Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Birth Story of Frances Philomena

Could it be possible that you will be the last tiny one I will hold against my chest, the last one I will feel moving and shifting inside me?  I have realized this beginning with my second baby, Cecilia, and I know the possibility is there more and more, the older I get.  You are precious to us as a perfect gift from God, and I feel even more blessed as you are a “rainbow baby,” one who came following the loss of the fourth baby we had conceived, Mary Karol, and then many agonizing months of wondering when we’d even be able to conceive again.  That wait was for you, Frances Philomena, and as I sit typing this with you asleep on my chest, I marvel at your perfect round soft little head and your gentle breathing.  It has been a long time since I’ve had a newborn – over four a half years now.  I am relearning everything, yet it is all so familiar and natural to me after having been through this with three babies before. 

Your birth was to be a planned home birth, seeing as our third baby, Lucy, was accidentally born at home.  We had seen a homebirth midwife team for one initial appointment in late 2014 while pregnant with Mary Karol, and I had initially planned on using them for you.  However, two people I know mentioned another midwife, Ouida Sinclair, who lives closer to us and comes to pregnant moms’ homes for every prenatal appointment.  This was very appealing to me, as the other set of midwives, who have a great reputation, were an hour’s drive from our town.  So we set up an appointment to meet Ouida at our local coffee shop, Swift and Finch, once I was about ten weeks pregnant and we had already seen your precious little form with beating heart on ultrasound at about seven weeks.  You see, I had been under the care of a pro-life, NFP-only GYN in Atlanta after many months of inability to get pregnant again after the miscarriage.  Dr. Raviele had my hormone levels checked and, as I had suspected, my progesterone was low.  Low progesterone can not only interfere with the ability to conceive, but it can lead to first trimester miscarriages if you do get pregnant.  So I was on progesterone for the first twelve weeks of my pregnancy with you, and I am so thankful for the support it likely gave my body in helping to carry you through those crucial early weeks of pregnancy.  So after that ultrasound, I felt good about securing a homebirth midwife to care for us throughout the pregnancy up until the birth.

Ouida was very friendly, had been attending homebirths for 35 years, and actually charged $500-600 less than the midwives I would have had to drive to every month – she was everything we could have wanted in a midwife!  So we set our first appointment with her for a week later where we got to hear your little heartbeat come up immediately on the Doppler.  Ouida even came back less than a week later when I was concerned because I had a tiny bit of spotting and was worried about you – so she came back and found your heartbeat for me again, even though her next visit wasn’t supposed to be for three more weeks.  She also didn’t require any payment until I was 38 weeks pregnant!  I can’t say enough good things about her level of care throughout pregnancy.  She was great to have as our support throughout this pregnancy.

announcing our pregnancy at the start of the second trimester in December

My belly began to grow and I insisted on lots of profile photos… when you have lost a baby, you try to make the most of every chance to make a memory with future babies.  I began to feel your ever so slight movements around 12-13 weeks, and then began to feel definite movements around weeks 16-18.  We were so excited to see you and find out that you were a girl at our 20 week ultrasound.  Ouida, and pretty much all the homebirth midwives in North Georgia, uses an OB in Atlanta named Dr. Bootstaylor as her backup OB.  He can order bloodwork and do ultrasounds and anything else medical during the pregnancy and is very supportive of homebirth.  We all went to Atlanta - Ouida met us there too, something else that not every homebirth midwife will do! – and we saw you on ultrasound and learned that you looked just perfect, growing right on track.  The ultrasound tech said she was “over 90% positive” that you were a girl, and over the next few weeks I began to picture our family of all girls and how much beauty there would be in the gift of four sisters all together.  We went out to lunch afterwards at a nearby Jason’s Deli to celebrate!

I continued to see my belly grow and Ouida came for monthly appointments, and once I hit that 28 week mark and knew I was in the last trimester, I began to breathe easier that you would soon be here in a few short months.  Sometimes they dragged by and sometimes they seemed to fly, but your movements inside became even more precious and I cherished the feeling of leaning back on our new couch every evening and feeling you shift and kick.  You liked to have your rear end sticking out on my right side so that I was always slightly asymmetrical.  I could pat gently right there on my belly and I’d see a foot or a knee jut up on my left side.  Your heartbeat was always detected on my right side lower down after about 20 weeks.  You had your head down early on, as all my babies have done.  I loved carrying you, Phronsie, and I glowed with adoration whenever I looked down and saw my swelling belly.  I gladly accepted the backache that came with the loose joints and added weight of pregnancy, because it meant I was getting to grow another tiny human life inside me.  I look down at your sweet round head and soft skin now, almost a week after your birth, and I almost can’t believe that you were in there giving me all those sensations of movement.  I miss feeling you move inside of me now… however, I get to marvel at your movements against my skin now, where you will pretty much live until you become mobile, pressed up close against me nearly round the clock.  You have left the inside of my body to now be attached to the outside, continuing your gestation out here in the world as a helpless tiny one, dependent on me for everything.

Also during the final trimester, I began to drink red raspberry leaf tea… hot at first, then iced as the weather got hotter.  I loved it and hoped it was helping to tone my uterus as it supposedly does, helping with a quicker labor.  I continued focusing on lots of protein for strong membranes… cottage cheese with berries and cacao nibs was a favorite.  I craved orange juice from pretty early on in my pregnancy with you.

As I was in the final three weeks, knowing you could come any time was exciting.  My first three pregnancies had all gone to 40 weeks and Ouida believed this one likely would too, even as people would say, “Are you sure you’ll go to 40 weeks?  You’re really big now; can you get any bigger?”  I got into week 39 and our family attended an outdoor show of Midsummer Night’s Dream, in downtown Rome, where we sat on the grass on blankets, and I began to think I couldn’t go much longer because of how uncomfortable I was getting.  I continued through that last week with plans to stay very close to home.  I started to get a bit antsy halfway through that 39th week, seeing that pretty much everything on my to-do list was crossed off, and knowing that now I was simply waiting… waiting for you, waiting to meet you. 

full term at 37 weeks, and with my last pre-baby haircut!
at Midsummer Night's Dream at 39 weeks and feeling like a beached whale trying to get comfortable sitting on the ground!

