The Birth of Mary Joy

28 July 2015

I don’t post on this blog anymore, but tomorrow is my sweet baby girl’s first birthday and the first anniversary of her birth. It was a magical and wonderful birth, though not Perfect like Leif’s. I have taken this year to reflect on it and on myself, and I think I’m a bit wiser because of her birth. Life is certainly a lot richer because of her birth, but mostly because of HER. So here it is… the long version. As I recall it, one year later.

Zwischen… Waiting in Readiness

My midwife called it “sensitive” and urged me not to dismiss it. Most people would call my mood at the end of my third pregnancy emotional or hormonal. This pregnancy was different, that I was sure of. Something seemed to be brimming, and with the advancement of my pregnancy, it was overflowing, surfacing as emotions I couldn’t understand or articulate.


around 7 months pregnant

Pregnancy was always a spiritual experience for me. It’s a time when I feel close to God and bursting with life and creativity and focus, and then also deeply contemplative, and then sometimes wracked with fear. Birth Without Fear. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Well I could never do it. I tried. So, I had to do the inverse. I had to face my fears head on so they could be conquered.

So now that we’ve established how I am emotional, sensitive, and how pregnancy & childbirth is a spiritual experience for me, you can understand how when on the morning of July 27 it started pouring down large raindrops onto our Southern California home, why I would see that as a kind of an omen. Things were happening in nature—both in the sky and in my body.

This came after a long night that had brought me very little sleep. The Braxton Hicks contractions were coming regularly and kept me up. They didn’t increase like real labor, and by that morning I was exhausted and incredibly emotional.

Before the downpour, I had been walking outside. That was all I knew to do after that horrible night. Andy was worried about me but I felt restless and needed to get moving. As soon as dawn broke I was out of the door, sobbing as I walked the boulevard under a cloudy sky, the scant car whizzing past now and then, leaving me unnoticed, but covering the sound of my cries. When I returned, I felt more at peace. A quick nap and a hearty breakfast brought me back down to earth. I knew now that a night birth like Leif’s was not what I wanted. I am tired these days, and need to labor on a full night’s sleep. So I changed my requests to God, and started asking for something crazy: to labor during the day, after a full night’s sleep, with my children present. He knows my needs, so I trusted that He would give me either rest or unexpected strength. Turned out He gave me both.

This is probably a good time to point out that my babies have always been born either on a weekend or first thing Monday. I really believe this is because my husband has always worked rather far away. I think there is something in my subconscious that has always been afraid to let him get too far away from me, with LA traffic in between.

We went to church Sunday, and when we got home I took a nice nap. My midwife Lisa Marie came over that afternoon for a prenatal visit. She always grounds me and gives me peace. Whenever I start to feel down on myself, she reassures me that there is always good reason for everything I’m experiencing.

This whole weekend I had been walking, walking, walking. It felt good and it felt like I was doing something. The Braxton-Hicks contractions would start and stop, coming with more frequency than they had before. But it still didn’t feel like labor.

Somehow I managed to get a good night’s sleep that night. What a miracle! But I was awoken rather early by the contractions. Again unsure if this was real or not, I once again started doing every trick in the book to either speed them up or stop them. I rested, walked, bathed, ate a hearty breakfast… nothing was changing them now. So I figured I ought to text my midwife and let her know.

She canceled her plans to go to a family gathering in Big Bear that day, and at breakfast I asked Andy if he wanted to go to work. He said he wouldn’t go until he was sure that this wasn’t it. That put my mind at ease and so outside I went for more walking.

I started timing the contractions on the website my midwife had referred me to. It turned out they were shorter and farther apart than I had been thinking they were. This was actually a relief to me. In the past I’ve been a fast birther, but I was in no hurry this time. Birthing waves were increasing though. When I was walking I had to slow down and breathe deeply through them. I loved the feeling of my tightening belly as the sensations rippled through me.  And I say “rippling” with intention. My waters were still intact and the feelings definitely had a floating and spreading sensation to them.

In my previous two births, the first sign of labor was my water breaking. I was impressed that my waters were holding up this long—it had already been a few hours of this. I wouldn’t call it painful at this point but I did notice the slowness and increased pressure on my cervix.

Soon I went inside and the boys were preparing some sort of decorations out of construction paper and string, something to welcome the baby when he or she arrived. I loved this, but tried not to notice, so it would be a “surprise.” I prepared some postpartum supplies and bustled around the kitchen a bit. I checked on our birth supplies and made sure everything I needed was in the box. Then I thought it would be good to try to get a little of work done for my job.

First I headed into the den to play with the boys for a bit and I used the ottoman of our rocking chair to labor on. I loved draping my upper body on it while rocking it back and forth as my belly tightened firmly. Next I went into the living room with my computer and the birth ball. I bounced on it while trying to do a few last minute tweaks on the online course I would be teaching in less than a month. I was hoping to get as much done on that as I could before baby came. I was pleased that I had come pretty close.

I should interject for a moment here that having my children and other people around while in labor is not something I was used to or even an idea I was completely comfortable with. But I had asked God to let me be well-rested for labor and I guess that’s just all part of it. Our housemate David was around all morning and could hear me moaning and such but never gave it a second thought. He said he thought I was just doing a “pregnancy thing.” Ha! And I had to set firm boundaries with the boys not to touch me or talk to me “during the squeezing.” Even hearing them talk was much too distracting. Other than that, having the kids around was actually a wonderful experience. I was glad to be sharing the time with them, feeling their energy, letting them show kindness and love to me without me prompting them. It made me feel like I was doing a good deed for our family by bringing this person in, and in hindsight of course I now know that is true.

