Autumn Traditions

“Ah, September! You are the doorway to the season that awakens my soul.” – Anonymous

Long before I became a mother, I dreamed of what it would be like to have a house full of children to care for and raise. I’d imagine how fun it would be to build blanket forts on rainy days, make special homemade meals on the weekends, and make holidays special with arts and crafts and decorations.

I must admit that after becoming a mother its sometimes hard for me to hold onto those dreamy ideals. Maybe it’s just the age he’s at, but Ellis doesn’t seem to want to focus on one thing long enough to try and make a blanket fort or even entertain the idea of doing some fun afternoon craft project. However, he loved decorating for his birthday party and still talks about it and I know that what really matters is spending time with him and making memories together.

I’m starting a new tradition with Ellis where we pull out all of our fall and Halloween decor on September 10th. This gives us time to get past birthday celebrations because both Ellis and my birthday are in September. I also like the idea of having something fun to look forward to after the birthday excitement has worn off.

I love the changing seasons and autumn has always been a special time of year for me. I love the magic and coziness that autumn brings and the symbolism of slowing down and turning inward. In years past I have waited until the first day of fall to dust off the felt pumpkins and decorate our home, but I want a little more time to enjoy the warmth and cheer this year.

On Thursday Ellis and I enjoyed going through my big black box of halloween and fall decor. Unlike last year, Ellis was very excited to pull out all of the pumpkins and see what kind of goodies were in the box. We put on some jazz music while we decorated and then later in the day I made some Autumn Squash soup to have for dinner that night.

I want to know, does your family have any special autumn traditions? Do you decorate for fall or Halloween? I’ll have to give you guys a look at all of our decor once we get things in place!

Cozy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day! I woke up this morning a little tired and sore, but overall I felt motivated to start a new week.

The mornings have been a lot cooler recently with temperatures hanging around in the mid 60s. I can definitely feel that Autumn isn’t far off when I walk out on the deck in the mornings now.

Brendan was off work for Labor Day toady and Ellis and I were happy to have him around for what felt like another Saturday. Around Breakfast time Brendan went out to do some birthday shopping for me and while he was out I had breakfast and got to hang out with Ellis.

Ellis turned 2 years-old on Thursday and I’m still trying to process how my baby is such a big boy now. Everyone always uses the term “Terrible Twos”, which I absolutely hate. I say “Terrific Twos” instead because I refuse to speak negatively over my child.

That being said, we’ve definitely had some trying moments over the past few days. It’s as if somebody flipped a switch the day after Ellis’ birthday and as a result he’s been quite emotional. Poor buddy has been having meltdowns regularly several times a day and he’s been acting very independent and gets extremely frustrated when he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. The past few days haven’t been easy, but I’m hoping that he’s just going through a wonder week.

Anyway…

Today was one of those days where I felt quite productive around the house and I felt happy and motivated to do chores. I had several baskets of laundry that needed to be folded and put away and I hoped to get some tidying up done around the house during the morning. My intention was to pull out all of our fall/halloween decor and start decorating, but we didn’t quite get that far. That may be on the agenda for tomorrow though.

By the time Brendan got back home around noon Ellis was asking to go out on a ride and get out of the house. So Brendan decided to take Ellis out for a bit while I got some more chores done around the house.

I put some Jazz music on and got busy in the kitchen! Does anyone else love Jazz music? It puts me in the coziest fall mood and lifts my spirits if I’m feeling down.

First off I decided to make some juices. I’ve been trying to have us eat all of the leftover fruits and veggies from Ellis’ party last week, but we still had a decent amount that really needed to go. So, I grabbed carrots, celery, and cucumbers that have been chilling in the fridge for a week and paired them with some ginger, lemon, and grapefruit. A very tasty juice if I do say so myself!

Next up I made my go-to ginger shots. I’ve been making these regularly since Brendan and I got married and I try to fix them for us once a week during cold and flu season. To make them simply juice 2 lemons, 1 green apple, a 1-inch piece of ginger, and then mix in some turmeric powder and a bit of black pepper.

I was feeling quite domesticated and resourceful today, so I took the citrus rinds that were leftover from juicing and decided to place them in a mason jar and cover them with some white vinegar. Hopefully within a couple of weeks I’ll have some nice all-purpose cleaner to use. This was my first time making a citrus vinegar cleaner so I’ll have to let you guys know how it turns out.

Once the boys got home I fixed Ellis some leftovers for lunch and finally took myself upstairs to shower and get dressed. By the time I was done with that I knew that Ellis was tired and ready to go down for his nap. So while Brendan went to go mow the yard I nursed Ellis and got him to fall asleep.

I spent the rest of the afternoon taking it easy doing a little bit of reading and writing. One of the books I’m currently reading is Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth. I actually watched the tv series on Netflix a couple of years ago before I realized it was a book. But my mom found this copy at Goodwill and let me borrow it to read. I’m not quite halfway through it yet, but I’m really enjoying it so far.

For dinner this evening I wanted to fix a warm filling meal that would leave us with some leftovers for lunches tomorrow, so I decided to make some spinach lasagna rolls. I’ve been eating fully plant-based on and off again this year (I can talk more about that in another post sometime), and I can definitely say that when I eat dairy like I did tonight, my body really doesn’t feel well afterwards. I’ve had this lasagna recipe since Brendan and I first started dating, but I don’t make it very often.

