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I've got to be about the luckiest mama in the whole world... you know why? Because somehow I ended up having you, your sister, and your dad as my family. I'll be honest, I felt lost for a long time when I was younger - and then I met your dad and knew I was home. And then your sister came along, and now you, and my heart is more full than I ever thought possible. If I wish one thing for you in your life it's that you find people who make you as happy as you all have made me.


Maternity Series #2: 29 Weeks

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You are getting so big! My belly better start stretching out more because you're running out of room in there. Your movements are getting stronger by the day and your feet have found a new home in my ribcage. But as uncomfortable as I'm getting, it just means we're that much closer to meeting you.


{Maternity Series #2} 28 Weeks

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We're in the home stretch now! I'm officially in my 3rd Trimester and can't believe how close we're getting to your arrival! The bigger my belly gets, the more protective Rocco gets of me. Hopefully you'll like our crazy pup as much as your sister does.


Maternity Series #2: 27 Weeks

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We were back at the cabin this weekend for the 4th of July, and as usual we had a great time. It was HOT so I was just a wee bit uncomfortable, but your dad made sure I stayed cool and drank lots of water. I think you were just as excited as I was to get back to our bed on Sunday night because you kicked so much I could barely fall asleep! :)



Maternity Series #2: 26 Weeks

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This week's photo was taken by Kristy Dooley Photography.


I had the most wonderful time in Raleigh this weekend with my girlfriends. We met in an online photography class last Fall, and it was so nice to finally meet in person... it felt more like a reunion than the first time we were meeting! They were sweet enough to take some maternity photos for me and I couldn't be happier with how they turned out. The photos are so special to me, not just because they so beautifully document part of my pregnancy journey with you, but also because they're taken by people who are so dear to my heart.

It is my sincere hope for you that you find something you're truly passionate about, and that you're lucky enough to find a group of friends that share that passion.



Maternity Series #2: 25 Weeks

MaternitySeries25weeks-7-Edit-Edit-EditforMBB hellomysweetbabyYour big sister is getting SO excited to meet you! She loves giving my belly kisses and hugs and saying, "I love you, baby!" And you always seem to start kicking whenever you hear her voice. I'm sure you guys will drive each other crazy from time to time, but I have a feeling you're also going to have a lot of fun together.




Maternity Series #2: 24 Weeks

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I got to see you again this week! You're growing right on track and cute as a button. It's fun to compare how different your ultrasound photos are from Emma's. She looks a lot like me, but I think you're going to look just like your dad.


Maternity Series #2: 23 Weeks

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Oof... your mama has been BUSY this week! Lots of late nights and little time with your dad make me pretty grumpy, so I'm hoping things slow down soon. If nothing else, I keep reminding myself that in four short months I'll get to spend my days with you and your insane cuteness and my work stresses will be far behind me.


Maternity Series #2: 21 Weeks

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Now that we know you're a boy, I've been in full-on nursery planning mode. While I didn't have everything planned out before we left the doctor's office last week, I did have it planned out a few hours later. I'm so excited to get started on everything, especially your special name quilt. Now if only we could decide on a name... :)


activity blanket tutorial

activity blanket tutorial

Emma has been obsessed with clips and zippers lately, so I thought I'd make her a little activity blanket so she could clip and unzip to her heart's content. (I can't even tell you how good it felt to bust out my sewing machine for the first time in months.) And, it was so simple to make that I actually made it during naptime on Sunday afternoon. Plus I used scrap fabric, and I love any project that puts even a little dent in my stash.

If you're just learning how to sew, this is a great beginner project because aside from the button holes it's just a bunch of straight stitches. And there's no need to be intimidated by button holes... most newer machines do all the work for you!

Here's what you'll need to make your own:


  • Two 15.5 x 15.5 in. squares of fabric
  • Two 15.5 in. pieces of grosgrain (or similar thick ribbon)
  • Four 6 in. pieces of nylon webbing (or similar thick webbing, ribbon, straps, etc.)
  • Two 14 in. zippers
  • Two plastic buckles/clips
  • Buttons (at least 6)
  • Lighter (yes, you read that right!)
  • Coordinating thread


Create your clip "activities" by sewing your 6 in. pieces of nylon webbing to each end of the buckle. Now here's the fun part - use a lighter to seal the cut ends of the webbing. Yes, it's a little sad that the most badass my life gets these days is taking a lighter to some frayed edges, but I take what I can get. :) Besides, it really is the best and quickest way to make sure your ends don't fray.

