Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in spirit, for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

Oh Lord,

Teach me to seek You and reveal yourself to me when I seek You.

For I cannot seek You unless You first teach me, nor find You unless You first reveal yourself to me.

Let me seek You in longing, and long for You in seeking.

Let me find You in love, and love You in finding.

~Saint Ambrose of Milan

<< # St. Blog's Parish ? >>

Name: Erin Yonke

Location: Aurora, IL

Info: I'm happily married to my husband and champion pro-life activist, Matt. I stay home with my three small boys; Ambrose (11/06), Peter (3/08), and Joseph (9/10).

Monday, June 29, 2015

Raising Monarchs, days 11-18

It's Monday morning after a pretty exceptional weekend!  We spent it in the company of good old friends and some good new friends and plenty of good food and wine, too.  I'm on my front porch with (not my first) cup of coffee and getting ready to do ALL THE LAUNDRY! But first.  Monarch recap.

Our first Monarch hatched 13 days ago.
Eating much more, showing his stripes at 1 week old.  

And other cute things that help gather milkweed.... :)

Tuesday was a really hard day with the kids and I had to run to the store...and MAY have stopped to walk around a prairie path by myself on the way to the store...and MAY have found several more monarch eggs in the process.

Thursday morning, about 9 days old.  He proceeded to eat, and eat, and eat ALL DAY.
Thursday evening, significantly bigger.

Friday, one of my new eggs turned black...
Add caption

The little black head tilted to the side...

And slowly emerged!

Can you see him here?  He's eating what's left of his egg shell.

12 days old. Stunning, right?

And that brings us up to date!  At 13 days old, our caterpillar #1 is fully mature (takes about 10-14 days after hatching) and will be ready to pupate (form his chrysalis) very soon.  So excited.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Raising Monarchs, days 8-10

Hey, look at our hungry, hungry caterpillar! 
This was taken on Saturday, right after he shed his skin. You can see the shed skin behind him on the leaf.  After I took this photo, he ate it.  

You can now see his stripes and his budding antennae.  

Nature, of course, is not without humor.  I'm pretty sure our miracle butterfly who left us our precious egg #3 on our sad stand-alone milkweed appears to have left a dud.  That is, an infertile egg.  It still hasn't hatched and I'm sort of convinced that it probably won't.   Boo.

In other news, I have a lot of milkweed recovering and growing back and some new sprouts coming up from seed.  I'm loving our caterpillar and hoping he's not the last one we'll raise this year!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Raising Monarchs, days 5-7

So, good news and bad news.  The good news is that caterpillar #1 is well and thriving.

Can you spot him here? 12 hours old.  He's at the very bottom of the leaf stem.

The bad news is that we lost caterpillar #2.  This caterpillar behaved somewhat peculiarly from the beginning-- and what I mean is this.  When Monarch caterpillars hatch from their egg, the first thing they do is eat their egg shell.  Yes, really.  It's full of nutrients!  Here is a 45-second video of a newly hatched caterpillar doing this, in case you're interested.  This one didn't do that.  Instead, she wandered about for a day, nibbling a very teeny hole in her leaf before she stopped eating altogether.  Weird.  I'm really sad about it.

This was taken on day 5, almost 1 day after they hatched.  You can see that caterpillar #1 is almost twice the size of caterpillar #2.

Day 6.

Day 7, getting ready to move this guy to a new leaf.  Check out how you're starting to see the beginnings of those brightly colored stripes.

And don't forget, we're still waiting on this last little egg!  This is the fourth day, so I'm guessing it will turn dark today and hatch tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Raising Monarchs, days 1-4

Last summer we raised a Monarch caterpillar we got from my friend Renee, and I absolutely loved every second of it. This spring I set my sights on having a butterfly and hummingbird garden.   That is, mostly wild flowers and, very importantly, milkweed--the only monarch butterfly host plant.

