3 under 2.5: Recipe for Insanity! Preparation for Greatness.

January 19, 2014 was the first day of the rest of my life. This was the day my son was born, and the first day that I could officially say that I have 3 kids under 2.5 years old (and no twins, mind you). John and I have heard all the lame remarks in the last couple years that you could possibly imagine, such as “Do you know how that happens?!” and “You should put a TV in your bedroom,” and “Yes, they HAVE been busy…” Ha. Ha. Ha. Yeah… Soooo funny. As it turns out, true love, attraction, and fertility are an ironic mixture for a life where good times don’t come as easy as everyone else likes to think. Because let me tell you, my life is INSANITY right now.

What I endure on a constant daily basis as a stay at home mom of a 2.5 year old, 1.5 year old, and a newborn is no laughing matter. Sure, I do get a good laugh out of the hilarious things my 2 year old comes up with, and yeah, I do love to giggle with both of my girls about silly things like dancing their hearts out to Abba, and of course I love to get my newest baby to coo, and yes, I LOL on the inside at 5am when my baby sharts so hard that it scares the dog… but dear God am I exhausted, overwhelmed, and feeling like a failure more times in my daily life than not. This is HARD!!!

If I have less than 5 times a day where my stress level isn’t spiking up to the red danger zone, it’s been a great day. Nervous breakdowns have been a weekly regular for me. It took me much longer to heal from my last birth (still not quite 100% there yet) because I have had to chase 2 toddlers around when I should have been curled up in bed with my infant son. My middle child started sleeping through the night 2 weeks before my newest was born. I haven’t even really touched on the mental struggles I have with maintaining my house. Oh and did I mention I have 3 in diapers??

Do you believe me when I tell you that my life is insanity right now? Being perpetually nauscious for 4 months, 3 separate times through my pregnancies was hard. Having 3 completely natural labors/births was hard. But this… this is a whole new level up. And it happens to be my new norm for the next 5 years or so.

What I have gathered in my very brief chances to ponder what all this means for me in the long run is that I am earning my PhD in multitasking 50 things at one time. My mind is busier than downtown New York. My planning and preparation skills have become absolutely remarkable. Out of necessity, I have become a decent cook of the meals I enjoy the most. I am more confident than ever before, because I am realizing what I am really capable of. It’s no wonder to me why Moms get sad decades down the road and miss these golden early days even though they were yearning for easier days at the time- though I feel inadequate sometimes, I ultimately believe that what I am managing to accomplish is a true feat, and a testimony of my maximum potential- which I hope will never just be “a thing of the past.” While I long for more sleep and have become hysterical more than once after only a few hours of it (broken up), I can only pray that I will continue to exercise my potential self to do great things long after my kids are “easier” or grown and gone. I know what I’m truly capable of managing now. It’s really just the beginning. And I must, I WILL use this training to manage amazing things in the future alongside of and outside of motherhood.

I love, cherish, and adore being a mother to 3 incredible, beautiful children. But in my heart and soul I know that in addition to raising a best friends trio of critical thinking, compassionate, hard working, artistic, world changers, I still have work to do as a wife, a writer, and a philosopher of life whose desire is to do great things and leave an imprint on this earth and the people in it that lasts beyond my lifespan.

With my mental sanity and even my physical body being challenged constantly, let this be a reminder to myself that these days will pass more quickly than I can fathom and that I cannot let myself slow down and become sad, longing for the early days when I operated at my full potential at some far date in the future. My babies are so precious, and I do successfully make many conscious efforts to maintain peace and gratitude for my exhausting blessings (those are the truly beautiful moments of my life). So for now, I will keep on keeping on, until one day I wake up and realize that things really are getting easier. And then I will have graduated to the next chapter of raising kids. And I can never let the perseverance that I learned from raising 3 babies under 2.5 waste away only to memories and photographs. To my dearest husband and closest family and friends: please keep me accountable to never let this struggle be in vain. I am woman, I am wife, I am daughter, I am mother. And I can conquer anything through the power and glory, and blessing of The Lord.

The detailed birth story of my beautiful son Levi John!

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Greetings my friends and family who have happened upon my poor neglected blog! Just one week out from the birth of my sweet son Levi John, I am determined to write up a detailed account of my labor and delivery story before it fades in my memory. Overall, I am beyond pleased with the whole experience! Of all 3 of my unmedicated, minimal intervention hospital births, this one was my “most natural” in that my waters broke naturally as opposed to my first two labors where I allowed my doctor to break the bag for me. I also took no iv water for hydration (had 1 bag for Lena’s labor) and opted to skip a bag of pitocin after the birth which I reluctantly agreed to for Lena’s post birth, and regretted. (Supposedly helps the uterus contract back to normal and minimize hemmorage risk). I felt like it interfered with my natural oxytocin after her birth and specifically wanted to skip that this time, which I did after discussing it with my doctor. So, even though it’s in the minor details, Levi was my very most “hands off” birth so to speak. It was a longer labor than Lena’s (13 hours vs 6.5 hours), but ultimately the last 3 hours of this birth were true hard, active labor. So it really depends what I count since this time my labor was very slow to start. So here it is, my labor story! I don’t think I got too explicit but do proceed with caution. :)

Saturday evening (January 18th) my girls and my husband and I all went over to my parents house for spaghetti dinner. Those last couple of weeks were so hard on me and doing family outings was feeling like such a chore. However, making dinner was just about as much of a burden, therefore we opted to go have a meal prepared with love by my mom on this particular Saturday. It was so delicious. But I think I ate about 1/3rd of what I put into my bowl before waddling over and laying down on the couch. It seemed like there was a lot going on in the house that night but all I could do was lay down and keep more to myself. I feel distant, a little grouchy, and by 9pm I felt this wave of extreme exhaustion. All day I had been sniffling and somewhat sneezy. I had heard of this being a labor sign and I was convinced that it was a precursor since I had no other cold symptoms! I even told that to my mom when we first got to her house this particular night. We finally loaded up the car and headed home around 10. I was so glad to get home. It was a late night for my girls, and I went to bed at my usual bedtime, around midnight.

