so I don’t have to work this weekend’.  We joke now that Arabella did as her Daddy said…perhaps the first and last time ever!

My appointment was scheduled for 2pm and I was on the fence about going.  The roads were still icy and I didn’t want to drive an hour and a half to be checked and sent home only to be driving back that night. I called the birth center and spoke to Lynne, she agreed that as long as I felt ok there was no sense in risking getting into a wreck with the roads the way they were and labor imminent.

Nick came home from work around 6 pm and we decided that a night out would nice. My Mom had been doing almost all of the cooking and we thought a break from cooking and cleaning was needed. I headed to my room to put on real pants, you know, the kind that don’t look like pajamas. As I stood, mind you, this is quite an accomplishment at my size, and took a step into my jeans I felt like I had just got my period. So I went to the bathroom to change my unders and discovered that I had just lost my mucus plug. Shivers went up my neck…I knew my labor was coming soon. I knew that losing your mucus plug does not necessarily mean that labor is starting; but instinctively I knew it was my time.

How I didn’t come skipping from my room shouting ‘It’s time to have a baby!’ is beyond me. I was exhilarated at that moment but knew that my first time daddy would want to drive straight to Inanna if I told him.  So I kept my secret because more than anything I wanted a final good meal – Thai food! On the way to the restaurant we stopped for gas and I gave my Mom a heads up. She isn’t easily excitable so I knew I could tell her without worry of panic.

We met our friend Heather at Golden Moon and had a lovely dinner.  Hot and sour soup and a green curry dish for me. I savored every bite and prayed that I wouldn’t be throwing it all back up later in the evening. While we were out the landlord called and let us know that a propane truck had come to fill our tank. Thank God! It had been in the teens all week and the tank had only 5% left.

Once home we headed to the bedroom to get settled in for the evening and I finally confessed that I was pretty sure we’d have a baby by the next morning. Too excited to sleep, even though I knew I would need my rest, I tossed and turned while Nick read a book.

Just before midnight I got up to pee….again. I walked back to the bed and as I sat down to slide into bed I felt a pop followed by a gush of fluid.

 

To read Part Two, click here.

All Because I Got Knocked Up….

February 4, 2012

For the last five years or so I have schlepped about the country supporting my husband’s education and career. We have moved once a year since we got married and that really hampers the ability to commit to a program/return to school/start a career and remember what box anything important is packed in. This has given me the opportunity to REALLY think about what I want to be when I grow-up.

When we got engaged I was working winters as a ski patroller and really loved the work. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to see anyone get hurt, but I am one of those who doesn’t get squeamish at the sight of blood. I rather kick into high gear and get a bit of an adrenaline buzz. Sorry, it’s the truth. I’ll never forget the first skull I saw – the kid’s name was Willie, naturally he was a boy scout – it was my first ‘first on scene’ call. I was good at staying calm under pressure, connecting with the patients and taking care of their injuries. My plan at that time was to go to nursing school and hopefully work as a flight medic. (See how I combine my need for adrenaline with a rewarding career…nice thought huh?)

Turns out, nursing programs are longer than 12 months. Time to find odd jobs and support then husband until we settle down in one state.

OK, what else do I love that can keep me busy for awhile? I know, I’ll go to Asheville, NC and study yoga. Life-shifting, in a word or a hyphenate anyhow. Perhaps I’ll tell you more in another post. For now, let’s just suffice it to say that my time at AYC changed my approach to life and will lend some incredible depth in my new path.

Fast forward to May 2010. I got knocked up. (I like how WordPress highlights ‘knocked up’ and calls it a cliche.)Hope you don’t find that phrase offensive. It’s just that one of my friends has played me to say the name of the movie ‘Knocked Up’ to tell me that she was pregnant twice now! Makes me giggle.

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yeah, knocked up. So I start doing what I do best – reading! And wowza, there is a lot to read about pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, parenting, etc. I am fascinated with the whole culture. As a first time mother, while a bit intimidating, most of what I read sounded pretty normal and easy. Then I had my baby. And met reality.