Andy was still being the captain of this ship, and he was busy giving the boys tasks to complete and starting to get things ready for the birth. Before long it will be time to move upstairs. But for now I was still sitting here on the birth ball with my computer pretending to be a professor, but not really doing much. Then suddenly I got slammed hard with several contractions in a row—BAM BAM BAM—much more fierce and powerful than they had been up to this point. I knew my work time was now over.

I know I didn’t tell Andy what was happening, but he must have somehow sensed it because he soon ushered me upstairs. It was weird going up those steps knowing I wouldn’t be coming down again for a few days, knowing that when I did come down, I’d be a different person. But none of that mattered now. I stumbled upstairs, pausing as I went, half-hunched over as I climbed the steep stairs.

My midwife Lisa Marie was on her way, and I could tell she was getting nervous that she wasn’t here yet. I never doubted her though! She was texting me for better directions and finally I just gave my phone to Andy. He guided her through while I continued to labor in the boys’ room. He handed the phone back to me and returned to the other bedroom to fill up the tub.

Lisa seemed concerned about labor progressing too fast. She feared she might not make it.  I was looking forward to getting into the tub, but she told me to wait. She suggested I lay down on my side to see if the contractions would slow down. I told her I’d try after we hung up. I was actually quite comfortable where I was, but I told her I’d try so I did. I laid down in Peer’s bed on my side and waited for the next pressure wave to come.

Even though labor had gotten quite intense a long while ago, I still wasn’t thinking of this time as painful. I was getting drunk on the overwhelming response my relaxed body had to the pressure. I listened to HypnoBabies a bit and that helped. But when I lay down on my side there was something about the pressure from that angle that hurt like hell! I have been trying not to think of the sensations as pain, which is a HypnoBabies trick. But in my mind I cried out, “Damn you HypnoBabies, this HURTS!” So that idea was over after one contraction. I returned to my previous position on my knees, head down, butt in the air.

Waters still intact. This is crazy. Still haven’t had my cervix examined but that’s ok because the plan was to avoid those checks altogether anyway. Plus the midwife wasn’t here yet. And clearly I’m heading rapidly into transition. Andy was filling up the tub and the boys were bouncing back and forth between the two rooms. I guess if I were in my right mind I’d be wondering if my mom was coming to watch the boys, but the thought didn’t even cross my mind.


I was excited to be giving birth… really I was

By now the contractions were very very strong. I was moaning and swaying with my butt in the air, head down, resting my forehead on my arms, unable to move other than the gentle swaying of my pelvis. I was lost in laborland. All I could hear was the voice of the HypnoBabies lady on the audio track in my ears, but by this time to be honest it was starting to irritate me. The statements of “birthing is easy,” “you are totally relaxed,” and things like that just did not reflect what I was now feeling. That may have been true for the first several hours, but not now. I was still breathing through the contractions and relaxing, but they were so strong that it took every ounce of my mental and physical energy to confront them. It was hard work, very hard. When Lisa arrived I finally just ditched the stupid tracks on my stupid stupid phone.

My doula Lindsay arrived first. I wasn’t planning on having a doula for this birth, but Lindsay was a student and Lisa introduced us. We hit it off right away and since she was offering her services for free, I couldn’t not accept such a kindred spirit at my birth.

Finally the tub was ready and I got in. I must have put on my bathing suit too, but I don’t remember it. By this time my whole birth team had arrived—Lisa Marie my midwife, Lindsay my doula, and Kate the assistant midwife, whom I had meant once and really liked. I was very happy to have these three lovely women supporting me. I labored in the tub for a while. I was really looking forward to pushing because I knew that would ease my pain, but alas I still didn’t feel the urge. When I finally did start to push I remember saying to Lisa, “I guess I’m pushing now.”

Andy was still handling the boys and I was starting to wish he was here. I asked someone to go get him. When he came to me he had to explain himself. “I didn’t want to worry you,” he said. “I can’t get a hold of your parents.” “Oh that’s funny,” I said calmly. I could tell he didn’t expect that response. “Mine are here and they’re playing with the boys.” “Ok good. Thank you.” By that time I cared so little about our plan for who was going to watch the boys and all those details.

Whenever I talk about the birth with Peer, he always points out how he gave me fruit salad, stole a grape from it, and how he rolled a wheeled lego creation all over me like a massage. I can’t remember exactly when in the labor that was, but I do remember being in the tub.


Lindsay gave me counterpressure when the contractions turned into back labor

For the rest of the labor, Andy was by my side and never left. He put his hands on me, and Lisa Marie held my hands. Since baby was ROA (right occiput anterior), she had to spin ¾ of the way around as she descended into the birth canal. This meant that for a while she was in a posterior position and that felt like painful back labor. Lindsay helped this situation by giving me counter-pressure on my lower back during the contraction. Soon I couldn’t imagine a contraction without her, and panicked if one was starting and I didn’t know where she was.

