My birth Plan for Shawn

We are planning our second UC in just 3 short weeks! Before Ella was born, I wrote up this birth plan for Shawn, so he’d have something to use as a resource. We had planned on having a waterbirth, so I wrote it for that, but this time we’re planning on birthing in the bed. 
 
Several people have asked about my birth plan, so I’m going to post it here. Feel free to use it as a base for your own, I just ask if you post it publically, you link back to me! Thanks so much! :)

Start of labor:
* Help me get comfortable and relax. Offer me water or juice (something non-acidic), put on
some music, make me a snack (something high in protien), remind me to drink and stay
hydrated, encourage me to sleep.

* Daytime… Keep busy- Do whatever you would usually do… take care of the kids
* Nighttime… give me a massage, help me get some sleep, bring me water or juice (* with a
straw!)
Labor is getting more intense??

* I may want to be active…let me…
* I may want to be left alone…don’t take it personally! ;)
* Offer something to eat or drink
To drink: juice, water, hot apple cider (make sure it’s not too hot!) make sure drinks
always have a straw!
To eat: fruit, crackers, whatever I’m in the mood for at the moment
* Remind me to use the bathroom at least once an hour
* Ask me if I want you to fill up the tub
* Use the sheet to help me move my hips
* Take pictures
* Put on music, and ask me if I want to dance. Swaying my hips back and forth will help
labor progress.
* Remind me to surrender to the pain and relax.
* do not tell me to “think about the baby” It’s overwhelming in the moment

Labor is REALLY intense?

* Fill the pool, if it hasn’t been already 1/4 with cold, 3/4 way as hot as you can get it
* As me if I want a cold rag on my head
* Take pics
* Ask me to dance
* Remind me to relax and surrender to the pain, (but don’t push it)! ;)
* Remind me to trust my body
* Remind me that if I keep my throat open, it will help open my body.
* Remind me that the pain is fleeting, and the empowerment will remain
* Remind me that I’m shaping the way Autumn will view birth
* DO NOT ask me if you should call 911 or ask me if I want to go to the hospital unless I am
specifically requesting “Medical Assistance.” I will get to the point where I will say I
want you to, but chances are it just means transition is coming. Remind me of that, remind
me that we’re almost done, and don’t act on it unless I say I need “Medical Assistance.”
* Take pictures
* If I’m panicking, offer me Rescue Remedy.
* Remind me to stay hydrated.

Pushing?

* If the kids want to be near, let them. If C doesn’t want to, don’t push it. Remind them
to be quiet.
* If I poo in the tub, use a strainer to fish it out, throw it away, and DO NOT tell me
about it!
* When the head comes out, remind me to touch it, and touch it yourself if you want.
* Remind me it’s almost over
* Take pictures!
* If you get in the tub with me, Remember DON’T PULL on the baby…we’re still attached!
* When the baby is out, hold it until I am in a position that I can take her.
* Before the baby is coming out, have Connor grab warm towels from the dryer.
* MAKE SURE TO RECORD THE TIME!
* If the baby is purple and hasn’t breathed yet, stay calm. Remember she’s still getting
oxygen from the cord.
* If after 45 seconds or so, she hasn’t taken a breath, remind me to turn her over and rub
her back. If that doesn’t help after 45 seconds or so, ask me about Carbo Veg. 1 pill under her tongue.
* When I’m ready, help me get out of the tub, have a bucket close by for puke, and one for
the placenta.
* After I deliver the placenta, be ready to cut a small piece off for me if I want it.
*Weigh yourself, then weigh the baby with you. We can measure her head and length later.

Important!

* After she’s born, watch for bleeding, and pay attention to how I look. If I get too pale,
have a glass of juice ready and cut off a piece of the placenta so I can swallow it.
* Have Shepherd’s purse near by incase there is too much blood.
* After I’m out of the pool, and after the placenta is delivered, cut the cord, and
nursed…then bring the baby into the bathroom with me so I can shower, but still have her
near by. Don’t leave me alone after it’s over.
* Make sure I haven’t torn. After my shower, have me put one of the frozen pads with a chux
pad underneath it to ease the pain. Offer me Advil.
* Make sure I drink a lot, but slowly, so I don’t puke.
* Do not call people until I’m ready.
* Help me set up a comfortable place on the couch where I can nurse and the kids can see the baby.
* Take pictures

Happy birthday, Ellie

Dear Ella,
Tomorrow we will celebrate the anniversary of your beautiful arrival into our family: your first birthday! When I think about the event of your birth, how amazingly, life-changing it was for me, and for all of us; the simple celebration we have planned for tomorrow seems seriously lacking! We have a few small gifts and a homemade cake, which for you will be more than enough. But when I think about how your birth so profoundly affected my life…I can’t even begin to imagine how we would adequately celebrate! 

