Monday, September 7, 2015

A Life of Simplicity

This blog has fallen back on my heart in an undeniable way. I am excited to write again. I hope you feel welcomed.

If there were ever a word to describe this season for our family it would be "simple", which is ironic since it's just about the most complicated year we've ever faced; not bad, just complicated. We're building our dream house, a 3,000 square foot modern farmhouse just north and a ferry ride away from our current city that will sit on an acre, with parents next door on 2.5 acres. Maybe I sound too casual about such a significant thing, but I assure you I'm not. We really can't understand why God has chosen to bless us with this wild gift, but He has, and we're choosing to accept the abundance with joy and thanks. A quote came across my Instagram recently that helped me reflect on my feelings about this:

"It's scary to allow life to be good, especially if you have been through a lot of hard. It's scary to let go of our worries and fears and resentments and anxieties and to celebrate the goodness that is now, that is here today. But if we believe abundance is a trick and the bad thing is just around the corner, then we will let the darkness win. Personally I want to offer myself permission to look for the light." Leeana Tankersley, Breathing Room

When I consider our new life I have a very strong and clear vision of what's to come, the most paramount being: simplicity. So what better time than now to start evaluating our life, family, and existence in light of this? The funny part about this is that I'm not sure by our modern culture's definition of the word that our life reflects simplicity.

What is simplicity to me? A simple life is quiet, yet full of the giggles and squeals of children. Simple means keeping a garden that is large enough to sustain our family through summer, and preserving the leftovers for winter. It means homeschooling our kids in a way that flows with our natural rhythm; no running around or rigid schedules to keep to. Simplicity is in the seasons and being aware of our natural surroundings; celebrating them in our learning, cooking, senses, and home decor. A simple family prioritizes sleep and sees it as sacred, eats nutrient dense and uncomplicated food, and uses the plants that are native to our area to support our bodies. A simple existence means we have time and space to listen to and commune with God, which I hope will reflect an attitude of grace in our home.

Simplicity looks like having time and flexibility to welcome expected and unexpected visitors into our home for physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment. And last, a simple life observes the natural world and embodies what it sees naturally occurring—peaceful rivers flowing freely and confidently, plants and animals working hard and then resting, mamas lovingly taking care of their children without complaint, the nourishing darkness of night, along with the brightness and hope that comes in the morning. Simplicity doesn't mean being free of hard work, quite the opposite, really. To me it means blocking out the distractions so I can be free to see what truly matters, like stewarding the earth God created in a way that is honoring to him and the generations that will follow me.

But first...we must build our house. I feel like the roller coaster of what's to come is just cranking it's way up a giant slope and about to launch us into a fury of loopdeloops, corkscrews, and sheer drop-offs. Nothing about building a house is simple, but I'm praying that God will show us how to live simply during this season of transition and hard work. Some practical things I've been implementing in the interim:

- Eating simple, nourishing foods like boiled meat and vegetables, bone broth and meat stock, fresh and dried herbs, and seasonal fresh produce, and completely avoiding sugar, grains, and gluten.
- Listening to and respecting my body (if I'm craving sweet, I eat whole sweet food; feeling tired, try to get rest; feeling incessantly hungry, eat lots of healthy fat). The same applies to the children.
- Getting adequate sleep and rest (which doesn't always happen with two children).
- Kindly saying "no" and not over-planning.
- I've filtered my Facebook so it only shows groups and pages that are interesting and helpful to me, along with a very small handful of immediate family and friends. Instagram is similar.
- I use Pinterest frequently to keep my ideas organized. I've recently begun to ruthlessly go through and delete irrelevant things. It makes finding something much simpler, and much less cluttered.
- We treat our home similarly; anything that doesn't benefit our immediate life gets given away.
- Practicing deep belly breathing.
- Keeping our garden going into the autumn. The kids and I all find joy and peace in caring for the garden.
- Celebrating the busy season by documenting it, practicing thankfulness, and dreaming of what our new house will be like (especially with the kids).

I look forward to sharing more about this journey toward chickens, goats, muddy boots, and simple days to come.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

We Are Unschooling Our Kids

This is such an exciting topic to me. I can't wait to make this a regular series around here. First off, I never, ever, ever thought I would home educate my children. It wasn't until actually having children and beginning to face the prospect of how they might be educated that it became so blindingly clear how little was to be desired from a conventional education.

We've both always been concerned about the political state of the world and our country (USA), lack of quality education, increased need for people who specialize in specific trades and industries, bureaucracy of the education system, lack of focus on the arts and practical life skills like cooking and home maintenance, having our kids be separated from us and their siblings, and our own sub-par educations and lack of love for learning until recent years. Though despite all of this, I just couldn't see a way around conventional public education.

I somehow came across a couple blogs and Instagrams of families that practiced something called natural learning and quickly became so sure that this was the best fit for our family. I approached my husband hesitantly, unsure of how he would react, but to my surprise he agreed wholeheartedly without an ounce of trepidation and that was that. Over the past couple years he would occasionally mention homeschooling, but until I saw it practically applied in a way that made sense to me I just brushed it off as an unrealistic and foreign idea.

