Category: guest post

Frugal Holiday Guest Post: Spending Less and Giving More with The Three Gifts of Christmas

Today’s guest post is brought to you by author Jamie Younker, a mom of four and contributor to the brand new  Take it away, Jamie.
Last night the kids and I cozied up together on the couch to watch what is possibly one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, the old cartoon version of Dr. Seuss’s iconic tale- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. We sat close together, watching in delight as the Whos down in Whoville, the tall and the small, celebrated Christmas without any presents at all. I felt the familiar tug of my heart strings as the narrator recited my favorite part of the story:

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling. How could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

I remember my daughter’s first Christmas like it was yesterday. It was so fun to watch her wrestle with her presents, scratching at the wrapping paper with her chubby little uncoordinated fingers. She seemed to get more enjoyment out of the packaging than she did with whatever was inside. It wasn’t until her presents had all been opened, leaving her shipwrecked in a sea of wrapping paper, that we realized our mistake. We had been so excited to finally have a baby to enjoy Christmas with that we may have gotten a little carried away.

That got us thinking- what do we really want our children take away from the Holidays? Gifts? Toys? Santa? Christmas is so much more than that. It’s about spending time with the people we love. It’s about giving, not receiving. Most importantly it’s about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  

No, Christmas certainly does not come from a store. But that’s not what the media would have you believe. So how can we protect our families from the enticing voices of commercialism that seem to be particularly loud this time of year?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will tell you 2 things that have worked for us:

First, we wanted our children to spend less time thinking about gifts and more time thinking about others, so we started doing The 12 Days of Service for people in our community. As the kids have gotten older this has become one of our favorite traditions. Watching our children learn to put the needs of others before their own has been an incredibly rewarding experience.

Secondly, we came up with a plan to make it easier to resist buying unnecessary presents. When the wise men visited the Savior they brought him three gifts- Frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Frankincense was a useful herb with many medicinal purposes. Myrrh was popularly used as a perfume and burned as incense, for enjoyment. And gold was something valuable, something to be treasured.

(Now, before you tell me I’m wrong about these interpretations, please know that I’ve done a lot of research and I know there is much more to these gifts than my simple explanation. I also know that there is a lot of symbolism behind each one. However this is how I chose to break it down because it’s clear and simple, and I knew it was something my children could understand.)

We decided to implement the same philosophy in our family, so for Christmas our children get three things:

1. Something they need- A new coat, new socks, snow boots, etc…

2. Something they want- A toy from Santa

3. Something they will treasure- a homemade gift, or a family experience  

We figured if the three gifts were good enough for the Christ child then they are surely good enough for us.

And yes, you read that right- they get ONE toy. Before you feel bad for our kids, please understand, there is no shortage of toys at our house. In fact I am always shocked at the amount of gifts we accumulate during the Holidays. To my thoughtful friends and relatives who are so sweet to give my children gifts- I want you to know that we appreciate them. We honestly and truly do! So don’t feel bad when I say this- But what if, instead of giving our kids more stuff, we gave them what they really want? Us! They want our time, our attention, and our love, and it’s easier to give than you may think.

Which brings me to gift #3-Something they will treasure. This can mean so many things! Some years it’s a scrapbook documenting all the great memories we made over the past year. Sometimes it’s a coupon for a special date, where we can enjoy some much needed one-on-one time. Without fail, these are always our children’s favorite gifts. In fact, giving “treasured gifts” has been such a hit we recently carried the tradition over to birthdays as well. For example, my oldest girl is obsessed with princesses, and over the years she has collected more princess memorabilia than we know what to do with.  So for her birthday, instead of getting her another toy, we took her to The Princess Festival with her sisters to enjoy an afternoon together as family. She still talks about it being the best birthday she’s ever had! 

The reality is, years from now the majority of their toys will either be lost or broken, but the memories we create together will last forever. Our tradition of The Three Gifts of Christmas has blessed our family in many ways! We are more content to spend less. And we are able to fill our lives with relationships and experiences, instead of things. So as Christmas approaches and the store ads start popping up in your email and your Facebook feed, luring us in with their steep discounts and “Gotta have it NOW!” philosophies… just turn off the computer and turn on The Grinch, and rejoice in the wise words of Dr. Seuss. After all, there is no way that Christmas could come from a store! Because Christmas, of course, means a whole lot more!

