My Second Birth : Another Natural Birth in a Hospital Setting

This June we were so happy to welcome another little boy into the world! I love the crazy, empowering, and miraculous experience that is childbirth. As I look back, it’s interesting to me to see the differences between my two birth stories. You can read my first son’s birth story here.

Birth is Beautiful

It’s important to remember that all births, women, and babies are unique. Your birth story may not look like mine. Your birth may have been un-medicated or with an epidural, vaginal or C-section. The thing we share in common is that we are both mothers, and we love our babies. I truly believe that is what is most important.

Personally, I have loved going the un-medicated route with both of my boys.

Here is my second birth story:

At 5:30 I woke up with light contractions that seemed to be sort of regular, but nothing to exciting. I tried not to get too hopeful, because this had been happening off and on for a couple of days. As I woke up I realized that my water had broken.

I woke up Levi and we started to get ready to go to the hospital. We showered, packed our bag, ate breakfast, and I snuggled the toddler. All the while I was having light contractions about 6-7 minutes apart. My goal was to labor at home, but I guess I was too excited and I knew that because my water broke I would actually go into labor. We left the house about 7:00-7:30.

I always tend to feel awkward telling the front desk, “I’m in labor,” when I am clearly calm and not “hee-hooing” or whatever (so movie cliché). But, in we went and told them my water broke.

When we checked in, they confirmed that my water had broken. I didn’t go into active labor till 11:00 am, so for a while we were just kind of hanging out with occasional contractions. We watched Netflix and walked in the tiny labor and delivery wing.

Active Labor

Finally things started to progress. Since my water broke before I went into labor, they didn’t let me get into the tub, so I showered for hours to manage my intense contractions. I would stand in the hot shower, or hold Levi and sway. He would whisper encouragement to me and stroke my hair or back. At one point I switched to the bouncy ball while I was being monitored, but that was really uncomfortable. Back into the shower I went.

Eventually that evening I was dilated to about a 9.5, but the baby still had to move down quite a ways. After the doctor checked my cervix I was so tired I just decided to try laying on my side and relaxing into every contraction. The hot water in the shower was wonderful, but since I was standing or sitting I couldn’t fully relax. The contractions were really powerful at this point, but with Levi’s help I started to really relax and was managing them well.

I relaxed so well that I started to fall asleep in between contractions! The contractions started to space back out while I slept. I was so exhausted that I needed this little rest before I started pushing. Throughout the whole process I felt so much strength and power enabling me and helping me. This totally unexpected nap was one example of all the little blessings that showed me how much divine help I had during my birth.

Birthing Positions

After a while I kind of realized that I needed to be upright for gravity to help move the baby down and out. I had a really hard time pushing for my first birth, so I knew I needed to do something different. I didn’t want the sports game environment with everyone telling me what to do, when to breath, or talking loudly. I didn’t want to squat because it took so much work and energy with my first.

I decided to be leaning on the propped up hospital bed, kneeling on my hands and knees. I could lay forward and rest between contractions, but gravity was still helping the baby out. I had a wonderful doctor who was really on board with me birthing in whatever way felt right and natural to me. In between checking on me, the nurse stepped away and let my husband and I work together without interruption. If they wanted to let me know how far along I was they whispered it to Levi.

Pushing

I could push whenever I felt ready. After waiting a while, I started to feel like I wanted to kind of breath and push at the same time. I did that for a little while. The doctor double checked my cervix and had me push while he moved a lip out of the way of the babies head. I was so nervous because I didn’t want to be pushing for a whole hour, and I told the doctor.

He said, “I don’t want to rush you or get your hopes up, but when you pushed just now I felt the baby move a lot. I think you can push really effectively. ”

This helped me realize that I was in control. I was powerful and I can do this! I whispered to Levi, “I can do this!” He kept encouraging me and telling me how strong I was. He got a little choked up, and so did I. Birth was such a beautiful and unifying moment for us as a couple.