Truth be told, I didn't know much about homeschooling before my big revelation. I figured it just looked like bringing the classroom home—school work, lessons, math, health, dedicated school hours—which really didn't appeal to me. And often that is what homeschooling looks like. We, however, have decided to follow an almost entirely different path called Radical Unschooling. I love using the "radical" part—makes it sound so badass. But, really, it kind of is!

Unschooling is child-led learning. It's about learning through natural life experiences like play, reading, lots of time in nature, cooking, art, and pretty much every other component of a typical day-to-day life. It's not about me offering my children workbooks and teaching them through subject lessons, it's about exploring things that interest them. Natural child-led learning is primarily about letting the child decide what they are interested in and giving them full freedom to explore it as shallow or deep as they would like. My role as their parent is to support their interests by providing them with proper resources to pursue whatever is on their radar, as well as jumping in and learning right alongside them.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.” —Maria Montessori

I think it's also important to note that I don't view myself as a teacher. I am their parent and facilitator. I'm not concerned about not knowing everything because I don't need to. My role is to help them find the information they need to continue pursuing whatever it is that they're into for that moment/day/week/month/year(s). My ultimate goal as leader of our pack (with regard to home education) is to cultivate individuals who are life long learners and who love to learn. One of my favorite quotes is by a pioneer of unschooling, John Holt:

"Since we can't know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever must be learned."

Like he says, who knows what the world will be like in two decades when my children will enter the working world. I'm not concerned about calculus unless one of my kids is. And if she/he ever is, we'll figure it out together.

Even though I have little kids right now (29 months and 8 months), learning in our home takes place from sun up to sun down. There aren't school hours, and likely won't ever be. Unschooling starts at birth and ends when you leave this earth. For many of us unschooling parents, it's also a slow process of shedding the idea of what children "should" learn, how they should learn, or what our own educations looked like growing up. It's a lot of letting go and trusting that our kids will naturally learn what they need to learn if we encourage them to be curious and adventurous individuals.

For our family, this looks like moving out of the city to live the farm life. God directly led us to this move that we'll be making next year, and we couldn't be more grateful for the chance to raise our kids with chickens, mud, and lots of land to explore. Though this lifestyle isn't necessary to unschool, we feel it's the best environment our kids could possibly be raised and educated in.

We've got a long and exciting haul ahead of us, so I've yet to know all the details, but I'm excited to share and take you along on our adventures. If you're interested in reading more in the meantime, I recommend these fantastic blogs and links: ( on Instagram)


Thursday, April 9, 2015

As Life Goes

Hello, old friends. I'm here. I haven't much had interest in blogging, as I feel that blogging is best suited for unique information, not photos or anecdotes of my life. And I just haven't had anything worth sharing. However, I'm ready to talk again and believe I have some insightful things to talk about.

I would say my heart, focus and design sense have shifted quite a lot in the last year. I'm sure some of you have sensed that who follow me in other ways, like Instagram, or on my Facebook page. I feel like I've finally come into my own. I am becoming more confident in who I am and what I believe in, which is such a wonderful feeling. I suppose that's part of 'growing up'. My 27th birthday is this weekend, which simultaneously feels old and really young at the same time. I have a lot of friends who are at least a decade older than I am, which seems to skew my sense of how old I really am, but I digress.

I would love to share about things that I feel are unique to our home. Some of which might be progress updates on the custom modern farmhouse we're building, as well as our transition from city folk to farmers, topics related to our decision to unschool our children, along with peaceful and gentle parenting, my continued postpartum journey, ways in which God is working in our family, children's book and toy reviews, holistic wellness and cooking with kids features, and more.

I can promise you that I will write, but it won't be on any given schedule. I look forward to sharing some of the interesting thoughts rattling away in my head. I will be back soon with a post about our decision to unschool our children and what that means, in case you're not familiar. In the meantime, I invite you to pop over to my Instagram (mrsandmrking) and catch up on my month-long series of natural housekeeping tips under the hashtag #awellkepthome. xo

Monday, October 13, 2014

Piper's Birth Story

It's taken me a lot longer than I imagined to get to the point of even typing this first sentence—7 weeks and 3 days to be precise. I've been busy, tired, and have a zillion other things to do, but am mostly just overwhelmed with putting this big life event into words. Let's just dive in.

The weeks leading up to Piper's birth were physically very similar to Lola's (her full birth story here)—days and weeks of contractions with nothing to show for it. I knew better this time though. Sure, I was beyond uncomfortable and so eager to meet my new girl, but thankfully was able to stay mostly relaxed and unemotional. We went about life with the clause that everything would be put on hold at some point soon. Arthur was in and out of the house for work, trying to give me breaks, but also needing his own space to focus on wrapping up work for his three week paternity leave. My mom was also a huge help with watching Lola so I could relax my achy, tired, contracting body. Those final two weeks were physically the worst. Way harder than I ever imagined. What is it about the second pregnancy that makes things exponentially more difficult in every way?!