So, we’ll have a cake, and your siblings will fight over who gets to open your gifts for you, and we’ll take a million pictures.  And throughout the day I will quietly reflect on how amazingly lucky I am to have you.  

Someday, when you’re older I’m looking forward to talking to you about how empowering and life-changing your birth was; how I it changed the way I look at nearly every aspect of who I am and what I am capable of doing.  I want to tell you about how empowering it was to take charge of my pregnancy and of your birth and deliver you myself on the living room couch! I want you to know how freeing and amazing it is to know that you are capable of doing things that everyone else tells you cannot possibly do. 

I want to tell you how impactful it was for your dad and I to go through it together; how much it changed the way I look at him and the way he looks at himself; how every time I look at him holding you, I’m reminded that his hands touched you first as he gently guided your body from mine. 

I want to share with you how joyful it has been to breastfeed you for the past year. I never imagined we’d make it to a year.  I’ve struggled so much with nursing in the past, but this time it happened so easily.  That’s not to say it wasn’t without its challenges, but it has been so rewarding to watch you grow and be healthy and know that my body was able to provide for you from the moment you were conceived until now.  I have comforted you through teething, and food allergies, and runny noses.  And I’m looking forward to continuing to nurse you through the bumps and bruises and curiosity and excitement of your toddlerhood.

Your siblings love you so intensely.  Watching the unique bond and relationship you have formed with each of them has been the highlight of the last year for me.  You are the first one they greet every morning.  Aiden will come down the stairs yelling, “Good morning, Ellie! Good morning!”  And you will laugh and kick until he gets downstairs to give you a huge hug.  It happens every morning!  Connor and Autumn practically trip over each other to try to get to you first when you need something!  It’s so fun to watch you as you’ve begun to entice them into playing with you.  You have made our family complete.

Someday, I’ll be able to tell you all of this.  I’ll be able to share with you the amazing journey that this year has been.  Tomorrow, we’ll have a small celebration for your birthday.  But your birthday was anything but small. Someday, I’ll tell you all about it.  But for now…Happy birthday my beautiful, amazing girl.  I love you more than I could ever find the words for.
Love,
Mommy

Help Us!

Alright Wise, Wise Mamas of the internets…I need some parenting help.  I have a situation with my three-year old that is making me INSANE, and I could use some creative input. 

So, Autumn (3yo)  seems to be going through a bit of a sleep-regression, and it’s beginning to affect the entire house.  She’s getting up anywhere from three to five times a night. She always wakes up Shawn saying that she wants to snuggle.  But snuggling is usually code for “lay here and flop around while talking very, very loudly and waking up Ella” (the 11 month old).  I’d be fine having her in our bed, but she just refuses to be quiet.  And that’s not really fair to Ella.  Shawn has tried going in her room with her, but she wants to be in our bed. 

The second part of the issue is that she’s taken to sneaking out of our room and waking up the boys.  Our house is laid out in a way so that you go through the master bedroom to get to Autumn’s bedroom.  So, very very early this morning she snuck out of her room, past us and out of our room, and went upstairs where Aiden (2yo) was sleeping.  She went into his room and very loudly screamed, “WAKE UP AIDEN!!!” Which of course…woke up Aiden.  Then she came downstairs where Connor was sleeping and JUMPED on him to wake him up.  Needless to say, both boys are pissed and cranky today.  And honestly, Shawn and I are cranky because between Autumn and Ella, we’re being woken up 6-8 times a night. 

We can’t continue like this.  Everyone is tired and pissy all day long.  Clearly we have talked to her like crazy about this.  “You don’t have to sleep, but you do have to stay in your room and stay quiet.”  She has puzzles and some crayons and paper in her room.  We also recently got her a Leapster and told her, “If you can’t sleep, you can sit in your room and play with your Leapster.”

But none of it has helped. She’s up off and on all night.  She’s waking up us, the baby, and both boys.  I’ve considered putting a baby gate up across the master bedroom door…that way she could still get to us if she needed to…she could still use the master bathroom if she needed to…but she couldn’t get to the boys.  This is a small step, but it doesn’t solve the issue of her waking up the baby. 