Next, lay out your "activities" on your front fabric to get the spacing right. I just eyeballed mine, leaving about an inch and a half between activities.

Pin only the zippers in place and remove the rest of the activities.

Sew your zippers into place.

Set the blanket aside for now and grab the ribbon for your button activities. Mark the spots for your button holes at 4", 7.5", and 11".

Sew your button holes. I used 1" buttons for this, and wouldn't go any smaller. (Note, if you use grosgrain and have some fraying when you open your button holes, use your trusty lighter to carefully seal the edges.)

Next, lay your activities out on the front fabric again, pin and baste into place.

Then, grab your back fabric and pin it to the front fabric, right sides together. Sew together using a 1/2" seam, leaving a 4-5" opening at the bottom.

Press your seams open, then turn the blanket right side out and sew a 1/4" topstitch around the perimeter.

Last but not least, sew on your buttons. I chose to sew mine on at the very end because I'm paranoid about Emma being able to get them off, creating a potential choking hazard. I figured two layers of fabric would be a sturdier hold.

And once all the buttons attached, you're done!

Emma is loving it so far, and I'm excited to see how her interest in it changes as she becomes better at manipulating each activity.

Let me know if you make one, and leave a comment if you have any questions!

swim survival


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Before Emma was even born I knew I wanted to enroll her in an infant swim survival class. I had a coworker who did it with her daughter and the stories she would tell me of how her baby could float on her back before she could even walk blew me away. If you've never heard of it, infant swim survival teaches your baby to roll over to their back and float independently until help can arrive - it essentially teaches them how to save their own life in case of an accidental fall in the water, which is pretty critical for us considering we live 100 yards from a pool and the cabin has two ponds and a stream. Emma has been practicing these skills since she was almost 5 months old, and her ability to turn and float still amazes us - not to mention the peace of mind we have knowing our baby can self rescue. If you're thinking about signing your baby up for swim classes, I highly recommend going with a swim survival program.

revisiting Emma's birth story

At 9 months old, Emma has officially been out longer than she was in. This milestone has had me thinking a lot about my pregnancy and her birth, so I went back and read her birth story the other day, only to find myself disappointed with what I had written. Or more, what I hadn't written. Which is funny because that was a loooong post. But it read very technical to me... like I went into labor, and it hurt, and then I was in labor some more, and then hours passed and days, and then, and then, and then... what was missing was what I was thinking and feeling during those 63 hours. I think at the time I wrote it I was still very caught up in how it all went down... I felt this great responsibility to document every step of the process, and in doing so failed to capture the emotion of it all. So, here's take 2... the version I want to read when I think about that day, and the version I hope to someday share with Emma...

Oh my god. That's the first thought I had when I found out I was pregnant. We had been trying for months, though it felt like years at that point, and I was in disbelief at what I saw. Two lines. Two lines! As my eyes welled up with tears, I rushed downstairs to tell Jared... We're going to have a baby. What? It's positive? Yes! It's positive. Holy crap! We hugged, we kissed, we cried. Then the anxiety hit me. And there it stayed for most of my 1st trimester. What if it was a false positive? What if these cramps aren't just growing pains? Is that spotting? If there's one good thing about morning sickness (or 8 to 3 sickness, in my case) it's that it's a nice little daily reminder that you are, in fact, definitely still pregnant. Even so, I tried not to get my hopes up until I hit my 2nd trimester. I didn't buy anything for the baby, I didn't start planning the nursery. And then we saw her.

She was just an it at that point... but she was perfect. And more importantly, she and I were both healthy as could be. I could breathe. It was right around that time I stopped getting sick, and got some of my energy back. I was finally feeling well enough to start being that hip mama-to-be I'd imagined I'd be before morning sickness knocked me on my butt for 2 months. I started going to prenatal yoga, laughing with other pregnant women about our aches, pains, and strange bodily functions. I retired the last of my normal jeans and bras. I started rubbing my growing belly all day every day. I was pregnant, and I reveled in it.

