Category: recipes

Meal Plan: Quick and Easy Garlic and Herb Chicken Saute with Cous Cous, Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

I love to meal plan to help our family save money on groceries, so when I was given the opportunity to share a recipe and a meal plan with my readers on behalf of Collective Bias and their client, I jumped at the chance.  If you are new to meal planning or just looking for fresh dinner ideas, I’ve got you covered.  This meal is so easy and delicious, you’ll want to add it to your monthly menu.  The ingredients are simple but combined create a flavorful, veggie filled, quick meal perfect for a busy week night.      
If cooking intimidates you or you are super busy, roasting and sauteing are your best bets for preparing real food fast.  Saute Express Saute Starters take the guess work out of flavoring your meal, and can be used on a variety of proteins and vegetables.  You can find all five flavors in the dairy section at your local Walmart. I want to try the Teriyaki and Italian Herb flavors next.     
Quick and Easy Garlic and Herb Chicken Saute with Cous Cous, Roasted Broccoli and Carrots
(serves 2-3)
The total prep + cooking time should only be about 30 minutes.  
8-10 ounces of chicken breast meat, cubed
2 heads fresh broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 lb baby carrots or 6 large carrots sliced
2 packets of Land O’ Lakes Saute Express Saute Starter in Garlic and Herb flavor
olive oil
sea salt
balsamic vinegar
one package of instant cous cous (I used parmesan cous cous.)

1) Preheat your oven to 400 F.
2) Start with your broccoli.  Toss all of it into a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay it out on a baking pan you previously sprayed with cooking spray or greased.  Do not put it in the oven yet.
3) Use the same bowl to toss your carrots with olive oil and sea salt.  Then add a little bit of balsamic vinegar, just enough for a light coating.  Spread your carrots out on another greased baking sheet.  Put the carrots in the oven, but hold off on the broccoli until the carrots have been in for 5 minutes.  The carrots take a little longer, but I wanted to spare you washing two bowls.  You’re welcome.   

 4) The carrots need to cook at 400 F for 20 minutes, and the broccoli for about 15.  Flip them with a spatula half way through for even roasting.

5) While your vegetables are roasting, grab 2 packets of your Land O’ Lakes Saute Express Saute Starter and place the unwrapped starter in pan on medium heat.  Let it melt fully, coating the pan.  To expedite this process you can swirl the starter around with your spatula.  I used two packets instead of the recommended one because I had a little more than half a pound (10 ounces) and I wanted a little bit of extra sauce for the cous cous.  

6) Once your starter is melted completely and bubbling, enjoy the aroma and add your cubed chicken.  Let it cook for 10-15 minutes, flipping it occasionally for even cooking.
7) While your chicken is cooking, prep your cous cous according to the package directions and set aside.  It should only take a few minutes to cook.  

8) Temp your chicken with a meat thermometor and make sure it has reached an internal temperature of at least 165 F.  Once fully cooked, serve your chicken on a bed of cous cous with a side of your beautiful roasted vegetables and enjoy.

You don’t have to be Julia Child or Martha Stewart to make fresh, delicious dinners for your family.  You just need a few ingredients and maybe an episode of Daniel Tiger to entertain your little people.  Meal planning is not just for families.  When I was single, and before we had kids, we were the WORST at planning our meals and spent way to much money dining out and grabbing fast food because of a lack of planning and a multitude of excuses.  Sometimes it can be hard to feel like it is worth cooking a whole meal for just you.  You are worth it.  Your body and your budget will thank you.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does have to be intentional.  

Now that Monday is taken care of, here’s a meal plan for the rest of the week.
Tuesday: Chicken Fajita Tacos from Simply Organized Mama
Wednesday: Spinach Quiche from Coco and Cocoa
Thursday: Quick and Easy Chunky Texas Chili from Mom Prepares
Friday: Crock Pot Spicy Pulled Pork from Three 31 with Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes
Saturday: Lasagna Bites from Hooked on the Howards with Caesar Salad
Sunday: King Ranch Chicken Casserole from Yesterfood with Sauteed Zucchini and Squash (Use 1-2 Saute Express packets with veggie slices for a delicious side dish.)

What’s on your meal plan this week?

Sneaky Veggie Double Chocolate Whole Wheat Muffins

Parenting a toddler comes with a special set of challenges, one of which is trying to get them to eat things outside of their favorite food groups.  Similar to Will Ferrell’s Elf character, most toddler consider the main food groups to be candy, candy corns, cake, cupcakes, cereal, milk, and juice.  We fight toddler meal battles on a daily basis around here, and utilize a variety of techniques to get our growing boy the nutrients he needs without losing our sanity.  I make sneaky veggie smoothies every week, and have started baking sneaky veggie muffins quite often.  I’ve tried a few veggie muffin recipes, and have come up with the one I’m sharing today through trial and error.  This recipe maximizes the good stuff without compromising on taste.  We all love them, and I hope you will as well.
Sneaky Veggie Double Chocolate Whole Wheat Muffins
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs or substitute 3 tbsp flax seed mixed with water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup grated carrot
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 and grease your muffin tin or line it with paper liners.
Beat the eggs or flax seed mix.  Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well.  I use a stand mixer.
Add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing and scraping the sides as you go.
After the other ingredients are well mixed, add the chocolate chips if desired.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the batter in to your muffin tin, filling each spot 2/3 of the way full.
Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.
Enjoy.  These bad boys are not just for picky toddlers.  They are popular with all members of Casa de Eby.
I wish the Bear would eat his vegetables, and I continue to offer them at lunch and dinner every day.  Someday he will choose to eat them.  For now, I’m getting his nutritional needs met in the form of baked goods.
How do you get your kids to eat vegetables?

