Tuesday, October 27

Finding my rhythm

We've been working our way through a stomach bug with at least two people down with it since Thursday. Symptoms seem to last about five days or so but no fever. Jake and Aliza currently have it. McKay stayed home yesterday saying he had a belly ache but it turned out that was more because he'd procrastinated some big homework assignments. Of course, he really felt bad when it dawned on him during FHE that they still needed to be done. Ugh. It was 10pm before we got to bed but Ryan helped him most until stuck on the German. Then we switched and he did dinner dishes while I helped with homework. We'd just fallen asleep around 11 when Aliza woke up soaked in puke and screaming. Fun times. She screamed through being cleaned up and for another half hour. I swapped Morgan beds thinking it'd be a long night. Aliza finally zonked out at 1. Morning came too early today again.

Homeschooling Morgan is going really well for her and I'm enjoying it. I can literally pull out our materials and start our school time, it's so nicely scripted. I've cut out co-ops from our schedule to give us more down time at home because it's already hard enough to get to chores and do my German class. It has been fun to focus on Morgan and see her improvement over the first month of doing this. She craves play time when the older boys get home and that's not first on their list so there's some common struggles there. Two or three times a week I have deliberate play times set up for her. A gal in the ward has a two hour structured get together from 12-2 where we all bring our own lunch and eat together, kids play, we do a game and craft and then it's time to go home. Wednesdays we go to a park or to the gym and check out balls to play with during and after Easton's guitar lesson. Thursdays there's an afternoon homeschooler playgroup we hit now and then. Some kids in the neighborhood have started gathering in a culdesac and so I'll send McKay and Morgan down to join them once a week. I feel like she's getting healthy socialization but once a week she'll say she does miss friends. For her birthday we had her friend spend the night while the boys were at a Scout campout. That little girl was not used to having a teething baby around making noise! It was interesting to see Morgan react to her and be confident in who she was. As we got ready for Morgan's soccer game, this little girl wouldn't dare wear a kitty ear head band Morgan offered as they were getting ready. It's Morgan's favorite right now. The friend said people would laugh at her so she would not wear it. Morgan said, "I like it and I wear it a lot. Lots of people like it." I was so proud of her :) Comfort and personal likes still rule her style for now. It'll change soon enough I'm sure but it's kinda nice to know we can preserve it a bit longer this year at least.

Jake's really enjoying German kindergarten, but him being sick right now is nice to have a break from getting us all out the door in the morning. I love his kindergarten and have heard it is the best one in our town and believe it! I hope I can get better at sitting down with him a few times a week to practice preschool things. He's rather reluctant unless we're being silly together doing it. He gets easily frustrated when his hand doesn't produce what his mind wants too on paper. His adorable enthusiasm and joy over simple things keep Ryan and I laughing and loving him at this age.

McKay is going to be tested for delays in his reading and language use. He's getting behind again and starting to feel overwhelmed with the struggle to do his work. Kids his age are experimenting with crude language and humor and so we're having conversations about that lately. He's really enjoying his after school programs -- Green Team (projects taking care of the school's rabbit right now), piano lessons, and MathQuest.

Easton seems to be doing well in his schooling and with friends. He likes doing the after school homework club to get homework done and a couple of his classmates are in there with him so sometimes they collaborate. I recently sat through a lecture on how the Int'l Baccalaureate program does their grades and it was so thorough and impressive but I felt bad for the teachers. It requires a lot of feedback from them and everything is done online which is great for parents to be able to check. He invited a buddy to Scouts last week for first aid certification. This week he's hoping another buddy will go Trick or Treating with us. 

Two months into the new school year and I'm finding my rhythm lately which is nice. I had to spend a month trying out different options for me and Morgan and it was exhausting! 