It was around that time that I dove head first into the world of natural birth, and dragged Jared along with me. When I first got pregnant I thought Well, maybe I'll try for a natural birth and just see what happens once I'm in it. But I'm so not a "see what happens" kind of person. That initial thought quickly turned into switching from an OB to a midwife, and before I knew it we were sitting in weekly hypnobirthing classes visualizing opening up like a flower and watching videos of hippy women seemingly enjoying labor and delivery. The more we learned, the more we believed that natural birth would be the safest and gentlest way to bring our baby into the world... it was to be the most important physical endeavor of my life and I was training my little heart out.

As my due date approached I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I loved being pregnant, but I was getting more than a little anxious to get this show on the road. I was ready. Well, as ready as I could be. And I felt strong. I felt more connected to my body than I ever had before and I had the blissful confidence of someone who had no idea what she was in for. Jared and I filled those long days of waiting by going out to dinner, seeing some live music, and basically doing all the things people told us we wouldn't have time for anymore once our baby was born. They couldn't have been more right.

The night after Emma was due, I went into labor. We were sitting on the couch watching TV and I started having contractions that just felt different. Before I went into labor I longed to know what those contractions would feel like. How would I know when it was really time? All I can say is that I just knew. They were a little stronger than Braxton Hicks, a little more real. They eased on and gloriously off, making them feel manageable. I sat there secretly timing my contractions, not wanting to get Jared all excited if this was just false labor. After a half an hour or so I decided to pipe up. So... I think I'm in labor.

My contractions were strong, but infrequent. At 10 minutes apart it looked like this was going to take a while, so we decided to try to get some sleep. I knew I wouldn't really be able to sleep. Aside from the pain and pressure, my baby was coming. How could I sleep? Neither of us really slept that night, and by morning my contractions were 7 minutes apart. I figured I'd have a light breakfast, hang out for a couple of hours, and be ready to head to the hospital. This was happening. My baby was going to be born today. But shortly after breakfast my labor stalled. I was disappointed, but I knew this was common with first babies and tried to just carry on with my day and wait for labor to pick back up. We walked. I watched bad daytime tv. We ate. I had a contraction every half an hour or so. We walked some more.

Labor finally picked up again that night, this time more intense than before, especially in my lower back. Alright, now this is really happening. 10 minutes apart again. It was late. After not sleeping the night before we were so tired. We tried to sleep again. We failed again. The contractions were so intense but not getting any closer. I was exhausted and frustrated. Come on already, baby!

Morning arrived and my contractions were still 7-10 minutes apart, still intense, still shooting through my lower back. Another call to the midwife, and a new theory that our baby was posterior - meaning she was head down, but facing my tummy instead of my back. Super. Apparently when this happens the body will stall the labor to try to give the baby time to turn. We learned a variety of tricks and positions to try to encourage her to turn, but nothing was feeling like it was making a difference and my contractions were getting stronger but not closer. Nighttime rolled around and I'd now been in labor for 2 days. Any hope I had of today being the day was quickly waning. The midwife on call instructed me to do whatever I needed to do to get some sleep. She told me to try Benadryl and a bath, and if that didn't work to come into the hospital and they'd give me some morphine to knock me out. I went to lay down after I got out of the bath, and of course, not five minutes later my contractions finally started to pick up. Well, if I'm not going to get some sleep I guess I'll go have this baby. We made the call to go to the hospital. Either I was going to have the baby, or I was going to get some drugs so I could sleep.

We got to admitting, where I proudly refused the wheelchair. I remember thinking, I may have been in labor for the past 2 days, but I am not crippled. Gee, I wonder where this baby was getting her stubbornness from. We sat in triage for what felt like forever while they hooked me up to the monitor and measured my contractions. All I wanted was for them to tell me this was really happening, admit me, and get me to my room - the room where we would finally meet our baby. Something about my calm demeanor had the triage nurse thinking I wasn't very far along, and she made it clear she thought we were wasting her time. We didn't care for her very much. Finally a midwife came down to examine me. The moment of truth... She asked me how dilated I wanted to be, to which I responded, More than 1… please just let it be more than 1. She replied, How about more than 5? I was 6-7 centimeters and I could have kissed her. I was so relieved to know that I'd actually been making progress the past 2 days. I heard the triage nurse mutter under her breath that I wasn't acting like I was 6-7 centimeters dilated. Yes, that's because I am strong, and brave, and I don't feel the need to make a big dramatic production out of each contraction no matter how intense they are. That, or I'm just very very tired.

