Tuesday, September 9, 2014

creating my relaxing birth environment.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how to create a calming atmosphere during Dylan's birth. Thanks to Megan at Sorta Crunchy I've figured out that I'm definitely one of those HSP (highly sensitive) persons and the stimulus around me really matters if I'm uncomfortable. The main considerations were: music, lighting, smells, physical aids, and food/hydration. Given that my labor was only two hours long, I only utilized a few of them BUT the few I did made a difference in my comfort and peace of mind! 


The wrong kind of music is like nails on a chalkboard. While I scrolled through our iTunes library, I had a feeling that I wouldn't want any words being sung so I wouldn't be distracted or annoyed. So, I downloaded Bethel's Without Words CD and it was perfect. Beautiful instrumentals, no singing. The CD finished just as I was getting into the tub and my mom asked if I wanted her to restart it, and at that point, I said no. I wanted silence to just focus!


It's been proven that laboring in the dark/dim lighting can aid in the progression of labor. Luckily for me, I went into labor at night with both the twins and Dylan, so I didn't have to use blackout curtains. Right away as I came downstairs laboring I asked my mom to bring down my Himalayan salt lamp. I love that thing. I also had a salt tea light candle holder that I purchased specifically for the birth and she made sure it was on - we had to use a battery operated tea light because we had forgotten to buy some, but the ambience was the same! The corner lamp of the living room was on but that was it. It was dim, quiet, and so peaceful in the house. My pre-pushing laboring was done in the dark kitchen. Also, the two big girls were sleeping so that helped, too!


This was a big one. For many women their sense of smell heightens during labor. Sometimes even pure lavender essential oil rubs me the wrong way, so I was unsure if I wanted anything diffusing in the house during labor. In the end, I was in labor for such a short amount of time that I didn't diffuse/spray/use infused washcloths or anything, which was all for the best. I had also planned on buying some beeswax candles because I love their subtle scent, but I ran out of time. If I had wanted some smells, I was leaning towards Frankincense essential oil - it feels so empowering - or Peace and Calming essential oil blend. Both Young Living, but there are equivalents for DoTerra and other EO companies. Or, make your own! Funnily enough, I remember leaning on the towel laid over the edge of the birth tub and in between a big contraction I said, "this towel smells!" I don't think it smelled any different than normal, but it all of a sudden did to me!

Physical Aids

OK, so I am a no-touchy laborer. My midwife and the acupuncturist applied counterpressure to my back, but they knew exactly where to press and were confident about it, so it did feel good. Other than that, no thanks! No balls, no massagers, nada. At one point the midwife left the room and told Andy to keep applying pressure and I could feel his unsure hands hovering just above my lower back, and in my head I was laughing because I knew HE knew that I didn't want his touches. Sorry babe! Just leave in my corner and let me work!

That said, a cold washcloth applied to my forehead did feel extremely soothing and refreshing in between contractions and I did want Andy to hold my hand while I was in the pool and pushing.


The labor wasn't long enough to be eating anything, but I loved my labor aid! It was a variation of the labor aid recipe from Mommypotamus and I'll post my recipe on the blog soon. Basically, it was coconut water, fresh lime juice, mineral drops, and a pinch of sea salt. I took a sip in between contractions and it was super refreshing.

What about you? How did you create your labor space? 

disclosure: this post contains some amazon affiliate links, as I'm sure you're getting used to seeing everywhere. But, the small kickback I get each month really helps out and I'm grateful! Thank you for using my link! 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

baby's #3's home birth story!

Baby #3 came into the world at 3:55 AM on July 25th. If you want the condensed version, here it is: I had a 2 hour home birth. That's it! If you're a birth junkie like me, longer version below. 

At my 37 1/2 week appointment, my midwife Alisha asked if I'd like her to check my dilation. I hadn't had any internal exams this entire pregnancy, but my braxton hicks had been consistent and felt "productive" over the previous weekend, and we were still gunning for me to reach at least 39 weeks. So when she laughed and said, "girlfriend, you're at 5 cm!" I was a little shocked! We were still in talks with my mom and my mother-in-law about when they should come, when we think the baby might come, things that are impossible to know but that you keep talking about over and over because it's just the thing on everyone's minds.