I'll spare you most of the story, but you should know that I put a LOT of time and research a̶n̶d̶ ̶b̶i̶t̶s̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶m̶y̶ ̶s̶o̶u̶l̶  into the varieties of milkweed I wanted and when to start them-- all to attract the most butterflies ASAP after they got here for the season (they're migratory, just FYI).  I was just getting geared up for Monarch season when--BAM--we got a new roof put on our house and the roofers leveled everything I had growing, leaving one lonely standing milkweed. Sad.  And, I mean, you don't just run to Home Depot to get a new milkweed plant (or 15).  I was d̶e̶v̶a̶s̶t̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶c̶r̶i̶e̶d̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶d̶a̶y̶s̶  pretty disappointed.  I consoled myself with the fact that we could still get a caterpillar or two from a friend who would probably be able to give us enough milkweed to raise it, or maybe we'd see some later in the summer when my plants grow back.  But still.  But STILL.

Fast forward to Saturday, day 1.  My 8-year-old tells me he sees a monarch in the neighbors yard, ON MILKWEED.  And I think, No son.  The neighbor doesn't have milkweed, which is WHY I HAVE BEEN OBSESSIVELY TRYING TO GROW IT ALL SPRING.  But I nod.  "Oh yeah?  Cool.  I'll have to check that out."  Later that day, sure enough, I see a small milkweed peeking out from behind a rosebush just neighboring our yard.  And sure enough, be still my heart, there are two delicate little eggs hiding beneath a leaf.

We cut off the leaf and brought it in, placed on a slightly damp paper towel in a tupperware sandwich container, praising Ambrose all the while for being so observant.  I'm stoked.  These eggs will hatch in 3-5 days.

On Tuesday, day 3, we saw another monarch fluttering around outside our house.  (They're SO pretty, by the way.)  The kids and I watched as she slowly made her way to our one, lonely, sad-looking milkweed sitting beside our driveway.  She left us egg #3, which, by the way, felt pretty darn miraculous. :)

Egg #3

As the eggs get ready to hatch, they darken.  We noticed the contrast between the almost-ready Day One Eggs, and the fresh Day Three Eggs:

Late at night on Day 3, I noticed one of our eggs was gone and in its place was a teeny, tiny (and I mean TEENY-TINY) new caterpillar.  This morning the second one hatched.

This is the first, moved to a fresh leaf and ready to be placed in a jar.

And this is the second, freshly hatched near it's empty shell.  You can hardly see it, but if you look closely you can see its little black head.  

Stay tuned for more about our Monarchs!

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Birth of Victor Anastasios

Sunday afternoon, April 6, I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant- a full week before any of my four other babies had been born. I was feeling well, though a little worn out.

Matt and the three boys went out to a family birthday party in the early afternoon and left me home with Charlotte, who was napping.

I soaked up the quiet, savoring it completely. I was preparing for our last school week of the year, making a menu plan, and a list of final projects to tackle in my last remaining days of pregnancy.

I  was having some contractions. At nearly 39 weeks you're always having contractions, though, right? Around 4pm it occurred to me that they were coming pretty regularly-- about every 5 minutes, but they weren't painful. I felt confident that I still had another week of pregnancy left, and went about the evening. Charlotte got up from her nap, and I was enjoying sitting with just her for a bit.

The boys returned home at 5. Peter showed off his new birthday gifts from the party. We had dinner and cleaned up and then went out for a walk. The weather was beautiful-- truly one of the first breaths of spring. By the time we got back home, though, I was definitely more uncomfortable. I felt sort of sick, actually. I worried that maybe I had a UTI or a stomach virus or something. Generally, though, I was still planning for a typical Monday morning the next day. We got kids ready for bed. I poured myself several large glasses of water. Probably dehydrated, I thought. And then, when I was still having contractions an hour later, I poured a big glass of wine and took a hot bath.

I went to bed. Around 10, it started dawning on me that I'd been waiting a really long time for these contractions to fizzle. I did sleep some, but had a hard time getting comfortable. I noticed some contractions, but they seemed erratic. They're going to die down, I thought. I just need to get comfortable.

At 4am, I woke up with the shakes. Nauseated and trembling, I sort of admitted that really, truly, this was happening. I was in labor, and I couldn't sleep through contractions anymore. I stared at Charlotte, snuggled in bed next to me. I stroked her hair and her soft skin, and I felt sad. I felt sad because I knew. I felt sad because I would miss her being my littlest baby very, very much.