We checked into our room and they started prepping the birthing tub. Jared and I walked the halls while we waited. I wanted nothing more than to get into that warm water. But sadly, my nice peaceful water birth wasn't meant to be. Being in the tub was slowing my labor, and no amount of pain relief was worth dragging this thing out any longer. So we went back to walking the halls.

The hours passed so slowly. Each contraction was more intense than the last, each one requiring Jared to press even harder on my lower back as I breathed through it. I was making progress but it was so slow. Around 7am I called my sister. I couldn't even get a full sentence out. I heard her voice and I lost it. Tears were falling. I can't do it. I'm so tired. I'm trying so hard to be strong, but it's too hard. Her encouragement and support in that moment meant more than I can ever say. I gathered myself together, and Jared and I had a heart to heart about our options. My midwife was starting to get very concerned about my exhaustion... would I have any energy left to push after 3 sleepless nights? But I'd come so far. As a last ditch effort to move things along, Jared and I agreed to let them break my water. Please let this work. I know I said I'd be okay with getting drugs if there was no alternative but I'm too proud for my own good I really really don't want them. I felt an almost immediate difference. My contractions had become all consuming, but closer together. About 20 minutes after they broke my water I started feeling the urge to push. This was it.

I'd heard that for many women the pushing was easier than labor. Not. Even. Close. I don't know if it was because I was more exhausted than I'd been in my entire life, or because our baby still hadn't turned fully anterior. But pushing was hard. Without a doubt the most intensely challenging and painful experience of my life. But it was good pain. It was miraculous pain. It was pain that was giving life. I pushed for over an hour. I kept looking at Jared feeling like I was letting him down. He'd been more than I could have ever asked for. I could tell it was nearly unbearable for him to watch me in so much pain, and I wanted so desperately to relieve him of that. But I don't want to push anymore. I can't. I have nothing left to give. Somehow with each contraction I went deeper inside myself and mustered the strength to push longer and harder than I thought I was capable of. Finally, our baby was crowning. They told me to reach down and feel her head. I couldn't. If I stop now I won't be able to keep going. I just want to keep going. A few more pushes and her head was out. And then her body. They laid her on my chest and time stopped. Hello, my love. She was a wonder. We took in every tiny wrinkly inch of her. Our Emma Rose. I remember being so surprised at her full head of dark hair. She was so uniquely her, and she really was perfect.

We held her in disbelief that she was finally here... that after 9 months and a seemingly endless labor, we were a family. I looked at my husband holding his daughter for the first time... filled with more love than I ever imagined possible. It had all been so worth it.

roll with the changes

When Emma became mobile a couple of months ago we knew we'd have to make some changes to our living room to give her more space to play. My goal was to be able to go from living room to play room and back again in less than 2 minutes. I knew if it took any more time or effort that our living room would become a permanent playroom and five years from now we'd be one of those desperate couples on Dear Genevieve who used to have semi-decent taste but whose house has become overrun with toys and laundry and kitchy sayings over the door like "a meal without wine... is breakfast!" Oh no. We will not be one of those couples. So, our first step was to buy a bigger rug... we opted for something relatively disposable since babies are not tidy creatures, nor is our 65 lb dog. The Havbro does the job, but I won't be sad to see it go. So now Emma had a nice big rug to play on, but we still had the issue of the coffee table. Then it hit me... what if we sawed off the legs and replaced them with casters so we could easily roll the table out of the way during play time?? I've certainly had crazier ideas, and Jared was on board so we used a circular saw to cut off the legs, and replaced them with the steel casters we ordered off of Amazon. And, voila!

And here's what it looks like during playtime...

Here's a close up of the casters...

