5 tips to get your child to talk about their school day


That's the basic response we all get from our children at 3:30 in their post-math-pre-snack bleary-eyed haze when we ask "How was school today?" So it was no surprise that it happened to me right out of the gate this year on the first day of second grade. My son loooooves to chat, so I knew his quipped replies must have been partially my error. My question was wrong. I experimented with a few new questions, and was blown away by some of his responses. I was suddenly learning playground hierarchy, lunchroom luckies (my son doesn't get enough dessert, apparently), and hidden details I've never gleaned in years past. Here are some tips on how to draw more from your student at the end of the school day.

1. Ask "feeling" questions. This elicits all kinds of interesting information. Start out by asking them to tell you one thing that happened today that made them feel:
• helpful
• scared
• special
• surprised
• sad
• confused
• happy

2. Ask them what they traded at lunch. (Because trust me, they did.) Then ask what the other kids have in their lunch boxes. It's not so much about what's in their lunches. But the details that followed about how the lunchroom dynamic works were enlightening. I also learned new things to pack in my son's lunch that I hadn't thought of.

3. Ask one thing that made them excited to learn that day (break it down by subject if you have a particularly stubborn kiddo). I learned that my son started art class today and drew the most amazing prehistoric creature. This was something he didn't offer up on his own. He then went on to tell me that his art teacher is a boy, but his P.E. teacher is a girl, which made him laugh. And that opened up the conversation to the art/library/music/computers classes, and when they will be happening in the week.

4. Ask them what made them laugh at school. This one was a big hit. I heard all kinds of tidbits about other students and his teachers clever quirks. And it lets your child know that you can't always take school too seriously!

5. Ask where they saw the principal that day. It makes them stop and think about specific moments in the day. You might find out that something went down on the playground. Or your child might have visited the office for a bandaid. Or maybe they received a small award! In our case, the principal actually walked my son's class out to the carpool pick-up, and my husband had met him thinking it was the teacher. My son was proud to introduce them and make the connection (an incident that seemed too trivial for my son and husband to share).

Add all of these moments up, and you'll have a pretty good depiction of the day! Do you have tricks to get your kids to talk to you about their day? Tell me in the comments below.


The Multitasking Maven (or how to balance life as a writer and mother)

Ah, summer. The perfect time to write my next novel. The kids are out of school. Swim lessons are in full swing. We've got parks, pools, bugs, battles, stings, sunburns, tattling, tantrums, and lego messes that only rival my laundry messes. As a stay-at-home-mom to three, it's not always easy to find time to write. Since I am an expert, I thought I would share ten tips for a well-balanced life, full of time to write (and in my case also promote my existing novel) among the mayhem of motherhood moments:

Let's get inspired! I like to make sure I don't shower or brush my teeth before noon. This is an important first step. It will ensure that you have the proper amount of personal self-loathing going on to guilt trip yourself into getting a few words out on paper (er, screen).

I do a lot of research for my books. They include quite a bit of character development based on mythology and history. I find it's especially helpful to scroll through 30 minutes of cat memes on Facebook to delve into the inner-workings of my character's love for animals worshipped in ancient Egypt...

If you are a published author, it is really important to start calling around to set up interviews and author appearances. I recommend doing this at the height of your children's mid-morning boredom-induced hunger fits. There's nothing like talking to the local youth librarian, while your 5-year-old is screaming for an ice cream sandwich at 10am. It really lets them know that you are a dedicated mom who is also totally in touch with the youth demographic.

Whether you make corrections as you go, or put your work through rigorous rounds of edits once you are done, edits have to be made! I highly suggest editing your final manuscript with a newborn baby. Bonding time, galore. It also helps you grow as a writer, because you will later find all the mistakes you missed in the post-partum haze of hormonal upheaval and lack of sleep. Priceless. This is what it looks like:

Let's face it. If you are a mom working from home, you get really good at doing two (or five) things at once. I like to get a little writing time in while nursing my baby. It works out well because i can tyupe with ine hsnd, andit realkly  onluy takes me three times as long  to tuyoe\\type a paragrapoh.

Kids really don't need lunch, do they? (See ice cream sandwich at 10am.)

Carve out a special spot in your home where you can go to write, preferably away from the chaos of daily life. Make it uplifting and inspiring. I personally like to lock myself in the bathroom when I need a little writing escape. I can take my trusty laptop in there, spray a little Glade Hawaiian Breeze, and really feel like I am on the beach. It's so relaxing!

