Friday, November 30, 2012

Thankful November - L

L is for lessons. I am thankful for Life’s Little Lessons (see all the L’s there J )

More specifically I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve been learning the past couple of years regarding husbands, homeschooling, and homebirth.

My husband and I will be married 11 years this December. We will have been together for 14 years and I’m still learning about him, about myself, and how to be the wife God has called me to be. Perhaps the most pivotal lesson I’ve learned about husbands is just *how* important they are. To me, to our children, and to the decisions we make going forward as a family.

This is our second year homeschooling. That has been another huge lesson! Figuring out how my children learn, what speaks to them, and what are they passionate about. I thought I knew my kids, but after a year of homeschooling I realized just how much I was missing. I was missing nuances of their nature, I was missing learning more about them as a person, how they learn, how they think, etc. It is very much an example of the saying ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know what I was missing until I wasn’t missing it any longer.
 My husband has been instrumental in helping me figure out what curriculum works best for each kid, what teaching style applies to each kid, and figuring out exactly what makes them tick. Learning our kids’ love languages has also been integral to teaching them successfully.

My husband is a critical thinker and a researcher. If he doesn’t have the answer to something he wants to know about, he WILL find it out. He will spend hours researching the subject  exhaustively until he is as close to being an expert as he can be. This attribute came in especially handy when we decided to have a *homebirth*.  There I said it. We had a homebirth. To some of you that may not seem like an earth shattering confession, but if you had told me two years ago I would be having our 5th baby in our living room I would have looked at you like you had six heads.

I recall the first time I heard that someone had their baby at home. I smiled politely, but inside I thought “seriously? People still do that? She must be slightly off her rocker.” Fast forward a year and a half. We have now watched “The Business of Being Born” on Netflix and our eyes have been opened. My husband said “if we ever have another baby, we’re doing a homebirth.”  A few months after that we learned we were pregnant. We were excited, yet nervous. How does this work? Who do we talk to? Eek! We talked with those that had delivered at home, we researched our options, and ultimately decided to do an unassisted home birth. I did seek prenatal care with a midwife (which was so amazing!) but we decided this was the best option for our family. We ordered an inflatable birth pool online and all the supplies needed. My husband researched endlessly during those months until he was completely comfortable doing this on his own. It was so amazing to be able to be in our own home, wake our older kids up for the event and then go sleep in my own bed. Our older kids had no trouble adjusting to the new baby and they seem to have a stronger bond with her than they did with each other previously.

For these reasons and many more I am so thankful that God is not content to leave me where I am and He sees fit to continue to teach me. I am so thankful for those He has placed in my life to be His instruments in teaching me these lessons and many others. As I learn, I am able to share with others. I think that is vital as we learn in life. Never be content to keep your knowledge to yourself, but to share freely so others may make informed choices as well.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thankful November - U

I am thankful for the Unexpected.

I love to plan.  I love it when things go as planned. I want all the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. 

That being said, I am thankful for the unexpected.  If I allow myself to relax and let the unexpected things not stress me, it is amazing what joy comes.  Whether it is a big unexpected, such as when we found out we were expecting our 3rd child or a small unexpected such as guests for dinner or a change in schedule, I can choose to enjoy or stress out.  

By choosing to enjoy I find unexpected blessings in deeper friendships, special moments with my children, and things that I couldn't have made happen even if I planned.  I am also finding great joy in planning unexpected moments for my children; the note next to their bed that they see when they first wake up, the surprise day trip, the spontaneous dance party. I believe that by helping them go with the flow then when some not so fun unexpecteds appear, we can look together to find the joy in the situation.  

So I choose to like the unexpected even though it sometimes makes my blood pressure rise for a few minutes.  I take a deep breath and just go for it.

~ Katie Brown 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thankful November - F

F for Friends

This time of year, most people when asked would tell you how thankful they are for their family.  And while I am so blessed and thankful for my 5 beautiful children, and my wonderful husband, and our families, I can’t help but think about our friends, and how blessed we are to have them in our lives.

