Monday, June 23, 2014

Because I'm Happy

"We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do."
"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
- Mother Teresa 

My 8-month-old son can't do much right now, but there is one thing he does better than anyone I've ever known - this boy can SMILE. If Henry had a theme song it would most definitely be "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Henry's love is contagious and infectious. He is so small, but his joy is so big.


















Yesterday our church participated in a service project where we were sent in groups to do different things - serve in a soup kitchen, install new carpeting at a local school, and pack school bags to be sent to children in need. Wes, baby Henry, and I were asked to go with a group of people to sing hymns at a local assisted living center. 

Henry has a thing for old people. One could argue that Henry loves everyone, but we've noticed he has a special love for those older and wiser ones among us - and they love him something fierce right back. So hearing about the opportunity to serve at an assisted living facility seemed great for Henry! But to be honest, I wasn't looking forward to it.  Old people have always kind of scared me. They are fragile. And they can't hear you. And what are you suppose to talk about? And sometimes old people are mean! But this wasn't about me. This was about Henry.

As soon as he walked through the door he put on that Henry charm! As we sang, he distracted several older patients with his smiles, and they were delighted. My eyes welled up with tears at one point as he literally lit up the room. People who looked so sad a moment ago could gaze at my boy and feel joy. People wanted to touch him and talk to him...he made them feel alive. It was worth my discomfort to see their smiles. Needless to say, I have a feeling we will be taking him back to visit again. 

My sweet baby is already an inspiration to me. He reminds me of the important things in this world (and the important people). All we really need is to be present with one another. That is the beauty of grace and love. We don't have to do anything - we just have to be willing to BE with each other. 

I want my son to always know that before he could do anything else - before his words or any other kind of action - his smiled changes lives. Some day when he has nothing to say and doesn't know what to do, I want him to remember that he can smile, and maybe that's all he needs to do. 



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Being Kinda Crunchy

If you've never heard the term "crunchy" in relation to parenting/birth (like I hadn't before a couple of years ago) let me give you some context before you keep reading.

"Crunchy" or "Granola" are ways people identify a certain type of lifestyle/parenting style. It's very natural, holistic, and often child led. Check out this website for a general overview of what a crunchy parent might look like from the blog "Pistachio Project".

I definitely identify with this crunchy lifestyle, but...I'm not all the way crunchy. I'm just kinda crunchy. I pick and chose what works best for us. But being only kinda crunchy sometimes makes it hard to feel like you fit. I'm not one extreme or the other, so I can get flack on both sides for not being enough like them.

I honestly believe that each family is so unique. We as parents and people are vastly different, and you're also throwing in a baby who is also beautifully different than any other baby. No one set of philosophies will work for your special family. The most important thing about finding a parenting style or choice for your family, is to INCLUDE THE WHOLE FAMILY! Look at the needs of every one in the family, and listen to the thoughts of your partner. It was crucial for me to include Wes in our decision making so we all felt comfortable with what was happening.

Here's a list of where I'm crunchy, and where I'm not. Every family has to choose what works for them, and here's why we choose the things we do. (And as a note, all of these are fluid. As parenting should be!)

My Crunchy Side:

I Exclusively Breastfeed
We exclusively breastfeed and feed on demand. Henry has always been quite good at letting us know when he is hungry, and now at 6 months is even starting to sign "milk" to us! (I'm one proud mama!) We choose to listen to the one whose tummy is telling him he needs more milk, not to a set schedule. We will also nurse as long as both mama and baby are happy doing it. When one or both of us are done, we will end it. We may extend breastmilk (even if it's in a sippy cup and not in the form of actual nursing) longer than maybe what is the "norm" (that seems to be the 1 year mark) because of Henry's dairy allergy too. I feel SO BLESSED that I only need my husband to watch our baby for 5 of my 30 hours of work a week (two days split into 2.5 hours - the rest of time I get to take Henry with me!) so he doesn't even need a bottle! I just nurse right before I leave, and nurse again when I get back! I don't even remember the last time Henry had a bottle....