So I didn’t want any vaginal exams because I perceived myself as being a “hands-off” type of birther, (and to avoid infection). From an outside perspective there was no reason to perform a vaginal exam or for my midwives to get more involved. But in hindsight if I had been more open to it, or if I could have better expressed what I was feeling, a vaginal exam might have helped me better. My midwife was already getting involved more than I anticipated, and I liked it. I felt supported. Every suggestion, every touch, every instruction that I could hear was received with openness and gratitude. However there were many things I simply couldn’t hear.

Contractions were very strong and they developed a strange pattern. At this stage in labor, contractions are more powerful than they are painful and pushing often relieves the pain. That’s why I was looking forward to pushing. But these pushing contractions were very different from what I expected. Each contraction would begin with intense pain. If I tried to push during that, it would hurt worse. Then the pushing began on its own. Then the contraction would end and I’d keep pushing. I don’t know if I did that willfully or not. Another weird thing was that I pushed very very hard from the first contraction on. Usually a mom starts with gentle pushes that become stronger with time. But I was full strength from push #1.

photo 3-2

water is relaxing

This time I also didn’t get that paralyzed feeling during contractions. With each push I moved around, pushed my hand against the wall of the tub, etc. This labor felt wild and crazy. I started to say things like “I have to get this baby out.” In fact, that’s ALL I said. Over and over again. I wish I could have just told my midwife what was happening. But it never occurred to me. I think she sensed something intuitively because she did make me get out of the tub at least once and labor on the toilet. That seemed to help. On the birth video I heard her saying things like, “take your time mama…” but I honestly don’t remember that. I think I never heard it. Not a word. For some reason I couldn’t take it in.

I responded to this stage of labor the way I respond to many difficult things in life—with pure strength. No creativity, no flexibility, no asking for help, no communication of my needs. The result: a natural birth…healthy baby… but a wounded mama with lots to learn, and whose journey is far from over.

And by the way, my water still hasn’t broken!


Lisa Marie and Andy helping me through a contraction

But all this pushing was definitely moving my baby down. Lisa had been encouraging me to reach down with my fingers and feel around. She said I could pop the bag of waters myself if I wanted to. I had been scared to do this (after all I was raised a good Baptist!) but finally I did. It didn’t take much “searching” to feel the bulging bag of waters, still completely intact and then—POP! Not anymore!

In a startled but thrilling moment of fear and excitement I announced, “I did it! I popped the bag, I popped the bag with my fingernail!”

Then immediately I felt a huge pressure on my rectum and everyone knew the time was near. With one more push I felt a slight burn and pushed the head out. My hand was still there and I felt the head emerge into my waiting hand beneath the water. Then, a pause. I breathed deeply, stroking the silky, hairy head of this little being that until now had been only kicks and movements and hopes and dreams. Things were getting real.

I couldn’t believe I was here. From wondering if we would even have another child, to the decision, to pregnancy, labor, and now this moment. I psyched myself up, like an athlete waiting to hear the whistle, like an actor waiting for the cue. I’m going to push my baby out right now. With the next contraction. I’m going to do this and then my labor will be over.

It came, and I gave the biggest push I my life. Every ounce of strength in my body and soul and mind, with the strength of my previous two births, with the strength of every moment of triumph in my life, everything that led me to believe in myself as a strong person—all of that went into this one moment when I cannon-balled my baby out of my body and into the tepid water.

Then release. And eagerness.

“My baby, my baby, where’s my baby?” I found the baby in the water and lifted my baby into the air for the first breath of life. On the video you could hear me saying, “It’s over!”

I was filled with joy, no exhaustion to be found. With my husband at my side, I was so thrilled that together he and I had worked to bring this person into the world. We did it again—three natural births and three healthy, beautiful babies.

And then—oh yeah—the gender! I had nearly forgotten to look.

IT’S A GIRL!!!!!

What another amazing surprise. We have a daughter. I had a feeling this whole pregnancy that it could be a girl. I didn’t want to indulge the feeling though, because what if that was just my desire and not intuition at all?

Mary Joy Wahlquist. Welcome earthside, baby girl.

newborn Mary

It’s a girl!

Mary was born at 39 weeks and 1 day but she did not appear that way. Her placenta was very old and crumbly and she did not have any vernix left. All these are signs of a post-date baby, not one that is born a week before the due date. I think this testifies to the inaccuracy of due dates. It’s much better to think of a 5-week window in which to expect baby. Lisa determined that I must have conceived much earlier than I thought I did. Considering the fact that the number—40 weeks, 41 weeks, 42 weeks—really effects a mom psychologically (and socially), I am very glad I never knew I was farther along and that we never even told people how many weeks I was.


BabyMaryBirthday_21But that is not the end. Oh no, for every end is another new beginning and that beginning is a transition and an initiation.
Remember when I said that there was only a tiny bit of burn and that I cannon-balled my baby out of me? Well that burn was stretching, and since there was very little stretching and a whole lot of force, I tore very, very badly. So badly that my midwife was not sure at first if she was even able to handle such a bad tear.

There was talk of a post-partum transfer to the hospital. Please God, no no NO! Transfer would mean possible separation of baby and I (scary enough), exposure to all those sick-people-germs we were trying to avoid with a home birth, and then of course the cocky attitudes of hospital staff who receive a home birth transfer.

But I got really scared when I heard my midwife mention the possible risk of a tear that didn’t heal properly—a fistula. Now I was getting REALLY scared. She called the office of a homebirth-friendly OB that she knew. He wasn’t very willing to come. 5pm on a Monday is not the best time to travel from west LA to Downey. Lisa was trying all she could to make the best possible choice for me and my health.