So…please help!  Spam me with every solution you have (as long as that solution is gentle and kind, obviously).  My very tired household thanks you in advance for your input!

Enriching His Environment

Two years ago, when we decided not to enroll Connor in kindergarten, I had dreams of planning a curriculum, writing up worksheets, and grading assignments. My life-long love-affair with office supplies went into over-drive.  But before we really even got started, we stumbled upon the philosophy of unschooling/life-learning.  And even though I’ve never looked back, every year during back-to-school season I get a little jittery while looking at the advertisements full of colored pencils and markers and glue sticks!  I generally take advantage of the sales and replenish our crayons and markers and any other supplies we might need (or that Mommy might want!). 

Lots of homeschooling mothers use this as a time to put the finishing touches on their year’s curriculum.  Being life-learners, we don’t use a curriculum. I don’t plan lessons on double-digit subtraction, beginning Spanish, or state capitals.  My role as the mother of four life-learners isn’t to plan out what I think is best for them to learn throughout the year; They will discover passions and interests throughout the year on their own that we will pursue as they arise; My role is to provide an enriching-environment that encourages learning and introduces them to new concepts and ideas that they have the option of pursuing. 

So, while I’m not buying school supplies off a class list or fine-tuning my Geography curriculum, I do think it’s important to sometimes evaluate the environment I’m providing, and make sure it’s enriching enough for each child. 

Earlier this week, it was made very clear to me that it is time to do some evaluation. Goldie, our naughty, naughty puppy got all tangled up in Connor’s laptop cord and dragged it off the table, cracking it’s screen in half!  It took Shawn a few days before he was able to fix it, and during that time, I was able to see how reliant Connor is on his computer for entertainment.  He was somewhat lost without it and had a hard time coming up with other things to do!  This laptop-free period of time highlighted for me the fact that it’s time to bring in a few new things to help enrich Connor’s environment. 

Other than his laptop; which he uses to write, play games, and watch movies; his main sources of play during the day include video games on the Xbox 360, legos, and his nerf guns and swords.  While I’m totally fine with him doing these things as much as he wants, I also want to make sure that he’s doing them because he loves to, not because they’re his only options. 

Taking a good look around the house, I made a mental list of the things available to him: Dot-to-dot books, maze books, sticker books, a white board and markers, blocks, art supplies, action figures, a magic set…and then I drew a blank.  It’s no wonder he was having a hard time coming up with things to do! 

So I spent some time talking to Connor and doing some research online and coming up with a few things we want to get to give him some more options.  He’s really interested in these build-it-yourself, remote-controlled bugs we saw online.  He also wants to get a few Erector sets, some model cars, a microscope, and a few new board games.

Not everything I try to provide for them has to be something we BUY. So we also talked about some classes he could get involved in.  He’s already taking Aikido twice a week.  Over the summer he had a great time at the art camp he attended, and we found a local studio that offers classes.  Once a month, the library offers a Lego Club he’s interested in going to, and the University has a gymnastics class he’d like to get involved in.  He really wants to take the Parkour class they offer, but the instructor won’t teach kids who are under ten, so he thought gymnastics would be a good substitute.  There’s also an online Lego Challenge that he is going to start participating in.  

He’s very interested in factories and how things are made. We recently watched a documentary about the Industrial Revolution, and he loves that show, How It’s Made, but I’d also like to get in touch with a local factory to see about visiting it, so he could see exactly how the process works in person.  Connor has also expressed a lot of interest lately in writing a screenplay, so I’ve found some online movie-making software that we’re exploring to give him a feel for how animations come together.  We also do all of our regular things like go to the library, the Farmer’s Market, nature walks, and trips to the park. 

I may not be planning a science curriculum or writing up worksheets, but I feel like my role as the mother of a life-learner is just as involved, if not more so.  I can’t just follow a curriculum whether my kids like it or not. I have to be constantly aware of their changing needs and interests, and sometimes bring in a few things I’ve discovered that they might like.  We don’t participate in all the back-to-school hoopla that goes on this time of year…our life goes on as though school doesn’t exist.  But the seasons are changing. Life is slowing down a little now that the busy pace of summer is coming to an end.  The smell of harvest is in the air.  So even though it’s not back-to-school season for us…it’s still a time of change.  And during that change, I think it’s important to evaluate the environment our children are learning in.  Is it as enriched as it could be? Could we be doing more to facilitate their passions and interests? Are there new interests we could introduce them to? 