Make sure you are getting good amounts of proper brain food! I prefer a handful of Junior Mints evenly spaced throughout the day, mingled with whatever fruit my kids left on their plates at breakfast. It's kind of like a cleanse!

It is so important when you are spending a whole entire day really digging in and writing, to give yourself some time to breathe. It's great to push on and get a lot of writing done, especially when you are on a roll. But it will be better for your writing in the long run if you'll take a quick breather every so often. I take breaks every 3 minutes to tend to non-existent "owies," aforementioned boredom-induced hunger pains, dirty diapers, manage the local complaint department, check my Amazon ranking 20+ times a day, grab a quick snack (see #8), and contemplate a shower (but only if it's after 12pm).

Tomorrow is another day! Amazingly, I do manage to find the time to write. Sometimes I think it must be happening in my sleep. It's not easy being a mom and author. But it IS doable. Keep pressing on, and before you know it, you too can have a spit-up stained manuscript ready to send off to your publisher!


Red Balloons for Ryan

My heart goes out to the Saldana family (of www.babyboybakery.com), who lost their sweet son, Ryan (only 3.5 years old) to a tragic accident this week. Many artists and vendors are teaming up to raise money for the family. I am happy to contribute a print from my Etsy shop. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Saldana family. Click HERE for the print.


Etsy $1.00 Sale!

To celebrate Mother's Day, I thought I would neglect my kids just long enough to change all the prices in my Etsy shop to $1.00. Just kidding (about the kids, not the amazing prices). So click on over to my SHOP for dollar downloads!

FREEBIE! Neverland Map Download

I get so many requests for this map, that I thought I would just make it available as a digital download at 11x17 printable PDF (you can scale that up or down when printing—UPS will print it for only $.50).

I didn't want to sell it through my Etsy shop because it doesn't really fit that style. But if you would like to donate a small amount to my PayPal, that would be much appreciated (no pressure, of course). Thank you!


Lena's Birth Story: PART 3 — "Perfect Endings and Beginnings"

"Three centimeters."

Wait, what? What did she say? There was just no way. This was my third baby. I had to be at least at a 6. Outside the window, the world was still dark at 6am. I felt a wave of hopelessness. Irrational, but there it was. I tried to make sense of what seemed like a grim outcome after hours of labor.

I recalled talking to my doula, Hillary, before we left for the hospital. "Your body might slow down during the transfer to the hospital." And something along the lines of "I'm guessing you are at 4 or 5 cm, which is a good time to transfer." I also remembered my midwife, Jewel, saying that if I came into the hospital at 3cm she would send me home to labor a little longer. So here I had been in labor now for more than a day, awake for who knows how long, and I had been given the worst number imaginable to me at that point in labor. I kind of wanted to cry. I didn't voice it, but that was the only (brief) moment I wanted to say, "Give me the epidural and just let me sleep."

I had read of women whose cervix regressed when they were stressed or afraid or changed environments. And my nurse at the time was unfazed by my seeming lack of progress. "I see this happen all the time," she encouraged. "A third time mom will go from a 3 or 4 to a 10 in a matter of a few hours." I think either the nurse or Hillary then tried to reassure me that during the trip to the hospital my body might have stopped or regressed so that I wouldn't go too fast and had a baby in the car (or on the side of the road, like a friend of mine). The other silver lining was that I was 80% effaced. I tried to glean a small measure of hope from that. It wasn't really working.

I had a little lie-down on the bed and pretended to sleep for about twenty minutes while Hillary and Wes just waited for me to pull myself together. I was tired. I wanted to rest. But I also wanted to have a baby. My mind kept thinking that if I was now only at a 3, it would be a whole day before this baby was born. I couldn't grasp the idea of it being only a few hours. So I was feeling really defeated. My midwife came in the room shortly thereafter, and I remember saying (semi jokingly) "Please don't send me home!" I think she laughed. She decided that before admitting me, she wanted to see if I could progress a little more. Hillary confirmed that I had indeed been in active labor at home and was making progress, and that things would probably pick back up soon. So Jewel left in good spirits, leaving me to get to work for an hour or so. I still just wanted to sleep.