After dinner I tidied up the kitchen and Brendan’s office and then spent some time reading to Ellis before we finally got him to go to bed. Now I’m going to work on some more blog content while watching “Sister Sister” on Netflix.

I hope you guys had a wonderful Labor Day!

August

I always forget how much I love the month of August until it’s upon my doorstep. It’s such a lovely transitional month where it’s still summer but the days are growing shorter, sometimes slightly cooler, and we slowly start to feel autumn in the air and the tug towards a new season. I like to think of it as the beautiful in-between. 

Today is the last day of August and the start of a new week. It felt like the perfect day to cleanse and reset from the busy weekend we just had. The last two weeks we have had family stay with us for a short period of time — Brendan’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend the week before last and Brendan’s parents this past weekend — and while I loved finally being able to open up our home to have guests stay over, it’s always nice to settle back into my own rhythm at home. 

Today has been the coziest of Mondays (well, for the most part). Ellis slept in his own bed all night long and woke up around 6:45am. It was still dark outside and the tropical rains we were expecting had already started. Even though my body felt tired my mind was ready to be awake and I was eager to start the day. 

I came downstairs to the sight of gift bags and various toys strewn across the living room floor, the aftermath of a wonderful birthday party. Ellis wasted no time and got right to playing while I went into the kitchen to start my day. Once we said our goodbyes and got Brendan out the door for work, I put on a pot of coffee and started fixing Ellis and me some breakfast.

We took things slow this morning. Ellis played and watched some tv while I sipped on my cup of coffee and started folding the two baskets of laundry that were waiting for me in the corner of the living room.

I like to start my day by writing out a little “to-do” list for myself. I find that this works well for my personality because if I reach a point in the day where I’ve lost focus and motivation its easy for me to glance at my list and see what task I can accomplish, no matter how small, to put me back in the right mindset.

Today’s list consisted mostly of tidying up the house and focusing my energy and intention on looking ahead to the month of September. I washed bedding (something I like to do either at the end or beginning of the month as a way to say “out with the old/dirty, in with the new/clean”), put away gift bags and tissue paper still left out from Ellis’ birthday party, cleaned out the fridge, burned some sage to cleanse our rooms of airborne bacteria (look it up), and transplanted a few of my plant babies to different pots.

I also spent a decent amount of time simply playing with Ellis. We played with blocks, colored, played with trains, read some books, and listened to music. His imagination has blossomed over this past week and I love watching him get creative in his play.

I recently read the book The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman and at the end of the book there was a short chapter on children and love languages. After reading that book and watching Ellis a bit more closely throughout the day, I’ve come to realize that quality time is definitely one of Ellis’ main love languages. It’s hard to be certain at such a young age but I can see the difference it makes in his attitude when I take a few minutes to put aside whatever it is I was working on to simply sit and be present with him. He notices now when I’m sitting next to him but my mind is not really there or focused on him. That was a big wake up call for me and is something I’m working on.

While today was lovely, I did have a few moments that had me telling myself “of course this would happen, its 2020!” I went down to the basement at one point to switch the laundry over and saw that there was water leaking down from the ceiling. That meant that there was probably rain coming in through the chimney, down the fireplace and into the basement.

So after I got that all cleaned up and came back up stairs my doorbell rang. Nobody ever comes to my door, so I was surprised and a little thrown off. I answered the door to see a few children with their mother walking away. When I asked how I could help them they said that my car window was down and they just wanted me to know since it was supposed to be raining all day. So I grabbed some towels and went to roll the window up. But the damage was already done and the back seat was soaked. I hope this isn’t a trend for the rest of the Mondays in 2020.

Anyway…

After Ellis woke up from his nap I made some broccoli cheddar soup for dinner. It felt like the perfect evening to make a cozy pot of soup since it had been raining all day and the high was only in the 70s. I put on an Autumn jazz playlist and got cooking in my happy little kitchen.

Brendan had to work a little later today and he also had homework to do this evening, but I didn’t mind. I got to spend a little more time with Ellis after dinner this evening playing, reading, and eventually letting him nurse until he dozed off. As I picked him up and carried him to his bed, I couldn’t help but hug him a little closer knowing that my baby is almost 2 and really isn’t a baby anymore. Who knows when these cuddly night time nursing moments will be a thing of the past. I’m not quite ready to give them up yet, so I’ll hold on just a little longer.

As we step into a new month and begin to shift into a new season, I’m looking forward to and believing in change for the better, focusing more of my attention on my boys and being a homemaker, and letting go of the things I can’t control and doing what I can within my little corner of the world.

What are you looking forward to in the month of September?

 

 

A Day in the Life — August 1st

Hello, August! I can’t believe you’re here already. 

This morning after I finally admitted defeat to my toddler and accepted the fact that I was not going back to sleep, I cracked the blinds and we said “Good morning, world!” like we usually do. Sometimes we say “Good morning, sunshine!”, but this morning’s sky was gray and cloudy. Brendan had left the house early to go play basketball this morning, so it was just Ellis and me that crept down the stairs and into the living room. 