It's working out surprisingly well for us, so far. And I actually kind of like the industrial feel the table now has. The only downside is that the casters don't lock, which is a bit concerning for her tiny fingers, and for when she gets strong enough to move the table on her own. So for now we're super careful not to let her play with the wheels (it's not like we leave her unattended anyway, so it's really not an issue). We didn't want to spend a lot on pricey casters in case the experiment was a bust, but now that we know it works we'd be willing to upgrade the casters if it becomes necessary.

If you're wondering what the coffee table looked like before, here's a shot of it in my first "big girl" apartment in Seattle... It's been through three moves since then. Hence all the scratches. :-)

So where do we hide all those toys when play time is over? They all have their own little basket that fits perfectly into the console table. And they're kept at kid height so eventually Emma can help clean up. (And she'll be able to more easily take each and every toy out of there when she decides the one at the very bottom is the one she wants to play with. But I'm choosing not to focus on that part.)

I'm certain these aren't the last of the living room changes... as Emma grows and becomes even more mobile, we'll need to do more baby proofing and likely more decluttering. But for now, operation rolling coffee table has been a great success.

no moo for me

I mentioned in my Link Love post a couple weeks ago that I had to give up dairy for a while because Emma is super sensitive to milk protein. We thought we just had a really fussy baby on our hands, but after describing her symptoms (I'll spare you the details) my lactation consultant suggested cutting out dairy to see if they improve. A life without dairy sounded truly awful. Just look at my bio... cheese and ice cream are among my favorite things in the whole world! BUT, this is my baby we're talking about - and if cutting out dairy meant a happier, less gassy, etc. (trust me you don't want me to elaborate) baby, then it was worth it. So off I went, kicking and screaming (okay, mostly just whining and pouting) into the land of the dairy-free. And within 48 hours, Emma was like a whole new baby. She slept better during the day, she fussed WAY less, and her diapers were far more pleasant to change - well, as pleasant as that sort of thing can be. As much as I hated cutting out dairy, I found myself wishing we'd known to try it much sooner than 2 months in.

So what can't I eat? More than you'd think... milk, butter, cheese, ice cream... the list goes on and on and on. My biggest challenges so far have been eating out and traveling. I now have to be that person who asks what stuff was cooked in, does it have this, does it have that. It's not the asking I mind so much, it's the having to make sure all the things I really want to be included are left off the plate. It's amazing how much stuff includes dairy. Stuff you wouldn't think - like BBQ potato chips. I will say that the FDA has done a fantastic job of updating the labeling requirements for packaged foods. It very clearly states on most foods "CONTAINS MILK." Very helpful.

Where does that leave me? Well, wouldn't you know it - Emma's also sensitive to soy (which is fairly common among babies with a milk protein intolerance), which is unfortunate because there seems to be a soy substitute for almost every dairy thing you can think of. So, I replaced regular milk for almond milk in my cereal. My favorite brand I've tried is Almond Breeze (Original.) I replaced coconut ice cream for the real thing (a poor substitute, but it helps partially fill a gaping void.) If we absolutely have to use butter in something we use these Earth Balance vegan "buttery sticks." I've found myself pulling Elie Krieger's book The Food You Crave off the shelf quite a bit because healthier recipes often get that way because they exclude dairy.

I'm nearly 2 months in, and while it has gotten easier, I still have to fight the urge to start gnawing on the big block of Tillamook cheddar that's currently in our fridge. I thought an upside to all this would be that the rest of my pregnancy weight would fall off, but I've been hitting the coconut milk ice cream pretty hard in an effort to curb my dairy cravings, so I've only lost another pound or 2. I really am going to have to start working out again. Depressing.

I've read that a lot of babies grow out of their milk protein intolerance around 6 months, which would be just in time for the holidays. I've already let Santa know that all this girl wants for Christmas is a pint of Haagen Dazs in one hand, some baked brie in the other, and a gigantic chocolate milkshake to wash it all down with. Yep, definitely going to have to start working out again.

PS... did you know that Oreos are completely dairy free??! It's sort of frightening that a chocolate wafer and cream cookie has zero dairy in it... but not so frightening that I won't eat them. Let's not get crazy here, folks.

