The Peaceful Birth of James Nicolas

On Saturday evening, October 20th, we had plans to watch a kids cartoon movie and get ready for church. I prepared baked French toast for Sunday breakfast (ready to bake in the morning), ironed necessary outfits, and we all sat to watch the little movie. That’s when I realized that the sporadic contractions I had a few times a day the last couple of days were just a little more intense. They came so far apart that I would even forget to look at the time in order to keep better track of the progress.

I chose to sit on my exercise ball while everybody cozied up on the sofa under blankets. Of course Samuel wanted to sit with me, so we bounced on the ball for the duration of most of the movie. Since I was hoping this was labor, I held Samuel close and whispered in his ear all sorts of sweetness during the movie. It’s always a silent goodbye to the toddler when one brings a new baby home. At least that’s the tiny heartache I was feeling that Saturday night.

At around 7:30pm, towards the end of the movie, I went upstairs and took a shower wondering if it would all progress during the night and wanting to be ready. When the children were all ready for bed, I was drying my hair and told Nathan about the contractions, but that labor didn’t seem to be moving along. He agreed that we could have everything ready just in case. I saw that he pulled the hospital bag from the closet adding a few things to it. He asked if I was going to bed, which I begrudgingly did. By now it was 10:30pm, and the contractions were still 8-10 minutes apart. There was no reason to stay up to wait for what might slow down or even go away during the night. Nathan fell asleep while I watched the nightstand clock…Every…Ten…Minutes.

By midnight, I was sleeping between the contractions, since I could no longer stay awake. Nothing had changed since 7pm. At 3:04am (8 hours later), I couldn’t get comfortable to work through this contraction, and got out of bed. Four minutes later came another one just the same, and another one. By 3:15am, I knew this was it.

I woke Nathan up, made the bed, grabbed the bag, and he made the call to his parents. And we called again. And again. And again for half an hour! By 4am, we knew we had to go, so Nathan woke Alexander and Eva to explain that Grandpa and Grandma would listen to their voicemail first thing in the morning and come right over. Thankfully, our children are not early risers. : )

We headed to the hospital down quiet, empty streets – I wanted to remember it forever. We checked in to triage where they asked for my birthing preferences: unmedicated and water birth. The midwife said I was 7 cm along and that baby looked great and head down. Perfect! Then we walked to our spacious and birthing tub room. The nurse brought an exercise ball, and I rested over it with my knees on the floor. I had my verse cards and read and meditated on one for 15 minutes or so. This kept my mind focused, filled my heart with peace, and gave my a prayerful spirit.

At around 7am, I got in the warm tub. I imagined we were getting closer although the contractions didn’t seem to have become stronger during our time in the room. Now in the water, they were 8 minutes apart. I knew that the water might slow labor down, so this didn’t bother me. At 9:30am (after being in the tub 2 1/2 hours and contractions still 8 minutes apart), I asked the midwife what her opinion was on breaking my water.

I had requested not to be checked during labor, but I realized the midwife would need to confirm the baby’s head engagement before breaking the bag of waters. She returned at 10am, examined, and baby’s head was perfect to proceed with breaking the water. I was still at 7 cm. I had not dilated any more since our arrival at the hospital at 4:30am (almost 6 hours later). This confirmed that the decision was timely.

I got back into the tub, and a few minutes later, by 10:30am, contractions were very different. I stood up out of the water and hung onto Nathan’s neck. Then came another one so strong that I walked out of the tub much to Nathan’s alarm. “Where are you going?” He asked repeatedly with concern. I couldn’t say, I just needed to get out and move. I never went back into the tub.

Things moved so quickly. I asked Nathan to call the nurse because I needed help. “There must be something they can do for me.” Nathan brought me a nose strip to put on my nose! (I had asked him to pick them up at the store, for better breathing in case I felt the need). I had been feeling lightheaded during these last few intense contractions which made me feel like I couldn’t catch my breath – I just couldn’t take a breath that was deep enough. This made me very anxious, and I felt that I needed help. I couldn’t do this. Nathan gave me the nose strip which made me annoyed because I couldn’t believe he thought this is the help I needed!

In the previous weeks I had made Nathan promise that he wouldn’t give-in if I asked for pain medicine. It. Was. INTENSE! I managed to get past Nathan to press the nurse button. The nurse and the midwife came in, and I was on the end of the bed working through transition. I still wanted help, and Nathan said to me, “Remember all the people that are praying for you.”