A few strong contractions later, I felt a gush! and thought for a minute that my water had broken (which, by the way, has never ever happened to me!). I waddled a very uncomfortable waddle to the bathroom and was a little panicked when I discovered that it wasn't amniotic fluid, but instead a pretty large amount of blood.

Still shakey, and moreso now. I was unsure about what to do next. Going back bed sounded...not right. Should I try to eat? Nothing sounded even remotely palatable. Call the midwife? I wanted wait and see if there was any more bleeding before calling. It was maybe 4:30am, and I decided I would wait until 5. I took another bath, which soothed the trembling some. Contractions were maybe every 4 or 5 minutes, lasting a little less than a minute.

The next few contractions brought several more gushes and I was feeling a bit worried. When I spoke to my midwife, we agreed that she should head over to do an assessment. In the meantime, my littlest two kids woke up (lest anything exciting happen in their absence!) and Matt and I were getting bowls of cereal and changing diapers. I didn't feel well. It was still dark outside and I felt uneasy all-around.

Kay arrived around 6am. She listened to the baby, and he sounded great. We sat at the dining room table, waiting for Beth (the other midwife) while she drank coffee and my older boys straggled out of bed. It grew light outside, and I took a deep breath. "It's going to be fine," I announced out loud, in response to my own inner monologue.

When Beth got here, I had a cervical check. I'd had a sneak-a-peak ultrasound earlier in my pregnancy and was thankful for it now- we new where the placenta was.  Previa was not an issue, and the bleeding was probably just a result of dilation in my cervix. I was 5-6cm, and we all felt that things could proceed as normal with a watchful eye.

So, I did laundry. I made the bed, birth-style. Drank a protein shake. The midwives hung around for a bit, and then decided to go out for some breakfast while I kept on doing my thing. The kids were playing, watching movies, incessantly asking for things. :) I really liked having them there for the most part- I liked feeling normal, whole, ordinary.  The thought of them leaving made me sad. Sometime between 8:30 and 9, though, they started getting under my skin and I started to feel like I needed more space and quiet.

A bit reluctantly, I updated my mom about everything and she was at-the-ready to come get the kids. I packed a diaper bag, and then retreated to the bathroom to deal with a few strong contractions while everyone waited for grandma.

And there I cried. I cried deep, sad tears. Not for the pain, but for the heartache that comes with motherhood. For the constant change and making-room, for the fullness of my heart, and for the joy and pain and happiness and fear that are so intricately wound together that you could never have one without the others. I cried because, when my children returned home again, each of our lives would be forever changed. I would be forever changed. I cried for my baby girl's fleeting babyhood, and for the journey I had to make in the next several hours-- a dark and deep, powerful, painful journey-- a journey that every mother has to make alone.

About 9:30, Grandma came for the kids. I said casual goodbyes, and everyone's excitement gave me a burst of energy, renewed strength. It was time to chim-up. Now was the time to work. For a little while I did some more straightening up. I did dishes. These contractions hurt, but between them, I almost forgot about labor entirely. My thoughts were ordinary.

By 10am, I could feel things changing. I should wash my hair, I thought to myself. It might be a few days before I have time to do that again. And so I did. That shower--the hot water-- felt so good. After, I dried my hair, stopping often to kneel with contractions.

Then, I headed to the kitchen. I had planned to bake something. What was it? Bananas? Oh, right. Banana bread. How do you even make that, again? And it was then that I realized that my thoughts weren't ordinary anymore, and it was time to stop doing ordinary things. The dreamy lull of labor land was pulling me in. It was time to do something extraordinary.

It was 10:30. Contractions came with low, bearing-down groans. I texted the midwives that I was "feeling a little pushy", and they headed back to my house. I was side-lying, resting on the bed, getting on hands and knees during contractions.

On returning, Kay said, "Oh wow. You're looking serious." They each set about getting the birth supplies ready. Kay broke my water. I was 9cm.

I knelt next to my bed. It was 11:03, and as I waded through those awful, quivery, transition contractions, I assured myself- I knew- that I would be holding my new baby before the hour was out. Someone rubbed my back in exactly the right place, and it felt so nice.