First I fixed Ellis some breakfast — cereal is his go-to, must have breakfast item of choice at the moment, much to this mama’s discontent. Next I turned on an old Mickey Mouse cartoon for him — again, another current favorite of his. I feel like I am becoming the mom I didn’t intend to be, but I absolutely understand how mothers get here…the toddler sass and drama can be real when you try to suggest something other than what they have their mind set on, and sometimes fighting it just doesn’t seem worth it. 

So cereal and Mickey Mouse it was this morning. Does that make me an awful mom? No. Do I still feel like a failure for giving him crappy cereal and letting him watch a cartoon first thing in the morning? Yes. What can I say though, I’m learning as I go and I’m trying to give myself grace on the days I fall short of my own mothering expectations. 

After getting Ellis situated, I went into the kitchen to brew myself a cup of coffee and fix myself a super nutritious breakfast of toast. ha. That’s right, I’m being real with you guys today. No nutrient dense, healthy breakfast for me this morning, just toast. While I waited for my coffee to finish brewing, I watered my plants and whispered good morning to them. Then I took my breakfast into the living room to watch cartoons with Ellis and share my breakfast with him. I didn’t need a whole breakfast for myself anyway, right?

The weekends are known as “Daddy Days” around here because Brendan is home instead of at work and Ellis gets to spend more time with him. It’s become a weekly ritual for the boys to go downtown to the train station in the morning on the weekends to see the Amtrak train come into the station. Brendan loves trains and is sharing that passion with Ellis now. It makes me happy to see them bonding together in that way and its adorable to see how fascinated Ellis is with trains. 

While the boys were out this morning I took a moment to write out a to-do list for the day and put a bit a makeup on — such mundane things really, but if I take the time to do them in the morning then I feel a little bit more put together and ready for the day ahead. 

Then I brought my cup of coffee and my journal outside to the deck to take in the beautiful morning. Today is August 1st and still very much summer time, but I’ve been feeling the subtle pull of autumn in the air recently. A few crunchy leaves on the ground here and there, crickets chirping in the early morning mist, and the gray overcast sky this morning had me day dreaming of cozy autumn days in this beautiful house. 

While outside I took some time to write out some of my intentions for the month of August and I also decided to write in my prayer journal, something I don’t do often enough. This time and connection with God and nature was good and grounding for me. 

I spent the early afternoon tidying up around the house and doing some chores that were neglected on Friday. I washed our new sheets, washed the dishes, and cleaned out the fridge. I fixed Ellis a smoothie and continued tidying up while the boys had lunch together. 

Then to my delight, I realized that Brendan had taken Ellis up to the bedroom to try and put him down for a nap. It was a bit earlier than Ellis usually goes down for a nap, so I wasn’t counting on him falling asleep right away. But thankfully, he dozed off almost right away and didn’t ask for mama to come upstairs and be with him. 

I was able to sneak away this afternoon to go grab a cup of coffee and find some outdoor seating where I could set up to do some blogging and reading. I like writing in the home office, but sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house and not feel like I have to focus on chores. 

After a couple of hours to myself, I felt a bit more calm and motivated. Brendan said that Ellis woke up from his nap happy and asking for dinner from our favorite Mexican food restaurant. So while I packed my things up and got ready to head back home, the boys went to go pick up dinner. 

We spent some time playing legos, listening to music, reading books, and running around the house with Ellis after dinner. The weekends are so nice when we’re all able to spend a little down time together. 

Once Ellis went to bed around 9pm, Brendan and I got ready to finish watching “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, which we had started the day before in honor of Harry Potter’s birthday. Yes, I am a Harry Potter nerd. Go ahead and judge me. 

Going forward with the month of August, I want to be more consistent with blogging regularly. When I first started blogging about 6 years ago now, I did a lot more photography and “weekly recap” lifestyle type posts. I honestly kind of miss that, so I might tap into that a bit here and there. What type of posts would you be interested in reading? 

A few more questions for you: How do you spend your mornings on the weekends? Do you write out monthly intentions? If so, what are some of your intentions for the month of August?

Breastfeeding Journey

I have been breastfeeding Ellis for 14 months now. Its been a beautiful journey! We still enjoy snuggling up together to breastfeed morning, afternoon, and night. And honestly, I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon.

From the very beginning of my pregnancy I knew that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. My mom had breastfed me and my four siblings and other women in my immediate family had done the same. It was familiar to me and I knew I had a good support team of other mamas surrounding me.

Liquid Gold — The First Drops of Colostrum 

I started producing colostrum the day before I entered my third trimester. It took me by surprise! But I was so grateful that my body had already started producing food for my son.

I wondered if I would have a good milk supply since I started producing colostrum so early, but I tried not to place any expectations on myself and my body. I had started reading The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding per my midwife’s suggestion, so I felt like I knew a decent amount about breastfeeding. Still, I don’t think a book fully prepared me for just what to expect.

The First Latch 

I gave birth in the comfort of my own bedroom and was blessed to have skin-to-skin for the first few hours with Ellis before his newborn exam.

Sadly, I don’t clearly remember the first time Ellis latched on. I know it was within the first couple of hours after he was born, but that’s about all I can recollect. Both my midwife and doula helped me with getting Ellis to latch and showing me which positions I could try for nursing.

The next day when my midwife came back to do our 24 hour check, she asked how many times Ellis had eaten the day before. I don’t remember the number of times he fed, but I remember my midwife encouraging me to try and get him to eat more often. I felt so guilty when I heard her say that — I was worried that I was failing my baby and not feeding him enough.