The midwife suggested that I get on the bed because I seemed a little unstable (shaky legs). With each of the next few contractions, I felt the need to push at the end of the contraction. I was on my knees and with each contraction, I could feel the progress. I held onto Nathan next to me and just focused. The midwife and the nurse were sitting in chairs next to the table of post-delivery supplies. All was quiet the entire time, until I called out that the baby was crowing. It was 11:06am when the midwife came to the bed and said to catch my baby. “That’s it. He’s here. I’m done. He’s here. He’s mine.” I was elated.

James is now almost 2 months old, and it’s a daily delight to get to know him. We are grateful for the gift of God of this new boy, and for all of your prayers and sweet words of encouragement throughout the pregnancy and as labor approached. It made all the difference to remember those cherished prayers!

with love, Damaris

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What I Packed for A Hospital Water Birth

I just finished cutting the boys’ and Nathan’s hair which was the last thing on the ‘preparing for baby’s arrival’ to-do list. Whoo-hoo! I did want to clean the windows, but it can be done when baby’s here (or this week!).

I’m entering week 39, which means that the big surprise day is getting closer. Every morning when I wake up, I’m grateful for one more restful night where my energy is renewed. During the day, I do try to stay active, although I sit and sometimes lay down if my stamina is really lagging.

This afternoon is a restful one. So while I sit on the exercise ball and sip hot caramel apple tea, I’m going to share everything that’s currently packed in my hospital bag. Disclaimer: I’m not an over packer. I rather do without than pack it just in case : )

There are a few things for mom during labor and post-partum as well as for baby. Dad has a couple things in there too.

During labor and delivery:

Tek Gear Sports Bra

With light support, it doesn’t feel tight around the torso or constrictive. I have been wearing it for the last few weeks, and love it so much I got two colors.

Maternity Tunic Tank

This tank is for wearing over the sports bra while laboring in the birthing tub. It’s long and light and will keeping me modest. I have been wearing this tank through late pregnancy, and it’s comfortable.

Essential Oils

A good friend was sweet to give me a roll-on bottle of Comfort Blend. She said the lavender, peppermint, and orange help ease the discomfort of the intensity of labor. It smells so good!

During my first deliveries, I wore the hospital gown and then another one over it as a robe so one had the open back and one the open front (for decency purposes). But the hospital gown still made me feel a lot like a suffering patient and frumpy. A simple, stretchy, lounging outfit is far better after a hot shower!

Nursing Tank

It’s enough support while comfortable to sleep in. I also like having my belly covered when I nurse.

High waist leggings

The support has enough stretch that I can wear it all day while smoothing and holding everything in for me to feel comfortable and discrete.

Long Tank

Covers the bum with the leggings, but also light in case I get hot.

Light Athletic Jacket

This is easy to throw on or take off if I’m getting cold or want to walk the hallways.

Socks

If my feet are cold, I can’t seem to get warm, so these are packed in the bag because the hospital ones are like slipper socks with rubber bottoms and tube-like (one-size fits all).

Toiletries – travel size shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, makeup remover wipes, travel size hairspray, hair elastics, bobby pins, razor, q-tips. Actually, my toiletry bag stays packed all the time in my closet.

Lanolin Balm

It’s my favorite, but it does stain. I always use it with nursing pads.

Nursing Pads

I always get so large, that the thinner the pad, the better. These are the ones I have used for many years.

Light Shirt

The style of this shirt is flattering for post-partum and long in the back to cover the bum. I plan to wear over the nursing tank with leggings for going-home outfit.

Discrete Underwear

I have never used these before, but it’s been recommended to me, and I can see the ease of slipping on and tossing after use. I hear they will stay in place so much better than the large pads the hospital offers. I will try anything to make the first few days post-partum a more comfortable recovery.

For Baby:

One-Piece Pajamas

I packed two of these. I love dressing the baby in clothes from home! I’m always surprised at how they end up fitting.

Swaddling Blanket

We have a couple of new ones, and I love the color of this one.

Pacifier

Just in case it helps.

Bonnet

I think it will be too big, but it’s in the bag.

For Dad:

If we’ve labored all night, sometimes he’s liked to just change undershirt and brush his teeth to feel a little more refreshed. From previous experience, I know he won’t shower at the hospital and usually will head back home to the other children once everything is settling down and baby and mama are resting.

Electronics – phone, phone charger and laptop (will grab when we leave for the hospital).

with love, Damaris


Favorite Newborn Things

Muslin Blankets – we usually get one or two new muslin blankets when we have a baby, but this time, we needed a couple more since Samuel has sole ownership of his. He’s become so attached to his three “night-nights”, there isn’t a chance he’ll be sharing with the new baby. Muslin blankets are so light, soft, and versatile! We use them for swaddling in the early weeks, as a nursing cover, and as car seat cover to mention a few.