I started pushing small pushes, still kneeling, then two stronger pushes semi-squatting, and then moved into a full squat for one push. I climbed into bed for those final pushes. On my hands and knees, in a blur and a rush, came the familiar burning and stretching. Slowly, slowly, breathing through, my baby's head (...and one of his hands) was born. And then, in another rush, he was here. He was born. It was over!

Born with the first breaths of spring after a brutal winter, as we prepared to celebrate the Resurrection, Victor Anastasios was born as a living sign of victory and of new life. At 11:42am on April 7, 2014, 7lbs1oz, 19.5 inches long, with lots of dark hair, and a well-established set of opinions and preferences, we are forever changed. And we are in love.  

And as it's been said before: The end. For the end is just the beginning. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charlotte's birth story: A Story of Pleasant Surprises, Part II

--Part Two--

I awoke after my deliciously sound sleep at 5:45am on Thursday, July 12 (after almost 9 hours of sleep! Oh, sweet surprise!) with a contraction.  Strong, but not remarkably stronger than the contractions I'd been having the previous days.  I went back to sleep.  An hour later, however, I was growing certain that this was the real deal. Contractions were 5 minutes apart, and they hurt.  It was 7am.

I awoke to a text from Karen (aforementioned midwife) who was checking in, and one from my mom.  After updating them both, my mom said she was on her way to come get the boys, and the midwives and I would be in touch.  Distracted Husband distractedly asks, "So, do you think I should stay home today?"  (He did. and quickly proved himself dedicated, not distracted.)

I went around getting things ready.  I packed a diaper bag and fed kids breakfast.  Contractions were pretty erratic, but strong, and I was quite relieved when my mom's van pulled into the driveway.  As soon as my whiny darlings were on their way, contractions normalized.


Today, though, I had a plan.  I was going to do the laundry (including the rest of the baby clothes), make the bed (birth-style, with my birthy sheets), take a shower, make banana bread, and then go to my so-desired nail appointment at 1:30.  Then I'd  have the baby, with my nails looking awesome.

So off I went.  I folded laundry on the living room floor, kneeling next to a dining room chair during contractions.  I cleaned up the kids' breakfast, and put another load in the wash.  Contractions were definitely stronger now, 3-5 minutes apart.  I ate some toast, but truly couldn't stomach anything else at that point.  I made the bed and double checked all my birth supplies. The house was quiet, and I felt peaceful, purposeful, and strong.

  By the time I got to the kitchen to make banana bread (almost noon at this point), I was vocalizing with contractions and could feel myself slipping into "labor land"- the deepest, darkest part of the black hole.  I wasn't afraid anymore, though, and I let it come and go.

I got my bread into the oven and texted Karen and Christina (the other midwife).  It wasn't time yet, I told them, but it was "very hurty".   Karen called shortly after and we agreed that she should come check things out.  I was still fairly convinced that I was only in early labor at this point.  I expected to get checked at about 4cm, and head out to my nail appointment.

I took a shower as we waited for Karen.  She arrived around 12:30.  We sat on the living room floor and listened to the baby's heartbeat and talked about... ... I don't even know what we talked about.  I mentioned that I didn't think I had progressed very far, and that I wanted to get to my mani-pedi.  I also said that if, by some chance, I was further along, say 7-8cm, that I wanted to have my water broken (this is a decision made based on three previous labors wherein my water has not broken on it's own, and a history of having the baby relatively quickly after breaking the water.)  This discussion took place between contractions which were now flooded with I can't, I can'ts.  Ok.  This was really starting to hurt.

When Karen checked me, she said the only thing she could feel was a bulging sac.  Well, that was a pleasant surprise.  It was baby time.  We called Christina, who promptly headed over to get this show on the road.  I continued laboring on the bed for awhile, leaning against a stack of pillows.

Christina got to our house a few minutes after 1pm.  She broke my water at 1:10.  Things escalated pretty quickly here.  I started bearing down within a few contractions, kneeling on the living room floor, leaning against a chair.  "I don't know, Erin," Karen said after a contraction, "I think you could still make your nail appointment."  My midwives are hilarious enough to make a woman laugh moments before she has a baby.

