Sunday, April 29, 2012

A First Time Doula Becomes a First Time Aunt!

When my sister, Janelle, and brother-in-law, Jamie, asked me to attend the birth of their daughter as their doula, I was overcome with emotion. Knowing that they not only wanted me to be there for the most important day of their lives, but that they trusted my knowledge about birth and my ability to support them through it was one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received. As Janelle’s pregnancy progressed, I helped them develop their birth plan and explained the various options available to them. When Janelle had questions about certain interventions or procedures, I gave her the pros and cons, told her what I would do if it were my birth, and reminded her that I would support and advocate for whatever decisions she made.

As my niece, Harper’s, arrival drew closer, I can now admit that I was a bit anxious and nervous. I have no training as a doula, just the knowledge I acquired throughout and since my own pregnancy. My only firsthand experience of birth was my own cesarean birth. I wondered what my role would end up looking like, and wondered how the experience would impact me. If my sister’s natural water birth went according to plan, would I feel jealous or resentful that she experienced something I’d longed for so much? If it didn’t, would I feel a sense of failure or inadequacy? Only time would tell, but I knew that whatever happened, I was going to be there for my sister and do everything in my power to see that she had the birth experience she prepared for.

On the morning of April 25, 6 days past her estimated due date , Janelle e-mailed me and expressed frustration and growing fear that she’d be pressured to consent to an induction. I replied:
I know it's easier said than done, but try not to worry too much about induction. Put your energy and focus on the birth you do want and it's more likely to happen. When you are tense and worried, so is your birth canal! Harper and your cervix want you to be relaxed and confident so they can do your work! I love you and have faith in you!

We e-mailed back and forth a few times, and then she e-mailed me asking how my labor had started, because she was feeling “crampy”. We spoke on the phone and what she described sounded like early labor to me! It wasn’t long before she decided to leave work and get ready for labor. I arranged to have coworkers cover my work for the following day and checked in with Janelle and Jamie occasionally. At about 6:00 pm, Janelle informed me that her contractions were about 5-6 minutes apart. I asked her to let me know if she decided to try to go to bed for the night so that I could too. I occasionally sent text messages to her or Jamie, giving reminders that she needed to stay hydrated (as I knew she wanted to avoid an IV) and to rest as much as possible.

At about 8:00 pm, Janelle texted to let me know she was going to try to go to sleep. I went to sleep at about 10:00 pm, and woke up to my phone ringing at about 3:30 am on April 26. Janelle told me that she was going in to the hospital to get checked, then her voice got panicky as she said “What if this is false labor and they send me home?” I assured her that I could tell just by the sound of her voice that it was not false labor, and that I’d meet her and Jamie at the hospital.

When I arrived and was shown to the exam room where Janelle and Jamie were with a midwife and nurse, I waited and listened for a little while before knocking. I heard Janelle breathe through a contraction and was impressed with the rhythm she’d found. I’d come prepared with the notes I took from the Lamaze video she asked me to watch, but it turned out that she’d found the pattern that worked for her and I didn’t need them! I entered the room and the midwife checked her; 7 cm dilated, 0 station, and fully effaced! The nurse and midwife were impressed and congratulated her for doing all of that hard work at home. The nurse then gave Janelle the good news that the birth center suite was available; I didn’t hesitate before asking her to start filling the birth tub, please.

We got settled into the birth suite at about 5:00 am, and Janelle got into the tub as soon as it was ready. Jamie set up the music she’d brought for her labor, and brought over the jar of bath scrub that she likes to smell. The mood in the room was light and happy, we helped support Janelle through her contractions and laughed and joked together in between. Jamie noticed that as each contraction came to an end, Janelle would hiccup once. Her hiccups became our cue that the contractions were ending, and we all giggled every time it happened! The hiccups were also my cue to remind her to sip water or Gatorade to stay hydrated.

