white winter hymnal

Here it is, finally, my birth story.

The night I went into labor I went to see a movie with a friend. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I suspected I might be having regular contractions. I didn’t want to get too excited, I knew about false labor, so I just kept track loosely of how close they were occurring. I tried to sleep, but they kept coming, and they were getting closer together and stronger. At 1 am I called my midwife, who advised me to labor at home and call again in a few hours. I became excited and full of anticipation, but needed to conserve my energy so I laid on my bed, on my side, and rested in between contractions. Whenever one came, I closed my eyes and breathed through it. As they became stronger, I started using my voice to breathe through them, like a soft moan.
I called after a few hours and talked to my midwife, Kim, who said to keep laboring at home. I was hanging out with my husband on the bed for the next couple of hours; he timed my contractions. We were surprised at how quickly they progressed - they kept coming closer together and stronger. After a while I could not lie down anymore, so I paced the house and alternately sat on a yoga ball. I lit some candles in the living room and enjoyed the quiet darkness of early morning. When the contractions came I would lean on a wall or get onto my hands and knees and sway back and forth.
At 7.30 am we transferred to the birth center. The car ride was not fun. Try having a contraction while the car is stopped at a red light! When we got to the birth center Kim asked me a lot of questions about how I was feeling, what was comfortable or uncomfortable, and then she left Scott and I alone for awhile. She offered to check my progression anytime I wanted her to, and I chose to wait. I didn’t want to be discouraged if I wasn’t dilated much. I was still dealing with contractions by getting onto all fours and swaying, and that seemed to work really well for me. In between contractions I was very social, and upbeat, joking and telling stories with Scott and Kim. I was eating grapes and Clif bars to try to keep up my strength.
By 11 am the contractions were very strong, and I was becoming loudly vocal to deal with them. Kim checked me and I was nearly 10 cm dilated, so she filled up the tub and I got into it. The water was helpful, and the warmth was comforting. The contractions continued to get stronger, and I started to feel like I might crawl out of my skin. Scott brought a straw to my mouth between contractions so I could drink water and gatorade. I stayed in the tub for about an hour, though I had no concept of time and didn’t realize I’d been in there so long until Kim told me the water had gone cold. She asked if I wanted her to warm up the water, to stay in the tub, or if I wanted to get out and try a different position. I asked her to decide, and she suggested we try something different.

I labored on the toilet for some time, and that’s when I began pushing; it was about 12.15 pm. I always thought I would be someone who just “got it” when it came time to push. I had imagined myself feeling relieved with the resistance of pushing. Not so. Dealing with a contraction and trying to push at the same time felt like a lot to handle. I began to doubt myself, and I told Kim “I don’t want to do this anymore”. She said, “That means you’re almost done”. And she was right. Soon I felt his head, and Kim and Scott helped me onto the bed, where I continued to push on all fours, with my arms draped over a yoga ball. Kim coached me in pushing, telling me to breathe in deeply then focus on pressing down with my diaphragm. My water broke.
I was asked to lay back, in a semi-sitting position, and Scott sat behind me. I concentrated on pushing and Kim supported my perineum with counter-pressure as the baby crowned. I had envisioned feeling the pressure in my perineum, because I read many birth stories that said giving birth feels like having a bowel movement, but I felt a ton of pressure against my pubic bone. In one furious second, I was sure it would break. But it didn’t, and after his head came out the pressure was relieved.
Finn came out crying, a healthy loud noise of joy. I was later told that upon seeing him I said “Baby! You’re a baby!”, but I don’t remember any sounds. I don’t remember hearing him cry, I only remember seeing him, and holding his slippery, beautiful body. I remember the feelings of triumph, of pure joy, of love.

My mantra had been “Labor is hard, it hurts, and you can do it” and it was so true! My most valuable resources were Pam England’s book “Birthing From Within” (where that mantra came from) and my prenatal yoga class, which taught us coping methods for intense muscle contraction, such as breathing noisily and relaxing the muscles that aren’t involved in holding a pose. My birthing experience was a great case for completely natural, drug-free birth, but that was helped along by my uncomplicated pregnancy, which was truly a blessing. I have become much more respectful of all birth stories since giving birth, and I have come to value life in a whole new way.


to see you struggle

I am steeling myself for what I'm about to try - not going in when the baby cries.

I'm terrified. My heart is pounding, actually, and he isn't even crying yet. I put him down (the third time tonight - he just won't sleep!) and walked out, knowing he wasn't asleep yet. Ever since he started teething, he's had more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. I usually go in there, time and again, and give him his pacifier, lay my hands on his head and chest, and stay with him until I think he's asleep again. I'm tired of doing that.
He's fed. He's been burped. He's warm enough. He does not need me to go back in there.
He sounds pitiful right now. I don't know if I can do this.
I know he'll fall asleep on his own if I just leave him alone, but I don't want him to feel sad.

In baking news - I made the Coffee Crunch Bars. Twice.
I didn't take pictures and I'm not going to give you the recipe. That's because both times I made them they weren't right. The first time I didn't have dark brown sugar, so I used white sugar with molasses instead. They turned out too brittle. The second time I completely forgot a whole stick of butter and they turned out sandy. Both times the flavor was great, though, and that really says something about the integrity of that recipe. It can't be messed up by my silly kitchen blunders. It has fortitude.