So here's the current rhythm we're in. Once Ryan and the boys head out in the morning, I get the rest of us ready for the day and work with Morgan and Jake to get their morning chores done. This zaps me. Every day. Then I take an hour to straighten the house a bit and recover from the emotional toll of doing chores with M&J. Around 10am, Aliza goes down for her nap and I start school with Morgan. We do school until 12, have lunch and finish whatever is left of school work but sometimes we're done in just an hour and a half. Typically takes 1.5-3 hours each day for her school work and I never know which because it often depends on how well she grasps the day's concepts. I'm using Calvert Education and it seems to be just what I needed for this adventure with Morgan. I spend the afternoon doing more chores, prepare dinner, feed Aliza, referee fights, kiss ouchies ... and we pick up the boys or they come home on the city bus. Homework, music practice time, chores, dinner, dinner cleanup and it seems like it's time for bed. Once or twice a week Ryan and I aren't worn out enough that we actually sit and watch a show or documentary together. 

Work has been tough lately for Ryan with some difficult personnel issues. This role is challenging him in many great ways but sometimes the personnel stuff is so off-putting that he wants to find something new. It astounds him how some people are satisfied with underperforming and exhibit a complete lack of professionalism. It was bad last week! 

The house hunt is yielding nothing after the perfect place turned us down for having five young children. Perhaps we're not supposed to stay here and that's why housing isn't working out? Who knows. But we toyed with that idea last week a bit. I really only get to search listings once or twice a week, there's just not much down time to sit and be on the computer during the day or in the evenings. I haven't read or listened to a book cover to cover since before Aliza was born and I miss it! Homeschooling Easton last year with a new baby and Primary presidency calling didn't provide me enough bandwidth to entertain reading/listening to books. I've compensated during this season with interesting podcasts and now Relief Society lesson preparation.

Aliza's keeping me busy with her daily circuit of destruction. I'd like to describe it here to have it documented since it's also what most of the other kids have done at this age of curious mobility. She typically begins in the kitchen. Water tower spigot test run, tupperware and towels cabinet undone, fiddle with knobs and buttons on oven/stove and dishwasher (!!!), check the trash for anything interesting, use stepping stool as a seat for her sippy cup break, rearrange or disassemble paper recycling bin, climb up on the stool(s) and get stuck so she must holler until found out. Remove all the magnets from the board with a flourish. Then, it's on to the bedrooms to inspect and dump various bins and spread contents at random through the apartment. Check out light switch in her room that she can push her porta-crib aside to get to. Give herself kisses and giggle in the new full length mirror I attached to my closet door. Try on shoes or try to put shoes on Mom while she's schooling Morgan. Kick and throw bouncy ball until an older sibling takes it away and start a screaming fit. Repeat process with any musical toy. In the laundry room, she likes to check the washing machine buttons to make sure I have to wash loads at least twice. Unroll the toilet paper rolls and unload the lowest drawer filled with headbands, selecting one to wear for a bit as a necklace. And by the time the circuit is completed a few times, it's time for a nap. At least once a day I try to put things in order before the next circuit begins but I'm always way behind her! She is so cute and cuddly, does more jabbering lately too with a couple discernible words - Mom, Dad, dog ... I'm sure her sibling names are jabbered too, I just haven't paid close enough attention.

Alright, I gotta get to my chores but it feels so good to document what my current season looks like. I am worn out but finding many moments throughout the day to be grateful that I have all these kids and get to be home to care for them. I only throw tantrums or melt down a few times a week, so we're keeping it real.

Wednesday, April 22

Jake's independence

He often wants to be a big kid but doesn't quite like the effort required. Examples- potty training and opening the door to go outside. Today he suited up for an outdoor adventure and I had him bring over his stool from the bathroom for a door opening tutorial. Not the first one, probably not the last. That's parenting! And look at his happy face! 

I love his imaginative playing!!! He's seriously easy because he's so content playing on his own in his own world! 

We were stuck at vehicle registration yesterday for over 2 hours with no toys and no snacks. He was perfectly content almost the entire time as he'd play with Aliza and then practice sliding on the filthy, but smooth floor. One man couldn't contain himself and said a few times, not to anyone in particular, "The floor is dirty!" I just looked him in the eye and said, "But he's happy." Just matter of fact, no anger.