When the bleeding stopped, she took some pictures and sent them to other midwives she knew. She talked on the phone quite extensively to a couple of them. Kate the other midwife very wisely brought up the fact that just because we transfer doesn’t mean that we will get a skilled physician or even an OB-GYN to stitch me up. We might just get a standard ER doctor who has never done this before.

Then Lisa made her decision. She would go forward with this job, and stitch me up herself. She had a plan. She could tell that the tear was close to my rectum but not all the way, meaning she was legally licensed to do this, and after getting some wise council from others, she believed she could do this. So Kate and Lisa sat at the foot of my bed for at least an hour, very carefully and cautiously talking over every single stitch. Finally it was done. I really appreciated the attention that Lisa gave to this problem. This is a great example of the superb maternal care that a mom can get from an out-of-hospital midwife. There is no way I could have gotten this kind of care in a hospital from an OB.

My birth team

My birth team (L-R) Lindsay my doula, Kate the asst midwife, Mary and me, Lisa Marie my dear midwife and forever friend.

But the story is still not over. I bruised my bladder pretty bad during the birth and couldn’t pee for 2 days. I begged for a catheter and almost received a second one.

Andy weighing the baby

We waited until after I was stitched up to weigh the baby and do her newborn exam. She was 7 lbs 1 oz, 21 inches long

I felt like a prisoner. The fears that I had during my pregnancy came rushing back—here I was, trapped upstairs, severely wounded, barely able to walk even from my bed to the bathroom, in incredible pain, not able to care for my children, just like I feared. Luckily we did have some help, but feeling like I didn’t have any say in their care was still very frustrating for me.

Add on top of that the feeling that I had failed, that I had done a bad job with this birth. This was my last birth and I blew it. I didn’t relish it or enjoy it. Instead of savoring the sensations of my baby moving through my body and marveling at the power of it all, I simply “had to get the baby out.” I did a bad job with the birth, and I had the wounds to prove it.

By the third or fourth day things were really getting better. The tear still took a solid two and a half months to heal, but it was not a painful recovery. After a few days I also started to recover emotionally. I fell in love with my baby and I began to accept this birth experience for the strange and wonderful thing it was. My midwife prayed with me. I learned a lot from the experience, and I knew that throughout this year as I pondered her birth, that I would learn even more.

photo 1-1

Mary a few hours after birth

Then at 4 weeks postpartum, something strange happened. We went for a nature walk at El Dorado Nature Center. I overdid it a bit with this, and started bleeding and cramping again. I also had intense cervical pain that felt like dilation. Then I passed a large, meaty clot. It was so strange. I took pictures of it and sent them to Lisa. She told me to fish it out and freeze it. She would send it to the lab for biopsy to find out what it was. It turned out to be a “product of conception,” which kind of means it was part of the placenta. My placenta appeared whole when it came out, but I think this was tissue that is usually absorbed throughout the pregnancy but didn’t. Tammy my postpartum doula remarked how amazing it was that my body just passed it. What a smart uterus I have!



Oh but there’s more…

Breastfeeding was not really going well. My breasts were not bursting with milk like I thought they ought to be and my right one seemed to be withering away. Since I had had an undiagnosed thyroid problem throughout my pregnancy, I was afraid my hormones might be completely out of whack. I started using galactagogues (food and herbs that boost milk supply) and that did help. But I was worried. I imagined myself as the La Leche League leader who couldn’t nurse her own baby. And that this precious girl, whom I had longed for, might be the first of my babies to have formula. I really did not want that to happen. Mary’s weight gain was moderate and so were her diapers. I thought it could be better, but she wasn’t in the danger zone by any means.


my snuggly sling baby

I thought the problem was either my hormones, or it could be tongue-tie. The frenulum on her upper lip was awfully thick and when she nursed she couldn’t seem to flange her lip out the way she needed to. Like a dummy, I didn’t call the IBCLC friend I have because… I’m a dummy and I blamed myself. And I was in denial.

But then when she was two months old I led a La Leche League meeting and my co-leader who is an IBCLC was there. I eagerly had her look in Mary’s mouth and she confirmed the tongue- and upper lip-tie. I was relieved. I knew this would be a simple fix (though not cheap), and I prayed to God that things would improve.

I had to wait a while for the appointment and until then I continued to drink tons of water, eat lactation cookies, oatmeal, and take More Milk Plus supplements. We got by.

My dear friend Helen watched the boys for me when I took Mary clear out to Riverside for her appointment with the laser specialist. Dr. Jesse fixed the lip tie, but said her tongue was in normal ranges. I still question that part of the diagnosis. She cried during the 5-minute procedure, but after a walk around the building she fell fast asleep and stayed that way for the whole car ride home!

After that—thank God—everything did get a lot better! That whole week I felt overly full as my milk supply returned to normal levels. It felt great! Mary started putting on weight like a sumo wrestler and remains in the 90th percentile to this day! In hindsight, my mother’s instinct was right. I should have listened to it sooner. Another lesson that bears repeating.

