Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. --John Milton

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

For To Us

For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
Isaiah 9:6
Merry Christmas mamas! Rejoicing with you as we hold our babies close this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

To Slay Dragons

Giving birth is even more vulnerable than lovemaking I think, because it's even harder to hide anything. Contractions split my body and soul wide open.

Fear met me uninvited and took charge. I found myself naked in a storm midst the roar of thunder and stab of lightening.

Birth holds mystery, both the dark and the beautiful. I find fear and pain there. I find grace. I experience dying and receiving life. I catch heaven's scent. I'm flogged by menacing curse. And in and through and around it all throbs aching love.

Fear gave me a whipping. I was disappointed to lack the energy to delight over the treasure nested in my arms. I simply felt relief that it was over.

I decided I would adopt my next child.

And that is how the first of three brothers came to us four years ago. I'm still exploring the mystery of it.

It's vulnerable, I know. Yet would you share a little of your birth story here?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Welcome to morning's light (Welcome Baby PART 3)

His silky brown scalp wrinkles like a sandy beach with the effort of peeking into his first sunlit morning.

Ahem. All this flashing and fuss is disturbing my repose.

Our sweet baby peacefully tumbled into our arms very early Sunday morning. Like Jacob wrestling with God in the black of night, we are touched with humbling Grace as morning dawns.

Catch up on sweet baby's birth story here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mother Teresa

Here's an excerpt from her wonderful, real heart:
And for this I appeal in India and I appeal everywhere - "Let us bring the child back." The child is God's gift to the family. Each child is created in the special image and likeness of God for greater things - to love and to be loved. In this year of the family we must bring the child back to the center of our care and concern. This is the only way that our world can survive because our children are the only hope for the future. As older people are called to God, only their children can take their places. 
But what does God say to us? He says: "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of my hand." We are carved in the palm of His hand; that unborn child has been carved in the hand of God from conception and is called by God to love and to be loved, not only now in this life, but forever. God can never forget us. 
I will tell you something beautiful. We are fighting abortion by adoption - by care of the mother and adoption for her baby. We have saved thousands of lives. We have sent word to the clinics, to the hospitals and police stations: "Please don't destroy the child; we will take the child." So we always have someone tell the mothers in trouble: "Come, we will take care of you, we will get a home for your child." And we have a tremendous demand from couples who cannot have a child - but I never give a child to a couple who have done something not to have a child. Jesus said. "Anyone who receives a child in my name, receives me." By adopting a child, these couples receive Jesus but, by aborting a child, a couple refuses to receive Jesus. 
Please don't kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. I am willing to accept any child who would be aborted and to give that child to a married couple who will love the child and be loved by the child. ... [continue reading]
Is this inspiring, confusing, enriching? Why?

Friday, September 2, 2016

I saw God Face to Face (Welcome Baby PART 2)

Instinct nudged me out of the birth pool. I shuffled to the restroom. I sat down and that urge to push I had been dreading showed up unmistakably. I moaned in a bit of alarm. What do I do now! This wasn't the plan.

Then Whoa! I instinctively dropped to knees on the restroom floor. Am I going to deliver on the bathroom floor like to story I posted on my blog? I don't want to do that - it's dirty! The tub? Maybe. I don't want to move.

"Ahh! He's coming."

The Cowboy said there's hot water again. He could fill the bathtub. Okay.

"I'm scared. I'm scared," as I crawled into the tub.

Wait - what am I thinking. There's no time for a water birth. I realized I was scared of not having a water birth.

The water was comfortingly hot even if only four inches deep, continuing to fill. Then I was in control of myself again.

"This is not going to be a water birth. I don't want - it's too late. Turn off the water."

I told my unflappable husband, "You have to catch him."

Leaning on the somewhat slippery side, I thought I should have cleaned the tub again. Another wave was coming. I altered my team and leaned in but the pressure was disappointingly weak.

Then with a powerful contraction, I instinctively stood and propped one foot on the tub side. My doula held onto me.

Wise Woman asked my husband, "Is he there? Is he crowning?"

"Yes! He's there!" I stated. And to the Cowboy, "You've got to put your hands around his head to keep me from tearing. Harder!"

I draped over his shoulders. I felt the warrior. This is what I had been scared of - delivering out of the comfort of water. Yet here I was. And here he was!

"Jesus, please birth this baby. Jesus, please birth this baby," seemed the most natural thing to say.