Our home life was a hot mess during these last two weeks. The cat became massively constipated—yes, I said it—and required multiple trips to the vet and an enema, which resulted in poop and vomit everywhere (I cannot emphasize this enough!). My house felt disgusting and I couldn't believe I was 39 weeks pregnant scrubbing cat poop off of everything for days and days. All I wanted was a pristine and clean house to deliver my baby in. The weather was also sweltering, as in 90-100 degrees, and since us Seattle folk don't have air conditioning it was pretty miserable. To make the scene even worse, I had just nested my house perfectly right before the cat pooped all over it. I think my lowest moment was steam mopping the days of poop residue off the hardwoods on a 95 degree day at 39.5 weeks pregnant. Awful. I felt like I had been beaten to the ground.

Enough poop talk; you get the picture. All this to say, tensions were high. I was praying for hope with very little faith that hope was even possible at this point. I felt alone and so let down. Arthur was fully focused on tying up loose ends at work and had little energy for me when all I wanted was to laze around with him and savor our final moments. I also hated that we were sleeping in separate beds so that I could get rest without his tossing and turning waking me up. And Lola, she was also struggling with sleep and hardly napping. Eventually though, in the second half of my 39th week, the clouds lifted a little. The cat healed, Arthur wrapped up work, the weather cooled a bit, and we knew the baby was coming sometime that week. God totally provided perfect relief when I was about at my breaking point. The awful weeks leading up began to fade into excitement about the birth of our new girl.

It was Thursday, July 24. I had an 11am acupuncture visit with our family ND to try to stimulate labor. I was two days past my due date and so, so ready to give birth. This was my follow up to our session on my due date that produced heavy contractions which didn't end up sticking around. She told me my body felt ready to labor. The needles were going in smoothly and my contractions were very responsive to the needle stimulation, which were both good signs. We joked about her potentially delivering the baby in the office and genuinely discussed how I would get home if things picked up while I was there. I felt relaxed and excited.

I returned home to a crazy house of my husband trying to work and take care of Lola. I made some lunch and milled about with very light and irregular contractions. Everything was much more intense after our last session, so I just assumed the acupuncture was a bust. Within an hour though I felt them picking up, though it was still a familiar frequency and intensity. I told Arthur I needed to lay down and rest. It wasn’t long after laying down that t could tell they were happening regularly. So I timed them with an app for about an hour and saw that they were averaging about 6 minutes apart, lasting about about a minute and a quarter. I had an instinct that this was it and paged the birth team for the millionth time that week.

We arranged for Lola to be picked up by my sister-in-law for a play date and then go to my parents house for the night. I hugged and kissed her in between contractions and sent her away—much less emotional than I thought it would be. A couple hours passed at this pace and I began to get the sense that this wasn't going to be a fast labor. Such a major disappointment. Things weren't happening fast like I imagined my second labor would be. The day was lazy and slow with contractions that were fairly regular and very tight feeling. I mostly stayed in bed, but shuffled around the house a few times. Bored was the vibe.

The day wore on and the sun went down. I was thinking that if this was the real thing it felt eerily similar to Lola's slow long labor. I wasn't looking forward to what was to come with that in mind. At some point I realized that I was starting to feel nauseous and jittery. My hormones felt like they were throwing a party all over my body. I began shaking uncontrollably, which also happened throughout Lola's labor. I pulled out my lavender, peppermint and grapefruit oils and alternated between them while breathing deep to relax my body and calm the shakes. Arthur walked in the bedroom at one point and I think we both realized that this was really it.

At 9:50pm I texted Melynda O'Brien and Julie Rings (birth doula and birth photographer, respectively), "Since you'll probably need to rest soon, an update...I'm pretty sure tonight's the night. Not sure if I'll labor all night or if things will pick up really quickly at some point. I'm totally shaky/jittery/nauseous/yucky hormones feeling right now." And additionally for Melynda, "I think I may need you soon. I'm starting to feel weird. Get some rest and I can call in a bit if you want.” She quickly texted back probing for more information. We decided to all go to bed and I’d call if things picked up.

With the bedroom lights dimmed and my soothing birth candle lit, I dozed off probably around 11:30pm unsure of how the night would go. And funny enough, woke at 1:10am with regular contractions—the exact same time I went to sleep with Lola and the exact same time (almost to the minute!) I woke with regular contractions in her labor. I can’t recall if Arthur was awake working or if I woke him up, but either way he ended up in bed with me listening through a few contractions. My moans were louder. A 3 or 4 on the pain scale, I told him.

I started shaking uncontrollably again. I began to feel quite anxious and nauseous. It felt surreal that this was really happening. I was ready for my birth team.

Arthur called Melynda at 1:55am to head out. He paged the midwives next and asked midwife Christine to come over and check in on me. We got a hold of Julie at 2:20. Christine arrived first at 2:30 and came to greet me quietly moaning through contractions on the birth ball in our bedroom. I was so thrilled to see her. This was it! She took my vitals and checked in on the babe. I told her my pain level was a 5. We discussed setting up the tub since it seemed I was in active labor, so Arthur got to work. Julie arrived shortly after and joined us in the bedroom.

