Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Preparations for Baby, Food and Drink

Now that I finished with the herbal preparations for birth, I've been focusing on the food piece. I'm making lots of goodies to enjoy during labor and just after, and I've also prepared a grocery list to make sure the house is well stocked to feed the birth team. 

Labor Ade

Labor and birth are hard work, and it's silly to think a woman can stay healthy without eating or drinking during labor. Last time, I wasn't able to eat without vomiting (thankyouverymuch, castor oil), and I think I stayed hydrated on watered down GatorAde (gross).

I came across these recipes for electrolyte balancing drinks on -of course- Pinterest, and most are very similar. I made a big batch of the base, and then split them up and made two separate flavors. The base contains: coconut water, fresh squeezed orange and lemon juices, local honey, organic maple syrup, and essential oils (lemon and grapefruit). After mixing all that in the blender, I took out about 3/4 of the batch, and added a cup of frozen berries to the rest. Now they can just hang out in the freezer until labor begins, and they should thaw pretty quickly on the counter top.

Protein Power Balls

I used my basic raw lactation bar recipe for these, because it's an old reliable. They contain oatmeal, peanut butter, honey, coconut oil (which I leave out when the bars will be at room temp, it makes them a little floppy), dried fruit (I used dates because they are supposed to be really good in the last few weeks of pregnancy), shredded coconut, flax seed, nutritional yeast, wheat germ, chia seed, cocoa powder, and a bit of vanilla. Usually I just blend all that up and then press them into a pan, but I wanted to have something "pop-able," so I rolled them into balls and then rolled them in granola. I tossed them in the freezer to firm up, and then I'll store them in the refrigerator for a quick snack! (And E loves these as well, so it's a quick and healthy snack for him!)

Protein Banana Muffins

I love muffins when we are camping and other times when I feel like I never get enough protein, so I knew I'd want to have some for a healthy snack in the days after baby arrives. This recipe has banana, yogurt, flax seed, and chia seed. I was so pleased with how beautiful they are, and they taste delicious!

Bone broth 

Bone broth is chock full of highly available minerals and nutrients, making it a perfect during and after labor food. I made a strong stock of grass fed buffalo bones with vegetable scraps, then simmered it down by about a third. It became a thick, gelatin-like broth, which will be the base for my after birth stew as well as a possible food option in labor. 

Smoothie Mixes

A fair number of crunchy mamas prepare placenta smoothies after birth to start getting the enormous benefits of placenta immediately. I'm not certain I'm hard core enough for that, so I've prepped a few smoothie blends to use with or without placenta. These little bags are full of protein powder, greens, berries, and all kinds of smoothie goodness. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Preparations for Baby, Herbs and Oils

It's been hard to truly concentrate on my holiday crafting, knowing that I want everything to be just right for this birth. In all likelihood, we have a month or more before baby comes, but this one could be the exact opposite of big brother, and show up in a surprisingly early manner. The nesting instinct combined with Pinterest has led me to develop quite a huge list of projects I want to have for the birth. Right now I'm focusing on the herbs and the essential oils - anything on my list that contains these two items is getting knocked out this week.

Red Raspberry Leaf Ice Cubes

Red Raspberry leaf is an herb quite admired for its toning qualities. I've been drinking a tea of RRL and other herbs throughout my pregnancy, but in the last few weeks it's recommended that you increase the amount to help get the uterus prepped for hard work. I ran across this recipe for RRL ice cubes that contain honey. I'm an ice chewer all the time, and especially when I'm pregnant, so I figured having these in my arsenal for labor would be an excellent idea - a strong dose of the herb, plus the energy from local honey.

Frozen Pads

Search "Padsicle" on Pinterest, and a million pins will pop up for these herb soaked, witch hazel doused, frozen pads. I had these in the freezer last time, and even though my perineum was intact and not birth-battered, they were a big comfort.

Perineal Crock Pot

A warm compress for the perineum during labor? A mix of essential oils to help protect the skin and promote stretching? YES PLEASE. My crock pot is all ready, just needs water added!

And speaking of the perineum...

Perineal Massage Oil

Many midwives (and mamas I respect) recommend perineal massage in the last few weeks of pregnancy. There are quite a few recipes out there, so I decided to go with oils I know are good for skin - lavender, frankincense, and helichrysum. I've added some vitamin E oil, and put them all in a high quality carrier oil. 