7am the next morning arrived with a POP! I was gently woken up by this familiar feeling and knew my water had broken. I asked John to get me a towel, and my suspicion was confirmed when I sat up and felt the fluid loss! The reason I say it was familiar is because when I first began labor with Eva, I felt the “pop” too! Strangely though, my water did not break with my labor with her. This was the real thing though. I should also add that weeks earlier, I had an intuition/premonition that my water would spontaneously break for this labor (never had that happen with my prior babies) and surely enough, it did. THREE times! But I’ll get to that later.

After I woke up to my water breaking, my first reaction was that I got really anxious. All these months leading up to the great unknown “d day” and the more recent days and weeks had me feeling pretty nervous at times. Since I had such a defining start to this big day, it was scary to take in at first. I took a little shower after I made my way into the bathroom. It relaxed me, and I prayed for peace, strength, and endurance for my imminent labor.

I don’t think I got a contraction until a good 30 minutes after my water broke. The ones that came after were also sparse and very gentle. I used this early time to my advantage to get my things together that I had been putting off. I made my phone calls to my family to inform them of the news and attempted to plan out the scenario of the coming hours. Having subsequent children really makes things tricky in this type of situation. There’s only so much planning that can be done before the true time. I am so thankful for the timing of everything with my labor with Levi. I had prayed for a morning/day labor, and it happened. I prayed for my mom to be able to be there through my labor, and she was (would have had her be with my girls if necessary). I prayed for things to go smoothly for the sake of my girls, and it did. It was so amazing how beautifully everything unfolded.

I had a good 2 hours of downtime from 7-9am before my girls woke up. I used this time to gather some last minute things, and sit. Sit and relax, and mentally prepare as best I could. Believe it or not, I started a load of laundry too. My mom and sister came over and brought me some specifically requested blueberry muffins from the Kroger bakery. It was so delicious and satisfying. I relaxed and enjoyed the morning time with my girls with the help of John and my mom and sister. Contractions were coming, but 10-15 minutes apart, and nothing painful at all.

11 o’clock or so rolled around and I began to feel a little annoyed that my labor wasn’t progressing too much. This was 4 hours after my water broke and I was wanting to get the ball rolling. I didn’t want to go to the hospital prematurely, but at the same time, I didn’t want to have to wait TOO many hours before showing up. My sister and Todd and I went on a walk down my street and back. This really helped me get more consistency in my contractions. I was having to stop and stand through about half of them, but most I could walk through, and all of them I could talk through.

When we got back, I called my in laws to go ahead and come over to help my sister out with the girls while my mom and husband and I left for the hospital. Still, I was purposefully slow in getting out the door. I even considered stopping by the mall the walk around awhile before going into the hospital.

I was getting hungry at this point but didn’t want anything heavy and I knew I shouldn’t really eat as per the Dr/hospital recommendation in the event of an emergency c section, so we opted to stop by smoothie king on the way to the hospital for easy protein.

John went ahead to the hospital and I went with my mom in her car (smoother ride). In the car my contractions were becoming more intense. Had to focus on breathing through them more, and they started coming 5 minutes or less apart at some points. My smoothie turned out to be gross. I couldn’t do more than 10 sips or so. Screw smoothie king. Jamba Juice is the way to go!

Since it was about 1pm on a Sunday, we hit a little bit of traffic trekking through the woodlands. While we sat at a light, I had a sudden, scary, rush of fluid loss! Just as much, if not more than the initial water break (I guess I did a good job of staying really hydrated all morning), and it was UNstoppable. My moms jean jacket was the only available item for helping to contain it! Sorry mom! So ironic, because John had towels in his car for this very potential occasion.

About 10 minutes after this, we were pulling up to the front circle at the hospital. Contractions were definitely coming, and before the car stopped in front of the doors, my water broke… AGAIN! Just as much fluid as both times before!!! No lie. It was so freaky! I was beginning to think that maybe Levi was closer to birth than I knew. The surprise of these two separate car water-breakings had me pretty shaky when I arrived. John was there waiting, and had a wheel chair for me. We checked in, and they gave me a room right off the bat since my water had broken and it had been 6 hours from the first time by then.

So it was around 2ish when I was roomed. My contractions were averaging about 3-5 minutes apart, some closer, some further. I’d say they were about a 5 on a pain scale of 10. I took a quick rinse off shower, did some of the protocol paper signing, and got my hep lock in my arm, and did some fetal monitoring. And of course, I got my first cervix check…. and I was 4 centimeters along, and 50% effaced. Darn! Was hoping to be further along, but I also found it funny since I was 4cms along when I arrived for BOTH of my previous labors with Eva and Lena!

I spent a good while just sitting upright in my bed, getting through contractions, and letting reality sink in that I made it through all the initial parts of labor, the unexpected triple water breaking, all the signing in, and meeting nurses. All these things during labor are quite distracting, and I was so glad to be settled into the very spot where I soon would birth my baby boy. “This is where it is going to happen. Right here in the room, on this bed,” I kept thinking.

I finally got the gumption up to do some walking around the labor and delivery wing. When John and I were making our way down the halls together, it seemed like I couldn’t get 20 feet without a pretty hard contraction. I definitely wasn’t walking through contractions at this point and breathing through them was gradually becoming a challenge, yet I would say my pain management was probably above average, compared to my past labors.