Seems much more rewarding than fine-tuning a Language Arts curriculum, doesn’t it?

His Journey is His Own

Occasionally on a slow news day, when HuffPost hasn’t updated in a while, I’ll head over to MDC to check things out. I have a love/hate relationship with MDC. I love the concepts that I’ve discovered there that have, quite literally, changed my life. But I loathe the snobbish/uppity attitude that lots of the Moms there seem to have. I’ve joked before that some of these moms have forgotten how to do the “LIVING” part of Natural Family Living, because they end up spending all of their time that they should be living, worrying about how to handle in-laws who gift their kids non-wooden toys, and fretting about what to do about an upcoming birthday party that….god forbid….might be serving BIRTHDAY CAKE, which of course, their uber-healthy, organically-fed kid isn’t allowed to have!

Last time I was there, I popped over to the Unschooling Forum, where a mom had written looking for advice on handling her 9-year-old son, who didn’t seem to want to do much more than play video games.  I immediately felt like I could have written that part of her post.  Connor has few interests outside of Xbox 360 or the Wii lately.  So I was hoping to find some wonderful, enlightening advice.   But much to my chagrin, most of the other moms there were advising her that, “Unschooling isn’t for everyone.” And that maybe he’d be better off in a different learning setting, or that perhaps it was time to insist that he shut off the video games and do something more productive.  That’s not the advice I was hoping to hear. 

Generally, I’m pretty confident in our decision to unchool, but sometimes I let outside influences get the best of me, and I begin doubting our journey.  I start to worry that I’m setting Connor up to fail in the long-term.  I worry that he’s never going to have any interest in reading. I worry that he’ll feel poorly about himself if he discovers that his friends can read/do math/etc. when he cannot. 

This past couple of weeks have been especially full of doubt for me.  I’ve been taking care of another seven-year old who is reading and doing math, and at one point he mocked Connor for not being able to read.  “You’ll never be smart if you don’t go to school or do homework,” he told Connor.  Already being in a place where I was having some doubts, I let this seven-year old’s words haunt me a little more than they usually would have. 

I spent nearly a week doing some major soul-searching.  A few days ago, I had a bit of an epiphany: If Connor was reading and doing math, I don’t think I would be feeling any of these negative feelings.  So I started asking myself, Why is this important to me?  And then last week, I took Autumn over to a local preschool, and it was there I had a break-through…

While we were there, Autumn was playing while I had a meeting. She was fascinated by the posters on the wall: shapes, numbers, colors, letters…and she knew all of them and wasn’t shy about sharing all of her wisdom with the other women in the room!  Both of them commented on how smart she is, and that Mommy must work with you at home.   That’s always the opinion of educators, I’ve come across: Someone MUST have TAUGHT her about colors and shapes and letters and numbers; when the reality is she learned them by living in an environment full of shapes and colors and letters and numbers, not through flash cards and memorization. 

Hello Light Bulb Moment!!  As I was sitting there it hit me: Connor lives in a house full of numbers and books: He will learn to read and manipulate numbers through living his life in the same way that he and Autumn have learned colors and shapes.  It’s so simple, but it hit me like a ton of bricks! 

As I began to delve deeper into my rediscovered faith in our journey, I realized that part of my hang up lately has been this: People comment on how smart Ella is because she’s crawling and standing and toddling around at 10 months old; They comment on the size of Aiden’s vocabulary; They comment that Autumn is wise beyond her years.  And then? When they realize that Connor cannot read? They pull a face. They judge me as a homeschooling mother.  They offer advice on how to teach him to read.  They offer superficial reassurance that I shouldn’t worry, because it will come eventually.  And then I start panicking because until then, I hadn’t been worrying!  And that leads me to wonder if I’m in denial.  Are we one of those families that needs to realize that unschooling isn’t working for us?  Will Connor will ever have any interests outside of video games? Will he ever learn to read and will he be angry at me in the future for not forcing him to learn? And eventually I get tired of panicking and worrying and doubting and I take a deep breath and delve deeper into my worry, and eventually I have a break-through.

And that brings me to here: 

I am 110% FINE with the fact that Connor does not read.  I do not need to use reading as a mile marker by which to measure his intelligence.  I don’t care if Connor doesn’t read until he is fifteen.  And I do not care what YOU think about the fact that my son cannot read yet.  And by YOU I mean YOU: educators, my friends, my relatives, strangers on the street, other parents, or the seven- year old I provide after-school care for! 