We don’t live anywhere near our extended family, and only rarely do we get the privilege of being with them for holidays, birthdays and other general life celebrations and sorrows.  Instead we have been blessed to have friends who love us, and have become our “family” to celebrate and share our lives with. 

In the 13 years that we have lived in Sioux Falls, we have made so many close friends!  When we can’t make the trip to be with our families for holidays, we have friends who we know we can count on to make the holiday special with us.  And when we need last minute babysitters, a favor, a prayer, an ear to listen, or just a break, I know there is someone that I can count on to be there for me. 

In our technology age, I have some friends that I’ve never met in real life and I may never have the privilege of meeting in person ever, but they are friends just the same. I have a wonderful group of mom’s that I met because of a message board when I was pregnant with my fourth child.  My husband used to laugh when I would tell him a story about one of my “May Mommy Friends,” but after 5 years, he’s used to it. J  I also have my “Wrap Pack” friends, who all share my passion for wrapping candy.  Both groups are very special to me, and I love that we share ideas, encouragement, tears, prayers, and laughs.     

However God brought you into my life, whether it’s through my church, my kids, my hobbies, or a chance meeting at Elegant Mommy, you are my friend, and you are very special to me.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful November - K

K for Kids

Like many, I say it everyday. I'm thankful for my kids. We all say it for different reasons but it all leads to the same thing in the end. It is because we love our kids. I'm not just thankful for my own kids I'm thankful for my nieces & nephews too.

Before I had kids of my own I had 10 nieces & nephews. I was 13 when my first nephew was born. So I have pretty much grown up with all my nieces & nephews. Which has made me very close with them. I have always been thankful that I had them around & that I was able to have such a close relationship with them.

Of all of my nieces & nephews I am closest with my nephew Austin. He is not just my nephew but he is also my Godson. I was 16 when he was born. He only lived a half mile away from us so we have spent a lot of time together. Back in 2001 Austin was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. This form of muscular dystrophy only affects boys. My sister has 3 boys so her other 2 had to be tested as well. We soon found out that her youngest, Mason had the same form of MD. We also found out this form of MD is only passed through females so before my husband & I were able to have kids of our own we had to go through genetic testing to be sure that I was not carrier of the gene. It took us over a year & a half but thankfully I was not a carrier so we were able to have kids of our own.

Over the past 11 years we have gone through a lot with both my nephews. Even thought they have gone through a lot over the years they are 2 of the most positive & inspiring kids I have ever met. They have taught all of us what life is about & how we need to be thankful everyday for all we have. Especially our kids & the fact that they are healthy. We are so thankful to have 2 beautiful kids of our own now. We welcomed Jace in March of 2009 & Brooklynn in July of 2011. Everyday I look at both of my kids & and thank God for bring them into our lives. I thank him for each and everyone of my nieces & nephews. I thank him for Austin & Mason. I know that even if they had not been diagnosed with MD I would still be thankful for my own kids & my nieces & nephews. I think it has just made me more aware that I must be thankful everyday for each & everyone of these great kids that I am so blessed to have in my life.

When you look into your kids' eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth


Monday, November 19, 2012

Childbirth Professional Day - Meet Lisa Stephens

~ What is your Childbirth Profession?
I am a Birth Doula
~ Desscribe your profession and why someone would want to choose your profession for support in pregnancy and/or childbirth
I support the pregnant woman and her partner & Family emotionally and physically during the prenatal, labor and childbirth, and also the postpartum period.I also help establish breastfeeding with the newborn.  I use relaxation techniques with my moms/partners including meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing, and aromatherapy.  Acupressure and reflexology are also used to aid in pain relief during the phases of labor, and birth. I also make postpartum visits, to follow up with how the delivery went, how breastfeeding is going, how the parents are adjusting, and also any siblings! I will also help with any light house work, snuggling baby while mom and dad catch a nap, helping with sibling adjustment, and also to help the family and new mom with any questions, and also make sure she is feeling well emotionally, and physically.
~ Why did you get started in your profession?
I became pregnant in 1998 and delivered a stillborn daughter in 1999, and really felt out of sorts, and lost with the delivery process, and didn't have a positive birth experience, besides the stillbirth, the nursing support was not up to par, and that led me to start researching and helping friends and family in their pregnancies and deliveries. I really noticed that this was my calling, when I worked with a very close friend, being her support while her husband was away. This really brought it closer to me, and I knew that this was my true calling. I want all moms and dads to-be, to be supported emotionally and physically during the precious birth of their child, letting them have the best possible birth experience.
~In detail, what is your personal childbirth philosophy?
My childbirth philosophy, is for a woman to have the best possible experience with her labor and childbirth, and to involve the partner and family as much as possible in this beautiful, intimate, miraculous time..  Medicated or not.
~If you could tell all pregnant women in the world something, what would it be?
I would tell pregnant mommas, (as I call them) to relax, enjoy, and become one with your body. You CAN do it!
~ How long have you been in your profession? Are you certified? If yes, by who?
I began my journey with being a Birth Doula in 2005, and I have begun the certification process via this past Summer. I will be also obtaining certification in Postpartum Doula as well, following my current studies. I have experience in emergency pre hospital medicine, high risk pregnancies, stillbirth, and post-stillbirth pregnancy and childbirth, and also teen and young mom pregnancies!
~Do you have a business name? How can people contact you for pregnancy and chilbrith support?
I work independantly, as Lisa Stephens, Birth Doula, and also volunteer services to any women that husbands/partners are deployed overseas. I also volunteer my services to at-risk women, and do base my fees on income, so that ALL women can benefit from the supports of a Birth Doula, no matter their current financial situation!  I do take last minute clients, and I am available by phone: 605-759-7252, and!
~ Where do you practice?
I work within the Watertown and surrounding areas

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thankful November - N

What am I thankful for?

Well….I’m thankful for a lot of things. I actually write about them quite often here on the blog. I have been richly blessed in oh, so many ways. Today though, I’m thankful for…are you ready for it? Naps. Yep, naps. Sounds pretty boring, huh? Not to me.

Those of you Work at Home (and Stay at Home) moms out there will *definitely* get this…seriously, even those of you that work outside of the home will get this – everyone has days off when you are home all day.

But here it is: When the kids nap, I can get stuff done!

Now, don’t get me wrong…I love our kids more than almost anything, and I adore spending time with them as much as possible. That said, this mama has a lot of friggin stuff to do! Nap time is THE one time of day that I can do what needs to be done without being interrupted.  This is my time where I can clean up the kitchen, work on laundry, post a blog post for EM, do some childbirth or breastfeeding research, do any of the other things that need to be done for EM, work on some sewing,  or figure out what we’re having for supper.

You see, I’ve made a commitment to myself that if the kids need something, I will drop what I’m doing and attend to them. Their little minds and the things that excite them are super important! I want them to know now that I will drop what I’m doing for them so they know the same thing as they grow older. I have seen a saying posted around facebook and pinterest that says something to the effect of “Listen intently to your kids when they are little and have little things to say. They will then talk to you when they are older and have big things to say. Because when they are little, everything is big.” I don’t know who originally said it, but I love it. And yes, I know this isn’t the actual quote, but it’s close enough you get the picture. Anyway, I have taken that to heart, and want to make sure the kids know I am here to listen to them and truly care about what they are saying.

So, when it’s nap time, I can whip through things so much faster than when I’m interrupted by their “big things” J.

Also? The one time every other month that I get to sneak in a nap…even a short one….totally rocks.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thankful November - A

I’m thankful for alcohol. That’s right, I said it. I’m thankful for alcohol. 

You see, my husband works as a salesman for a liquor distribution company. His job is to sell alcoholic products (and some non-alcoholic ones) to bars, restaurants and stores. His job provides us with medical insurance so we don’t need to worry about whether or not we can afford a doctor’s visit when one of our kids gets sick or whether or not we can afford a new pair of glasses for me if one of our kids gets a hold of mine. 