The Early Weeks 

Right from the start, Ellis was a cluster feeder and loved to be held. And I chose to feed him on demand — no measuring or fretting about the time on the clock. When he was hungry, I nursed him. When he needed to be consoled, I nursed him. When he just wanted to be held close, I nursed him.

This worked really well for us and I enjoyed it.  The thought of measuring and feeding on a scheduled time stressed me out. It was much more convenient for me to just nurse him whenever he wanted and not worry about pumping or feeding him at a specific time.

That’s not to say that breastfeeding was a breeze.

The first few weeks were actually pretty uncomfortable and painful for me. My nipples were so raw and sore that it hurt when Ellis latched on. And since he was feeding so often, I felt like I never got a break to let my nipples heal. Both my midwife and my mom tried to help me work on getting Ellis to latch properly, but it just took us awhile to find our rhythm.

I was a little discouraged at first because the books I had read about breastfeeding basically said that if it hurt you were doing it wrong or baby wasn’t latching properly. But honestly, I just think my body needed time to get used to this new uncharted territory. I was hopeful after talking to my mom about it and seeing a few posts on social media where other mamas said to just give it a few months.

For me quitting wasn’t an option. Yes it was a bit painful those first few weeks, but I knew that there was a light at the end of that tunnel. And sure enough, around the 3 month mark breastfeeding became a lot easier and more enjoyable for the both of us. And at that point I was so grateful that I had pushed through and stuck with it.

Long Days and Late Nights

I think the hardest part of breastfeeding for me has been being needed so much. For the first couple months, I felt like I lived on the couch in the living room nursing Ellis and holding him while he napped. I watched so much Netflix that I became sick of looking at the TV.

The late night feedings were especially lonely for me. Even with Brendan asleep in bed right beside me, there was nothing to keep me company besides silly puzzle games on my phone and the low hum of the radio in the background. I would try telling myself that I would miss these moments with my baby once he was grown, but that brought me little to no comfort. All I wanted was somebody there with me, somebody to talk to.

Those lonely nights broke me. I would hold Ellis close and sob from shear exhaustion. There were times when I really thought I couldn’t carry on feeling the way I did (this was because of postpartum depression and anxiety, not just breastfeeding. But that’s a story for another time). But in those weary times, God was there with me and I grew closer to Him than I had in years.

While those nights were extremely difficult for me physically and emotionally, we eventually found our rhythm. And then I learned to nurse Ellis while lying down (game changer) and we all got a little bit more sleep at night. Those first few months were challenging, but we made it and I absolutely love breastfeeding now.

Breastfeeding Today

Breastfeeding for us has changed quite a bit over the past several months. What started out as being a time to cuddle close and nourish Ellis with my milk, has turned into times of playful giggles and acrobatics while he nurses. Even though Ellis still nurses throughout the day and nurses to fall asleep just about every night, its nice to have shorter feedings and longer stretches of time between feedings.

Now that I have been nursing Ellis for 14 months, I can say that all of the time, effort, and tears have been a million times worth it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything and I am so grateful that I have been able to nourish my baby this way.

However, I understand that breastfeeding is difficult for many women. Mamas, I want you to know that no matter what your journey looks like, you are not alone and you are no less of a mother for feeding your baby differently than I have done with my baby.

Support is one of the most helpful things we can give breastfeeding mamas! So if you have friends, family, or know of new mamas in your community that are starting out on their breastfeeding journey, reach out to them and offer them your love, support, and encouragement.

I will touch on breastfeeding tips, advice, and resources in another post soon. But for now I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite breastfeeding photos from the past year!

The Day Before I Met You

It’s almost been a year since I gave birth to my Sunshine Babe. It feels like it was just a few short weeks ago when I realized that I was going into labor with him. I’ve shared Ellis’ birth story on my blog, but I wanted to do something a little different and write about the day before I had him. It might not be something that everyone cares to read, but I felt it was special to reminisce and document.

Sunday September 2, 2018

Sunday morning was like any other day. We got up and got ready to go to church at 11 a.m. I wore my leopard print dress with the sash around the waist because it felt nice and silky and looked good on my curvy pregnant body. I curled my hair and was feeling pretty good about the day ahead.

One of the very last photos of Sunshine Babe in my belly.

The night before I had a very vivid dream about giving birth to my Sunshine Babe. I had dreamed of giving birth twice earlier on in my pregnancy, but the dreams were always a bit fuzzy and hard to remember. Both times I had dreamed of giving birth before, I dreamed that labor kind of started abruptly and went very fast. Some of my family members were usually there, but Brendan was never around. One time I dreamed I gave birth to a boy, the other time a girl. In both dreams the labor was fast and painless. It was as if the labor was a blur. And in both dreams I asked to see the baby afterwards, but the baby was no where to be found, just my family surrounding me.

But this dream was different. In this dream labor happened fast just like in the earlier dreams, but this time I got to see my baby. I remember somebody telling me to look over to the side, and as I did my gaze met my baby’s. He had big, dark eyes and was looking right at me, into my soul. I woke up feeling a little more calm and ready to meet my baby, whenever he would decide to come.