Connor is smart and articulate and social and amazing.  He is not BEHIND in reading, because we don’t live according to anyone’s timeline but our own.  Someday? He will learn to read. And more importantly, he will LOVE to read!  He won’t need to be bribed with stickers or bookmarks or prizes or free pizzas to pick up a book.  Because he will read on HIS terms.  Not mine, not his father’s, and certainly not anyone else’s.  He will read when he decides he wants to, and he will read whatever he wants to.  Because his journey is his own. 

I’m looking forward to the day he learns to read, of course.  I have Mommy-daydreams about all of us curling up in the big bed together to read at night.  I haven’t read a single Harry Potter book yet, because I’m waiting until Connor wants to read them together.  But I don’t need him to read so that I can have the approval of strangers.  I don’t need him to read for me to feel confident in our decision to unschool.  I only need to look at them, and see how happy and fulfilled their lives are, in order to know that this journey is exactly the right one for us to be taking.

Picking up the Pieces

My need to write here, on this blog, has been more than just a little sporadic over the last couple of years.  I would go along for a while not feeling a need to document our day-to-day life, but then something would happen and my pull to come back here and empty my head will be stronger.  I’m definitely in the midst of one of those pulls now.  And when I saw that the theme for Enjoy Life Unschooling’s blog carnival was “Picking up the Pieces,” it seemed the Universe was trying to tell me something…

It’s been eight months since Shawn’s position was eliminated, and we joined the ranks of the unemployed. And honestly, I think it’s taken us this long to get to a point of complete and total acceptance.  We’ve hit every single step in the Five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Sometimes we’d hit a stage and stay there for a while, and then jump back a couple of stages and have to start again.  But, after eight months…Here we are.  We have finally arrived at Acceptance.  It’s a sigh of relief.  A weight lifted.  A new page turned.  All of those over-used clichés. 

And what got us to this point?  Without a doubt, our unschooling philosophy has helped us deal with his unemployment, and live a more enriched, fulfilled life. Surprisingly more so than we did when he was working and we had a steady income.  When Shawn lost his job, we were very set in that mentality that he had to have a job, we had to have health insurance, we had to have 2 cars, and a 401(k), and college funds for the kids, and a big house, and and and and…

We cleared the hurdle of unschooling Connor about a year ago.  He learns from living his life.  He pursues his interests and his passions and we support him and provide him with an enriching environment to live in. We do the same with the toddlers, and eventually, I felt myself embracing the philosophy for my own life.  There are things that I wanted to do, and I decided that I should be following my own passions and interests as much as we encourage the children to. 

But somehow, we were still stuck in this rut that quite unfairly, required SHAWN to have a 40-hour a week, salaried career to provide the rest of us with all the security we needed to live our own amazing, unschooled lives.  It was hard to imagine that there was any other option.  And after Shawn’s position was eliminated, we  naturally began looking for that same model of work again.  But after weeks had passed and a  job hadn’t turning up, Shawn decided to go back to school.  It seemed to make sense that he could get a programming degree, and we could wait out the bad economy, and somehow learn to live on 30 percent of our previous income for two years while he went to school. And once that was over, the plan was for him to find another cookie-cutter, drone job that paid the bills while the rest of us pursued our passions and interests, and hopefully Shawn could find time to do that after work and on the weekends! 

But once we finally reached the Acceptance Stage, we had a revelation!  Shawn should be unschooling HIS life as well!  Unschooling, unjobbing, deworking…whatever you want to call it…He should be doing it too!  We LOVE the time we have together now that he’s not working.  We love it so much, we never want to go back to the point of having Shawn miss out on 50 hours a week of our lives together.  We have had a chance to build an amazingly strong bond as a family, and Shawn and I have learned to co-parent and work together as a team in ways we never did before.  

Instinctively, we hesitated, and said, well…he can do that AFTER he finishes school.  After we have that security of another college degree to fall back on just in case. After he’s done with school he can do freelance gigs, and work from home.  And then we said…what if we start NOW? What if he forgets about getting a degree, and instead focuses on taking the classes he WANTS to take, so that he can do the job he WANTS to do? Ahhh! It seems so simple…but two years ago when we made the decision to unschool, the rest of us took time to deschool, and find passions and interests…and while we were doing that, Shawn was working 40-50 hour weeks!  He’d never had the time to deschool (or de-job in this case!) himself. 