There weren't enough chairs for those waiting and I had plenty of wipes, sanitizer and a bathroom nearby which made for good hand washing breaks when we needed a distraction. I don't have it in me to force my 3 yr old to act older than he is and endure making us all miserable when I could give him freedom and joy to be himself which lent itself to some very sweet, entertaining antics. Further, we were only going to be outside for the rest of the day so him getting dirty was only a matter of time and location. All his clothes are play clothes except for church ones. There are definite times when I would have had to enforce proper behavior but this wasn't one of them.

And there was another thing on my mind. There was a young pregnant woman sitting near us. This would be her first child. She was enjoying watching Jake and especially how he played with Aliza. She has a stepson Jake's age and she's anxious how he'll get along with the baby. You bet she paid attention to how I responded to the disgruntled man. I hope she'll remember that she can have confidence in her parenting - to do what's best for her child even when others are vocally disagreeing. I hope I can remember to keep this confidence too!

Monday, January 5

Digging in to the New Year!

Ryan sent me on a Mom Escape last weekend as my Christmas/birthday present. Nothing could top that in this season of my life! It was just the break I needed to have quiet time to think, write, sleep, and love on Aliza. We were recently surprised to find out we've accrued gold membership status on our Marriott card so I had three free days at the hotel with meals included. Awesome!!! And when I got home on Sunday morning, Ryan had packed up most of Christmas and my chores had been done while I was away - even the laundry! HALLELUJAH!!! He wins best husband prize! Seriously, this is the gift I want every year! We'd been trying to make my retreat happen since September, but life has been too full.

I spent the first day of my escape reading, working on Primary tasks, and then did a little shopping at the packed mall. I have a specific list of things I am in need of so of course I didn't find any of them! That evening I met a couple lovely friends for dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant. The next day I holed up in the hotel reading and writing, thinking about what I wanted from/for myself in 2015 in conjunction with three goals I'd written down on New Year's Eve.

My bishop is starting a leadership/inspiration business and I took the time to browse some of his website's posts. He and his wife are very goal-oriented and I never have been good with follow through so it was timely reading. One post mentioned a mission statement generator so I gave it a whirl and loved it. Here's the link - Franklin Covey Mission Statement Builder. I liked it so much, I emailed the link to Ryan and set up a dinner date for us that evening so we could hopefully have time to chat about our mission statement. Reading Ryan's mission statement had me in tears. I married a great guy and it captured parts of his heart that I hadn't seen in a while because we've been too busy keeping up with life. He inspires me!

Ryan dropped the kids at our friend's house and met me at a new restaurant, Joe Peñas, which is a Mexican food chain apparently. Ambiance was pretty good but the music was a little on the loud side for the conversations I wanted to have. We had high hopes for the food but it didn't pan out so well. I think if we'd ordered items we didn't have expectations for (chimichungas and enchiladas), we could have been pleasantly surprised. The drinks were delicious, at least! We brainstormed some of the places still on our travel bucket list and when they could be calendared. Travel feeds both of our souls and it is fun to see the kids getting excited about new adventures. Ryan has had his eye on Cypress and the ferry to Cairo, Thailand again and Cambodia (?!), and we'd both like to get up to Hamburg and Copenhagen. This year is filling up fast, however, with me and the kids heading to my folks' for the summer. YEEHAW!

After our date, I went back to the hotel and spent the rest of the evening finishing some computer tasks while starting to watch episodes of "Person of Interest" on Netflix. I must say I'm surprised to find a show I think Ryan and I will like together! And it's pretty clean too, so far - Hurray! 

On Sunday morning, I enjoyed breakfast before packing up and heading home. Loved seeing the kids again and how hard everyone had worked in my absence. It's so nice to go to the 1pm church schedule this year! After getting the kids' clothes ready, I headed off to ward council and the snowball began rolling. Had to make sure I fed Aliza during sacrament meeting so I could do Primary. It was showtime with a new row of Sunbeams! Jake and his cohorts did surprisingly well! By the time we got home, we were all starving and exhausted. So much so, in fact, that I don't recall much of last night other than that we were all in bed at 8:30!