Smoker's Basket

Over half of my birth support team smokes, and I can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke. I'm putting together this little basket of happiness to help me stay in my fantasy world where no one I know ever smells like smoke.

Smoke Away Spray - a little recipe I found on Pinterest (of course) with melaleuca, rosemary, and eucalyptus oils. 

Cinnamon and Clove Toothpicks - Another Pinterest find, I remember men in my family chewing those cinnamon toothpicks, and they always smelled so good. I've been loving cinnamon essential oil lately, so it was an obvious choice!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Grateful and Humbled, and Ready to Pay it Forward

The past few days DH has been the recipient of some wonderful gifts. I will simply repeat his words here, since I can't do much better than this:

Feeling very grateful and humbled. Some very special people in this world. Thank you Doug! You guys have truly inspired me and gave me a huge boost of confidence. I will do my best not to disappoint.

An amazing gift that means he is one step closer to achieving his dream, to become a songwriter. For that, our family can never truly be grateful enough.

It never ceases to amaze me how many hands will reach out and offer what they can, and we must always remember to do the same.

Nursing Through Pregnancy

I read a blog a few weeks ago about one woman's journey of breastfeeding through pregnancy, and found it so inspiring that I wanted to write down my own thoughts and experience.

E was still nursing once or twice a day when I got pregnant, but we had already talked about cutting that back to just bedtime when we got back from our trip to Alaska. I knew he would need extra nursing time while we were travelling, and when I found out I was pregnant the day after we got back, it seemed to line up perfectly.

The first few weeks were fairly easy - he was used to having limits about nursing, and he was well prepared for this new limit, so it wasn't really a big deal for either of us. Around eight or nine weeks in, though, nursing started to get really painful for me; so bad at times that I actually had to ask him to stop, which was tough for both of us. We hadn't shared the news of the baby with him yet, so he didn't understand what had changed. I remember one instance when I asked him to stop because it was hurting me, and he looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "Mama, I don't want to hurt you! I'm sorry!" I was overcome with sadness - my first experience of having to balance the needs of two children.

Within a few weeks, I was unable to express any milk, and E had dropped down to nursing for just a few minutes every evening, and sometimes not at all. He kept telling me there was milk, except a handful of times when he would look up and say, "I don't want this nurse because there's no more milk in there!"

As I came out of the first trimester, E slowed down his nursing frequency even further, without any encouragement from me. For a month or two, I suspected he might wean during the pregnancy. He averaged four times a week for a few weeks, then three, then slowly dwindled down to about once or twice a week. It was a very gradual and natural process, and every few days he'd say with surprise, "Mama! I forgot to nurse. Can I nurse today?" At nearly 30 weeks pregnant, he nursed about once a week, and still seemed surprised that he could possibly not remember to nurse everyday. In the final part of my pregnancy, his nursing frequency has dropped even further - I think he's nursing about once a week, always in the mornings, and rarely for more than thirty seconds. Nursing has been so much a part of his life, his whole life, that he seems bewildered that he doesn't get the urge daily, and is often so busy with his preschooler life that he doesn't think about it.

Frankly, I feel the same. It seems like no time ago that I thought he might never slow down, that I may have to take firm action and set strong limits to wean him. I'm so joyful that it seems to be happening very naturally, and it looks very much like I'll be tandem nursing for at least a little while.

I have no trepidation about tandem nursing. So many friends have told me how much it helps with the sibling transition, and I know it will be quality time for the three of us. I'm certain it will have its challenges, but what nursing relationship doesn't?

We Don't Need Much

This post has been a bit of a challenge to write. I have strong feelings about this topic, and it's been hard to come past that and recognize the generosity of spirit that should be my focus. I've finally trimmed and honed and written as tastefully as I can, so here it is. 

For several months now, people have been asking what we need for this baby. I answer truthfully, "We don't need much at all." When we had E, we planned well for subsequent children. I kept most of his clothes, and we used cloth diapers and breastfed. We bought car seats that would hold up well in gender neutral patterns. And we were truly blessed with a showering of handmade, beautiful and meaningful gifts from our friends and family. So when people ask what we need, the truth is the baby needs very little. 

Our family, however, does have some needs. As we plan and prepare for our healing, magical, and transformative birth experience, I discover we have a few things in our list. 