The tremendous energy came and I welcomed, holding firmly without extra strain. I felt the tingling stretch. To my husband, "Help me not tear. Help me not tear."

Wise Woman: "Is his head out?"

Cowboy: "Just the top."

I felt the slick, glorious half moon of head.

Wise Woman: "Can you push a little?"

"No contraction. I'll wait."

I noted the burn and was content. This sensation I hadn't felt with the water births. I was experiencing something special, shared by many women.

Then a rush and quickly his head was out and with his head the water sack opened.

"Here we go, here we go. We can do this."

And one final love wave gushed him into the Cowboy's steady arms.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Bless Me! (Welcome Baby PART 1)

This is hard. I'll blog all glowy about it later, I think. Why do I blog - don't know what I'm talking about. It's some kind of coping. I'm nauseous and sleepy and scared of the imminent pushing part.

He came in the middle of the night. A wrestling. A blessing. An opening and marveling the unexpected.

My doula arrived as I tucked in the boys with a story. Contractions were sharp, working, yet easily managed (about fifteen minutes apart, but varying in both duration and spacing). Wise Woman and I walked up our hilly street a couple of times, visiting and enjoying the evening's diminishing of the day's heat.

After a shower, I sat on the exercise ball and enjoyed the Wise Woman's company. Contractions weren't picking up and I felt sleepy, so my doula went home and I tried to sleep.

I had little success. Instead, I felt each wave swell and carry me. The Cowboy heard my humming and asked if I'd like the birth pool filled.Yes! Yes, please. It was minutes until midnight. My body began shaking from the energy.

I retreated to the bathroom, where I called my doula back and relaxed by sitting. There in privacy I cried aloud with gratitude. Wrestling. Feeling. Answering fear. "Thank you, God. Thank  you, God. Thank you for bringing my baby." My husband would later chuckle at overhearing my self-coaching: "You can do it. You can do it. Just relax. Yes, you're doing fine." I was also saying this to Baby.

My patience expired and I ventured to see if I could get in the pool. Almost ready. And here came my doula. I got in the eight inches of barely warm water - better than nothing. The tea kettle and pots boiled diligently to add to it, as our hot water tank was already empty.

I leaned against the side and Wise Woman's knees. Soothing. Thought of surfing and held still through the thundering waves. Love is bringing Baby to me. Love is stronger than fear. A single rose graced the counter - a love-gift of hope.

The pool wall sagged almost spilling water. The Cowboy tried to blow it up more. I moved to lean on a different spot. I shifted to a flat squat, trying to engage the approaching wave rather than cringe. I thought, It's late. I want to go to bed. I'm not one to feel awake even with this excitement. I wish he'd wait til morning. And this pool doesn't feel right.

I agreed to Wise Woman's suggestion to try the restroom. I didn't know what to do. I'd had a straightforward plan - same song, second verse. This wasn't the same song.

[to be continued]

Monday, July 25, 2016

Focus on My Face (A Relaxing Tip)

In labor, I relax my pelvic muscles by relaxing my face. If the face is relaxed, pelvic muscles loosen. If the face is tense, pelvic muscles resist.

When pelvic muscles are fluid, contractions do what they're supposed to do - bring my beautiful baby to me. When I'm rigid, the rushes of energy work harder and less effectively.

Relaxed = minimized  pain, focused energy
Tense = increased pain, scattered energy

By relax, I don't mean nap on the couch. It's intense work - it's labor. Gritting my teeth and clenching my jaw only makes labor harder though. This is not a labor like straining to lift a heavy box. This is an effort of opening to an elemental force rushing through me.

A wave cascades, and I focus. Open my mouth to slack my jaw. Dip chin. Touch forehead to smooth creases. Eyes, cheeks ... relaxed.

The face is visible and touchable. It's more challenging to imagine the pelvic muscles. And just thinking "I should relax" probably won't work. I release tension from each specific part of my face.

Think and touch and maybe speak "I'm relaxing my jaw." Try it even before labor starts.

More about relaxing: Here's about positions and how to feel as comfortable as possible. And the science behind it and practical exercises

Monday, July 18, 2016

Snug as a Bug (ten months pregnant)

You feel robust - any day you could make a strong entrance.

You seem content, happy to linger in such a snug waterbed.

With my forty plus extra pounds it's evident to all that I've robbed the watermelon stand. You're probably coming up on 20 inches and weighing in at 7 pounds. Maybe. We'll find out soon.