I walked about 15 minutes every hour for about 3 hours. Unfortunately I began experiencing back labor also. I spent about 20-30 minutes sitting up in the bed, about 10 minutes standing, and about 15-20 minutes on the squatting ball… Like this for a few hours. 4:30pm came around and I really felt my contractions getting hard. After 30 minutes of contractions that were significantly rough, I decided that I wanted to be checked again…. At 5pm, I was only 5cms!!! Okay, I cried. (I cried between 2 contractions only, because crying through a contraction would not have been possible- had to suck it up and breath correctly.) Things were getting SO hard, and I thought I would have been done, at least CLOSE by dinner time. I was hungry, I was tired, and a little discouraged. Some family and friends were in and out of the room which was a nice distraction, but things were really starting to suck at this point and moaning during the exhale of a contraction was pretty much the norm by now.

My nurse had discussed the fact that my baby may be face up due to the fact that my contractions were coming in 2′s and because I was having the back labor. She said that it could potentially mean it may be harder to push him out. She suggested positioning myself in a forward lean position and swaying my hips through contractions to relieve the back labor and to try to help him move to the right position. This freaked me out a little so I did exactly what she suggested after a little while.

Around 6pm there was a shift change and I got a new nurse. This definitely throws a person off. Not one of the great benefits of birthing in a hospital. However, the new nurse was a Lamaze instructor of over 20 years, was significantly older, sweeter, and just generally more loving. Maybe silly to say but she was special, and I appreciated her gentle spirit. Plus I think she enjoyed the fact that I was going for a completely natural birth.

I think it was about 7pm when I finally decided that I wanted to take a hot shower. A hot shower did a miracle in me during my extremely long labor with Eva so I was hopeful that it would help me out. When I discussed the plan with the nurse, Linda, she said something funny to me about how “If you feel like you’re going to push a baby out, pull that emergency string.” I think this image was in my subconscious during my shower. When I was in that shower, I leaned forward/down and gripped the built in seat and swayed my hips while the water was on my back. If this baby was facing the wrong way as my previous nurse suggested, I was desperate to get him lined up correctly. My contractions in this shower and in that forward position was nothing short of hardcore. I could almost feel him descending on my cervix. Things were definitely reaching a whole new level and I really think that my position and that 20 minute shower made things progress in a big way. My mom peered in as I turned off the water. “Dry me!” I exclaimed between contractions. I couldn’t talk when those rushes came, they were coming close together, my exhale was getting pretty vocal, and my whole body was getting shaky.

“Call the nurse, tell her I’m close!” I told my mom and John. She came in as I was desperately climbing up onto the bed before a contraction. My legs were still wet I think, and my hair was probably absolutely ridiculous since it was forgotten about, in a ponytail, 50% wet from my intense shower time.

The nurse checked me that one last time, and I was at 8 centimeters dilated. She scrambled to make the call to my obstetrician that he needed to hurry and get there in time. Yeah. That didn’t happen. Lol. It was pretty much the same story during my labor with Lena. They checked me and I was at 8cm, and within 10-15 minutes she was out, into the hands of my not doctor. Yep, that’s how it was this time again! My sister wanted to be there for the delivery and when she came in after I had just climbed up on the bed I looked at her and said, “It’s coming soon- if you want to be here, come stand back here (back left of me and my bed) and don’t move!” John and my mom were in position, and the nurse got ready to deliver my baby at 8:01pm, 13 hours after my water broke… the first time.

Needless to say, those last 15 minutes were extremely uncomfortable, intense, and overwhelming. I was more conscious of my birthing sounds and vocalization this time than my previous births. Maybe it’s just fresh in my memory, but I think I did get a little loud. I am certain the same can be said about my other two deliveries though. At the end it is hard to inhale smoothly and calmly too (for me, at least). And several friends and family members nearby in the hallways overheard it all. Oh well!

The time to push was undeniably primal feeling. I could feel him descending through the birth canal. What intrigued me the most during this pushing phase were the three distinct, painless, short “breaks” I had between those last contractions when he was sort of in limbo. Oh, the indescribable feeling of being so incredibly close to it all being over, yet the anticipation of the very scariest part of the whole ordeal!

There was a random older nurse lady who came into the room in the last 10 minutes or so I guess to help out my primary nurse. She was almost sort of pushy with me about my breathing, sort of sternly/loudly telling me to “breathe!!” (exhale with focus). She helped to push my leg back as well in those final moments too. She was a random addition to the experience but she got my attention above all the chaos and directed me in a way that I needed.

One of my favorite moments during the last stage was when I could feel him getting close to the end and my nurse Linda said “one more contraction and we will have a baby”… If I could sum up my internal feelings into one word at those last moments before the actual birth it would be “YUUSSSSSS!!!!!!” Because at this point, there is NO turning back, and it is like having to scale an impossible wall, and then just freaking doing it. The last two pushes (one for his head and the other for his shoulders) were the hardest pushes, but so totally doable in that moment. And when his shoulders were out, it was DONE!! I got to hold him right away and needless to say, the feelings of relief, accomplishment, happiness, excitement, alertness, and love for my newborn baby… all mixed equally into those post delivery moments is just indescribable!!

A few minutes later my OB showed up to do the hard job of checking to see if I had any tears (thank God I didn’t)! If I didn’t have uncomplicated births, I would definitely be more annoyed with my doctor for not making it for 2/3rds of my children’s births, but thankfully I didn’t exactly need his medical assistance and expertise. Not to mention the 1 he actually did show up for I ended up with an episiotomy. Coincidence? It’s debatable. I also don’t fully blame him since the hospital/ nurses make that call on when to tell him to come and I couldn’t exactly communicate the growing intensity while I was in my shower… I mean there’s only so much that can be done when you go from like 8cm to birthing a baby in a matter of moments which seems to be what I’m good at!