After that I pushed with each contraction, but I let myself rest as well. The contractions while I was pushing were the most painful, but I pushed past it. I thought of it as power and strength, bringing my baby into the world. We didn’t know the gender yet, but all through my birth I was thinking of my baby girl, how I was going to meet her. I was totally channeling my wonder woman and power-warrior yelling through the contractions.

The nurse called the doctor in and they were ready to catch the baby. I gave a giant push and felt something pop out and explode onto the bed. I jumped! I thought it was the baby! But it was just the rest of my water breaking.

Meeting our Baby

After a few more pushes, I felt the pressure of the baby between my legs and a huge amount of strength and urge to push. I didn’t realize that the head was out, but the doctor said, “Okay, give me a push!” And I pushed so hard that the baby fell out onto the bed. I’m not sure, but I don’t think he caught him because he wasn’t expecting it to come so fast.

Levi called out, “It’s a boy!” Which was a completely joyful surprise because during labor I had convinced myself that the baby was a girl. I turned around and layed down as fast as I could to hold my baby boy, He was perfect, and beautiful. We had to rub him to make him cry, but as soon as he got situated I put him up to my breast and he latched on and nursed easily right away. I cried with joy and relief. Birth is beautiful. Life is beautiful.

Love, Jess

How to Draft Your Own Baby or Toddler Tee Pattern (From Existing Clothes)

Here at Stitches & Sunflowers I’m all about sewing to save money. One way to do this is to make your own patterns. This tutorial will teach you how to make a tee shirt pattern for your baby or toddler. This pattern is super simple to make, so it’s a good way to start making your own patterns. Making a tee shirt pattern is very forgiving since the fabric is stretchy and the fit doesn’t have to be exact (especially for a small kid).I think you’ll find that the precision and ease it gives you when sewing multiple (or even just one!) tee shirts makes the extra step of tracing a pattern onto paper well worth it.

You’ll Need:

  • Paper. I use medical exam table paper or the extra end of a newspaper roll (which you can buy from the local newspaper). You could make do with anything.
  • A tee shirt in the size you want to make
  • A pencil and a ruler (a clear ruler is really helpful for ALL sewing projects, but especially pattern making)

First you’re going to “trace” the sleeve.
  • Lay your tee shirt out on top of a piece of paper. Make sure you are using a flat surface underneath.
  • Start at the top of where the shoulder meets the body of the shirt. Trace down the top fold of the sleeve. Do the same thing from the armpit to the hem.

+ Note: In this picture I am using a onesie, but I found that an actual tee shirt makes a more accurate pattern which is why a tee shirt is shown in the supplies above.

  • Then you’ll use a straight line to make the hem by connecting the two “corners.”
  • Connect the corners at the top of the sleeve using a curve like you normally see on sleeve patterns. You can also use my photo as a reference.

  • Fold your pattern in half perpendicular to your hem line and cut out your arm pattern on the fold (like you are cutting out a heart). This makes a sleeve pattern you don’t have to cut on a fold. Be careful to not make your sleeve too big at this point. If you’re worried about the fit, just leave the sleeve pattern the way it is and cut out the sleeves on a fold.

Next, make the body piece of the tee shirt pattern.

You do this basically the same way you made the sleeve, there are just a few more lines to trace.

  • I start by tracing the shoulder seams, the side seams, and the hem.
  • Then use your ruler to straighten out the hem and the shoulder seams
  • Connect the armpit edge and the shoulder edge with a curved line on each side, as shown.
  • Connect the neck hole edges with a curved line to make the neck hole.

If you want your front and back pieces to be identical, you can cut two from this piece. Alternatively, you can trace your front piece and change the neckline to make your back piece.

Making the Neckband:

You can make a pattern piece for your neckband if you’d like. I just like to measure and cut a strip of fabric when I’m cutting out my fabric. You find out how long to make your neckband by measuring around the neck hole with your measuring tape. Add about a half inch for seam allowance (or larger, if you prefer). I usually make neckbands for little ones between 1 and 1 1/2 inches wide.