About the Author: Jamie Younker is a contributor for SmartMom, an easy way to receive fast answers to all of your parenting questions from the convenience of your mobile device. Jamie has four beautiful children, and is married to her Superman. She’s a former Elementary School Teacher who dabbles in photography, musical theater, Zumba and baking… sometimes simultaneously 

Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, Jamie.  We are trying hard not to get sucked in to the consumer craziness of the season and stick to our Christmas budget while creating special memories for our family.  I love hearing ideas from other folks.  How do you teach your kids about giving during the holidays?  Do you keep a Christmas budget?  You can read more of my frugal Christmas tips here.

Play Time Guest Post: Eight Fun and Frugal Ways to Bring Music Home

The benefits of early music education have long been touted, but signing up for mommy and me music appreciation groups or finding instructors to teach private lessons can cost a lot. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to provide your kids with exposure to music at home and on a budget, from crafting your own instruments to taking online music classes. Here are some easy but effective ways to give your children experience with music which can positively aid their growth and development.

1. Sing and Dance

While it might feel a little foolish as an adult, engage in singing and dancing time with your children. Put on some fun music and get goofy. Most little ones already love dancing and singing along. Join them and encourage this free method of participating in music and art.

2. Instrument Craft Time

For creative and crafty families, try making your own instruments from recycled materials around the house. Paper towel roles and empty tins and paint cans can quickly be decorated and transformed into a drum set. Without any mess, musical glasses can be simply set up with different amounts of water in each. For more ambitious creators, cardboard guitars or rubber band harps can be devised.

3. Play With Percussion

Once you have made a band of recycled instruments, spend some time playing them. Though clapping along with a song sounds simple, it is often a skill which you can impart to your children as you show them how to follow the rhythm and come in on the beat. And if your cardboard and paint cans don’t hold up, it might be a good idea to invest in a set of toy percussion instruments such as a tambourine or set of maracas.

4.  Hear Live Music

Most children will sit spellbound by live music as they watch the musicians’ movements and hear the loud full sound. While a night at the symphony might sound expensive, many colleges present free or less expensive musical programs and even professional symphonies often host children’s concerts.

5. Learn at the Local Library

Your community library most likely hosts weekly musical programs geared for an audience of young children. This is a wonderful, free way to connect with other kids and moms in your area while enjoying live music and stories.

6. Read About Classical Composers

While you’re at your library, pick up a few books on Mozart or Handel. The children’s section boasts tons of material on famous composers as well as recordings of all types of music. Many recordings also blend story with song such as “Peter and the Wolf,” a story narrated with the help of the symphony.

7. Write Your Own Songs

One blogging mother cleverly suggests taking a simple children’s song such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and asking your “children to parody this tune” with their own lyrics. This is a fun and simple way to give your children a chance to compose their own words into songs.

8. Begin Music Theory

One final tip is introducing your children to music theory as they mature. While it might sound complicated and scary at first, many sheet music companies publish beginning music theory courses. Purchasing an elementary workbook can introduce your children to some of the more technical aspects of music and open up a subject which they may later choose to pursue.

With these fun yet affordable ideas, you and your family are set to enjoy the wonder of music without spending an uncomfortable sum.

Guest Post author Abby Evans is a freelance journalist and mom currently reviewing health options for her family.  
Thanks for sharing your tips, Abby.  We love to listen to Pandora and dance, and Jed plays the guitar for the kids.  The Bear loves playing with our keyboard as well as turning anything and everything into a percussion instrument.  How do you bring music into your home?

Trying for a VBAC Guest Post: Carson’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 Holly from My Everyday Adventure.  Thanks for sharing your beautiful VBAC birth story with us! 