First, we need everyone's positive energy. In the form of prayers, intentions, messages to the universe, your positive energy as we enter this new season of our life is so appreciated. I've been so pleasantly surprised by the support we've gotten in our plans to home birth - quite different from our experience just four years ago. We were blessed with an abundance of support from our family and friends, but the general public was less open minded. This time, strangers are open and accepting, asking thought provoking and sensitive questions, without the same veil of fear, without making me feel like we are crazy. 

Second, we need to tell everyone thank you for the showering of gifts and support with our first child, and to express that we understand that gifting to a new baby is a tradition, and is heartwarming to the gift giver. Having a baby is a low "things" event in our life, but like everything in life, it does have costs. To that end, we've created a small registry to help our family diffuse the costs associated with creating our perfect birth experience. 

Other offerings we would be delighted to receive: 

Honey sticks (a favorite snack for mama and big brother)
Local honey, fruit, bulk ingredients for making labor snacks
Freezer meals, meats, snacks, etc
Entertainment for big brother In the weeks after the birth, E will certainly suffer from cabin fever, and he would love to take a trip to the local park with some of his favorite grown ups (and kids)! He also enjoys creating with scissors, glue, and paper, so he'd love for you to sit down and create something with him! He also loves to snuggle down and read a book. 
Your thoughtful gift - I'm sure there are people out there who will think of things we may need that I never dreamed of, and we appreciate every gesture from every one of you. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Preparations for Baby, Birth Kit

It's hard for me to remember back to preparing for E's birth. I know I ordered a birth kit and organized the supplies. I remember sterilizing bedding and clothing and towels, stacking those bags neatly in the corner. I remember those birth supplies staring at me from the corner of the room for weeks after his birth, still untouched and perfectly organized and labeled. I remember shedding tears I went through the bags and boxes, mourning the birth I didn't get to have. And I remember how healing and hopeful it felt to pull those bags and boxes out of the attic early in this pregnancy.

In the past few weeks, I've been assembling our kit for this birth - what promises to be a beautiful, perfect, healing birth in the comfort of our home. I've gotten to visit with my old supplies, and merge them with my new supplies. I've noticed differences in the supplies each midwife recommends, and I've found ways to move away from a lot of the waste generally associated with birth - my supplies are full of reusables!

We have our home visit with the midwife and her assistant this week - a kind of orientation and final check of all the supplies. We will show her where the various supplies are, and where to find other important things in our house. As I started to assemble the supplies, I decided to organize things into the order in which they will likely be needed. I know I will appreciate this method, and I hope it makes sense to my birth team.

Each drawer is labeled and they are organized according to
 when we will likely need the supplies

Several people have asked me what is contained in a birth kit. You can find many exhaustive lists out there, but basically we have:

materials to create a perfect atmosphere:  candles, birth affirmations, twinkle lights, essential oils, incense, etc

(I recently saw a beautiful quote about birth environment - "For birthing, create the sort of atmosphere that you would like for a romantic night in... you can romance your baby out!" ~Melissa Spilsted)
Some of the "ambiance" materials.
I'll be posting more on this
 as we get the birth space fully prepared.
materials for the birth tub: liner, water hose, a fish net for getting rid of floating debris (although E thinks there may be a fish in the birth tub), and a few scoops and pitchers for pouring water

materials for mama: pads -both cloth and disposable, peri bottles, herbs, straws, during and after birth clothes, comfort measures such as rice socks, massaging tools, placenta bowl
I found this absolutely beautiful bowl locally,
 and it will be perfect for a placenta bowl!
One of the few things that went as planned in my labor
and birth last time was my labor socks.
 I spun this yarn, dyed it, and knit these socks
with the intention of wearing them from start to finish.
I've darned the holes, and I intend to wear them
 start to finish again this time!
materials for baby: umbilical cord supplies, clothes, hats, thermometer, blankets
Cord materials - E hasn't decided between cutting and
burning the cord yet, so we have supplies to do both
Baby's blanket, ready to wrap my newborn love.
materials to contain the messy part of birth: under pads, gauze, trash bags, gloves, paper towel, heaps of towels and wash cloths, vinyl table cloths, etc

Although we plan to birth in the tub, I figured it was a wise idea to have the bed prepared for birth. I've made what is commonly called (in the homebirth community) a "bed sandwich." Making a bed at eight months pregnant is a tough job, and making a bed TWICE is challenging.
Step 1: Make the bed
Step 2: Add waterproof cover
Step 3: Make the bed again

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Work on Wednesday - Wikki Stix

Today at the yurt we made our own Wikki Stix. These seem to be a staple in homeschool environments, and after one day using them, it's easy to see why. You can use Wikki Stix to shape letters, trace patterns, make a maze, and countless other things. Go take a look at Pinterest. You'll be completely overwhelmed and totally inspired.