Emma's birth story

“The best way I know to counter the effects of frightening [birth] stories is to hear or read empowering ones... Stories teach us in ways we can remember.  They teach us that each woman responds to birth in her unique way and how very wide-ranging that way can be.” - Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

When Jared and I decided to start a family, I dove head first into researching and educating myself about reproduction and fertility.  I pored over Taking Charge of Your Fertility (the “bible” for women with fertility issues, or - in my case - super Type A wannabe mamas) before we even started trying.  I wanted to know everything I could... I thought that the more I knew about my cycle and the “ideal” time to conceive, the faster I would get pregnant. Seriously - this is how my brain works. So by the time we’d gotten through 3 months of trying and charting and negative pregnancy tests, I had convinced myself that there was something wrong with me. (Don’t worry, looking back I fully realize how ridiculous my thinking was. I don’t regret learning as much as I could, but I wish I had been more patient in applying what I learned.) When the 4th month of trying rolled around, we were pretty burned out on the charting and fertility talk so we decided to take a break from all that, went on an amazing anniversary trip to Hawaii, and - lo and behold - a week after we got back we found out I was pregnant.

My first trimester was filled with excitement, disbelief, and a whole lot of getting sick. Thankfully, my second trimester was the blissful time everyone said it would be. Now that I was feeling better, we started thinking about birth options and, once again, I began learning everything I could. I was pretty sure I wanted to try for a natural birth, and after watching the documentary, “The Business of Being Born”, Jared and I were both convinced that natural birth was the best fit for us and the safest, least stressful option for our baby. At that point, I dedicated the rest of my pregnancy to “training” for a natural birth. I started taking an amazing prenatal yoga class (if you are pregnant, I HIGHLY recommend any type of class or activity that includes open discussion with a group of other pregnant women... it was so invaluable for me), we took 5 weeks of hypnobirthing classes, practiced the hypnobirthing exercises daily, and read multiple books on natural childbirth.  I felt empowered by what I was learning, and so completely supported by Jared - who was a true partner throughout both my pregnancy and birth.

Once I hit 39 weeks, I started getting pretty impatient. Thankfully, the day after Emma’s due date, I went into labor. It was around 9:30 at night and Jared and I were sitting on the couch watching TV. I started secretly timing the contractions, not wanting to make a big deal of it if it wasn’t for real.  After about a half an hour of contractions that were 10 minutes apart, I said something to Jared along the lines of “so... I’m pretty sure I’m labor.”  We decided to try to go to bed, knowing that if this was for real we’d need our rest for what was to come. Needless to say, neither of us slept very well that night.  I got some sleep between contractions, but 8 minutes at a time is hardly restful.

My contractions were about 6 minutes apart by the next morning, but by the time I had finished a light breakfast, my labor had pretty much stalled.  I knew this was normal, especially with a first baby, so I tried not to get too discouraged.  I called the midwife who said to go about my day as normal, and that labor would probably start back up again later that day.  We went for walks, took a nap, and started working on a puzzle to help pass the time.  I had random contractions throughout the day, but nothing consistent.  Around 7 that evening the contractions picked back up, and were even more intense.  They were anywhere from 10-20 minutes apart, but much stronger and more focused in my lower back and tailbone.  We tried to sleep again that night, but it was even harder than the night before.  I got maybe a half an hour of sleep total that night.

My contractions were still pretty far apart by the next morning, so I called the midwife again who told me that based on the pattern and type of labor I was having it sounded like Emma was likely posterior and my body was slowing the labor to try to give her time to move into a better position. I’d been in labor for a day and a half at this point, so this was not welcome news. She gave me some techniques to try to get her to turn, which I spent all day doing without much progress or relief.

By that evening, my contractions were just as intense, but still stuck at 10 minutes apart.  I checked in with the midwife again, who was starting to get concerned about my exhaustion.  She instructed me to take some Benadryl, take a bath, and hopefully that combo would knock me out enough to sleep through the contractions. If that didn’t work, she said I could come into the hospital and they would give me a sleeping pill and some morphine and really knock me out.  After my bath, I got into bed and tried to fall asleep.  About 5 minutes after getting into bed, my contractions picked up.  They were 7 minutes apart and way too strong to sleep through.  I decided it was finally time to go to the hospital... either this thing was actually happening, or they’d give me a sleeping pill and I’d be able to get some rest.