Your due date was June 7, a Tuesday.  Ouida came for a prenatal appointment the Thursday before and checked me to find I was dilated to two centimeters.  She felt your position and remarked that you felt right about eight pounds to her.  She also said she’d be in town on Monday checking on another client and that she’d stop by and see how I was doing then.  On Saturday I went out around 10am to run errands, what I thought would likely be my last marathon errand trip for awhile!  I went to Aldi and bought frozen pizzas for “emergency meals” post partum to have something to throw in the oven for lunch quickly.  I actually have never spent as much as I did at Aldi that morning!  Frozen berries, bacon, I can’t even remember what else!  I also went to the local coffee shop first for one last “get a fun drink” trip for awhile and got a decaf java chip frap.  And I did the Krogering.  I felt very close to labor just walking around those stores, moving very slowly.  In the late afternoon we got ready to go to the 5:30 vigil Mass, and I sat through that feeling exhausted and very, very “full” – that’s the best I can describe it.  We went to Bella Roma for dinner after Mass… yes, I had eggplant parmesan to see if the old wives’ take would work!  Last family dinner out for awhile, and it was delicious and we had fun.  On Sunday morning I actually felt better and like labor was not so eminent as it had felt the day before.  We just had an overall lazy day at home.  We did take a long afternoon walk in the heat, me in my end-of-pregnancy maternity sun dress from Old Navy, the only thing that fits comfortably at that stage.  I was hoping some walking would encourage you to get ready to come, and I did have a few contractions while walking.  Lucy rode her scoot bike, and we walked out of our neighborhood across Billy Pyle Road, and all the way down the newer neighborhood road to the cul-de-sac and back. 

Saturday evening, one of the last baby bump pictures!

I woke up Monday at 5:00 AM thinking maybe early labor was beginning because I had a few contractions that felt slightly stronger than the ones I’d been having randomly over the previous weeks.  I didn’t wake Chris up, and they subsided somewhere between 6-7:00.  I slept a bit more and then got up, thinking maybe this would be the day and if I moved around some then they’d kick in again.

Over the morning I hardly had any contractions – maybe one every hour and a half.  I felt like I was just waiting all day, in limbo.  Around 11 am I had some “bloody show” but no increase in contractions.  I had put my mom on alert after the early morning contractions.  Ouida came over about 1pm, and I was surprised to see she had Teresa with her, who is her partner – they back each other up at births so there are two sets of hands and eyes to assist during labor and birth.  Teresa lives in Tennessee and will drive down here to attend Ouida’s births, and Ouida will drive up there to assist at Teresa’s births.  Teresa had come down on Sunday to be ready – which is great because I didn’t know how quickly things would pick up!  So I mentioned the bloody show to them but that I wasn’t feeling contractions with any regularity, but they got excited and said I’d likely be having the baby tonight or maybe the next morning.  I still couldn’t believe it myself, but they knew what they were talking about!  They checked baby’s heartbeat and Ouida mentioned I should take a nap if I could.  They said they would stick close by, even though at that point I felt like it wasn’t necessary… but I am very glad they didn’t leave Rome!  They went and walked around at a few stores in the area. 

At 4, I put on a movie for the kids and laid down.  At 4:30 I woke up partway, noticed I was having a contraction, and dozed off and on through three or four of them until 5.  When I got up, they continued.  Ouida had texted at 4:30 asking how things were going… she knew somehow; it’s amazing to me!  I told her I’d had several contractions over a half hour while trying to nap.  She said they’d be there in five minutes!  I texted Chris and told him it looked like contractions were picking up now, and was he about to leave work?  He said yes, as it was just after 5:00.  Talk about perfect timing for him to get in a full work day!  Ouida and Teresa arrived, bringing in all their supplies, and I finally realized maybe this was really it!  She checked me and I was a little disappointed to only be at 3 cm, but I soon realized that didn’t mean anything because of how rapidly my labor progressed.  I called my mom and she asked if she should leave right away or not, seeing as leaving Atlanta at 5:15 PM on a weekday means you’ll be sitting in rush hour standstill traffic heading north on I-75 out of town.  I told her I’d call her back shortly… Chris got home by 5:40 and things were continuing with frequent contractions that I had to pause slightly through but not yet requiring full concentration.  I called my mom back just a few minutes before 6 and said she should probably leave soon, and she said, “I’m in the car leaving the neighborhood right now.”  So all my support people were there or moving into place, and things started to pick up rapidly and get intense. 

I went to the bathroom and changed into my bathrobe.  Ouida and Teresa had the waterproof mattress cover and the old fitted sheet on the bed before I came back out.  After sitting on the exercise ball a few minutes and then standing and leaning on Chris through a few contractions, they’d gotten strong enough that I wanted to lie down and really be able to relax through them.  I resumed my favorite intense labor position, on my side with one arm behind me, and laid still and tried to release all tension as each contraction came.  Chris was kneeling by the bed near my head, and he was timing the contractions and writing them down… we said before they got intense that he really didn’t need to do that this time – the midwives were there, we didn’t need to decide when to leave to go anywhere… but I said I wanted a record just to see how they played out this time and because all my other births have a contraction log that Chris made!  So he kept track once they began getting more intense at 6:00 and continued for an hour until the point when they became too intense and he could focus better on me.  Ouida rubbed my feet with lotion through some of the contractions and Teresa rubbed my back and shoulders, commenting on how soft my bathrobe was and that she wanted one, and Ouida said she’d get her one, ha ha.  Chris was feeding me ice chips made of tea between contractions… I’d brewed a very strong batch of red raspberry leaf tea and frozen it in ice cube trays a few weeks before, and he went and crushed some up and spoon fed it to me from a bowl.  He also got crackers from my snack basket I’d prepared… Go Raw pizza flavor sprouted seed crackers.  I also had dried papaya spears (I found them at our natural foods store and am addicted!), mini peanut butter sandwich crackers (Horizon brand), and some cacao almond crunch stuff that I made a week prior (recipe found on Food Babe website; she calls it “candy” but it is not!).  Labor was so quick that all I ate was the pizza flavor sprouted crackers, but the others would come in handy afterward. 

the contraction log... there is just one more on the back, only about an hour's worth because she was born 45 minutes later!