The nurses on duty were helpful, supportive, and respectful. The first nurse asked if she wanted any medication by IV, “to take the edge off,” and Janelle immediately responded “no”. I took that opportunity to remind the team that she had a birth plan on file and did not want to be offered pain medication. We all helped Janelle move back and forth between positions that might be most comfortable for her, and lightly splashed water on her back and abdomen. Her labor slowed down a bit in the tub, and she eventually moved to the bed to labor on her side for a while. When a new nurse came on, she encouraged Janelle to spend some time up and moving around to help things progress. She tried leaning against the birth ball as well as supporting herself on the edge of the tub while swaying her hips back and forth. At one point, it occurred to me that I was unintentionally swaying myself, the way I automatically start to do whenever I hold a baby. The contractions were more intense and closer together when she was up and moving around, and when the nurse went to get the midwife to check her progress, Janelle laid on her side on the bed again. Her contractions slowed down and she was able to doze off and rest for almost half an hour.

The midwife came in at about 9:00 am and waited for Janelle to wake up before checking her. She found that she was nearly fully dilated and that her bag of water was bulging. She mentioned that things would go faster if she broke the bag of waters, but that she wanted to respect Janelle’s wishes for no interventions. Janelle looked at me and asked me to remind her why she didn’t want her water broken. I reminded her that once her water breaks, the hospital will put her on their time table, but that since she was so close, it was up to her. I told her that if she tried getting up and moving around again, it might break on its own. She was having a hard time deciding what to do, so she said she was going to go to the bathroom first and then decide.

When she went into the bathroom, we heard a splash and her say “Well, there goes the water!” Jamie and I laughed and I was relieved that she didn’t have to make the decision to have her water broken. It was about 9:30 am at that point, and Jamie added some hot water to the tub so she could get back in and get to work!

My Brother-in-Law freshening up the water in the birth tub

Janelle’s contractions were much more intense after her water broke, as Harper descended into the birth canal. At first, Jamie and I were on either side of her, each holding one of her hands, and using our free hands to support her back and shoulders when she leaned forward to bear down and push. Janelle was starting to doubt her ability to push her baby out, and I reminded her to “Trust your body, it knows what to do.” After a few contractions, the midwife suggested that Janelle hold on to the handles instead of our hands, and that the nurse and I each support one of her legs while Jamie supported her from behind. From my position, I was able to see the top of Harper’s head start to appear. The midwife asked if she wanted to reach down and feel her head to see how close she was, and Janelle just kept saying “I don’t know!” Janelle got discouraged when she could feel Harper move back up after a contraction ended, but the midwife assured her that it was normal, and that with each contraction, she’d get back down to where she was at the last one and a little further. Janelle exclaimed “She’ll have a conehead for sure!” and we all chuckled.

Getting situated before another contraction starts
After we all switched positions, things moved very quickly. After pushing through two contractions, I watched in awe as Harper’s head came out, followed almost immediately by the rest of her perfect, tiny body. My first instinct when the midwife pulled Harper from the water and placed her on Janelle’s abdomen was to reach out and touch her, but I caught myself and took a few steps away and watched as a family was born. The look of surprise and pure love on my sister’s face took my breath away. I watched as Jamie gasped and then got choked up, clearly experiencing a feeling of love that he never had before. I grabbed my camera to take a few pictures, knowing that even though Janelle had said earlier that she didn’t feel “cute” enough for pictures, she’d want them to look back on.

A Family is Born
Jamie cut the cord and Janelle delivered her placenta right in the water. The midwife noted “Hey, no conehead!” while they took in the beauty of the life they’d brought into the world. Janelle tore her attention away from Harper for long enough to shout “Hey! My sister wants to see the placenta!” I explained to the midwife that I didn’t get to see mine, since I’d had a cesarean. She took the time to explain it to me and let me thoroughly check it out. The student in the room who’d just witnessed her first birth looked shocked that I wanted to see it, and I smiled at her and shrugged and said “Yeah, I couldn’t talk her into eating it.” I think that just about sent the poor nursing student over the edge!