Curious, I asked Christine when midwife Taylor would be joining us. She hesitated and told me she wouldn’t be. I honestly thought she was joking. "What do you mean?" I asked her. She very gently explained that they occasionally take off-call days and this just happened to be one of Taylor’s. I couldn’t believe it and felt anger welling up. In my head I rushed through every possible reason that I could give to get her with us, but realized I had none. Christine empathetically kept looking at me. I just sat there, mouth open, not sure what to say. It hit me that there was nothing I could do to change this situation. It had nothing to do with not wanting Christine there. It was all about wanting Taylor with her. I had them as my midwives for a reason and I was reeling with let-down over the fact that it wasn’t going to happen. But before I could get too far down my path of pity, a wave of peace totally washed over me. I looked at Christine and saw her sweet smile and knew this was God’s plan for our birth. She would be our midwife.

We next discussed who would be the second birth attendant. She told me there were two midwives—both named Sarah—who she would be contacting. One of them would join us at some point. It all seemed confusing to me, so I let go of trying to figure it out and focused back on Christine. I asked if she planned to leave and come back later, which was sweetly met with her assuring me that she wouldn’t be leaving. “I feel excited to meet this baby” I told her.

Doula Melynda arrived and we filled her in. I began feeling waves of intense nausea before each contraction and requested a Zofran to calm it down. Thirty minutes later the nausea was gone, as well as my anxieties about feeling sick and vomiting throughout labor. Christine offered a vaginal exam and I declined. My plan this labor was to trust my body and not over-complicate things. I was doing fine and had no need for that information yet.

We all migrated to the living room where Arthur was focused on filling the tub. It was quiet and calm. I loved it. I have such fond memories of these early morning hours. I parked myself on the labor ball next to the tub and swirled around and around as everyone milled about and chatted. We turned some classical piano music on the iPad and got me set up with snacks and coconut water. Everyone roared with laughter when I shared a sentiment about how I felt coconut water tastes like mucus. The room felt joyful and light. This was just before 4 o’clock in the morning.

I made regular trips to the bathroom to pee and around this time began to notice some brown blood when I wiped. More laboring on the ball continued. My contractions were strong but weren’t all that close together. I had plenty of time to recover between each rush.

An hour passed and the intensity was slowly picking up. I told the team that I was getting to the point where I wish the contractions would stop. I moved to the bed to try side lying for a few on each side and told Christine I was considering having a cervical check soon. I continued to labor on the ball and toilet, using a cotton swab with lavender oil to calm my anxiety and nausea. I mentioned to Christine again that I really wanted to know my cervical progress, but was worried the information wouldn’t be reassuring—that I wouldn’t be very far along. She recommended that Arthur and I go for a walk outside to encourage things to shift and we could discuss a vaginal exam after that.

It was just before 6am and we dressed and headed outside into the chilly summer morning. The sun was just coming up. Christine encouraged me to walk with one foot on the sidewalk and one on the street, try to squat holding onto Arthur through contractions and do lunges. All easier said than done. My contractions were still every few minutes apart and getting stronger, but it was becoming evident that labor wasn’t progressing very fast.

Upon arriving back home, Christine suggested I head straight to the toilet to labor there for awhile. I began moaning more intense and loud, but everyone kept exclaiming how well I was coping. I found this so incredibly encouraging since I was anxious how I would handle this birth after having had an epidural with Lola once things "got too intense”. How would I get through it this time when I didn’t manage to last time? I couldn’t shake that thought in the days leading up to Piper’s labor.

It was 6:25am and I was finally ready for a vaginal exam. Arthur, Christine and I headed to the bedroom. Four centimeters, -1 station, babe sitting right OP as she had been for the weeks leading up—not ideal. Christine suggested I get going with the Miles Circuit to try to get babe into optimal fetal position. It was right after I finished up the Miles Circuit with Lola that my water broke, so I figured it was a good call! The first twenty minutes were awful in a bum-up child’s pose, but once I finally made it through to the side-lying I was able to doze in an out of sleep between contractions. Arthur laid with me and napped, but continued to support by holding my hand. Overall I got about a 30 minute rest and woke up feeling like I had just got in a decent power nap.

It was 7:45am. Arthur and I headed out for another walk down the block to encourage Baby to spin around and drop down. I moaned loudly through contractions and got a big cheer from our neighbors as they left for work. I flashed back to walking our old block trying to ramp up labor with Lola. It all felt so similar, minus the stress of when to leave for the hospital. What a weight off my shoulders.

We returned to a house that smelled of fresh baking cinnamon rolls (that I had par-baked and froze for the occasion) and a warm and steamy house from the full hot tub. The sun was streaming in. It was really magical! “What a beautiful day to have a baby!” I excitedly announced. I wanted to call Lola to say hi since she was probably up at a quarter past eight. We got a hold of her via my parents where she was staying and got to tell her about how her baby sister would be arriving soon. It was great to connect with her.

It was 8:30am. I nibbled on some snacks and sent an update on Facebook. My contractions began to space further apart by sitting on the labor ball, so I got up and walking around the house. It was so hard not to feel impatient. A few times though I surveyed the room and thought about how grateful I was for all these incredible people who were here to support me. There was so much peace and love filling our tiny house that morning. My heart was overflowing.

