Monday, April 28, 2014

mtn mama: preparing for homebaby.

Nesting is a feeling I'm accustomed to. I've always been part-homebody, sentimentally claiming my space.  I had the nesting vibe in our bungalow Josey was born, preparing her closet of tiny clothes, tidying and tying up odds and ends.  Preparing to give birth at home to a second child brings a whole different side to nesting.

Last night, I was SURE I would be in full-on labor with this baby throughout the night.  Intermittent contractions were not something I experienced with Josey's labor, which came in full-force.  So last night, I made James blow up the pool, and this morning, I felt disappointingly-normal (on the way out the door to school, Josey declared the pool her "favorite!" as I tried to explain that the baby was going to be born in there).

I want Josephine's transition into sisterhood to go well.  I've always been a believer of letting her know what's going on as much as I can.  Having our midwives visit here, to listening to the baby (and her belly) has been a nice part of that process for me.  This weekend, we installed the baby's carseat next to hers.  Last night, I got in the bath with her and we talked about the baby coming out of my belly.  Who knows how much she understands, and I am anxious for the transition to two littles around here.

Josephine's hospital birth was wonderful, but I wanted a different experience for the birth of this child.  Over the summer, before I even officially knew I was pregnant, I dreamt of birthing a baby at home in the Bitterroot.  The dream was more symbolic than anything, but gave me an extra nudge to look into a caregiver at home.

My first conversation with Sheehan was together comforting and empowering.  I told her about Josey being born posterior, my Group B Strep, and our concerns about emergency transport.  Sheehan gave me credit for making it through that birth naturally, then explained concrete ways for me to prevent all three of those concerns.  Sheehan and her apprentice have encouraged me to take responsibility in this pregnancy- noticing my posture/body alignment, taking probiotics, and choosing wellness leading up to birth.

Taking responsibility for this thing, this birth at home, means more work for us, yes.  I packed my hospital bag some time around Josey's due date, then barely opened it.  At the hospital, they supply you with everything you need (and charge you for it).  At home, you supply everything you need, and there is something about that I just love!

Midwife's Birth Kit- Midwives' kits will vary, ours was $40 plus $10 shipping ordered from Cascade Healthcare Products.

Homebirth Materials- we had most of these around, but also spent about $20 from Wal-Mart:

//hair things // q-tips & hydrogen peroxide // crock pot + ginger + tea tree oil (for hot compresses) // disposable sheet pans (2-pack for instruments & placenta) // clock with second hand // digital thermometer // flashlight // 2 large trash bags // baby clothes, diapers, etc. // 6-10 old baby blankets // 10 cheap washclothes, old sheets & two old towels // red raspberry leaf tea //

Waterbirth Materials- I am planning to labor in the water.  I don't know if we'll birth in the water, but I love the idea of it!

//pool tub ($46, perfect for Josey to play in summer, too!) //
// pumps to fill & drain (supplied by our midwife) //
// new garden hose ($7- we'll fill the pool with hot water from the washer setup //
// pot to refill with warm water //

In case of Emergency, we've got a full tank of gas, and know that we are less than 30 minutes from Community Hospital.  Sheehan said that with the majority of her transfers, they know before labor that there is something wrong, and everything is right on track for me this time!

So, that's it.  Any day now... we'll meet our new little munchkin.  Until then, I'm trying to relax, remembering that my mother waited 2 weeks past her due date for both me and my brother.

Gender predictions?  My "gut feeling" seems to teeter-totter.  I just can't wait to meet this child!  

How about you?  
Commentary to share on your experiences?  

Monday, April 21, 2014

currently: celebrating two

It was a weekend spent celebrating life- Josephine's Birthday + Easter!  I can't believe she was born two years ago.  Last year, she smothered herself in red frosting to celebrate her first year of life, and rode her little scooter bike.  This year, we had an Eastery party with family here at home.

My parents were in town on Saturday, and they hung out with the birthday girl at the tennis courts, giving me time to stock up for baby #2's birth.  The nesting urge is much stronger this time.  I have this need to finish projects, purge, re-organize.  We're preparing for a homebirth, and that is a nesting act in itself!  (More on preparing our home for a home/waterbirth here soon, I hope)

I'm linking up with the Mamas at A Mama Collective for this post- I like their prompts and it's a nice way to connect with other bloggers.  

Thinking about: 

My past.  Nesting urges have me looking through photos, organizing them a bit, and reminiscing.  I love seeing pictures of my family members and friends throughout the years, and my, I had some awkward phases!