At this point Wes was really motivated to get things going. He wanted me to do these deep squats during each contraction. I did NOT want to do that. I think we had a brief and heated "discussion" about this (which was mostly me whimpering and him trying to get things moving along). Finally I agreed. I mean, I couldn't just keep laying around on the bed with sporadic contractions. They had to get going again if I was to have this baby! Okay. Squats it is.

Now let it be said that contractions are never going to be comfortable. But squatting INTO a contraction is kind of the worst. It's also the best, because it puts tons of pressure on your cervix to make it dilate. So Hillary and Wes helped me do the squatting contractions 6 or 7 times. The whole time I would literally TELL my body (in my head, not out loud) two things: 1. That it was safe to go ahead and have this baby—I wasn't moving to a new location again. 2. Dilate, dammit! No, really. I was telling my cervix in my mind to dilate. I tried to visualize it, as well, like one of those lotus flowers opening (or whatever the books and CDs tell you to do). I can't remember if Hillary was doing the Hyp Birth prompts during all of this, because it was just all business for that one hour.

This is where things started to pick up. At 8am I got a new nurse, Kami, who reminded me of Wes's older sister (also a nurse), which was comforting. Jewel also came back to check me. I had dilated more than a centimeter in an hour, which she was happy with. We took blood pressure, finished admitting me, and they left me to take a walk around the hospital. It takes a large and laboring pregnant woman a little while to get herself together enough to go on a walk. I had to make sure I wasn't going to flash anyone for starters. I was hunting for socks and slippers. Then bathroom/drink/snack for motivation. So I think it was probably almost 9am when I finally started walking around our small hospital.

By now it was a bright and clear morning, and I could see Mt. Timpanogos out of  the maternity ward windows, gowned in white against a blue sky. It was powerful and reassuring. The daylight gave me the energy I needed to press on. I had some really intense contractions out in the halls, and by now I was making focused, low sounds every time I had a contraction. Wes would place his hand on my forehead and I would lean into that, while Hillary put pressure on my hips, squeezing them together (which really helped). I stuck to my "favorite" position of leaning against a desk or chair (or the wall) and swaying. I remember feeling a gut instinct that I needed to go back to the room, so I just headed that direction. I was the only one in labor that day, so things were pretty quiet in terms of activity in the hospital. It was great to be able to focus and not feel distracted at all.

We were back in the room around 10am. I had just sat down on the bed to have another snack because I thought it would still be a long time before the baby was born. I had no idea of my progress (I had no concept of time at all, really). But as I started to take a bite of my energy bar, I had a SUPER big contraction. It wasn't like the ones I'd been having. The room got instantly very bright and vibrant. It was like everything had turned into HD mode. Things seemed to be happening in slow motion, like I could see things happening in some kind of animal mode like a hawk might. It was kind of wild. Wes was eating oatmeal, I think, looking relaxed. Hillary was over by the window probably taking notes on this whole process. The bedspread was a more vibrant teal than in reality. The lights were out but the room seemed bright. I was going into what I call "primal mode." The rational Lyndsay who can process thoughts and ideas moved quickly to the back of my mind, and some primal part of me completely took over at that moment. If you have read "The Host" by Stephenie Meyer, I think of it like that. I was there in my head, but I was totally being overridden by some other force that was in complete control.

I had read a birth story in the book "Homebirth in the Hospital" that said when you start sounding like a dying elephant, you know you are in transition. I laughed so hard at this (after the fact) because that is exactly what happened next. I was suddenly faced with this pain (is it pain? do we call it that? it was painful, but not in a way that caused alarm...), and I knew I couldn't run away from this pain. The only option was to move through the pain. I knew I had to come out on the other side of it. I even remember quoting 30 Rock (the last bit of rational Lyndsay that must have been left), about having to climb down into the darkness or the crevasse (see the end of this post for the quote). I think we even had a half-hearted giggle about that before I started in on another crazy contraction that took over my entire body. This was definitely transition.

By this point I was feeling an insane amount of pressure. And I was making those dying elephant noises through every contraction just to cope. I have no idea how women are quiet during unmedicated labor—it was just instinctual. I also don't know how people ask for epidurals during transition. That didn't even dawn on me. I knew I was close to the end, and I knew nothing was going to take away the intensity and pain other than just having this baby! I remember telling everyone quite urgently that I was feeling "a lot of pressure—like BABY pressure" and then my water broke (that had never happened spontaneously before). I kept feeling like I was going to have the baby any second, but no one else seemed concerned that was going to happen just yet. I was aware of people coming in with their game faces on, though. Jewel was in scrubs. The nurse had the draped cart with miscellaneous instruments at the ready. They wanted me on the bed so that they could check my progress. I was 8cm and progressing by the second, 90% effaced, and I was ready to push with every contraction. I had heard stories of women saying the urge to push is unstoppable. I couldn't have not pushed if the world depended on it. (As a side note, I went from 4cm to 10cm in 3 hours—just like my first nurse predicted!)