In conclusion, I am deeply grateful that I have managed THREE unmedicated/natural childbirths in a hospital! My birthing philosophy is obviously that of minimal intervention if baby and mommy are fairing well, and I have been beyond blessed to have manifested my desired birth plan for basically all of my children! The last part of my labor with Eva was a little crazy and didn’t go as I wished, but my subsequent labors more than made up for all that (see my older post on my abridged birth stories of my girls). There is definitely a part of me that wishes I could have done home births- in hindsight I would have been a really great candidate for that, but at the same time, I know I am a great testimony of how to do it naturally in a medical establishment. While I do take credit for all the research and mental preparation that goes into planning a labor and birth (not to mention the physical aspect), I must also give much credit to Memorial Hermann hospital and the really wonderful, supportive, understanding staff that I had the pleasure of encountering along the way! I know I am so fortunate to have had these great experiences with childbirth and I do not take that for granted at all. I also feel like I should add that I do not intend to brag or come across as prideful or arrogant because of my labor and birthing choices. While I do maintain a significant sense of personal accomplishment about my birthing achievements, I most definitely do not look down on other women’s different birthing experiences! No matter how it happens, a healthy baby is such an indescribable miracle. Being able to birth it the way nature intended in our modern society is simply a way to make it all that much more awesome, if that method is your passion and desire. Thanks be to God for allowing me to fulfill these dreams of my motherhood journey the way I have deeply desired, x3!! I wish for all my friends and family and acquaintances to have great labors and births the way that they envision and plan for too! In the mean time I am cheering all you pregnant and future pregnant ladies on to experience birthing the way nature intended. It is so worth it if you can do it too!

Even the best days of motherhood can be rough.

I sit here, finally, after hours and hours of nonstop “things” to do. “Activities!” Is the general exclamation that has been going through my head as I gallop through the day. What can I do next that will entertain, enrich, and productively make use of my children’s days? Between feeding them, changing their diapers, and making my own bathroom trips, there is little room for relaxation. I have this really bad habit where sometimes I sit myself down on the couch and check the happenings on my phone for a desperate chance to unwind, yet I find myself bored and restless, and feeling guilty that I am preoccupied with my phone in the presence of my children.

Blog Photo 2Last night at 10pm, I happily prepared some homemade evaporated milk/food dye paints for my young 2 year old to have a try at for the first time this morning. Then, the first chance this morning after morning milk and snacks, I prepared the half of the table that Eva was to paint on. I taped overlapping pieces of newspaper to themselves and to the table, then taped the large rectangular white paper over the newspaper, taped some foil down next to it to catch drops of paint that would surely drip from the brush between the styrofoam egg carton paint holder and the paper. I put double stick tape under the egg carton to keep it grounded to the foil, and snapped a picture of the awesomely prepared painting set up. I was proud, but more excited to see it in action. To my dismay, when I pushed Eva up to the table in her highchair, I realized that I had taped everything about 2 inches too far away from her. Enter: several minutes of ripping up tape, newspaper along with it, reassigning tape on the corners, foil bits, and all- to stabilize it closer to the edge. Ah, motherhood. If at first you don’t succeed, have some icing on your cake and do a little extra work.

Blog Photo 4Painting was so awesome, by the way. Eva made a pink and purple masterpiece. I showed her how to “dip it” and “brush” the paper, directed her to color all the white areas, and blotted up excess liquid. With a tiny bit of my help, she created a masterpiece! I’ll definitely be framing it in the near future! For now it hangs proudly on our kitchen/dining room wall. I am so proud of her and her creation. It would make me so happy to raise daughters who can express themselves beautifully through art, in whatever medium they most enjoy.

Blog Photo 5Directly following painting came crayon time with both my 1 and 2 year old. My younger one was a little fussy and I think she felt left out, so as soon as Eva was done, I rushed to put her painting out of reach, ripped up all the newspaper in a hurry, taped down their coloring pages, and busted out all the crayons. Not quite sure my youngest is ready for painting, so I wanted to give her the creative outlet of “coloring” so she felt more included. After over a half an hour of craft time, I was ready for a break. And this was before the more thorough clean up and “almost-disaster” where Eva reached up on the counter and almost grabbed and spilled the food dye paints everywhere! The 5 second heart attack I got from that was a nice afterthought of art time. A careless placement of those paints too close to the counter edge could have cost me so much. But this time, I got lucky.

Blog Photo 1What I have described so far was a matter of minutes of my day with my two daughters Eva and Lena. Our evening grocery trip for a few basics was another very tiring hour. Both of these art and shopping events were interesting undertakings, and there were countless other wakeful and extremely busy hours that demanded my mental and physical energy. I changed about 5 poops, I hurt my back lifting both girls at once, and made the annoying mistake of dumping out some collected rainwater on my back patio at the start of our evening backyard time, which Lena decided would be fun to sit in and crawl all over. “How could I be so careless to dump that water out right there on the concrete?” I asked myself several times when I was trying to get some fresh air and “relax.” All I could think about was my mistake and how I would later go about cleaning her up since I had already made the executive decision that it was too late, I was too tired, and the girls weren’t dirty enough for baths tonight. When does it get easier? I wonder. And then I am reminded by the little baby kicks inside my belly that his journey hasn’t even really begun yet.

Blog Photo 6I could go on… I could write double or triple the amount I have written thus far, just on the “activities,” struggles, and triumphs of my day- just ONE day of my stay at home mom life! And despite the rewarding, exhausting, productive happenings of my day, I feel mentally wound up, defeated by my unfolded laundry, and somehow a little bit bored and yearning for my own version of fun. I don’t even know what that means to me anymore. Why is it that despite all my efforts, I am left feeling slightly bothered? My bed time has come, and I am glad to rest, but my calling will resume on the flip side and I won’t even get the chance to ponder it all for many, many more hours.

Motherhood called- you forgot to take a shower today.

