23 August 2011

Getting Crafty

My sewing machine from the '60's
 A few weeks ago I decided to take a stab at making my own cloth wipes for the girls. We use so many and with another baby on the way, I thought I should probably start taking money-saving things like this more seriously. I referenced my sister-in-law's blog post and instructions and off we went to the fabric store. Borrowing my mom's surger, it took about an hour to surge 80 wipes. Done!

Even though it was so easy (I mean it was only 4 straight sides) it gave me enough of a boost to want to do more. I used to sew in middle and high school but the last thing I sewed was my graduation dress back in 2003. Now, I'm trying to be a frugal and practical stay-at-home momma and figured if I could get back into it, I could really save us some money.

Of course do I start with something easy? I'm not sure yet but I do know there are a lot of pieces and it's going to take some patience. Yet, my idea to make my own cloth pads for myself seems worth the effort. With a new baby on the way in 5 weeks, I know I'll be going through them. Granted I will use disposable for the 1st week or so, but my thought is that not only is it going to save me money since they last for years, but it's also healthier and, in reality, less disgusting going in the wash instead of a landfill where they will never decompose. Ew!

After buying the fabric a little at a time using coupons, I finally have all the flannel and PUL material cut out. I also had the idea of cutting and surging my old pre-fold cloth diapers to use as the inserts. Now all I have to do is get this old 1969 sewing machine up and running. This morning I cleaned it from top to bottom- a very unpleasant task as it was covered with mice droppings since it's sat in my parents garage/barn for about 5-10 years. That done, we're off to see if it works! I'll keep you posted on my rather big, at this point anyway, project!

16 August 2011

Creekside Meandor

Before my husband left for a week-long trip we wanted to spend some fun quality time with the girls. We, however, did not want to stay at home but also didn't want to spend money. It was such a beautiful sunny day so we decided to take a walk to the park to go wading in the creek. It was so much fun! The girls hopped (carefully) right in to the little creek and babbling brook and off we went "exploring". We followed little minnows, crawfish, tadpoles and other schools of fish. We also climbed and hopped rocks, although this was a bit tricky since they were slippery. It was such a relaxing afternoon. We all got pretty dirty as we all slipped several times into muddy puddles but it was so worth it. The smiles on their faces and shrieks of joy coming from them as they splashed and ran after the schools of fish was priceless.
This is how most of our summer has been spent- outside doing free family activites. We have enjoyed every single minute of our free-time together this summer! I hope you have taken advantage of the summer outside if weather has allowed for it!

14 August 2011

Baby-led weaning

One thing I was excited about the most when I first learned I was expecting Ruby Red was breastfeeding. I couldn't wait! I read all I could to put to rest any questions that might arise from problems breastfeeding. I was confident and it was going to work. Working in a daycare setting full-time, and in the infant room to boot, I saw many mothers start out breastfeeding only to end that relationship around 3 months. It saddened me and I was determined that was not going to be me.

Ruby Red latched on right away, within 10 minutes of being born, and I thought "this is pretty easy". Hours later I would take back those thoughts as she tried and tried to get a good latch and just couldn't. I didn't understand it. I had heard of babies screaming with the breast in the baby's mouth without the baby closing his mouth to latch on, but she was actually trying. So why was this so difficult?! I cried and became increasingly frustrated. This was supposed to be natural?! My mom was a great support as she had problems breastfeeding me in the beginning and had also coached many moms on how to breastfeed successfully as a neonatal and lactation nurse. She tried to put my mind at ease by telling me we'd get it. But that night I was desperate. I asked for a nurse who could help me- she was amazing and spent her entire night shift with Ruby Red and I until she pitifully latched on. When the pediatrician arrived the next day, we learned she was having trouble because she was tongue-tied. Great- the only thing I didn't research was whether to snip the frenuluum or not and how to help stretch it if I decided not to. After much thought I decided to leave it alone. I wanted to keep things as natural as I could and didn't want the pain of snipping the frenuluum to interfere with breastfeeding. We'd just have to work hard at getting this to work and I knew it would eventually stretch enough for her tongue to stick out to eat. I was right but it was a long process! By the time it became "natural" for us my let-downs took forever and were pitiful until she got going....which she barely ever did since she'd fall asleep from being exhausted trying. I began to drink Mother's Milk tea, take fenugreek and pump around the clock. This gave me enough milk to at least give her my breastmilk in a bottle. I was sad that I sometimes had to resort to the bottle, but she was getting the best nutrition and I had to do what was best for her. I was told she was "failure to thrive" by not only the pediatrician but also our homeopath, so I knew the bottle was sometimes necessary. (She wasn't gaining weight at all her 1st 3 months). She never ever nursed long enough to get the hind-milk containing the good fat she needed, so I would pump this into a bottle for her and she finally started gaining weight at 3 1/2 months. It would be a long and difficult journey. I spent many days topless and in the bathtub with her, but it wasn't because of a lack of bonding that she and I had a strained breastfeeding relationship. We made it 10 1/2 months before I decided to put her on raw milk and say we were done. I cried for 2 weeks straight and bottle-fed her in bedrooms at people's houses, embarrassed and not wanting anyone to know we were done. Thankfully I had a lot of affirmation from family who knew I wasn't a failure and had given it my all. Once on raw milk she became the content little baby I knew she could be and has been the healthiest, happiest, strongest little girl ever since.

