Friday Fall Favorites: Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

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It’s not Fall.  Not technically.  And it certainly doesn’t feel like Fall.

But I WANT it to be Fall!  This is now my 13th Summer in the South and I just can’t get used to it.  I’ve lived nearly half my life in this corner of the country but every Summer I start losing my mind a little when it’s 93 degrees outside for the millionth day in a row.  Come September I am mentally DONE with Summer, even if it’s not done with me.  I start drooling over my Autumn-themed Pinterest boards. (yes, they exist)  I’m really looking forward to feeling what fall feels like in the RV.  Will there come a day when we don’t need to run the AC to stay alive?  I sure hope so!

It’s this time of year when, hot or not, all the yummy squashes come into season!  I saw an organic acorn squash at my local health food store and nabbed it! (Don’t worry, I paid for it)  I made this recipe tonight and my husband and I loved it!  Not only is it hearty and comforting (and crazy tasty) it’s incredibly healthy!  This recipe is begging for sweater weather.

Acorn squash is packed with Vitamin C (which I think we all need this time of year – hello germs!) and has numerous health benefits.  This particular recipe stuffs the squash with bison, goat cheese, shitake mushrooms, vidalia onions, and toasted hazelnuts.

We’ve been eating a lot of bison meat lately.  It’s way healthier than beef (almost twice the protein content and 1/3 of the fat!) and way more sustainable for the environment.  It’s also extremely tasty.  If you’re going to eat meat, eat bison.

As for the goat cheese, I simply prefer it to cow’s cheese as it’s creamier and easier to digest (and doesn’t give my baby eczema). Shitake mushrooms support immune and brain function.

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The toasted hazelnuts are heart healthy and provide tiny little explosions of flavor in your mouth.

You want the recipe?  Here you go!

Bison, Goat Cheese, and Hazelnut Stuffed Acorn Squash

Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves: Two people + leftovers

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized acorn squash
  • 1/2 lb bison meat
  • 5-6 medium sized shitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup thin sliced Vidalia onions
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 cup toasted skinned hazelnuts
  • 2 tbs grassfed sourced butter (trust me, there’s a flavor difference!) or coconut oil
  • Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 t. fresh thyme
  1.  Start by prepping your hazelnuts.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and roughly chop the nuts into halves or quarters.  Spread the nuts (also known as filburts for some reason?) evenly on a foil-lined baking tray and toast for 10 minutes.  When you take them out of the oven, put your nuts on a paper towel or kitchen towel and cover them. You’ll hear a faint hissing sound.  That’s the sound the skin makes as it’s slowly being annihilated.  Give the nuts a little massage with the towel.  This will quickly rub the skins off.  Put the hazelnuts in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Turn the oven heat up to 425 degrees.
  3. Chop the top off of your acorn squash, then cut in half down the middle.  Scoop the guts out and discard.  Place face down on the same foil-lined pan (you might want to spray it or drizzle the pan with oil to keep the squash from sticking).  Roast for 30 minutes or until the squash flesh is soft.
  4. While your squash is roasting, chop up your onions and mushrooms.  Melt butter or oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add salt and pepper.  Add onions and sauté until soft.  Add mushrooms and brown them.
  5. Move the onions and mushrooms to one side of the pan and add your bison meat on the other.  Break the meat up into small pieces and cook until done.  Add more salt and pepper and the thyme.  Bison meat doesn’t take long to cook.  Once it’s brown, mix with the mushrooms and onions.
  6. Turn the heat off and take the pan off the heat.  Cut your goat cheese into pieces (nothing fancy) and add to the meat mixture along with your hazelnuts and stir until the cheese and the nuts are mixed in.
  7. Stuff this goodness into your now roasted acorn squash and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so.

Enjoy!  I guarantee you will have leftovers if you’re feeding less than two people!

Hearty, healthy, and bursting with flavor!

The Minimalist Mama’s Must-Haves

Full disclosure: There’s more to this than the title let on.