Hello again, and here are some updates on my world!

I have been MIA for a couple months due to my third pregnancy! I’ve been struggling to get through many hard weeks of nausea. Since I’ve been around the block a few times, I would say that I have been handling it a little better this time than with my last two (fairly sure I had undiagnosed hyperemesis gravidarum, which is basically extreme, constant, extended, all day sickness). I’ve had some exceptionally hard weeks and days this time around, but I am now 15 weeks along and feeling a little more hopeful! If my last pregnancies are anything to go by, I should be a lot better off by next month or so. I do apologize for the temporary hiatus, but just getting through the day has taken priority over any of my other side projects and ambitions, including blogging.

Since I have last blogged, I have celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary, celebrated my youngest daughter’s 1st birthday, and my oldest daughter’s 2nd birthday! Believe it or not, they share 1 month each year where they are both the same year age. The night before Eva, my 2 year olds birthday, I kissed “my little one year olds” goodnight for the last time. Something that not too many people can say they do or have done! So far, life with a 2 year old has been pretty interesting. Eva is now saying small sentences, is gaining a hilarious sense of humor, is communicating her love for her friends and family more than ever (so rewarding), as WELL AS… becoming a little more hostile towards her younger sister at times, getting really close to being able to climb out of the playpen/crib, and throwing more silly fits here and there. With the awesomeness there seems to be some additional challenges, but I think I have always expected this based on what I’ve heard about age 2. My youngest, Lena, is cutting some bigger teeth after a couple months of no teething! She is more expressive and vocal than ever at 13 months old and she is VERY close to walking now! She glides along the couch and lower tables pretty easily and after about 7 months of her famous belly crawl, she finally figured out that it is less work to crawl on her hands and knees. She, too, is so fun to watch grow into the next stages. Her stubborn personality has really been interesting to contend with at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Her hair is starting to wave out on the ends where it is getting longer and she is such a snuggly love bug. My children are beautiful, thriving, and little handfuls of love.

And soon, I will have yet another little one to watch grow up! I am due on February 3rd, 2014. I am glad to have a due date that is a few weeks removed from the winter holidays. I was a little nervous about potentially being due around Christmas- I like to have things a little more spaced out, for sanity’s sake! It took a few weeks for me to actually start looking forward to restarting the whole new human being baby thing all over again, but as I carry on and as my children grow out of the baby stages (and as I see more friends and family getting new little bundles too), I am definitely more excited to get a new little love again. The thrill of having a newborn really is so amazing. However, before this can happen, the whooooolllle carrying a baby to around 40 weeks thing has to happen, plus that little thing we like to call the labor and delivery process. And you know, I just don’t think I’m quite ready for that again. Yet. I feel like after 2 un-medicated births in under a year, I’ve kind of proven my capabilities and my point, you know? Like, I did it, and I did it both times pretty well and I feel like I had closure with what went wrong the first time with what went right the second time. And now I have to have another go at it already! I do look forward to an even shorter labor time (17.5 hours the first time, 6 hours the second time) if by God’s grace the trend continues, but I must say, I’m slightly over the whole birthing thing. I’m betting in a few months after a few more pounds in my uterus, I’ll be inviting that glorious, primal, insane day to come quickly, but for now, I’m just going to push it out of my mind and wonder what my third child will be like when he/she arrives.

So these are my latest updates in my life and journey of pregnancy and motherhood. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading up on them. I am still doing monthly contributions on Hybrid Rasta Mama’s blog on the topic of humanity/authentic living, so keep an eye out for those. And I promise the next blog update you get from me will be sooner than this one was from the last.

 CarasFinalSigCaraJean

I miss my life, but I love this one more.