Game Day Goodies: Snickers and Milky Way Double Chocolate Brownie Bites {With a Coupon!} #GameDayBites

As a member of Collective Bias, I was asked to create a tasty tailgate party treat to share with y’all.  Brownies are a favorite of the Eby family, so I whipped up a tiny and delicious version perfect for toting to your next tailgate party.  These pint size cuties are portable and contain a special surprise in the center – Milky Way and Snickers Bites!  If you love coupons, head here to grab 2 for Mars Snickers and Milky Way Bites.  Both coupons double when you share them.

Until a few years ago I had no idea baking brownies from scratch was so incredibly easy and delicious.  I really thought that box mixes were the best option out there.  I still love a baking mix, but try to bake from scratch whenever I can.  You can bake from scratch.  It doesn’t take much more time, and is typically more frugal.  

Tail gate party food is tricky because it needs to be portable finger food, and is best when it can be easily packed and moved and not refrigerated.  These brownie bites would be delicious iced with cream cheese frosting, but then their portability would go out the window.  These game day goodies are so easy, and baking from scratch is delicious and satisfying.  

Ready to make your Snickers and Milky Way Double Chocolate Brownie Bites and be the hero of your game day gathering? Here we go…

1 bag Mars Snickers Bites
1 bag Mars Milky Way Bites
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
mini muffin tin
48 mini cupcake paper liners (optional)
Serves 24 (2 brownie bites each).

Preheat your oven to 350.  Line your mini muffin tins with your paper liners.
Add one Snickers Bite to the bottom of each cupcake liner of one pan, and a Milky Way Bite to the bottom of each liner in the other pan.  Be sure to differentiate between the two in case of a peanut allergy.
Beat your eggs with a hand or stand mixer.
Add in the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Mix until smooth.
Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix well, scraping the sides and bottom of your bowl until smooth and well mixed.
Add the chocolate chips and mix slowly until incorporated.
Spoon approximately one tbsp of batter into each cupcake liner.  Smush the batter down into the liner, or go chase your toddler around for a few minutes and let gravity do the work (my method).
Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Check them often because they bake very quickly.
Serve any time and enjoy the compliments.

Grab a coupon here for Mars Snickers and Milky Way Bites.  The coupons doubles when you share it with a friend.  Go get it!

What’s your go-to game day treat?

Super Easy Fried Plantain Chips

Fried plantains are one of my favorite quick whole food snacks to whip up.  They are delicious and can be served a number of ways as a snack or the perfect side to Caribbean black beans and rice.  I prefer them with a dash of sea salt.  If you’ve ever wondered what to do with those extra large fruits that resemble bananas but are typically sold individually in the U.S., I’ll share one method that will be a crowd pleaser.  
Plantains are similar in appearance to bananas, but cannot be eaten raw.  Ripe plantains look like a banana that has gone bad, but you can cook a plantain at any stage of ripeness.  I typically buy them green and let them ripen at home.  They can be notoriously difficult to peal.  The easiest method I’ve found is to chop off both ends, slice through the skin down the side, and peel away.  

one ripe plantain
one tbsp olive oil
sea salt
Peel your plantain and slice very thinly.
Heat your olive oil in a skillet for a few minutes.
Toss in your slices and separate them.
Flip them every few minutes so they cook thoroughly.
When they are tender to the touch, remove to a paper towel. 
Sprinkle sea salt on top.
Serve hot.
Plantain chips are also tasty when topped with cinnamon, sugar, or smashed after frying and refried.
Have you ever tried fried plantains?
What’s your favorite exotic fruit or vegetable dish? 