The next little while felt like an eternity.  Christina suggested that I hold off on pushing for a few contractions.  The baby was stuck behind my pubic bone, which was slowing things down a bit.

Ok.  So I waded through a few contractions.  Those were the very worst, awful minutes of the whole thing.  In my mind, I was doing this for hours, but in reality it couldn't have been more than a few minutes.

At last, a strong urge to push.  Christina directed in me in pushing while kneeling on one knee through a contraction, then kneeling on the other through the next.  This helped the baby descend a bit more.  Still seemed to be lasting an eternity.

What happened next was one of the most awesome moments of my entire life.  (I think the moment that you push a baby out is always one of the most awesome moments, but this was one of the best for me).  Still kneeling one one knee in the living room, I remembered far, far back in my mind,

A full squat can shorten the birth canal by almost 30%.

A 30% off deal has never sounded so good. I pulled myself onto my feet, into a squat, pushing on my knees with my elbows.  With my next push, out came baby's head.  And with the next, shoulders, and all in a blur, there was my baby.   Oh, it was over.  Hallelujah.

And it was a girl.

Born at 2pm, we met our fourth child and our first daughter. 7lbs, 0oz and 19 inches long.  We named her (several days later!) Charlotte Magdalena Marie, after Blessed Sister Charlotte, martyred in the French Revolution, and Saint Mary Magdalene, whose feast day falls just a few days after her birthday.

And that, my friends, is both the end and the beginning.  Thank you for reading.

Charlotte's Birth Story: A story of Pleasant Surprises, Part I

It's taken me a few months to write a birth story.  I guess that isn't so surprising.  My preferred mode of birth-story-writing is being alone, cozied up on the couch (alone), in a thoroughly clean house (alone), with wine (alone), while neglecting all other responsibilities. Alone. Believe it or not, it's sort of hard to accomplish around here.

 This time has been a little different, I guess. Even in the absence of external silence, Advent is upon us, calling us to seek internal silence, internal emptiness, preparing room for the coming of Christ into the world and into our hearts. It's when we find silence in our souls that we really hear our own pulses, aware that each beat of our heart is a knock on death's door.   Understanding birth, in so many ways, is like understanding death.   It's taken some clearing and quieting of my soul to sort through the magnificent thing that is giving birth, and so here it is, at last, Charlotte's birth story:  A story of change, and of pleasant surprises.

--Part one--

I can't say that Charlotte's pregnancy was filled with excitement. Not a giddy excitement, anyway. The pregnancy itself was pretty comfortable.  I was healthy. I took care of myself, and we were all happy enough, quite thankful that another healthy addition to our family was in the works. But, with three little boys and their perpetual (read: constant, unrelenting) demands, the prospect of adding a newborn to the mix didn't thrill me or anything.  In fact, I didn't really think about the baby very much at all.  Labor and birth loomed ahead of me like a big black hole, and I was vaguely aware that beyond that horrible, horrible place, there was a new person whom I would love, who would change me forever-- but honestly, it was an afterthought.  I mean, really.  This was a big. black. hole.

 I took very little joy in preparing for the birth and for the new baby. I felt quite certain that we were preparing to meet Baby Boy #4, which was all well and good, but frankly, it was feeling very 'old hat' by now.  The thought of all things baby-related sparked waves of anxiety over giving birth and the neediness of a newborn.  It all felt very difficult and very heavy.

 I remember realizing, one day as I was watching the boys play in the sandbox, that when I had my first baby, I felt anxious  because I didn't know what to expect.  As I prepared to have my fourth, I felt this way because I knew exactly what to expect.  I knew, so very well this time, that on the other side of this scary, scary black hole, I would be a different person.  Again.  And that I would have to change and adapt and become a mother to a whole new person, whom I had never met.  That kind of adaptation and growth is phenomenal.  It's also exhausting.  And you know, I was already feeling awfully tired.

As my due date grew nearer, the summer was growing blisteringly hot.  Oh, it was so hot.   The heat was downright  inescapable- the kind of heat that works its way under your skin and just won't get out.  So here I was, tired and hot (have I mentioned how hot it was? Have I mentioned that I was tired?).  Matt was working late nights at the office night after night.