At some point I thought maybe I was close to pushing – I had to be, I thought, because I knew I couldn’t take much more of the intensity and said so, recognizing transition this time… and having that sensation in my outer thighs, like I was splitting apart, and remembering that as coming soon before I had to push with Lucy.  I got on my hands and knees and realized after a few contractions that I wasn’t quite to pushing yet and decided to lay back flat into the bed, where I could better relax through these last powerful contractions that would get me to the end.  Ouida checked me again at this point and found I was dilated to 8 but had a cervical lip – this is where the edge of the cervix is over the baby’s head slightly, and sometimes it can delay labor, or sometimes it can move on its own pretty quickly.  So Ouida pulled it back through a couple contractions – which was horribly uncomfortable! – and then said it seemed to be stretching over your head at that point, so she left it alone after that and I was very soon ready to push.  I had gotten quite loud at this point, higher-pitched than I’d ever been in labor, Chris told me later.  I had wanted to push on hands and knees but also didn’t have the energy or motivation to get back onto hands and knees… it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to go from side-lying to hands and knees, especially when at that same point in a previous labor you have gotten up from a seated position, taken a couple steps, and gotten down on hands and knees… but at that moment it seemed a monumental task.  In retrospect I wish I’d made myself do it anyway because gravity would have helped me push easier.  Nonetheless, it only took five or so minutes of pushing to get you out.  I had that urge, that feeling of something heavy suddenly there, and gave my first push cautiously.  After that, the body starts to take over.  When they realized I was pushing on my side, Chris held my top leg up (and out of Ouida’s face, ha) and I could feel your head coming close to crowning.  I felt that burning sensation as you crowned and remember thinking I hadn’t felt it with Lucy because she’d come out in just two pushes with membranes still intact.  You entered more slowly, but still came out after about five minutes.  No tearing, and hardly any swelling or discomfort afterwards either.  For comparison, I’d pushed for an hour and a half with Caroline, breaking the water in the process, and for 15 minutes with Cecilia, with water already broken.  So Chris used one hand to hold my leg and another to put under you as you emerged, while Ouida guided you out with her hands.  As your head came out, they could see that the membrane was still over your head.  I remember hearing Teresa and Ouida comment right before you crowned that it felt like the membrane was still there and that they didn’t think the sack had broken.  Your body came out completely, and the membrane was tearing around your chin and you were making some gurgling sounds, so they decided to pull it off right away due to that… so I again missed seeing my baby still in the sack, just like with Lucy!  I did have a view of you right after that, and reached down to feel you, and I felt that the membrane was rolling down around your middle.  Ouida put you on my belly and I pulled you up on me.  You were crying loudly and nice and pink.  You didn’t want to nurse right away but were nice and active.  I got my sports bra that I’d been wearing off so you could nurse soon.  I’d thrown off my bathrobe at some point earlier, maybe when I had tried getting on my hands and knees.  You sounded a bit gurgly in the throat so Ouida suctioned your mouth once with a bulb syringe, and after that and I got you calmed down a bit, you began to look for the breast.  We left the cord intact and called the other kids in.

My mom had arrived about 7:40 and had come in and found the kids in the backyard (they had gone out there when I’d gotten loud at the end), so she stayed out there talking to them a few minutes and must’ve come back in the house right at or after 7:50, because she went back out and told the girls that she heard a baby crying!  So they came in to see her and they all felt the cord, which we had not yet cut but had stopped pulsing at that point.  Chris cut it a few minutes later and then Ouida felt that my uterus was still very high up, so they wanted me to try to push the placenta out.  I did, and they pushed on my belly on the outside to help get it out as they encouraged me to keep pushing.  I later realized that they were concerned with it still being up so high that it might have bleeding up behind that they wouldn’t see until it came out.  The uterus usually gets lower more quickly than that, apparently.  So I nursed to help it along and pushed it out and they examined it closely under the flashlight from Teresa’s cell phone.  In the ultrasound I’d had an extra little lobe visible on the placenta, but it appeared that it had fused together with the rest of the placenta.  Right after you were born and before the placenta was out, Chris helped me dig into my snacks a little more – I was hungry!  He opened the peanut butter crackers and between me, him, Ouida, and Teresa, we finished off the whole box quickly.  They were good! 

You nursed awhile and then Ouida put you on the scale – you were 8 lbs. 3 oz. and 21 inches long, and your head was 14 cm.  We took some family photos on the bed and Ouida got your footprints on a certificate with your full name, Frances Philomena Lewis, and your measurements on it.  I ate dinner, which had been prepared in my manic nesting cooking frenzy on Saturday – I’d put a dish of chicken tetrazzini in the fridge, intending it for dinner on Sunday and then deciding to switch it to Monday, as Chris was home Sunday to help prep another meal we’d planned for the week, not knowing which day labor would hit!  He had put the tetrazzini in the oven after getting home so my mom and the kids would have dinner all ready for them – that truly worked out perfectly.  And it was a big enough dish that the midwives could eat some too, so everyone was fed!  After the hard work of labor, it tasted so warm and wonderful to me!

first family photo with all six of us

getting weighed and measured

After a bit, I got up to go to the bathtub.  When they’d arrived, Ouida had asked if I wanted to start steeping my postpartum bath herbs so I could soak in the bath afterwards, and I wasn’t sure if I would want to bathe right away or not… but after the birth, I thought that sounded nice, so Chris got the herbs steeping and the tub filled.  I soaked in the tub with you nursing on my chest for awhile, then my mom and Chris took you and dried you off and Ouida pulled out a onesie to put on you.  My mom held you awhile and Ouida helped me out of the tub and to dry off… then it was back into the comfy bathrobe and into bed to rest and nurse more.  The midwives had cleaned up everything while I was in the bath, towels and the sheet had been thrown in the wash and the bed was remade, and everything was nice and comfy.  Ouida asked Chris to lead a prayer of Thanksgiving for your birth before they left and said she’d be back within 24 hours to check on us.

bath bliss!
with Gramma
nursing in the tub

You were here at last, four hours before your due date!  I’ve been swelling with love for you over the past week and falling totally in love with your perfect round head and soft hair and precious sweet skin!  We love you, Phronsie, so very much!!