I am so grateful to have this beautiful child in our family. She brings us so much joy every day, and we have such wonderful dreams and curiosities about the type of girl she will become. I am so grateful to have given birth to her at home, that I got to really live every moment of her entrance into the world. The good the bad and the ugly, we were there together for it all. I didn’t miss it. It’s just sometimes hard to see the forest through the trees. I was present, in all my imperfection.

And that much I can promise you always, Mary Joy.




Random Updatedness

12 August 2012

I guess it’s time for another update. It’s been a busy summer and we have many exciting things happening. Let’s see, I think I’ll work backwards…

We are looking forward to celebrating the weddings of some very important people in our life. Our dear friend Scarlet is marrying Andy’s best buddy since childhood, Geoff, next weekend. We couldn’t be more thrilled about this marriage and all the festivities this week. Andrew’s brother Tom is also getting married the same weekend in a small ceremony in Santa Barbara and we are so thrilled to have Tanya joining our family.

I am in the beginning stages of directing A Civil War Christmas, a play by  Paula Vogel at FBCD. Every stage in this process has proven itself a challenge and we expect it to continue this way. Our fears that the whole thing could fall apart at any moment are real, but we plug along with God’s guidance, waiting on Him to pull this whole thing together. If it does come together, it will be a really incredible show. I am very excited to direct it. And intimidated. I know this will be a great gift to our community.

This week I was honored to be featured at our local concert in the park with the Downey Symphony Orchestra as a narrator on one song. This was a great privilege for me and a wonderful PR opportunity for Downey Arts Coalition. We had a booth at the event and conducted a raffle to benefit the Symphony.

Art on the Vine, our monthly art series with Downey Arts Coalition, celebrated its first anniversary last weekend. This was our first endeavor and has by far been our shining star. So proud that this has come out of our organization. In other art news around Downey, we look forward to the opening of the Stay Gallery, a real-deal art gallery to be located in the heart of downtown Downey, and operated by our sister organization, the Downey Art Vibe. DAC will be coordinating the performance-related stuff that gets programmed into the space.

PJ is now 5 years old and Cakers is 21 months. They have had a lot of fun this summer going on playdates, field trips, and spending once a week with “Teacher Amy” at playgroup (just PJ of course). A new opportunity for PJ has come up that we are going to try. Our friends are starting a homeschool co-op and we signed him up. So he will be attending Discovery of Learning Homeschool Center twice a week in the fall. The drive is a little far for us, so we are keeping an open mind about it. But many of his friends are attending and I know he will really grow.

Speaking of homeschooling, now that he’s 5 and obviously a “big boy,” I’m finding a lot of strangers always asking him if he goes to school, or if he will be going in the fall. I find this question very annoying. I told him he can tell people that he’s homeschooled, but he doesn’t usually say that. He usually gives them a more detailed response. He is wonderful.

He has grown into an incredible personality. He is by far the friendliness person I’ve ever known. He talks to so many people while we are out and about, and loves to give them random information about his life or thoughts. Today as we were crossing the parking lot at Trader Joe’s he yelled hello to a couple he saw across the way and was sure to tell them that we are going on vacation to the mountains and that we were going into TJ’s to get some snacks. Like most people, they were very entertained by him.

Cakers is equally as delightful. He seems to have an endless vocabulary, acquired mostly by mimicry. He puts two words together and seems to understand everything we say. He is such a little darling. He now plays like a big boy and relishes every moment of life. Babywearing has been reduced to its most practical essentials, such as longer walks trough shopping centers and trips to the market. Gone are the days when I would wear a precious and tiny sleeping baby while trying to prepare a meal. That was a difficult thing to multi-task and I am thankful for the relative amount of peace I get while the two of them play together during my meal prep time (I actually started listening to NPR again while I cook! amazing!), but I am acutely aware of what I have lost. Bittersweet. I am pleased to still be breastfeeding him, and hope he continues for many years to come.

Andrew still works for Local Hero Post in Santa Monica. The commute is tough, but the job is good. The company seems to always be growing in demand and in reputation. We keep hoping this will one day make life easier. Hasn’t happened yet… He injured his leg pretty badly playing with the kids on Father’s Day. It’s been a struggle, but he found a doctor that he really likes and is now in physical therapy.

Aside from CWC, we are also trying to plan a season of theatre at the new gallery. One-acts, mostly original stuff. I would direct hopefully one of them, and other of our theatrically-inclined DAC members would take the others. More on that as things develop. I would someday like to get a job again. This is probably not a good time for us, but we remain interested. I’m also being mentored right now toward leadership in La Leche League International. That process has been slow because of all I’ve got going on in my life. But accreditation as a leader will be a meaningful contribution I can make in people’s lives for years to come and I am enjoying every step of the journey.

That’s all for now! Sorry there’s no pictures!

My Yearly Update!

23 April 2012

I never blog anymore.

I think this is because I need to decide what this blog is, exactly. I know i don’t want to be 0ne of those “mommy bloggers” whose blogs I read often. I’m just not as awesome as they. Nor do I see myself being one of those that blog every major and minor life event, with pictures. I’m too much of a slacker for that.

Oh well.