But now…he has. And it feels as if slowly…everything else is falling into place. He’s enjoying classes because the pressure of “I MUST take this class for my degree” is gone.  I no longer feel as if our whole life is on hold, waiting for him to finish his degree and find a job and bring in money again.  I’ve been looking for ways to work from home doing things I enjoy doing; taking care of other kids, counseling other breastfeeding moms.  He’s looking for freelance work he can do, and planning to take classes to learn the skills for the jobs he wants, but isn’t yet qualified for.  We’ve also adjusted our perspective regarding material things: We’re purging our home of things that don’t enrich and enhance our environment. We’re selling and donating and yard sale-ing, and realizing life is so much more full-filling when there are less THINGS taking up that space.

Unschooling has, without a doubt, helped us put our life back together.  Extending the philosophy to embrace every aspect of our life has given us a new hope, at a time when we were feeling completely hopeless.  Eight months ago, we had resigned ourselves to thinking that for these two years while Shawn was unemployed and in school, our life was essentially on hold. I can’t imagine why we were okay with giving up two entire years of our life, now that we see how much living we would be missing out on.

A Man’s Reaction to Rabbi Schmuley

(A guest post by Shawn)

A new article was recently published by Rabbi Schmuley in which he argues that a contributing factor to today’s divorce rate is because women breastfeed their babies for what he has determined to be too long. I could dissect the whole article and break it down line by line but by now there has been plenty of online circulation and plenty of people have probably already read it, so I will simply paraphrase. But in case anyone has missed his article here it is…
http://www.beliefnet.com/Love-Family/Relationships/2006/07/Moms-Dont-Forget-To-Feed-Your-Marriages.aspx?p=1

I just wanted to take a moment and share in the anger and outrage from so many and to do it from a man’s point of view. Look there is no saving grace for Rabbi Schmuley’s words; the man simply chose to write a blatantly sexist and misogynistic article. Case closed. But I can’t help but stress that while he offended thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of women he also offended me as a man and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only man left scratching his head and asking, “Well what did he mean by that?”

Can I first start off by stating that I am not a complete sex maniac, incapable of any other emotion besides instant gratification? Also I’m not some sort of selfish freak that demands that my wife’s attention must be on me at all times. I mean, come on! Schmuley’s portrayal of men is downright archaic. As a man I’m truly sickened by what I read. Schmuley’s comments were a portrayal of men as sexually selfish beasts who would resent their own children if carnal desire was not met on his terms at all times.

My wife and I chose to have a freebirth for our last child. We chose how to birth our daughter. I knew that she wanted to breast feed and we talked about a time line of how long that would go on for. Folks, I delivered my daughter at home. Yes my wife did all the work but if a doctor gets credit for delivering babies than I did exactly what a doctor did. I monitored my wife’s condition, I caught my daughter as she emerged from my wife, and I cut the cord and handed our daughter to my wife. My hands were the first hands my baby felt. Her eyes saw me first, not some stranger in a mask and I would not trade that event for anything.

And you know what? I still want to have sex with my wife. I was at her holiest of holies, watching our baby emerge and for some foreign reason to good old Schmuley I still want to be intimate with her. The simple fact is women are no more subservient to men as men are no more crazy sex hounds incapable of a decent human thought. The entire notion that a lack of interaction between me and my wife’s boobs would lead us to a divorce holds no more water than the idea that humors and evil spirits cause sickness.

Schmuley may be a charismatic man, but he is also a man who argues from a faith-based point of view. He removes reason and accountability by holding onto outdated and misguided perceptions of men and women. Women are no less equal to men according to the societal rules that we use today. And rightly so! Yet with equality comes new hardships on the traditional views of marriage. Marriage was once an institution where men clearly lead the house and the women were clearly subservient to men. Divorce was a foreign concept and at one time would lead to the death of a wife if she pursued a divorce.

Now the concept of marriage becomes a harder institution to hold onto. As equals men and women look for partners that can help each other to new levels of happiness and contentment in life. When that happiness and contentment is rocked so then the marriage suffers. Now people are just as likely to divorce over finances as they would divorce from a cheating spouse or even simply being discontent in their lives.  Rabi Schmuley would be better off leaving behind the ancient rules of man/woman behavior as recorded by old men who could no longer get an erection and instead focus on the real struggles of today’s relationships. If a dude can’t handle being married to his wife because he can no longer play with her boobs than that guy has other more serious problems to deal with and punishing a baby by taking it away from its mother is not the answer.