I love Babywearing
I wear the heck outta this baby!! It is a godsend for him and I, as I get to take him to work with me as a nanny. He naps about 3-4 times a week right there in my ergo. It makes walks fun, and keeps him close to me if we are out and about. Did you also know that babies who are worn don't need to have as much tummy time? Henry has always had excellent neck strength and I credit the ergo carrier!

We Have a Family Bed
I wasn't planning on a family bed before our sweet one was born but for us, right now, it just makes sense. Henry has dealt with so many allergic reactions as we were trying to find out what he was allergic to, that he wakes up very very often in the night with pain from itchy skin or painful gas - and that's on top of still nursing every 2 hours. It made sense to keep him as close as possible to comfort him - and I love it! (And so does he! He's a very social people person, so he enjoys that close touch) We will slowly and gently transition him into his own crib when the time is right, but for now we all safely co-sleep together.

I Chose to Have an Unmedicated Birth and Use Midwives
I wanted to try and have a natural unmedicated birth, and in the end, that's what I got. And I do want to note that I left it open to mine and my midwife's discretion to suggest an epidural if we felt it was appropriate, and if I hadn't been 10 cm and ready to push when I got to the hospital I may have had one (it was tempting, guys). We chose to deliver at the local hospital with a midwife, which before getting pregnant I would have never even thought about doing! But I am so SO SO thankful to have used our midwife group. They were so gentle yet strong, and caring and such advocates! I am so glad I was able to have my son unmedicated and would do it a million times over. It changed me in ways I have no words for.


My Not-So-Crunchy Side:

We Use Disposable Diapers
I thought about cloth diapers, and even acquired some free used ones from a friend, but in the end after talking it over with my husband, it just made sense in our family to use disposables. I can barely keep up housework at all and I just knew with my personality those dirty cloth diapers would be sitting in that wet bag for weeks....and that's just gross :)

I Don't Make My Own Baby Food (yet?)
I am extremely awesome at being a mom, okay? But there is literally no one worse than me at being domestic. I can barely microwave food without messing it up. Wes is the cook in our family (Thank God I found you!!) and for now I'm not interested in making our own pureed baby food, (except for banana and avocado, cause even I can do that one). I may change my mind on this later (because I was given a baby food maker recently), but for now we get Earth's Best organic baby food and that's good enough for us :)

We Vaccinate on Schedule
I know this can be a controversial conversation, but we feel it is important to vaccinate on schedule with the national recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and felt that it was best for our family based on research we did. We will though be having a conversation at our next appointment to see if any of the vaccines have egg in them, as that is Henry's biggest allergy, and see if that will be an issue. (I didn't even know that some vaccines had egg in them until I found out about Henry's allergy!!)




















Sunday, January 12, 2014

Reflections on Communion - My Baby

Communion is special to me. I have always felt so connected to the gospel story when I receive that sacred sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.

So it was fitting that the week I found out I was pregnant, it was communion Sunday. I was filled with emotion as I received that communion. The body and blood of Christ, this very special eucharist meal, was nourishing this body - my body. It was giving me life, and in turn, it was being passed to my child. I see communion in very physical terms. It is deeply spiritual, but it is also physical for me. So as my body ingested communion that day, I cried, knowing that as this food literally sustains me, it helps my body grow this precious life. I was able to pass that beautiful gift of communion onto my son before he even left my body. I continued to receive communion throughout my pregnancy and it was a cherished time for me. 

Last Sunday was the first Sunday Henry was outside of my womb and in Church on a communion Sunday. I held him close. This moment was special to me. I knew it was special for my husband as well, and he asked to hold him as we walked up to receive the sacraments, but I selfishly shook my head. "I want him this time." I whispered. He can hold him during communion any other time, but this first one - this one is special for me. It was the first time he was really here with us, receiving communion as a family. We had shared that together, just the two of us, for so long and now he would  get to expeiece it with the Church. We walked up and after I received each element, the pastor put her hand on my sweet baby's head and said "Henry, this is the body of Christ broken for you," and the intern next to her proclaimed "Henry, this is the blood of Christ shed for you." It was a beautiful moment I will always hold dear to my heart.