Draft Your Own Baby or Toddler Tee Shirt Pattern / stitchesandsunflowers.com

Now, add your seam allowance.

I like to use 3/8 inch seam allowance on baby tee shirts. You can use whatever you prefer.

  • Measure and mark 3/8 inch away from your pattern line all around each curve.
  • Carefully connect the marks, making a new curved line.
  • Mark the straight lines 3/8 away from your pattern edge as well.

Your pattern is finished!

If you used any paper other than tissue paper or medical exam paper you should cut out your pattern with paper scissors before you pin it to your fabric.

Don’t let pattern-making scare you away! Try this forgiving tee shirt pattern and make some tee shirts for your baby (or any kid, really). I have a tutorial for how to sew up this tee shirt here, along with a free pattern in 12 month size. If you want to add a pocket to your tee shirt there is a tutorial here with a free pattern for older babies/toddlers.

If you are looking for a more precise way to copy patterns, I am intrigued by this technique that uses pins or this technique that uses tape.

Love, Jess

Preparing for a Gender Surprise Baby + Three Tips for Finding Gender Neutral Clothes

So far in our family we’ve enjoyed waiting until the baby is born to learn whether it is a boy or a girl. We love the excitement of the surprise and the guessing. It’s kind of special to just love the baby without yet knowing much about him or her, and it adds some extra fun to the beautiful experience of birth.

When I tell people that we are having a “gender surprise,” I get varied reactions. The conversation goes like this:

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Oh, it’s a surprise.”

The reactions: “Oh, how fun!” “You’re not going to find out?! How could you do that?” “I could never be that patient,” and “How will you prepare for the baby?!”

Preparing for Baby: A minimalist approach

I’ve actually found it easy to prepare for a gender surprise baby. In fact, that’s the way parents have been preparing for generations before ultrasounds were available. The key is simplicity. We’ve never had the space to go crazy decorating a nursery, or buy a lot of baby gear. In fact, we’ve never had a nursery at all. While there is plenty of gender neutral baby gear and décor on the market, I think the easiest way to prepare for a surprise baby is to eschew all of the extras and only buy what baby really needs.

These basic things are fairly easy to find in gender neutral colors, especially large baby gear such as carseats and strollers. The biggest challenge in preparing for a gender surprise is buying gender neutral baby clothes. I bought/made exclusively gender neutral newborn clothes for my babies except for one dress and bow headband that I made in case the baby was a girl.

Here are three tips that made it easy for me to find (super cute!) gender neutral baby clothes.

Tip #1 Say Yes to Neutral Colors

There are wide range of colors that are considered “appropriate” for any gender of baby. These include orange, yellow, green, and red. With this baby I have also fallen in love with the neutral colored baby clothes: grey, brown, and beige. These colors are so classic, and with the right textures and prints I don’t think they are boring.

I also started buying all of the basics in white. White is the perfect classic, match-everything color (in my opinion) for sheets, swaddles, onesies, tee shirts, burp clothes, etc.  Yes, babies stain, but I’ve found that baby stains are easily sun-bleached out of white laundry.

Tip #2 Shop Boys and Girls Sections

There is typically no “gender neutral” baby section in most stores and online shops. I have the most success when I look through both sections. I keep my eye open for neutral colors along with classic and neutral silhouettes. If I’m shopping for gender neutral clothes in the girls section, I avoid clothes with bows and lace. If I’m shopping gender neutral in the boys section, I don’t usually buy extra baggy clothes or things with huge cargo-style pockets. You get the idea.

Tip #3 Shop Small (or Sew Your Own)

While it is possible to find clothes in bigger box stores by shopping both sections, the options are still sometimes limited. My favorite gender neutral finds have been in small shops on Etsy, or other small(er) businesses such as Billie Blooms, Little Cottonwood, or Fawn & Forest. They have GORGEOUS neutral clothes.