Things were slow though. Christine sent me to the toilet to attempt to get Baby to drop into place. I labored there for twenty minutes until my legs were dead asleep. My recovery between contractions was surprising. As loudly and intensely as I’d moan through a rush, once it was over I could chat away without a wince for the minutes in-between. Christine sent me outside to try stomping around in the backyard with Melynda in tow.

Melynda and I hilariously stomped around together while chatting about God’s provision and sovereignty over this time. She asked me about my anxieties and reminded me that God already knew the course of the day and would provide me with exactly what I needed. She also reminded me that having fear wouldn’t change or accomplish anything, and that I could just rest in the Lord’s presence. This was exactly what I needed to hear to boost my spirit and refocus my mind.

While we were out stomping and lunging up and down the stairs, my contractions took a hiatus. A bit worried, I came inside to tell Christine. She suggested I go back outside and walk the block again. Melynda came with this time and Arthur caught up a few minutes later. My contractions picked back up with intensity. We continued to chat about life and ended the walk with a prayer giving my labor over to Jesus and acknowledging his goodness.

It was around 9:45am. We returned home with me moaning louder than when we’d left. Christine met me in the bedroom and discussed the option for another vaginal exam as well as options to augment my labor to help it along. I told her I was okay with a cervical check, so we planned for me to stand and walk around for one hour and then she would check my progress. I went into the bathroom to fix my hair and was reassured I was still coping well. I started to sink in, “Wow! I’m doing this! I’m laboring and strong!”. I still doubted how I was going to make it to the end, but knew there was no turning back now. There was so much time to think with labor progressing so slowly.

A little after 10am I went to use the bathroom and noticed my mucus plug begin to release and a bit of a bloody show. Christine suggested I sit down for awhile—just in time for Lola to arrive with my mother-in-law for a quick visit. I was so glad to see her! “Hey Lola, Baby sister is coming!” I told her. She got to help Christine listen to Baby’s heart tones, as she had done so many time before during our prenatal visits. “I hear Baby Sis!” Lola said. To her it was just another visit with the midwives. I returned to standing and the rushes became more intense. We snuggled and said goodbyes and Lola was on her way with Granny.

At 10:50, Christine and I ventured to the bedroom to finally do the exam. 5cm, slightly more effaced than before, -1 head station and still right OP…potentially with her chin up, which would be the reason for such slow progression. UGH!

Christine suggested homeopathics to encourage optimal fetal position and to increase the frequency and intensity of my contractions. She offered me four rounds of caulophyllum, cimicifuga, pulsatilla and aconite. I began to feel defeated, especially since 5cm was when I got an epidural with Lola. Melynda came to sit near me while I rested on the bed and encouraged me to take it one moment at a time, not worrying about what’s to come or the past, and also to savor the rest in between each contraction. I started to focus heavily on these two things and regained some momentum. It was also helpful that everyone sort of backed off for about 30 minutes while I took my first rounds of homeopathics, which gave me some mental space to process.

Around 11:30 I called Christine into the bedroom. I asked her how the baby ideally needed to turn. She grabbed one of Lola’s babies and showed me just how she believed Baby to be sitting and how she need to do almost a full turn clockwise and tuck her chin to get into the optimal fetal position (back facing my front). This was helpful for me to visualize. I started to doze off between contractions, so Christine allowed me an hour to rest. My contractions spaced out significantly and I was able to get some good sleep.

I woke up around 12:40 feeling rested and moved to standing to try to increase the frequency and intensity again. I snacked on a string cheese and discussed with Christine the options/risks/benefits of augmenting my labor. She explained that we could do a vaginal exam with a membrane sweep, continue trying new labor positions, or just wait it out and see. She also talked about drinking a lemon verbena cocktail (I can’t quite remember what was involved), which would likely get labor moving quicker. I told her I felt rested and we could both see I was coping well, so we decided I would go walking. She encouraged me to hydrate aggressively and keep snacking.

Just before 1pm Arthur and I left for a walk up and down the block. I moaned loudly every few minutes, but was steady and chatty otherwise. We passed a few neighbors along the way who I'm sure were concerned by my wild and loud noises. I didn't care. I told Arthur that I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this! I was laboring naturally and doing great at it! We shared a sweet moment over my excitement. His presence was really comforting.

We returned from the walk twenty minutes later and my moans were definitely louder and more intense. I sat on the birth ball and chatted with the birth team. I continued to cope well, but shared with Christine and Melynda, “I’m getting to the point that I want to start swearing. Something must be happening.” I had my eye on the tub, but was instructed earlier to try to hold out until nothing else was working before getting in since it could potentially slow my already slow labor even more. Christine suggested I try the shower to help me through the now stronger rushes. I hesitantly agreed, which meant that Arthur needed to go put the shower head back on from filling up the birth tub. By the time he was done I had lost the motivation to get undressed and in the pelting water.

It was 2pm. I asked Christine if we should do a cervical check before I get in the tub. I could sense I was getting close to wanting to be in the water. She thought it would be a good idea, but suggested I wait a few more contractions and take a trip to the stairs to do some lunging. I returned to the birth ball and found myself really uncomfortable. I was ready for the cervical check and to get in the tub. Christine sent me to the toilet for a few contractions first…trying to stall getting in the tub as long as she could.