Despite all of my preparation, I found myself completely frustrated with breastfeeding. I also found myself alone. Living far away from family and friends. No support. No help. No encouraging words. In the short, but seemingly endless first 8 weeks I battled engorgement, raw/sore nipples, clogged ducts, mastitis, breast abscess, a week in the hospital to treat said abscess, severe head to toe allergic reaction to the antibiotics, thrush, and mastitis again. (This warrior is still marching on. We are still breastfeeding one year later.)

I want to clarify here, I never felt alone in my postpartum care with the wonderful women at Inanna Birth and Women’s Care. My postpartum care was thorough, attentive and kind. My midwife took my 11 pm delirious call (long after my pp care was complete) when my fever had spiked to just below 103; she offered comfort and a quick prescription for an antibiotic to fight off the infection. Postpartum care only lasts so long. It was when I was referred to an ob/gyn and was admitted to the hospital did I feel truly alone. No lactation help, no understanding doctors – just medical advice to wean my 5 week old baby and being told there was no way I could continue to breastfeed.

And did I mention in the middle of all this the doctors thought Arabella may have a rare inoperable brain tumor called neuroblastoma? We had to be admitted to the hospital for MRIs, CTs, xrays, and surgery. I had no idea they were going to ask me to not feed her because of surgery and didn’t take a pump or have the experience to know I needed to try hand expressing. I’m positive this chain of events is directly related to the breast abscess. We got lucky, the mass turned out to be benign.

Arabella post surgery at Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth, TX.

How did I survive all of this? I think in part I was still riding the high of natural childbirth. Sure, breastfeeding was a battle for me, but the incredible high of bringing my daughter into the world far eclipsed any short-term discomforts of breastfeeding. By week nine I was well on my way to being healed and in a rhythm with breastfeeding.

In the weeks to come I found myself getting email after email from various pregnant acquaintances and friends about everything from labor to cloth diapering to breastfeeding. I’m not completely sure why any one person sought me out, but it was touching to think I had made some type of impact through Facebook posts. I poured over every question that came my way and gave all my love, support and encouragement to the inquiring mamas-to-be. It was in answering those emails that my new passion for life showed it’s spark. I was radiant with mama-ness and wanted to wrap it around everyone, to connect with other mothers. I was so amped at the idea of helping other new moms I couldn’t sleep most nights. My new knowledge and trust of my body, my admiration of motherhood, my experience with birth and breastfeeding coupled with the challenges I had faced opened a door I didn’t know existed.

What an honor it would be to witness the transformation from womanhood to motherhood.  And what a blessing it would be to hold the hand of a new mom or mom-to-be along the way. The women who surrounded me and supported me in labor and birth hold a very special piece of my heart. Although I couldn’t tell you their middle names, I could tell you about the beauty of their souls and the compassion of their hearts. In those brief hours (I would never have described them as brief at the time) of labor they were a source of confidence, support and love.

Our little family with Betty....my midwife from heaven!

So here it is. I may not be all grown up.  And I certainly don’t have all the answers. What I do have is a passionate desire to support and serve women in pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

My first priority is being Arabella’s mama. In between naps and night-time I am studying to become a Certified Childbirth Educator with Birth Arts International. I am also in the accreditation process of becoming a La Leche League Leader. AND, I know, as if I wasn’t busy enough, I will also be attending a training workshop in March to become a Certified Lactation Counselor.

My vision is to work at a birth center and provide childbirth classes, breastfeeding support and perhaps sprinkle in a little prenatal yoga too. In the meantime I will be here blogging away about my journey, my life as a mama and anything else that fancies me. Hopefully my shared stories will help another little mama along the way or be simply be a source of camaraderie….

All because I got knocked up.

Hello 2012!