I hung around long enough to help Janelle get Harper latched on to nurse after the midwife finished stitching her up. As hard as it was to tear myself away, I knew that Janelle and Jamie needed time to rest and get to know their newborn daughter. I have never felt closer to or more proud of my sister. Sharing in the experience of the birth of my niece has been one of the most incredible things I’ve been a part of. As I told her, it has changed me in a way that I can’t find words to describe, and I will forever be grateful that she and Jamie trusted me to be a positive presence at the birth of their daughter.

I’m happy to report that there was no bitterness or jealousy on my part. Seeing a natural, normal birth take place in a supportive and respectful environment was very empowering and healing. It strengthened my resolve to experience a natural birth of my own one day and affirmed the power and wonder of a mother and baby working together to create a gentle entrance to the world. I truly hope that I have the opportunity to be a part of more births like my sister’s, including my own!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My Blood, it is Curdled

Dear Delilah,

Up until very recently, your version of screaming was a sort of breathy, high pitched but not ear-piercing, and not terribly loud release of air. It was sort of cute. Almost endearing. Oh look, she's "screaming". How precious!

I only have myself to blame for the evolution of your scream. I am, after all, loud. I have been being "shushed" my whole life. I used to think being a grown up was going to be so cool, because no one tells grown ups to be quiet. Except they do, when the grown ups are loud grown ups, like me. Though these days, I often respond to shushing not by lowering my volume, but by loudly proclaiming "I am a grown woman and I will talk as loud as I want to, thank you very much." There are videos of my high school choir in which the whole entire choir is singing fortissimo, and yet you can pick my voice out above the rest, clear as day.

I'm loud. Daily. I don't consider myself a yeller, just someone who talks (and sings, and laughs, and farts) really, really loud. So when I say "Sadie, Hush!" and you mimic me with all of the volume you can muster, I think it's hilarious. I may have even said in the past "You're going to be a loudmouth like your Mama, aren't you?" as though that is the ultimate goal to which you should aspire.

So it's my fault, really, that you have not only discovered, but fully embraced the power of your lungs to produce volumes that go to 11. (Remind me to show you This is Spinal Tap. When you're 25.) Whether it's hereditary or learned, you are, indeed, a loudmouth like your Mama. So your breathy, cute little scream is no longer. It has been replaced by a blood-curdling scream that could wake the dead and perk the ears of dogs in the next town over.

I've tried very hard to just...not react. I don't want to shush you the way I've been shushed my whole life. The thing about loud voices is that they get heard, a very useful thing when you have important things to say. And I think you will. So perhaps instead we'll focus on the situations that warrant blood-curdling screams and the situations that do not. I promise you that wearing the green barrette instead of the purple one is not one of those situations.



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Monday, April 23, 2012

Meatless Monday: Edamame & Orzo Salad

When we're running low on groceries, I often just throw a bunch of ingredients together and hope for the best. Sometimes it turns out well, other times...not so much. This Edamame & Orzo salad with tomatoes, artichokes, red onion, and a simple home made dressing turned out to be a success! This salad can stand alone as a light lunch thanks to the protein in the edamame, and would be great way to use up an assortment of produce. Bell peppers or cucumbers would make especially tasty additions, and any variety of onion could be substituted for the red onion. In fact, next time I make this, I'll probably opt not to use the red onion, as it ended up overpowering the salad a little bit.

What You'll Need:

  • 1&1/3 Cups dry orzo
  • 1 10-12 oz. bag of frozen shelled edamame 
  • 1 Jar of Marinated artichoke hearts, cut up into smaller pieces if you prefer
  • A few handfuls of grape tomatoes, halved (or cherry tomatoes, quartered, or regular ol' tomatoes, cut up however you like them)
  • 1/4 Red Onion, finely chopped (I used 1/2 red onion and didn't finely chop, and it was WAY too much)
  • Dressing: 3 Tbsp Olive oil, 2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar, Juice of half lemon, garlic salt, and pepper
What You'll Do:
  • Cook orzo and edamame according to package instructions. Rinse both in cold water, then transfer to a large bowl or serving container.
  • Add everything except for the dressing ingredients to the orzo and edamame and toss together.
  • In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients.
  • Add dressing to Orzo & Edamame mix and well to coat.
  • Enjoy!