Up until this point, I had been feeling a little anxious and nervous about my baby coming. I wasn’t scared of giving birth, I actually felt very prepared for that. But I was so nervous to become a parent. I was mentally preparing myself to make it to 42 weeks, in fact I wanted my baby to come later. But I had this little flicker of a feeling that he was coming early.

So we went to church that day, and I honestly can’t tell you anything about the worship service or the sermon. I remember that my brother and his girlfriend were there and they sat behind me and my husband Brendan. I remember my brother picked a piece of trash out of my hair at one point during the service.

After church we all went over to my grandma’s house for one more lunch with her before Sunshine Babe arrived. My grandma, brother, my brother’s girlfriend, Mom, my sister, Brendan, and I all ate pizza together for lunch. I don’t really remember what we talked about at the table and I don’t remember what the weather was like. I know I changed into black drawstring shorts and a loose gray t-shirt with daisies in the shape of a heart on it that Mom had bought me from Goodwill back in 2015. I used to wear it when I worked at my school’s campus farm.

My brother kept saying that I was going to have the baby the next day because it was Labor Day. I told him I really didn’t think that was likely since I wasn’t feeling any signs of labor and it was already Sunday afternoon. Everyone laughed at the thought anyway. As we were about to leave, I hugged everyone and then I told my grandma and my sister to feel my belly because it might be the very last time that they were able to. I had no idea how foreshadowing all of this would be.

Brendan and I went out to run a few errands after lunch. We went to Target and Walmart. I just had this nagging feeling that I needed to buy a few more towels and a mirror to have to be prepared for the birth. I went to Target because my sister had found a really cool Harry Potter Hogwarts t-shirt on sale at Target for about $3 and I wanted to see if I could find one before they were gone. Target was busy and I was getting annoyed with all of the women pushing shopping carts and blocking the sale racks. Luckily I was able to find one shirt left that was a Small. So I snagged that and I also bought the cutest little pair of baby moccasins that I had been wanting to buy for Sunshine Babe, and I got the heck out of there.

Next up was Walmart. I despise going to Walmart, and it was really the last place I wanted to go. But I needed some contact solution and I wanted to pick up those cheap towels and a hand mirror for the birth, so we got what we needed and got out.

On the way back home I started feeling a bit emotional and overwhelmed and I had no idea why. I remember when Brendan and I were almost home the song “Control” by Tenth Avenue North came on the radio and I started to tear up. I think I knew that I needed to release the pregnancy, labor, birth, and planning over to God. That moment really stands out to me.

I really don’t remember what we did once we got home. I think we just kind of hung around. I know I kept thinking I needed to go get groceries so we had food to eat and that we would have the fridge somewhat stocked for whenever I did go into labor.

We ended up getting McDonalds and Taco Bell for dinner. Lovely, I know. When we got home we decided to watch the first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while we ate our dinner on the couch. We had started watching the Harry Potter series back at the end of July in honor of Harry Potter’s birthday and we were still making our way through them. As I went to go bite into my crunch wrap supreme form Taco Bell I realized that they put meat in it even though I asked for beans instead. There was no picking it out or eating around it either. I was so annoyed and grumpy. Brendan asked me if I wanted to take it back, and I didn’t even want to fool with it.

So after we finished dinner and our movie, we decided that we would drive to Liberty University to walk around on campus. I was on instagram posting about my dream I had the night before for a long while, and Brendan was frustrated by that. But I just felt the need to get that post written. It was dark, and muggy outside while we walked. We ended up walking about 2 miles around campus. We even walked up all the stairs next to the Freedom Tower. I’m pretty sure we stopped to go to the bathrooms while we were there and I remember the curls in my hair had fallen flat from the humidity, and I was sweaty and felt fat and tired.

Since my dinner was a bust we were going to make it up by stopping by Wendy’s to get a $0.50 Frosty on the way home. Well, we went through the drive-thru at the Wendy’s nearest to us and they told us that they only had vanilla frosty’s and it would take about 30 minutes to make the chocolate ones. So we decided to drive to the next one, and to our dismay they said they were out. We made one more drive through to the one on nearest our place and they still didn’t have any. It was about 10pm at this point and I was so irritated and just wanted to go home and watch TV.

And this is where I pick up and start the birth story of my Sunshine Babe.

Looking back now, I see the subtle hints my body was sending to me to settle down, take it easy, and prepare to meet my baby. But I didn’t know because it was my first time and I had no idea what to expect really.

Mother Blessing Ceremony

Last week I was invited to photograph a Mother Blessing ceremony. This was the first time I had attended a Mother Blessing and it was absolutely beautiful. I love the idea of women coming together to nurture and love on the expecting mama and her baby.

A Mother Blessing is a time to put the focus on nurturing the expecting mama rather than simply giving her gifts. The ceremony may include gathering around the mother to pray over her or offer her a blessing, giving her a foot soak or massage, or painting her belly with henna.

Here are a few photos I captured at the blessing last week. To respect the privacy of the women at the ceremony, I am only sharing photos that do not reveal their faces.

Have you attended a Mother Blessing Ceremony? If so, what were some of the elements that  helped make the event special? 

Postpartum Healing

I’ve wanted to take the time to sit down and write an entire blog post devoted to postpartum healing and recovery since I gave birth back in September. My body continues to amaze me every day with all that it has been through over the last 15 months and all it continues to do to help feed and nurture my son all while healing itself.