As the kids aren't back in school for another week, I took my time today reading and planning healthier eating for my family by making a cheat sheet master list of nonstarchy vegetables, low sugar fruits, nutrient dense proteins, whole food fats, serving sizes, and number of servings recommended per day. I planned "Next Actions" for myself and emailed a few health conscious friends to get their input on the SANE eating/exercise methodology. One friend shared the OhSheGlows recipe website with me so I'm excited to start trying some of her favorites. When Ryan got home, I was so happy to see that my "Calorie Myth" book arrived today along with some shirts I ordered quite some time ago to accommodate my shape shifting body until it sizes down from my healthier eating. YAHOO! We had green smoothies and popcorn for dinner while watching a couple episodes of Dr. Who. 

For Family Home Evening, we took turns reading our Mission Statement answers aloud. This afternoon I had taken the three older kids aside and walked through the mission statement builder. It was fun hearing their answers and helping them shape them into what they truly desire out of life, what their natural strengths and weaknesses are, and how they can work on themselves this year. I loved the chance to chat with each of them one on one about how awesome they each are! I should do that more often! As we shared our mission statements tonight, Jake snuggled up next to me and eventually dozed off by the closing song. Man, he's dang cute! Aliza has been napping since dinner time when Ryan was able to coax a few giggles out of her with Easton's coaching. 

Aliza is such a joy and pretty predictable. At a week shy of 4 months, every once in a while she sleeps through the night but not with any pattern I can discern yet. I just zipped through "Happiest Baby on the Block" to glean a few refresher tips. Aliza is developing a bit of stranger anxiety already, especially of those who wear glasses! Her range of vision has recently expanded and she's beginning to grab at things now that she's discovered her hands. She actually likes tummy time which I've just started in the past week. The kids each daily take time to check in with her and it's just adorable. Jake oo's and ah's over her while sometimes showing off his super hero poses and costumes. Morgan bounces in and can't contain her energy as she babbles on with her sister to get good coos and smiles. McKay likes to snuggle Aliza and get her to smile. Easton is excited to coax laughs out of her and he just has to hold her at least once each time she's awake.

Ahhh, life is so good and we are feeling very blessed right now with health and our lil' crew of Carters.

Thursday, December 18

Sick Day = Christmas Break Preview

Anyone else wondering what they'll do with the kids home through the break? Our kids' break is three weeks long so I've started thinking of what we can do to not drive each other crazy in our close quarters. Christmas brings out my claustrophobia in this apartment because of all the decor and winter gear that must find homes in our already-maxed-out floor plan.

Last night McKay was up all night with a stomach bug so I kept him home from school today. And I didn't bother schlepping Morgan to/from school because she was so worn out yesterday from getting back to school this week after a bad cold she missed school for last week. That meant everyone but Ryan was home today. Good thing it wasn't errand running day and I'd had them do a good job on their chores yesterday!

By 9am, the kids were bored and begging for electronics. Noooooooo! That's my survival tool when I need it for them! We did some school worksheets I printed online and then they needed some projects. McKay loves to build stuff so we pulled out our recycle bin and he and Morgan went to town building castles while Easton did more school work.


Jake is loving having more playmates for the day!
Morgan and Jake planned and set a picnic lunch for everyone in their room.

All this buzzing around wore lil' Aliza out!

After lunch and castles got old, it was Perler beads and Pinterest to the rescue!

Morgan and Jake have this funny running thing of playing cat/dog and owner. Morgan made this "collar and leash" a couple months ago and it's survived quite well. Her school teacher said she has an uncanny knack for mimicking the mannerisms and sounds of animals and I heartily agree!

After perler beads, they migrated to the white boards and dry erase markers. I must confess this is not a typical day at our house by any means. We're not nearly this project oriented but as the kids get older, their toy bins inspire less of their attention. I have to up my game! I'm easily intimidated and overwhelmed and hands down outnumbered! I'm guessing by next Wednesday I'll be in countdown mode for when school begins again!

Because I'm actually blogging, I have to show this next one. Morgan likes to stage all her stuffed animals and other collections every single night before going to bed. I was a bit freaked out when I checked on her the other night before I headed to bed! Poor animals!