Jewel was great. She gave me some options for pushing, and I told her I didn't want to be on my back, but I couldn't get out of bed. So I decided to push on my side, which gave me the chance to pull against the side of the bed during each contraction for support (which later meant I was crazy sore in my arms and shoulders). I was not on board with having to push for a long time, so I decided I would just go for it. I was aware of Jewel and Hillary trying to help me focus my pushing, but remember rational Lyndsay was no longer present. So with each contraction I was just a gung-ho pushing dying elephant! Nothing glamorous about this, but there you have it. I remember saying "Guys, this really sucks!" and "I want this baby out!" But that was the worst of my ranting. Despite feeling completely out of control, everyone said I was doing great. Later I realized that I wasn't out of control at all, I was just surrendering to this force greater than anything on Earth. Jewel had to cut a small episiotomy because of my two previous episiotomies that just wouldn't stretch. But I didn't feel it because Lena was basically on the way out, and all I could feel was extreme pressure.

With a final push, Lena was born at 10:56am. No medication, no complications. The greatest sense of relief and euphoria in the world exists the moment after a baby is born sans epidural! I wasn't able to fully experience that with Finn and Maya. They put Lena right on my chest, and she promptly pooped all over me! She didn't cry much, and Jewel said that in her experience babies who don't have traumatic births don't always cry a lot. They let me hold Lena for a long time while they waited for the cord to quit pulsing before cutting. The placenta was delivered easily. They put warm blankets over Lena while we just looked at each other. She was so bright and beautiful with lots of dark hair! I'll never forget the way Lena's skin felt and smelled—so soft and new. I couldn't get over how alert and content she was compared to Finn and Maya. I kept telling her what a great job she had done.

Eventually they took baby Lena to weigh and measure her. 6lbs, 12oz, and 20 inches. I loved that there was no rush to bathe her or give her shots (which we opted out of in the hospital, anyway). We delayed the eye ointment so that we could keep looking at each other. Everyone was so laid back and respectful of our wishes. They handed her back with a diaper, but unswaddled, so she could nurse skin-to-skin. Her temp was a little low, so we doubled up on the warm blankets again. She latched on and nursed right away for 45 minutes! Everyone was amazed (but after that poop, baby was hungry)! Her temperature regulated, and after her big meal, they took Lena for a few procedures while Jewel stitched me up (numbed first, of course). Then I was able to get right out of bed! It was crazy to be able to get up and go to the bathroom only an hour after delivery. Granted things weren't pain free at first, but the recovery was so much quicker.

The emotions in the room were also much more intense during this birth. It felt more spiritual and elemental. It was also amazing that Lena seemed so present. Maybe that's just her personality, but I would sit in the bed with her on my lap and we would just stare at each other and talk for long stretches. She would look at everyone who came into the room so intently. She was very content from the beginning. And when I would tell her about how we had worked together on this birth, and that she had done such a great job, she would stare at me as if she knew exactly what I was saying. I am sure she understood every word. It was so special to just gaze at each other and remember one another. It's always amazing how new and familiar each of my babies feels when they arrive.

I realize I am exceptionally blessed and fortunate to have had such a wonderful birth experience. Any number of things could have gone differently. But amazingly I pretty much had the exact birth that we lined out in my birth plan! I am so grateful that I was able to "go out on a high note" with our last baby.

And now for some photos of my sweet baby girl on her birth day!

** Jack Donaghy: "Lemon, let me tell you a little story. It was 1994, and I was ice climbing when I fell into a crevasse and hurt my leg. There was only one way out, so fighting every natural instinct I have, I did the thing I hated the most. I climbed down into the darkness. And when I came back to camp, I went to the person who cut my line and said, 'Connie Chung, you saved my life.'"