I decided we should make our own because it's way less costly than buying them, and I knew the boys could help with the creating. The recipe is all over the blogosphere, so I won't go into details here, other than to tell you it's super simple. And it's a great way to use up all your extra scraps of yarn.

While I heated the wax, I set the boys to cutting the yarn. What happens when you ask four year olds to cut yarn? You end up with Stix of every length, which is just fine. Once the wax was warm, the boys dropped the lengths in and I dipped them out with tweezers. I wanted to let them do the dipping out, but after I did it once, I realized it was going to be too challenging (and too messy) for them to do.
I created a "measure guide" for each of them to cut with, but only one actually used it...
The other two cut a million different lengths of yarn. It's cool, the important thing is this: they are getting cutting practice.

We waited patiently for the wax to harden, and then the fun began!

I love seeing what these kids come up with when left to their own devices.
Let's think about the dexterity it took to create this snail shell with no help from me! 

The twins are using clothes pins to make creatures.

Once they discovered the sticks stuck to the glass, they spent over an hour creating "wikki stick trails."

E hatched this idea - he brought me the two sticks to make an umbilical cord, then asked
for a baby, and he made the placenta himself.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Blanket Disaster

When I found out I was pregnant in early May, I cast on a lovely baby blanket and began to knit those early days away. Superstition prevents me from knitting for the baby I'm carrying until later in pregnancy, and I don't like to finish (sew in ends and block) anything until I'm well into pregnancy. Twice now I've started knitting projects during a pregnancy that ended in loss, so these superstitions hold strong.

I started Poplar Blanket early in my pregnancy, and was finished the knitting by July or so, but I didn't finish or block it. Instead, I folded it and set it aside. A few days ago, I decided it was time to weave in all those ends and block it to really show the lace pattern. I ran it through the delicate cycle to prepare for wet blocking, and pulled it out to find - horror! - mouse holes that had unraveled.

The first hole was near the top of the blanket, so I ripped out that whole section, removed the damaged yarn, and reknitted with the good yarn. You can't even see the problem area.

During the repair

After the repair, the damaged area is no more!
The second large hole is near the cast on edge. I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out if it would be better to try to remove the damaged yarn and reknit those stitches, or just rip out the whole damaged bottom, reknit and graft the new CO edge to the middle section of blanket. After looking carefully at the section, I knew it would be a major headache to try to recreate the lace pattern and remove the damaged yarn without making a huge mess, so I removed the whole bottom section to rework it from the bottom up.

As I'm reknitting the cast on edge of this blanket, piecing together the small balls of yarn, I'm meditating on this thought: I've been mulling over how difficult this labor and birth will be. I've been scared of what obstacles we will need to overcome to get to the end. I worry about the emotions that will come up, I dread reliving the fear and hurt and heartbreak of four years ago, and of a year and a half ago. But I know I can do it, and that it must be done.

When I knitted this blanket, I had a picture in my mind of wrapping my newborn child in this lace pattern, this soft, supple wool. When I pulled it out of the washing machine and spread it out to see the disaster before me, tears sprung to my eyes. It was unfixable. It was ruined, and I needed to start all over. As I stepped back and analyzed it, though, I realized it was going to be hard work, it might take a while, but I could make it come together. I could fulfill the dream, and prepare this blanket once more to wrap my new little love.