The Taboo Carnival

Welcome to the Taboo Carnival. Our topic this Spring is “I Miss My Life!” This post was written for inclusion in the quarterly Taboo Carnival hosted by Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama. This month our participants reflect on life before and after motherhood and “missing” some of the aspects of life without children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I think my first true sobering moment after the initial shock of the news of my first pregnancy was a few weeks later at the end of my first trimester. I had been well into several weeks of battling debilitating and incessant nausea. I continued to struggle with this for months, and had a lot of down time to ponder the reality of my impending parenthood. This one particular time in early pregnancy, I laid in bed and sobbed. Images of moving to Austin, Texas (about 3 hours away, and my favorite city), finishing school at UT, and getting involved in the music scene there as a bassist and an otherwise spontaneous free spirit with my loving husband at my side, seemed to just melt in my imagination. I was (and still am, actually) about 30 credits short of a Bachelor’s degree, which has always been a very realistic and important goal to me. In fact, my first thought when a doctor told me I was pregnant was, “How am I going to finish school!?” And as a newlywed only 6 months in, I laid there and felt bitter about how my life alone with my husband would soon be no more. I was so nauseated and weak from what I experienced to be “24/7 sickness,” that I began to experience a little bit of depression while realizing the pain of what it means to release my personal dreams to Neverland in order to focus on becoming a good mother at 21 years old. Collage 1The intensity of that initial overwhelming grief for the loss of my fantasy childless life has become increasingly less potent after over two years of all that encompasses pregnancy, childbirth, life with a newborn, life with a toddler, oh and yet another pregnancy and baby just 11 months after the first one! You see, many countless eternally special moments have since overshadowed that initial sadness and have made the journey worth it. But the remnant of these dreams is still present in my mind from time to time. And yeah, I do miss it sometimes. Collage 2My journey as a parent of ‘Irish twins’ has been hard at times (okay, pretty much all the time), but all the labors encompassing that journey have been extremely self-defining and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I could chalk up motherhood into one word, it would “selflessness.” And unless you are ready to put a large portion of your selfish goals to rest in order to profit your babies, you might find yourself thinking, “I miss my life before kids.” Oh, the freedom of being able to grab your wallet and keys (only) and drive to a friend’s house for awhile. Oh, the simplicity of surviving on frozen pizza with your newlywed spouse. Oh, the excitement of going out every weekend and doing spontaneous things! Oh, the freedom of not having to think of all the 10,000 things that come with the journey of motherhood. These sweet freedoms seem like memories of a distant past after only two years of parenthood. I hear of some of my other unwed/non parent friends doing some really fun things and I think about how sweet it must be for them to exercise those freedoms that they likely forget to cherish like someone in my place would. While I am so happy for them, sometimes I feel robbed of my young adulthood and I long for those more social days. And after several years of parenthood, it seems that my time with my dearest friends is just all too rare. And that can even include my amazing husband with whom I live! While I usually have only a few small hours to spend with him once my girls are in bed for the night, my mind is often reeling with all the things I have to do that sometimes it’s hard to fully relax and enjoy those precious baby-less times with him. Though I never could previously fathom myself having “Mom Brain,” but I totally do. It happens!! Life with two babies under two years old is hard. Life before I first became pregnant seems like a happy dream now. Collage 3When I catch myself missing my life before children, I wouldn’t say I feel guilty. And that’s because I don’t let myself dwell on it. I almost always catch myself in this train of thought and I remind myself how blessed I am to start this beautiful journey so early on (and at all!). Some people don’t find their loves for many years into adulthood, and some struggle to conceive. I have personally known of both of these scenarios and I refuse to let such hardships go in vain. When I think of all that I have come to know by now, at a mere 23 years old, I quickly realize that my achievements are monumental for any lifetime, let alone the first 1/3rd or so of the average lifespan. I mean, I live in a house on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood with tons of young families and children, I am happily married, I have two beautiful daughters, and an awesome dog. I am so very blessed! And because I am already well into the phase of my life that involves bearing and raising up children, I take pride in the fact that I’m arguably “ahead of the game” since settling down and having a family seems to be a major bullet on most people’s ultimate lifetime to-do list. Collage 4You see, the two things that I miss most about life before children are the social freedom and excitement of a blank canvas future where my fantasies about what I would like to do in life actually seemed possible. And what keeps me sane is that one day when my children are older, I will have more of a social life without feeling the guilt of robbing my innocent children of that precious Mommy/baby bonding time. And actually, my future is still a blank canvas, except now there are my amazing daughters in the picture that I get to impart all my life’s wisdom in and witness them grow up into incredible women and eventually my best friends. Perhaps my free spirit musician in Austin, TX dream is not all lost- maybe in a few years we can relocate to that charming city after all, except now that I have kids, I’ll be able to include them in the fun that such a place can offer. I know that I’m more than capable of finishing that ever esteemed goal of graduating from college, when I’m ready. And I would like to get a Master’s Degree too. Oh, and along the way, I get all the benefits and experiences that come exclusively with parenthood. That selflessness that is so constantly exhausting and that is often overlooked, is actually maturing me faster into the accomplished human being that I probably would have become anyways. And by the way, I’ve already done the math: by 42 (if I don’t have any more babies), I’ll be an empty-nester with many extra hours a week to put into both my professional and personal goals. Nobody said it was easy, and I’m here to confirm that it isn’t. But I’m going to keep on keeping on with my head up high and a smile on my face, because all is not lost. The fulfillment I have gained from the parenthood journey so far greatly overshadows what I sometimes think I miss. I love to count my blessings, for they are many. Life goes by too fast to stay hung up on the possibilities of yesterday.

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Visit Momma Jorje and Hybrid Rasta Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Taboo Carnival! Enjoy the posts from this month’s Carnival participants!

  • 10 Drastic Differences Between Life Before and After Becoming A Mother — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama compares her life before and after becoming a mother and muses on why it is pretty incredible despite never having a moment alone.
  • Sometimes — ANonyMous @ Radical Ramblings reflects on the things she misses about being childless, despite the fact she wouldn’t change her decision to become a mother for anything.
  • The Baby Moon is Over — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot remembers her babymoon and misses the simplicity of being a wife before children.

Tarte Makeup Review

As an avid makeup lover, making the transition to “healthier” and synthetic chemical free makeup has been a slow process. I’ve only recently begun wearing makeup again somewhat regularly. The vast majority of my pregnancies I went mostly makeup free to play it safe- I didn’t want my precious unborn babies exposed to pretty much anything questionable. Now that I have only my own bodily self to account for (less nursing), I’m finding myself returning to my typical makeup that I had in my collection before my “green conscious” lifestyle. Ideally I would like to only use products that are superior in chemical content, but such an ideal will require not only a sum of money, but a fair amount of time to accumulate desirable products. Therefore, I shall document and review new products as I  try them at my own pace!

These days, I am finding that makeup is now a fun way to have some relaxing me time while my girls are asleep or otherwise preoccupied. I’ve always been drawn to cosmetology and the application of makeup as art, so I feel as though I’m rediscovering my passion and interest as a natural minded mama. But now, there’s a twist. Find and use exceptional makeup that isn’t terrible for my body to absorb.

Introducing… “TARTE” makeup!!

American made, cruelty free, and formulated without parabens • mineral oil • phthalates • triclosan • sodium lauryl sulfate • synthetic fragrance • and gluten. Additionally, the brand utilizes their patented ‘T5′ formula with five different high antioxidant (free-radical fighting) fruits, vitamins, minerals, and various other plant extracts in their products!