Meal Plan: Killer Cheesy Garlic Bread {Tasty Sides}

I am not a food blogger.
Not by a long shot.
But, I do love to eat. 
It’s one of my favorite hobbies.
In order for us to eat delicious meals and stay on track with our grocery budget, we’ve been pretty serious about our meal planning lately.  I’m loving it.  Planning out our meals means I’m not in a panic at 5 pm when I have hungry people expecting to be fed.  This Killer Cheesy Garlic Bread is a favorite side for just about any meal, but we try not to have it too often because it isn’t exactly healthy.  Oh, but it is tasty my friends.  
Jed has declared the making of cheesy garlic bread one of my spiritual gifts.  I guess I’ll take it.  This is really more of a process than an actual recipe, but hopefully it will be clear enough for you to recreate it in your own kitchen should you so choose.  It is so easy, and definitely a crowd pleaser and MUCH better than the premade variety.  
1 loaf french bread – I love a good crusty baguette.
Butter or Buttery Spread (It doesn’t really matter.  Pick your poison.)
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Shredded Parmesan Cheese (It tastes best if shredded fresh for both, but bagged is fine.)
Minced Garlic
Garlic Salt
I’m going to warn you now as I have before that I like garlic more than the average bear.  It probably stems from my childhood fear of vampires, but I’ll work that out in therapy.  
Slice your french bread.  Lay it out on your baking sheet.  Butter both sides.  Just do it.  Sprinkle garlic salt liberally on both sides.  Don’t question it.  With a butter knife, scoop out minced garlic and spread liberally on the top side of each slice of bread.  Don’t be afraid.  Grab a handful of your shredded mozzarella and sprinkle liberally on each slice, then follow with the parmesan.  If you aren’t in the mood to shred your cheese, big slices of fresh mozzarella are delightful on top of the bread.  Go back and add more cheese.  Stick it all in the oven on 400 for about 5 minutes.  Watch it, because it will burn fast and then everyone will cry.  I know this from experience.  Enjoy your cheesy garlic goodness.
Last week we had Killer Cheesy Garlic Bread with my Creamy Garden Veggie Spaghetti.  
What’s your go-to side dish?
Read more about our meal planning adventures here.  

Meal Plan: Creamy Garden Veggie Spaghetti with Hillshire Farm Beef Smoked Sausage

With this sponsored opportunity from Collective Bias, I created a new recipe for our monthly meal plan. 
We are on a meal planning mission around here, but I’m on a quest to keep it interesting and not get stuck in a recipe rut.  Spaghetti was one of my favorite meals growing up, and this recipe gives my comfort food a little twist by adding creamy texture, tons of fresh vegetables, and tasty smoked sausage.  I found all of my fresh ingredients at my local Sam’s Club, where I can buy everything in bulk at great prices.    

Creamy Garden Veggie Spaghetti with Hillshire Farm Beef Smoked Sausage
The Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
Vegetables: 1 zucchini, 1 summer squash, 2 roma tomatoes, 2 cups baby spinach, 1 onion, 1 bell pepper
Sauce: 2 cans Hunt’s Tomato Sauce (15 oz cans), 4 oz fat free cream cheese, 2 tbsp each dry basil and oregano (or fresh herbs if you have them), salt and pepper to taste, 2 tbsp minced garlic
Pasta – 1 pound Daily Chef Spaghetti noodles
Meat – 1/2 pound Hillshire Farm Beef Smoked Sausage
Serves 4-6

Heat the olive oil in your pan on medium heat. Chop all of your veggies.  Saute the onion until tender.  Add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes.  Add in the rest of the vegetables, except the spinach and tomatoes.  Saute the veggies for 5-7 minutes or until tender.  
Fill the pot with the appropriate amount of water for your pasta according to the package directions.  After you turn the burner on high, put a bit of olive oil in the water, then break your pasta in half and go ahead and put it in the water.  That’s right, you don’t have to wait for it to boil.  Just do it.  Trust me.  
Go back to your veggies and add the tomato and spinach.  Continue to let the vegetables cook, stirring occasionally.  Once the spinach wilts, add in the two cans of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce as well as the basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Next add the cream cheese and stir well until it is mixed in.  Once the cream cheese is completely melted, turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer until everything else is ready. 
Chop the smoked sausage into small pieces and toss it into a small skillet on medium heat. Let it cook thoroughly, then drain the grease into your grease jar. Never pour it down the drain! Set sausage aside.    
Watch your pasta and test it after about 8 minutes.  You don’t want it to get mushy.  As soon as it is ready, drain it and return it to the pot to keep warm.  

Serve the pasta topped with the sauce and the sausage.  Sprinkle a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top and  you are ready to enjoy.  Hopefully your family will love this twist on traditional spaghetti and get a big serving of vegetables while eating a favorite comfort food.  For more great recipe ideas, check out the demos happening at your local Sam’s Club from 11 am until 2 pm on September 17 (Italian Style Fish and Pasta), Sept. 19 (Quick and Easy Chicken Parmesan), and Sept. 24 (Chicken Dippers).  

Did you know that smoked sausage is one of my favorite foods of all time? It’s true.  I love those miniature smoked sausages with all my heart, but the larger version is more practical for use in a recipe.  Garlic bread is another favorite food.  I’ll share my killer cheesy garlic bread technique with y’all soon.

The Bear prefers for his food to be separated. We’ll call it deconstructed veggie spaghetti with a side of smoked sausage.  Toddlers are tricky.

What is your favorite comfort food recipe?  