And in that way, this blanket became a symbol of a greater journey. With every stitch, I knit intention right into it. Intention for a safe journey through labor, the courage to face my demons, and the wisdom to release what isn't serving me.

the grafted area, from the wrong side
a right side view
the finished grafting, ready to have the ends woven (again)
As I now look down at this pool of yarn, sitting finished in my lap and ready to be blocked, I can easily see the seam where the grafting happened. Like a scar, it disrupts the otherwise perfect rhythm of the piece. Once upon a time, I may have gotten so disgusted I turned the whole blanket into something else, something more perfect, without a scarred visage. But I'm not afraid of scars anymore. I carry scars, both physical and emotional, that remind me of my story, and mark my journey to become who I am today, and who I am becoming. Just like me, this blanket will carry a scar, a story, to tell its history, and remind me that things aren't always perfect, but a dream can still rise out of what looks like a disaster.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Next Chapter

Yesterday DH started a blog, devoted to chronicling the next chapter of his life. His words are profound and meaningful, so it's easy to overlook the less than perfect grammar in his entries. Stylistic and grammatically correct prose is not his strong suit - he's a poet, a songwriter, a rare person who can transform strong feelings into beautiful words so fast it makes my head spin, and it's that poetry that is leading him on this new journey.

I am so proud of my man, who is committing himself to the only path that makes sense. I am fortunate to have watched him grow and blossom as a musician, and I can't wait to see what he next chapter has in store.

When we were just young kids, barely old enough to buy a fifth at the ABC, our paths crossed. A simple friendship was born, but the more I got to know this shy, reserved young man, the more I saw his raw and odd sense of humor, his depth of emotion, his rare gifts. At the time, DH was early in his self discovery through music. He had been playing guitar for only a few years, but obviously had a gift for it. Guitar players are an attractive bunch, but one with the ability to pen soulful, expressive lyrics was especially attractive to me. I remember being more and more attracted to him each time I saw him on stage, and even more so when I watched him scribble out a song, sitting on the couch with his body curled over his guitar to reach the spiral notebook in front of him (a notebook we still own, in fact).

2003 - Moments like this caught my attention,
and he still has the ability to captivate me when he's on stage.
I've watched this man move through the various stages of his musical career, and I've watched him continually put his dreams on the back burner. I've seen him struggle through band breakups, I've witnessed the joy of meeting like-minded musicians,  and I've tried to understand and be supportive when he's been unsatisfied musically. I've been there for spectacular shows, I've been there for shows when I can tell by the look on his face he's not pleased. I've sat through countless practices, sound checks, load ins and load outs. Although the title of "band girlfriend" sounds more glamorous than it is, there is still, eleven years later, a little magic in knowing that I get to go home with that guitar player. 

Last year, I realized my guitar player was unraveling. Somehow I missed the warning signs, failed to see the pain and the daily struggle, and because of my blindness I nearly lost this man who I've built my life around. Thankfully, we committed ourselves to facing the storm together, and I was able to see how music helped him find his way in the darkness. He would sit for hours just listening to music, watching videos, and I remember him talking about how the music only he could hear kept him company during the long hours of waiting in the hospital. 

As we came out of that painful chapter in our lives, as we turned the page on the past, my love began to fill page after page of his notebook with fresh music. For weeks, I fell asleep to the lullaby of guitar strings and his soulful voice finding the notes and the words. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he had written enough material to fill an album. 

Now we are starting a whole new chapter in our lives, feeling mostly recovered from our traumas, and the future looks bright. Last night my dear husband announced to the blogosphere that he is launching a new career - the only career he should have ever considered. My man has always been a singer and a songwriter, and he's finally giving those gifts the credit they deserve. I hate that it took traveling through the long, lonely darkness to get to this point, but in many ways that darkness was a necessary evil. It has brought this family to where we are today, and it has finally lifted enough for my dear man to see his path. I am so proud, and so excited to help him navigate this path. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Window In... I'll Pass

I'm reaching the point in my pregnancy where nearly everyone asks, "So, do you know what you are having?" Although it's very satisfying to me, DH indicates that it may be less than kind to always answer with, "Hopefully it's a baby, but we aren't ruling out a shark." 

In any case, this question is almost always followed up with, "Oh, you didn't find out at your ultrasound?" and then a look of shock when I explain we haven't had an ultrasound.

In today's obstetric environment, it's absolutely shocking to most people that you could make it through a pregnancy without having a peek. Ultrasound, like so many of the other things that we do during pregnancy, is seen as so routine that no one gives it a second thought. In fact, most mamas I know love the chance to have an extra scan or two so they can get an extra peek at their baby.

We didn't have an ultrasound during our pregnancy with E, because it was never medically necessary. When my pregnancy continued past the 42 week point, we seriously discussed the need for an ultrasound, and were planning to make an appointment for the 30th of December, but then he showed up on the 28th. More than halfway through, we know this pregnancy is healthy and progressing normally, so I feel no need to have an ultrasound.