While on the toilet, I noticed my pad was really wet, so she tested it for amniotic fluid, which didn’t appear to be the case. We moved to the bedroom for the vaginal exam. Seven centimeters, slightly more effaced, -1 head station, but with a stretchy/melty cervix. She confirmed that my water had not ruptured and told me that my cervix felt a lot different than the last check—softer. Progress was happening.

I undressed and was in the tub at 2:40pm. “Wonderful! Magical! I would live in this thing if I could!” I said. The warm water felt amazing. Christine said that I would need to get out if the contractions slowed down. I was elated and so relaxed. It sunk in that I was getting so close. I was almost in transition and still coping alright. “I’m so excited to meet her!” I said. I asked the ladies what it feels like to push (since I had the epidural by the time I pushed with Lola). “Like the biggest poop of your life” they all said.

The tub was getting too cold since it was filled up nearly 12 hours prior, so Arthur was instructed to add more hot water. He ended up pumping some out with the electric pump we bought and reconnecting the hose to the shower for more hot water. It felt incredible, "just like warm pee!" I said. The intensity was picking up. I agreed to eat an energy ball and cheese stick.

Christine gently brought up the fact that even though I was nearing transition, my contractions were still too far apart, particularly with regard to pushing the baby out. The timing between delivering the head and body needed to be closer together than what was currently happening. They needed to be less than four minutes apart for fetal well-being, as well as active management of the final stage of labor. She suggested nipple stimulation to pick up the pace. I looked at her like she was crazy. There was no way I was going to rub my nipples in a room full of people. Awkward! The next idea was to have Arthur do it. Even more awkward. And then the breast pump came to mind. I told Christine I would give it a shot and asked Melynda to clean it just in case I could collect any colostrum.

It was 4pm. I felt like I needed to pee, and despite Christine encouraging me to just go in the tub, I decided to use the toilet. Five minutes later and two contractions and I was back in the tub. The breast pump was ready to go. I started pumping with hesitation, not sure of what was going to happen. It was so uncomfortable and awkward since I had to sit tight up against the edge of the tub for the pump to reach. I was struggling to pump and brace myself through contractions. I would throw the bottles toward Arthur during each contraction and began getting really stressed over the whole scenario. I was hitting transition. I began to lose focus and snapped. No more pumping.

Immediately the pressure in my hips started getting intense. I alternated through different positions in the tub—leaning over the side, squatting and holding onto the side, squatting in the middle, and laying back on the seat. Christine told us that if there was no change in my labor pattern within an hour she would need to do a vaginal exam.

Just before 5pm it became obvious that my contractions were increasing in intensity and frequency. Christine requested a vaginal exam to confirm if it was time to call the birth assistant midwife. I held on tight to Arthur’s hand. My moans were shaky and contractions feeling like hell. She reported that my cervix was soft and ready but I had a 2-3 centimeter anterior lip and Baby’s head remained tilted, not tucked. She suggested I do three contractions lying on each side to help reduce the lip.

In between contractions I explained that I was scared for the pushing phase since I had never experienced unmedicated pushing. Christine dropped some homeopathics into the birth tub to ease my anxiety. I started to moan in a pattern of sounds—AHHHHH, MMMMMM, OWWWWW, EEEEEEE, OOOOOOH. It was totally a classic labor ritual pattern and helped me stay focused through each hellish rush. At a quarter past 5pm the birth assistant, Midwife Sarah Yeamans, was en route.

Between 5 and 6pm my moaning increased and I began to get irritable. I lost my focus during one particularly intense contraction and writhed through it yelling about how awful this was. “Why the HELL is this taking so long?! This f**king sucks! This hurts so f**king bad!” I started to feel the urge to pee between contractions, but couldn’t imagine getting out. Christine reminded me I could just go in the tub. I kept trying but nothing seemed to be coming out. The feeling wouldn’t go away. I questioned whether my water had maybe ruptured and was slowly leaking.

Not only was the intensity increasing, but so was my body temperature. The freshly added hot water and 85ยบ day didn't help either. I was sweltering. Melynda grabbed me a cool wash cloth and faithfully kept it cold. I held it in my hand during each contraction to give me another sensation to focus on—an idea I learned through yoga.

At 5:50 I called out for Melynda asking her to pray with and for me. I was losing focus and energy. She prayed for strength, faith in God’s provision, safety and stamina, breaking for me to moan through each intense contraction. My distress quelled just enough to take the edge off. I asked her to remain right there with me and offer wiffs of lavender oil to calm the anxiety and surging nausea. I felt so grateful for her presence.

Birth assistant Sarah arrived just after 6pm. I remember hearing her walk in and knowing that I had no energy left to give her. She got in my line of sight and sweetly said hello. I returned the greeting in an exhausted tone and got back to focusing on getting from one moment to the next. That’s all I could possibly think about. Letting my mind go any further broke my concentration and I’d instantly sink into the pain rather than ride with it. I remember focusing on each moment of my moaning. I knew how long of an “OOOOOOH” or “MMMMMMM” I needed to do to get through a rush and would basically count down the letters in my head until it was over. It shifted from being just an physical/audible ritual to also a visual one for me.