It was rather traumatic for me because one of my hamsters as a kid escaped from its cage and died this way. He'd gotten himself stuck under a dresser on the slide rail for a drawer which essentially looked like this. Sorry to give you that mental picture. Here's a fun one to counter it of our baby! Much better, eh?! I love her smiley twinkling eyes!

Aliza - 3 months
In spurts between keeping up with these rascals, I finished up teacher gifts (origami Christmas tree money bill on a card the kids wrote) while browsing . . .
  • The author of "The Calorie Myth" and his SANE Solutions podcast. Heard of it first on PowerofMoms podcast. Makes sense, just wished I liked eating more veggies!
  • 2015 planners - I bought the PassionPlanner after having printed and used its pages for the past three weeks. I prefer a Mon-Sun week view but I like the other spaces and priority prompts.
It's only 2pm and I'm plum worn out! I'm trying to hold out until 4:30 when I'll let them watch a movie while I get dinner going. We were supposed to go see the Hobbit tonight, Rats!

Wednesday, November 26

Aliza's name

Since Aliza was born in Germany, we wanted a name that reflected her German heritage. But a lot of them are doozies! I had a short list of names but hadn't settled on anything yet. I really liked the name Anna but really felt Johanna was to be her middle name because of its importance in our family history searching and finding here these past two years. Anna Johanna seemed redundant and weirdly rhymed with Hannah Montana. No thanks! Ryan really liked the name Taylor but it just didn't fit for me, mostly because it wasn't German.

As it happens, there are quite a few Elizas in our Eppelsheimer, Carter and Reid lines. In fact, I found another one this week! The most recent one, however, is Ryan's Prussian maternal great-grandmother, Elise. I can't help but think that she has been invested in our search for her family these past couple years.

The night before Aliza was born, I was watching a live broadcast from Frankfurt of a Europe Sisters meeting for our church. There was a wonderful quote shared about Eliza R. Snow, an important leader in our church from the latter 1800s. The quote was:

"She walked not in the borrowed light of others, but faced the morning unafraid and invincible."

When Aliza was born the next morning, this quote was fresh in my memory. She did indeed arrive in the morning, unafraid and seeming invincible. She was very content and curious about her new world. I felt her sweet little light of a spirit light up my life. This quote is one I plan to make her aware of her entire life to strengthen and inspire her to become all that she can become. 

With each of my babies, there's a song that plants itself in my head right away. For Easton it was "Teach me to walk in the Light." For McKay it was "I've been working on the railroad" and Morgan's was "I'm a little teapot." Jake's song was the simple Primary Song, "I love mommy, she loves me; We love daddy, yes-sir-ee. He loves us and so you see, we are a happy family." With Aliza, for whatever reason, the song that stuck in my head the day she was born, before a name was decided, was the children's song "Lil' Liza Jane" - the version about having friends in different cities around the US and world. I can't help but wonder what that portends for her life as it begins abroad.

So that's it then - a name from our families, the beautiful quote, and the silly song helped me choose her name. The other names just didn't fit after a couple days but Aliza seemed to so I stopped fighting it. Ryan had a hard time accepting this name, it didn't roll off his tongue. He couldn't figure out how we'd say it and spell it. Lucky for me, he had so much on his plate with the new contract that he left if up to me and my intuitions. 

Birth Story - Aliza Johanna

This was written the day after Aliza's birth. It's long and I haven't had time to give it a good edit, but I hate to wait for a good time to get it done because our life is just so very full these days!

About an hour after her birth. The Klinik uses these hand-knitted caps on babies, very German! 
Our much anticipated second daughter and fifth child arrived on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, at 8:43am at the FilderKlinik in Filderstadt, Germany. We are still considering names.

I was given the birth I had hoped, prepared and prayed for - relatively quick, all natural, and well supported by the clinic, trusting my own instincts to guide me in labor positions and how to employ Ryan to help me. I feel so thankful for my healthy shape-shifting body and the gift of a healthy precious baby to add to our family.