Drop Biscuits: Gluten/Dairy/Egg Free Recipe

Basic Drop Biscuits
(These biscuits are SO light and fluffy. I was amazed.
I enjoy them right out of the oven with "butter" and jam.)
1 3/4 c. gluten free flour mix (I used Featherlight)
1 tsp. xanthan gum
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. dairy free margarine
1 c. rice milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar added
(to simulate buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in margarine with fork, then stir in milk. Drop by spoonful onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Bake 15-18 minutes. Makes 6-8 large biscuits.


The Mom Conference: A free online conference for moms running all week!

 There are so many conferences out there that I see moms attending (about crafting, blogging, and more). But there is honestly no way I am going to be able to attend any of those conferences this year with two small kiddos and a newborn! But my little mommy heart leapt for joy when I saw this FREE ONLINE conference for moms running ALL THIS WEEK. It's called The Mom Conference. I signed up right away—it was totally free. Watch the video below to get a taste of what the Mom Conference is all about. I stopped in and already watched an amazing video on how to make all-natural laundry detergent. Click the image below to sign up! 


Lena's Birth Story: PART 2 — "Go Time"

The "moms" were staring at me from across the kitchen island on Saturday, February 22nd. Wes' mom and my mom were talking about how a watched pot never boils. I was five days "overdue." That didn't really mean anything at all, because I wasn't exactly sure when I had even ovulated in the first place, and we were going off of sonogram dates at 22 weeks along for my due date. I was waiting for Lena's little body to release some hormones that would then tell my body it was "go time." I was really in no hurry at all. It's funny how that goes with a third baby. I remember with Finn I was doing all SORTS of crazy things to get him to come (he was almost 2 weeks over, and I had an awful experience with an spicy chile relleno dinner, and vowed never to do that again). I was happy to let Lena bake a little longer, but I also knew that everyone else in the family was anxious for things to happen (plus they had return plane tickets with a shelf life).

That whole week I'd been trying a few low key things to encourage labor. Since I was getting really close, I figured a little romp in the hay or some long walks around the block couldn't hurt. I just made sure to steer clear of things like castor oil and the infamous chile relleno dinner. Eventually I gave up, and just went about things as usual, which is what landed me in the kitchen with everyone just watching me—the non-boiling pot. Luckily, though, I soon lost my plug (and if you don't know what I mean, don't go running to search Google images unless you are really comfortable with uncomfortable imagery). I announced triumphantly that I was going to be in labor very soon! Maybe even imminently. Everyone was excited. I sent a text to my midwife, Jewel, and my doula, Hillary. "I lost my plug!! I am having some twinges!!" They were excited, too.

And then crickets.

I was under this grand disillusion that my previous labors had been over 24 hours because of the epidural situation. I assumed going med-free meant I would have a much shorter labor. But what I soon learned is that while the epidural did slow my labor down once I was in the hospital, my body was still capable of having a very looooooooong and drawn out early (or latent) labor. I finally started having what I knew were contractions that would lead to something on Saturday night. But they were sporadic and not progressing. I remembered exactly what real contractions felt like, so I knew I could sleep through these just fine. No need to get all antsy and stay awake all night feeling excited over nothing. So we packed up the hospital bags just in case, and I took inventory of my extremely thorough "labor comfort" kit (that's a whole other post). I cleaned up the living room, and went to bed. Only the contractions woke me up in the middle of the night. Sweet! I started timing them, and let Wes sleep. But they were still not regular. They were more intense, but not regular.

By the time the sun was up Sunday morning, I had been awake since about 1am. I was tired. I had a headache. I kept hoping I was really in labor. They were real contractions, but they were kind of gun shy. When the kids woke up and started making noise, they went away all together for hours! I kept having signs that my body was dilating (moms who have experienced labor will know what I mean). So I knew this would end in a baby. But in the mean time I was really tired, it was noon, and I had to make a choice. I could start trying things like more walking and nipple stimulation now and kick this into high gear, or I could sleep. I reallllly wanted to sleep. So I tried that for a few hours and my headache woke me up. Ugh. I was starting to worry about going through an intense natural labor later when I was already feeling so worn out.