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Earth Day!

Dear Delilah,

While I try to approach life with an "Every day is Earth Day" mentality, I always get excited about the local Earth Day events. This year, for the first time, I think you managed to have more fun at the Earth Fair than I did!

The Ecopark that hosted the Earth Fair is still a work in progress, but we enjoyed exploring the impressive progress that's been made since our last visit. We got to play on the "Wild Water" playscape, and I can't wait for the adventures we'll have when the remaining playscapes are completed.

There were several kid-friendly crafts for you to make (with the help of Daddy and staff from our local Waldorf school). You proudly waved your "water waver" and shook your bottle cap shaker instrument!

We listened to some live music by local artists and toured the vendor area where local vendors shared tips, tricks, and tools for greener living. We enjoyed sandwiches from the local food co-op from a table just a few yards from the marsh, where we watched turtles, ducks, and various other critters go about their business in their natural habitat.

We finished up with the first Farmer's Market of the season, a mere tease of what's to come as the growing season progresses. Now that we're back at home and you're napping, I'm heading out to do some more prep work in the garden and start some planting until you wake up and join me! Earth Day is the perfect day to recommit to our values of environmental responsibility and conservation. We are so fortunate to live in an area full of natural beauty and opportunities to learn more about how we can help preserve it.



Happy Earth Day! Are you recognizing or celebrating Earth Day? If so, how?

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Meatless Monday: Grilled Tofu & Veggie Kabobs

One of my favorite things about the warmer seasons is cooking on the grill! In the past, people have asked me what on earth a vegetarian cooks on the grill. Rest assured that grilled vegetarian fare goes far beyond veggie burgers and tofu pups! Grilled tofu is palatable even to those who don't usually care for its texture, and grilling enhances the flavor of vegetables. These grilled tofu and veggie kabobs are simple and delicious, and even the meat lovers in my life have enjoyed them, tofu and all!

What You'll Need:

  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Veggies of your choice, cut into approximately 1 inch pieces. I used red peppers, grape tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms
  • Dressing or marinade of your choice
  • Skewers (I prefer metal)
  • Grill

What You'll Do:

  • After preparing tofu and cutting vegetables up, place them in a large bowl or container and toss with dressing or marinade. Allow to chill in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
  • Prepare grill to medium-hot. This eHow article gives basic instructions for preparing a charcoal grill. Just ignore the photo of hunks of meat. ;) I'm not familiar with propane grilling, so if you have a propane grill, you're on your own!
  • Assemble kabobs on skewers, alternating veggies and tofu. 
  • If you're like me and lazy about cleaning your grill grate, you may want to lay down tinfoil before grilling. 
  • Grill kabobs for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently and brushing with additional marinade or olive oil as necessary.
  • Allow to cool slightly before serving. You can serve on skewers as the main dish if you like, but my preference is to remove the tofu and veggies from the skewers and serve as the perfect complement to veggie burgers and grilled pineapple.
  • Enjoy!

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Itti Bitti Tutto One Size Diaper From Kissed by the Moon - $26.95 ARV {5.14; US/Can}

This is a joint giveaway with Fine and Fair and Natural Parents Network. You may enter at one site only. Please find the section marked "Win it!" for the mandatory entry and optional bonus entries.

Diaper in Package
Kissed by the Moon is offering our readers a giveaway of an Itti Bitti Tutto One Size Diaper, a value of $26.95. Itti Bitti Tutto One Size diapers are beautiful and plush diapers with customizable absorbency and a patented “poo fence” to keep messes where they belong: inside the diaper!

From our reviewer, Joella at Fine and Fair:

Kissed by the Moon is a family-run cloth diaper and natural parenting online store. In addition to an impressive selection of cloth diapers, Kissed by the Moon offers a variety of diapering accessories, laundry products, wool care, and various other items consistent with natural parenting.