My name is Holly Faske.  I am 25 years old and have been married to my husband, James for 4 years.  Our first son is named Aiven and he is 19 months old.  He was breech, so we decided to have a c-section instead of try for a vaginal breech birth. Our second son was born January 18th, 2013 and we had a natural home birth.  
We live in Denton, TX and attend Denton Bible Church.  We have a wonderful husky-lab mix dog named Hudson (who is in some of our home birth pictures) and a beautiful cat named Cider.  
I am a stay-at-home mom and enjoy it very much!! 
The night of Thursday, January 17th I went to sleep at 10 pm and woke up at 12:30 am to go to the bathroom. I came back to bed and as soon as I laid down I felt pain and pressure really low for just a few seconds and then a big release of water! I just kind of laid there in shock! Right then James was coming to bed (because he was on call for work) and I said, “Babe, my water just broke.” His reaction was, “What?! Are you sure?!” I got up to go back to the bathroom and I texted my midwife, Donnellyn. She wrote back immediately asking how much came out and if it were clear. Contractions hadn’t started yet, so she said to lay back down and try to sleep till the contractions started. But I didn’t get a chance to do that. We called our parents to let them know we’d have a baby in the next 24 hours! Then I had James wash our sheets 🙂 By 1:15/1:30 am I started having small contractions only lasting a few seconds. We had all of our supplies for our home birth that we needed, but we were still caught off guard with going into labor at 38 weeks! So James started making the bed and picking up! By 1:40 am the contractions were coming closer together, getting a bit stronger, and lasting 30-45 seconds. By 2 am we were ready for Donnellyn to come and she was on her way! James started getting the birthing pool ready. In between contractions I was brushing my teeth and putting out all the birth supplies on our dining table. Aiven was sleeping peacefully in his room and we were going to have my Dad and Peggy come get him only if he woke up. Donnellyn got there at about 2:30 am and 2 of her students got there about 15 minutes later. I was so glad when she got there. Every time I had a contraction she would stop what she was doing and rub my back and talk me through it. I would just lean over a table or chair with my hands on the surface and sway back and forth – breathing and relaxing my body. If there was anything that looked tensed up, Donnellyn would point it out and tell me to relax it. It was so very helpful to relax through each contraction, allowing my body to do what it is supposed to. Once James was done filling up the birthing pool he was able to be there rubbing my back through each contraction.    
 At about 3am, Donnellyn took my vitals, listened to the baby’s heart beat and checked me – I was at 9 cm! She said I’d be having this baby soon and that was so exciting to hear! After that I got in the birthing pool which felt SO amazing!!  
 After I got in the pool I’m not 100% sure on all the timing but I don’t think I had very many contractions after that till I started feeling the need to push. Once I started wanting to push is when things got painful. I kept pushing through the contractions, thinking it was soon over only to have Donnellyn say that I need to bare down and get him down through my pelvis.  
 In between contractions I felt very relaxed and extremely tired – just wanting to sleep really. James was right there with me, holding me, kissing my forehead and telling me how much he loved me, how amazing I was doing and how we would soon be holding our baby boy…I couldn’t ask for anything more. Oh, and he also let me squeeze the crap out his arms 🙂 Best.Husband.Ever. Then I guess not too long after that he was crowning and I was pushing him out! It felt like I didn’t do that for too long and then he was being placed in my arms! During the stage of pushing him out that’s really all I was focused on. Yeah, it was painful, but my mind knew that he was almost here and all I needed to do was focus and push! Donnellyn was such a great coach, telling me how to breath, to vocalize in a low tone and not to waste a contraction by crying! I said “I can’t do this” only once and I think it was mostly to hear from them that I could do it and that I was doing it!  
 Once he was out and in my arms I felt so wonderful. I had done it and I was holding our sweet baby boy! He was born at 4:47am on Friday, January 18th – just about 3 ½ hours after contractions started! We stayed in the water for maybe 10 minutes, just soaking up our sweet baby boy! Hudson was pretty interested in what the heck just happened as well 🙂  
 From there me and baby got up and wrapped ourselves in towels and went to our bedroom to lie down. Aiven slept through ALL of this (which is crazy because I was pretty darn vocal!) and didn’t wake up till he heard his baby brother cry for the first time 🙂 Baby boy latched on immediately after we got in bed. James went to get Aiven up to meet his baby brother. He looked so sleepy and confused but when he saw the baby, he kept saying “baby, baby” – it was so sweet.
Then baby and I both got in a herbal bath that they prepared in our bathtub. It was so nice and relaxing.
After that we went back to our bed and Donnellyn did the newborn exam right on our bed while James, Aiven and I lay there together watching – and Aiven eating cheese, haha. J He weighed 8.2 lbs. and was 21 ½ inches long. I was so shocked by how big he was since I was 2 weeks early – but good thing I was or I would’ve had like a 9-10 lb. baby!!
After the exam, at about 6:30am, my dad and Peggy arrived with breakfast! Once Donnellyn was done doing the newborn exam, taking my vitals, and the students were done cleaning up and emptying the birthing pool – we all piled in our room and Donnellyn prayed for our sweet baby boy. It was such a sweet moment and I felt so thankful and blessed.
Then they left by 7am! We all ate breakfast and then my dad and Peggy took Aiven with them so James and I could get some sleep 🙂 It took us until Sunday, but we finally named our baby boy – Carson Ray Faske. My dad had suggested the name a few weeks back and Ray is my Dads middle name. The birth of our son was so sweet and was everything we wanted. It went so smoothly and quickly, I couldn’t have asked for a better birth! Yes, it was painful, but so worth it knowing that, to me, I was doing the best I could for my baby and for myself. I loved being at home, because I felt so comfortable. I loved not having to pack up and get in a car during contractions! I loved holding my baby till his newborn exam and even then not being separated from him. I loved crawling into my own bed immediately after giving birth. I loved not feeling drugged during and afterwards, but being completely present in the birth of my son. I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to have a vaginal home birth after having a c-section with Aiven. If we ever have another child, we will definitely plan to go this route again, Lord willing!
Carson Ray Faske
Friday, January 18th, 2013
4:47 AM
8.2 lbs.
21 1/2 inches
Thanks again to Holly for sharing her incredible birth story with us.  Read more from my Trying for a VBAC series here.  