Toddler Meal Battles and Sneaky Veggie Smoothies

We used to brag about what a great eater the Bear was, how he would eat anything, loved veggies, and wasn’t picky at all.  When he hit 18 months, everything changed.  All of a sudden he started drinking cow milk when previously he wouldn’t touch it and started refusing foods.  We continue to put all the healthy vegetables we eat in front of him at every meal, but he refuses them most of the time.  So frustrating! Desperate to get vegetables in to the boy, I’ve turned to sneaking them in to smoothies and baked goods.  Just like his mama, Bear will eat just about anything disguised as juice or a muffin.  I learned the smoothie trick from my dear friend Betsy, whose children are always slugging down a cup of veggie smoothie.  I’ve experimented extensively to find a recipe that maximizes the amount of vegetables while still tasting great.  It is a fine line, let me tell you.  I don’t have a fancy blender, but it gets the job done.  My recipe doesn’t add sugar or honey, but the Bear describes it as “dewishous”.  Perfect.  You could definitely add honey, but I’m not trying to clean that junk out of my blender on the regs.  Here we go…
Sneaky Veggie Smoothie Recipe:
2 cups water
2 cups (ish) baby spinach
2 cups full sized carrots, chopped to finger sized pieces if your blender isn’t fancy
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 cups frozen fruit of your choice
2 tablespoons flax seed
For the fruit I use blueberries every time, but vary the other fruit.  I’ve used peaches, bananas, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc, and they all work.
Add water and spinach.  Blend well.
Add carrots.  Blend well.
Add remaining ingredients.  Blend, then liquefy.  Enjoy.
If you have a fancy pants blender, you can probably just throw everything in.  I have to go slowly as to not make my machine angry.  If your toddler battles you at meal time, give them “juice” in a cool straw cup and call it a win.  The Bear asks for his special Bear juice all the time.  Little does he know he is getting great nutrition and making mama’s heart happy.
How do you win meal time battles with your kids?
I’d love to hear your tips in the comments section or by email.



Family Snacking at Home and on the Road + My Black Bean Hummus Recipe

We are a road tripping family as you may have noticed, and we take our snacking very seriously both at home and on the road.  We recently had the opportunity to try Green Giant‘s Roasted Veggie Garden Ranch Tortilla Chips and Sweet Potato Barbecue Chips, and we loved them both.  I can say that they are officially “picky toddler”  AND “picky husband” approved.  We tried them at home with lunch first, then took them on our southern beach road trip where they were enjoyed by all.   
The chips are made with real vegetables, contain zero grams of trans fat, and don’t have any weird food dyes.  Their coloring comes from the spices used, such as paprika, so they have a more natural look than some other chip brands without compromising flavor.  I appreciate when I can pronounce and understand the ingredients on a food I’m eating, something I wish were more commonplace.  Both flavors we tried were light and airy, with just the right amount of crisp.      
Our resident picky toddler approves.
I am a huge fan of all things sweet potato, so the Multigrain Sweet Potato Barbecue Chips were my personal  favorite flavor.  They taste like southern molasses barbecue with just a hint of spicy kick on the back burner. These BBQ chips are the perfect accompaniment to burgers or sandwiches, or as a stand alone snack. 
The Roasted Veggie Garden Ranch Tortilla Chips were delicious as well, with a light ranch flavor perfect for dipping with black bean hummus or salsa.  Have you ever made black bean hummus?  Try my recipe below with the Roasted Veggie Garden Ranch Tortilla Chips for your next afternoon snack.
Black Bean Hummus Recipe:
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1.5 tbsp tahini
To taste: lemon juice, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, and sea salt 
Add a little bit of each “to taste” item at a time until it tastes right to you.  Start with a sprinkle.  I like more garlic than the average human, so I refrain from giving specific amounts.  
Toss it all into your food processor and mix until smooth.  You will feel fancy for making your own hummus, and your wallet will thank you as well.  Get snacking!  

What is your favorite road trip snack?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Fun and Frugal Fourth of July Inspiration Round Up

I love everything about the 4th of July, fireworks, bbqs, red/white/blue color palettes, and watermelon.  I also love an inspirational idea, don’t you? I found some super cute, fun, and frugal ideas to share with y’all inspire us for Independence Day.  Each of these projects is very cheap to make and all are pretty quick.  Check out the projects below, get inspired, and visit each blog for the full tutorial.  All photos are by the original bloggers and used with permission.  If you decide to pin an individual project (and I hope you do) please pin from the original poster.  Let’s get ready for the 4th!
Patriotic Ice Cream Sandwiches from Kleinworh & Co.
Genius, pure and simple.  

Star Garland from Crazy Little Projects
Super cute, and I think I could make it even with my limited sewing skills.

DIY Ric Rac Flag T-shirt or Onesie from Our Good Life
I’m a sucker for ric rac and grosgrain.
American Flag Yarn & Button Wreath from The Cellar Door Stories
This one is so clean and simple, but still festive.
Red, White, and Blue Tin Can Luminaries from Days of a Domestic Dad
Such a cute idea and a perfect project to do with your kiddos.
Festive Firecracker Bows from Craft Quickies
The cute is exploding all over her head, and I love it.
DIY Flag Tank Top from Naturally Nesters
Don’t have a 4th of July outfit? Make one in under an hour.  
What’s on your summer crafting list? 