The six month anniversary of my freebirth; A letter to Ellie

Dear Ellie,
Six months ago today, I woke up hugely pregnant; tired and sore from the unrelenting SPD, a little nauseated from the hyperemesis, and having contractions.  It was pretty much the same way I had woken up every morning of the previous two weeks, so I didn’t give it much thought.  But by 10:00 that morning my contractions were strong and steady, and I knew that you were on your way.  I had been preparing for this day for weeks; I had sat in quiet meditation for hours during those sleepless nights, readying my body and mind for the journey we were about to take together.  I was shocked and scared just nine months earlier when I discovered I was pregnant with you; my third pregnancy in less than three years; but by those last weeks, I was anxiously awaiting your arrival.  I knew your birth would make our family complete.  What I didn’t know was how profoundly your birth would change my life.  Daddy and I had spent weeks preparing ourselves for your birth; we read books and did research, and learned to trust each other on a deeper level than either of us knew we could.  

Six months ago today, by late-morning, it was clear that you would be arriving soon.  Daddy came home from work, and I labored on the couch; moaning loudly into my pillow as each contraction brought you closer to me.  After just two hours you were born, pink and perfect, into Daddy’s waiting hands.  I love that his hands were the first to touch you as you left my body.  After a few minutes, he cut your cord, gently separating your body from mine.  He wrapped you in towel and snuggled you while I waited to birth the placenta.  Once I was able to take you, you latched on to my breast, where you would stay for nearly an hour.  When you were satiated, I showered you and Daddy dressed you, and then we snuggled in on the couch to nurse again while your siblings rubbed your head and touched your feet, and replayed the events of your birth.  I love that they were able to be present while you were born.  That night, you and Daddy and I snuggled into our big bed, and we fell asleep with you between us, marveling at how much you and your birth had affected us; we made you and we brought you into the world; no doctors or midwives; just us.

Six months ago today marked the beginning of the somewhat challenging start to our breastfeeding relationship.  Despite my worries that my body wouldn’t produce enough milk, quite the opposite has happened.  From just a few days after your birth we have struggled to lessen my supply with block-feedings and cabbage leaves; I have constant clogged ducts and painful engorgement, and at every nursing session I have to let some milk drain so you don’t choke on the fast-flow you can’t keep up with.  But in spite of it, you nurse amazingly well.  Well enough that at just six months you’re already sneaking up on seventeen pounds!  I had no idea I would love nursing so much; but I love the quiet moments that you and I have together.  I love knowing that from the moment we conceived you, my body has provided all the nourishment that your body needs.  I love when you look up at me and smile a big milky smile while you’re still eating. 

Six months ago today you spent your first night in bed with Daddy and me.  You snuggled your tiny body up against me, and that is where you have slept every single night, all night long, nestled in my arms.  I love knowing you’re safe beside me, and I love waking with your tiny hand on my face.  A few weeks ago, Daddy and I bought a twin-sized bed for you and pushed it up against our bed.  Occasionally, you’ll nap there during the day, but at night, you wanted nothing to do with it.  But the last few nights, your sleep has been restless in our big bed.  You’ve woken up constantly, and can never seem to get comfortable.  So last night, after the fourth waking in as many hours, I nursed you back to sleep and laid you on your bed on your tummy.  I rubbed your back and stroked your face and you found your thumb and for the first time you stayed asleep in your bed.  And even though it was a relief to finally figure out what it was you needed to be comfortable; and even though you’re still within arm’s reach of me; a part of me missed having you in my arms.  I still woke up several times to check on you, but you slept soundly in your bed for the rest of the night.  In fact, as I sit here writing this, you’re still there in your bed, sleeping nearly five hours later. 

Six months ago today, I gave birth to you on the couch in our living room.  Your birth empowered me as a woman.  Your birth made me a better mother.  And your birth and your smiles and your laughter and your love made our family complete. 
Happy six month birthday, Ellie. 
I love you so much,
Love,
Mommy

Bullet-Pointed Maddness

Life has been pretty insane the past couple of months.  I’ll catch you up, and then I promise to be here more often!

*Shawn is still unemployed.  None of the jobs panned out, so he is now enrolled in college full-time, working towards his Computer Programming degree.  These past three months since he was laid off have been pretty chaotic.  But he’s been in school for two weeks now, and we’re beginning to get on a routine.  You can read about it all here: www.unemployediniowa.wordpress.com a blog I started to document our journey.  It’s also a blog that has gotten us a front-page article in the newspaper, and a feature on a PBS show, The Iowa Journal!  (I told you it had been a crazy couple of months!) 