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.   

Travel Guest Post: 13 Travel Tips for Touring Washington, D.C.

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Bloglovin | Google+

Hey BFOTD readers! My name is Nicole and I blog at Three 31 — connect with me on social media too! I am a sweet tea drinking, Jesus loving, country girl from Kentucky married to a Texan named Husband. (Well, that’s not really his name but that’s what I call him.) We live near Fort Worth on a small spread with a white horse named Blue. While I have never given birth to another human, I consider my eighth grade students (130 in all) to be my precious, annoying, and hormonal angel babies. When I’m not blogging or teaching language arts, I enjoy photography, cooking, target shooting, reading, mission and volunteer work, reality TV, and traveling. Last summer, Husband had to go to Washington D.C. for work purposes, but I made sure there was a way for me to go for fun purposes! This was my first time in the nation’s capital and I absolutely LOVED it. For security purposes, I cannot disclose information about our accommodations but that’s okay because my part of the trip was all about visiting national monuments and museums and eating really great food!

MOUNT VERNON home of George + Martha Washington on the Potomac River


ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY The Tomb of the Unknown SoldierChanging of The Guard


NATIONAL MALL Washington Monument | Lincoln Memorial | National Archives | White House | U.S. Capitol and crab cakes at The Old Ebbitt Grill


SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY and dim sum (steamed dumplings) at Ping Pong near DuPont Circle