The people who run his company are very family-oriented. Whenever a promotion or new job opportunity has come up for my husband, his boss always tells him to talk things over with me first and will often ask how I feel about his job or his hours. 

Most of all, my husband’s job provides us with enough money to pay our bills and put food on our table. Because of that, I don’t have to worry about making money to help make ends meet. I can continue working at a job that I love without being concerned about how many hours I’m getting each month or even how much I get paid. 

I work at Elegant Mommy because I truly enjoy working there. Getting paid for it is just icing on the cake. I get to help women who have questions about pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding (three things I’m very passionate and, I like to think, knowledgeable about) or grandparents looking for the perfect gift for their newest granddaughter or grandson. Every day when I leave my job, I leave feeling like I’ve helped someone or made a difference in their life, however small it may have been. 

And that is why I am thankful for alcohol.

~Caitlin A

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful November - H

As Sesame Street would say, this gratitude is brought to you by the letter H.  H alone is an important letter to me. It is the first letter of my maiden name, as well as my married name.  It starts the words hugs, health, happiness, and hot chocolate, all of which I am blessed to enjoy regularly.  I could write for pages on any of these topics, but the word that most comes to mind when it comes to my family and the gratitude I have for them, is hijinks.

My first clue that this word and my family are closely related is that my word processor is telling me it is spelled wrong (the dictionary promises that it is a word though!).  This indicates that it, along with my small family unit, is nowhere near ordinary.  In fact, we are able to find hijinks where ever we go, even at home. 

Just yesterday, my daughter Laila found one of my old nursing bras and decided that it would make a fabulous hat.  She proudly wore her “hat” around the house for about an hour.  In another instance, when browsing through Target, it became apparent that a family dance party was necessary, and we rocked it out right then and there.  Another time, Laila grabbed my empty Starbucks cup while we were shopping and pretended to drink out of it for the remainder of the trip, earning me many a “worst mother ever” stare.  These are the moments that keep me laughing.
My husband is an amazing person.  He is able to find the fun in every moment.  He can turn anything into hijinks.  Making dinner quickly turns into a trivia contest, and bath time becomes an epic story involving characters with names like Admiral Fishcat and ducks named Penelope.  What should be ordinary grocery shopping soon morphs into a musical experience (no music necessary!).  I love that he and I can continuously run a commentary on what we assume our daughter would say if she could talk. I am forever grateful for all his hijinks and optimism. 
We are a young family.  I am the first of my friends to have a baby.  Most like to think that life becomes boring when you marry and have children.  This is ironic to me because I have had more laughter, adventures and hijinks since having Laila then I have in my entire life.  We are not simply responsible for raising another human to succeed; we are raising another human to be freakishly awesome! We are teaching her to find laughter in even boring tasks. 
One of my favorite clich├ęs is, “don’t take life too seriously; no one gets out alive anyway”.  What a true statement! Yes, we have gotten some looks from others for acting silly in public places.  Miss Manners might not approve of two adults and a baby rolling around on a grassy hill on the first warm day of spring.  However, I feel that we are teaching our daughter that you can be involved in hijinks no matter how old you are.  Most importantly I hope we are teaching Laila that her family will always be there to make her laugh and take away her burdens. 
Are we perfect? Not even close.  I take all the suggestions I can get when it comes to being a good wife and mother.  Even so, I do feel that if we are laughing and loving, we are truly living. And after all, life is the greatest hijinks of all.  

~Laurel H

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thankful November - T

Today, I am Thankful for TIME.

I am thankful for the time that I have been given.

Each day that we are blessed enough to wake up, we have the choice to make the most of that time. We can choose to make a difference in the world or we can choose to just idly get by each day.