Birth is such a magical experience, but it does take a toll on our bodies. Not only do we need to recover physically, we also need to make sure we are mentally and emotionally recovering. I wanted to share a few of the steps I took to let my body heal itself naturally during the first few weeks postpartum.

Thanks to some wonderful advice from my amazing midwife and doula, I think my body healed very nicely.  I do want to point out that I am not a medical professional and it’s important for you to talk with your doctor or midwife to find what your body needs. What works for me might not work for, or even be healthy, for you!

Healing Physically

While my birth was an all-natural, non-medicated home birth, I did end up having a few set-backs that were not in my birth plan. I ended up having to be catheterized and I had an episiotomy that required suturing (I talk more about that in Ellis’ birth story). Due to these things my body was more prone to infection after birth, so my midwife suggested a lot of natural supplements I could take to make sure my body stayed healthy and healed properly.

As soon as my baby was born and in my arms, my midwife wanted me to eat something. I wasn’t hungry, but did as she said and ate a little something right away. Next thing I knew my husband and my birth team were taking turns getting me to sip various different drinks and take tinctures.

The first thing I was offered to drink was a homemade labor aid I had made ahead of time mixed with liquid chlorophyll. I was also given blue cohosh tea and cotton root bark right after Ellis was born. One was in the form of tea, the other a tincture.

Here’s a quick look at everything I’ve been taking to help my body heal naturally:

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  • Liquid Chlorophyll — My midwife recommended I have a 16oz bottle of liquid chlorophyll on hand for after the birth. Liquid Chlorophyll is known to build red blood cells and can help speed the healing of wounds. I lost a lot of blood during labor (half a quart is normal for a vaginal birth, I lost at least twice that much) and my midwife said I handled it very well. She recommended that I drink the whole bottle by the end of the week. Brendan mixed it into orange juice for me, and I drank that three times a day.

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  • Arnica — To help with the pain of cramps and bruising, I took 3 small tablets of Arnica every 4 hours. I had a bit of internal bruising and had some slight cramping of the uterus while nursing, so the Arnica was a homeopathic medicine to relieve that.
  • Motherwort Tincture — A Motherwort tincture by the brand Wish Garden was included in our home birth kit. I took this tincture to help with the cramping of my uterus, and it also helped with mood swings due to hormone imbalance. I took half a dropper full of this tincture a couple of times a day. I simply held the tincture under my tongue for 30 seconds and then swallowed. After I finished this tincture I started taking a Baby Blues tincture by Wish Garden, which has Motherwort and St. John’s Wort.
  • Vitamin C — There’s a lot that goes on in the body right after birth, that’s for sure. To make sure my immune system stayed strong and healthy, my midwife recommended I take 3,000mg of vitamin C a day. This was especially supposed to help keep my immune system functioning properly so I didn’t catch any illnesses.
  • Garlic — Garlic has natural antiviral properties and helps to strengthen the immune system to keep illness at bay. My midwife told me that I could eat foods cooked with garlic cloves, but I knew that I wouldn’t be in the kitchen with a newborn, so I opted for the garlic in supplement form and took that 3 times a day.
  • Goldenseal Root — Goldenseal Root is used for internal bleeding, bleeding after childbirth, and vaginal pain and swelling. My midwife had me take this 2 times a day.
  • Echinacea — My midwife told me to take an Echinacea supplement 3x a day for 5 days. This was to help strengthen my immune system so that I didn’t get sick.
  • Phytolacca Decandra — My milk came in 3 days after I had Ellis. My breasts were so swollen and engorged during those first few days and it was very uncomfortable. I have a lymph node on my underarm that is very sensitive to hormone imbalance and will become swollen when things aren’t right in my body. When my milk came in my lymph node became swollen right along with my breasts. My midwife recommended that I use a warm compress on it and also for me to take Phytolacca Decandra to help with the swelling and draining of the lymph node. Thankfully my local health food store had it on hand!

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  • Herbal Sitz Bath — An afterbirth herbal sitz bath from the brand Lucy’s Garden was included in our home birth kit. My midwife recommended that I get a sitz bath that I could put on the toilet and use. I took a sitz bath 2x a day for 15 minutes.

Aside from the above, I did lots of resting, iced my perineum using frozen maxi pads that had aloe vera and witch hazel or raw coconut oil on them, and I used a natural cooling perineum spray by Earth Mama Organics.

The only non-natural things I used for my healing were an over-counter numbing agent my midwife used when she did my sutures, and then I think I took 2 ibuprofen within the first couple days of giving birth for the swelling. And that’s it. No epidural, no IVs, no numbing perineum spray, etc.

Brendan took such good care of me in the first two weeks after having Ellis. He cooked for me, did laundry, changed so many diapers, brewed my herbal sitz baths every day, made sure I was keeping up with all of my supplements, fixed my chlorophyll orange juice, and made sure I was eating and drinking enough water.

I think we mamas underestimate how important it is to simply rest and let our bodies heal after giving birth. I followed my midwife’s advice and stayed inside and didn’t drive for 2 weeks. If you are able to stay home and have someone care for you during the first 2 weeks (or the first month) after giving birth please do so! In doing so you’ll be able to give your baby the attention they need while also giving your body time to recover. Take this time to focus on healing and getting to know and bond with your baby.