Now to clarify, I don’t claim that this brand is the “best” out there as far as healthy/low risk makeup goes- this is simply a better option than what I have typically used in the past. http://www.ewg.org has a fairly extensive database of 80,000 personal care products that are rated 1-10 based on ingredients. The lower the rating, the higher the quality of ingredients. Tarte products vary on this scale but are mostly mid range (2-7). When I find the ULTIMATE products that get 1′s on that database, I’ll be sure to let you know. :)

My current Tarte collection includes the following…

Lip stain, Lucky~

I’ve never tried “stain” variants of makeup until now. And I think I’m pretty sold on the idea. Simple concept: “stain” products stay on longer! This particular one is a matte version, so I like to use this lip stain and put a chapstick or clear gloss over it. The color typically stays distinct for several hours.This shade is a fairly light pink (pretty much exactly the color of the tube pictured far left above). This is definitely a great fun-in-the-sun color if you ask me! This is not an every day item for me, but I’m really glad I have it in my stash of makeup now.

Cheek Stain, Loving~

Blush is typically something I have never had much luck with, until now. My typical routine has been to apply some powder for a great look and then without fail, it fades within a few hours. This “cheek stain” gives blush a whole new foothold in my everyday regimen!

This blush is in a push up tube, reminiscent of stick glue (okay, bad analogy). I think it is considered “wet” blush (not a powder), which is new for me. I’d say its similar to using lipstick as rouge in a pinch, but application is much more friendly for cheeks. This particular color has a shimmer to it, too. Loose powder over it helps to blend and seal it. Those who are a fan of the matte look might want to beware, though I’m not sure if the other colors have this also. Personally, I’m all for a faint shimmer, especially on the cheeks where smiles radiate.

To show you the staying power, I documented the proof!

Tarte Before AfterI tried my best to keep the same lighting here. Though my skin tone varies slightly, you can see here how this cheek stain is really potent, without being too overbearing upon first application. Shown is pre-makeup, post-makeup, and then after a long day of chasing babies and running errands!

Rare is the blush that I happen upon and buy again when I run out. This is a keeper! I especially love the slight copper tone it gives my cheeks. It seems much more natural for my skin coloration as opposed to the brighter pinks that I’ve used in the past. I can’t wait to wear this with my peach/coral colored matron of honor dress next month for my friend’s wedding! It compliments my dress quite well. Okay, I LOVE this stuff!!

Amazonian Clay Eyebrow Pencil, Taupe~

What originally hooked me to this brand is the incredible brow pencil! Personally I would rather use no brow definer than one that is very obviously there, so this color is perfect for me to subtly fill in the brows and very slightly extend their length. (See before/after pic above, in reference to my eyebrows). This shade is extremely versatile as well for various skin and hair tones. It gives such a natural look! I’m on my second pencil and it will be a part of my regimen indefinitely. I love that it is “Amazonian” clay but I think this can work against the product (and consumer) if it has been manufactured too long before it gets used. Aka, this can dry out and crumble on you. I didn’t have this experience with the first pencil, but went through about 1/2 inch of my recent one that crumbled out bit by bit with the slightest pressure. To prevent this, I only click it once or twice for the least required amount for usage. I haven’t really had an issue with that since! All in all, I really like what it does for my brows and plan to buy again in the future.

Tarte brand makeup is sold at my local Ulta and Sephora. It’s not a drug store/grocery store brand, but if what you put on your skin and in your body matters to you, it might not be such a bad thing to slowly invest in some better alternatives to the very prevalent synthetic chemical laden products that are offered at most outlets.

Next makeup product review: Origins Under Eye Concealer!

CarasFinalSigCaraJean

Musings on my Unmedicated Births

After two full years of pregnancy, postpartum recovery, more pregnancy, and more postpartum recovery, being 9 months out from the birth of my most recent baby is leaving me feeling GREAT! Having two daughters just 11 months apart has really been quite an undertaking. Finally, I am beginning to feel this ongoing and consistent sense of renewal in my motherhood journey. As I perceive this new season in my life, I am beginning to reflect back on my birth experiences, especially since I am beginning to see a new wave of friends who are soon-to-be new moms! I thought about sharing my detailed birth stories on my blog and decided not to post them publicly since they contain some pretty explicit details that are very personal to me and my incredible experience. If you are interested in the ‘R rated’ version, send me an email and I’ll consider sharing. But for now, I’d like to take some time (for the first time in written form) to reminisce on how I prepared for these defining experiences and what they meant to me on a non-physiological level.

I remember John, my husband, and I watching a video of a natural childbirth a few years back and being overcome with both fear and awe. I seriously questioned anyone’s ability to do that. Especially mine, since I have never tolerated pain well. I was so relieved to come to my senses and realize that childbirth was not an impending reality for me in that moment.

Fast forward about 6 months and… I’m 4 months pregnant. WOAH! Talk about irony. My previous determinations about childbirth were uncomfortably all too relevant at this point. Turns out when you know you are going to have a baby, whether 9 months away or 1 month away, this climactic life event weighs heavily on your heart and mind. Some weeks after realizing my first pregnancy, in our little newlywed apartment, I watched “The Business of Being Born” on Netflix. I was astounded. By the way, if you’re pregnant, do yourself a favor and watch it, too! After watching it, for the first time in all my life, I wondered “Could I really do it?” Could I actually birth a baby without pain medicine or unnecessary medical interventions that are presently considered protocol?

From that documentary on, I began a quest. A quest to research the possibility of a natural birth in our extremely medicalized society. That documentary pulls a lot for home births, which I decided early on that I wouldn’t pursue just yet. However, it revealed a lot of information to me about what is considered acceptable in a labor and delivery room. This was the start of my becoming informed and prepared to naturally birth a baby in an obstetrician led Labor & Delivery wing of my local hospital. The follow up books I read and recommend for additional research on the natural birth process include Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize, The Birth Book by Dr. Sears, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.