Plus, featuring Bess here on the blog (go see!) caused me to peep back into some of the photos from our very beautiful and special wedding.  I am so glad to have the partnership James and I do. Blessed.

Reading: Still, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and I loved this Rolling Stone feature on Pope Francis:

Also, loving these beautiful books:

Listening to: Josephine.  The things that come out of her mouth!

"Mommy, member Grandma and Grandpa?  Member Papa and Grandad and Grammy?"

"I need cake."

"Pooh wanna stroller."

"Mommy, see da birdies?  Way up 'der in the tree?"

"Where IS a my phone?"  (she has so many 'phones' and loves to 'watch Kermit' & 'Frozen' & 'da Moose')

"I wanna call a my GeeGee."

Also, Josey's Birthday was on Record Store Day this year!  I stopped by Rockin' Rudy's and picked up this gem:


Four years of teaching choir in Florence are coming to a close, and I will be a mama in a different sense, staying home with my babies.

Florence Carlton Choir was my 'baby'.  So many great ideas for that program, so many good things set in motion.  I've announced my resignation, told the kids I won't be back next year.  Now, I'm crossing off my checklist, getting the position ready for someone else, not to mention weeding out my personal matter from the classroom. I am praying the right person comes along for Falcon Choir, and do my best to make things accessible, organized, for them to have a much easier start than I did.  If you know of a good candidate, please encourage them to apply!

I'm also enjoying time teaching as a duo with my awesome student teacher, who is thankfully going to take over the class when I give birth.  Watching her teach music is exciting and inspiring!

Thankful For: right now in this pregnancy- 38 39 weeks, getting swollen with the life inside of me.  Feeling more detail in baby's movements, feeling the changes in my body as it prepares for labor. I'm thankful for my health and support system as this big adventure is coming up!  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

mtn mama: Josephine's birthstory


God Will Add (Or, Ram and Bull)

At first, thoughts of birth/healthcare were overwhelming. We hoped for a simple, loving, safe experience.  Our family members were granted peace of mind knowing we’d be in a hospital blocks from our house. Throughout the pregnancy, I did yoga in the mornings, walked on lunch breaks, and swam with James at the Y in the evenings.  We felt healthy and strong, although I didn't eat super carefully.  I failed my first glucose test and was very scared about Gestational Diabetes, also had Group B Strep, which can be encouraged by excess sugar in the diet.  I wanted to try giving birth without drugs, but we promised we wouldn't be mad if things changed.

My belly was big & blood pressure was high as I took my 45 high school choir students to their District Festival performance.  They joked that my labor would start in the middle of this important event.  Thankfully, it didn't.  

Two nights after our due date, James and I watched “The Muppets.”  We love Flight of the Conchords and I'm always inspired by Jim Henson, so homerun.  I had a feeling the baby would come the next day but wouldn't say it out loud.  
We fell asleep late, and shortly after I woke with a terrible pain in my back.  I tiptoed to the living room and began stretching.  With my second cat-cow came a huge GUSH!

“James!  It’s happening!”  I yelled from the bathroom.  The force of the fluid subsided, I took a shower, he finished packing a bag we would barely open in the hospital.  

Groggy from one hour of sleep, stunned by the reality of it all.  

Group B. Strep meant straight to the hospital as soon as the water was broken for antibiotics.  They say labors tend to happen in waves, and we were on the tail end of one.  We were admitted into a small delivery room (the last one) about 2am.  We distributed our typed birth plan, stating my desire to stay as natural as possible.  James turned “Graceland” on the iPod.  Over the course of the night, we heard the moaning of a woman next door who had been in labor for over 24 hours.  

I could feel my labor happening fast.  

I hate needles, and was very anxious about the IV, and once inserted, I tried not to look at or think about it!  Those late-night hours crept by, contractions becoming stronger.  I felt hot and cold and sick and all sorts of things. I tried to labor on the birth ball, walk around our room a bit.  We were so tired.

Two days earlier, two friends had given birth by cesarean to their new darlings.  I was beginning to envy relief.  The pain was strong, and I was dog tired!  We’d close our eyes between each contraction, try to let sleep wash over us.  I told James I couldn't do it anymore, and he said he believed I could. The next time nurse Jessica came in, I asked for drugs.  

“Oh, it is so hard right now, but I really think you’ll feel better if you stick to your birth plan and do it without the pain medication.”  