Here’s an update at least:

I am working part-time at Cerritos College now. I teach Acting Fundamentals in the Theatre Dept. It is temporary, substitute. But they asked me to stay until the end of the semester because the reg prof is on medical leave. I am loving it! The class is great. I’ve decided I don’t really know how to act, but hopefully my students won’t figure that out until after the semester is over. Don’t tell. =) Next time I should teach something easy like how to tie shoes the cool way, or alphabetizing my bookshelf… j/k… The hardest part really is dealing with childcare. Andy stays home once a week and the other day we have been using a series of grandmothers and babysitters. It’s really hard to leave them, but I know they are in really good hands, and that they are enjoying the time they spend with their caregivers. I don’t know what we’d do if I was offered a more permanent job, but I trust the Lord will show us if He gives me such an opportunity.

The Downey Arts Coalition is embarking on its first theatrical endeavor! I am so excited to be producing Urban Acts: New Plays from the Street alongside Andrew, a couple other DAC members, and also alongside the critically-acclaimed Urban Theatre Movement. Those guys rock. This will be a staged reading series at site-specific locations throughout Downey. All new plays by new and established playwrights. We are very very privileged to be able to read these wonderful new works and to have most of the playwrights in attendance as well! Check out for more info.

Speaking of DAC, our organization is 1 year old now! I can’t believe the organization that Andrew started has grown into such a huge thing practically over night! I never imagined we would be involved with so many incredible people and doing so many exciting things here in Downey when he first started talking about wanting to form a group like this. That’s exactly it– when he started talking about wanting to do this, it was just going to be a group. Like maybe a support group. Well, God had other plans and it has exploded into an organization! No, a movement! We are even on the fast track toward 501C3 status with our plans to merge with the Downey Art League. This, alongside our friendship with the Downey Art Vibe, is making the arts movement in Downey a force to be reckoned with! Good things are happening and lots of people are getting on board.

It’s also pretty cool to see my husband in this leadership role. He’s always been such a strong leader and he is really thriving in this organization. I’m so proud to be his wife and partner. He stays up way too late, though. 😉

I’ve got a couple of potential directing gigs lined up. Not professional, but I’m excited about both the projects. I hope they don’t fall through! Meanwhile, just focusing on Urban Acts and my new job.

My children are a constant delight. I want to homeschool Peer, we’re learning more about that and considering our options. I might sign us up for a charter in the fall. At the very least we are glad that we can delay kindergarten and keep him home until age 6. A lot of parents are doing that nowadays. “Giving them the gift of time,” as I’ve heard it said. I like that. He will be 5 this summer and I am so proud of the young man he is growing into. I’ve recently discovered that he knows quite a bit of math. He is very adept at simple addition and subtraction, and he’s learning to read and sound things out. I catch him practicing on his own, it’s so cute. What a smart kid I have!

Leif is 17 months going on 5 years old as well.  =) He seems to have his own complete language that he is teaching us, and loves to play and run around outside with his brother. He wants to do everything his big brother (or “Ba-Ba”) is doing, especially the naughty things like smacking and destroying. Also wrestling and horseplay. It’s all a lot fun until someone lands on their head, boys! I am pleased that we are at the point with breastfeeding where it is so easy. But I often miss having a tiny one to nurse. Leif no longer needs/wants to snuggle in my lap for hours nursing. At most it may be 10, 15 minutes and then he’s back to playing. Oh well, he’s pretty heavy and squirmy anyway!

We still go to First Baptist, not a long happening there. Looking forward to several weddings this summer, especially that of our good friend Geoff, when Andy will be a groomsman. Geoff is very special to us and we are so happy for him and his new bride-to-be Scarlet, who is especially lover-ly and wonderful.

I guess that’s our family in a nutshell right now. Sorry no pics. I’m a slacker.


Planting a Placenta Tree

6 June 2011

Well, it’s better late than never, right?

After having L’s placenta in our freezer for almost seven months, we finally got around to this important ritual of childbirth.  When you have a homebirth, you get to keep the placenta.  Or rather, you are responsible for disposing of it yourself.  The placenta is the organ that nourishes the baby inside the womb and once both are birthed, the placenta is still rich with nutrients.  It makes for a wonderful source of nourishment for plant life.  In fact, it is so nutritious that some people encapsulate it and take it as vitamins.  But we opted for the tree.  We picked out a lovely looking dwarf peach tree and a spot where it should thrive and not interfere with anything else in the yard (i.e., lawn, fence, etc.).

Here’s why we are choosing to perform this ritual instead of dumping L’s placenta in the garbage:

  1. Planting this tree marks his birth in this place.  We rent our home, so we will not always live here.  But L was born here, and nothing will ever change that.  This tree commemorates his birth on this property.  It will be here long after we are gone. (…sniff)
  2. Planting a fruit tree symbolizes our children as the fruit of our marriage.  As we were planting it, I said a prayer thanking God for our beautiful boys, and our wonderful marriage of 10 years.
  3. It represents the circle of life.  Just as his placenta nourished L while he was in my womb, now it will nourish this tree, which will produce fruit of its own and in turn, nourish us.  (hopefully in a peach cobbler.)
  4. Dust to Dust.  As I tell my oldest, everything that lives eventually stops living and is put back into the ground, and becomes food for the next thing that lives.  The time for this placenta to do its job is over.  It must return from whence it came.

So we let the thing thaw in the sun while Andy dug a big hole.  PJ played in said hole.

The umbilical cord started to glow a bright white as it thawed, which made me feel kind of emotional.  It was a sight I hadn’t seen for seven months, and the last time I saw it I was in a highly emotional state.  Finally the hole was ready.  Andy dropped it in, and I said a prayer and started to cry.