It was different with Baby Blue. Much different! She latched on and wanted only momma from the start. The first time my husband and I tried leaving her with grandparents and a bottle at 4 months, we were called home during the previews of a movie because she refused the bottle and was screaming. She continued to refuse the bottle until she was 8 months, and even then it took quite a bit of convincing but it was okay and my husband and I simply brought her along on our dates. I hoped to nurse her until she was at least 18 months, just like I had hoped with Ruby Red. It seemed like this would defintely happen this time and I was thrilled. But one morning in late January she saw her sister and her two friends with sippy cups and before I could stop her she was sucking away at her sister's sippy with newfound happiness on her face. I panicked and took it away from her as quick as I could and goodness was she mad at me! No way was she going to like that sippy this early! But it was too late. Whenever she found one laying around (which was often as I was watching my girlfriends two little girls two days a week), she jumped on the opportunity to snatch one. Yet she still loved nursing and so I was "okay" with it, although I tried to discourage it as much as I could. Mid-February she suddenly refused to nurse altogether and I cried. I wanted another 7 months nursing her. I knew I was expecting another baby by this time but I wasn't planning on weaning her until 16 months. (The thought of tandem nursing overwhelmed me as I would have 3 kids 3 and under. I know it can be done but the thought stressed me out.) My sister-in-law helped me to see that I wasn't a failure and that this was, in fact, baby-led weaning; it was in her time, not mine. Within 3 weeks she was totally weaned and on raw milk. I tried a few times after that to nurse and she would suckle but I knew she wasn't getting anything. After awhile that became painful and so I was finally ready to let go.

I don't know what the future holds for this new little baby but I'm hoping that the 1st year will, at the very least, go as smoothly as Baby Blue's. It's important to keep in mind that every mother and every baby is different. I've seen mom's nurse for years and others who weren't as committed. I firmly believe that breastmilk is the absolute best and a necessity for babies, the length of time just differs greatly between families.

Oh yes, one more thing- anyone who would argue that the use of a binki discourages breastfeeding I find to be wrong. I'm sorry I'm putting it out there so bluntly but I do. I don't think babies should be given anything but momma for the 1st few months, until breastfeeding is established. However, we used pacifiers for both our girls  from 3-4 months on and only after they were fully done nursing and dozing off to sleep and in the car. I will argue with anyone who says this was why my girls weaned when they did. I know them- that was not the reason! They still woke up every couple of hours to breastfeed day and night and never wanted the binki if they could have mommy!

08 August 2011

The Big Birthday Debate

About a week ago my oldest turned 3! I cannot even believe it. We've come so far in 3 years and our lives have changed so much. We have been so incredibly blessed!

As the time to start planning a birthday party for Ruby Red approached, my husband and I hemmed and hawed about whether or not to invite great aunts and uncles and my husband's co-workers. It may seem odd to even consider co-workers, but with husbands that travel as often, sporadic, and last-minute as ours do, we have become second families to each other and celebrate our children's birthdays and even holidays like Thanksgiving together. I was worried about how big the party would be but my husband and I settled on inviting everyone. It's an honor and a blessing to have such loving family and friends who want to be a part of your little kiddos lives and since we won't be with this group of friends forever or in this area for too much longer, it just felt right. We've resolved that these people really love us and our children and are so excited when asked to come to their parties, so we will do just that. The girls parties will be significantly smaller as we move away from family so we're going to appreciate it right now.