When I first laid eyes on the Itti Bitti Tutto One Size Diaper, I was struck by what a beautiful diaper it is. The Ponder print that I received looked exactly like the website photo; the colors were vibrant and accurately depicted.

Diaper with inserts
This diaper didn’t just look good, it felt good! The outer shell is plush and soft, as are the soaker inserts that come with it. The fabric and construction are high quality, and I have no doubt that this diaper will withstand the test of time.

I started to explore the size range of the diaper and was especially impressed with how small and trim the lower end of the size range was. I had a six-pound newborn, and we tried numerous one-size diaper options struggling to find one that would work on her petite body. I am confident that the Itti Bitti Tutto would have fit her much earlier than the other options that we tried, and at 2 years old, the diaper still fits her perfectly with the rise fully unsnapped. That said, she is still very petite, so bigger and taller toddlers would likely outgrow this diaper before they’re out of the diapering stage.

OS Comparison smallest settings
OS Comparison with a Knickernappies diaper:
smallest settings
OS Comparison largest settings
OS Comparison with a Knickernappies diaper:
largest settings

Diaper with inserts showing color-coded snaps
Diaper with inserts showing color-coded snaps

As I experimented with the diaper, I was somewhat overwhelmed by the three soaker inserts. While the snaps are color-coded and the packaging includes diagrams for assembling various combinations to customize absorbency, it took me a fair amount of trial and error to find the ideal combination for us. This process was further complicated by playing around with the rise settings, as the inserts had to be adjusted when I adjusted the rise. A friend of mine happened to make a comment about how much she loves Itti Bitti Tuttos, and when I mentioned that I found the inserts confusing, she was surprised and said that the color coding made perfect sense to her, so the learning curve is certainly not insurmountable!

Delilah unsnapping Diaper
Delilah unsnapping diaper
The first time I put the diaper on my daughter, I was easily able to get a comfortable fit. The diaper fit snugly, but without leaving any marks on her skin from the elastic or snaps. I especially love the built-in hip-snap covers with their own little pockets to tuck them into when the hip snaps are needed! A minor drawback of this diaper is that the snaps seem particularly easy for toddler fingers to undo. Within seconds of putting the diaper on, my daughter quickly undid the snaps and pulled it right off. This would not be an issue with younger babies, and for us, it simply means that this is a diaper reserved for wearing under pants so she can’t get to the snaps!

Overall, I was very impressed with the quality and function of this diaper. The Itti Bitti Tutto is an excellent one-size diaper option for parents with petite babies who don’t want to wait for their little ones to grow into the other one-size options. The built-in hip-snap covers and “poo fence” are nice additions to this diaper, and the absorbency is top-notch. Even without fully prepping the diaper, we had no leaks!

Hip Snap Covers
Built-in Hip Snap Covers
There’s a bit of a learning curve with the inserts and snap settings, so I would recommend this diaper for parents who either have a fair amount of experience with cloth diapering or a lot of patience to work through the learning curve.


You can purchase your own Itti Bitti Tutto One Size Diaper at Kissed by the Moon for $26.95 in a variety of colors and prints. Kissed by the Moon offers free shipping on all orders!

And just for Natural Parents Network and Fine and Fair readers, Kissed by the Moon is giving a 10% discount on all orders from now through May 31. Enter code NATURALPARENTS during the ordering process.


For your own chance to win an Itti Bitti Tutto One Size Diaper from Kissed by the Moon, enter by leaving a comment and using our Rafflecopter system below.

The winner will receive one Itti Bitto Tutto One Size Diaper in the color or print of their choice. Contest is open to the US & Canada.

MANDATORY ENTRY: Visit Kissed by the Moon and tell us which color or print you would choose if you won! You must enter your name and email address in the Rafflecopter entry system for your entry to count, after leaving a comment on this blog post.

Leave a valid email address so we can contact you if you win. Email addresses in Rafflecopter are not made publicly visible. Please leave the same valid email address in your mandatory comment so we can verify entries.