NASA can't outshine your magnificent design for take off. Your head plates are hard for protection but separated for flexibility. The uterine muscles work with your body to line you up optimally.

You are in a word - Amazing.

More about 40 weeks? has the basics. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Surf the Waves (A Relaxing Tip)

I've never surfed, but I've ocean kayaked. Getting the kayak out took a few tries, as the waves flattened the Cowboy and me repeatedly. And those were just little ones breaking against the sand - what must it be like to feel the power of surfing-sized waves!

I suspect it's a little like giving birth.

I try not to think of a contraction as pain. A contraction is not like bumping your funny bone nerve or aching with appendicitis. I welcome a contraction as energy.

As early labor contractions gained strength, I put on a YouTube video of surfing. I imagined being the surfer - I'm atop a mounting wave, now it's curling over me; I'm riding through the tunnel one hand on the board, one hand skimming the wall of wave ... and I'm out.

I think: These waves of energy are bringing my baby boy to me; thank you God for the energy to birth my baby; this is too big for me to control; help me ride this wave.

Wisdom I've read says, "You can't control labor, but you can control yourself." In other words, trying to control the "pain" is as counterproductive as fearing the water. But working with the power coursing through my body is like balancing on a surf board.

A helpful way to practice anytime before hard labor but especially when braxton-hicks start working is breathing with the ocean. I watch or just listen to the ocean pressing and receding along the sand. I comfortably sit or lay on the floor, relaxing my entire body as I focus on my breath with the lull of ocean surf. I specifically open the pelvic floor.

When I don't know the first thing about surfing (or even getting a kayak out), I'm likely to experience pain. But is that why a surfer gets back on her board? Is she obsessed with pain? Does she meet the wave planning to be pummeled? Of course not! She wants to ride the energy. She's scared and she sometimes falls off her board, but she gets back on and waits anther wave. And then the thrill of water engulfing yet propelling her forward. Think about what the surfer focuses on.

I screamed. A lot. Until my third precious boy's head was almost crowned, I screamed in terror of the waves. I'm not naive here - labor is hard. It's fierce. I've been knocked down, knocked under like I was going to drown. I still hear my midwife's gentile voice, "Instead of screaming, close your mouth and let the energy push your baby down instead of it escaping." I closed my mouth. I distinctly felt his head moving down, and then he was crowning. I treasure my first experience with monstrous waves, but the flailing wore me out. Smelling salts were stuck under my nose when I fainted twice after delivery.

After my first beautiful birth, I thought I can never go through that again. Thankfully, memory faded enough to dull that determination. After both my second and third births, I thought that was amazing - I want to do that again! During my first labor, I experienced a deep terror. During this last labor, I said, "I'm scared. I'm scared," but underneath, I knew all was fine. I imagine experienced surfers still feel scared.

Don't give up, Mama. Do some research, practice relaxing - and get back on your surf board. If you're tempted to say, "I can't surf," know that God already programmed your body to give birth. The giving-birth-kind-of-surfing is about not resisting, but letting your body do what it was designed to do.

More info: Midwife Thinking is a good place for researched essays backed with experience. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

You are Strong Little One (nine months pregnant)

My feet are swollen tonight. I don't like swollen feet.

Last night you kicked and punched like karate kid. You are one strong little person. And I want to meet you. But I'm a bit nervous too.

I close my eyes and imagine you. I start with those kicking feet - minuscule toes with intricate prints, firm heal, chubbing legs. Oh the wonder of you!

I see your lipped mouth, open, close. I try to see your eyes, but it's hard to focus.

Soon. Soon little one. I will gaze in your beautiful eyes.

More precious 9 month baby info: From Baby2See and a glimpse into the marvelous growth of baby in the womb

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Peacefilled Surprise

I sniffled through this beautiful birth story today. I want to share it with you too.

Veronika shares this story of her unintended unassisted home birth… and what it was like to nurse her toddler during early labour. 
"My darling Penelope Green, this is the story of your birth… 
It was a hot day on July 19th, I was 41 weeks and four days pregnant with you. I had been having weeks of prodromal labor which made me feel like i was in labor all the time and made it very hard to figure out when exactly you would come! That morning we decided to do some grocery shopping and stock the house once again for your impending arrival, Just in case you decided to join us within the next few days. ...

Continue reading ... 

Friday, June 3, 2016

My Handsome Little Man (eight months pregnant)

You're getting heavier and so am I.