The only problem my husband and I had with the big party was all the gifts. Sure I could, and did last year, put a note in the invitations saying "no gifts necessary" but I've realized that if they don't want to they won't bring a gift, and if they want to they will anyway. In fact, I resolved that this time if someone asked me what she wanted or liked I would give very forthright answers. I hate it when I ask someone what they're child is interested in and the parents acts all humble saying "Oh you don't need to get her/him anything...."  It drives me crazy! If I'm asking, I'm going to get the child something so please give me some direction. I don't find you modest. I find it down-right frustrating as I fumble through the kid's aisles wondering what the heck the child and parent will be ok with! I know I don't have to get "little Mary" something, but maybe I want to so please help me out unless you want to complain about the gift I did choose. (Obviousy this is a big pet-peeve of mine!)

As her party approached we were both a little anxious as we didn't know what to expect with presents. We surely didn't invite anybody for the gifts but knew they would be there, looming over both of us like a big rain-cloud. I also wasn't sure how Ruby Red would react to gifts. Many parents that I am friends with have told stories of how their kids were out of control with the "gimmies" on their birthdays and how embarrassing it was....I've also witnessed it and been appalled. But those same parents complain about the volume of toys in their house and I'm left wondering how many they really have. I've actually wanted a few more toys for Ruby Red, who has since become bored with all the baby toys her sister is in to playing with. However, I also wanted it clear to Ruby Red that it's not about the gifts but about the people who love her and want to share her special day with her. Never getting new toys unless it's her birthday or Christmas, I was worried she would be on "gift-overload".

Ruby Red was a true gem and set the tone very nicely. In fact, I was so impressed with her graciousness with every gift, many times running up to whoever gave her the latest gift to thank them and give them a hug. I here have to take a moment to thank her grandparents as well. I have seen that children who get gifts all year long from grandmas and grandpas tend to be more bratty than others. No really. It's like they think they're entitled to be spoiled. I don't blame the children but the parents who don't nip this in the bud. My parents and in-laws have given an occastional unexpected gift here and there, but it's always been something thoughtful and small and often needed like an outfit or pair of shoes. When she does receive gifts she truly appreciates them because she's not looking for them. For anyone who knows Ruby Red, her 1st "love language" may be quality time but her 2nd is gift giving. Two tiny orange tic tacs as a reward for a good day send her through the roof with joy and a popcicle at grandma's is amazing! (For the record, even though we have popcicles at home, they're more for when a visitor comes so they're still a big deal to her....) It's not about how big it is, it's the thought behind that little gift and I hope she's learning that. Her grandparents have certainly helped in that department and I thank them for setting their priorities for our children by not being excessive, but rather loving and selfless in ways that extend beyond all the "stuff" and help her focus herself on her true prize of getting to Heaven.

So, in summary, thank you to everyone who loves our girls so much. And thank you to Ruby Red. Mommy and daddy were both so proud of you. We hope you have a fun and lively 3rd year. I can't wait to see all the things you create, all the kisses you give the new baby, and all the time you spend playing with Baby Blue. You are a greater gift than we could have ever imagined!

Ruby Red thanking her Godmother

02 August 2011

Our Road to Having a Homebirth

People who know how crazy and fast my labor with Baby Blue was probably assume that the reason my husband and I are choosing a homebirth with this baby is that we don't want another baby born in the car.  Although this made our decision a clear and easy one, it is not the main reason.

Once I found out I was expecting our first child I looked into every option and was drawn to the idea of a homebirth. Unfortunately this was not received with support from people I worked with. As I began researching more I felt it was a safe option, but then I also knew several women who had homebirths previously and let's just say a few left me feeling less than confident in the saftey factor. In fact, I became down-right afraid of what labor and birth entailed because of their haunting stories of their homebirths, so my husband and I decided that a hospital birth was the best way for our first little one. The birth went as smoothly as can be expected in a hospital setting, as long as I stood firm- even kicking a nurse because she really needed to back off. In any event, I look back on that birth with great fondness and no regret. I remember her purple little body being laid on my chest and me thinking, "She is not my baby...she is ALL my husband....but she's so pretty and I love her". Thankfully I had the presence of mind to insist on breastfeeding right away and she seemed quite enthusiastic about the idea. They let me completely finish feeding her before I handed her to my husband and mother while I was stitched up. (Because she came so fast I had a 3rd, almost 4th degree tear... This was truly the worst part of it all.)  The nurses were actually great this first time around in the hospital- very supportive, left us alone, let my daughter room in and never separated us. I had the greatest nurse (she reminded me of an old spirited southern nanny) who helped Ruby Red latch on and helped us breastfeed successfully. My OB/GYN was amazing as well and very open to whatever I wanted. I was very lucky.