PJ and Andy threw compost on top of it and it was gone.  More dirt, more compost, then finally the peach tree.

planting the tree

There you are, little tree.  You are the same age as my baby.  May you grow and flourish in God’s grace just as my children will.  Amen.


P.S.  The funds for this tree are also special.  Years ago when my great-grandmother, my Oma, was living she used to send us $30 always for our birthdays.  She was an amazing woman, a refugee of WWII, lived to age 90, and all-around very remarkable.  She died when I was about 20 and for some reason I never had the heart to spend the last $30 cash she had sent me in the mail.  I was wanting to save it for something special.  Well, this was finally it.  I pulled it out of my jewelry box after all these years and spent it on a tree.  A tree that celebrates life.

Things on my mind lately…

21 April 2011

CLOTH DIAPERING:  baby is moving way too fast through his size smalls.  I just pulled out the size mediums and they actually fit rather well.  Many of them are thrashed because PJ wore them for about a year and a half or more.  I found a new cloth diaper store lately that I loved to pieces.  I’m so excited to to buy a couple new things.  Super cute baby bottoms are my weakness.  Oh, and we have also figured out L’s nighttime super-soaker problem.  The solution seems to be hemp inside and wool outside.  Ideally a hemp/cotton fitted diaper by Baby Beehinds, with a help insert layered inside, and a wool soaker to go around the whole thing.  He’s a bowling pin at night but he’s dry!  Wool soaker takes a lot of care in the beginning with the lanolizing and everything, but they say I won’t have to wash it for eight weeks!

LENT:  gave up sweets.  I was frustrated and sad about it until very recently.  I think I now have some spiritual clarity about the whole thing.  Very grateful.  The Lord always seems to speak to me in a new way when I give up something I love during Lent.

THESIS:  still writing.  had a couple of setbacks, but now I feel like I’m in a much better place.  All thanks to my amazing advisor who is such a wonderful guide.  She is so encouraging and yet will never let me settle for easy, always pushing me to go to the next level of intellectual thought.

BREASTFEEDING:  nothing new to report.  i’m flowing with milk and honey (and agave, but no real sugar because it’s Lent)

PRESCHOOL:  should we do it or not?  that is the question.  if we don’t decide soon we might as well just start looking at colleges.

TEETHING:  yes!  one sharp little tooth tip can be felt on L’s bottom gum!  Finally!

GARDENING:  Andy built me some raised beds and we planted seeds and plants.  I’ve got spinach, romaine, chard, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries, artichokes (already about 3 little ones on there) out back and in front we have sprouting some brussel sprouts, zuchini, sunflowers and watermelon (very unsure about the watermelon).  Our kumquat tree only has fruit on the high branches now but our lemon tree is going crazy!  It is lemonade heaven around here!  We are still planning to buy a tree to plant in the back with L’s placenta.  We have a spot cleared, but can’t decide on a tree.  Any suggestions?

Hair Like Jesus Wore It, Hallelujah! I adore it!

10 April 2011

So I’m finally blogging again and since it’s been a little while now I think I can safely say that weaning is complete… of my hair that is.

What in the world is she talking about???

Well, probably about two years ago I discovered online that there are actually people out there who don’t use shampoo.  Yesiree, it’s true.  See we all know that the skin absorbs and any toxins you put on your skin do get into the bloodstream.  Shampoo is full of toxins and I’d been feeling guilty for a while about the whole business.  So we priced out how much it would cost to buy the healthy shampoos, and oh Lordy, we could not afford it.  We buy the good stuff for our child, but kept up the toxic  shampoos for ourselves, because they’re cheap.  And all the while I kept thinking about this method I read about, the No-Poo Method.

Apparently, you don’t really need to shampoo your hair.  That’s right.  It’s all a big lie.  As it turns out we do not need Johnson & Johnson to survive!  Your scalp naturally makes oils that keep your hair healthy, and even beautiful.  But the problem is that every time we shampoo our hair, we strip it of its natural oils.  As a result, it makes more and even over-compensates.  That’s why the hair looks greasy in between washings.  It’s supply-and-demand, kind of like nursing a baby.  So the idea is that once you stop shampooing your hair, you go through an adjustment period and then your hair finds its balance and is normal again.

But I never did it, because I thought my hair would be greasy and ugly and disgusting for weeks until I got through the adjustment period.  So the idea sat there in my brain for about two years.  And then recently I just thought, what the heck, I’m gonna do it.  I wear kerchiefs nearly every day anyway, and God knows I do nothing truly important where people would judge me for my ugly hair (they’re too busy judging my parenting…lol), so I’m gonna just do it.

Here’s the method:  you still “wash” your hair, but  not with shampoo.   You put a little baking soda in a cup with water, swish, and dump it on your head.  Then scrub scrub scrub, just like you would if you were lathering.  Like teeth-brushing, it is the scrubbing that removes the dirt, not really the shampoo.  Rinse it out and soak your hair with apple cider vinegar.  This is your conditioner.  Leave it in for about 5 minutes, then rinse it out.  Don’t worry, there won’t be any smell.  It all rinses away clean.

Here’s what I didn’t expect– I thought my hair would be totally greasy for about three weeks.  It wasn’t.  It was never greasy at all, not even for a day.  The baking soda really does a good job at cleaning the hair.  Also, my hair took much longer to adjust than I expected.  It took a solid six weeks.  I had a lot of bad hair days during that time, definitely thought about throwing in the towel (pun intended).  But I tried to have patience, knowing I was still in the adjustment period.  I must withhold judgment until the end.