When we got to the hospital, the nurse who got me set up in maternity triage was clearly skeptical about my labor having progressed enough to justify coming to the hospital. We got the definite sense that if the nursing staff placed bets on who was going to get sent home for not being far enough along, she would have bet A LOT of money on us going home.  After about 20 minutes of fetal monitoring, one of the midwives, Maggie, came in to examine me.  This was the moment of truth... had I actually been making progress during the past 50 hours of labor?  She asked me how dilated I wanted to be, to which I responded “More than 1... please just let it be more than 1.”  She replied, “How about more than 5?”  I’ve never been so relieved. It turns out I was 6-7 centimeters dilated. This was really happening.  Hallelujah. I heard the nurse say under her breath that I wasn’t acting like I was 6-7 centimeters dilated.  Ha!  Thanks, hypnobirthing.

We checked into our birthing room, and everyone seemed confident that I’d labor for a few more hours and then be ready to push.  They started setting up the water birth tub, and I walked the halls trying to encourage the labor to keep progressing.  My contractions were intense, and Jared had to apply strong pressure to my lower back during each one, but they weren’t unbearable.  I focused on my breathing, stayed relaxed, and never got to a point with my contractions that I felt like I needed drugs - which was a relief because despite my determination to have a natural birth, I was never certain that I’d be able to bear the pain.  The way the pain built up then eased off made it manageable... it was only super intense for less than a minute at a time.

By the time the tub was ready, my contractions hadn’t gotten much closer, but I got the green light to get in and holy moly did that water feel good.  I’d been looking forward to getting into that tub for 2 days and it was everything I’d hoped for.  Unfortunately, after 40 minutes or so in the tub, it was clear that it had started to slow my labor a bit.  So I got out, walked some more, got back in, and again, it slowed my labor.  Bummer.  The water felt amazing, but pain relief took a back seat to moving this labor along so we went back to walking the halls.  By 7 the next morning, about 8 hours after hearing the wonderful news that I was dilated 6-7 centimeters, I’d only progressed to 8 centimeters.  We were so tired, and so frustrated, and it was starting to feel like I was going to be in labor forever.  Women who’d gone the drug route came and went, and we were still walking the halls.  Every time we passed the nurses station we’d get looks of pity, or comments like “you’re an inspiration.”  I didn’t feel like it.  I felt defeated and exhausted.

Maggie’s shift ended and a new midwife (Penni) and nurse (Jackie) took over.  I was approaching nearly 60 hours of labor, and we started discussing next steps for trying to progress my labor.  We tried stimulation, but that actually slowed my contractions.  Penni sat down with us and discussed our remaining options, including pitocin, but I was determined to try every natural option possible before I would consider drugs.  The baby’s heartbeat was still normal and she wasn’t showing any signs of stress.  I’d come so far and I was so close.  Why make Emma’s journey so much more intense and stressful with pitocin if it wasn’t medically necessary?  I was 9 centimeters dilated... only one more to go.  But at the pace my labor was going, it could take hours more before I was fully dilated.  Both Penni and Jared were very concerned about my exhaustion - would I have any energy left to push?  My bag of waters was still intact, so I decided to have Penni break it as a last ditch effort to speed up my labor.  (I can’t say enough about how supportive and reassuring Penni and Jackie were about my desire to avoid drugs.  I never once felt pressured to do something I wasn’t comfortable with.) About 20 minutes after Penni broke my water, I started feeling the urge to push.  It had worked!  I got a rush of adrenaline knowing we were so close to finally meeting our daughter.