She checked me again, and felt a full head of hair- enough encouragement for me to power through.  

Still, baby was faced sunny-side up, heading straight for my tailbone.  The nurses had me in many different positions on the hospital bed, trying to move about the room a bit, but we couldn't turn the baby.  I felt James there, light as air, steady.   

I looked at James, my partner, my strength.  “Josephine James is her name.”  I said.  “You were so amazing, staying by me this entire time.”  He hadn't left my side, not even once.  

“No,” he blushed, “Josephine Emily!”  

I laughed, overcome with love for us, for the new star of our lives.  Josephine: “God will Add.”

Heart on Her Tongue, Heart on My Sleeve

Early the next morning, our bouncy pediatrician visited to inspect our little darling.  I beamed.  Of course she was perfect, with her Duvernay nose and the cutest toned shape to her arms.  

“She looks great!  There’s just one thing... a little heart-shaped tongue.”  

“What’s a heart-shaped tongue?”  I was so tired.

“That little thing under her tongue, it’s just a little short.  It’s a genetic trait.  We'll just have to see how breastfeeding goes.  If it’s going well, it probably won’t be a problem.”  

I didn't want any problems.  If I learned one thing while pregnant, it’s that I wanted to breastfeed my child.  It had to go well.  It hurt, but I thought it was supposed to at first.  “It’s going well.  I think she’s getting enough.”  I didn't want to admit I my eyes were following the second hand.  Ten minutes of toe-cringing pain.  

Our favorite part was bringing her home. Amidst the first blissful days at home, the pain continued.  The longest two weeks of my life- feeding the little angel every two hours.  Guilt for the dread.  

Thankfully, we were set up with a web of local resources.  The latch looked great.  Little JJ had a significant tongue-tie, and was working her hard little gums to get what she needed.  

Surgery might help.  Thankful not to have to worry about the circumcision indecision, but this seemed worse.  We were warned by some that the procedure could be traumatic, painful.  More internet searches, conversations with family and friends, nightmares.  Without a frenectomy, there was a chance of a speech impediment and still needing surgery later.  Trauma, though?  

Am I selfish?  Committed to breastfeed, but already at the end of my rope at one week?  The scream-provoking pain I felt during childbirth was nothing compared to this silent, steady treatment.

Finally, James & I agreed that it was best to do it now.  With a referral to the ENT in town, we scheduled to have our daughter snipped.  

The morning of her frenectomy, I was trembling and teary.  James’ strong right hand clasping mine.  James’ strong left hand swinging her in the car seat.  I had entered a different time-zone. One where I'd known her forever, and we'd been in agony just that long.  

Our little tiny perfect baby, would we hurt her?  What if the procedure didn’t change a thing, and it was all for naught?  

The best doctor I ever met listened intentionally with bright blue eyes.  His smile understood our apprehension and my despair.  We held her, she fussed a bit as he inspected her little heart-shaped tongue.  With assurance, told us it was time and called the nurse.  In a swift motion, he snipped.  Nothing from her, not a peep.  No trauma.

I pulled her to my breast, eyes locked with James as a tiny drop of blood leaked from her little lips.  We left within ten more minutes with a sleeping baby.  

Changes in nursing weren't immediate, she didn’t learn the new range of motion for a few weeks.  We continued working with an amazing lactation consultant until nursing was going strong.  

The rest of our breastfeeding journey is another story.  Bittersweet, but mostly sweet.  Now, she’s singing her ABC’s and teaching me something new everyday.  We continue to clash like we did on her birthday, but I'm learning patience and love grows.  She’s going to be a sister, too!  

With our baby due May 1, we are preparing for a home-birth.  A midwife visits us at home regularly, and little Josey lifts up her shirt so she can listen to her belly, too.  I am looking forward to a completely new experience, ready to trust myself more than last time, and ready for what decisions this new baby may bring.  

I think back on that day in the doctor’s office, James swinging the car seat. I felt like I'd known her forever.  Everyone says, "they'll change everything," and we'll barely remember life without each of our precious kids. I believe it. Can’t wait to meet the next new soul in our journey.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grows Feature: {Bess Brownlee}

I met Bess when a mutual friend suggested her as a photographer for our wedding in 2010. We wanted the photos to capture life and love and special moments, not a bunch of perfectly staged pictures. After chatting over a pastry at Bernice's, James and I were convinced she'd be the perfect one to document our special day. Today, we have a treasured disc of 300+ amazing photos. I remember thinking a few times on that color-blurred-musical-loving day, "someone should take a picture of this!" and there she was, unassuming, lovely. Bess & I have been able to meet a few times this year to discuss further collaboration, as she is home from 2 years in Africa, and I am thrilled to be sharing her with you today!