I like to sit just a bit longer and I feel just a bit less concerned about stacked dishes.

I watch you wiggle my sizable bump.

So what color is that hair? I remember brother surprising the Cowboy and I with dark red locks. Now without lanugo you're less "fuzzy peach" and more "pineapple" or something like that (please pardon the analogy - you are starting to make me look like I'm hiding a pineapple anyway).

I understand you do hiccups and exercise the diaphragm and squeeze lung fluids for breathing practice. Good for you Little Man. Your workout routine is impressive.

Well, wiggle away while you can. It's getting pretty cozy in there. Soon you'll be lining up the rocket for take off.

More beautiful baby info: Here's a well done YouTube video. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Just Want My Kids to Be Safe

Intriguing comments on Facebook and in person inspire me to continue this lively conversation about vaccinations.

When I think others in society are jeopardizing my safety, I tend to react passionately. Have you noticed this too? Living in society feels vulnerable, and I instinctively fear what my neighbor might do to my family.

I grab hold of a promise of safety.

It doesn't take a conspiring government for society to stomp on any suspicion that vaccines might not work. Why? Because it has to do with keeping my kids safe. It's understandable, but oddly this approach (of squelching suspicion) wears a scientist's lab coat.

One can make a rational argument for vaccine effectiveness to some extent (perhaps immunity for a few years or for certain strains of a disease). But then what happens? Rational argument turns to hysteria - "Vaccinate all children or we face epidemics."

It feels like one of Grug's stories from the Croods: "And died!" I feel like Guy: "Whoa! Twist ending. I did not see that coming!"

One rational argument I heard this week was from the public health site, "Formaldehyde is produced at higher rates by our own metabolic systems." If true, that's a helpful point. (Can someone give me a non-government source on this?) Then on the same page: "But if too many people don’t vaccinate themselves or their children, they contribute to a collective danger, opening up opportunities for viruses and bacteria to establish themselves and spread." Ahem. Do you hear the hysteria?

Careful research is lumped together with sweeping assumptions in a finale conclusion that vaccines are perfectly safe and effective. Open and shut case. Anyone who still has her hand raised should shut up and get those kids to the doctor.

I suspect that this so quickly becomes a passionate lecture as vaccines touch on that hot button of safety.

Hysteria can be a two way street. I emphasis the frenzy of the 100% safe and effective view because of what it guarantees. Safety. My kids won't ever get this nasty disease. And then the suspicious perspective promises the age-old human struggle with disease.

Understandably, "100% safe and effective" is much more popular. I think we want so badly for it to be true that we dismiss facts that cast suspicion on our feeling of security (example: artificial immunity wears off after maybe five years and adults aren't getting booster shots).

I'm curious. Like me, do you get excited by this discussion? It's hard to keep my thinking cap on coming from any perspective - I just want to know my kids are safe. And that's good. I'm a mom after all.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vaccinations: Did You Know?

Five years of books and footnoted articles, of vaccinating and not vaccinating have taught me one thing for sure: Vaccines are complex.

When I say "vaccine," am I talking about the shot's effectiveness. Or am I referring to the toxicity of the vaccine's components. Maybe I'm thinking of how it interacts with the immune system.

Complex? Extremely.

Did you know that a major sanitation reform movement swept Europe and America during the late 1800s and early 1900s? Vaccinations against whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, and polio arrived as each epidemic faded. Even the eradication of smallpox isn't clearly thanks to the World Health Organization. Did you know the disease increased with the advent of mandatory vaccination?

When I see a study, I recognize that it was done by people with assumptions, even biases. So I ask who did the study, what was its goal. I keep in mind that correlation is not causation. Even if someone can produce a study where the disease declined with the vaccine, have other factors such as sanitation been taken into account?

Additionally, it's not scientific to ignore anecdotal evidence. How is it helpful to dismiss a mom's report that one day her baby was fine and then the day after vaccines, the baby was not fine? Is it possible that all little bodies don't respond exactly the same to the recommended dosage? Why aren't we asking questions like this? What are we most afraid of?

Did you know that vaccines are composed with mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde? Wouldn't it be fair to parents if the nurse said, "With your consent, I will be injecting your newborn with mercury, but I think the benefit is worth it"? Instead what do parents hear, if anything? "There is no risk. Your baby might be a little fussy and have a slight fever."