Thursday, January 2, 2014

Moments

Last year I participated in One Word 365 in picking one word for the year. Last year my word was "Generous"Their website (oneword365.com) says it best:

"Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.
It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow. Discover the big impact one word can make. One word. 365 days. A changed life."

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The last few months of last year, as my sweet son has come into our lives, I have been bombarded with the word "moment". Live in the moment. Cherish this moment. This moment won't last forever. Last year it took a while for me to pick my "one word" but this year the word seemed to pick me. 

My sweet baby boy is now almost 10 weeks old as I write this. In those first few weeks of his life I was utterly exhausted (No surprise right? Sleep deprivation is the inevitable christening of parenthood). Those midnight feedings...oh God...they were hell to me. Saying that I love sleeping is an understatement. I freaking LOVE to sleep. I use to tell people I'd be totally happy if I could sleep all the time and just dream about the real world. My bed was my happy place. I love sleep. And my son had other plans. Henry nursed every single hour for the first 3 weeks of his life. And the next few weeks it was every hour and a half. And then every 2 hours, and finally at almost 10 weeks old, he has stretched his feedings out to every 3 hours. If you would have told me a year ago that I would REJOICE over only having to wake up every 3 hours I would have laughed at you. I knew a new baby would wake up to fed at night...but...I had no idea it was like THIS. I am beyond elated right now that (for now) my son wakes up at 12:30, 3:30 and 6:30. But this is not what I want to write about.


In those early days of nursing every hour, I was angry.  I was angry at my baby. I was so desperate for sleep that after feeding at 1:00am, when 2:00 would roll around and he would be screaming, I would get so close to his face and I would shush and shush and shush and say "Please go to sleep, please go to sleep. I just want to sleep" over and over. Wes would often "rescue" me and without a word, just take him out of my arms and leave the room. Motherhood is hard. Sometimes we do things and think things we wish we didn't. And I am sad that I wasted so much time trying to shush my boy. 


I have followed Megan Tietz over at SortaCrunchy for several years now, and picked up her book "Spirit-Led Parenting" when I found out I was pregnant. During those tough first weeks I opened up her book and read the chapter on sleep. The words that Megan and co-author Laura wrote spoke straight to my heart.




"In truth, our roles as parents do not end in late evening and pick up again when the sun rises. The way we parent our children at night is just as crucial to their development as the way we parent in the day time hours." 
"...could I possibly conceive of the idea that these moments alone in the dark and quiet at night were a gift from [God]?...Rather than viewing these little interruptions at night as exhausting drudgery and empty sacrifice, perhaps I could use them as pockets of solitude and prayer and scripture meditation...The nights that once held heartache now held the promise of peace and the comfort of communion with [God]." 
"...these new baby days (and nights) do not last forever, and there is more rest just around the corner... and there is a part of you that will someday miss sitting in your cozy recliner in the nighttime stillness with a baby snuggled up in your arms...you may find yourself drawing your little one just a bit closer to you in that big chair, thanking God for the gift of that moment."

I began to challenge myself in those awful midnight feedings. Instead of dreading them - being on Facebook while I nursed my baby, trying to pass the time quickly, I began to stop and pray. Staring at his sweet face, noticing that his eyelashes are growing. Seeing a milk-drunk sleep smile as he unlatches. Thanking God for this beautiful boy, thanking God for this moment that I have with him. I will never have this moment, right here, ever again. In this little routine of midnight feedings, with just one small change in my thinking, I have actually begun to enjoy these times. And so now those moments I use to hate have become moments I love and hold dear to my heart. 


I have a song that I sing to Henry almost every day. It's a song from the 70's that my sister found when I was pregnant. "This song is for Henry!" she told me as she showed me this video. And it is. The words are simple and sweet: "If I had words to make a day for you, I'd sing you a morning golden and new. I would make this day last for all time, give you a night deep in moonshine" The whole song repeats this refrain. I've been singing this song to him since before he was born, and it is the perfect reminder to me to cherish these moments. 