Each day we can choose the words that come out of our mouth - we can make them positive or negative. We can choose to have uplifting conversations or we can choose to put others down with our words. We can choose to listen to our heart when we see that Mom struggling with her kids in the store or we can choose to look the other way and walk away. We can choose to treat others how we would want to be treated or we can choose to live as if *our* lives have a different standard than the rest of the world. We can choose to be role models for our children or we can teach them do as I say and don’t do as I do. We can choose to be generous or we can choose to be greedy. We can choose to walk by the bell ringers this holiday season, we can choose to walk by the giving trees, we can choose to walk by the food pantry donation boxes, or we can choose to put ourselves in the position of those who need those services.

Today, the Lord has blessed all of us with another day on this Earth. I hope we are all able to make the most of our TIME and in the infamous words of Tim McGraw “Live Like You Were Dying”.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Birth Practices on Breastfeeding….Part 3

In the first two parts of this series I talked about the effects of drugs/epidurals and cesareans on breastfeeding. I haven’t really talked about *why* all this matters, though. Why do we care about the effect something has on the breastfeeding relationship? Well, the bottom line, is that breastfeeding is physiologically superior to artificial milk. Breast is not only “best”, it is NORMAL, and is *the* perfect food for your baby! In fact, not breastfeeding can actually be risky, and in fact, formula-fed babies are more likely to die. (1)

Ok, so what about these other interventions? Things like induction of labor, instrumentation (vacuum, forceps), suctioning and intubation, separation from mother for any reason, and maternal hydration?

Well, let me give you a quick rundown.

First of all, when labor is induced, it can trigger a cascade of interventions, including a high likelihood of an epidural, which of course leads to increased chances of having a surgical birth, and by reading the first two posts on this subject, you can see the well-studied and proven negative affect those can both have on breastfeeding.

And then there’s birth trauma. What is birth trauma? Well, it can materialize in several ways. The obvious is injury or damage to an infant’s body and the response a care provider has in treating the damage. Maybe not-so-obvious is the emotional and mental trauma that can affect both baby and mother by the use of instrumentation – there may be feelings of failure, violation if not handled properly by the provider, etc. Also, if a baby has been suctioned or intubated, it makes sense that they might be hesitant to open their mouths to breastfeed successfully.

The conclusion of one study on birth trauma states that the impact of birth trauma on mothers’ breast-feeding experiences can lead women down two strikingly different paths. One path can propel women into persevering in breast-feeding, whereas the other path can lead to distressing impediments that curtailed women’s breast-feeding attempts. (2)

I’ve talked about the separation of baby and mother a little bit in my other posts, but I want to emphasize here that when the baby is separated from his mother, he has a reaction of protest which includes frantic crying and initiates a cascade of stress reactions that eventually turns into despair, where the baby basically “gives up” and goes into an instinctive adaptation to avoid attracting attention. Despair causes harm to the baby’s development. If a baby is in despair, he won’t initiate breastfeeding while a baby who is comfortable and with mom constantly definitely will.

Lastly, I want to talk about IV Hydration in mothers. Keep in mind that with almost any intervention that can take place during labor, oral drinking and eating will be discontinued, and moms will be given IV fluids. This can cause excess fluid, causing edema, excess infant birth weight, and imbalance of fluids. It can also cause a delayed onset of lactogenesis (milk production), and cause excess newborn weight loss (3).

So, the bottom line is that to maximize your success with breastfeeding, be educated about the effects of birth practices, know your options in birth, and make sure to include breastfeeding outcomes when weighing your options as you make decisions throughout labor!


(1) “[USA] excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance” (Bartick & Reinhold, Pediatrics 2010)
(2) Beck, C. T., & Watson, S. (2008). Impact of birth trauma on breast-feeding: a tale of two pathways. Nurs Res, 57(4), 228-236.
(3) Chantry, C. J., Nommsen-Rivers, L. A., Peerson, J. M., Cohen, R. J., & Dewey, K. G. (2011). Excess Weight Loss in First-Born Breastfed Newborns Relates to Maternal Intrapartum Fluid Balance. Pediatrics, 127(1), e171-e179.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Teaching our Daughters

I came to a stark realization a couple weeks ago.