Ouida with Phronsie a week after the birth.... we forgot to get any photos with her at the birth!
Ouida and me

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Getting Ready for Baby! (an update, at last)

I have not written anything here in many months.  To my two faithful readers, I apologize, ha ha.

The big news is that we are finally pregnant again - 23 weeks pregnant now!  We found out on the second morning of our trip to Austin that I shared photos of in the last post.  It couldn't have been more perfect - a very rare husband/wife trip away (first one ever since kids) and finding out that we'd actually brought one along with us!  That was beautiful to me.  This baby is looking great, everything measuring normally, feeling lots of kicks and movements, and she looked great on the ultrasound we had two weeks ago.  That's right, she - of course, what else did I expect?  ;)  Good thing I don't have to change my blog name or buy any baby clothes, ha.

But I am definitely planning for and joyfully anticipating this baby, and I thought I'd write down my plans here, because I need to write them somewhere anyway!

The topics:
Nesting (aka cleaning the house)
Things I Need (aka minimalism with a baby)
Getting Ready (aka freezer meals and prep for postpartum, birth supply list)
The Birth Plans (at home, like, intentionally this time)
Hopes for the Babymoon
Consciously Embracing and Enjoying (in case this is my last baby; I will turn 37 this summer, ack!)

First off, I want to say this: pregnancy following a loss is very challenging emotionally.  Lost is the innocence of pregnancy before a loss, where everything is guaranteed to turn out fine.  You know now that things don't always turn out fine, that babies die, and so you worry more.  Every milestone seems like a huge accomplishment: heartbeat on ultrasound at 7 weeks, heartbeat with doppler at 12 weeks, moving into that second trimester measuring normally at 14 weeks, beginning to feel movements, 20 week anatomy ultrasound, first kick felt exteriorly by husband... age of viability coming up soon for us now.  The truth is, loss makes you realize that while each milestone is an accomplishment that improves the odds, there is no guarantee until you have that baby in your arms.  Even then, there's no guarantee... you could lose them still in a week or a decade or once they are adults.  A loss causes you to think things through more deeply like this, to consider thoughts you'd never had before.

Sometimes you feel a twinge or ache and think, "Good or bad?  Normal pregnancy growth feelings, or something is horribly wrong?"  This was worst before about 14 weeks for me, but it still never fully leaves, apparently, until the baby is born safely.  Losing a baby I never met, then experiencing what I define as being borderline infertility for ten agonizing months, and now going through this next pregnancy with hopes for the best as fears linger in the back of my mind and heart... It is all worth it for the chance at having a new member of the family join in to experience life on earth with the rest of us.  But it sure isn't a simple walk in the park!

Going past my lost baby's due date and not being pregnant again yet was awful.  Not even knowing if she was actually a girl, wondering if we chose the right name, is a mind game that doesn't go away.  How can you be 100% sure of a feeling, a dream, when you never met and held and saw that tiny person?  You can't; I don't care how good you think your intuition may be, you just don't know for sure.  Knowing a gender for sure might make grieving more... tangible?  Not easier, but less like a bad nightmare and more like tragic reality.  Then the unexpected difficulty of passing the dates of finding out she had died and the actual miscarriage date... while pregnant again, and thankfully at the start of the second trimester, when we do have more hope that a pregnancy will continue with a good outcome... but wow, I expected it to be sad, but it was worse than I'd expected.  I had been generally happy and thankful and relieved to finally be pregnant again, as I had been starting to fear that it was not really going to happen again.  But when those dates came... those dates marking when I lost my baby that I never held or saw, dates that I felt the emotions and nobody really even knew because nobody remembered that as a significant date - or if remembered, my lost baby was not acknowledged or memorialized in any way to me in mid-December, one year later... which dragged my emotions into a bad place of, "Did she really even exist?  If she's barely tangible to me, then of course she's not to other people; get real, you expected somebody to send a card or mention her name or something?"  I understand it is different for a person who was seen, touched, known even if briefly... my baby was none of those, and if I cannot remember her tangibly, then I cannot hope that others will acknowledge her... if she was a her.  See what I mean?  It was a traumatic ER experience, losing my fourth baby, and maybe it was like a mild PTSD.  And again, nobody expects a "thinking of you on the anniversary of your emergency hospitalization" card... so really why was I expecting, hoping for some kind of acknowledgement?  I wasn't going to announce the anniversary date to people; I only mentioned to a few others who I knew would understand that it was the date of the loss... other people who have lost, too.  I am glad to say that it was only about a week that I was dragged down into that sadness, and now I know that I might go through it again next December, and if so, it will not last.  And I will have a new baby in my arms and consuming my time and emotions then, thankfully.  God is so good - I didn't have to go through that anniversary with an empty womb.  I have also had to tell myself that I don't need to expect anyone else to validate my lost baby to me - she is remembered and loved by me on that date, and nothing else matters.  The quote "a person's a a person no matter how small" comes to mind here.  She was so small that nobody ever saw her, yet I can still choose to remember and acknowledge her life myself.

Something I have learned in this is that I want to acknowledge other miscarried babies to their mothers... I know moms who have lost babies to miscarriage before, but have not known one to go through it while I was a close friend or family member.  Maybe I won't have to, but if somebody close to me goes through a miscarriage in the future, I will take my own experience and think about what helped me in the immediate days - like the people who watched our other children for us, those who sent cards or other small gift remembrances... but also, I am going to try to remember the date of the loss.  Maybe the following year that mother can feel a little better when somebody mentions her baby to her and that he or she is being thought of on that anniversary, or to receive a card acknowledging the day in a "thinking of you" kind of way.  These kind of tangible items are very meaningful to those of us who lost babies of whom we don't even have a photo, a piece of clothing they wore, maybe not even a final resting place - or an unknown on whether we actually buried our child's remains or not.  The tangibles are not what is truly important because we can't take them with us... but in the imperfect presence of life on earth, they can help to soothe the sadness.  If the awful thought can be alleviated in a mother's mind of, "am I the only one today who is remembering what happened on this date?" then that is huge.  Even if it is just a text, a passing verbal comment, a little brief note... something I plan to do for any of my close friends or family if they have to go through a miscarriage at some point and I am aware of the date, even the month during which it happened.