Somehow I think ultrasound gives people a false sense of security. Don't get me wrong, ultrasound definitely has its place. But in general it's a very overused technology, the dangers of which are just not known. The fact that ultrasound "studios" are popping up in strip malls and charging exorbitant fees for 9 dimensional shots of unborn babies is more than a little concerning.  The way my babies scamper away from the Doppler at each appointment, I feel certain they would blow a fetus-shaped hole through my belly if I subjected them to ultrasound waves. When I was fighting the battle of wills with the OB during my labor with E (you can read some about that here), one of the cards he pulled out was, "We have no idea how big this baby is, and an ultrasound at this stage couldn't accurately determine weight." Even with all the stress of the moment, I had to stop and laugh at him, because I know loads of women who have had late term ultrasounds, around the 39 or 40 week mark, and been coerced into induction or surgical birth because the never-failing ultrasound shows a big baby. (Had Dr. PainInMyAss decided to do an ultrasound, he would have seen an active, slender baby who weighed less than eight pounds and measured at the 50% for head circumference.)

We are often lulled into a false sense of security because a certain medical technology has been used for a long time and therefore must be safe. Let's remember, however, that x-rays of pregnant women were once routine. There are scads of medications that were routinely prescribed to women during pregnancy and labor over the past century, medications that were used for many years before it became obvious that they were doing more harm than good.

I won't make the claim that blasting our unborn children with ultrasonic sound waves damages them, because I don't have the proof of that. Here's what I know: our society has seen a dramatic increase in childhood disease, including behavioral issues and chronic diagnoses like ADD, ADHD, and autism. The rising rates of these diagnoses have paralleled the rising rates of ultrasound, vaccination, food additives, screen time, plastic exposure, and augmented, medically managed birth. It seems obvious to me that there must be some connection between the two. I live by the precautionary principle, which leads me to avoid things that can't be proven safe, especially when the benefits don't outweigh the risks. Unless there's a medical need, I'll avoid ultrasound. I'm not that interested in a grey scale picture of my baby looking like an alien anyway.

I posted this with caution, fearing I may alienate the rest of the population who peek into their uterus with regularity. I know very few mamas who have not had an ultrasound during their pregnancy, so I'm in the minority here. The truth is, there's magic in feeling your baby move and getting to know him or her that way. I've felt both of mine move before I even heard their little hearts race along with the Doppler. It's the sweetest and most organic feeling ever to know your baby and your baby's position with your own hands and your heart. I like to do things the "old school" way, and I love that my midwives can put their hands on my belly and map my baby, that I can do the same, and I have faith in that wisdom.

Marsden Wagner's Paper in Midwifery Today, 1999

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Am The Face

Today, October 15, my Facebook newsfeed is full of graphics supporting and links to various miscarriage, stillbirth, and pregnancy loss websites. October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and today is the official day for the I Am the Face campaign. For women who have experienced this kind of loss (and 25% of women have), every day is a day of remembrance, but it's beautiful and uplifting to see society as a whole embracing this often unacknowledged part of a women's journey.

Having experienced several losses myself, it's amazing to me the culture of silence surrounding miscarriage and pregnancy loss. The loss of a child, either early or late in the pregnancy, is one of the most painful things a woman, a family, will endure. The fact that our society very rarely talks about it is really sad. This is a time in life when a woman needs the support of her sisters and the understanding and compassion of society at large.

Both my children are rainbow babies, a term used to describe a baby who is conceived after a miscarriage. I am the lucky woman, the woman who had little trouble picking up and trying again, who was able to find the rainbow in the storm that is pregnancy loss. Many women suffer in silence, losing pregnancy after pregnancy, and losing hope right along with those little souls.

Both my losses were early losses, but that didn't make them any less painful. I remember cycling through the stages of grief with each of my losses. Did I do something to cause this? Is this punishment for something I've done in the past? Why me? I felt alone after my first loss, just before my pregnancy with E, and it was an experience we shared with very few people. DH and I walked the healing path alone, and it was a few short months later that we were expecting again. I was still feeling sorrow for the little spirit I never got to know, and I still feel occasional sadness for that child.