Warning: this song is epically 70's. I sing it to him in a much more acoustic and folksy way ;)

So for this year I want to focus on the moments. Not only to be present in the sweet and easy day time moments but to cherish the ones I don't even yet realize are moments I won't want to forget (like the way he may wake up crying, but I'm the one who knows exactly how to comfort my child and make him feel so loved).  


So my one word is MOMENTS. And I don't want to miss a single one. 


Henry after nursing in the middle of the night.





Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Henry Wayne - Our Birth Story

This is my birth story. A sacred journey. A hard and laborious journey. A joyous journey. Our story.

To start at the beginning, we had decided pretty early on in the pregnancy to use midwives and have the baby at the Princeton/Plainsboro hospital. Throughout the pregnancy and going to our prenatal visits and birthing classes, we fell in love with our midwife group. They were 4 wonderful women whose only goal was to care for you and empower you to do whatever you wanted to and to help educate you in those decisions. They were all so warm and caring and made us both feel so comfortable.

I was pretty flexible in what I wanted for the labor and delivery: I knew I wanted to try to have the baby unmedicated, but I was also not opposed to an epidural if I felt I needed one. For that reason, Wes and I discussed creating a code word, that only he and I knew, that meant "I'm not joking around, I want an epidural." and we asked in our written birth plan that no nurses offer it to me - I would let them know if I wanted one. Our code word was "Barry Bonds" cause…you know…he cheated by taking steroids… ;)

I went to sleep friday night Oct. 25th smiling at Wes. I said to him "Our baby is coming soon!" (as I had lost the mucus plug 2 days earlier) but I had no idea it would be early that next morning. A few nights before I went into labor I remember pondering the impending birth. I felt an incredible sense of peace and calmness about labor and delivery. "Maybe I'm just naive," I kept telling Wes "But I don't feel scared or nervous about this. I just feel so much peace around me."

At 3:00am I woke to my water breaking. I rushed to the bathroom and yelled "Wes! I'm pretty sure my water just broke!!" "It did?!" He said half asleep. I got our midwife group on the phone and Ursula was on call at that time. "Do you have contractions?" she asked. "Not yet." "Well, try to get a few hours of sleep and call back when your contractions start. You need your energy!"

I got about an hour of sleep before my contractions started at 4:00am. They were very mild at that point so I nudged Wes "Hey…my contractions started…but go back to sleep." (I knew I needed him to have energy to help me when they started getting difficult.) I rested but timed my contractions for 2 hours before waking Wes up. At that point the contractions were still very manageable but I needed help timing them. They were roughly 8 minutes a part lasting for 45 seconds and as the time went on became very inconsistent. 5 minutes a part, 8 minutes a part, 10 minutes a part, 6…ect. We were told by our midwives throughout the pregnancy to wait until the contractions were 5 minutes a part lasting for a minute for 2 hours before coming into the hospital - they are big advocates that you are most comfortable in your home so to stay there as long as possible if you want a natural birth.

Soon after my 6:00am contractions, I tried laboring in different rooms and in different positions but eventually found my sweet spot: I labored a good 8 hours in our master bathroom. I stacked all our pillows up and leaned over it with my arms crossed to lay my head on, and was on my knees. We called it my "birthing fort".

The Birthing Fort

At each contraction, I swayed back and forth and instinctually made tonal sounds to get through the contractions (Wes said later that he considered recording the sounds because he said "they sounded pretty" and later, after my boy was born, I whispered to him "I sang you out") with each contraction getting stronger I would tell myself that each one would bring me closer to my baby. It was actually quite amazing, because at times I could actually feel my baby wiggle and move into position. We were doing this together. It is such a beautiful miracle that my body and my baby know what to do. I just had to trust both.