So, trying to focus on this fifth baby and all the love and hopes I have for her, for preparing the home and family for her birth... what are some of my plans?  What do I need to get moving on and have done between now and June?  Looking forward with excitement to this has been another healing part of this journey, and it is one I am anticipating with lots of joy!


I am already having the urge to clean everything lately.  My key areas:

* Kitchen cabinets: I already got rid of most of my plastic food storage containers, replaced with glass Pyrex containers with lids that I got for Christmas!  I really want to go through all the plastic cups and water bottles that we seem to accrue somehow and purge most of them.  More glass and real dishes, and the junky stuff will get tossed.

* Hall closet: I have four bins in there that can probably be partially purged or at least moved to the attic.  I mean, do I really need to be able to get to my high school yearbooks easily?  Or my childhood Snoopy collection?  If I can get those bins out of there, I will have room for more bins for the girls' shoes: we now own every single size imaginable, as Caroline's feet are equivalent to a woman's size 7...  Did you know girls' 5 is the same as women's 7?  I just learned this.  Maybe I can also use the space for the next season's clothes bins.  The weather changes gradually here, where you need shorts for a couple weeks and then back to jeans and long sleeves, so this would be helpful.  My kids have too many clothes for each season, and as such, I can't just stuff both seasons into their drawers and closets.  And I don't have the time/energy to sort through all the bins and decide what to get rid of; usually I will just pull out what I consider to be a non-overwhelming number of items each season and the rest get put back in the attic.  I don't mind excess clutter that is out of sight, it is just the process of trying to sort through it all.  Cecilia has had, I kid you not, 30-40 shirts in each of the last few season's bins.  I do not know how this happens.  I only pull out maybe 15 of the nicest shirts, after a few seasons of overwhelmedness with so many shirts she couldn't close her drawers.

* Craft closet: Oh, who am I kidding; that's just not gonna happen.  It all stays hidden in there anyway.  If I needed more space for craft stuff, I would need to purge it... but as my girls get older, they will like the access to scrapbook supplies and everything else in there.

* Dining room: We are getting our chairs!!  Five custom-made oak chairs and a bench to go with our half antique/half custom made oak table.  We decided to go ahead and use some Christmas gift money to buy oak instead of pine - it costs a lot more but is a much harder, sturdier wood that will match the table and stand the test of time.  We'll be able to seat at least nine people at our table this way, 11-12 by pulling up a couple more chairs.  I love squeezing everybody in at a big table at family gatherings.  This is the most we will probably ever spend on furniture, ha ha.  I love our assortment of hand me down/gifted furniture.  My mom recently mentioned that her old coffee table that we have in our den is from Ethan Allen.  Good job, I told her - now I'm never getting rid of that thing!!  I don't care if the finish is rubbed off the edges; it is super sturdy and smooth, and what's a coffee table when there are better things to spend money on?  It is functional and well-made.

* Speaking of furniture, we got a huge new couch, which has been on the list of home improvements for awhile.  It is a sectional, but not the redneck kind with built-in cupholders and made of fake leather.  It is high and deep, which I love.  And it cost less than the chairs and benches will, yet it was the firmest one we sat on when looking in at least five different stores.  Now all we need is a taller floor lamp, since our old one looks pitiful trying to peek over the higher back of this couch!

* Toys: Time to go through them yet again and decide what to give away.  Obviously it is not that I have toys they have outgrown, because there are more little girls coming along to move into the right stages for all the toys we have... it's just too much.  Like my plastic cup cabinet in the kitchen, ha.  Caroline just got a closet shelf organizer installed - she and Chris put it in together.  So that will help them keep their Calico Critter and dollhouse things organized, plus make more room for her hanging clothes and the hanging clothes that are between Cecilia and Lucy's current sizes.  I already keep at least half or more of the toys in a latched cabinet and let them switch out occasionally.  But once that cabinet is full... I'm not going to find another space.  The cabinet is at full capacity and I have still not quite evaluated whether all the Christmas gifts have made it into there yet, if they are not some of the current toys out in rotation.  The board game shelves are completely full; I should probably purge those and see which ones we have somehow yet never play (first on my list to go would be Trivial Pursuit; I'm awful at that, ha!).  But really, do we need real Monopoly and The Simpsons Monopoly?  Do we need multiple memory matching games?  Do we need a dedicated set of "Old Maid" cards, or can we just be normal people who use the regular deck of cards to play Old Maid?  There are some fun strategy type games that I know we will like having as the girls get older, and so I want us to only keep the ones we really want and enjoy.  The craft kit and art supply shelf is also packed full right now.  Hoping for a rainy day soon where maybe some of those will get enjoyed and moved out.  The books... I did a purge/reorganize of adult books and school books when we moved our schoolroom last summer.  The kid books: Caroline has a huge bookshelf full of her chapter books.  She reads a LOT, so this is good, but there is only so much room.  So we took a little shelf out of her closet and moved it into the little girls' room to start moving some of the shorter chapter books onto for Cecilia.  The picture book shelf in their room: full.  So that is one I need to go through and cull.  I am a book snob, trying to keep only quality literature around - because why keep the really lame stuff when there is not room?  It is part of my homeschool philosophy; surround them with quality literature as a natural way to instruct them in language arts.  So bye bye, Hippo Lemonade; I don't think I can stand reading you one more time, even though you were mine in my childhood.  I will, however, keep Moose, Goose, and Little Nobody, because really, some lame books are just beyond any others, in a class by themselves.  But these are a major exception and not the rule - as primary educator to these children, I make very considered choices on the books we own and keep.  And part of that brings me to the next item...

