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Fowl Language

25 Mar

ImageI won’t bother explaining how I ended up driving home with 6 chickens nestled together in a repurposed rabbit hutch with a safety gate for a roof. I will, however, try to convey the sort of happy, fulfilled state I was in, having had the nicest time picking them up at their former home. The friend I had purchased the chickens from is a natural animal owner, she understands and respects the order her farm animals have established and her property is a veritable playground for fowl. There were huge, enviable eggs on her kitchen table (duck? goose? Emu?) and her expansive pen held a dozen different types of fowl along with some goats who were penned up due to the snow. The scene even looked reminiscent of a playground, down in a corner the bully geese might as well have been cursing and smoking, friendly guinea hens could have just as well been playing hopscotch and an impressive white turkey hovered over everyone’s shoulders, definitely keeping an eye on things.

Maybe I’m getting carried away, but these are the images I was thinking about when I backed my car up to my chicken coop. I left the radio on for Margot so she wouldn’t mind sitting in the car for a minute while I slid the hutch into my chicken run. I locked my own two chickens in their coop, based on the instructions I was given to introduce the new ones at night. The rabbit hutch was just slightly too wide for my car, so it took muscle and shimmying to get the hutch even halfway out of the car, and that alone made the chickens restless. I thought about asking Josh for help, maybe 6 chickens would be too heavy for me, but he was working, and I get sort of a rush out of attempting situations like these that seem improbable and difficult. (If I succeed, I strut around saying, ”I did it!” If I don’t, I mutter to Josh, “I don’t know what I was thinking…”)

I freed the hutch from the back of the car only to truly feel the weight of all six birds who were less calm by the second. I set the hutch down only to find it was also too wide to drag into the run. I had to stop to figure out my next move, but while I was assessing the situation, so were the chickens, and they found their solution more quickly than I found mine. The hutch had been on it’s last legs and the journey from the back of the car to the ground caused the floor to collapse a bit leaving a crack a few inches wide, certainly something to be aware of but surely not something a chicken could fit throu…. oh, there she goes. Those chickens catch on quick, apparently only one needs to have a plan, because before I could move, FOUR CHICKENS had fit through that too small hole. To my credit, I ended it right there and grabbed the two remaining araucanas and tossed them into the run. Four chickens were now free ranging yards away from me, one stopped to drink from a puddle while another scratched in some leaves. I remembered they were hungry so I ran off to grab some chicken feed, thinking I’d sneak attack grab them while they were eating. A molting golden bluff ate some feed but was way more concerned with my approaching than her hunger. I foolishly tried chasing them, was it instinct? Of course it was fruitless and honestly kind of humiliating. I thought about the neighbor’s dogs I had seen on my property a few days ago, hoping they were nowhere near at the moment. I thought about the phone call I would have to make to my sister (who is supposed to get two of these) and the shame I would feel when these chickens former owner learned of their fate (sudden death in the woods, I imagine…). I wondered, could my dog help herd? That’s probably not a trait pitbulls are known for. I stood there, weary and defeated, but looked up to see my husband approaching, wearing gloves and work boots. Work boots mean business, I started to rally. We quickly decided on herding since the chasing had failed. Josh smartly grabbed a long thin stick (-I think a leftover from my teepee project!*) which helped him usher chickens from far away. I took off after a lone araucana who had strayed pretty far, and borrowing Josh’s technique I picked up a long, thick branch and escorted my prisoner to her cell. By the time I locked her away there was just one chicken left, hiding out under my car, a smart tactic if I was solo, but she was no match for our team. Josh flushed her from his side and I guided her towards the run. All six inside the fence, we locked the door and high fived. I’m grateful for a partner who knows when and how to help, I’m grateful for a baby who likes adventures even when they aren’t hers, and I’m especially grateful that I don’t have to move these chickens ever again.

*This blog is moving! Go to for more posts! 


I’ve changed…

8 Mar


My new blog is here. Come visit!

Margot’s Birth Story

12 Apr

I’m sharing Margot’s birth story because it was the happiest, most extraordinary event in my life and I want it to serve as an encouragement to anyone interested in natural childbirth.