Let’s face it: parenthood is hard.  It’s hard if you’re a stay-at-home mom, and it’s hard (harder?) if you’re a working mom.  It’s hard if you’re a stay-at-home dad. It’s hard if you have one kid, and it’s hard if you have six.  Which is why I was glad I was already a minimalist when I got pregnant with my daughter because I knew that minimalism makes mom life easier.  But even as a self-proclaimed minimalist, knowing what I would need and what I wouldn’t need as a would-be mom felt a little daunting.  I knew I would have this little girl on the road and living tiny, so I needed to keep the baby registry pretty spartan.  And I’m SO glad I did!  I’ve added a few items over the last few months, and I’ve gotten rid of plenty!

I’ve heard it over and over again: minimalism can be a sanity saver when it comes to raising kids.  The less you have to deal with, the more time you have to spend with your kiddos or alone taking a breather for yourself (coffee is best served hot and in silence).

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For this post, I teamed up with a couple of other minimalist mamas who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since college.  It’s been so cool to watch their journeys on social media since we left school as they became moms and then minimalists!

Janie Baran is the author of the blog Simple Not Plain, a really great resource if you’re just getting started on your minimalist journey and you need a place to start.  Her post on a minimalist capsule wardrobe is what helped me pare down my closet when I first got started and I have found it an extremely helpful guide ever since.  She has four children and they live with she and her husband in Colorado.

Jen Landers runs a really cool business in Columbia, SC called Purposely Simple, helping people go through their house and decluttering one room at a time.  You definitely need to check out her before and after photos!  She is the mama of two boys.

I asked Janie and Jen a little about their minimalist journeys, especially as it regards being a mom.

What are some items you thought you needed when you first became a mom that you ended up getting rid of?

Jen: “Basinet, we used it for a week and realized that we could just be using our pack and play. All the things to get our child to sleep, swaddles and pacifiers…both of our babies were tummy sleepers and never took a pacifier. The first time that we went to register for baby gifts, my husband and I were blown away by the “necessity” of everything and the urgency to buy the best. We had conversations very early on how we would like to go against the grain in the mindset of kids ruling the home.”

Janie: “Lots of baby clothes…many of them were “cute” but not comfortable for the baby either. Obvious one: lots of toys. It seems babies are quite happy and interested in playing with/exploring pretty much any regular household item! We had way more blankets, sheets, and towels than we realistically needed. We had multiple baby carriers. Why? I have no idea. Any of those baby items that the baby only uses for a very short stage like a bumbo, swing, bouncer, walker…those take up SO much floor space and are used so little. We had one child that the swing REALLY helped and we were able to borrow one for a couple months from a friend.”

As for me, we used a swing that was given to us for about four months before our daughter just wasn’t into it anymore and we passed it on to another mom who’s expecting her first baby.  In the end we probably could have done without it, but for a little while it served as a second pair of hands to hold baby so my husband and I could eat dinner!  I have way more swaddles/blankets than we need and people LOVE to give those as gifts!  Our daughter has several blankets that complete strangers MADE for her, so I won’t be donating those to a thrift store any time soon!  We try to keep toys to a minimum (although it seems like an awful lot in an RV!) and friends and family now know to give alternative gifts (like diapers.  As much as I would LOVE to use cloth diapers, it’s not feasible in an RV with no washer/dryer).

What are some items you still ended up keeping or using every day?

Jen: “We are phasing out of the baby phase but we constantly used our pack and play (when we would travel and go to peoples homes), sound machines. One toy that we have had the longest is our wooden train track and books…all the books.”

Janie: “Minimalist wardrobes for our babies/kids. It makes it easier for me and it makes it easier for the older kids who like to dress themselves as well.

ONE comfortable and versatile baby carrier…make sure you find one that can comfortably carry a newborn but also grow with baby into toddlerhood (and still be comfortable),

Our cloth diapers and cloth wet wipes. So many simple to use options out there and saves literally thousands of dollars if you’re having multiple kids.