A brief, blast-from-the-past intro of wedding pics before we start Bess' feature:

There are so, so many more, but it's time for Bess to take over!

Grows Feature: {Bess Brownlee}

Describe yourself for those who don’t know you.  

Hi all!  My name is Bess, and I’m a photographer.  I love a good story, a glass of red wine, and cool mountain air.  

Name a few past & current projects you’ve loved.  

Other’s projects: Sun City: Life After Life by photographer Kendrick Brinson (see more on her website a lighthearted and interesting look at aging in America.  Also, the unforgettable body of work by photographer Aaron Huey on the Pine Ridge Reservation (  Those photos will make you feel, wonder and ache… just as they should.  That is the kind of creating I want to be a part of, work that stirs up those responses.

Where do you work, and how do you make this environment productive?

When the camera is put away and I’m editing, I work best alone, without distraction.  I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop office… to many people to watch.  That’s what I do as a photographer, people watch.  So when I need to get down to business, I choose isolation.  When the camera is in my hand I choose immersion, to dive in completely.

How do you capture your inspiration?  

Inspiration mainly comes from other photographers for me.  I’m always looking at others work.  I spend time on those photos that move me… and then I ask myself why.  As a creative it is so hard not to slip into unhealthy comparison. I practice appreciation when I see a beautiful image, and try to learn all I can both as a viewer and as a creative from it.  What did that photographer do really well?  What can I learn from this beautiful image and apply to my own photography?  I want to be a learner, always.   

Who inspires you?  

-Montana, what an amazing place to hang my hat

in the media
-I’m always checking photo blogs, particularly photojournalism ones (New York Times Lensblog, Time Lightbox, BBC In Pictures) Seeing how similar we are as human beings the world over always strikes me.

artist we probably haven’t heard of
There are so many incredible photographers that blow me away all the time with their work.  My favorites are: Aaron Huey, Steve McCurry, Ami Vitale, Ed Kashi, Linsey Addario, William Albert Allard, Kendrick Brinson, David Walter Banks, Matt Eich, 
and my dear friend from journalism school Greta Rybus.

What materials do you use?  (please be as specific as possible)  

I try to keep my equipment as simple as possible. A Canon 5D Mark iii, two lenses, a simple light kit, and a pair of keen and patient eyes. I firmly believe that it is the artist that makes amazing work, not the gear. Our gear is merely an extension of us, a tool. Know it, and take good care of it, but keep it in perspective. Endless gear-talk and acquisition is not my style.  

Can you break down your creative process a little for us?

I watch, I listen, I sit on ideas for a while.  My tendency is to be impulsive, and one of my goals to take more time with ideas, really mull them over.  I’m a magpie by nature, always distracted by shiny things. I could shoot a million different things, but I want to focus on stories that are important to me.
I love long-term projects where I can spend a lot of time with a subject, and watch him/her/them/it change over time.

How does it feel when you know you're finished with a project? (or, How do you know you’re 
finished with a project?)

I don’t know if I ever really feel like… this is done.  That’s the nature of a creative.  There is always more.  But it is a valuable thing to know when it is time to put something down and step back.  To appreciate a good creation, and let it rest.  

What are your upcoming creative goals?  (1-3)

I want to create really meaningful and satisfying work.  I want to hone my vision for storytelling, as well as my craft.  I want to be mentored, and learn a ton.  I want to grow.

Share a piece of wisdom you’ve learned.  (practical, philosophical, whatever you want!)

This quote by Ira Glass has spurred me on tremendously for the past two years, and continues to do so:  

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

*Please tell us about your giveaway & include a photo.  

Your choice of 5x7 print from my website, and if desired, I will write the story behind the photo on the back of the print.

We want to hear from you in the comments:

Can you recall a photograph that has stuck with you over the years?  
What is it and what do you feel when you think of it?
Also, let us know which print you'd like!

Comment by Friday for your chance to win!

For more of Bess' artistry, follow along on Instagram @bessbrownlee, I am currently loving her #longtimenoseemt series, and time spent perusing is always time well-spent.

Thank you so much, Bess!  

So glad to have you on PeaceLoveMusicGrows.


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