However, the price of handmade baby clothes is really high for me to buy much that way. I do splurge on some high-quality baby items that I can’t make myself (like these booties and a sheepskin), but I prefer to sew baby clothes that fit my aesthetic. Sometimes it requires some trial and error (the bloomers above ended up being too small for my cloth-diapered baby) but I love sewing for baby while I’m pregnant! It’s possible to save a lot of money this way since baby clothes require less fabric and it’s easy to use recycled grown-up clothes.

Benefits of Shopping for a Gender Neutral Baby

Since we would love to have a big family, I am all about longevity when I buy baby gear. Even if this baby will only wear something for a few months (or weeks), I try to buy clothes and baby gear that subsequent babies can use.

Enter… gender neutral clothes! It’s so nice to know that there is a whole newborn wardrobe waiting for the next baby whether it be a boy or girl. Other perks of shopping gender neutral are the fun of finding unique baby things and the classic look of baby clothes that are not overly pink or blue. Here are some examples of gender neutral outfits for inspiration (can you tell I’m addicted to baby bloomers?).

What are your thoughts on keeping baby’s gender a surprise? Would you ever do it?

Love, Jess

Becoming a Mother: Baby #1 Birth Story

Lately here at Stitches and Sunflowers I’ve been sitting around waiting for false labor to turn into real labor. Since I have only baby on my brain, I thought it would be fun to share with you the birth story of my first baby. Birth is so personal, but as I was preparing for L’s birth I found it really helpful to read stories of other moms and get a healthy perspective about childbirth in our culture that fears and sensationalizes birth.

I woke up one morning feeling contractions that were small but fairly regular. For me they felt like a strong menstrual cramp that came and went in a wave. At this point they were strong enough to wake me, but not strong enough that I needed to get out of bed.

Laboring at Home

My goal was to labor at home for as long as I could.  I wanted to be able to work with my body in early labor in a place that was comfortable and familiar to me.

That evening I was still having regular contractions, but they weren’t yet five minutes apart and I was still feeling pretty normal. There was a church barbecue at the beach that night. I knew that it would be my last chance for a beach trip in a long while, so we went! It was a cloudy and slightly rainy day, so not many people were getting in the water, but I wanted to swim in the ocean before the baby was born so Levi and I got in and swam.

At the end of the party I started to notice my contractions were strong enough that I was having a hard time acting normal through them. A friend drove us home (we didn’t have a car, so we walked everywhere normally) and we started to pack for the hospital. We cleaned the house with some old seventies music playing (woo-hoo the Carpenters!) and every time I had a contraction I would stop what I was doing and sway to the music.

At around 9:00 pm we let our doula know that I was in labor, but when she came over to talk to us my contractions seemed to slow down a little, and still weren’t overwhelmingly strong. We decided to try and get some sleep. Levi did sleep a little, but I didn’t sleep much between contractions. Finally, I couldn’t handle laying down and pretending to sleep any longer, so I woke up Levi and we started the 45 minute drive to the hospital.

At the Hospital

We checked into triage at 4:00 am. The nurse asked, “How long has this been going on?” I honestly couldn’t think of a good answer as to when my labor started, so I said, “About nine months.” It’s still one of my finest moments when it comes to telling jokes.

When the nurse checked my cervix I was 6 cm. dilated and 90% effaced. The nurses were very surprised and started rushing to check me into a room.

Our hospital room had a view of the beautiful mountains of Oahu. Before getting in the tub the nurses had to check how baby was doing on the fetal monitor. When I had a contraction I would breath deeply and lean into Levi and sway. Leaning forward and letting him hug me helped me relax into the contractions.

Finally, I was finished being monitored and they let me get into the tub. The warm water helped me relax and made my contractions much more manageable. I focused on envisioning my cervix opening and relaxing my whole body into each contraction. Levi was the most amazing birth support. He supported me with gentle touch and words of encouragement. I clung to him during every contraction.