A favorite blanket, stuffed animal/baby doll, and quality kids books. A baby item I got with my fourth and WISH I had with all of them is a couple large muslin blankets! I found them to be so versatile! I used them to swaddle baby, I used them as a nursing cover, burp cloth, blanket to lay baby on, to put over car seat, etc. That one item would have saved me buying all those other things! Just a general thought: buy anything that can be used for multiple babies (gear, bibs, etc) in gender neutral colors so you don’t have to have two of everything if you have both girls and boys.”

So far I’d say with our daughter we haven’t skimped on books.  I had a really small selection and for my own sanity we got more from my parent’s house from when I was a kid.  I could only handle the same Frog and Toad are Friends stories without losing my marbles!  Getting more meant I don’t have to read the same three books over and over again!  We also skipped all the big, noisy baby gyms, bouncers, etc and just went with the baby play mat from IKEA.  It’s been used so much and made tummy time interesting rather than a horrible chore.  The Pack n Play my brother and sister-in-law gave us has been used SO much!  We got a mini-crib mattress to fit and that makes it a lot more comfortable. My ring sling from Sakura Bloom has been a lifesaver and I use it almost every single day.  Whoever you are who sent me the green one, thank you!

If you’re expecting and you want to stay minimalist, just know you will have so many people tell you that you “have to have” certain items that you may never need.  I had so many people tell me I needed items that ended up getting and never using or my daughter hated.  To this day I’ve never used a breastfeeding pillow because it was completely unnecessary.

How has minimalism helped your life as a mom?

Janie: “Minimalism has helped my life as a mom in more ways than I can count! I was honestly an exhausted mess living in a messy home and stressed out of my mind before I started down the minimalist journey. Minimalism has helped me by getting rid of the things that were taking up my time but that weren’t important so that I have more time to do the things that are (Like spend quality time with my kids!). Also, life with babies/kids is amazing, fun, and beautiful but can also be crazy with the constant noise and activity. Having a decluttered home grounds me in many ways and keeps me sane. I’m able to function better as a mother and as a person without the constant bombardment of clutter to my senses. It also helps me stay on top of things like chores and meals and laundry because everything we do is simple and we do it with less.”

Jen: “This is always my favorite question to answer. Minimalism saved my motherhood. I was stressed out as a stay at home mom with house work, entertaining my child and just life in general and I think that most of it was due to the fact that my home didn’t feel like a place that I could come to and relax. I was always doing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning up clutter. When we found out that we were pregnant with our second baby I knew that something had to change. I started by getting rid of our TV and then toys and then cleaned out my kitchen so I would have less mess in daily life. With less to do inside we found ourselves out side more and exploring more and spending time creating play. Minimalism is a part of our life not because we don’t want possessions but because we want space in our home conversation and laughter to echo through the halls.”

As for me, I’m still in the thick of it!  But I’d say having a calm space is definitely reflected in my personal well-being.  If my space is cluttered and cramped, I feel so much more stressed out (one reason I’m looking forward to our RV renovation being finished!).  If my space feels simple and clean, I feel like I can tackle my day with my baby (even if I barely slept the night before!).  Also, even with having a baby I still only do laundry once a week!

A huge thanks to Janie and Jen for contributing to today’s post!  If you live in Columbia, SC be sure to check out Purposely Simple if you need a boost in getting your space simplified!

Moms (or stay at home dads – this counts for you, too!): what is one way in which having less might make your lives easier?  Let me know in the comments!

Three Ways to Stay Present in Motherhood

I hear it constantly: “It goes by so fast.”

“Babies don’t keep.”
“You’ll blink and she’ll be in college.”
“I would do anything to hold my kids when they were babies again.”
“I regret being too busy when my kids were babies.”

Quite honestly, I find these statements terrifying. I know how quickly it goes. I remember like it was yesterday hearing my oldest niece’s husky cry minutes after she was born. She’ll be picking out colleges this year. The little nephew I used to nanny is a sophomore in high school now and a million miles tall. Kids I used to babysit are married now. Former campers have their own babies.