Baby girl was due September 12. I had made it known among friends and family that I was hoping she would come on a day numbered 5 or 0 in keeping with most of our family’s birthdays (McKay 4/10, Morgan 10/15, Easton 12/20, Ryan 9/25). Jake and I are 8/14 and 12/28, so kind of a pattern still. August 30th and September 5th came and went, lots going on in our house right now with the unknowns of Ryan’s delayed work contract approval, the current contract ending on the 15th, an interview for a job in Hawaii, school starting for McKay and Morgan, first time homeschooling Easton, my Primary President calling managing the routine summer turnover of 1/3 of the ward in children and staffing, and Ryan’s early morning Seminary calling starting up again. Our life is very full at this time!

On Tuesday night, September 9th, there was a Europe Area Sisters Meeting and I watched it via live broadcast from Frankfurt in my bed that evening. Technology ROCKS! I sat up propped by pillows hoping gravity would encourage labor in addition to a full day’s activity and wearing a pendant with clary sage and Whisper blend essential oils that my friend Stacey had shared with me. The meeting was really wonderful and reflective of many subtle changes and considerations recently being seen by the Church in regards to women. Apostles Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife Barbara and Elder Bednar and his wife Susan were the key speakers for the night, joined by Elder Hallstrom (of the Presidency of the 70) and his wife Diane, and the Area President Elder José Teixeira and his wife. The Apostles held this broadcast while in Europe I believe to reorganize a stake or two among other things, but they both reiterated that they were holding this special meeting simply to say thank you on behalf of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to the women for “standing strong” and their “simple steady goodness” among the secular influences of our day. Really great messages shared by the sisters and elders!

Afterward, I went to clean up dinner, a little miffed that it hadn’t been done by the kids and Ryan. But I just couldn’t leave it for tomorrow and wake up to feeling behind again. While I was finishing up, Ryan came in and said that he’d gotten the final offer from SRA and it hadn’t budged from the initial contingency offer. He was completely frustrated. SRA had been awarded the new contract Ryan has been on for almost 6 years now with US European Command here in Stuttgart, Germany. I was too tired to be supportive as his wheels were turning. He felt deflated, wondering how it was that they were doing nothing to honor the expertise and cultivated network he brought to the table. All project managers were offered the same salary regardless of how long they’d worked there. I was simply relieved the offer came and that we knew we could live on it. Was it less than we make now and mean that we couldn’t “build wealth and travel” like we’ve been able to before? Undoubtedly! But on the eve of having our fifth child and all that we have going on right now, Ryan’s job security is premium piece of mind for me since job hunting is an uncertain and lengthy process. At this time, I do not have the earning potential he does, nor ability to jump into the workforce. I tried to smooth things over with him as we went to bed but he was too keyed up as I drifted off to sleep around 11:30 or so.

At 3:45 I was awoken with an image of my baby descending through the birth canal and realized the pain I was feeling was probably a contraction. Five minutes later I had another contraction - the kind of pressure and pain of opening up. This continued for 30 minutes of regular contractions before I got up and started assembling my go bag. Good thing I’d written up a list although I was very distracted and the list was incomplete. (I’d forgotten to list my “Mutterpass” and we showed up at the Klinik without it. It’s the German version of a woman’s health record through her reproductive years.) At almost 5am, contractions were still regular so I woke Ryan up and let him know. By 5:30 he’d gotten the kids up to get dressed so we could take them to Josie and John Pitkin’s home on the way to the Klinik.

The kids were abuzz with excitement to go to Josie’s house and that the baby was coming! Ryan told the kids to let me be during contractions and they were really sweet. Through one contraction, McKay (8) came up and softly rubbed my back as I leaned on the piano. The contractions at this point really did require me to stop and breath through them. Ryan helped me finish packing up a bag of food for the kids and I had a bag with changes of clothes for the kids and diapers for Jake. Then there was my suitcase. I knew I was forgetting one or more important thing as we turned off the lights and left.

