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Carrie Elle

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Monday, July 30, 2012

If I Were the Parent of an Olympian

Today I watched a video of Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman's parents as they watched her perform her bar routine in the 2012 Olympics.

Now, I've been living under a rock and even I've seen this, but in case you haven' it is:

Yeah, they look like crazy people. But as I've watched the Olympics this time around, I've noticed something about myself. I find myself identifying more with the parents and less with the athletes.  I mean, not like I identify with the athletes in a hey-I-like-to-ride-horses-and-could-totally-be-an-Olympic-athlete kinda way.  More in the we're-about-the-same-age kinda way. But I feel a shift taking place.  I feel like I can relate more to the parents than to the athletes.  I see the gymnasts take the stage and no longer think, "Thanks for nothing, mom -  this could have been ME if you'd just let me stay in gymnastics a little longer!" (and for the record, I took six weeks of gymnastics when I was four years old). Instead I think, "OMG they're so YOUNG and they have all this pressure on them and their mothers must be absolutely dying of nerves watching their babies compete in the freaking Olympics!" And I feel my stomach turn a bit on behalf of nervous moms-of-Olympians everywhere.

Because if that were my kid?  I would be fuh-REAKING out.  No, seriously.  My poor little nerves couldn't handle it.  In fact, I feel a little anxiety creeping in just *thinking* about it!

So, when Claire's competing in the Olympic Games (showjumping, no doubt) in 2028, look for me in the stands.  Because that will be some video footage you won't want to miss.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Things You Need to Know About Your Toddler

Claire will be a toddler soon.  And as I was laying in bed tonight with said soon-to-be toddler, thinking about my preschooler-who-was-recently-a-toddler, I started listing out, in my head, all the things I wish I had known entering toddlerhood with Jack.

You know, all the secrets other moms kept from me.

So, I'm going to break it down for all of you parents of wee babes.  Because those sweet little angels will be toddlers before you know it and I'll give you fair ain't easy!

You might think that your baby will not do these things.  You might suspect, like I did, that the Terrible Twos are something that happen to other peoples' children.  You might think that you'll guide your child with kindness and love through the "Terrible Twos" and prove everyone wrong with your positive attitude and your well-behaved toddler.  But then your baby will actually become a toddler and will behave in ways you never imagined possible and maybe, just maybe, you'll feel like a fish out of water and find yourself wondering how the heck you are going to get through this and why, in the name of all that is holy, didn't anyone warn you about this?

You need to know these things, and you can thank me for it later.

Sleep doesn't necessarily get better, or easier, when you have a toddler. For us, it got a little less intense once Jack was night-weaned, and he certainly started sleeping longer stretches, but the older he got, the better he got at fighting sleep.  And Claire is following in his footsteps.  So, don't think you're just magically going to catch up on all that lost sleep once they become toddlers.  Sorry.

And even if you are one of the lucky ones and night time sleep does get better, just wait until they start trying to drop their nap and start falling asleep at random places in the early evening and it's too early for "real" bedtime so you end up being awake until midnight with a well-rested toddler.  

Toddlers are like teenagers, minus the reasoning skills.  They have crazy mood swings and think the world revolves around them, and they'll let you know it.  This will test even the most patient of parents.

Mood swings can, and do, occur frequently and with little or no warning.  This was a very mild case of "I was perfect happy two seconds ago but now you're telling me not to walk on strangers' lawns so I think I'll just lay down on it, instead!"

Potty training probably won't make your life easier.  Wow, to think about a life without diapers...sounds so liberating, doesn't it?  It's not.  I mean, it *kind of* is - no more dirty diapers to deal with or lug around, at least.  But it's not like they can just suddenly go potty by themselves.  Oh, no.  And if you have a little boy, get ready to clean up pee - a lot of it - from every nook and cranny of your bathroom.  If it's within a ten-foot radius of your toilet, it will get peed on (says the mom whose potty-trained three-year-old just today yelled from the bathroom, "MOM!  It didn't all make it in the potty!").  Once they master independent peeing, you're still going to have to deal with butt-wiping and the rogue poop that somehow ends up on the bathroom floor every now and then.  Sorry.   I know you were hoping potty training would be...better, somehow.

I recommend the Potty Ladder (less than $30 on Amazon).  Yeah, I still have to do the butt-wiping and occasional floor clean-up, but at least Jack can get himself on the toilet when he needs to go without falling in.  He's a bit older now (3.5) and he can actually set this up and take it down himself.
Your child will have a complete breakdown because the cookie (or banana) they are holding breaks.  I don't know what the deal is here.  For about two straight years (starting at 18 months and just now, two years later, starting to taper off), the biggest tantrum trigger in our lives was a broken piece of food.  I thought I was alone in this, and that my kid was the only one to completely overreact when his cookie crumbled or worse, his banana broke in half (and that kind of thing happens a lot when you're two!).  But it turns out we weren't alone, and this is a common toddler issue.  So, just know it's normal and have a second cookie (or banana) on standby.  Seriously.  Don't bother trying to teach them a lesson here...they'll outgrow this (or so I am told...).