This is a joint giveaway with Fine and Fair and Natural Parents Network. You may enter at one site only, and we'll be recording IP addresses to ensure that there are no duplicate entries. That said, please do visit and enjoy both sites!

See the Rafflecopter entry system for bonus entries to increase your chance of winning after completing the mandatory entry. All bonus entries are entered directly into Rafflecopter. Give it a try, and email or leave a comment if you have any questions!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Meatless Monday: Easy Egg Salad Recipe

I know that last week, I promised that this week would bring the recipe for grilled tofu veggie kabobs, but
since I'm guessing I'm not the only one swimming in hard boiled eggs today, I'm putting that one off another week and bringing you my egg salad recipe, instead. This recipe takes about 15 minutes to prepare (plus an hour of chilling time), and yields 3-4 servings.

What You'll Need:

  • 6 Hard boiled eggs (dye optional), peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 Celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 Cup Vegenaise (or mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, if you prefer)
  • Fresh squeezed juice of half a lemon
  • Salt (I use garlic salt) and pepper to taste

What You'll Do:
  • Gently toss the eggs, celery, and onion together in a medium size bowl.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine vegenaise, lemon juice, onion, salt, and pepper.
  • Gently fold vegenaise mixture into egg mixture.
  • Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for about an hour to chill before serving.
  • Serve over a bed of greens, on a sandwich, or our personal favorite, in a pita pocket with baby spring greens.
  • Enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Filling Easter Eggs: Alternatives to Candy and Money

With Easter right around the corner, I've been getting excited to set up Delilah's first Easter Egg Hunt. We'll mostly likely "hide" the eggs in plain sight in the yard, so that's easy enough, but what to put in them? We won't completely deprive her of the joys of candy, but we won't be giving her 2 dozen eggs worth of sugar, either. She's too young to understand or appreciate eggs filled with money, so what other options are there? I turned to my facebook friends for suggestions, and wow, did they ever deliver!

Here are the ideas they came up with, many of which we'll be using:
  • Superballs and other quarter-machine type small toys
  • Stickers or temporary tattoos
  • Egg shaped sidewalk chalk (I saw some at the store today, or you can make your own with this tututorial that Momma Jorje shared with me!)
  • Healthy snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, banana chips, or raisins
  • Poker chips or dice
  • Jewelry (make your own or buy play jewelry, amber or hazelwood jewelry, or beads so they can make their own)
  • Hair clips, barrettes, headbands, ribbons, etc.
  • Underwear or socks (in the bigger eggs)
  • Silly putty or little wads of homemade play dough
  • Legos, lego people, or similar small blocks (1-2 blocks per egg)
  • Spring-themed crayons
  • Jingle bells or egg shakers
  • Grow toys (the capsules that grow into animals when placed in water)
  • Mini bottles of nailpolish
  • Buttons or pins that represent interests or hobbies
For 10 fun ideas to get plenty of use out of plastic eggs after Easter passes, check out Our Feminist Playschool's suggestions!

What will you fill your Easter Eggs with this year?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Meatless Monday: Pressing Tofu

Tofu is a staple in many vegetarian households, yet it can be one of the most daunting foods to try or cook for the first time. For recipes that call for firm or extra-firm tofu, pressing it prior to use ensures the best flavor and texture. Pressing tofu removes excess moisture so that it can absorb marinades, spices, and other flavors more readily. There are a few different methods for pressing tofu, but since I'm a "less is more" type of gal, I tend to think that I take the least-effort approach.

1. Remove tofu from packaging and cut block in half, lengthwise.

2. Wrap each half block in a clean kitchen towel.

3. Place the wrapped half blocks on a cutting board or plate. Place another cutting board or plate on top of the wrapped half blocks. Place several large books on top of the top plate to weigh it down and apply slight pressure to the blocks to effectively press out the excess moisture.

4. Allow to stand for 20-30 minutes. To remove even more moisture, re-wrap in fresh towels and press for another 15-20 minutes.

That's it! Your tofu is now ready for use in your favorite tofu recipe, like the grilled tofu veggie kabobs I'll be sharing next week! ;)

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