* School stuff: We have lots of book and paper material in our house that normal people don't have.  Most people don't have books and materials for grades K-5 on shelves and in bins and file cabinet drawers in their homes.  This takes up space, and is another reason why I can't keep lame children's books or grown-up books that are never referenced or read.  To try to explain to people why I get overwhelmed easily when extra stuff is brought into my home, I mention that most people aren't going to keep in their homes every book and material they needed from their school classrooms from grades K-12.  But I have to save the 5th grade materials for when the younger kids get there.  Lots of books, as we do a pretty literature-based way of learning.  So... I need to plan 6th grade for Caroline, obtain the needed books, and then gather up the old 3rd grade materials for Cecilia, so I will be ready for August.  And move out anything we don't need or use.

I am sure there is more stuff to clean and organize... and I may not get to it all.  I still have a school year to finish up here and would like to make a dent in planning for next school year before the baby is born!

~Things I Need~

Not much that I need for this baby!  I have plenty of baby girl clothes in all sizes and seasons at this point.  A few items...

* a new sling.  My Maya Wrap sling has been through three babies/toddlers and was used when I bought it, and the fabric is getting slick where the rings are.  This makes it harder to adjust and keep it tight.  I always loved padded ring slings with babies under six months, but that would be hot in the summer, plus they seem to have gone out of fashion and are hard to find.  I loved the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder brand, but I don't think they make those any more, unfortunately.  A friend recommended the Lenny Lamb slings.  They have lots of pretty fabrics, like this one and this one.  They also have soft structured carriers, maybe one of those down the road when baby is bigger, because my Ergo has a loose buckle, and it has never fit me very comfortably on my narrow shoulders... I will need to do some major research first on which type of carrier has straps that are accommodating to narrow shoulders.

* I'm considering a new rocking chair/glider.  The one we have has very thin padding on the arms, making it painful to lean against while nursing a bigger baby or toddler to sleep.  I can probably hold off on this; I spend the most time in the glider once the baby is 6-9 months and older.  I am gathering info on which ones are most comfortable and would have to decide between a more traditional glider like I have already, or a chair with no exposed wood, like this one or this one.  Ouch on the cost of that first one especially; the second one might be more comfortable to slouch over to the side in with the wings for head support!

* Evaluate diaper supplies.  We use mostly cotton prefolds, and the newborn ones are probably still in excellent condition.  The covers will need to be looked over, and the size after newborn probably needs some help, as I think my kids tend to stay in those until they are out of diapers; they never get big enough to need the toddler-size prefolds before they are three.  So we've never bought any of those.  The Bummis covers we like did start to leak on Lucy and we had to get some more; those will need to be looked over.  Probably some additional prefolds, covers, and maybe a few pocket diapers will be helpful.  I have been out of the cloth diaper market for awhile; some people are obsessed with buying them and there are tons of brands and patterns.  I like to stay pretty cheap with the diapers, so prefolds and basic covers work well, with the occasional pocket diaper or fun cover thrown in here and there.  I also love the Aristocrats wool covers for overnight, or as Chris has affectionately nicknamed them, bum sweaters.  I have a few of them and will have to make sure they are still in good shape - it has been so long since I've been changing diapers now!

Baby needs nothing else bought, except a car seat.  Again, so many new ones out there now that I will have to do some research.  I am also looking into a new "chew-raffe."  We somehow lost Lucy's; it probably fell out of the car somewhere since we took it everywhere.  I contacted the Etsy shop owner to ask if they still have that same fabric that our old one was made from, and they do!!!  So I can get this baby the same one.

~Getting Ready~

This might just be the most fun thing to plan... what will I need to prepare for the birth and the early postpartum weeks?  These are things I will need to get ready in the month or two before the birth.

First up, freezer meals.  I plan to make some double meals in the last couple months so we can freeze one and eat the other.  Some that freeze well are chili, chicken soups/stews, lasagna... I will also hopefully make some batches of chicken stock and beef stock to freeze in two cup portions to be pulled out as needed.  I'm thinking nourishing here, so the homemade stocks are the way to go.  I'm also thinking of what other foods might be best to have on hand and to ask my husband and my mommy to make for us in the early weeks!  It will be June and warmish to hot (because this is the South; you never know for sure in early June if it will be comfortable warm or stifling warm).  

Here are the foods I want for labor/immediately after:
* orange juice - good to replenish the blood sugar really quickly after delivery
Raw Cacao Candy Crunch (it is not candy; the Food Babe must've been delusional when she named it)
* During Lucy's labor I was eating some peanut butter crackers right up until maybe a half hour before she was born... those were easy to eat between contractions, so I may do that again.  Nothing worse that laboring for hours without eating anything!
* I am hooked on these dried papaya spears I have bought at our local health food store.  Those will also be easy to eat during labor.
* I'd like to have some good postpartum herbal teas ready to brew and drink.  Although iced tea might be more palatable in the heat, warming foods are good for postpartum women in those early weeks.  But I can have teas on hand to have either hot or cold.  This postpartum tea sounds good, and I'm pretty sure all these herbs are in the bulk section of my natural foods store.  This tea is more involved with more herbs in it, but may be another good option.  Red Raspberry leaf and nettle seem to be a popular ingredient in both pregnancy and postpartum teas.  It is good for toning the uterus.  Some sources say to wait until closer to the third trimester to drink raspberry leaf tea; my midwife agrees and says in the third trimester 2-3 cups a day is fine.
* Lactation cookies: not because they really work, but because they are yummy, ha ha.  There is anecdotal evidence that oats, flaxseed, and brewer's yeast help with lactation, but I don't think women have to eat certain things to produce milk.  Can't hurt to have them and they taste good, though, so I may make some dough up ahead of time and freeze into balls to pull out and bake easily.
* Something to consider: placenta encapsulation.  Going to ask the midwife about this as she knows people who will do it for you.  If you don't already know what that is, then you probably don't want to find out, either!