Trying for a VBAC Guest Post: Josiah’s Birth Story

While I’m on a little bloggy maternity leave, I’ll be featuring a few guest bloggers. As part of my Trying for a VBAC series, some of my guest posters will be sharing their own birth stories with y’all.  Today’s guest blogger is Andrea.  Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful birth story with us, Andrea!

Andrea has been married to Tim for almost nine years, and together they are homeschooling parents to Lydia (6), Benjamin (3) and newbie Josiah. They also remember their son Jonathan in their hearts. Andrea has been interested in all things related to pregnancy, birth and motherhood since high school, and sometimes calls her first child “well-researched.”

Here is my birth story, about 99% complete. Most of this story is from what I directly remember, but there are parts that I was told about afterwards, from my midwife and doula and a friend that was there, filling in the blanks when I was too out of it to fully realize what was going on. I don’t yet have my midwife’s written notes, but it’ll be a little while before I get those, and she and I have talked about the birth, so I’ve included those bits in here and am going to call it good for now. 

I also mention my Christian faith a few times, so if that will offend you, just be aware that it is there and an important part of my life. 

And the final disclaimer, this is my narrative story and should in no way be taken as medical advice. 

The birth story of my fourth child starts with the birth of my third. Jonathan, my third baby, was an emergency c-section at 25 weeks because of complete placental abruption (which followed my premature rupture of membranes at 23 weeks). He was with us for 27 days before we lost him due to complications from an infection. 

Even if Jonathan had lived, Tim (hubby) and I would not have felt that our family was complete at only three children, but now I was a complicated case. I was sneaking up on “advanced maternal age,” I was a hopeful VBAC, I had a history of a preterm birth (even though my first two births were nearly textbook). Tim and I consulted with several people to see when we could try to get pregnant again and still have a reasonably good chance at a VBAC. The delivering OB and another one both said we could try in three months (putting 12 months between the surgery and the next birth). Other opinions wanted us to wait 6 or 9 months. We decided to start trying at 4 months, never dreaming that we would get pregnant on the first try. 

I have to admit that I was more than a little nervous at first. I’d read birth stories and talked to people who had a short time span between their c-section and their VBAC. I’d also talked to people who had a full-term VBAC after having a premature c-section. But all my searching came up mostly empty when I tried to find people who had both of these factors in the same pregnancy. I didn’t know what would happen. 

I saw an OB for my whole pregnancy, taking P17 shots this time, and I saw an OB all the way up until the week before I delivered. I also saw my midwife for prenatal visits that last month (but had kept in contact with her throughout the pregnancy as well), unsure until the very end whether I wanted to go to the hospital or try for another homebirth. (My second child was a homebirth, and my third child was supposed to be a homebirth as well before my water broke so early and I had to transfer out of my midwife’s care.) 

I was officially due on 12/27, and in the couple of weeks leading up to that, I’d been having fairly decent Braxton Hicks off and on for several weeks, very similar to the way it happened with Benjamin (my second baby, 3 years old at the time of this birth). My due date came and went. I was a VBAC this time, so I didn’t want to be induced. I just had to wait it out. I had an appointment scheduled for 1/2 for a NST and ultrasound since I would be turning 41 weeks the next day. Then if I made it to 42 weeks, the OB was recommending induction at that time (which I was agreeable to, but still praying that I wouldn’t make it nearly that far). 

With both of my other full-term labors, I had light bleeding throughout the whole active labor, so I kept waiting for that to show up to indicate that I was finally in real labor, but it never did. I also was waiting for a loose stool, which could indicate my body cleaning itself out in preparation for labor, but that never happened either. (I did, however, have two separate solid BMs during labor, once it finally started.) 

On 12/28 and 12/29, I was losing teeny tiny pieces of my mucous plug, but nothing to make me say, “This is it!” I just kept monitoring it throughout the weekend, and it would come and go as the days passed. I had an appointment with my midwife on 12/28 and my blood pressure had spiked a little bit, and she said that it might be an indicator of labor starting soon. She estimated his size to be at about eight and a half pounds. She also made the comment that she likes doing baby-size estimates on women with my body type because it’s easy for her to be fairly accurate. The afternoon of that appointment, I made some eggplant Parmesan using a recipe that is “famous” for putting women into labor within 48 hours. A friend of mine had made it with one of her babies and had gone into labor that same night. I made the recipe, but it was deliciously ineffective for that first night and the second night. 

On 12/30, I woke up having lost a lot more of my plug the night before. I was having contractions that could still be called BH, but they were coming close enough together for me to think that they could easily turn into something more later. I texted our doula to see what time she was going to be in church, and to give her a heads up about the plug and that something might be happening later on. Tim and the kids and I went to church as well, and were there from about 9:00 to 11:30, where I continued having contractions. 