I couldn’t believe how long transition was taking. I expected it to be maybe 45 minutes at the longest, but it had already been hours. I was losing joy in the process. I hated how exhausting this was turning out to be. “When can I push?” I asked Christine. I had no urge but wanted the pain to stop. She said we needed to do a cervical check to see. I couldn’t imagine being still anymore. “If you can do it fast!” I told her. The two centimeter lip was still there. I was sinking fast. Christine suggested moving to the toilet to labor, but I couldn't fathom moving from the tub to the bathroom. "I feel done! Why the hell is this taking so long?!" I cried.

The contractions and pressure in my back and hips was all getting intense. The rushes were still spaced out, but becoming too much to handle. I continued feeling like I needed to pee. Christine encouraged me to visualize my water breaking. “Picture a big bulging bag of waters popping” she would say. With every rush I started to focus on my water breaking. I gave up on peeing and figured that was probably not where the sensation was coming from.

It was 6:40pm. My back hurt so bad. I was squeezing the life out of Arthur's hand and groaning—no longer moaning—to get through each rush. My OOOOOHs and MMMMMMs began to shift into deep throaty screams. These moments were such a mix of panic, desperation, exhaustion and power. Almost all of me felt like I would have done anything to escape the feeling in my body, but a small part of me was totally and utterly empowered. I was aware of what my body was accomplishing and tried with all my energy to just go with it. I knew if I fought the pain it was going to feel worse and I wouldn’t finish strong. I so badly wanted to finish strong.

It was 6:44. I felt a contraction coming on and picked up my visual of my bag of waters breaking. I felt warm fluid. “My water just broke or I’m finally peeing!” I quickly shouted, completely out of breath. I heard feet rush toward me.

6:45. Another contraction and a huge warm plume came from between my legs. “It has to be fluid!” I yelled. Christine confirmed that it was and that there was a moderate amount of meconium with some particulate in the water. “What does this mean?!” I cried out. Lola had meconium in her water and not a single soul showed any concern at the hospital. I didn’t understand why this was even a discussion so late in the game. I was obviously going to deliver soon! I panicked. Christine went on to explain the risks of Baby aspirating the meconium. She offered a hospital transport and my mouth about dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

I saw concern in Christine’s face, but was sure there was no way I would make it to the hospital. Delivering in an ambulance seemed like the worst option. Christine explained that at least we’d be on our way to for Baby in case she needed assistance. I quickly told Arthur he needed to decide and that there was no way I could possibly conceive of getting out of the tub and into an ambulance to transport at this point. He chose to stay. I was never more grateful.

Christine requested a cervical check, but didn’t ask me to move from my forward squatting position. The cervical lip was still there, my cervix was soft, 0 head station. She offered to hold back the lip and let me push if I wanted to try. “This is the hardest labor ever!” I cried. I could hear how stupid that sounded as it left my lips. Nevertheless, I was so exhausted and in such intense pain.

It was 6:57pm. I was squatting into the side of the tub. A contraction came on. “There’s so much pressure!” I yelled through tears. A switch flipped. I felt the baby drop and I started to push. “She’s right there!” I shouted. The intensity in my back was out of this world. I lunged into the middle of the tub to squat.

I pushed, screaming like a wild woman. Nothing felt like it was moving. Another contraction and I pushed, screaming as loud as any human could possibly manage. By the tail end of this push the muscle memory kicked in from pushing Lola out. I shifted all my strength toward bearing down and felt movement. I questioned whether I felt her head come out. No words can describe the pain—at least 1,000 times more intense than I ever imagined. Christine suggested I change positions to decrease the gravity. I lunged forward.

There was enough time before the next rush to question whether I would live through this. I genuinely doubted how I would continue. Yet…another contraction and I beared down as hard as I could, screaming out every ounce of life I had in me. I felt her head come out. So much pain. There was no way I could possibly endure another contraction. I just kept pushing, literally screaming the life out of me. I beared down with all my being and felt her body pass through mine.

After 18 hours and 2 minutes of labor and 8 minutes of pushing, it was over. Piper Penelope King was born at 7:12pm.

I took a second to catch my breath. Baby Piper was out and that’s all I could care about in this moment. Then it hit me. I couldn’t wait to meet her. I looked behind me where she was resting in loving hands. “Oh my sweet bunny!” I sighed. The team helped me lift my leg over the still-attached and pulsing cord so I could sit back and hold her. I drew her into my chest and let all my tears out. I couldn’t believe she was here in my arms. I loved her instantly. She was a beautiful shade of purple and covered in milky vernix all over. “I’m your mommy” I told her, “I love you so much!”

We snuggled tight, letting the moment wash over us while her cord finished pulsing. I remember thinking in these moments how visceral it was that we were still connected but she was out in the world resting in my arms—a small sliver of earth-side oneness that only her and I will ever have experienced. Christine offered for Arthur to cut the cord and he did. So precious.