Margot’s birth story starts way back in October, when I met with my midwife for the first time. I told her I wanted to have a natural birth and she told me plainly- take the Hypnobabies class Julie Six teaches in Lexington. Her advice was so direct, I felt compelled to take it. Josh and I went to Hypnobabies for 6 weeks, and practiced self-guided hypnosis and relaxation faithfully. During the visualization exercises, I imagined calming scenery from our honeymoon in Fiji. Josh wanted to hire our instructor Julie to be our doula and although she had several other “guess dates” near ours, she agreed to come to our birth if she was available. March 27th, one day past my due date, the sun was shining and I resigned myself to the fact that I could be pregnant 2 more weeks. I started my morning with an hour long track from Hypnobabies- “Visualize Your Birth”. Around 9:30 I started writing out checks for end of the month bills, noting in the back of my head how nice the date “3/27” sounded. I went into Josh’s office, and squatting to look in a drawer of his filing cabinet, my water broke. I have since read that water breaking that early in labor happens to about 10% of women, and probably an even smaller percentage than that have a dramatic gush of water, like every movie labor scene, ever. But that is exactly how it happened for me, and I was thrilled to be at home at that particular moment, and not out in public, grocery shopping. 

I was so grateful to be able to call Julie and have her input from the very start. She recommended I listen to some Hypnobabies tracks till my pressure waves began, or until they began to get more intense. I laid down in bed and started the first one. Just a few minutes later, my pressure waves began and I was so excited, I couldn’t lay down anymore. I called Julie again and although I don’t think she shared this with me at the moment, she could tell already that things were moving quickly so she recommended I sit in a warm bath, and promised to be on her way. I had been checking in with my sister Katie throughout the morning as well, and although I thought I would be home all day and didn’t want her to rush over, I was happy when she said she would be on her way as well. My sister Laura had also planned to attend my birthing time, but she was in another state spending time with her husband’s family, following a funeral. I didn’t want her to rush back and I figured we’d just have to go on without her.

I enjoyed having a hot water pad on my lower belly, and sitting cross legged in our narrow tub, which seemed to be getting smaller by the minute. I listened to some Hypnobabies, and also some relaxing music from a playlist I had made earlier. I still could not relax because I had so much stuff I felt like we needed to do. Josh was running around trying to get me what I needed, and I kept wanting to make lists of what we needed to do. He did so good, explaining that the bills did not need to be mailed that morning, finding things I needed to pack for the hospital, pumping up my birthing ball… He brought me apple slices with peanut butter and coconut water mixed with lemonade for sustenance, served in a “Fiji Gold” beer stein, to help set the mood. I held his hand while he sat next to me on the lid of the toilet, feeling peaceful and thrilled. 


When Julie arrived she came into the bathroom just as a pressure wave began. I had been breathing deeply and chanting “Peace” to relax through them, and when she came in she got very close to my face and used a few Hypnobabies cues to help me relax more. I couldn’t believe how much that helped. It was nice to be able to focus on relaxing instead of what I should be doing. My faithful practice was paying off, I was feeling great. I remembered the line “in between each pressure wave you smile and feel so relaxed” and I did smile in between many of them. For a while I wanted to stand through my pressure waves, with Julie behind me, supporting my belly. Eventually we started packing the hospital bag intentionally, because my pressure waves were getting stronger and closer together. I tried positioning myself a few different ways, including draped over my birthing ball, but standing up with someone supporting my belly from behind felt best to me. My dog was whining and panicking in his crate and I joked that I wanted to go to the hospital just so I wouldn’t have to hear him anymore. He definitely knew something was up and his nervous energy was actually kind of distracting. I felt so much relief knowing my husband, doula and sister were taking care of everything I needed to bring, and I could just keep focusing on relaxing.


Julie kept mentioning the hospital but I still thought we should wait because I felt like I could stay home longer, and the morning had gone by so fast. She pointed out that at some point, we’d have to ride in the car for 45 minutes so I needed to think about how much more intensity I could handle in a car ride. That convinced me that it was time to go, so we got in the car and again played a hypnobabies track. Josh drove so slowly and gently down our bumpy, steep driveway, but when he got to the bottom, Julie instructed him to “drive intentionally,” meaning, we needed to get there. I stared at the clock and it was 2:11, “We’ll be there by 3,” I thought, “I can make it.” I sat in the back seat with Julie and she kept talking me through each pressure wave. At one point I felt so supported and felt like she was so in tune with me I thought “Why would anyone do this for a living? It’s so much work!” With Josh now “driving intentionally” towards the hospital, I worried that Katie would lose us in her van behind us, and wished we’d made a better plan. I had my eyes closed at times and before long we were on Richmond Road. Josh drove up to the door and Julie and I went up to the 2nd floor, I was so grateful she was there and knew exactly where to go. Oddly, I felt the need to be extremely polite and and calm towards the receptionist even though I experienced a pressure wave or two while registering, and fortunately she quickly got us to our room. My nurse immediately checked my dilation and I was 5 cm, fully effaced, zero station… I was slightly disappointed because I was hoping to be 6, and I also didn’t want to know how dilated I was (an instruction that was listed on my birth plan, which we hadn’t handed her yet). I gave her my birth plan soon after and Julie and Katie assured me that things were still moving along quite quickly, and I’d be fully dilated soon enough. Happily, the nurse filled up the birthing tub and even though I didn’t feel much like moving, I made my way over and sank into the warm water. It felt so comfortable and soothing, I immediately relaxed. It was so much bigger than my tub at home and exactly the shape I needed. Julie and Katie poured warm water over my belly, as I breathed through my pressure waves. I drank sips of water as they wiped my forehead with a cool washcloth and I wanted to stay in there forever. Josh hung a sarong from Fiji in front of the tub and I was so touched he had thought to bring that to help me recall my relaxing visualization. We again played some Hypnobabies tracks and it was nice to catch familiar phrases that brought me back to my relaxing hypnosis practice. I nodded my head at the prompts, and finish each pressure wave by saying “Ok.”  “Okay…?” “Ok..”