After church was done, I got Tim’s attention and told him that he needed to get the kids in the car (i.e. don’t dawdle and visit with people) and that today was probably going to be the day. He grinned at me. 😀 One of our friends who was going to come to the birth to help with chores or whatever else we needed came up to me before I could get outside and asked if I was in labor, and said that when she saw me when we first got there that morning, that it looked like I was. I told her that I don’t know but that she should come over after lunch. On the way home, I called our doula and our photographer and midwife and made plans to have them all come over at their various times that they could make it (from being out of town or whatever). 

My midwife got to the house first and we talked about what was possibly going on, and I went ahead and had her check me, and I was at a 3, 50% effaced, and very squishy. My bag of waters was intact but she could feel the baby’s head through it. He was floating, though. Since I was still in very early labor, my midwife stepped out to grab lunch with her hubby and then run another errand. 

Throughout the afternoon, the rest of my “birth team” arrived, and we were lighthearted and chatty since my labor was also lighthearted. 😛 The birth supplies were assembled, but I couldn’t find the little hats that I had crocheted, so I spent a little time in early labor making one more hat, just to be sure we’d have one. I also had some music on with a portable stereo, and Benjamin was laying down on the floor, directly facing the speakers, singing the familiar church songs on the CDs that I had picked out. It was so heartwarming to watch him do that. Lydia (my first baby, 6 years old at the time of this birth) played games on various electronic devices (like our photographer’s iPad and my Kindle). We eventually let Benjamin take a long nap, but Lydia stayed up the whole day and all the way through to the birth. At some point, we blew up the birth pool (but didn’t put any water in it yet) and the kids were enthralled with their new “toy” and kept playing over the edges of it. At one point, they managed to flip the pool on top of themselves, creating an air-filled cage. 😀

I got checked early in the afternoon when my midwife first got there, and I was at a 3, 50%, and very squishy. Since labor was still so light, she went to eat lunch with her hubby and run another errand. I gradually dilated to a 5, and at that check, my midwife was able to stretch me to a 6, but then I never dilated past that because my bag of waters was keeping the baby’s head from putting direct pressure onto my cervix. (My midwives called it “bag of water dystocia.”) I did a round of nipple stimulation, which helped the contractions get stronger and closer together, but it still wasn’t enough to move the baby onto my cervix and finish dilating. She suggested maybe breaking my water in an hour or so if there’s been no progress (and if baby was not posterior). 

I wanted to go ahead and fill up the pool first, though, so we started to do that. When Tim and I had made preparations for this birth, we got a hose and some fittings to fit it onto the shower head, because our washing machine spout wasn’t easily accessible. We hadn’t run any water through the hose, though, and instead had just seen if it would screw onto the shower head prior to birth day. Once it came time to actually fill the tub, Tim had a little trouble getting the fittings tightened properly, and it kept leaking, so we had a lot of stop-and-starts when trying to fill the pool. He finally got the fittings finished and then turned on the water. About a minute later, he called down the hallway, “Here comes some water!” to make sure that someone was holding the hose at the other end. It was a humorously delayed warning, but someone had been holding the hose anyway, so everything was good. 

I was in the pool for an hour or so, but the contractions slowed down, so I continued the nipple stimulation. They picked up, but again, not enough to do what they needed to do, so I got out and agreed to have my water broken. It felt like a gallon came out of me (but was really only about two cups), and it kept coming out in several spurts as I continued laying there, but as soon as she broke it, I was at an 8.5. She said that since I was so soft, it would probably be only an hour or so after she breaks my water and then the baby would be born. My amniotic fluid was meconium-stained, so it was yet another thing to keep an eye on during this birth. My doula had had a “streak” going where all of her clients had started labor with their water breaking, so I was glad to break her streak and have my water intact for so long. It took her some effort to break my water since my sac was so strong this time, which was such a change from my third pregnancy. 

My contractions picked up in intensity, but not frequency, after my water was broken. I was back in the pool but couldn’t get comfortable. I started vocalizing and screaming through the contractions, and at one point, they suggested that I go to the bathroom to get my full bladder out of the way (everyone had been giving me sips of Recharge and water throughout the day). I did that, and had a few contractions on the toilet and felt pushy. I wanted to get to the bed so they could check me, but I had to time it just right because the contractions were finally coming pretty close together. 

I felt the contractions so low that it felt like they were running down the side of my thighs as well. It was quite the odd sensation. While still in the water, I started needing some counter pressure applied to my low back/hip area, which Tim did for me. He was amazing through my whole labor, just doing what I said I needed instead of what he thought I needed. :p Overall, I’m glad that I gave water a try, but I don’t know if I’ll do it again. It didn’t really feel like it was the “magical pain relief” that people have made it out to be.