 If the pictures don’t do the trick, perhaps these travel tips will convince you to start planning your trip and pack your bags.
  1. Check (and double-check) that you’ve got a memory card in your camera. If I had checked my camera, you’d see pictures of perfectly steamed shrimp seasoned with Old Bay and lemon zest, fried cod, crispy potato wedges, cole slaw, and corn-on-the-cob. Husband said this particular meal was “really tasty.” He never, ever compliments food. Ever.
  2. Spend at least a half-day at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia. I arrived before the estate opened, but I entertained myself by taking pictures with my camera’s self-timer. It was ridiculous and silly. But a lot of fun. I also recommend a ride on the Spirit of Mount Vernon and cruise along the Potomac River. The view of George Washington’s mansion from the water is incredible.
  3. Remember the fallen at Arlington National Cemetery and observe the daily ritual of The Changing of The Guard. This is a must-see. I have goosebumps remembering this experience. You can’t NOT go to Arlington and visit The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier.
  4. Wear sunglasses, sunscreen + comfy shoes. But not new shoes. I purchased a pair of athletic/walking shoes the day before we left and had blisters on my feet within the first hour of walking around the National Mall. Fortunately, I had a pair of really comfortable sandals.
  5. Use public transportation + ride the METRO trains.I cannot promote METRO transit system enough. For a mere $9, I had an unlimited daily pass and I zippy-do-daa’d all over the D.C. area. Transitioning from one train to another is super easy and really quick. Honest-to-goodness, I never waited more than 5 minutes to board. An added bonus: the “facility” where Husband and I stayed provided a personal driver who drove me to the train station every morning and picked me up later in the afternoon.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Being in a metro area during the week has its advantages. People who live and work in the area are out-and-about and, usually, eager to help. I can’t tell you the number of people I approached to ask, “Can you point me in the direction of ___?” and they answered my question with a smile on their face. I paid attention to those around me, looking for people carrying a to-go lunch. Those were the folks on their lunch break; they know the area!
  7. Eat at local specialty restaurants. No offense to restaurant chains, but I avoid them when I’m in a new place. In fact, I spent several hours researching local eateries found only in the D.C. area. Taking into consideration my food allergy, every meal was incredible. Husband and I ate at Steamer’s and Woodmont Grill (Bethesda, Maryland) and Copper Canyon (Gaithersburg, Maryland). During the day, while I was by myself. I ate at Mount Vernon Inn (Alexandria, Virginia), Old Ebbitt Grill and Ping Pong (Washington, D.C.). If you love crab cakes, you must try this recipe for Old Ebbitt Grill Crab Cakes.
  8. Keep a street map in your tote bag. I’ll be honest, the navigation signs on roadways in the D.C. area are somewhat confusing. I got turned around and made several U-turns, but I always found my destination. However, the day I wanted to visit the National Geographic Museum, I turned right when I should have gone left. After a delicious lunch at Ping Pong, I headed towards the museum but found myself in the middle of Embassy Row. I waved to people walking by with their dog or watering the flowers in the yard … hey, I’m a nice tourist! I turned my misfortune into a learning experience and passed more than 100 properties belonging to dignitaries and secretaries of foreign countries along Massachusetts Avenue. I saw the sculpture of Mahatma Ghandi in front of India’s embassy and took a deep, cleansing breath ( Namaste, y’all). A few hours later, plus a refreshment from Smoothie King, I boarded the METRO train en route to Bethesda. The afternoon was not wasted, but I sure wish I had found the NatGeo Museum!
  9. Visit the National Archives … but arrive extra early. If you’re in Washington, D.C., you have to see the documents that created this country. The original Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on display inside the dimly lit rotunda of the National Archives. I got goosebumps seeing John Hancock’s signature! Let this be fair warning, however, access to the gallery is limited. I arrived 30 minutes before the building opened and the line was clear around the block. Luckily, I was included in the first group of people (approximately 40) into the sacred space. An hour later, when I left the building, the line stretched three city blocks!
  10. Watch an IMAX movie at the Smithsonian Museum. Sure, I can watch IMAX films at my local movie theater, but watching an IMAX inside the Smithsonian Museum is much more exciting! I saw a film on coral reefs in the South Pacific and told Husband we really need to go on a vacation that includes a tropical destination!
  11. Try a new cuisine. I know I’ve mentioned food a gazillion times already, but I tried dim sum (steamed parcels of deliciousness) for the first time and fell in love.
  12. Make friends. The facility where Husband and I stayed had incredible staff. Miss V was like a grandmother and Mister S was my personal driver to the METRO train station each morning and afternoon. Mister S told me about growing up in Nepal and traveling the world before becoming a security consultant for the United States. I could have talked to him for hours. At restaurants, I made some type of connection with the staff. They were extremely attentive with my food allergy and I met the executive chef and manager before every meal. The waiter at Ping Pong is originally from Fort Worth and he attends George Washington University studying international commerce. I also met a family at Mount Vernon from Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a small world, you never know who you’re going to meet next!
  13. Because 13 is a lucky number, remember these tips:

  • The unlimited METRO pass is valid after 9:30am.
  • Keep a water bottle in your purse. And refill often.
  • If bathroom facilities are available, use them!
  • Avoid large and bulky souvenirs.
  • Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet for a taxi.
  • Allow extra time between destinations … especially tourist attractions, museums, rental car return, and going through airport security.

Have you been to Washington D.C.? What was your favorite attraction? Leave a comment! 2013

Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us, Nicole.  I’ve been to D.C. several times, but there is so much to do and see there I can’t wait to go again.  Jed has never been and he is as much a history nerd as I am, so I know we will make it back soon.