*I’m going to be going back to school in June.  Because of the unemployment, there are all kinds of benefits available to those who want to return to school.  I’m going to be going for a Microcomputer Specialist.  Essentially, I’ll learn some basic programming, PhotoShop, Flash, etc.  All things I can use when I get around to starting my photography business!  And I’ll be able to do it at no cost to us!

*The kids are great.  Connor is finally starting to come out of his shell a little bit, and has been attending the local homeschool activities every week.  This week they’re going maple syruping.  It’s been nice to see our shy, reserved kiddo find some things he can enjoy.  Last night he attended his first Parkour activity. He had a fantastic time, but the class is geared for kids 10 and above (don’t get me started on how much I loathe arbitrary age-limits on things like this) and the instructor seemed pretty set on not allowing him to do the class (despite the fact that he was keeping up just fine).  So he’s going to enroll in gymnastics instead.  It would allow him a chance to do some of the same things, but he’d be with kids closer to his own age. 

*The toddlers and Ella are good.  Ella is still nursing like a champ.  She’s up to almost 15 pounds at just 4 1/2 months!  She’s sleeping great too.  She eats and goes to sleep for the last time at about 10:30 and then sleeps until around 7:00! After it took Aiden 14 months to stop waking up every two hours, this has been an unexpected, but welcome treat!  She’s such a happy, easy baby.  It’s almost enough to make me want another one!  Heh.  (Just kidding…We’re finished. I just like getting a reaction out of Shawn when I say things like, “Are you sure we’re finished?”  Yes. Yes he is!). 

*Aiden has been battling a nasty yeast rash for nearly a month.  I have done EVERYTHING I could think of to try and kill it.  I stripped diapers, we used 1/2 the anti-fungal creams on the market, we had him go with no diaper, I changed him constantly…And NOTHING helped.  Finally, we found a combination of breastmilk and herbal eczema cream seemed to get ahead of it enough that the poor baby isn’t waking up crying every time he pees in the middle of the night!  It’s such a relief.  He’s been miserable for ages, and his poor little bum!  It looked terrible!  But we finally seem to be on an upswing, which hopefully will be the end of it. 

*Autumn is still recovering from a bout of what, we think, was Swine Flu. Or at least something equally as awful.  We all got slammed pretty hard a couple of weeks ago.  But of the four kids, she seemed to get hit the hardest.  She got slammed with the highest fever, and terrible congestion that just wouldn’t go away.  But she’s slowly been getting over it.  Her cough is about the last symptom that’s still hanging on. 

*I think that about gets you up to speed on what’s been going on with us.  Now that Shawn is in school full-time, things are getting back on a bit of a normal routine around here.  It’s nice to have that stability again, rather than not knowing what we’d be doing, or where we would be in the coming weeks.  So, I’ll be here more!  Don’t give up on us!

Job Update

Shawn has been unemployed for seven weeks now, but it seems like we’re close to that changing soon.  Once Christmas was over, there were suddenly several new jobs listed, and he’s applied for most of them. 

Tuesday we went to Grinnell. While he had an interview there, the kids and I went on to my mom’s house to hang out with her for the afternoon.  He felt like the interview went well, and it’s a job he’d really love to do. They’ve called his references, and we should know something next week or so.

He was supposed to have a final interview with the company in Maine yesterday, but he called and cancelled it.  After running the numbers, we just could not figure out a way to make it work to our advantage.  The cost of living is fairly comparable to here, but with just slightly higher rent and no relocation package, we just didn’t feel like it was worth it.  We both want to be closer to the ocean (and this was job was literally blocks away from the beach!) but we’d rather be on the West Coast. So Tuesday, he called and cancelled the interview. 

Yesterday, he got a call from a company he interviewed with before.  He didn’t get that job, but they called yesterday and he’s interviewing again with them today for a new job that’s available that he’s more qualified for.  So, we’ll see what happens.  It seems like he’ll have something before February. 

Part of me is relieved that counting every penny we spend, and not having health insurance may be over soon.  But another, bigger part of me, will be sorry to see him go back to work.  The last seven weeks have been so much fun! Shawn and the kids have had a chance to bond like never before, and I know it’s going to be so hard on them when he’s not here 24/7 anymore. 
It’s been nice to watch movies and sit and have lunch together in the afternoons, and just hang out and reconnect on a level we haven’t been able to in a long time. I think these past few weeks will help us really value the family time we have together once he’s back to working fulltime.