I got to the bed and was checked, and I just had a lip that moved back and forth as the baby tried to find his way down. I was complete, but my cervix kept slightly shrinking back with the contractions. My midwife checked the position of his head, and he was asynclitic (with sort of a front “corner” of his head trying to come out first instead of the back of his head). She spent a few contractions trying to push the lip over his head and at the same time get him to rotate. Even with no water, there was room for him to do all that. Both of those techniques were incredibly painful. Throughout my contractions and especially during the pushing phase, my midwife never stopped praying for us, out loud. I greatly appreciated this as it helped keep ME focused on who was in control of the situation as well. Since I was GBS positive this time, they also gave me a chlorhexidine rinse every so often, which was cold! Brrr!

During an incredibly painful contraction, I asked if I could push, and they told me I could. Because of his presentation, I never did get the uncontrollable, “my body’s going to push whether I want it to or not” urge like I’d had with my other vaginal births. My midwife was inside me trying to show me where to push (but I had thought she was holding my lip out of the way), which was also pretty painful. She also was still trying to turn his head in between contractions to a better presentation, but then before the next contraction hit, he would turn right back. I couldn’t feel it, but Tim kept seeing the baby flip back over as he watched my belly. She told one of my friends later that I had a pelvis that could birth a 10-pound baby and that the baby just had too much room in there since he kept flipping back. 

I was getting tired and weak by this point and kept saying and thinking, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it,” over and over. But I was also aware enough to realize that his heart rate had gone down into the 90s and stayed there, so they were getting nervous about a possible cord problem. I gave it my all. They didn’t know what was causing the drop in heart rate, but my midwife knew from my previous birth records that I could push a baby out fast, so she wasn’t as worried as she might have been if I were a first-time mom or having my first vaginal birth. We didn’t have the luxury of taking an hour or more to push with that declining heart rate. Tim was trying to help me push better/faster/harder by yelling, “PUSH!” several times at me, with increasing volume, but that wasn’t helping and before it started to bother me too much, the midwives told him to stop.

At some point, I was on my hands and knees trying to get the baby to a better position, but that wasn’t working, so I ended up on my back. I have NEVER had a pushing phase hurt like this one did. I had various people giving counter pressure on all four limbs to give me traction. I wanted to scream from the pain, but I knew if I did, it would make my pushing less effective, so I tried to be quiet and just let all the energy go into my push. From Tim’s point of view, there was one point where a big portion of the head was visible, but then when I stopped pushing, it slipped back. At one point, they invited me to feel his head, and based on the pain I’d been feeling, I thought I was going to feel a huge portion of it, but it ended up feeling only like a half-dollar-sized amount of head. The video is a little blurry because of the low lighting, but it ended up actually being a significant portion of head that I was feeling and not just a tiny little bit. 

When the head finally came out all the way, he was looking down towards my left leg. Before the shoulders came out, he rotated clockwise, looking directly at my left leg, then up to the ceiling, then finally straight over at my right leg, and THEN the shoulders came out. 

He was neither breathing nor trying to (but did still have a pulse, which my midwife monitored with her fingers on his chest while they worked on him to get him breathing). They kept him right at my feet where he had come out while they worked on him, leaving the cord intact. They suctioned him (getting a lot of watery blood out when they did this) and gave him oxygen. His one-minute APGAR score was only a 6 (but his five-minute one was 9). My friend told me that my midwife was crying at one point. After quite a bit of suctioning and some oxygen, he got a tiny spot of pink on his head which nearly immediately spread to his whole body, replacing the purple that he had been upon first arriving. He started crying and they put him on my chest. His cord (which was two feet long) ended up being wrapped around one of his feet, but that was the only place it was wrapped. And remember that 8.5-pound estimate from a couple days prior? The first thing I noticed when they laid him on me was how dense and heavy he felt. This baby was not an 8.5-pound baby. When we finally got around to weighing him, he was 9 pounds and 6 ounces, my heaviest baby so far. 

Another thing I noticed about him was that he had absolutely NO vernix on him, not even in his little neck folds or anything. He was a very well-cooked baby. 😀 I cut the cord this time, and was surprised that I had the strength to do that since I didn’t even have the strength left to fully lift my head to see where to cut, and had to rely on others to move my hand into the proper position. And 36 or so hours after the birth, I had a sudden realization, “Oh, yeah, I cut the cord this time,” like I’d forgotten that I did it. The assistant midwife and my friend were looking at the placenta later, and that midwife pointed out the few calcification spots in there and said that it wasn’t a “bad” placenta, but it was definitely done and time for the baby to have been born.

One more thing I noticed was a “scratch” on his abdomen that looked like there had been a cat inside me with him that gave him a good clawing. It ended up being just a weird arrangement of dried blood, though, and came off in the bath, revealing smooth and unblemished baby skin. 

Sometime earlier while I was still in the birth pool, I was nauseous, and threw up all the fluids I’d taken in in the previous hour or so. They wanted me to keep taking more fluids, so I kept trying, but the nausea never went away, and I also threw up all those additional fluids along with the few bites of eggs that I’d tried to eat as my first postpartum meal. This loss of fluids combined with the loss of blood made me incredibly weak and lightheaded, and I came very close to passing out many times, and actually did pass out once, later, after my herbal bath. Baby was born at about 2:24 a.m. and it wasn’t until noon that I finally felt able to walk a few steps by myself and got my appetite back. I didn’t even try to carry the baby before then, either, because I felt that bad, and instead just kept him near me in the bed and had Tim change all the diapers. And even after feeling better, I still had another few sporadic incidents of lightheadedness where I had to stop and bend over, and these incidents reminded me even apart from bleeding intensity that I needed to get back into bed or into a semi-reclining position. 