 Many of you read my last birth story, and you'll remember how long that labor was (think days, not hours).  I was very afraid of laboring that way again, and that fear grew and festered and bred like an infection in an open wound. I wanted it to be over, and the hard part hadn't even started.  I prayed, and my prayers were jumbled. What I really wanted to pray for was that I wouldn't have to do it, and that it wouldn't hurt.  

My 40th week happened, not-so-conveniently, to coincide with my husband's busiest work week of the year.  He left early each morning and returned home late each night.  On Monday, July 9th, I started having contractions.  I was 39 weeks, 2 days.   These were good, strong, deep contractions that um...totally freaked me out.  We had reached the black hole, and it was sucking me in. Doom.

But anyway, it was Monday.   Erratic contractions.  I wasn't timing anything, but knew that this whole thing was going to be over soon.  (Think days, not weeks.)  Fitful sleep on Monday night.  Painful contractions, but not in active labor.  Distracted husband.  Noisy children.    I awoke on Tuesday feeling like panic was about to take hold.  Contractions started to normalize a bit in the morning. I'd say they were about 10 minutes apart.  I was officially in limbo.

Now, I am fortunate to have good friends.  Friends who understand why I choose to birth the way I do, who also understand my anxiety.   My friend (and neighbor) Renata , who attended my last birth, had us over to visit that Tuesday afternoon.    I sat on her couch with my feet up, eating fine cheese and apples.  We listened to music and she tended to my children's every whim.  Total delight.  When I left her house, my anxiety had quieted considerably.  My faith in my body had been restored and I felt strong.   I was strong because my friend gave me courage.  Quite literally, she encouraged me when I felt that my own courage had run out.

Tuesday night was also fitful, however.  Contractions woke me up frequently, though I managed to get a few consecutive hours in before I was harshly awakened by my boys and their cruel, discompassionate demands for food and drink and clothing and yada, yada, yada.

I might not live through this day, I thought as I dragged myself out of bed.  In fact, I will likely die.  I AM PROBABLY GOING TO DIE BEFORE THIS DAY ENDS.  

Deep breath.

No.  All I need is a plan.  A plan will fix everything.  I AM GOING TO MAKE A PLAN.

To make matters worse, moments before dashing out the door, Distracted Husband distractedly asks, "So, are you in labor or what? Oh, my ride is here.  Gotta go!" And with that, Distracted Husband was gone in a flash.

I wasted exactly no time before totally losing my cool.   Didn't the whole world realize that I was being sucked into a terrifying black vortex of pain and suffering at a tortuously slow pace?  Panic levels were um....escalating.

Contractions at this point were slightly more consistent than the day before.  About 10 minutes apart, definitely strong, lasting about 40 seconds.  I had some bloody show in the late morning and texted my midwives to let them know that things were gearing up.  (And gosh, it is seriously nice to have midwives who text directly back and forth with you. Wow.)

A plan, a plan, I need a plan.  I didn't have a plan, though, and I was having a hard time holding it together.  I fed the kids breakfast, dressed them, turned the AC on, and plopped them in front of a movie. (That's what good moms do when it's a million degrees and they're in early labor.  Trust me.)  I called a salon to set up an appointment for a mani-pedi (a late pregnancy gift from Distracted Husband).  I was hoping they'd get me in that day to take my mind off of baby-limbo, but alas.  No openings until tomorrow.  I sat on a birth ball and chatted, via Facebook, with a few friends about the status of things and about my general panic-strickenness.

My friend, Renee, who also debuted in my last birth story, chatted with me, and she was ready to make a plan.

Hallelujah, I thought, she has a plan.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt, momentarily, like I could keep my head above the panic.

My 18-year-old sister Kyla offered to come out after she got off work (at 1pm)  to help me with the kids (because I have awesome family, too), and quickly a plan fell into place.  Kyla agreed to spend a few hours with my boys while I went out thrifting with Renee.

I took a shower and got dressed.  I made lunch for the boys.  After a few really strong contractions around 1 o'clock, I noticed more bloody show.

At 2pm, Renee and Kyla showed up.  Renee and I headed out, leaving Kyla and the lunch mess and crying toddlers behind (I love Kyla. Really.).  It just didn't matter to me at that point.