Women who experience early losses often feel very alone. Most people don't know just how common early loss in pregnancy is, and partners have often barely gotten their heads wrapped around the idea that the baby is coming. A woman feels the reality much sooner in the pregnancy, and it can be very isolating to feel like you're mourning that loss alone. In our case, DH was so wrapped up in supporting me that he never acknowledged his own grief.

When I experienced my second pregnancy loss, less than a year ago, I was devastated. Having just fought my way through the hardest season of my life, I thought I deserved happiness, and never imagined the universe would lay a loss at my feet. I was caught completely off guard, and both DH and I were standing there, dazed and hurting, trying to understand how this could happen again.

This time, I had many more women in my life who had suffered losses. The curtain of silence surrounding miscarriage seemed to have lifted for me, and I was able to talk with my sisters about my feelings. DH and I are in a totally different place in our relationship, and our improved communication meant that we were able to talk about the hurt, the disappointment, the road to healing, more freely.

The silence can be one of the most painful parts of pregnancy loss. Just a few days after my recent loss, a relative stranger approached me and gave me a five minute "lecture" on why we should have more children. Holding back tears and angry words, I nodded politely and walked away, but inside me was an angry woman who wanted to shout and cry and shame her for being so insensitive. In our society, though, it's the woman bearing the pain who must be the sensitive one.

It's absurd that, as a survivor of miscarriage, I must be the one to bite my tongue, to have the self control not to shout "I'm trying! I WANT another baby, but the universe isn't cooperating!" It's absurd that I've felt ashamed of what I had no control over. I remember being in the hospital, about to give birth to E, and feeling shame when a nurse spoke my pregnancy statistics aloud - "grava 3, para 1" is a terrible thing for a mother to hear just as she's about to welcome her first full term baby into the world.

It's time to break the silence. It's time for society to stop hushing up and covering up miscarriage just because it's associated with the mysterious (and in society's eyes, threatening) rhythm of women's reproduction. It's time for sisters to speak out and support one another. It's so comforting to know you aren't the first to mourn a spirit you never got to know, to feel sadness about a promise that won't come to fruition.

It's time to break the silence, and I see it happening all the time. There are many resources for women and families who are dealing with, or have dealt with, pregnancy loss, miscarriage, and still birth. There are groups out there, but the local support is often sparse, unfortunately. At playgroup a few months ago, I was with a group of women and we started chatting about pregnancy loss. Nearly every woman there had been touched by miscarriage in some way. It was very eye opening. It's my hope that any woman going through that will realize she's not alone, and will reach out to the sisterhood, the ones who have been there before.

I am the face of pregnancy loss, and I am the face of hope. I am there for my sisters in loss and in joy, and I am not afraid of what I've experienced.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Pepper Apple Chutney

The beautiful weather this year means the garden bounty has continued into late September. Last week I started the job of cleaning out the garden, and discovered a few spicy pepper plants still producing! I didn't have quite enough to make a batch of pepper jelly, and I wasn't sure exactly what I was going to do with them, until a dozen apples showed up on my doorstep courtesy of my mother in law!

This was my first try at chutney. I based it from a recipe in my Ball blue book, and made changes based on the ingredients available.

1 dozen med apples, peeled, cored, soaked in lemon water, then chopped roughly (I used the food processor)
2 small bell peppers, finely chopped
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 banana peppers and about 8 spicy peppers, finely chopped (I did them in the food processor)
3 1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 TBSP molasses
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
3 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
4 cups vinegar (I used 1 cup kombucha vinegar and 3 cups apple cider vinegar)

Mix ingredients in a large saucepot, bring to simmer. Simmer until thickened. Ladle into half pint jars and process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath.

(Yields approx 10 pints)

All my main ingredients were fresh and homegrown - the peppers grown in my garden
and the apples from my mother in law

Someday I'll get a corer/peeler/slicer machine...

Sugar, molasses, honey, plus spices and garlic

That pepper mixture is so beautiful (and so SPICY) it takes my breathe away.

Ready to simmer!

I used half pint jars so we can give these as gifts.

The finished product. Chutney is not the most beautiful thing I've ever seen, but
I'm hoping it will be quite lovely served on white meats.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On Soulmates and Free Will

One day, whether you
are 14,
or 65

you will stumble upon
someone who will start
a fire in you that cannot die.

However, the saddest,
most awful truth
you will ever come to find––

is they are not always
with whom we spend our lives.