It was a little while before I delivered the placenta. They kept checking to see if it was ready to come out or where it was. I had lost a lot of blood beforehand and they were wanting to make sure I didn’t have a bunch behind the placenta as well. When it was finally ready to come out, I didn’t want to push it out since the baby had been such an effort. But everyone reminded me that the placenta had no bones, lol, and I pushed it out and that was that.

He nursed very well, once we finally got around to it. It ended up being about an hour and a half after the birth before we were able to successfully latch. From the loss of blood and fluid, I was too weak to do it lying down (though I did try with what little strength I had) and too weak to sit up without help. I was also too out of it mentally to ask for help sitting up and to realize how much time was actually passing. 

When we finally did sit up, my midwife asked us if we were going to circumcise him, and we said no. She said “Yay,” but I didn’t quite understand what she said, and she had a weird look on her face and said it in a weird tone of voice. I thought that she was upset at our decision until I asked her to repeat herself. Tim and I had had that discussion while pregnant with Benjamin and had left him intact as well. 

I did not tear at all, but I had some bruising. It felt like I had been trying to climb out of an above-ground pool but that I was repeatedly dropped on the edge of the pool, with one leg in and one leg out. In addition, I was swollen so much that I couldn’t pee within the time that my midwives wanted me to (even with the assistance of some peppermint oil), so they did end up cath-ing me. After that, the assistant went home but my primary stayed and dozed on the couch and wanted me to try to pee again after an hour and a half or so. I was keeping fluids down again by then so I thought I might be able to go when it was time, and I did, and didn’t have any further issues in that regard.

They offered an herbal bath for me and the baby afterwards (and they also thought I might try to pee in the bath as well, but that didn’t work either), which I took, but I got increasingly lightheaded during that, and hindsight said that they probably should have skipped it. I had to have a ton of assistance walking just to the door of the bathroom, then they had me sit in our wheeled office chair to wheel me to the bed, and I think I might have passed out for half a second. I remember sitting down in the chair, then the next thing I know, they were calling my name and I realized I was leaning on the door jamb with my eyes closed. I woke up from whatever state I was in, and then they wheeled me across the hallway and to the side of the bed. 

Baby is a champion nurser. He latches beautifully and just knows exactly what to do, as if he’s been waiting his whole life for it. 🙂 He had a bit of a “click” that first day or so, and after some investigating, I found out that he was turning in his bottom lip instead of turning it out, so I’m working to help him develop a better habit there. Other than that, he is a great nurser, easily handling my gigantic letdown. At three days postpartum, he was two ounces under his birth weight, but at five days old, he was two ounces over his birth weight. 

Tim changed all the diapers that first day, including the first meconium diaper, which had a HUGE pile in it for him. Tim made the comment of “nothing wrong with that system,” lol. 

He smiled in his sleep within the first few hours, and then on Tuesday (I’m still wondering what happened to most of the rest of Monday), I saw him smile while he was awake and in a quiet alert phase. 🙂 

One odd thing I noticed early postpartum with myself is that my uterus seemed almost cylindrical when it was freshly empty, instead of shrinking in a rounder fashion. My midwife mentioned this to me at my postpartum visit and said that she and the assistant midwife had noticed the odd shape even from when they broke my water. I don’t remember the shape of my postpartum uterus with my pre-c-section births being anything remarkable like that. 

The kids just love him to bits. Benjamin was sleeping when Josiah was born, and when he woke up this morning, I was in the bed and I asked him where my baby is. He indicated my now-shrunken tummy and said, “In your tummy.” I told him that he came out, and Tim helped him climb onto the bed so he could see the baby. Benjamin promptly squished him in a hug and said that “he’s sleeping” and gently touched his tiny hands. 🙂 Lydia was still awake for the birth, and when he came out, she said that he was “so cute.” 😀 A good friend of ours took our kids for the first 36-ish hours after birth, so that was nice, since one of the things that first made me consider a hospital birth this time was the postpartum stay without having my big kids around. 🙂 

We sort of have a “theme” going on with our names and our kids’ names – three-syllable names from the Bible. (My name is Andrea, which is the feminine form of Andrew, so I’m counting my name as a Bible name as well.) Then Tim is legally Timothy, and there’s Lydia, Benjamin and Jonathan. What WERE we going to name this baby, to keep with our theme? We chose the name Josiah Nathan, which means, “God has healed, God has given.” We couldn’t think of a more appropriate name and are just so happy that he is finally here.

What an incredibly beautiful birth story God wrote for Andrea and her family.  Thanks so much for sharing Josiah’s story with us, Andrea.  You can find more from my Trying for a VBAC series here.