Zipper Pajamas – I love a simple, one-piece footie pajamas! The zipper makes it all the faster for diaper changes. There are so many cute baby clothes out there, but I’m all-practical these days. I’ve also learned that babies dislike things going over their heads (things that don’t open down the front or back), and they’re annoyed at all the fussing over them (lots of buttons or snaps that take for-e-ver to clip on).

Diaper Cream – I have never tried this one before, but it was a good price at the grocery store : )

Comb & Brush – it was time to replace the set we had since we’d been using it for our newborns since Alexander was born 13 years ago. The brush bristles are so soft.

Pacifier – most of our babies used a pacifier for the first few months, some only the early weeks. Although I realize some babies never take to the pacifier, it’s still good to have on hand in case it’s soothing to them.

Pacifier Holder Clip – I love that it doubles as a teether. Since it’s made from natural wood without stain, it’s safe for babies to suck on. We’ve never had a pacifier clip before, so I’m curious how it will help.

Sound Machine – we’ve never bought one before, but I hear all the time of it’s wonders. This one is pretty small, which I liked.

Baby Bonnets – we all think they are just the most darling accessory for babies. I’m sure they’ll be too big for our tiny newborn, but I’m ready to make baby cute & cozy!

IKEA Blankie Bunny – it’s so soft! I loved the color

contrast for keeping baby’s interest.

Baby 2 in 1 Wash – in a natural body wash + shampoo that smells angelic. First of all, it had to be a pump because washing a baby requires 6 hands : ). With chamomile flower extract, vanilla, and blueberry leaf extract, I think I’m going to look forward to baby bath time! All the scents were delicious, but this one is almond milk.

Burp Cloths – the size of these is like a washcloth. With terry cloth on one side, it’s really useful for wiping and absorbing. It came in a pack of five.

Burpy Bib – this generously sized burp cloth is soft muslin. It doubles as a bib in later months as it drapes over baby’s shoulders and has snaps to keep it in place. This was a sweet gift from a friend : )

with love, Damaris


A Sweet Second Birthday

In the last several weeks before Samuel’s birthday, we’ve had little presents for him on the top shelf of our bedroom closet. And when he’s in our room, he points and “sings”. It was fun to see that he might be understanding his special day was coming up, and we’d celebrate!

Now it has arrived, and I can’t say enough how much I love this age! Two years old means lots of learning, lots of loving, and lots of laughing! He’s still sweet and needing to cuddle, hilariously repeating everything we say, and all with a side of sass. Hmmmmm.

He’s fallen hard for bugs. All kinds of bugs! We (I) are trying to teach him that not all insects are ok to hold. So, yesterday I found him in the basement, long wooden sword gripped with both hands saying “spider, spider” as he neared the corner. Surely this is a more masculine manner of bug-fighting than bringing them to mom in the kitchen.

Trucks, and tractors, and all things loud fascinate him. Especially trains. And he loves chocolate!

He’s so cute! If I haven’t told him 2,455 times in a day, I haven’t said it enough.

So tonight we celebrated his birthday. The children helped with the streamers, and banners, and lanterns. Eva baked this chocolate cake,and the little girls helped her wrap presents. When Samuel woke up from his nap, we all stood around and watched his face light up and glow with pleasure.

My sweet, sweet boy, you’ll never know how much you are loved.

Happy Second Birthday, Samuel!

with all of my heart. Mama


Why I Picked a Midwife

I’ve been craving change. Do you ever do that? I start to change things around the house. Just shop our own rooms and switch it all up. This time, the need was going a little deeper, and I wanted to have a midwife instead of an OB. It wasn’t going to be that easy since I had been with the same doctor for 11 years. When I first called the OB’s office a couple weeks after the positive pregnancy test, they informed me that the doctor was only in clinic once a week, and it would be very difficult to get regular visits. This is why, providentially, I made an appointment with a midwife.

I have been seeing her since the beginning of this pregnancy, and I couldn’t be happier about the switch from OB to midwife! The main, right-off-the-bat benefits were her personal touch and feeling like I was in a welcoming place to make choices. Since the first visit, I’ve always felt at ease and comfortable.

At the midwife appointment, we talk about my pregnancies, previous deliveries, and how the children can’t wait to meet the new babe. We also laugh sometimes because Nathan doesn’t find amusement in all my novel discoveries about birthing methods or bouncing on a giant lime-colored ball : ) I have my blood pressure checked and we listen to the baby’s heartbeat. I love that she also feels my belly and knows just the way the baby is resting in my abdomen.