What else to prepare?  Well, I get to shop for birth supplies, and I am so excited about that!  Didn't think it could be fun to shop for postpartum mommy hygiene products and that sort of thing?  Well, maybe I am weird then, but I had a great time perusing this website the other day... since we are planning a home birth, I will need to buy some supplies for the birth and postpartum that the hospital would typically have there as part of my delivery fee.  Midwives typically tell you specifically what birth supplies they want you to have on hand before labor begins.  Some of the necessities will be:

* waterproof mattress cover (if you plan to give birth in your bed - which I do - as soon as labor begins or even beforehand to be ready, you have somebody put a set of sheets on the bed, cover them with a waterproof cover, and then another set of sheets.  This makes cleanup simple after the birth - strip off the top sheets and the waterproof cover, and you are ready to climb into bed on fresh sheets with your newborn!
* towels
* postpartum hygiene supplies for me - I'll spare you the details, but I hear that Depends are much better than those hug pads they send home with you from the hospital, ha!
* Peri bottle... and maybe some nice soothing herbs to soak in the water first.  There are also lots of postpartum herbs on the In His Hands site both for steeping for tea and steeping in a warm bath to be soothing in the days after birth.  Those might be nice!
* Speaking of herbs that are soothing, I made several of these herb-stuffed pads when Lucy was about to be born... and I only used a few with her as I had no tearing and minimal discomfort.  I realized I still have the rest of them in a ziplock under the bathroom sink... you soak them in boiling water and then use them on top of a regular pad.  I wish i could remember where I found the recipe... I have no idea what herbs are in them!  I made them by stitching together unbleached coffee filters with he herbs in between.
* nursing bras: I could use a few new ones that aren't all stretched out.  The Walmart and Target ones only last so long.  I really liked the one Bravado bra I had; maybe I will get one more of those.  It was very comfy and supportive and lasted through the entire time Cecilia nursed (3.5 years) before it got really pitiful.
* My midwife will let me know if we need to have supplies like chux pads, etc.  Some midwives will have the clamp for the umbilical cord; others will include it in the supply kit that you order.

~The Birth Plan~

It's pretty simple, I suppose.  The basic plan is to call the midwife, and she and her assistant come over.  They support me through labor and birth while Chris and I do most of the work ourselves.  Chris will be the one supporting me and helping to actually deliver the baby; the two of us can actually catch the baby ourselves with the midwives just there in case of problems.  We did it once before ourselves, so we know what we're doing, ha ha - but having trained professionals there as a "just in case" is the smart way to go here.  Being at home, as I have been through the majority of all my past labors, I can walk around, shower or soak in the bath, eat and drink when I feel like it, lay on my bed or the floor, etc.  I have a big exercise ball we can blow up for me to sit on if I want, helping with opening up the pelvis.

When the baby is born, she will go to my chest and stay there - no bath.  We will cut the cord after several minutes, maybe even after the placenta is delivered.  The baby will be weighed at some point, then put back skin to skin with me.  It will be warmish, being June, but I will cover her with a hooded baby robe so that she stays warm on her back while having it open in the front for more skin to skin contact.  And I plan for us to stay that way for a good long while!  I'll eventually put a diaper on her at some point.  Those postpartum uterine contractions as the baby nurses and signals the mother's uterus to contract back to its normal size... those get more and more intense with every birth.  They are doing their job well!!  Those alone are reason enough to stay in bed for a good long while!

I will have some snacks and easy to grab foods on hand for the midwives... in case labor is long, or they are there right at a meal time.  I plan to ask them first what kinds of things they'd like me to have there.  I also have to consider that labor could be in the middle of the day as opposed to the night (one can only hope - Lucy's daytime labor and birth was so much easier than Caroline's 11 pm birth and Cecilia's middle of the night wakeup call/rush to the hospital!)... if so, the kids will be awake and I will call my mom to come up to hang out with them... probably taking them outside to play or on a walk or to the park for the actual birth part, but keeping them nearby so they can meet their sister pretty soon after she's born.  If it is the middle of the night, we will probably just let them sleep and not worry about it! My mom ca come here and sleep in case they need her, ha.  The midwife likes there to be somebody assigned to the care of the other children, somebody who is not helping with the birth.  My second labor was only 3 hours (maybe less?), my third one was 6 hours.  Unless it appears that there is any trouble, then I assume this one will not be too long either.

I would really like to hire a birth photographer for this time.  Maybe that sounds weird, or frivolous, but I have a few reasons.  Lucy's birth has no photos associated with it.  Not one was taken until maybe 45 minutes or more later in the hospital.  And she was born in the caul - how cool would that have been to have captured in a photograph!  So, I kinda want to make up for the lack of photos from my last birth... and if super lucky, get to have another in an intact bag of waters, maybe?  Don't know how likely it is that this will happen in subsequent births.  Second reason is because I have no photos of my fourth child.  Having that loss makes me want to celebrate this baby even more, to be able to treasure this time, and photos as a way to remember will be a good thing to have.  And what if this is my last baby?  Might be my last chance for birth photos.  These photographers do this very tastefully, I might add... while they capture the actual birth, it is of the baby and not like a legs spread wide kind of angle.  They are good at shooting in low lighting with no flash, and at capturing the emotion and beauty of the scene rather than any gory details.  I have seen the work of one who lives in the NW GA area, and she also would do a maternity photo shoot at  Berry, which I would love.  Again, maybe it is a frivolous use of money, but it is about treasuring this baby and the process that I didn't get to have with the last baby and that I only get to have a few times in my life, that each baby will only go through once.

Chris will take at least three or four days off work after the birth, and we will just bond as a family, with me resting and caring for the baby and him taking care of the other kids' needs.  Then once he goes back to work I will want family and friends to help!  My mom and mother in law both typically come and stay in the few weeks after the birth; their support is crucial and so appreciated so I can continue to recover, nurture the baby and start off with a healthy milk supply, while the other kids are cared for and meals are made for all.  I am excited that this baby is due when my mom is off from work during the summer - she's a preschool director - so maybe she can stay for a whole week or more.  My only problem... I don't have a guest bed, and I know that does not help with encouraging people to stay and help very long. :/  The kids giving up their beds won't even help - Lucy's is on box springs on the floor under a low loft, Cecilia's is in the low loft that probably isn't even rated for adult weights, and Caroline's is a loft that is six feet off the floor.  Not the easiest beds for grandparents to sleep in.  Otherwise, we have an air mattress.  Maybe I should think creatively about sleeping accommodations in the next few months...