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I realize I’ve only been a mother for seven months, but I felt like I needed to learn to enjoy her now before her babyhood slipped past me.  So, how do I slow down and soak it all in while balancing the constant tasks that life on the road and renovating an RV require? Here are three ways I try to stay present in the middle of a busy life.

1. Put the phone down

There’s a tightrope you have to walk when you’re a stay-at-home mom. Social media gives you a (sometimes false) sense of connectedness to the outside world. There’s a sense that if you aren’t constantly staying in touch with others that you’re going to drown in loneliness. But the more time I spend staring at my screen, the more time with my baby slips through my fingers and I instantly think of that scene in Hook when Peter’s wife throws his cell phone out the window and chides him for ignoring his children to focus on business. “You are missing it.”

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I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be a distracted mom, pouring my mental energy out into something meaningless. I want to be mentally present with my baby. I want to soak up her little wrist rolls and half giggles, not debating politics on Facebook or drooling over someone else’s house on Instagram.

2. Save the chores for bedtime/nap time.

I realize some chores are better saved for when baby’s awake because it’s noisy and putting baby down takes work (I’m currently paused half-way through making baby food. The next step requires putting tiny steamed beet pieces in a blender and I’m not about to ruin this nap with all that racket). And emergencies come up. You have to do that whatever-it-is right now for your husband who is busy at work and the baby is crying. I realize sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do the thing now. But if there’s a choice between doing the dishes now while my baby is giggling at something inane or doing it while she’s asleep, I want to wait until she’s asleep. I want her to know, “I’m here for you. I want to laugh with you NOW. I want to hold you NOW while you’re crying from teething pain. I want to see you as a gift from God to soak in and enjoy, not some bother I have to deal with. You are so loved.”

Motherhood has forced me to deal with my perfectionism. I have a choice to make: do I want my (tiny) home to be picture perfect all the time at the expense of spending meaningful time with my child, or do I accept a bit of chaos and soak in the moment? I’m learning to accept a little chaos. (Not too much chaos or I really will lose my mind! Hear me on this: I also want to set a good example to my daughter of responsibility and hard work. But balance, people, balance!)

3. Enjoy the enjoyable.

What’s that feeling you’re feeling? Is it joy? Joy from watching your spouse and your baby play and laugh together? Soak in the joy. Enjoy the joy! Put off the mental load and the “what do I need to do next?” list for later. It’ll still be there after this moment is gone.

Is it love? Is your little one trying to give you a slobbery wet kiss on the cheek to give affection? Does your toddler want to cuddle? Soak in this love. Receive this love as love from God. Don’t rush off to the next task. Be mindful of these fleeting moments. Stop and soak them in. Let your gratitude to God for these moments wash over your soul. They will be food for when times are hard and tempers run thin and the to-do list seems endless.

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Being a stay-at-home mom is hard. I have a feeling being a working mom is even harder. All the more reason to slow down and enjoy.

Life is too short to miss the gifts at the expense of the unimportant.

Five weeks in a tiny space

My family and I have now lived in a tiny space for five weeks.  While we are really grateful to finally be living tiny, we are certainly feeling the pinch that it’s not a tiny house but an RV.  Yes, tiny houses are more expensive.  But they’re expensive because a human being took a lot of time and care to produce a quality product over a period of several weeks.  RVs are processed in factories in a matter of hours.  Since we moved in it’s been an almost daily drama of something going wrong (as much as I’d LOVE to blame this on the RV itself, a lot of it has been down to “user error”).

Our very first weekend in the RV was calamitous.  toche stationWe had a faulty power converter (que whiny Luke Skywalker reference) which caused all of our electrical units, including our Air Conditioning, to fail.  By the time we woke up the RV was cooking and we had to get a hotel room for two nights because a 120 degree RV is no place for a five month old.  It was incredibly discouraging and expensive.  Not a great way to start your tiny living journey!

I don’t even want to talk about our water heater or black tank issues (yuk!).  Let’s just say we’ve learned A LOT about how to live in an RV in the last five weeks!