-Beau Taplin, "The Awful Truth"

A friend shared this on Facebook today, and it spoke to my soul. Although the passage doesn't specifically mention soulmates, it seems obvious to me that's the meaning.

Soulmates - a subject I think nearly everyone has an opinion about. They exist. They don't exist. They are really rare... Hollywood gives us great insight on the subject, and the conventional definition speaks to lovers, romantic relationships, to love eternal. For me, that definition doesn't consider the whole of the human experience.

Soulmates are not the same for each pair. To me, soulmates simply seem to understand each other on a deeper, more primal level. The souls can commune with one another, a rare gift that has been lost in the evolution of human intelligence.

Sometimes, soulmates become life mates. They meet and fall madly in love and spend their years building and savoring a life and a romantic relationship. 

Sometimes, soulmates are found in the context of friendships. Platonic relationships, same gender or not, where two spirits just get each other. Some of these relationships last a life time. Sometimes life or circumstances cause these soulmates to drift apart, and sometimes they transform into romantic relationships.

Sometimes, soulmates aren't destined for each other. The souls seemed twinned, but the personalities clash, or the circumstances are too tough, or the timing just isn't right. These pairs find each other, and are only fated to spend a short time together. Often, some great life truth is learned from the time spent together. Often, the hurt and heartache is immense.

I'm so thankful I don't share my life with the person I once called my soulmate. We came to know each other at a young, tumultuous time, and shared an intense connection, the kind that can only be souls speaking. A connection so strong that we hurt each other over and over, until the hurt was so overwhelming the relationship couldn't survive.

I'm so thankful the man I share my life with is not my soulmate, not someone predestined for me. Rather, we've made a choice, a decision, to nurture and grow our relationship. To have a deep and fulfilling connection, and to savor the beautiful moments when our souls connect, transcending the human consciousness and creating a bond that is more powerful because we built it. I'm so thankful I don't take that gift, that link, for granted.

I'm sometimes sad I tried to make a soulmate my everything, because choosing my own everything is so much sweeter. There's a sense of great pride in looking at our relationship and knowing it works, knowing it is deep, meaningful, and soulful, because we work hard and because we are intentional in our loving each other. 

As I write this, the man who is my everything and I are preparing to celebrate eleven years together. We haven't always loved each other the way we should, and our story has its share of sorrow and heartache. This chapter, though, this chapter is sweet, and I can't wait to pen the rest of the story.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Season of Plenty

Autumn is always my favorite time of year. I welcome the relief from summer's swelter (though this summer has been better than most), and I love the crisp air and feeling of completion that comes along with autumn.

Last year at this time, we were just starting to find a new sense of normal in our lives. Emotional wounds were still fresh, and even the day to day was sometimes challenging. DH and I were just beginning the hard work of rebuilding our life together, and E was going through major transitions as he began to navigate out of toddlerhood and into whatever lay beyond.

This autumn, though young, has been full already. My hormone driven clean sweeping and constant purging leaves me with a perpetual feeling of accomplishment, and my ripening body delights everyone in our family. Tough and taxing days for DH and me are fewer now than they were in the summer, when we were a flurry of activity, barely having time to touch base with each other. The slower, cooler days of autumn mean we spend more hours cuddled together and connecting with each other.

As autumn settles in, E has turned over a new leaf and become a phenomenal helper around the house. His self care skills are improving daily, and his desire to contribute to the community good is heartwarming. His personality is blossoming, and he is a perfect mixture of silly, bright, and compassionate.

Our September so far has been filled with those typical autumn past times - the county fair, garden cleanup, and lazy evenings spent out in the yard. The fair was a special treat because E and I missed it last year. This year, we made up for it with a ride on both the carousel and the ferris wheel (for E and Daddy, not this mama!), a visit to the animals, and a funnel cake to share.

Our October is full of big plans - Meadows of Dan Pancake Days, a trip to the corn maze, pumpkin picking and carving, and of course, trick-or-treating. I suspect October will fly by, slide right into November, and before we know it, 2015 will arrive, with all the wonderful things it promises!

Ferris Wheel fun! 

A few projects in the past couple weeks - my hormones
are driving A LOT of renovation!

Monday, September 15, 2014

At the Yurt

After over a year, the yurt is starting to resemble the vision I have in my head. We have at least a year left in this school house, and hopefully longer, and I can't wait to see how wonderful this space looks in another year.