Pushing

At 9:00 am I was ready to start pushing. My midwife came in and broke my water. At this point I was so exhausted. Everyone was cheering me on and telling me to push during my contractions. I tried using the birthing bar to squat on the hospital bed, but between every contraction I laid back on the bed and stared out the window at those beautiful mountains. I just wanted to be done! I started to say, “I can’t do this, it hurts,” and the contractions became very painful as I was pushing.

I pushed for an hour. Everyone kept saying, “You’re almost there, I see the head, you’re almost there.” I thought every push would bring the baby out. The baby’s heartrate started to drop. Everything started to become mixed up and crazy in my brain. I was worried about the baby, but it all felt kind of far away as I was overcome by my contractions and efforts to push.

My midwife called in the attending doctor. When he came in I think he introduced himself, and told me he needed to use the vacuum to get the baby out as soon as possible. One more push, and with the help of the vacuum L was born.

Natural Birth

When they placed L on my chest, I was amazed at how alert, alive, and tiny he was. I felt so much love for him already. His birth was such a challenging and incredible experience. It was a beautiful time of bonding for Levi and I. It was an example of how our bodies are powerful and perfectly designed.

I wouldn’t give up my natural birth experience for the world. I think everyone’s birth choices are their own, so I wouldn’t push the decision to have a natural birth on anyone. However, I also don’t feel that I am a remarkably unique woman for giving birth naturally. I don’t have a high pain tolerance and I’m not an athlete. Birth is a healthy, incredible process and our bodies already know what to do.

What was your birth experience like? Share in the comments.

Love, Jess

Linked to: #fandayfriday and Home Sweet Home Link Party 

 

 

 

I Won’t Tell You What Works for Your Baby

The internet is a parenting expert. Well, it acts like one at least. The great world wide web has plenty of opinions and suggestions to offer on how to raise kids. The voices giving this advice are many and often contradict each other. They don’t know our individual kids, they may not be qualified to give advice, and yet we still give their voices credit. Is this good or bad?

Let me share my experience.

Before I even got pregnant with my first baby, I had a very clear picture of what kind of a mom I wanted to be. I slowly gathered lots of research about routines, sleeping schedules, and open-ended play. Once I was pregnant, I only intensified my research. I wanted to know what other moms had to say about baby-wearing, birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, and how to soothe a baby. I was so determined that I’d be a “good mom.”

Fast forward to a month or two postpartum and I was STILL in agony from breastfeeding. I had seen multiple lactation consultants, worked hard to try to fix the baby’s latch, used a nipple shield and I was still in pain. No one could give me latch tips that were helpful. Other moms were done being sore after a few weeks. Everything I had read about breastfeeding was telling me that unless I was doing this WRONG I should not be having any pain.

I am not the kind of girl who likes to continually do things wrong. This, combined with the pain, sparked some tough emotional issues for me. I stopped listening to advice about breastfeeding. Eventually, I survived.

A few months later Littles stopped sleeping through the night. After we moved a few times, every attempt to get him to fall asleep by himself failed. Again….I don’t like to fail! We moved in with my in-laws and Littles started to be exposed to more TV. He often played with an iPad. A lot of those pre-concieved notions about how I was going to parent started to fall away, and sometimes, I felt guilty.

Despite it all, I still tried to find answers on the internet. The articles and blog posts I found always promise good results. They had titles like, “How to start teaching YOUR baby sign language.,” “How to transition YOUR baby from co-sleeping to crib,” and “Five steps to help YOUR baby sleep alone.”

I’m sure the authors of these articles felt they had expert advice to give. I’m sure that they only wanted to help. But did you notice how the wording of the titles assumed they knew what was best for my baby? How would anyone, even an expert, know any given technique would work for my baby? They don’t even know my baby.