Wes opened all the windows. We ate. We decided to go for a walk. We walked and walked all around the neighborhood and told neighbors, "I'm technically in labor..." My hips felt so crazy like rubberbands or jell-o. I felt like they might just disconnect from my body at any moment. But still no real progress was being made with contraction intensity. I was getting antsy. I had been texting my doula, Hillary, on and off throughout the day. She was very supportive and calm. All of her texts were some encouraging version of this:

After dinner, I could feel myself getting panicky over having to go through another sleepless night of fake-me-out labor. I was ready to get SERIOUS about this. I kept telling my body it needed to progress, but it wasn't listening. Wes finally came in and convinced me to do nipple stimulation (which was recommended by my doula, midwife, and handful of friends). I am here to tell you that it WORKS. After only about ten minutes (and I won't go into details, you can google it if you need to know the method), I was having actual contractions every 5 minutes or so. So with things jumpstarted, I decided to sit on the exercise ball for a while. Wes turned on Pride and Prejudice in the bedroom, and we watched that for an hour, just the two of us, while I sat and bounced and timed contractions. He had the window open, and I remember watching the sun going down over the snow-capped mountains with a blushing sunset behind. It was really peaceful. Then my mom announced that the season finale of Downton Abbey was on. !!! What?! I was going to miss that? ;) I moved my big pink exercise ball out into the living room. I bounced, and timed, and watched. After we sent everyone to bed, I assured them that I would be GONE in the morning.

Wes went to sleep and I rested and timed contractions some more. About midnight they started to get stronger, so I took a bath. That was amazing. Contractions in water were so surreal. It felt very elemental. I wanted to stay in there forever, partly because it felt good, and partly because I felt like I didn't think I could actually get out of that tub! I called for Wes, but he was sleeping really soundly (and I didn't call too loud, because I didn't want to wake Finn and Maya up since they had school in the morning). I managed to somehow get out and get myself dressed. I wanted to distract myself, so I did full hair and makeup—ha! Just something to pass the time. I even worked on my cuticles between contractions. I think I even slapped a clear coat on my nails! Overachiever, I know.

At 1am I woke Wes up and said I needed some support. Contractions were every 4-5 minutes, and I was swaying and breathing through them. I would lean over the dresser or sink and sway and breathe and it was great. I was totally handling it. But they were getting stronger, and I finally told Wes to text Hillary to come over. When she got to my house around 2:30, I could no longer talk or look at anyone during a contraction. I could only sway and breathe and focus. I didn't want to do anything else. I would walk around the dark and quiet house between contractions. But during, I would need Wes and Hillary to do things like counter pressure on my hips, or use different types of touch for distraction. Wes would push on my temples, then my chest, then my arms. It felt really good, and kept me focused on touch rather than pain. At that point it didn't seem so much painful as just uncomfortable. But knowing what my body was doing, I didn't feel fearful at all, and I wasn't in a large amount of actual pain. It was intense, but not unbearable. Hillary was reciting the prompts from my hypnobirthing CDs, and it was awesome. I could totally get into that, and visualize what she was saying.

The hours seemed to pass quickly—probably because I was focusing on small segments of time. I was expectant and centered. Before I knew it, it was 5am. I ate a bowl of cereal, and Hillary suggested we transport to the hospital. I knew she could tell I was ready to do that. I felt like if I could get there, I wouldn't have to hold back at all, and my body could move forward. It also might slow things down at first to make the transfer, and I wanted to get that out of the way. Hillary guessed I was 4-5cm at that point based on my demeanor, and it was a good time to go.

I remember it felt so quiet and dark outside. We live in a small town, and I was headed to our equally small hospital just 5 minutes away. It was cold (February in Utah), but I'd been wearing a heated rice bag on my shoulders the whole time, and didn't want to have to put on a coat. The combo of the cold air and heated rice bag felt great, and helped me through the few contractions I had on the way to the hospital.

When we arrived, it was so quiet and empty. We walked down to labor and delivery. I was the only one in labor (there was only one other mom who had delivered the day before). The admitting nurse, Malena, watched me have a contraction and asked if I wanted a room with a tub. I said I did. We went in, got settled, and I immediately looked for a ledge to lean on so I could do my rock and sway thing. I think we went through the admitting process. I vaguely remember getting changed into a gown and Malena hooking me up to the fetal monitor just for a few minutes to make sure Lena was A-OK (which she was). They gave me a hep lock (like a port for an IV), just in case I needed an IV later. But other than that, I was free to resume my modus operandi. Sway, breathe, sway, breathe.