It just so happened that my mom had decided to drive my little sister and two of her friends up the 4 1/2 hour drive for a concert on Tuesday and planned to leave the next morning. "She should probably plan on staying if she wants to be here for it," Alisha recommended, "When it happens, it's going to happen fast."

After my appointment, I drove straight to Trader Joe's and bought more food. To any outsider who didn't know I was expecting, they would have assumed I was planning for the Big One or for a zombie apocalypse...I couldn't stop buying food!

After calling my mom and telling her the news (and her passing that on to my dad, who then passed the word on to his large family that I was in labor and the baby was coming, oh dad!), mom packed an extra bag just in case and they headed up for the concert while anticipating the birth happening at any moment. My friend Tiffany was also planning to be at the birth and she cancelled a weekend trip she had planned, too.

We all went to the concert, but besides the usual BH, nothing that night. Nothing on Wednesday. Thursday I was tired of sitting on the edge of my seat and figured that I would just be walking around at 5cm for the next two weeks. We booked mom a plane ticket home for Friday morning and decided to make Thursday a "forget about birth and have fun day." We ran the last of the before-baby errands, went to lunch, and just enjoyed the day.

Late Thursday night, at 38 weeks, the Braxton Hicks picked up again and I got into another cleaning and organizing mode. These frenzies had happened before so I was trying not to think too much of it, but at this point I was feeling like maybe these contractions were a little bit different...they weren't painful, it was just more pressure than usual and I would get a little bit out of breath. Mom and Andy were having an involved discussion in the dining room while I frantically moved boxes and cleaned counters and made padsicles and went to and fro around them. My little chatty Cathys didn't even notice until I finally stopped and said, "sorry to interrupt, but I think I'm definitely having real contractions. I don't know what this means, but I just wanted to let you know. Andy, can you take this box down to the basement?"

Hot showers do speed up some women's labors, but every time I've taken a shower in the past, any contractions would stop. I figured that would be a good barometer to gauge how real this was, so as I stood in the shower and contractions went away, I decided that it must be a false alarm once again. No biggie! Mom's leaving tomorrow, so I wanted baby to stay in until she could come back.

As we all turned in around midnight, I remember thinking, "If a contraction wakes me up, then I will know it's the real thing."

At 1:30 am, a big contraction woke me out of a dead sleep. Okayyy! Go time? I went to the bathroom, got a drink of water, and didn't feel anything else until 2:00. Then, they started like clockwork. I woke Andy up and told him to call Alisha, wake mom up, and text Tiffany. It was go time.

Andy and mom filled up the birth tub in the living room while I wandered around doing last minute things as it felt much better to be standing up moving around. I put on my gemstone birth bracelet that my friends had made me at my "blessing," mixed my version of this Coconut & Lime Labor Aid, and felt ready. When a contraction would come, I would just lean my head against a wall, step, or counter and do my deep breathing until it passed. They were 3-5 minutes apart, for 30 seconds to one minute. They were strong! Not especially painful, just intense.

As the pool filled, they noticed some silty stuff in the bottom. We decided it must be sand or sediment and I had a moment of sheer panic as I considered the possibility of not being able to be in the water. Mom and Andy tag-teamed and stopped the water, lifted the liner out of the pool, dumped it outside and turned it inside out in record time.

At this point it was 2:30 and I was in the kitchen with the lights off timing contractions while leaning against the counter as Alisha arrived and started setting up. We hadn't heard from Tiffany, so Andy called and texted her husband...also with no answer. I had a sinking feeling that maybe her phone was dead and that she would miss it all!

My mom was standing in the kitchen doorway watching me - she wanted to be there in case I needed anything. But what I wanted most was to be alone. So I said, "I'm good - you can go out," and I waved her away. What I meant was for her to just step into the dining room so that she was still there and so I could see her through the cut out, but just not right there. But, dear mom that she is, went into the living room by the pool and sat in the chair by the corner. I later kept wondering where she was and looking for her. When Alisha set up her gear and came into the kitchen with me, she said, "is your mom coming?" and I said, "She's already here!" Alisha had set up all her stuff in the living room and hadn't noticed poor mom off in her corner! I will always laugh about that memory and feel bad that my mom thought I told her to go away away.