Before I realized this, the fact that all of my well-researched knowledge wasn’t helping made me guilty and anxious. Was I doing something wrong? I am not a perfect mom, but just because I don’t parent like Pinterest thinks I should does not mean that I’m doing it all wrong.

I Wont Tell You What Works for your Baby |stitchesandsunflowers.com

I believe that we be careful of the words we use when we give advice to new moms. We need to be careful not to generalize. It can be harmful instead of helpful.

If I give you mothering tips, I won’t tell you what will work for YOUR baby, I will tell you what I did with my baby. I’ll do it in hopes that it will help you. If your baby is different than mine, please don’t be discouraged.

Do the research, but read with your own filter in place. Use that mama instinct of yours because you and your husband are the only ones who will really know what’s right for your baby. Please don’t tell yourself you’re failing if that internet advice, or ANY advice, doesn’t work out. Just love that baby. You will figure it out.

“To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, “Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are.” —Jeffrey R. Holland

Love, Jess

 

DIY Baby Booties

When L was a few months old my mother-in-law bought him some magical fleece baby booties that STAYED on his feet! Even when he was three months old those twelve month size shoes would stay on his feet, due to the ankle elastic and handy adjustable snaps.

He recently lost one bootie, so I set out on  a quest to make more. My first attempt at copying the baby shoes left a lot wanting. They were baggy and the fit of the pattern wasn’t as snug, allowing them to fall off.

I played with my pattern a little, and came up with a way for you (and me!) to make your own magic stay-on-those-feet baby booties. These booties were made a bit bigger than the store-bought 12 month size so that they would fit L for longer. I’d say they are between a 3 and a 4 shoe size.

Download the pattern here. Make sure you get all three pages.

Materials:

Thick and warm outer fabric (I have used recycled sweater and felted wool. Fleece would also work)

Thinner inner fabric  (tee shirt scraps, thin flannel)

Elastic (two pieces cut 7 1/2 inches long)

Snaps or Velcro

Step One

Cut out your fabric. You will need two pieces of each piece in outer fabric and two of inner fabric.

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.

Step Two

With right sides together, serge the inner fabric to the outer fabric. Do this with all the pieces except the sole piece.

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.

Step Three

Sew the elastic onto the heel piece, tacking it down on each end.

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.     DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.

Step Four

Flip the heel pieces right side out and topstitch over the ends to keep the elastic in place. Topstitch two parallel lines on either side of the elastic to form a casing

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.    DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.

Step Five

Flip the rest of the pieces right side out and press. Serge the bottom/raw edge off all the pieces and serge around the edge of the heel lining piece. This will make sure there are no raw edges once you sew everything together. *If you have a really fabulous serger that’s can sew through really thick fabric, or if you’re using thin fabric you should skip this step and serge the pieces together in the next step.

Step Six

Pin the center of the heel piece to the heel of the sole outer and inner, with the outer piece sandwiched in the middle. It’s important that you do the heel first! If you are using leather, hand stitch with embroidery thread and a backstitch. If you aren’t using leather, go ahead and use your machine to sew it.

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.   DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.

Step Seven

Pin the toe piece around the toe and either hand or machine stitch.

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial.

Step Eight

Flip your baby bootie right side out. Add the snaps or the velcro. If you are making adjustable snaps, put multiple snaps on the bottom strap and one on the top, so only one snap shows when your baby wears the booties.

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial. | stitchesandsunflowers.comDIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial. | stitchesandsunflowers.com

DIY Baby Snap Booties-- Sew your own 12 month baby shoes that don't fall off. Free pattern and tutorial. | stitchesandsunflowers.com

Note: Make sure that you keep tabs of which side is the right side of the heel piece, otherwise you’ll end up with booties that aren’t a mirror image of each other like me… oops!

Enjoy your beautiful baby shoes that don’t fall off little feet! If you don’t want to DIY here is a link to buy them.

Also, stay tuned for patterns of different sizes!

Love, Jess