Melina asked if I wanted to have my cervix checked or keep laboring for a while. I wanted to know how dilated I was. Contractions were INTENSE at this point. And while they had slowed down (6ish minutes apart), they were getting stronger. Each one seemed to rise up from the ground, through my legs, and radiate into my body. I would surrender for that brief moment, before having a few blissful minutes of release before a new contraction would swell. I still felt like I was handling them fairly well, as long as I had Wes and Hillary. I would raise a finger and nod, and they'd hurry over.

"Let's get you checked and see how dilated you are, and then we'll call Jewel," Melina said. It was 6:15 am. I'd been awake since 1am the day BEFORE, and I was ready to get this show on the road. I was pumped. Only what Malena said next pretty much took all wind out of my sails...

Tune in for part 3, where I try to hold it together, go way primal, and ultimately have a beautiful baby girl!!


Lena's Birth Story: PART 1 — "A Better Way"

38 weeks pregnant

In order to tell Lena's birth story, I have to rewind to 2007 and 2009, when I gave birth to Finn and Maya. Both births were similar: long, medicated, tiring. I was hungry, and couldn't eat. I had issues with my epidural not working properly with Finn. I had a doctor who made me wait until he was well-rested the next morning before he would come into the hospital to break my water and deliver Maya. I was on a pitocin/edpidural roller coaster. I was basically put through the system. Granted, I had no real complications, and both Finn and Maya were born healthy and relatively happy (though Finn did have a distinct trace of epidural on his newborn breath).

But being in love with your newborn does not erase the memory of things gone wrong in the delivery room. I felt like I wasn't in control of my own birth. I was offered and given pain medication that I didn't really need or want at that stage in my labor. I felt pressured to make decisions. I was left alone when I wanted help, and had too much help when I wanted to be making personal choices. I was basically strapped into the bed with the monitor, numb from the waist down, and tethered to an IV. Both labors were over 24 hours long, and when Maya was born they were so concerned that she was shaky. I insisted that if I were to get some juice and a cookie, then nurse her, she'd be totally fine. Her blood sugar was just low—as was mine—after 15 hours at the hospital with no more nourishment than the IV for fluids. And guess what? As soon as Maya nursed, she was better (momma's instincts).

Wes felt especially helpless during this whole process. He basically sat in the corner asking if I needed anything until it was time to push. At least then he could hold my leg. And it was Wes that actually came to me encouraging me to look at other birthing options when it came time for another child. "There HAS to be a better way," he kept saying. And he was right.

I have some health issues that caused us to wait five whole years between Maya (the youngest), and our newest addition, Lena. So I had plenty of time to do my research. I watched ALL of the Business of Being Born videos. Life changing!! I cannot recommend those videos more highly to any mother giving birth in any scenario. They were eye opening and liberating. I recognized right away that I had been put through a series of protocols at the hospital. I was offered an early epidural (which I accepted because they made me fearful of not being able to get it when I really needed it). When that slowed labor down, I was given Pitocin. When that intensified contractions, I needed more epidural. See the cycle? Amazingly my babies never showed distress, and I was able to push each one out in 15 minutes or less. But with the amount of time spent at the hospital, I was very fortunate that I didn't end up with a C-section after going over my "allotted" amount of time you can be in labor at the hospital without a red flag going up.

Now I am not anti-hospital (nor am I anti C-section in necessary cases). Even after watching The Business of Being Born, I still wanted to deliver in the hospital. I just wanted a better birth experience. Before getting pregnant I started to read. I read every "natural birth in the hospital" book, article, blog that I could get my hands on. I read tons of birth stories that took place both in the hospital and at home. I watched videos and listened to other moms' stories about why they chose to deliver at home, in the hospital, or in a birthing center. I knew I wanted a doula (birth coach), and I knew I wanted to go medication-free. That freaked a few people out. Luckily Wes was 100% adamant that I could do it. He didn't just think I could do it, he knew I could do it. Not only that, but he knew it would be a total game changer. It would give me a chance to prove to myself that my body knew how to birth a baby safely. It would allow me to feel empowered. And it would help heal some of the scars that lingered from my previous birth experiences. My daughters would know that I had chosen something better for myself—and that every woman should be entitled to chose the birthing experience she desires.