I never ended up calling my midwife that morning since Julie had been texting her while we were still at home. Noel was not on call. I tried not to think about it and kept focusing on my progressing pressure waves. At some point during the frantic packing of the hospital bag, Julie said “Noel’s going to try to be there.” I tried not to get my hopes up, and figured my labor would might go far enough into the next shift that she could make it. 

As I laid in the tub, a bright, familiar face peered over me. Noel had come in even though she wasn’t on call! It was humbling to see her in plain clothes, fresh from her house, her kids. I felt my body unclench even more and got ready to move forward. 

I loved looking over at Katie, knitting, knitting. I liked the comradery of us both working on something. I loved seeing Josh calm and supportive, chatting with Katie and Julie,… we were not an anxious bunch. 

After a short time in the tub, I began to feel pressure along with a suggestion to push. I whispered to Julie that I thought I needed to push soon, worrying that the nurse would force me out of the tub before I was ready. I tried pushing through a few pressure waves but nothing seemed to be happening, and when the nurse noticed me going for it, she informed my team I wasn’t allowed to push in the tub, and began to drain the tub. I felt the need to be compliant, even though the transition from warm water to hospital bed was rough. I thought I’d know what position would feel right for pushing, but as I contorted my body and my faithful companions shifted and tilted the bed, I realized nothing felt quite right. I thought pushing would be empowering, it’s so active, and so close to the end! Instead I felt a little lost, not sure how to best utilize my strength, and even unsure when to push, as my pressure waves began to fade. I was trying some combination of hands and knees when I heard Katie exclaim happily, “It’s Laura!” I turned my head and there she was, my other sweet sister had driven home and made it just in time for me to begin pushing. It was so encouraging to have everyone there, just as I’d pictured. Someone suggested setting up the squat bar over the bed, and someone else wrapped a sheet around it for me to tug on while I pushed. The ends of the sheet in each hand, I pulled my body forward while I pushed, I’d finally found my place.


Noel and Julie told me to hold my breath and voice, and send that energy down to push the baby out. I felt that working, but I kept forgetting it each time. I wanted to push, push, push, but I couldn’t tell when my pressure waves were happening anymore, so I just began pausing and bearing down again when I felt ready. I thought my pushing wasn’t doing a thing till Noel said, “Well, she’s got dark brown hair, that’s not surprising!” At last, some progress. Again and again I pulled myself up while mentally and physically sending everything down. Finally I felt my baby’s head so close to the surface I could push with more effectiveness and determination than before. A final, long effort yielded  her head, with two perfect hands planted on either side of her face, and the rest of her body, bony and slippery.


I released the sheet and laid back, and Noel brought my wet, wriggling daughter to my chest. I couldn’t believe how fast she’d arrived, it didn’t seem like it was really my birthing time till the day was halfway over. She was shockingly beautiful, and wonderfully pink. Even though I was an active participant, I cried, I was so moved as a witness to her birth. It felt like we’d all brought her here, Josh, Katie, Laura, Julie, and Noel- everyone, together. Time started to move a little more slowly- my sisters and I exchanged smiles, Josh held Margot on his chest while I finished up the rest of the birth process, the room became calm and warm, and just like that, we were a family.




She’s Here!

3 Apr

She's Here!

And already a week old! So proud and in love- Margot Juliette Nittle, 8 lbs., 6 oz.
I stole this photo from her papa, who set up a lovely blog for her. I’m trying to put her beautiful birth story together for a post, but I have a tiny, time-consuming distraction so I don’t know when it will be up. Check Josh’s blog in the meantime!