A Month of Margot

30 Apr

This past Saturday, Margot turned one month old! She is starting to feel less like a newborn these days, less fragile and more interactive. I have spent the last week or two wondering if she’s been smiling *at* me or just coincidentally smiling, but I’m not wondering anymore. She smiles for long stretches, open-mouthed and wide-eyed at silly songs her papa sings, whistling from her mama, and as Dr. Sears says, “a general feeling of rightness.” It’s incredibly gratifying.

Stuff Margot’s into at the moment:

-The black and white pages of her new “Hippopposites” book. I wanted to get her something high contrast to look at after seeing how interested my friend’s baby was in his animal flashcards, but the “high contrast” labelled books at Barnes&Noble were pretty awful, and useless once she’s past this stage. Instead I found this clever, graphic book I wouldn’t mind reading over and over, with a couple pages just right for the stage she’s at now:
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-Her Moby wrap! A kind neighbor gave me this hand-me-down (thanks Laura!) and we’ve been used it nearly every day since we got it a few weeks ago. I’d read reviews that the Moby is difficult to get on, but this wrap is the “Moby D” style, which I’ve read is shorter and I’m able to get us set up in it fairly quickly, so I wonder if this style is easier to tie. We go for walks outside with it or I wear it to take her shopping. She definitely loves napping in it but she spends a lot of time looking around in it, too- which thrills me when we are walking outside since it’s so lovely out right now, I’m so happy she’s able to see and enjoy the scenery.
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-Her swing, oh man, the swing. I didn’t start out with any bouncers, play gyms, swings, or baby seats, because I figured I’d hold my baby, wear my baby, or set her in her crib for naps. We have had no trouble with the first two things but for about 48 hours straight, Margot declined to be set down, ever. I had to let her cry while I quick ran to the bathroom, and that’s just no way to live, so Josh convinced me to just find the best reviewed swing on amazon and give it a try. The first night we assembled it, we declared it to be magical, and we’ve all been living happily ever after since. Margot likes to be moving pretty much all of the time and this thing fills in when we’re worn out, it’s pretty great.
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-Arms up sleeping. She had her hands up by her head in her ultrasound photos, on her face while she was being delivered, and true to form she sleeps with her arms up by her head every time. We swaddled her for the first few weeks but eventually I gave up because she wriggled both arms out each time no matter how tightly she was wrapped. She knows what she wants.
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There’s a pile of clothes accumulating on her dresser that are already too small (including that onesie in the photo above), can you believe it?

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Putting Winter to Rest

7 Mar

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the view from our driveway  

Our first winter in Kentucky has been such a pleasure. It’s been a mild winter, even for Kentucky, but when it snows more than it has all winter during the first few days of March and I hardly mind at all, I know we must have had it pretty easy. I walked around our property yesterday to see how it looked with an actual accumulation, and my boots made unfamiliar crunching sounds in the snow.

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the view from my kitchen window

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I stopped by our barn to check in on the skittish, feral cats that came with the place. It’s charming to find them curled up in the hay, and they’re truly the most low maintenance outdoor pet a farm could have. That being said, we’re still figuring out how to feed our cats and ours alone, and not every stray cat in the country who shows up at dinner time. I keep reminding myself how happy I’ll be to have the cats around for killing mice, instead of snakes. You can stay, cat.

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It could be the excitement of living in a new part of the country, the many projects we have in the works, or my baby-growing preoccupation, but I truly don’t mind this last bit of winter we’ve been having. I know we are promised warm days shortly, and daydreaming about snuggling our baby on our front porch hammock keeps me going till then.

37 weeks
a 37 week belly, for friends and family up north. 

Mamas and Babies

6 Mar

Since moving to Kentucky, I’ve made so many great, new friends (something I didn’t even plan on, since moving closer to my sisters is such a gift!). My sister Katie hosts a knitting night every week and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the group of women who attend and seeing all their projects over time. Two of the ladies in this group were also expecting (one baby is now here!) when I started coming, so I’ve had the chance to make some baby gifts this year.

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Photo from Busch Gardens (via)

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Photo via

Both projects were started dangerously close to their deadlines (baby showers), and I worked on them feverishly secretly thinking they might not turn out. Freehand stitching is so rewarding but the drawback is that I’m never sure if I’ll be happy with the final product until the stitching is complete. Sometimes it takes many different approaches till I’m happy with how a part of the piece looks. I’m learning different techniques to add depth and texture, but since I’ve really never stitched the same thing twice, once I’ve solved a problem I’m on to the next part or project and I have to figure out a whole new solution. Fortunately I was able to complete both embroideries in time and was pretty pleased with how they turned out.  Now I’m devoting my time to the many projects I have in the works for my own baby, who’s well on her way with her own mysterious deadline (but as my birthing class has taught me and I like to remind myself, she’ll come on her birthday, when she’s ready, and I will be lovingly patient in the meantime!).

A New Place

30 Jan

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Josh and I packed up our life late last summer, drove 660 miles south/west, and are just now setting down roots and beginning to unpack. It felt like a good time to start a new place online as well. We’re living in the country in a way neither of us have experienced before- learning to pay attention to things like impending ice storms and tornado watches while enjoying and actually seeing every sunrise and sunset. We have big plans for our new property, but for now we’re readying our small home for a baby girl, who should be here in about 8 weeks. This space will have a lot less travel-related posts and a lot more of the stuff that keeps us busy these days: making things with our hands, working on our property, hanging out with family, and life in Kentucky. Hope to see more of you!