You want to know what else has happened?  We finished renovating our kitchen, we painted our entertainment unit (just waiting for the fireplace to go in), we finished putting up shiplap wallpaper in the hallway, and we are nearly finished painting the baby’s room.  I feel like we have accomplished a lot given that we can only paint when we can open all the windows and leave after so the baby can breathe some fume-free air.  Last weekend I left for 12 hours with the baby so my husband could paint all day.  It feels really good to look at your ever-evolving space at the end of the day and say, “We did this and it’s beautiful.”  And it is beautiful.  It is ever so slowly becoming the space we dreamed of.

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I’ve learned a lot to be happy with accomplishing a little when you really want to accomplish a lot.  Since the baby isn’t sleeping in her room yet, once she goes to sleep, I have to be done for the night with housework and dishes (otherwise I risk waking her up) even if they aren’t finished.  It’s forced me to rest and enjoy it.  I love slowing down.  I’ve learned that a bed in a tiny space is just as comfortable as a bed in a huge space.  Rain on the roof of an RV is relaxing and mesmerizing (even though it might be leaking in a little in the bathroom).  315 square feet is plenty of space for a minimalist couple and their small baby to cozy in and call home.  I can still cook all my crazy meals with literally zero counter space and store all our healthy food in a teeny fridge.  Most of all I love spending uncomplicated hours during the day with my little one.

I suppose it’s been a good metaphor for life:  we are never content to stay as we are.  We are compelled toward transformation and growth, but we do not twist ourselves into a knot that we are not perfect yet.  We must be satisfied with how far we’ve come.  We avoid stagnation and complacency, but we stop and we rest and we enjoy.

May you enjoy your journey.  Stop and reflect on your growth.  Enjoy the imperfect and the already-but-not-yet growth and transformation you’ve seen in yourself.  Spur yourself on to greater changes, deeper contemplation, and more sincere gratitude.  Thus far God has brought you.  Ebenezer.

At Last: An Update on Tiny Living

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you know someone is about to say, “I told you so?”  You kind of squint and wait for the comment to hit you in the face like a pie.

Well, after this update I’ll be doing a bit of squinting.

If you’ve been following our journey, you know that it has been our dearest wish to build our very own tiny house to take with us on the road as we travel nurse.  We’ve been pursuing that goal for the last year or so.  We found a builder we absolutely loved and together we created a floor plan and design for our would-be home.  We even put down the money to buy the actual physical trailer on which said tiny home would be built.  Then the time came to find a loan to pay for the build.

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But time after time the answer from bank after bank was “No, we don’t do tiny homes,” like Andie McDowell slapping Bill Murray in the face over and over again in Groundhog Day.  It was an exhausting and discouraging process, to say the least.

Throughout the process of tiny home planning and dreaming, we have had lots of people say, “Why don’t you just buy an RV?” to which we usually sigh and explain that while technically a tiny house IS an RV, they are also nothing like RVs.  Tiny homes are extremely well built, far less flimsy than most RVs.  And you get a lot more square footage.  And they’re meant to be lived in, not camped in.  You get the idea.  Also, most motor coach style RVs cost three times more than our house.  So the RV idea was always a giant, “NO!”  Plus I hate how they look on the inside.

But then one day I picked my husband up from a shift at the hospital in Florida and he mentioned one of his coworkers, a fellow travel nurse, lived in a rather nice travel trailer that she and her husband live in that only cost a fraction of our tiny house budget.  I immediately started in on why travel trailers aren’t a good idea: they’re flimsy, there’s no space for the baby, and they look like they were designed by a baby boomer convention (baby boomers – no offense – tend to LOVE dark woods, fluffy leather furniture, and ornate window coverings.  All fine if you live in a 19th Century English manor home, terrible if you live in an RV.  It makes the whole thing look like a cramped, dated cave.  Millennials like myself like our spaces sparse, open, and light — mostly because we’ve been broke since ’08 and we have no wealth to flaunt).