Then it sunk in. The ride wasn't over. I still needed to deliver the placenta and was really struggling to stay afloat while holding Piper. I was crazy exhausted and basically still squatting with nothing to rest on. I just wanted to sit back and snuggle her on my chest, but it wasn't working. We both sank too low into the water. I felt so tense. This wasn't what I had dreamt of for the months and months I'd been imagining this moment. I quickly realized I just needed to get out of the tub and handed Piper off to Arthur.

I asked Christine if I could deliver the placenta. She said I could get out and wait a few minutes if I wanted to, but I just wanted the delivery to be done. I asked if I could just do it here in the tub. She checked me and gave the okay to deliver. A few strong pushes and it was out. I felt relief, like I could move on from those traumatic final hours. The birth team helped me out of the tub and on to the couch to rest with my new girl. Bliss. Total exhausted bliss.

I finally got a good look at my precious new baby. It felt so natural. I had no fear and felt capable of being her mama. Arthur and I looked her all over together. We noticed her thick vernix, deep dimpled chin, long thin fingers, sweet big eyes and head of fine brown hair. She was utterly perfect.

She hardly waited any time before starting to root. I offered my breast to her and she began licking around and sucking like champion right away. I couldn't believe it! Both of us had such confidence. What an entirely different scenario than with Lola! I was elated and relieved.

The euphoria quickly wore off and the past three hours hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so confused and angry that labor and transition were so hard and long. I was expecting maybe 10 hours at the most—this was nearly double that. And pushing! Why did nobody tell me how beyond hellish that would be?! Not to mention my three hour transition phase. What happened to the 20 minutes I've known everyone else to experience?? I started to feel angry toward Piper. Why didn't she just tuck her head so things could have played out in a more typical way? I looked at Arthur and told him I was never doing this again and if we ever had another baby it would be in a hospital with pain medication. The intensity of the final hours took me down.

Then, just as my mind was spinning out of control, Christine reminded me that she needed to check to see if I tore. I burst into tears. "I just want to rest!" I sobbed. She offered to let me sit for awhile before checking, but I knew I wouldn't be able to rest. I just wanted everything wrapped up and to move on. I tearfully and hesitantly agreed to getting checked and handed Piper off to Arthur again while I got settled.

Christine was so gentle, but I was so angry at her for delivering all the unfortunate news. I knew she was caring for me, but told her in tears, "I'm so angry! I know you're caring for me, but I'm so angry! I hate this! I just want to relax with my new baby! This isn't what I expected. I had a home birth to relax afterward. I just want to be in the tub with her laying on me. I hate this! I hate this!" She so gracefully accepted my anger and continued on. I had a two degree tear that needed mending. I sobbed.

I honestly didn't expect to tear at all. I couldn't wrap my mind around how this post-birth hour was looking just like it did last time in the hospital. That was the most draining part of delivering Lola and I couldn't believe it was happening again. I was drenched in tears. Melynda came close and stroked my hair. Her touch felt so comforting when I felt so hopeless. I had no choice but to move forward.

Arthur laid Piper on my chest to nurse as a distraction. Melynda stayed close continuing to provide comforting touch. Arthur was right by my side with a hand to squeeze as I got poked with needles in an area no one ever wants to get poked. Christine lovingly repaired my tear, explaining just enough to keep me in the loop. And Sarah assisted as Christine needed. It was totally awful, but the support was incredible. Fifteen minutes later and it was over. All of it was over. I could finally move on and rest with my new baby.

It was 10:35pm. I was helped up and into the bed to rest with and nurse Piper. It felt so good to have some time alone. Melynda left for home after saying goodbyes, and the rest of the team found nourishment in the kitchen in the form of homemade curried coconut lentil stew and rice that I had previously frozen for their dinner. I felt at peace knowing everyone was being taken care of and would be leaving fed and ready for bed. I could hear them chatting and laughing over the clanking of dishes. Total peace.

Midwife Sarah came in to say a proper hello and goodbye. I felt sad that I hardly got to know her. The mystery woman who helped my sweet Piper into the world. I gave her my gratitude and wished her a good night.

A half an hour later Christine, Arthur and Julie came into the bedroom for the newborn exam. I began to feel more at peace—though still confused—and told Christine, "I feel okay. I think this was good. It just didn't go how I thought it would. It was so long, pushing was so hard, and I didn't expect to tear. I just thought it would be relaxing after she was born. I'm sorry I was so grumpy. I don't know how I feel about it all yet." She told me she understood and that it would take time to process.

The newborn exam was a refreshing change of pace. I finally got a full look at my baby. She was so healthy and sweet. We put her in her first diaper and got her dressed—a cute little white bodysuit with crabs that Midwife Taylor had given me a few weeks prior at one of my last prenatal visits. I was still battling disappointment that she wasn't there, but figured this would be a good way to connect her to Piper's arrival.

The pace of the day settled down as Arthur emptied the tub and Christine gathered her things. Julie was on her way and then Christine. I tried to thank her for everything but knew it would take time to come up with the right words.

And just like that it was over. It was just us. Just the three of us. Not even a day had passed since she was content in my belly, and now here she was. I couldn't believe it, and yet it felt so natural, as if she'd been with us forever.