 

 

 

End of Year Reflection 2018

And Just like that another year has come and gone. It seems like just the other day I was writing 2017’s reflection post on my previous blog, Novel Ideas. I’m pretty sure 2018 has been the biggest year of my life, full of so much growth and transformation.

I haven’t blogged since Ellis was born, so I wanted to write a reflection post as a way to catch everyone up on my life. I’m hoping now that Ellis is a bit older I’ll have more time to blog in the new year. I’m so thankful for this space and being able to share my thoughts, feelings, and my experiences throughout motherhood.  

Here are some questions of reflection from 2018:

  1. What is something I accomplished this year that I am proud of? That’s a hard one. The only thing that really comes to mind is that I had the unmedicated home birth that I wanted, despite the doubts of others. I’m pretty freaking proud of all my body is capable of! Birth is amazing.
  2. What is something that happened this year that I think I will remember for the rest of my life? Giving birth to my first son at home on Labor Day! I had the most beautiful home birth with the most amazing birth team. I’ve been writing Ellis’ birth story and hope to have it posted soon. I never get tired of talking about his birth and I love sitting down and reliving that day with anyone that is willing to listen! If you haven’t heard the full story let’s grab a cup of coffee some time and I’ll tell you all about it.
  3. What was the most challenging part of this year for me? By far, parenthood has been the most challenging part of this year. My pregnancy and labor were fairly easy and I loved it, but I was anxious about becoming a parent and it really is hard. I’ve sacrificed sleep, warm meals, one-on-one time with my husband, and on some days my happiness. I know that sounds awful, but I’m trying to be really honest here. Becoming a mother is one of the best things that has happened to me and it’s been such a beautiful journey. But, I’ve been struggling with Postpartum Anxiety and there have been some dark days where everything is messy and I feel so lonely. Thankfully, I’m doing a lot better now and I’m in a much better place than I was a couple months ago.
  4. If I could change one thing that happened this year what would it be? I’m not going to go into detail about it on here, but even though I wish I could change what happened I know that God let it happen for a reason. I had some dark days where I felt numb and broken but I’ve come out on the other side and can see that I’m stronger now. 2018 was an amazing year, but I’m not going to lie you guys, I had some awful days, probably the hardest days I’ve ever had to face. There really wasn’t anyone I felt like I could truly open up to. I’m hoping that I’ll find that person that I can talk to soon.
  5. What are the three most important things I learned this year? 1). It takes a lot of work to keep a marriage happy and healthy, but it’s always worth the fight, 2). You’re stronger than you think you are, 3). Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  6. What was the nicest thing someone did for me this year? There are so many times people have reached out to show me kindness this year!! After I had Ellis people stepped in and helped me out when I couldn’t help myself. Brendan was so amazing at taking care of me after Ellis was born. He did laundry, cooked me food, made sure I was taking my herbal supplements for postpartum healing, fixed me a sitz bath, and loved and encouraged me. I would have been lost without him. My mom was my hero and came over about once a week to help out with Ellis so that I could shower, get chores done around the apartment, and go shopping with some extra help. And then there was one Monday in particular I remember where Brendan had gone out of town for work and I had been up all night with Ellis and was exhausted. My doula (who had moved across the country at that point) knew that I was having a rough day and sent her doula friend to my apartment with coffee and breakfast from Starbucks! Dani held Ellis and played with him while I ate my breakfast. It was awesome and really lifted my spirits.
  7. What was something that was hard for me at the start of the year that is easy now? Breastfeeding! Obviously, I didn’t start until I gave birth to Ellis in September, so I didn’t struggle the whole year. I had absolutely no problems with my milk coming in or my supply, but it took Ellis and I awhile to get a good latch. And then once he did latch it hurt and I was raw and sore. Giving up wasn’t an option for me, and I knew I’d push through, but there were some days that I didn’t look forward to feeding Ellis because of the pain. I felt like I was missing out on the bonding aspect of breastfeeding because I was so sore. Honestly, it was more painful for me than labor was. I know some women don’t experience any discomfort and that’s so awesome! I had read different women say that it takes about 3 months for breastfeeding to get better, and that was so true for Ellis and me. Now I absolutely love it! Don’t give up, Mamas.
  8. Of the books I read this year, which was my favorite and why? While I definitely didn’t meet my reading goal for the year, I did read some amazing books. Most of the books I read were about natural birth and my very favorite book was Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan. Brendan and I took Hypnobirthing classes during the summer that were taught by my doula and it was such a positive and empowering experience. I ended up having a beautiful home Hypnobirth and I’m so grateful for this method. If you’re at all interested in a natural birth, I highly recommend this book (and classes).
  9. Which person has made the biggest impact on my life this year? Why? My son. Ellis has been changing and molding me into a new woman ever since I found out I was pregnant with him. But he truly impacted my life on the day he was born. That day I became a mother and all of my priorities shifted. Caring for Ellis has been the best and hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. He’s taught me a lot about selfless love and he’s helped me grow closer to God.
  10. What could I have done to make this year better? Spent more time with my friends.
  11. What three words best describe this year? Change, Birth, and Strength.
  12. Knowing what I know now, if I would travel back in time to the start of 2018, what advice would I give myself? Stay in God’s Word, no matter what.
  13. What are my most important goals for 2019? I would have to say spending more time with my husband, serving him more, loving him better, and working on our marriage.
  14. How am I planning on achieving them? Spending more one-on-one time together, serving him and helping him have time to himself, reading a few books on marriage, etc.
  15. What should I do differently next year? Be more open to letting people into my life.  