I only see her every six weeks, and I always leave her office reassured and confident. The visit never seems confrontational or that I’m answering an interrogation about my swelling, sleep posture, diet, or weight-gain. Just in case I am giving the wrong impression, my OB was fabulous, but still the differences are quite stark.

Right after I met my midwife back in early spring, I said to Nathan that this was a much needed change – a breath of fresh air. Overall, I felt so free. But I also quickly acknowledged that this was the right time. I don’t think I would have appreciated this relaxed environment with my first pregnancy. I needed the structure, the questionnaires, and the pamphlets with lists of do-s and don’t-s.

Hoping my experience so far might help if you’re considering having a midwife.

Do you have any insight on the differences between an OB and a midwife? I would love to hear your opinion!

with love, Damaris


28 Weeks: A Ball, Some Books, and Probiotics

I have never sat on an exercise ball until today. I’ve been offered one in the delivery room before, but that didn’t seem like the most appropriate time for me to learn balance. So, eighth baby, and I’m trying not to roll off one minute and trying to stay awake the next minute. It is so relaxing and the most comfortable way to sit for your lower back and pelvis. It’s really very relaxing and its fullness down your legs feels soothing. I picked the small one because I’m a small person and knew that the children would have some fun with it. So far there’s lots of rolling on it, practicing piano while sitting on it, playing basketball, you name it. Anyways, you can find them around $10 – not sure why it’s taken me this long : )


We ferment kefir daily and enjoy it with strawberries and bananas with our lunch, we brew kombucha and can go through a gallon of it pretty quickly, I love vegetables cooked and raw, but my gut has never felt as balanced as these last few weeks. I began taking this probiotic, and I feel great! It came highly recommended by a friend who is also pregnant and had done some research. There are many benefits to taking a higher dose of probiotics during pregnancy as it’s vital for our body to be well nourished. It’s also beneficial for the overall immunity of the newborn. Probiotics are a simple and powerful way to protect both mom and baby!


Lastly, I shared with you that I had been reading natural birthing books for both education and inspiration, and maybe links to the books would be helpful. I did not buy any of these books but am borrowing from the library. Of note: most of these authors do not view God as creator nor sustainer, rather their outlook is limited to a reliance on ‘inner wisdom’ or ‘inner strength’ and evolutionary rationale.

Husband Coached Childbirth

Giving Birth with Confidence

Calm Birth

Your Best Birth

A Good Birth

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

with love. Damaris


Second Trimester Update

All photo credits: Maria Wild

So much has changed since I was pregnant with our first! I remember going in for monthly check-ups, and my OB would ask if I had Braxton-Hicks. I had no idea what she was talking about and assured her that I didn’t have any. The weeks were eternal, the wardrobe was all new, the indulgences kept coming, the house cleaning, matching little outfits, and storing of newborn diapers was in full swing. So much has changed since my first pregnancy!

Every week, I read to the children the baby’s development, size, and weight. They’re so very curious, and it’s pure joy for me to see how much they’re bonding with baby even while in-utero. BabyCenter and TheBump have weekly updates that have been interesting to follow. This week’s baby-size-from-the-produce-isle is a head of lettuce : )

This is the last week of our second trimester, and I thought I’d let you in on a few of the latest, exciting things happening around our pregnancy. A new thing since the last couple of weeks is stacks of natural, calm birth books on my nightstand. Also exciting is that, so far, I have had no heartburn or leg cramps. No sneezing accidents or backpain. No constipation or swelling. I sleep great and enjoy feeling baby’s turns and squirms. I am immensely grateful for endurance and stamina while sporting a bump-turned belly (starting to look huge from where I see it) and keeping up with potty training an almost 2 year old, daily outings, and what you already figure is normal logistics of a large family.

I only see my midwife every 6 weeks, and this past Friday was my appointment. I’m measuring on track, my blood pressure is low, and baby’s heartbeat is beautiful. She’s the best and was ok with me declining the glucose test. I’ve declined it before with my previous OB because my blood sugar is always low even after the sugar-shock of the little drink. It’s really nice to have the professional’s trust since this is not our first baby. Since the first midwife appointment at the beginning of our pregnancy, I have been asking her many questions about unmedicated childbirth and alternative birthing experiences. She recommended that I bulk up on some good reading material, hence all of my reading.