On Sunday night, Ryan and I had realized this week could be rather complicated if I had the baby because of his potential in-processing for the new contract and seeing to coverage of the kids. I emailed a few friends to see what their week looked like, made a schedule and list of everyone’s phone numbers and addresses. My Primary Secretary, Josie, wanted to help and kept her week open. She's such a godsend! My visiting teacher, Ashley Andersen, said she could provide rides or watch kids. My homeschool co-op friends, Anna Palfreyman and Emily Eskelsen would pitch in where they could. It wasn’t a detailed, perfect plan but it was a starting point. I'm so grateful for being able to rely on good friends while so far away from family back home!

We dropped off the kids at 6 to Josie’s and it was another 10 minutes to the FilderKlinik. As we got out of the van, Ryan opened the trunk and we realized he’d given my suitcase to Josie rather than the duffel with their things. Classic! We got into the building and he called the Pitkins to see if John could come swap the bags. The stuff we needed immediately was in my regular bag I carry - the camera, my ID, phone, camera charger and such. We’d be okay. As we got to registration, I started a contraction and the woman just told us to make our way to labor and delivery “Entribung” or something. Essentially, we just had to following these guiding dots on the floor. As we made our way there Ryan and I got separated because he had to finish his call to Pitkins before he lost his signal. He quickly caught up to me for I’d sat down for a couple contractions in front of the elevator.

I chose this FrauenKlinik because I liked the feel of the rooms and staff when I visited in late June. Böblingen Krankenhaus was essentially like giving birth in the US in it’s medical interventionist approach while being a midwife-assisted birth. This time around I really hoped I could be brave and try a natural birth with the assistance of Ryan and supportive like-minded midwives. I’d watched “The Business of Being Born” series this past year, read Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” twice, followed a few blogs on this topic, and sought out the wisdom and experience of a handful of friends and family members. All together, they confirmed previous birth experiences and feelings I've had so I felt led to pursue a natural birth if the pregnancy remained healthy and normal. I am so grateful for the medical world and the options available to women giving birth these days. I begrudge no one what they choose for their births because only they know what they are willing and able to handle for each of their births and there are unforeseen circumstances that require all that modern medicine can offer.

This time around, however, I felt my body could give birth naturally if I could get over my fears and work through it. I knew that Ryan is and would be a great birth partner because he is intuitively calm and supportive - he just needed to know from me what was helpful and not helpful. I wanted to see if I could do this, surrender to it and own it. In labor now, I was scared but hopeful I wouldn’t lose my nerve. No narcotics and epidurals are offered at this Klinik and it was go time!

A midwife, Isabelle, greeted us, fresh on her shift for the day. She spoke near perfect English and was just the perfect temperament for us. She put us in a labor room and soon had me hooked up to a fetal monitor to get the initial 30 minute baseline readings. I laid on the bed for the first 15 minutes or so and then decided to stand through contractions again like I had at home.

After my recent second read through and highlighting of Gaskin’s book about a month ago, I’d written up a quick page and a half cheat sheet for Ryan. As we got into our room at the Klinik I told him to pull it out and review. The key was for him to see how I labored and help me relax through contractions so that I would work with them, not against them. For me, this meant I needed to focus on relaxing my brow, my jaw, my shoulders, allow my birth canal sphincter to open up, and to relax my calves and feet. Ryan was to help me do this and remind me to breath/moan low and deeply and not panic and tense up. As a contraction begins to build, I always find some fixed point to stare at and focus on. We figured out quickly that I don’t like a lot of talking while I’m in labor. Of the mantras I’d gleaned through the book, I only wanted to hear short words or phrases like “open” and “relax.” I felt a lot of pressure on my tailbone so I told Ryan to apply pressure there. We figured out rubbing with the palm was not my favorite, but that firm pressure of a few fingers on that area like one was slowly playing a few notes on a piano felt better.

Because I’d forgotten my Mutterpass, they had no information on me and my history which was troubling but not insurmountable because I was calm, laboring well, and “experienced.” We were trying to figure out who to call and bring it to us while Isabelle did my internal exam. She found my cervix very pliable and I was dilated 6-7 centimeters!!! YAY!!! I was so happy and relieved! I knew I was doing something right by really letting standing/gravity help me work with contractions. She continued her exam through a contraction to see how well they were working and said they were nice and strong. I would be moving to a delivery room soon she said!