I ended up pushing for about an hour and a half... it was the most intense, painful, challenging experience of my life.  I pushed in a couple of different squatting positions before settling on a sitting position in which I locked forearms with Jackie and we pulled against each other with each push.  This is apparently Jackie’s special technique and it worked fantastically for me. (Jared even took Jackie’s place for a period of time and we pulled against each other as he saw way way more than he ever signed up for. The man is a saint, I tell ya!)  My exhaustion really caught up with me about halfway through pushing.  I hadn’t slept in 3 days.  Emma still hadn’t turned fully anterior, making the pushing that much more difficult. I started seriously doubting my ability to keep going.  It was too hard, too painful, the pressure was too intense.  But somehow with each contraction I went deeper inside myself and mustered the strength to push longer and harder than I thought I was capable of. Finally, her head came out, and shortly after that came the rest of her body. They immediately put her on my chest and I felt a million things all at once - love, relief, curiosity, disbelief that I was finally holding our beautiful daughter in my arms. I wanted to lay there with Emma and Jared and soak in this amazing moment, but Jackie was putting an IV in my arm and hooking me up to a pitocin drip as both she and Penni were working furiously to stop the bleeding I was having.  (The irony of needing pitocin immediately AFTER a 63 hour labor is not lost on me.)  I also had some superficial tearing that Penni had to stitch up.  It was not the post-birth experience I’d imagined, but that was kind of the theme of my whole labor and birth - the journey was so different than I thought it would be... I had this crazy 63 hour labor, barely used the tub much less birthed in it, but the outcome was exactly what I’d hoped for - Emma was amazingly healthy (she scored a 9 on both her Apgar tests), alert, and took immediately to breastfeeding.  We spent the hours after her birth just holding her and taking it all in.

My birth experience taught me so much... I learned that I’m capable of enduring an immense amount of physical pain for a really long amount of time, that even in the most trying situations I can stick to the things I really believe in, that I’m insanely lucky to have Jared as my partner (I already knew that but this experience was a big reminder), and that no matter how much planning and preparing I do some things just happen how they need to happen.

the first batch of christmas crafts

My ability to blog about this first batch of Christmas crafts sadly means my short trip to Michigan to visit my best friend, Lindsey, has already come and gone. (All you girls lucky enough to live in the same town as your best friend - stop reading this, go over to her house and give her a big fat hug, because you are very very fortunate!) I have a small tendency to spoil Lindsey, especially since the birth of her son Will, so I tried to scale back this year and focus more on craft than cost. Will's presents were easy - Amy Butler's Little Stitches provided plenty of inspiration and baby clothes are so small they require very little fabric. I decided on the Kimono PJ pants and used Moda's Funky Monkey fabric in Sock Blue, Cream Counting Monkeys and Brown Sock Texture (for the cuffs.)

I used leftover fabric from the pants to applique coordinating onesies:

Here are the finished sets:

A couple tips for these pants... 1) Use 3/4 inch wide elastic or make the casing for the elastic a little bigger because the 1 inch elastic was a really tight fit. 2) Make the pants about 1-2 sizes larger than you think you'll need. Will is 5 months, a bit small for his age, and just started wearing 6-9 mos. clothes. I thought I'd be safe making the pants size 6-9 mos. but they were pretty snug around his diaper. They'll be fine for him for only another month or so, which is why I'll be making him 2 more pairs in a bigger size.

For Lindsey I aimed for a combination of pampered and practical. I'd been dying for an excuse to pick up Amy Butler's new Love collection, and thought it would be perfect to use for a little library tote since Lindsey's a regular at the Berkley Public Library. I used Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Tote pattern as a starting point, and added lining using some leftover fabric from Lindsey's Weekender Bag.

This bag was super easy to make and the lining added a nice finished look to the original pattern. I used the bag as gift wrapping and threw in some Philosophy Amazing Grace bath products (the pamper part), and the Exhale: Core Fusion - Pilates Plus DVD (the practical part.) Lindsey loves working out but as a new mom doesn't have a ton of time, so the 10 minute workouts on this DVD are a great solution.

More Christmas crafts to come... :-)

ties and dachshunds and spartans, oh my

As if I needed another excuse to craft, my best friend gave birth to her first child this summer... a handsome and happy little guy named, Will. I am a firm believer that stuff is just cuter when it's small, so when I saw the appliqued tie onesie tutorial on Crap I've Made, I could think of nothing cuter to make for the new man in my life.  I used some of my hubby's old clothes for the fabric, and followed Char's instructions to create onesie #1:

But why stop there when onesies come in packs?  :-)  The dog in Will's life is a sweet little dachshund mix Lindsey's parents adopted named Kallie, so I created my own doggie template and used one of the hubby's old dress shirts for the fabric.



And lastly, I had to make sure Will was decked out in some one-of-a-kind Spartan gear - which Lindsey was sweet enough to put on him when he went for his 3 month pro pics.