Much of what’s wrong with our maternity care system these days can be attributed to parents. Yep, that’s right. You and me.

Ok, now before you get angry with me and say “Hey, wait a minute….I’m working to FIX the problem, how dare you say that I’m part of the problem?”

Well, here’s why. **And before I start my explanation, let me just say that we are NOT the reason that we got here to begin with…there’s a long, sordid history of why the US maternity care system is where it is today. It’s not because of us, and sometime maybe I’ll go into some of that history for you…now is not that time.**

So, awhile back I was scrolling through my newsfeed on facebook and came across a friend’s post that said something about how her morning had been a barrage of tough questions from her five year old daughter. She said that she “dodged” them pretty well then sent her off to school. One of those questions was “how do babies get out of their mommy’s tummy?” She told her daughter that the Dr decides – but her daughter corrected her. Yes. She said the *doctor* gets to decide. No simple explanation of how a baby really comes out, no education on how sometimes surgery is needed, but normally they come out our vaginas (or whatever their household refers to the female reproductive anatomy as). No – she told her that some other person gets control over mommies’ bodies when they have babies. I have to say that I love that her daughter corrected her, though - J.

Then, imagine my aghast when one of her friends chimes in with a comment saying that she has told all her kids (I don’t know how many) that “the doctor cuts them out under the belly button because for some this is true and it stops their curiosity.”

Wait. What?!?!

Since *when* do we want to stop our children’s curiosity?? Not only that, but since *when* is it acceptable to tell our children that babies are removed from our body via MAJOR abdominal surgery without mention of the real way our bodies are designed?

So, I want to make a disclaimer here that this post and what follows is much more opinionated than I normally am when I write – I’m usually much more diplomatic, but this comment thread has riled me up. I have a serious problem with parents trying to stamp out their kids’ curiosity…how in the world are they supposed to learn if they aren’t curious about things and ask questions? But then on top of it to give a dishonest answer just because the correct answer presumably makes the parents uncomfortable? Let me break it to ya: kids don’t lose their curiosity, they just find other ways to get answers to their questions. No wonder we have such a skewed view of sex, breastfeeding, birth, body image, etc. in our culture today. This goes so much deeper than just birth. It’s about health and life.

Obviously, I’m not a perfect mom…I don’t know a single person who is. However, one thing I think I’m doing right is that I’m always honest with our kids when they ask me questions. They both know the difference between boys and girls – in real words, not just “wee wee” and “hoo ha”, they both know how babies are born (Vienna used to say “they just pop out of mommies’ vaginas” J), and they both know that babies grow in a mommy’s tummy when a mommy and daddy love each other very much. They aren’t old enough to know more than that, but when they are, my husband and I will be honest with them. I’d rather them get the real story from me or their daddy than from some kid on the playground who’s  folks don’t take the time to explain things, so they got their answers from movies, music videos, random Internet sites, or Carl’s Junior commercials.

I think it’s time we as mommies and daddies who care take a stand for honesty and commitment to our kids. I think it’s time we tell them the truth (age appropriately, of course) about sex, birth, breastfeeding, self image, and take the time to explain those truths to them as they can understand it. Surgical birth is NOT the way women’s bodies were designed to give birth. Though we are SO grateful to have it for true emergency situations and medicalreasons, perhaps one of the reasons one in three mamas give birth surgically is because of the mis-information given to young girls that carries through to the rest of their lives.

All because we were “uncomfortable” in telling them the truth.

We can do better.

So, I challenge us all as parents to tell our kids, and especially our daughters, the truth about birth, breastfeeding, etc, etc. We owe it to them to teach them not to be ashamed of their bodies…by demonstrating and talking about how breastfeeding is normal – even in public, to trust that their bodies will work without surgery…demonstrating and talking about how vaginal birth is normal, and most of all that they are beautiful and perfect just the way that God made them.

Because they are.