Wes was a phenomenal partner for me during labor, and I have never felt closer to him. He would sweetly guide me through each contraction. At this point from about 10:30am - 12:00pm the contractions were 5 minutes a part lasting for a minute so he knew as he was keeping track of them what the time frame would be. He would gently tell me at the 30 second mark "Okay, you are half way done, you can do this," and as it neared the minute mark he would say "You are almost done. Do you feel it trailing off? It's fading away now…" Our rhythm and routine of getting through these contractions made it easy to cope, even though the pain was increasing. Around 12:00pm the contractions started to become inconsistent again ranging from 3 minutes a part to 8 minutes a part but mostly 5 minutes a part so I had Wes call our midwife (Carolyn was now the midwife on call) and told her the timing of the contractions and that we were thinking about heading to the hospital because the pain was increasing to where it was almost unbearable. "Well…" she said "If your goal is an unmedicated birth I'd really like her to stay there longer…until they are 3 minutes a part consistently. Why don't you try getting into your bath and see if that helps."

I had heard over and over again that for the first birth, you should expect to labor for 24 hours, and I had known several recent births that went 30+ hours. I kept thinking to myself "If I get to the hospital and I am only a few centimeters dilated, I really want an epidural" if only for endurance sake. I was coping well, but at that point I had only been in labor for 9 hours. I couldn't imagine twice or three times as long.

I wasn't particularly happy about hearing that she wanted me to stay home longer, as the pain was increasing, but Wes drew me a bath as I worked through a few more contractions. I got into the tub and after a few minutes the next contraction came…and I NEEDED TO PUSH. I actually had to stop my body from pushing because it instinctually starting bearing down. "Uhhh Wes…I think I have to push." Wide eyed he said "DON'T DO THAT!" I had another contraction with same feeling of needing to push. Wes called the midwife and told her about my urge to push. "Why don't you just come on down then." she said. As I started to get out of the bath I said our code word. "Wes, I'm Barry Bondsing it right now. If she checks me and I'm only 4 centimeters, I want an epidural." "Ok…" Wes said. Though he says now he didn't believe me. I had labored through contractions for 9 hours peacefully at home, and we were now headed off to the hospital.

Yeah…Barry Bonds….

At 1:00pm we arrived. After some difficulties getting registered in at the hospital, finally at 1:30pm my midwife arrived. She had me lay on the hospital bed to check my dilation. "Amanda..." she said, "You are fully dilated" My eyes got big. "I am?!" "Yep, you are 10cm, station 2 and I feel your baby. You don't have to breathe through your contractions anymore. You can push any time you want." I was able to push when I wanted, as many times as my body felt like it needed to, and hold it as long as my body wanted to. The midwife trusted my body, and so did I.

Carolyn, our midwife, was so wonderful! Her words were so encouraging, telling me that each push was moving my baby closer. She would shout "beautiful!" at my pushes, and it made me feel like I was so powerful!

My baby and I worked together, and I pushed for an hour before my sweet boy was born at 2:48pm. 11 hours after my contractions started. They put him immediately on me, skin to skin. I had my eyes closed as I pushed that last push, so for a minute after they laid him on me I still had them closed, just feeling him in my arms. I opened them and saw those sweet eyes looking up at me. "Hi, baby." I whispered to him over and over again. I also kept looking at Wes and saying "I did it!" it utter disbelief. Henry barely cried when he came out, he really just grunted and whimpered, which he still does now at 5 week old. I was able to have Henry on my chest for 45 minutes, and many of the newborn procedures were done while I held him.

My birth was such a beautiful experience. I knew I wanted to try to have him naturally, but in the back of my head I was never sure of myself. But I did it. We did it. All three of us. My birth has changed me in ways I still can't articulate. I felt empowered and confident. I was able to let go of the fear of child birth, and see that it is the best pain I could ever go through. It was perfect. And it was the best day of my life.



My sweet boy


Henry Wayne Ellis 7lbs 10oz 19.75in

The day we were released from the hospital




Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Child

If you don't already know,. I am pregnant. And being pregnant, for me, is one of the best things I've ever been able to experience. As hard as pregnancy can be (and mine has had some rough patches so far) there is more joy and wonder than anything. And I would endure it forever for this baby.