The contractions were coming quickly and regularly, gaining in intensity. What felt best was to be standing or leaning over the kitchen counter, then when a wave came on again, breathing deeply through it counting slowly to 8 on each inhale and exhale and consciously picking a spot in my body and relaxing it, anything, like loosening my jaw or by wiggling my fingers (something I gleaned from my yoga class) and humming (sounding) in a low tone. This helped immensely. I was able to get into my zone and stay there and remember thinking, "this isn't so bad!" I mean, in relative terms.

Alisha would apply counter pressure to my lower back and as the contractions got really strong, bending down into a deep squat was the only thing that took the pressure off, then later, getting onto all fours and rocking back and forth.

At 3:15, Alisha said it was time for me to get in the tub. It was either transition or almost time to push! I climbed in the tub and OH, it felt reeeaaallly good. The water was warm, the bottom of the pool was cushy, and I could hang over the side on my knees and relax into a squat. Ahhh. My acupuncturist had come too and began to apply acupressure to my back as the contractions came. I also asked again, "Where is Tiff?" Mom moved to a closer chair with the camera and Andy crouched next to me to hold my hand.

The last part of the girls' labor that I could feel was at 8cm, before I had the epidural. So now, I was in brand new territory. It still is hard to explain. It's Pressure. Lots of pressure...but not exactly excruciating...I don't know. I could FEEL the baby making her way down the birth canal which was really bizarre but incredible and spiritual and mind-boggling at the same time.

I had two more strong contractions in the pool before my body started pushing. I say "my body" because it was completely involuntary. All of sudden, I was pushing! It was like a dance between my brain, my baby, and my body. My body would start to push, so my brain would say, "help it!" and I would feel the baby moving down, but I had to remember to not let my brain take over, but to work in partnership with what my body was trying to do.

It was kinda crazy but really...and this may sound weird, but...totally Zen. Otherwordly. Alisha's voice was in the background, coaching me through it gently, reminding me that if I wasn't having a contraction, I could stop pushing to keep the baby from coming too fast. Andy had my hand and I felt Colleen's hands working down my spine, all working together as a team beautifully.

I remember being super conscious of this process and sometimes the sensations would take me off guard. While we were talking about it afterwards, Andy said at one point I got this questioning look on my face while in a contraction, and I was groaning but it was like a question - "uhhhh???" I think that was the point when I felt the head crowning, and right after I said out loud, "THAT'S a baby!"

"Baby's crowning," the midwives agreed, and everyone was shocked. This WAS fast! It was probably around 3:40 at this point. Alisha said, "OK, probably one more push" and she was right, after the push I felt her head come out, then a big push or two and her body slid out. The midwives sat me back in the pool and brought my little baby through to me - holy crap! That's a baby I just pushed out! Right there! At 3:55 AM! They dipped a blanket in the warm water and wrapped it around us as we sat back in the pool and reveled at this new little life who, two hours ago, was still chilling inside of me!

A few minutes later, there's a knock on the door - Tiffany! She missed it by mere minutes!

We hadn't found out the sex, so after a few minutes we tried to peel back the blanket to take a look, but baby was NOT having it and started crying loudly. Ok, ok! We can wait to look. We didn't find out the gender until about 20 or 30 minutes later, after I had delivered the placenta and got out of the tub and onto the couch.

A girl!

miss Dylan Kay.

And the great part is the girls slept through the whole thing, even sleeping in a little!

Some births are a marathon...but this one was a sprint. And it was awesome. I couldn't have asked or wished for better and feel very fortunate to have had this healing experience. Not all mothers need "redeeming" births, but my heart really wanted one. I'm so thankful. And home births, well, they rock. Welcome to our family, Dylan!

Monday, July 21, 2014

art and process {blog hop}

My friend Courtney tagged me to participate in a blog hop about my current artistic endeavors, AND as usual, I'm totally late to posting it :) But better late than never? Here's my "art and process" for my baby carrier company, Umi:

1. What am I working on? 

Right now, I'm finishing up orders before taking August off-ish for self-imposed maternity leave. Baby 3 is due around the 5th-ish (isn't it crazy how -ish becomes the new normal in parenthood and life?) and I will definitely need a good month or two to get into a new groove as a mom of THREE.