So when I discover that I have put harsh toxins in my baby, my question is, why didn't the nurse or doctor tell me? The Informed Consent Doctrine requires practitioners to explain benefits and risks before administering anything. I understand putting something toxic into my child when I weigh that its help is worth the cost. What I don't appreciate is not being told what I'm risking for my child.

Did you know that vaccines alter the immune system? The immune system includes antibodies and white blood cells. Often what we refer to as "sickness" such as a fever is the body's healthy response to the real bad guys. The way vaccines mess with the system has implications, such as leaving "garbage" in the body that a natural response cleans out. Another implication is that the white blood cell arm of the system is not exercised, leaving children weak in facing future illness. Would it make sense then that a kiddo who gets the shot for pneumonia is more likely to have asthma?

Did you know that vaccine "herd immunity" is mostly myth? The finger of blame for outbreaks that occur including in children who have been fully vaccinated is pointed at unvaccinated children as causing these outbreaks. But think about it, we have all lived for at least thirty years with 50 percent or less of the population having vaccine protection because the immunity only lasts five to ten years (that's the medical community guessing). Natural immunity typically lasts a lifetime.

Does it begin to make sense why parents are hesitant to agree to something highly toxic that cripples the immune system for the possible benefit of five to ten years of immunity? Maybe vaccinations give us a feeling of safety. But maybe life is not that easy. There is no risk-free option here.

I am grateful for our family doctor who respects our responsibility as parents to care for our boys, even as he believes firmly in the effectiveness of vaccines without risk.

Let's not rely on simplistic accusations and assumptions. These tend to be fear-based, rather than researched-based. I champion mamas making thoughtful decisions for the well-being of their babies.

More info: The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan, MD. The Weston A. Price Foundation has researched information about vaccinations

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fear and My Natural Birth (Teresa's Story)

I believe Fear is a companion at every birth. The question perhaps is how will I answer her? I could try to ignore the rising panic or maybe be overwhelmed (done both!). But Fear is sure to show up. Even the helpful Birth Without Fear site is really about making choices in the midst of anxious thoughts. Teresa found that Fear caged her even after their baby girl nestled in her arms.

Early one chilly January morning I woke up pretty sure that I had the stomach flu. I texted my doula just in case this was labor and let my husband (who was still suffering from the flu) sleep. After about an hour I realized this wasn’t the flu, I was in labor. And even though I was twelve days over my technical due date I was still surprised at how fast things were going. I had planned for and prepared myself as best I could for a natural, un-medicated labor, but after an hour and a half I wanted relief in any form and despite our doctor telling us to wait, we headed to the hospital.

After a 10 minute drive in which I found myself frustrated by my husband obeying normal traffic laws, we arrived in triage to a nurse who very routinely asked why we were there. At this point I thought that was obvious, but a confirmation that I was fully dilated brought this whirlwind of a morning into a delivery room. And just like that, two hours after arriving at the hospital and only four and a half hours after I realized I was in active labor, our little girl was here.

On paper the birth of my daughter looked perfect, natural, un-medicated. Everyone I told marveled at how fast and seemingly easy it was. But I knew the real story. Later that night as I tried to get some sleep I found myself kept awake, shivering in a cold sweat, reliving that traumatic morning. Weren’t the feelings of unease surrounding childbirth supposed to disappear as quickly as my previously enormous belly? Why could I not shake the feeling I had earlier of being a caged animal, frantic to escape the pain and path before me?

I began to realize that the unease, stress, even trauma of birth does lessen and eventually dissipate. But as with my previously full baby belly, it takes time.

As I learn to put order to the fear that surrounded me I am reminded, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

I thank God for His care over me and my daughter. I thank God for His provision of a loving husband without whose hand holding mine I would have been lost. I thank God for His protection through my wonderful doula who wrapped me in her loving arms. I thank God for His skill through the hands of my doctors who gently encouraged, guided, and gave peace to me as my daughter was born. I thank God for his mercy in bringing my daughter through the waters of birth into this life and through the waters of baptism into the next.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Dancing Baby (seven months pregnant)

Wow. I feel you growing. There is a pull on my body for those nutrients you need.

I also feel you moving. Lots. I get to lay on my side in the dark and feel you dance.

Your brain is growing rapidly, head expanding to make room for lots of smartness - and with plumping arms and legs, you're about two and half pounds and fifteen inches.

And the One who touched the blind touches your eyes with color and movement.

You're developing into quite a wonderful little personality. And apparently, you like to dance.

More info: Learn about Baby's Growth and Mom's Changes