January 7, 2012

1/366

 

You were awake to see the ball drop and to get your very first New Year’s kiss. Needless to say our first day of the new year has been filled with naps. It’s not often you fall asleep without nursing first but today you laid down beside me and played with my hair until you drifted off for an afternoon nap.

I can’t wait to see what 2012 holds for us!

all my love,

mama

Vacation is over…

September 12, 2011

Nick, Arabella and I in the pool. Nags Head, NC

Technically my vacation is already over. We pulled into our driveway yesterday morning around 10:30am. I always need a vacation from my vacation, so today I am relaxing from the long drive home and postponing major chores and such until tomorrow. We spent a lovely week in Nags Head, NC just one week after Hurricane Irene battered the east coast. For a short time we were glued to the Weather Channel and concerned our vacation wasn’t going to happen. Irene ripped through Hatteras Island and took out major sections of Highway 12 (check link for photo), which aside from a ferry boat is the only way on to the island. Since we couldn’t get to Salvo, our rental company found us a place in Nags Head, whew.

My Mom took the whole fam down. My youngest sister Rebecca and her 18 month old Drew, middle sister Elizabeth and her Facebook official boyfriend Brian, myself, Nick, Arabella, Boob (yes, I said Boob. Mom’s boyfriend’s name is Bob but thanks to a typo in my address book he has been renamed), and all of our doggies: Loki, Kody and Greta!

It’s nice to be on vacation with the whole family. Nick hasn’t really had a vacation in 4 years due to school and work. I however, feel as if I’ve been on vacation for close to 17 months now. And by that I don’t mean relaxed, enjoying mojitos and working on my tan. In my previous life I was pretty health conscious and very portion aware. Then I got pregnant.

It started with morning sickness. I found the only way to tame the green beast was to keep the digestive system busy … so I grazed almost non-stop. Not a big deal if you are eating veggies and nutritious calories. My sudden obsession with salads and raw veggies everyday was replaced with the eating desires of a 15 year old boy. Carbs. I wanted junky, processed, packaged carbs. It wasn’t just a craving people, I actually spit a cucumber out one day as it tasted like dirt! I did, I spit it right back out of my mouth like you would expect a little kid to do and wipe the tongue too.  Oh, and fast food (gasp), yes, me…I wanted fast food again. Then came Coldstone Creamery. Ice cream cupcakes, ice cream with any mixture of toppings you could think of all mashed up before your eyes and placed in a beautiful waffle cone.

I reeled it back in by the second trimester as my morning sickness started to subside. Back to lean proteins and plenty of veggies. But the sweet demon had been awakened; my sweet tooth and I danced for the remainder of my pregnancy. I have indulged her most every desire through today. You see, vacation is over and she must leave.

My body has been begging me for months to return to my balanced diet. I don’t feel well and I don’t look well. Every fresh, balanced meal brings a renewed energy to my body and a spring in my step…I need to use that spring and run further because each time she grabs me by the ankle and off we go for a pop or ice cream or some snack-in-a-box. It’s mental, it’s an addiction, it feels great in the short term. It soothes frayed nerves, provides comfort in times of stress, which happens to be everyday when you are a parent, it’s mindless and numbing. Pair that with the insatiable appetite that comes with breastfeeding and look out! Even though I’m burning an extra 500 calories or so a day does not mean they need to be junk. I know what I have to do.

I have to quit cold turkey. I did it once before and it reshaped my eating habits for more than 6 years. My grandmother is type 2 diabetic and to support her I went on the diabetic diet for 30 days. The unintentional results were undeniable. More energy, waking up refreshed, no headaches, and an unpleasant feeling after eating crappy food.

All around me I see loved ones suffering the consequences of poor diet. It scares me. I want to live an active, healthy life. I want to play with my baby and her babies some day too. I want to feel good again. I want to feel like I look good again.

I want these darn headaches to go away. And if I lose these Bingo arms in the process, well that is just a major bonus!

Tomorrow vacation is over. Sugar and I are breaking up. Perhaps we can be friends down the road, but first my body and soul need to heal.