But as the dream of our home-on-the-road started to look tinier and tinier, the idea of a travel trailer seemed like a necessary evil.  My heart sank at the idea of living in some ugly trailer instead of our lovely tiny house.

Enter Instagram.

I follow #tinyhouse and #tinyhomes and a number of other tiny related hashtags on Instagram, if for no other reason than as a means of keeping the flame of hope alive.  A few months ago I stumbled on a photo of a lovely fireplace scene in what looked like a tiny house, only to look closer and see that it was the inside of an RV travel trailer.  My interest was piqued and I instantly began following this woman’s Instagram account.  Then I found more and more people who had purchased an RV and completely renovated it to look like a tiny house.  Do yourself a favor and do a Google image search of “RV renovation before and after” to see what I mean.  I was so excited.

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My husband and I called our builder to ask if he would be willing to do the renovation for us after selling our trailer (we have neither the time nor ability for a massive DIY like this).  He loved the idea.  Since he already knows exactly what we want, getting something fixed up would be no problem.  Within a short time, our trailer sold!

After weeks of trying to search for just the right travel trailer, we found a nearly brand new one really close by and at a really decent price with a bunkhouse, so the baby has her own space as she grows.  We are hoping to sign the papers tomorrow on the loan and by next week this trailer is ours!

We are not sure of the renovation timeline, but for now we are excited that our “home-on-the-road” is going to become a reality!  Photos will be shared in earnest once we move in!

Now to wait for the “I told you so” comments!

 

My Birth Story

This is now the second time I’ve sat down to write my child’s birth story. Hopefully this time she’ll stay asleep long enough for me to finish.

She’s asleep in her pack-n-play in the bedroom with the salt lamp on and the white noise playing. I managed to squeeze her into her fuzzy bear sleeper pajamas one last time before I have to declare them officially “too small.” That bear outfit is one item of her baby clothes that I refuse to give up for sentimental reasons, only I’ll tell you I’m “saving it for the next one” if you ask. I just heard her laughing in her sleep. That should tell you how much she loves the jammies.*

(Editorial note: she slept eight solid hours in the fuzzy bear onesie after I wrote this!)

It was 11:30 pm on a Saturday, about an hour after my husband and I had gone to bed when I felt an odd pain. I didn’t think I was going into labor (I was 39 weeks and one day), I thought I had really bad gas and just needed to let it out. I went to the bathroom to resolve the issue only to be perplexed as to why it wouldn’t go away. This pain kept returning for the next hour and it was around 1 am when I realized it was in really regular, predictable intervals and seemed to get more and more painful.

I was in labor.

I pulled out my phone and opened the app with the contraction timer. I paced my contractions while I let my husband sleep and thought, “Holy cow, I’m actually in labor! This feels nothing like I thought it would.”

Around 2 am the pain started getting to the point where I needed my husband’s presence for comfort. Also, the contractions were four minutes apart. I gently rubbed his arm in the dark.

“Are you trying to wake me up?”
“Yes.”
“Are you in labor?”
“Yes.”
“Do we need to go to the hospital?”
“Yeah, pretty soon.”

With that my husband jolted out of bed, the lights were on and the bags were being loaded into the car.

Four or five Earth, Wind, and Fire songs later a salty night nurse with a taciturn personality was checking me into the hospital. How on earth can women be expected to fill out paperwork while they’re in labor? (My husband was told to wait outside.)

The taciturn night nurse brought me into the triage room where I insisted on wearing my own clothes to labor in because hospital gowns are gross. She examined me.

“You’re at two centimeters and your baby is sunny side up.”

My heart sank. I felt like that episode of Friends where Rachel Green is stuck at two centimeters for 18 hours and I wondered if I made a mistake in coming too soon. She told me she’d be back in an hour to check on me. They can admit me if I’m at four. I was in for a night of back labor.

At this point my contractions started to ramp up in pain, intensity, and timing (it was at this point that the pain was so intense that I vomited. Again, back labor). Being flat on my back was excruciating; sitting, kneeling, and standing were my only options.