And now… it’s done!  I got through the adjustment period and I am truly amazed.  I haven’t shampooed my hair for over two months and I just can’t believe how shiny, soft, and clean it looks and feels.  Some days I just stare at my hair in the mirror and I can’t believe it worked.  My hair is finally weaned from shampoo! Hallelujah!  I can sing with the cast of the musical, “Hair hair hair hair hair hair!  Grow it!  Show it! Long as God can grow it my hair!”

Oh, I should probably also mention that when I announced I was going to do it, my whole family got on board.  Andy immediately started doing the method with me.  His hair took a little less time than mine to adjust.  Again, no grease.  His hair looked completely normal every day he went to work.  My 3-year-old son has lots of long curly hair and for him we are using a method called Curly Girl, where you still condition the hair.  Peer’s hair took practically no time to adjust.  It always seemed normal.  Very amazing.  It even got curlier, which I read would happen.  Actually, last weekend we shampooed his hair just for kicks because he was playing in the dirt, and I am so disappointed at his hair.  It got straighter immediately, frizzy, and just yucky.  I can’t wait for his beautiful curls to return to their new normal!


7 October 2010

So yesterday I had my thesis proposal defense meeting. This is really the beginning of the thesis-writing process. I submit a thorough proposal and then I have to meet with a committee of professors (that I chose) and together we all decide if it is solid enough for me to continue. I was really nervous about it, but it all turned out really well. They approved my topic with flying colors and offered me some very valuable insight on how to organize my ideas and write it.

This is actually a huge milestone for me. Even though I still need to write the thing, I didn’t plan to do it before the birth of this child. I really, really, really wanted to just get it proposed and defended. But for a while there during the summer when I felt I was slacking off, I began to doubt myself. I thought I wasn’t working hard enough and it would never be finished on time. My “practice proposal” that I wrote for the first class I took in grad school was nearly 20 pages and very in-depth. This one ended up being only 7. I guess I can chalk it all up to learning better how to work smart, not just hard. I was actually very surprised that my adviser approved the first draft of my proposal that I sent to her. The only glitch in the process has been that my third committee member, a prof I chose from the English department, didn’t show up and has been quite unresponsive. So we are going to try to proceed with a two-person committee. I don’t see how this will be a problem, unless the grad office just doesn’t like change!

My new title is: “Birthing Conflict: Childbirth and the Battle of the Sexes in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama” (it used to be Early Modern English Drama, but this title’s more specific and accurate)

So now I’m going to put it on hold probably so I can focus on getting ready for birth and baby. But I’m actually now really excited to write it. The meeting yesterday was actually a lot of fun, and it felt great to be back in the academic world again. I’m glad this chapter of my life isn’t completely over!

3rd Trimester

1 October 2010

Is it odd that I kind of want to carry this baby at least until my due date? Peer was born at 37 weeks, and I figure that won’t happen again. After all, lightning doesn’t strike twice. But I find myself thinking, gosh, if I make it to somewhere around mid-November, then that would give us more time to prepare for baby, push us into the holidays practically with family leave and all that, and it will be cooler. I’m probably totally jinxing myself by saying all this. I’ll be at 42 weeks and still no baby, and trying everything. I just keep praying for the strength to carry this baby until my body can do it no longer. I’ve had a pretty great pregnancy, although it has definitely been more intense than my last one. My midwife says that is because of hormones. And I know that I’m a pretty hormonal person! But I also know that the same hormones that give me nausea and heartburn now will also give me a smooth birth and a bountiful milk supply. I am very thankful that my body works so well!

Our Vacation 2010

25 September 2010
SATURDAY: The Road Trip Begins

This year we took our fourth trip to Ashland, OR to visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I never thought I would be the type of person that vacationed in the same spot year after year. But we really love it there, and every year there is new theatre to see of course. And this is some of the best theatre in the country. Especially for a classics lover like myself. It’s been exciting following the festival in a new direction under the leadership of their new Artistic Director, Bill Rauch. His perspective on classics and his vision for the future is astounding, and he has been doing some really exciting work at OSF. This year, since we couldn’t afford to fly, we road-tripped it up the entire way. This is something I’ve been dreading, since I hate road trips, and since we now have a toddler. (Preschooler?)

Part of our plan included a very detailed listing of local parks to stop at along the way. This was to give Peer a chance to play, and give us a small break as well. Plus, being 7 1/2 months pregnant and with a tendency to motion sickness and pregnancy nausea, I didn’t expect to do so well either. We packed some sandwiches to make our lunch quick on that first day.

Our first park was a big hit. The others were not as good as this one. And actually, we made very good time the first day, traveling much farther north than Sacramento, which was our original goal. We made it to Red Bluff by dinnertime and while Peer and I waited for our table and waiter, Andy took his laptop to a nearby Starbucks to mooch off their free wifi and book us a hotel on priceline. Andy is a wiz with priceline. We really debated about whether or not to book a hotel room ahead of time in Sacramento. We eventually decided not to, in order to give us the freedom to keep driving if we felt like it. We did, and also ended up with a fabulous hotel room in Redding, at which we arrived just in time to put PJ to bed a tad late.
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