So, we went thrifting.  You should know that Renee is not just a friend that you go thrifting with.  Renee is the Queen of Thrift.  You are guaranteed to find something good when you enter a thrift store with that woman.

We looked at everything.  Of course, we looked at baby clothes and blankets, and we found a few cute things for Baby Boy #4.  For the first time that pregnancy I felt the -zing!- .  That -zing!- that was the realization that soon, soon, I was going to meet this baby, and that whatever amount of pain lay between him and me was a small, small obstacle. Because I loved him. I was excited. Really.  Finally.

She implored me to look at baby girl things, and I agreed. We found a couple of really cute, flowery newborn sleepers, and I abandoned my hesitation to buy girly things.  I enjoyed having cute new-to-me baby items for either gender, and I enjoyed the mystery.  (Even though I was *definitely* having another boy.)

Still having contractions, let's not forget.  About 10 minutes apart.

We found The Blanket. This blanket.  It was the blanket that made me think, I cannot wait until I hold my baby.  And, I really hope this baby is a girl because I REALLY WANT TO USE THIS BLANKET.

And we found the birth sheets.  I can't really explain this one, but if you've prepared for a home (non-water) birth, you understand that you need sheets, and that you want to like them without valuing them.  Does that make sense?  Maybe not.  Anyway, these were brightly colored striped sheets that I liked.  They were birthy sheets.

We checked out with our exciting new baby and birth items and then my dear friend took me out for dinner.  It was about 4:30.  One of my midwives, Karen, texted to ask how I was doing, and I gave a brief update, letting her know that contractions were still slow and steady.

We sat outside and ordered burgers. Mine was oh-so-good, and I was ravenous.  We talked about birth, and about the mystery that birth is.  Giving birth is not about doing, it's about receiving and opening.  It's about entering the dark unknown, and accepting pain and total transformation of body and soul.  It's about allowing yourself to become a vessel- the hollowing out of yourself to make room for another.  It happens to you. It is amazing and beautiful.  It is not, however, painless.

I'll remember that night forever.  Lovely.

As she drove me home, Renee picked up Wendy's for my boys so I wouldn't have to cook dinner for them when I got there.  Did you catch that?  She bought my kids' dinner.  Amazing friends, I tell you.

On returning home, my sister was hanging out with a crew of noisy, rambunctious boys. Renee headed home. Kyla and I fed the rambunctious boys, and she cleaned up.  Contractions picked up for awhile here, about 5 minutes apart, and I was having a hard time dealing with kids + contractions + heat + fatigue.  It was 7pm, and Kyla headed home.  I got the boys ready for bed, put all of my newly-thrifted baby stuff into the wash, and poured myself a big glass of wine.  Matt got home from work around 8.  I finished my wine, took a long bath, and went to bed.

I slept that night, and I slept hard.  I wasn't anxious and I wasn't afraid anymore.  I didn't know what the day ahead of me had in store, but I felt strong.  I had courage because my friends gave it to me, and so I slept.

Click here for part II :)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

On realizing you have become the Mommiest of all.

Tonight hubby and I have the pleasure of attending a tribute banquet for Joe Scheidler, one of the most prominent figures in the pro-life movement and a great defender of pre-born life.

As you might imagine, I don't regularly attend formal banquets and my wardrobe shows it. I was hoping to scrounge together a nice outfit (that actually fit me, and was not maternity) at the thrift store. In this pursuit, I realized how very, very different my shopping habits are now that I'm a few years deep in my mothering career.

And so, folks, this is how you know that you have, in fact, become the mommiest of the mommies.

1. You evaluate all clothing based primarily on it's nursing potential.

In hunting the thrift store for a suitable dress, I came across this gem:

Not anything too exciting to look at on it's own, I know (though it is very soft, figure-flattering, and versatile, color-wise. I will probably double it as an Easter dress). The great thing about this dress is the swoop neck and the layer beneath it, which I promptly made nursing-accessible.

And, the price was right.

2. You find a great necklace and think: Awesome! I have a sling to match that!

3. You hunt the thrift store for a small, simple black clutch that will, specifically, fit a diaper or two and wipes perfectly and discreetly.

Blessings, all!