The second time around I knew I couldn't listen to anyone else's stories of their births, whether in the hospital or at home, and had to go with my "gut"- and that was telling me to go with a homebirth. Yet my husband was skeptical, offering that he'd be OK with the decision to birth at home but not entirely comfortable with the idea. But I needed him to be more than OK- I needed him on-board 100% and knew that he wasn't. I have also learned that he comes around in his own time and so I prayed for wisdom, clarity and open-mindedness on both our parts. It became apparent that he wasn't going to be comfortable with a homebirth and I willingly accepted that. More than anything I needed us to be on the same page and I knew I could hold my own in a hospital setting so the thought didn't worry me in the least. I was somewhat criticized for letting how my husband felt affect my decision, but I knew it was the right thing to do. I prayed that through this birth my husband would see that there was a better way, but I also prayed for the safety of the baby and myself. I didn't want either of us to suffer to prove anything. God truly took care of this as our little Baby Blue couldn't wait any longer and arrived en route to the hospital, completely healthy and kicking away on my chest. She was a champ from the start and I again insisted on breastfeeding her before any "checks" be done on either one of us and the hospital obliged. This time I had an obnoxious nurse about my age who treated me like I was stupid and bossed me around, telling me I wasn't doing things right by having her sleep in bed with me and that I was nursing her too much. After putting that nurse in her place and being assigned a new one, our stay was lovely and relaxing and I had a lot of time to bond with her before we brought her home to meet Ruby Red. It really was a blessing in disguise since our Ruby Red broke a fever of 104 degrees the night I went into labor with Baby Blue. She lay on the couch listless and so sick and both her grandmothers did more to take care of her and give her the snuggles she needed than I would have been able to. I ached to be with her yet I needed to be with my new baby. God knew what He was doing and it really did work out the way it was supposed to.

Immediately after the birth of Baby Blue I was less than willing to compromise the third time around and was pretty frank with my husband. He instantly agreed that we'd go for a homebirth this time and became informed so that he, too, would be confident in our decision. He has been nothing but supportive and fought for what I want on more than one occasion this pregnancy. It's amazing to see the transformation and when I suggest something that I think may be a point of stress for us to talk through, he has trusted me, researched and backed me on everything. We were originally hoping to go with an unassisted homebirth and he willingly said he'd give it a shot. After much prayer I'm the one who decided this wasn't right for now. My previous two births being so quick I had no time to control pushing to reduce tearing or change positions. I also went into shock both times and was pretty sick afterwards, as my body didn't have time to ease into labor...and then suddendly there was a person coming out of my body. My husband was a huge factor in my being OK after the birth of both girls, but I'm still apprehensive about the tearing. In talking to my midwife about how I wanted to have an unassisted birth she has been nothing but supportive and encouraging, reassuring us that she will stand back and basically let us still have that unassisted birth, while being there to make sure I'm OK after the baby is born. I feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds as eveyone who I want to support me is doing so.

I am more than excited about the birth of this baby. My husband has been the most incredible support with my other two births and I couldn't do this without him. I'd like to call him my amazing "doula" but he really wouldn't like that...  Yet he really does know how to keep me calm and focused, which is quite a task as my body goes from 0-1000 in minutes. It's similar to a sprint- most women experience going through a marathon where they can at least ease into it a little bit and process what's going on, but so far I have had time for neither. We have pictures of us, our sonogram picture and the Blessed Mother present during the birth and he reminds me to unite my pain to the Cross. It is a very unifying and holy experience and takes away most anxiety. It truly is beautiful for us and I cannot wait to experience it with him again....except for those last few minutes of course. But those are fleeting and behold the most precious gift of a new life that we have cooperated in bringing into this world.

I have no regrets with our decisions in the past. They have helped shaped us both into true advocates for homebirth and fighting for what a woman wants and deserves during birth. Those experiences also give me a deep respect for each woman who decides to do it in her own way. One way is NOT better or more beautiful than the other.  Each brings a little baby into the world and each shapes your character and hopefully brings you and your spouse closer together. True, one way is best for you and your spouse and I hope you follow your heart in your decision.