As each pain came one minute apart, I heard the soothing sound of my husband’s voice coaching me through the pain.

“Breathe in relaxation and strength, breathe out fear and pain.” In through the nose, out through the mouth, leaning so heavily on my husband that I actually hurt his back by the time it was all over.

The nurse came in again around 4 am with a doctor I had never met before. He examined me. I’m at 4 centimeters and can go upstairs. He asked me if I plan on a totally natural labor (no painkillers, no epidural, no Pitocin) and I told him I was.

“Good. Don’t let anyone talk you out of that.” I found this natural birth bent in a hospitalist doctor to be encouraging and reassuring.

When I arrived upstairs, one of the labor and delivery nurses started asking me a million questions, most of which should have already been in the computer, some of which were completely stupid. She was the only person I lost my temper with (a bit).

*middle of a ginormous contraction*
“Are you right or left handed?”
“LEFT!!!”

At this point my contractions were 30 seconds apart and it was all I could do to breathe. No time to eat, go to the bathroom, or take a drink: just constant focus on the fact of getting through the pain. Around 6:45 am I started to go into transition, and one of the nurses suggested that I take a bath to ease some of the pain. I agreed that this was a great idea and told them I just needed to go the bathroom first (for the record, I felt like I needed to go the bathroom the whole time. Back labor makes you feel like you have a gigantic ten-ton poop trying to crush your tailbone). I let the nurse know that I had an overwhelming desire to push and I was using every ounce of strength NOT to!

No bath for me, sadly. It was back to the bed to be examined by the midwife who finally arrived (three hours after admission to the labor floor). As I shifted to the bed, I could feel the baby turn inside me to the position she was supposed to be in. I was at 9 – nearly 10 – centimeters and it was almost time to push.

I spent the minutes before pushing negotiating which position I preferred to be in while I was in labor. Lying on my back was not an option since it was so painful and I knew would put pressure on my lower back and make pushing harder. The midwife overruled, however, and I gave birth on my back.

This was where I moved into the land of “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Labor is merely survival, pain management, breathing. Labor, oddly, requires little effort. In fact, the more effort I put into labor, the less effective it is. The more you tense up, the more painful and less efficient labor becomes.

Pushing is a different animal. Pushing is where you turn into an animal. Pushing requires mammoth mental and physical effort and a herculean amount of strength. I was thanking myself for every squat I did during pregnancy while I was pushing. The pain of labor was bad, but not the worst. The pain of pushing was a 10 (I’d like to thank the show Call the Midwife for RUINING my expectations for what pushing would be like).

Somehow in the middle of all that awful pain (and let’s face it, SO much screaming) I was listening to what the midwife was telling my husband and the other nurses. “You can see her head! Look at all that brown hair!”

Brown? Hair? My whole pregnancy I was expecting a bald redhead and here I was giving birth to a little mini-me.

At 7:50 am she was born, her body pulled out of mine by my husband’s own hands. The cord was wrapped loosely around her neck, which was gently pulled off before she was plopped atop my belly.

As soon as I met her, my daughter had the hiccups (she did in utero nearly three times a day). She sneezed three times and immediately began munching on her little fingers, which I instantly recognized as my own. I was totally transfixed by the human being just removed from my body that I didn’t really realize that the placenta was out and I was being stitched up for the first-degree tear I received (totally thought delivering the placenta required more effort on my part but I’m absolutely not complaining).

I’m so very grateful for the birth story I have. Everything I had hoped for came true (would have liked a little more time in between contractions to catch my breath a bit). I had a spontaneous, short, unmedicated labor. I gave birth to a gorgeous, healthy baby girl. So many women do not have the same stories (for so many different reasons!), which is why I’m so grateful for mine.

Labor made me realize that I am so much stronger than I ever realized and that the mind has so much power and control over our bodies. As soon as I started to give into the fear, the pain would become unmanageable, but as long I stayed focused and kept my wits about me (thanks to my husband who acted as a doula) the pain was ok. Pain in labor is not your body telling you that something is wrong; it’s your body telling you that everything is right. It isn’t to be feared. Listen to it and let it pass by.