Isabelle then manipulated my belly to feel the position of the baby’s back, legs and head asked me to stay on the monitor, laying on my left side on the bed so that the baby could turn just a bit to a more optimal birth position. Meanwhile, Ryan was needed down at registration. Isabelle stayed with me, but she was busy getting everything situated to transfer me to a delivery room around the corner. Soon she wheeled me and our stuff there, finishing room preparations as I had a few more contractions. Not fun on my side in the bed in a hallway!

At this point I had begun low moaning the word “open” over and over through contractions and trying to focus on head to toe relaxing and not fighting each contraction as it swept over me. During the very short breaks between contractions I felt exhausted and would almost doze off before the next one would start. Each contraction also raised my temperature so that I felt hot and sweaty during it but then normal temperature during the reprieves. I remember thinking that during prior labors I would have never moaned aloud in a hallway! I had been to inhibited to make a sound until during Jake’s labor last time when I let out some grand hollers and screams during pushing which terrified Ryan!

Finally Isabelle brought me into the delivery room which had a birthing bed, tub, birth stool, all the amenities — it was the room I’d hoped to get because it was so large and well lit from big windows. For a fleeting minute I’d wondered if I should try for a water birth, it sounded nice. But there was no time to really consider it because another contraction was upon me. I told her I wanted to stand and lean on the bed. Actually, I believe I only said the word “Stand” in a caveman grunt and she could tell what I was going to do by watching me labor in the other room. She raised the end of the bed to about elbow height for me to lean on. (This was a miracle because the bed was completely temperamental any time she tried to work the controls later.) Soon Ryan was there again and it’s all pretty much a blur from there because contractions were progressively stronger and closer together.

Ryan was helping to apply pressure on my tailbone or maybe he and Isabelle both were. A staff doctor was also in the room but I still don’t remember her name. She had a kind, experienced face so I felt in good hands should she be needed. My water broke during the peak of a hard contraction and I said I wanted to push. Ryan attests that everyone kicked into serious action. This baby was coming fast!

Each contraction now threatened my sanity and had the burning sensation I knew was the head crowning. It is at this point when you want someone to tell you one more contraction and baby’s out because you literally don’t know if you will survive being torn in two from within! I was still standing and Ryan had grabbed my hands from across the bed and was trying to tell me to keep calm and to focus on something but I don’t remember what. At one point of intensity in a contraction, I actually bit his hand I was gripping! He squawked and I released, but man - don’t mess with a woman in labor, we can’t be held accountable for what we’ll do! (The kids love to share this detail now!)

Isabelle told me she was applying heated oil cloths which I understand is to help prevent tearing during crowning. That did provide some relief but next thing I knew she and the doctor and Ryan were demanding that I sit on the birthing stool for better stability. They gently but firmly lowered me against my instincts onto the stool. My legs were shaking and she was coming so quickly that they didn't want Aliza to slip out too fast for them to safely catch! Ryan was now behind me on a chair higher than mine and I was resting against him between his legs. I must have only pushed a couple more times and our baby girl was born! I don’t remember being able to focus on anything during those last insane pushes until my eyes settled on her on my chest. We hadn’t even had time to take off my skirt, bra, or shirt! It had all gone so quickly! (I’m so grateful for this because I’m a rather modest person and had feared the midwives would demand I labor naked as a friend had experienced here.)

What an incredible comfort it was to be cradled against Ryan as we welcomed this new baby girl to the world! I was so relieved she was here and that the hardest part of labor was now done! And I was so relieved that she and I were healthy to my knowledge at the moment! I had tears in my eyes, she was here!!! I’d been given the birth I’d hoped, prepared, and prayed for. So many things can and do go awry during a birth and I was just so grateful for a smooth delivery! We were so blessed!!! I had Ryan, this wonderful man I love - who somehow puts up with me - to enjoy this beautiful, wide-eyed little lady with. Ryan was so shocked at how fast it all went! He was incredulous and so very proud of me! It was one of the best, most fulfilling moments of my life!