If you are interested in a natural birth, please take note of my reading materials! Why? Because, these were a big part of the reason I was able to maintain the mental fortitude to bear through a 17.5 hour long labor and a year later, a 6 hour long labor, with no pain dulling meds- because understanding childbirth to a maximum degree and knowing that it is a perfectly designed for success is what really helped make it happen for me. The more I read and the more I reflected on my will to birth naturally no matter the “pain,” the more prepared I felt. When I would share my plans to do this with friends and family, I fully trusted the statement that I will have my baby naturally. Yes, without an epidural or other pain medications that are so frequently used. As soon as I decided that a med-free birth was for me, I committed to it, 100%. I never thought “we’ll see, I might change my mind in the moment if it hurts too bad.” It was all or nothing in my mind.

An intense moment during a contraction, sitting on a birthing ball.

An intense moment during a contraction, sitting on a birthing ball.

The reason I’ve taken the time to mention the mental preparation for my childbirth experiences is because I feel that this is what really made a difference for me. One thing that stood out to me in my self-education process is that pain is essentially a derivative of fear. And with childbirth (and many other things in life), fear comes from a lack of true understanding. In this case, understanding the process, understanding the capability of a woman’s (my) body, and fully understanding the risks of intervening with nature’s perfect way, was truly what carried me through to that moment that my daughters were placed on my chest and I could see their sweet shining faces for the first time.

For my older daughter…

I began laboring with consistent, hard contractions at 11:45pm on a beautiful Sunday evening and I labored for 17.5 hours. The last 3 hours of which, I was not progressing past 9.5 cm of dilation and was given a 20 minute “ultimatum” to either progress or get an emergency cesarean section. I did not take contractions as easily as I had hoped. In fact, I had struggled so hard breathing during contractions that for two days after the birth, my lungs/neck/chest were extremely sore. During the pushing phase, it was all forced, loud, and overwhelming (the exact opposite of what I specified in my birth plan) and I ended up with some serious afflictions that most women do not usually experience. I later realized that this was more than likely due to what is known as ‘purple pushing’, that is, when it’s completely forced and timed (as opposed to mother-led pushing where you follow the cadence of pushing with contractions). But given my time constraints that I mentioned before, sheer exhaustion from being up all night, and desperation to finally see the little creation that all my suffering was for, I was determined to finally be through with my labor!

After some extremely intense pushing, it was over. Like that, it became a memory. I had done it! I had no intravenous fluids, no medicines, no epidural. And you know what? When it was all over, it WAS over! It was so incredible to go from being at the most intense, primal, struggling, raw moments of my life to… sheer bliss (what is most often otherwise known as relief), calmness, and happiness. Within 2 hours of my beautiful, furry headed, snow white, mini-me, newborn baby Eva’s birth, I took a shower and felt new again.

Shortly after Eva was born!

Shortly after Eva’s birth!

For my younger daughter only 11 months later

For several days leading up to true labor, I remember feeling some stop-you-in-your-tracks braxton hicks contractions (painless, but intense). I welcomed these, knowing that any pain free dilation would mean getting off the hook during that hard labor! I was awakened from my slumber around 5am after a solid two days of my body’s natural warming up process… to contractions that beckoned deep moaning. Though I wanted to labor at home as long as possible, we ended up making our way to the hospital after just a couple of hours of these (didn’t want to make a car ride too dilated). I was disappointed to find that I wasn’t as far along as I had hoped upon our arrival. Despite this fact, my labor progressed pretty quickly once we were there. Both times I labored, I agree for my obstetrician to break my water. Though I was very hesitant both times, it turned out to be an excellent catalyst for moving the labor process right along. Once that took place, it was show time within a few short hours.

I labored less than half the time as my first daughter’s birth, and I got my perfect ending that I didn’t get with my first birthing experience! From the time of my first “hard” contractions early that am, my labor lasted a little over 6 hours. During the weeks and months leading up to this birth, I think I was more nervous than the first time around. However, it turned out to be a bit more manageable than my first. Same hospital, same obstetrician, and my nurse was the best friend of the nurse who helped deliver Eva! She was so supportive of my birth plan and encouraged in those final moments when I felt extremely vulnerable that my body would “know what to do.” This is what I had told myself all along! I trusted, gave in to my instincts, and Lena June arrived before my obstetrician did! No lie!

And 11 months later... Lena June!

And 11 months later…
Lena June!

I highly recommend committing to an un-medicated birth if you and your baby’s health allow! I think that if you take the time to read or watch some of the aforementioned movies and books, you’ll find (as I did) that the case for it is strong in both statistics and intuition. I count it a true blessing (x2) that I was able to experience back to back all nat-ur-al births that ended with two beautiful and healthy daughters. I couldn’t have done it without the unconditional support of my husband and mother who were there in the delivery room with me both times.

Being able to tell everyone “I DID IT” (unmediated, as planned) was beyond gratifying. I am somewhat of a humble person, however I had zero qualms about sharing my accomplishments (and still do) with anyone who will listen. I would say that naturally birthing my two babies has empowered me on a very deep level to be the mother I was meant to be. Surely all other moms feel a great sense of accomplishment no matter the type of labor and delivery experience, but I have a sense of primal womanly pride that I was able to actively get through the roller coaster of labor and delivery that my body was perfectly able to accomplish. Most women are capable, but I would say that our minds are the key to whether or not we can tap into these capabilities. Truly, I am most complete knowing that I did it the hard way- natures way.

I sincerely hope that every woman can experience her baby’s birth in the way that is best for the two of them- no matter the level of medical intervention. I support life, in all situations where it can be assisted by the hands of a medical team. And secondly, I support a labor and birth allowed to manifest in its purest and most untapped version, wherever the health of mama and baby is not compromised.

I hope you enjoyed reading my reflections on my birth preparation process, abridged stories, and post delivery reflections. If you have any interest in natural birthing, I hope I have encouraged you to continue on your quest. Best wishes!

CarasFinalSigCaraJean