I’m excited to see what 2019 has in store for me!

Watching and Waiting – Weeks 37-39 Pregnancy Update

As I sit here in front of my laptop on this beautiful last day of August, I am blown away by the fact that tomorrow we enter into a brand new month, the month where my son will finally join our family outside of my womb space.

September has always been a favorite month of mine. Not only is it the month of my birthday, it’s also a time of shift and transformation. The lush green foliage gives way to the deep burning colors of autumn leaves and there is a hush that comes over the land whispering to us to slow down and prepare for the harvest before winter comes knocking at our door.

This year, September holds even more of a symbolic meaning of transformation for me as I step across the threshold and go from maiden to mother. This time last year my mind was consumed with thoughts of becoming pregnant. There was nothing I wanted more than to become pregnant and carry a tiny babe of my very own in my womb. I thought about becoming a mother long and hard and was very reflective of what my life had been like up until that point and what my life would look like if I conceived and birthed a child. A year later, I sit here thinking deep thoughts on what my life will look like with my son here in my arms.

So, as I sit here watching and waiting for the cool, crisp days of autumn to surface, I’m also watching and waiting for my son to arrive.

Pregnancy Update

I still can’t believe that I’m 39 weeks pregnant and that my little Sunshine Babe could come any day now. The weeks all muddle together now and I find myself scurrying about trying to do all of my last minute nesting. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot since we moved into our new apartment, yet at the same time I can’t help but think of all the things that are still left undone.

I know that we have all of the major things taken care of – the crib is built, we have diapers, we have our home birth kit in place, and a bag packed and ready to go in case we would need to transfer to the hospital. But there are still so many little things I want to get done. I feel confidant and prepared for the actual birth, but I’m honestly feeling just a bit anxious about having everything I need for the baby and actually becoming a parent. I know these are all normal feelings though.

How I’m Feeling Physically

For months now people have been telling me how miserable I’ll be come August when I’m 9 months pregnant. Well you know what, it’s August 31 and I’m 39 weeks, 3 days pregnant and still not miserable! I really think it has a lot to do with attitude and mindset, but I’m grateful that I have been thriving and loving this summer heat while pregnant.

I’ve been feeling pretty good these past few weeks. My energy levels have been steady, I’ve been sleeping through the night more often, and I have been motivated to meal prep and get some more nesting done. I think my body knows that the time is ticking and I have this innate sense to get all of the preparation taken care of now. So far I’ve made and froze a batch of vegan banana blueberry lactation muffins, vegan banana bread, and some labor aid. Still on my list to make is some vegan corn chowder.

I kept having this feeling that Sunshine Babe would come early, but now that we’ve made it another week I think he’s going to stay nestled inside just a bit longer. Brendan was out of town for work last week, so I think I was a little anxious that the baby would decide to come while he was gone. And then we had a full moon last Sunday and I had a feeling that I would go into labor then. Still nothing though.

This baby and the entirety of the this pregnancy has taught me to sit and wait patiently and simply ride the waves as they come. There is no need to fret and fuss about things I have no control over.

Up until this past week I hadn’t experienced any practice surges. But on Tuesday at 3:40am I woke straight up from my sleep with really intense cramps. I got up, went to the bathroom, drank some water, and simply focused on my breathing. Within 10 minutes or so the intensity had faded away, so I got back in bed and drifted off to sleep again. I haven’t felt anything like it since then. My midwife says its a good thing that I’m having practice surges and is my body’s way of slowly preparing for labor.

How Baby is Doing

Last Thursday I had my 38 week appointment with my midwife to make sure that baby was healthy and everything was going well. My little guy is active and healthy but I was still measuring small, so my midwife suggested that I go have another ultrasound done to check on his growth.

So on Friday (August 24), Brendan and I went to have our fourth and final (hopefully) ultrasound done. The last time my midwife suggested we go have an ultrasound done to check on the baby’s growth I was scared. This time I was a tad anxious, but knew that she just wanted to be cautious. Turns out that our little Sunshine Babe is just a small guy and there’s nothing wrong with that! He’s healthy, active, head down and in a good position for labor. The only thing the sonogram technician recommended was that I need to drink a lot more fluids.

So this past week I have been more mindful of eating more and drinking lots of water. Today we went for my 39 week midwife appointment and things looked a lot better. My midwife said that I’m measuring bigger now and she could see some growth, and that my fluid levels seemed a lot better. Baby’s heartbeat was a strong 140 and is still very active.

My midwife says that I need to be drinking at least 70 oz of water a day and eating every 2 hours. Seems simple enough, but eating and drinking enough have been two of my biggest struggles throughout this pregnancy. I keep reminding myself it’s not for me, it’s for the baby and that helps. But it’s still hard.

This might be my very last pregnancy update post here on my blog. It’s a bittersweet feeling to know this pregnancy journey is coming to a close, but I am looking forward to finally holding my little Sunshine Babe in my arms after 10 long months of carrying him in my womb.

37 weeks, 6 days pregnant 

37 weeks, 6 days pregnant 

Sonogram pictures of my Sunshine Babe from our last ultrasound