The exciting part about these orders is that they are beautiful new 100% linen ring slings for two local stores - one in Portland and one in Ashland, Oregon, just outside of my hometown. Both of these came about this summer when I finally said, "hey, you know what, I'm going to put myself out there and see if they'd be interested in carrying my line." I was terrified but you know what? They said Yes. So that store/person/collective/whatever you've been wanting to approach? Just do it. The worst they can say is No, or even, Not Right Now.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

There are a lot of great ring sling makers out there but I do think that I've been able to create a unique product with the handprinted designs. I also have some big creative dreams/ideas that will continue to set my slings apart from others' in the future while keeping prices affordable. It's easy to get priced out in this market and one of my goals is to figure out how to keep my slings affordable while still very high quality AND with the one-for-one concept. It's been a big learning experience and I continue to have to search and tweak what I'm doing. I think if I went on Shark Tank I would be totally annihilated, but thank goodness, that's nowhere in my future!

I've been coasting along this pregnancy and haven't felt especially creatively inspired but I'm excited to explore some design ideas this fall/winter further once we get into a new family rhythm. It's a process that continually evolves as you try and find what you're happy doing and what your customers are looking for.

3. Why do I write/create what I do? 

The social entrepreneurship aspect is incredibly important to me. Being able to give a sling to a family in need is the reason I initially started selling them and continually try to keep that the goal of my sales and outreach. After initially participating in supporting Project Baby Bilum through the ring sling drive, I realized that I loved ring slings enough to try and eek out a living (that's a relative term) from it while continuing to support PBB and in the future, other nonprofit babywearing organizations who are working to put carriers in the hands of families who will really benefit from their use, like Lift Me Up and Carrying On ProjectThe one-for-one concept in the babywearing world is something that only one other company that I know of is doing - I found out about them after I started and actually breathed a sigh of relief, because yes, it can be done! and our styles are very different and they're advocating in a different country, so I feel very content with where I'm at.  

Whenever I get overwhelmed about having entered into a HUGE market (the babywearing market is seriously giant) and I find myself frozen with doubt and insecurity, I take a deep breath and remember what I'm supporting - and that all I'm asked to do is tend to my own corner of life's garden. Remembering that even the sale of one ring sling may change someone's life for the better is kind of profound. 

In reality, this business is my #3 priority in life and it's important to keep that in mind when making business decisions. It may keep me small forever, but I've decided that I am 100% happy with allowing this endeavor to grow and evolve organically without me having to push and strive and stress out and worry about, for example, my lack of social media savvy. It allows me to admire other companies' work and appreciate that everyone has different tastes and are entitled to them! When I do get stressed, nothing good comes out of it and I've actually made some very poor business decisions while in this mode. 

4. How does your creating process work? 

Creating the ring sling pattern was trial and error as I started off making for my own use using a lot of different online tutorials and seeing what was comfy and what was not. The thing about any type of baby carrier is that it is completely personal preference. Some people prefer a pleated shoulder, some people prefer gathered, or a hybrid. Some love cotton, some only want linen. Some people just don't enjoy ring slings, period. So knowing that you can't please everyone is freeing, mostly, to create a product that I myself love and would be proud + happy to wear out and about.

Also, my best tool for keeping design inspiration and ideas coherent and together is a "secret" Pinterest board - anytime I see a design of anything that I like, or a new color combination, I pin it to the board and it's all there to be assimilated. It's like creating a huge electronic mood board! There are ideas from all over and I'm hoping that during a new creative phase it will lead to some exciting productions.

As for the day to day, it comes in fits and bursts and mostly while my kids are sleeping. The girls are getting used to seeing me at the sewing machine and as they get better at independent play, I'm able to squeeze in work in small chunks throughout the day, whether it's sewing or packaging or shipping. I do have a sewing area set up in our loft/bedroom area but the summer heat has forced me down to the dining room table, so that's my new workspace and it's been a pleasant change. As a mom of littles I definitely do not adhere to a set schedule...which is also the reason why I have a 2 week shipping window. I'm hoping to whittle that down someday, but fortunately most people used to custom work are also used to waiting a little bit longer for the product. With a new baby on the way...well, we'll see!

I'm tagging two lovely ladies if they'd like to share!

Kira from Rain or Shine (and her Etsy shop)
Erika from A Tiny Rocket (and her Etsy shop)