 

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Poor thing inherited my feet.

My daughter has been both the biggest ray of sunshine in my life and my hardest challenge to date. Her morning smiles give me life after a long night of nursing (she gives a lot of smiles in the middle of the night too, but I’d rather she go back to sleep!). I have

 

absolutely loved watching the amazing bond develop between her and my husband. She is completely smitten with him and vice versa!

To my friends who are pregnant with their first babies: I highly recommend going to a prenatal chiropractor throughout your pregnancy. This helps with the aches and pains of pregnancy and helps get the baby into the right position for birth. I remember one time in the waiting room of the midwife’s office seeing a girl just as pregnant as I was wincing in pain, grabbing her hips in agony with every waddle. I felt so bad for her wanted to yell out, “Go to the chiropractor!”

I suggest you eat plenty of dates every day during your second and third trimester. This helps you go into labor on time and shortens the labor time.  I went into labor at 39 weeks and had an 8.5 hour labor from start to finish as my first labor (That’s pretty fast).  Drink red raspberry leaf tea every day during your third trimester. This helps tone your uterus so that contractions work more efficiently. A huge “Thank you!” to my mamma friends who recommended these things to me when I was first pregnant! It made a monumental difference!

Also, practice your breathing early. Long, slow breaths worked for me, not short panicked ones. Study up on the labor process as much as you can (I watched a LOT of Ina May Gaskin videos on YouTube). This kept me from being afraid of the process.

I truly believe these, along with potent nutrition and regular exercise, are why I was able to have the labor I hoped for. Enjoy sleep while you can get it and eat plenty of healthy fruits and veggies! Reject fear when the time comes and focus on breathing!

But DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT feel like a failure if your birth doesn’t go the way you planned.  I certainly wasn’t planning on back labor!  Everyone’s body is different, and everyone’s baby is different.  Keep a positive attitude, though.  You’re going to do great, almost mammas!

All the Updates!


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One of my favorite movies as a kid was Mary Poppins, and one of my favorite scenes was watching Dick Van Dyke play the one man band.  How could he play the accordion, and the drum and the horn at the same time?  I found his ability to multitask so impressive.  Little did I realize what awaited me with motherhood…

Update on my pregnancy…

I’m no longer pregnant!  Baby girl arrived just after the sun did Sunday, February 4th after 8.5 hours of a totally natural, non-intervention birth!  I’ll post a longer version of my birth story, but she was 6 lb 15 oz of pure cuteness!  Thankfully she was born without any of the usual newborn alien-like qualities, just heart-meltingly cute right from the get go!  She’s now two weeks old and killing me with a growth spurt.  I had no idea how exhausting cluster feeding can be!

Update on the tiny house…

I wish I had an update.  The truth is both of us thought we would be living in the tiny house by now, but we’ve been shut down time after time by bank after bank.  No one will give out a loan for a tiny house.  NO ONE.  I’m starting to doubt seriously that we will ever be able to live in the tiny house we’ve been longing to, which sadly means that we have to find housing with every new travel assignment.  That’s quite a challenge with a new baby!

Update on travel nursing…

We’re moving to Charlotte, NC!  We were able to extend our contract in Fort Myers past baby’s due date (she was a week early anyway) by a month, so we will be packing up and moving to Charlotte on March 8th.  We are super excited to be living in a city we know and love and to be so near family and friends!  We are still in the process of trying to find housing, so prayers appreciated there.  Charlotte isn’t cheap and neither are three month leases!  Today I discovered that I can feed a screaming hungry baby and apply for an apartment lease at the same time!  I can also hold my daughter’s pacifier in her mouth with one hand while typing up a blog post with the other!  And I can eat and sanitize breast pump equipment at the same time!  Enter the one-woman band!  Anyway, housing is a big next step that we are both eager to get taken care of!