We moved to a small town in Utah two years ago. One cool thing about being in a small town, is that the local hospital is pretty low key. I learned that they had just hired a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) who practiced out of the hospital. !!! I was beside myself. What perfect luck. I made an appointment and went over to talk with her. She took about two hours out of her day to answer all my questions, take me on a tour, and discuss options. I told her I'd be back soon with a positive pregnancy test. :)

** Side note: The term "midwife" can make some people uncomfortable when it comes to having babies. An OB is the standard here in the U.S. which is totally fine. But I am here to tell you that midwives have been delivering babies from the beginning of time. I've had an OB. I liked my OBs. But I LOVE my midwife. She is incredibly qualified (she practiced for years out of a major Chicago hospital, and has done work in third world countries to improve birthing conditions for moms and babies). She doesn't practice with an OB (although there are doctors on-call at the hospital for things like C-sections and second opinions if she needs that). And I went the entire 9 months never seeing anyone but my midwife. My midwife also handled my necessary episiotomy and sutures. She's legit.

When I found out I was pregnant in June of last year, we'd been trying for a few months. The VERY first thing I did (after alerting my midwife and confirming the pregnancy) was find a doula. A doula is a labor coach (in simplest terms). Doulas will be rewarded a high place in heaven! They are seriously angels on earth, these women. Every laboring mother should consider having a doula by their side, even if they are getting an epidural or having a C-section. A doula acts as an advocate, a comforter, a supporter, a cheerleader, a ceritifed educator, and a superhero. My doula, Hillary, was actually one of the moms from Finn's soccer team. I mentioned in passing that I wanted a doula with my next birth, and she just happened to be one! Hillary is a wisp of a woman, gentle, and reassuring. She is endlessly positive. But don't let her willowy ways fool you—Hillary is powerful, assertive, and IN the moment. She knows her stuff. Wes and I took classes with her for a few months, and I started doing relaxation CDs called HypBirth (like Hypnobabies, or any of those hypnosis birthing programs). I had no idea how much I DIDN'T know about birth (even after two babies)! I prepared a LOT. I read. I did my relaxation, I did affirmations. I did labor simulations with coping techniques. But the biggest thing Hillary taught us was that my body could absolutely do this, and so could I! She talked me through every stage of labor, making sure I understood what would be happening throughout the whole process. The more I prepared, the more confident I felt.

I won't say I wasn't nervous to go "au naturale." My biggest problem was people asking what I would do when faced with the pain, or the enticing prospect of an epidural right down the hallway. I had to really make some personal decisions that I would not, under any circumstance, ask for drugs. I absolutely didn't want them! I went though a phase where I wouldn't allow myself to call labor painful, just intense (even though I knew it would be painful, I couldn't view it as negative pain). I wouldn't read birth stories where the moms were in too uncomfortable. I surrounded myself with positive birth ideals. I decided on the type of birth I was GOING to have. I drew up the infamous birth plan, but vowed to stay flexible. I made it clear to my midwife that if any nurse walked into my room and acted like I couldn't do this or offered me pain relief, I might lose it. My doula and midwife assured me that everyone would be on-board and supportive. And most of all, they both told me that I could do it. Women all over the world throughout time have had babies in the way I wanted to birth my baby. And now it was my turn to join them. I think one week before Lena was born all nervousness melted away. It was replaced by a deep sense of serenity. This was inevitable. I wasn't going to run scared. I was going to head into this feeling ready and excited to meet my little one!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I go a week "over," labor sets its own course and I consider some Old Wives tales...

To see my birth plan click HERE.

And here are a few more resources:
Homebirth in the Hospital, by Stacey Marie Kerr, MD
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin


Welcome, little Lena!

Lena Raeven Johnson, born February 24, 2014. 10:56 am, 6lbs. 12 oz., 20" long. Pure perfection.



I have some super quick Valentine's Day printables in my Etsy shop for only $2! Make your V-Day a little easier by getting a head start HERE.

Forest Friends Valentines — DIGITAL DOWNLOAD
I also have these sweet and customizable prints available, as well:
The Very Thought of You Personalized DIGITAL PRINT — 8x10 and 11x14
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My 11x17 Botanical Calendar on Kate and Linny

Happy Monday! I have an exciting new website to share with you. Kate and Linny is dedicated to bringing us boutique deals by mompreneurs. The site is darling, the concept is brilliant, and as a mompreneur myself, I definitely want to support this new venture! I am thrilled happy to be featured in their launch (TODAY). My 11x17 printed 2014 Botanical Calendar is available at a 30% discount on their site for the next 2 weeks! So hop over, grab a calendar, and see what other treats you can find...


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