Last week, the girls and I went to a baby store and picked out a natural baby wash and a couple zipper pajamas. I will wash everything and show you soon! This is essential for me! I have prepared for each of our babies well in advance, sewing, choosing something new, washing, folding, and maybe doing it again a couple more times : ) I pray for their little person. I bond with them with each and every loving act of preparing.

with love. Damaris


Happy Independence Day!

I trust your celebrations are loud, fun-filled with a dose of relaxing. Maybe the lake? A bbq? We’re all loading in the van as I write this to join in the local 4th of July Parade festivities.

I read this recently and thought it was an interesting fact to share:

“John Adams attended the Second Continental Congress, which began meeting in Philadelphia on July 1, 1776. The next day, the delegates voted in favor of America’s independence.

On July 3, Adams wrote to his beloved wife, Abigail: ‘The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” He added: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.’

He was off by two days.

On July 4, the delegates in Philadelphia adopted Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. History would celebrate their decision as the birthday of the new nation, even though they only formalized what they actually decided two days earlier.

John Adams did not understand the future significance of this day in 1776. But he knew how to face an uncertain future with certain faith: ‘I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.'”

Let’s join him.

Excerpt from Denisonforum.org. You can find the post here.

with love, Damaris


How to Survive the First Trimester

I’m enjoying the second trimester especially since I don’t even have episodes of heartburn. Must be this baby is going to be bald : ). But I had been thinking of several things that I still wanted to add concerning the first trimester and specifically how to survive it.

My ‘morning’ sickness never went away during the day, and it worsened in the evenings. It started just before 6 weeks and got worse from 8 weeks to 11 weeks. It slowly calmed down during the daytme but was still bad at night until 14 weeks. Mine wasn’t just nausea but stomach pain. Although I was more sick than I had been with any other pregnancy, it certainly was not hyperemesis gravidarum. Everybody is so different and each pregnancy can be so different, but I can share my experience with you and maybe it can be of some use. What helped me to cope with nausea?

  • quart jars full of water with lemon (very heavy on the lemon juice)

  • vitamin D drops (long Michigan winters leave one pretty depleted)

  • coconut water (I added juice or steeped my herbal tea in it)

  • eating small amounts of food at a time

  • closing my eyes

  • caffeine in the afternoon

  • pressing a pillow tightly against my stomach

What did the first trimester look like?

  • lots of joy

  • everything smells bad

  • a pooch

  • can’t sleep because I’m so hungry

  • tired

  • excitement

  • telling friendly customers at Costco

  • so tired

Cravings during the first trimester?

  • corn flakes

  • bagels

  • oatmeal

  • Korean

Aversions during the first trimester?

  • fried food

  • tea tree oil

  • all candles

I hope this is helpful for you if either you or someone you know is entering this difficult stage. Even if they’re on the other side of feeling terrible, maybe this can give you something to talk about : )

with love, Damaris


Make a List of All the Things

When we first got married, Nathan would often say to me “Crisis averted.” Like almost everyday. I preface this post with that so you can see I have a long history of weighty undertakings that lead to catastrophic desperations – at least in my mind : )

This is one of those times. I can’t bear the lead weight of the tasks looming over my head. They clog my brain and cloud my thinking. Tell me this happens to you! The emotional drain is priceless energy I desperately need but is being stolen. What can I do?? Nathan quickly intervenes in my paralysis and tells me to make a list. I complain that making this said endless list will take For-Ever! But I make a list of everything on which I am behind. I write all the things down to get a handle on the unnamed, undesignated, unspecified tasks. Each item is instantly clear and concise.

Now that they are on paper, I usually show it to Nathan and ask for his input. He points out the ridiculousness of my plans, calms my worries, and immediately my anxieties fade away. Some tasks are unnecessary (like ironing the tablecloth – what?!), some can be delegated (make a return to Walmart, pick up the boots from the shoe cobbler), and most can be accomplished in minutes. I could do two in the morning and two in the afternoon. I could do two more tomorrow. At worst, some of the unfinished tasks were overdue responsibilities that bring frustration, and crossing them off the list today would bring instant euphoria.

The heavy requirements that overwhelm and trap me, begin to shrink, and my brain is unbelievably grateful. You see, getting a handle on chaos can be a real struggle, but adding one more thing to the simple task list, declutters my disorganized mind immediately!

When we’ve had a newborn, I do this with regularity until days are more consistent and life formalizes. I thrive on systems and structure, but I usually lack the drive to keep them up. The simple practice of making a list of all the things, keeps my barometer balanced.

Remember that no one can weigh you down like yourself. Start that list!

with love. Damaris