I asked a friend of mine who was over due at the time, what it was like. "It's like waiting to see the face of your best friend." And being 25 weeks pregnant, I feel the same. This child has become a part of me. He is a friend I have yet to meet. I don't know anything about him, but I love him more than I have loved anything in this world. How can that even happen?! I have never seen him, and yet I would give my life for him.

My child,
I love you.
Before you have done anything.
Before your ups and downs
and before mine.
I love you.
Nothing could ever take it away,
because it was here before you even began.
I love you,
My child. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Be Generous

Last year I followed Megan over at SortaCrunchy pick "one word" to guide her year instead of a traditional new years resolution. She is doing it again this year with the word "serve", and so is my friend Alyssa over at All Things Beautiful picking the word "seek".


If you haven't heard of picking a word for 2013  but want to, you still have time! It's actually something that quite a few people are doing. And by now you might have given up on those resolutions you made a month ago anyway, so join with me! It's a wonderful way to focus on one positive thing you want to be this year. Their website (oneword365.com) says it best:

"Forget New Year’s Resolutions. Scrap that long list of goals you won’t remember three weeks from now anyway. Choose just one word. One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.
It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow. Discover the big impact one word can make.
One word. 365 days. A changed life."


Now look, I know it's February, but I spent most of December and January thinking about what word I wanted to use and nothing felt right! Then all of the sudden it came like a gentle whisper:  "Be generous".



I desperately want to be more generous, but it's going to have to be a conscious decision each day. I know this is a problem area for me, as I hold so tightly to money. Money sucks, okay?! It comes with anxiety and depression. People often judge you on how you spend your money.  I KNOW it's hard for me, and I tend to beat myself up saying "Stop being so controlling." and "Stop being so consumed with money." But I think I need to stop telling myself what NOT to do, and start saying the positive:  "Be generous". It's so much more freeing to see the beauty of what can be, rather than the ugly of what has been done.

I just don't want money to rule me anymore. I want to see a need and feel freedom in faith that if I meet the need of someone else, I will still be taken care of too. I guess that's what it comes down to. I'm afraid I won't be taken care of. I've put my own well being over someone else, without faith that God won't let me fall.

What would my life look like if I just stopped being so afraid?

I'm not saying be frivolous with money. No, we still need to be responsible adults! But what would it look like if we started actually budgeting and allowed a "generous" fund? Putting aside a fraction a month and seeing where it takes us.

Now, when I say I want to be generous, I'm not just talking monetarily, but that's a big one for me. I want to be generous by being intentional. Being generous with my time when I notice my neighbor is having a bad day and just needs to talk. Generous with my food, by making a meal for a friend whose having a hard week. I just want to have a giving heart. An open heart. A seeking heart.

I use to pray a prayer almost every day in high school that went like this:

"Open my eyes, my ears and my heart to the needs of those around me, and may I meet those needs as best as I can. "

What if I started praying this again each day when I woke up? Would it change the way I saw the events of my day? Probably! I can't see how it would make it worse. When we center ourselves each day and point ourselves in a certain direction, it will subconsciously guide us. Our hearts will be more aware of the opportunities to carry out what we want to do and be.

Trust me, this is not easy! I've literally had to say to myself "Be more generous" in situations where I would normally clutch tightly to my wallet or my watch. But I want to try. I want to try to be generous this year. Will you join me in this journey?

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Going Forward

1) Pray the "needs" prayer when I wake up in the morning. "Open my eyes, my ears and my heart to the needs of those around me, and may I meet those needs as best as I can. "

2) Write the word "generous" all over my house! As many reminders as possible (Mirror, fridge, door).

3) Start budgeting in envelopes, Dave Ramsey style, and have an envelope titled "be generous."

4) Listen to the prayer requests at church each Sunday and pick one that I feel drawn to and imagine how it would look to be generous in that situation.