That brings us to...

~My Hopes for the Babymoon~

This is the part where I always say, "With this baby, I'm going to stay in bed at least a week..." and then it never happens. :(  Modern society says get back into things, "back to normal," as soon as you can.  Many women overdo this and don't give their body enough time to heal and recover from the marathon they have just been through.  I did better this last time with Lucy, but I still didn't quite stay in bed very much.  Many cultures traditionally have the mother stay in bed for a month, her only responsibility to care for the newborn, while other women would do the cooking and caring for the house, and make sure the mother is fed.

I will, realistically, have to leave the house for a pediatrician checkup within the first week.  Luckily, my midwife comes back to check on me at home, first in the next day or two after the birth and then again at about six weeks.  I will also of course plan to baptize the baby pretty soon after birth, by 2-3 weeks ideally.  So that will be a trip to the church, but we can be flexible and not tied down to a specific date and time, since my brother will be doing the baptism!  One month before, he'll be here doing the First Communion Mass for Cecilia and the other second graders, since we don't have a priest right now and they need extra help from visiting priests with things like that.  That will be the first big chance for people to come see the baby and celebrate, but we will keep it casual with lots of food and no real schedule other than going to the church for the baptism and coming back home to celebrate.

What I really would love is this: if some nice, grandmotherly type woman would buy the house next door to us that is for sale, or ask the people who own the house on the other side of us (which is also empty yet not for sale) if she can just live there temporarily.  Somebody who can cook nourishing meals, a grandmother who makes homemade chicken soup from her homemade bone broth, who grows vegetables and brings chickens with her and makes her own herbal remedies and homemade non toxic cleaners, who bakes and cleans and has the older children cheerfully helping her when they aren't just running wild in the backyard and having fun... yeah, okay, that's quite a dream, huh?  But that would be awesome.  Maybe I will be this imaginary lady when I'm grown up, if my daughters want me to come help for an extended time after they have babies.  I know many women say they don't need or want help after a birth, that they feel bad asking for help for more than a few days... but I'm all for it, the longer the better.  Ideally, every new mom would have somebody staying with them or living next door who could cook for them and clean and care for basic needs of the other kids, so the new mom has that time with her baby... the time she can never get back, those newborn days, to just enjoy the new baby, to spend time with the older children joining her in bed or on the couch to get to know their new sibling and have mom read them books, talk, other quiet activities that often get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday living, where mom is often busy with cleaning and meal prep and keeping on top of everyone's activities and schedules... with my first baby, I got cabin fever, because I thought I was "supposed" to find things to do; plus I was used to being busy and having daily things to do - like going to work early every day!  More and more I find that I just want to relax at home - we don't have to busy and going places every day.  I want to teach my children to be content and be able to be at rest and find the joy in just simply living, rather than living for the next big exciting entertainment that is being orchestrated for them.  The more we are entertained, the more we expect it and cannot find peace and rest and contentment in just being, in having free time.  It starts with the parents - we have to model that it is okay to not have something on the agenda, someplace to go, most every day of the week.  Especially during these newborn weeks, it is important to me to model this.

So, we plan to be done with this school year and I hope to have a big chunk of next year planned out already.  If it is possible for me to just take it easy with baby for the days/week that Chris takes off from work, then have my mother and mother in law taking turns here for additional time after he goes back... if I can do at least two weeks of just resting with the baby, not leaving the house other than the ped and then the baptism after maybe 2-3 weeks... that would be heavenly.  Especially if I don't get dressed in "real clothes" for two weeks.  With my first, I wanted to get out of the house as soon as I could - because I didn't know any better.  I was used to leaving the house daily for work.  I want to do what is best for my body and the baby at this point, not for societal expectations of "getting back to normal" or anything.  It is time we will never have back, and I really want to try to rest and nurture my baby with my complete attention for a few weeks!

So this is where I will hope for help with cooking and cleaning in particular, and general guidance of the older kids throughout the day.  This will be the beginning of their summer break, and they will be thrilled to only have daily chores and otherwise unstructured time to peruse their own interests like art/craft things, playing outside in the mornings before it gets too hot, all-day Calico Critter marathon games in Caroline's room... Lucy will be thrilled to have her sisters available to play more since they won't have any school reading to do.  I will be able to read to her more while resting in bed with baby, too!  And maybe I can spend some of that time pre-reading Caroline's books... she gets ahead of me like lightning with her books she reads for school.

The meals I want to prep ahead and freeze or have made for me during this babymoon period:
*homemade cream of chicken soup
*chicken rice soup from the new LLL cookbook
*lasagna (full of veggies and grass fed beef)
*beef and bean chili - easy to freeze!
*chicken stock
*homemade yogurt!
*more that I will hopefully remember in time to make ahead - brain not working fully right now! ;-P

A couple blog posts that have parts that I like:
Fourth Trimester
Creating your Babymoon (not really feeling the "plant allies" and crystals or whatever; the practical advice is good, though)
This book looks great!


This kind of goes with everything already written here... to take the time to slow down, recover and rest, and consciously enjoy the miracle of a newborn baby!  To take the summer months of June and July slowly.  To take lots of photos of this baby girl!  The "embrace" part is why we plan this as a homebirth, why I want a pregnancy/birth photographer, why I want to stay in bed with baby for the most part for two or three weeks.  I don't know how much longer this season in my life will last... but it is guaranteed to be over within ten years, likely less.  I will be 37 in August, so this new baby season is not too far from fading for me forever.  And we have no guarantees, as Mary Karol's life taught me.

I know I am forgetting some things... like how I am exercising during pregnancy... but this is long enough that I am going to post it now and maybe add to it later as my list is refined so that I have my hopes for the rest of the pregnancy/birth/postpartum all outlined for my reference!