What can we talk about instead? Well, there's the four inches or so of snow we have accumulated over the course of the day. It's beautiful, and soft. Not too icy. I walked the dog in the forest and we tasted the fresh snow, falling and slowly collecting on the bridge rail.

. . . .

Exactly 12 minutes into my new plan, I caved. I went in there. He was crying! He was in despair!
Luckily, after I fed him (he wasn't hungry, just needed the comfort) he fell right to sleep, and he hasn't made a peep since.
Now I'm scourging the internet for information on the cry it out method versus a no cry sleep solution. Ah, contrasting information, as usual. Parenting is so individual, and it seems different things work for different babies, and for different parents. I guess I need to talk to Scott about what we're going to do.

Boring update, I know. Hopefully next time I'll have a recipe and some food pictures.


sounds too simple - love is the only answer

My birthday flowers from my sweet husband.

I started something new today. After staying up late last night, bleary eyed, reading blogs and searching for cars online and wasting my life on facebook, I made a resolution about spending my time in ways that I enjoy. For instance, I decided that upon waking, I want to change the baby then do some yoga while he plays on his mat. Then I want to have some coffee, listen to NPR, and have some quiet time. Then I want to bundle Finn up in his baby carrier and walk the dog, wearing snow boots if necessary. When we get home, I want to eat breakfast and then, and only then, do I want to check my email.
This is Finn and I bundled up together - we just came in from the frosty cold.

Today I tried it out - I felt fantastic. Also, I did all of that by 10am. I just don't want to spend so much time online! I get side-tracked and well, you know how it goes, before you know it you've spent two or three hours (on what?!) and your eyes hurt all the way to the back of your skull and you feel empty and alone. It's terrible. So my day does not need to start out like that - after I get Finn to bed around 7pm I'll allow myself to read blogs and update mine.
We are officially looking for a car. I stay home with Finn and Scott goes to school and works - but he only works 24 a week. Now they're going to cut his hours down to 16 a week. We're living off of savings for the most part, with some school loans money in there, and that should have lasted us until fall, but now that Scott's hours are being cut, we will probably need more money. Not to worry! We have a plan - buy a new car (read: used, probably 10 years old, something cheap) and then sell Scott's car and use the difference to add to our savings. So now I'm constantly scouring the interwebz in hopes of finding the right car. It has to have 100,000 miles or less, it has to be automatic and have four doors, and it has to be cheap. It only needs to last three years. If all goes well (God willing), and Scott gets a job in the fall, then we want to buy a new car for Christmas. If that doesn't happen, we want the car to be able to last a little longer. It's a little hard to find because of our location - in the middle of nowhere, I mean, Missouri.
Boring, boring. Let's talk about baking! Unfortunately I haven't baked anything, but it's for a delicious reason - Leanna brought me a beautiful scarf for my birthday and some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, too! I still have my little eye on the recipe Molly has in bon appetit, and I cannot wait to try it. Of course I'll let you know (and show you) how it turns out.
In baby news - today Scott showed Finn his pellet gun. In the house. Oy vey.

They also trolled the internet together. It was much less scary for the dog, who is (understandably) perturbed by the sight of guns.

I'm afraid that's all for tonight. I have the new Sedaris book from the public library on a special 7-day check-out so I must get to reading!


this is the farmhouse

Another year older. 25 it is.

To those (you, Danyell) left in suspense over what I did for my birthday cake, I'll tell you. I baked a busy-day cake, which is a simple one layer round cake. I added some lemon zest. Once it cooled I sliced it into two layers. I whipped up a lemon almond buttercream icing and a blueberry sauce. I iced the first layer, smoothed some blueberry sauce on it, and put on the top layer. I iced the top layer, and then, right before serving it, I heated up the blueberry sauce and poured it on top. It looked really nice, and everyone enjoyed both looking at it and eating it.
In short, it was a success.

I made it on Saturday - this is what's left.

It's actually getting more delicious every day, as the icing sinks into the cake.

In baby news - Finn is teething! I didn't expect this to happen so soon. Babies begin teething somewhere around 6 months, sometimes much earlier, sometimes later. He'll be four months in a few days and as of today his two bottom teeth are coming in. He was pretty cranky today, and yesterday he slept and ate more than usual. Because he's so good natured anyway, though, it hasn't been all that bad.

Finn, at nearly four months.

(why so serious?)
Tomorrow life will return to normal. Scott will go back to classes, and I'll go back to long, listless days filled with baby and dog, and without husband. The winter break has been amazing for our marriage. We've spent a lot of time together, he's done the dishes and even helped with dinner. We walked the dog (and baby) together, we've watched movies and played Scrabble (a highlight for me) and spent a lot of time with friends. It's been rejuvenating for us. Now he returns to school, or should I say, now school resumes eating his life. The positive note is that he only has two more semesters. He'll be done at the end of the summer, and then he'll (hopefully) get a job with the hospital. Right now July seems far, but these past four months have flown by, so I'm sure these next six will as well.
And on a purely frivolous side note, I got an issue of the latest bon appetit and am looking forward to spending time salivating over the pages. I have my eye on Molly's recipe for Coffee Crunch Bars. Look out, world.


you may already be dreaming

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year.

Okay, so the day after tomorrow is my 25th birthday. Tomorrow, we're having people over in the evening to celebrate. It was supposed to be a surprise, but Scott told me tonight. I guess he was nervous, and he messed up and planned it on the 17th instead of the 18th (which totally doesn't matter) and he knew I'd freak out if lots of people started showing up and the house was dirty. Not that we live in a pigsty exactly, but you know - it's nice to put away the mess and appear to have a tidy, perpetually clean house for your guests. Put out the nice soap and fresh hand towels and whatnot.
So I am racking (wracking?) my brain to figure out what to bake for my birthday! I was planning on making myself a pretty, complex celebration cake, taking my time on Sunday evening after I got the baby in bed and while Scott was at work, and really getting into a project of a cake. I never bake celebration cakes. Clearly, they are too much work. I love home style, rustic cakes. Bundt cakes are a favorite, as are simple one layer cakes topped with berries instead of icing.
But now we're expecting company. Tomorrow night. So I want to bake something tomorrow. Well, I wanted to have it baked tonight, but at the rate things are going, it probably won't happen. It's already 10pm. I thought - okay, no more celebration cake. At least not one I've never made before. I do have an amazing chocolate cake recipe on hand, and I've made it for a friend's birthday - complete with two layers, raspberry preserves in between the layers, buttercream frosting, and sliced strawberries on top. But I don't really like chocolate cake. Then I thought - alright, what about cupcakes? After searching online for the best cupcake recipe I counted my cupcake papers in the cabinet - only seven. We're not leaving the house tonight, in the snow, to buy cupcake papers. Now I'm thinking about just going with what I love - rustic cakes. I use the word rustic because it sounds fancier than "home style" or whatever else. It also lends an air of purpose. And it gives some space in the looks department. No one expects a "rustic" cake to look good - it tastes good, and that's exactly what it's all about.

You know, after all this typing and deliberating, and expounding on rustic cakes, I might just whip up my mom's apple cake and call it a night. It always tastes better on day two, and it's so easy I could make it in my nearly-asleep state. I could even plump up some dried cranberries in hot water and throw those in for some color.
Either that, or I could bake two busy-day cakes and layer and ice them.
Or, or, or. The longer I stay awake the more options I come up with, and the more I stress out over my own birthday cake. Won't anyone else bake it for me so I don't have to decide?
What about birthday cookies? Huh?
I should probably stop while I'm ahead, go to sleep, and hope that tomorrow the perfect idea occurs to me.


once around the block

I am nervous about the carrot cake that just came out of the oven.
I'm nervous for a couple reasons. One, though I know carrot cake is delicious, I still feel weird about baking with vegetables. Two, there were a lot of carrots in that cake. A lot. Three, I altered the recipe a little, and completely forgot the cinnamon. It probably would have been a better idea to just go with exactly how the recipe was written, but I couldn't help myself.
I was driven to make a carrot cake because we had two pounds of carrots in the fridge and because I was given a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for Christmas, which I was terribly eager to use.
So we'll see . . . and if it doesn't taste good today, there's still hope, because many things taste better the next day. If it still doesn't taste good, then I'll coat it in cream cheese icing and try to forget I'm eating vegetables. If it's absolutely horrific, I'll toss it out or feed it to the dog, who could probably do without the cavities I'm sure he'd get from eating it.
Holidays are over. Here I am, on the other side of them, wondering what in the world just happened. It all happened so quickly! And next week I will be 25. I'll be sure not to bake a carrot cake for my birthday. I wonder what kind of cake I will bake for myself? I should do something that has layers, and icing. Not the kind of casual cake I usually make, but something special and pretty. After all, my birthday only comes once a year.
In baking news, I made a cobbler two days ago that was polished off one day ago. My friends came over and used my stand mixer to make (gasp) boxed brownies. They were Ghiradelli boxed brownies, though, so it was okay. And that's it in baking news! In broiler news, I made some delicious and easy black bean, salsa, and cheese quesadillas.
I am quite happy to be back at my own house, ruling the roost, so to speak. I spent a week and a few days at my mom's house, where I did nothing at all, seriously. I did not cook, I did not clean, I did not take walks. I hung out with Finn and with my mom and her husband. I ate way too much, and because Michael cooks with too much butter, I definitely ate way too much.
In baby news, you would be amazed to see Finn these days. Not only is he a roly poly of 15 pounds, but he is grasping, babbling, and almost always holding his head up on his own. Yes, he is a wonderchild. I know everyone thinks this about their own kids, but I am serious. He's going to outsmart both Scott and I, I just know it. Hopefully he'll still fall for vegetables in cake. Muahaha.
Besides all of this, I have so much catching up to do on my blog reading. I can't wait to see what new recipes everyone has come up with, and what sorts of news is circulating. Last but not least, our internet connection is back so I finally can read blogs and post. Hurrah.
It's good to be home.