See that cookie?  Not broken.  Carefully chewed.
Don't let anyone tell you the Terrible Twos are a myth.  They're real.  But they don't necessarily start the day your kid turns two.  For us, Jack was two-and-a-half before he started acting up - I actually went six months thinking, "HA!  They were all kid is perfect!" before he turned into a complete dictator and I finally realized what the terrible twos were all about.  For others, I've been told they can start as early as eighteen months (supposedly, this is especially true for girls - yay).  And the worst part about the terrible twos is - wait for it - three is worse.  It's just gearing you up for the real fun that comes when your child turns three.  Trust me on this one.  I'm sorry to not have better news...but at least you've been warned, right?

I don't have a picture of my kid throwing a tantrum to put here.

I tell you all this not to complain about my son or make all kids sound awful or to scare you non-parents from ever bearing children.  I am telling you this because it's going to happen, and I want you to know that you're not the only one dealing with these issues.

Your child is not bad, or naughty, or terrible...they are simply being a toddler, and learning to navigate a world constructed of rules and social expectations created with adults in mind.  Somehow, we've come to expect our children to be little adults, and when they act like...well, kids...we freak out.  

Kids are kids.  How we choose to handle their learning experiences (and really, isn't that what a tantrum, or potty training, or sleep "issues" really are?) is up to us, the adults. 

It's hard to deal with a crazy little human who blows a gasket when the banana they are running around the house with breaks in half.  I know this.  And yet, I still struggle with patience every single day.  So, clearly, I have no parenting advice other than to prepare yourself.

No, wait - I do have advice.  Don't take it personally.  Don't think it's *you* your child is angry at, don't think it's your fault they don't sleep, don't think it's your shoddy parenting that's resulted in the nightly pre-bed meltdown.  They are just little kids learning how to be big people.  And that has to be exhausting.

What common (or uncommon, for that matter) but unexpected issues did you have during toddlerhood that you wish you'd been prepared for?  And, as I head into Round 2 of Toddlerhood, I'd love any advice (or words of encouragement, maybe) you might have!

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

The 21st of July - Claire's First Birthday!

Today is the 21st of July.  Claire's first birthday.  Her FIRST BIRTHDAY.  She's a year old, already!  Where, oh where, oh where does the time go?

When I think back to what I was doing at this exact time a year ago today, it's kind of surreal.  I was getting home from the birthing center with a brand new little human.  Today, I spent most of my time chasing that little human around as she took her first few steps yesterday, and takes every chance she gets to practice this new trick.

But I'll save the sentimental stuff for another post. We did a lot of things today and this is going to be long enough as it is without my sappy musings sprinkled throughout!

Oh!  And in case you are new here and have no idea what this is all about, you can see my original "21st of..." post here.

Without further ado...

Good morning, Birthday Girl!  Yeah, she kept me up all night...but she slept in until 7:30.  So I guess that makes it better?

Presents!  Oh my goodness was she excited.  Not about the actual gifts, mind you (except for that horse).  But the boxes!  And ribbons!  Such fun.  Luckily I learned my lesson the first time around and kept birthday shopping to a minimum (and that horse toy was secondhand).

This $12 horse from Kid to Kid was a huge hit!

Claire wasn't the only one enjoying the presents.  This excitement was almost too much for Jack to handle.  No, seriously.  He was so sweet and helpful in the morning, but all the new toys in the house - that weren't for him - were a bit much to take!  We had some sharing issues.  I'm looking forward to these toys losing some of their newness.

That train?  That was Jack's gift to Claire.  Because, you know, *she* totally wanted a train toy, right? Ha!
Do you think a one-year-old is old enough for their own cell phone?  Because I totally bought one for Claire (and on a side note, when Jack was a baby just a few short years ago the toy phones all looked like real phones...this one was labeled as a toy "smart phone" - oh, boy).  Maybe now she'll leave mine alone.

Charles took the kids for a short walk/jog and I did some yoga and drank some really black tea.

Amazing what only 20 minutes of yoga can do to your well-being.

Also amazing what a little hardcore caffeine can do.
Our neighbor's daughter had a birthday this week, too, and her birthday party was at the pool.  We all spent some time in the bathtub pool, which felt like a jacuzzi because it is so freaking HOT.

And then, nap time for the little ones and lunch for me.

I think hot dogs are so nasty...but I love them so much.  I can't help it.  I need to justify this by letting everyone know that we only get the fancy ones.  With one kind of meat in them.  The fact that there are even hot dogs with multiple species of meat means I should not be eating them!  But...they're So. Good.  And Charles can grill the shiznit out of them.  Yum.

After lunch, I try to write but fail.  This is my new writing desk.  It's a family heirloom of sorts.  From back in the day when people were in shape and didn't slouch, apparently.  Because I have been using it for a little over a week now and my back and neck are killing me.  Also, see that lamp? I know, you can't miss it.  I told Charles to get me a skinny little lamp at Target and he bought this beast.

Nap time is over and we get a very exciting phone call.  Our pictures are ready to be picked up at Michael's!  We had some professional pictures of Claire taken (she modeled some headbands for Lolaland Creations - photos were by Polka Dot Cottage Photography).  There is a new Michael's near us and they had a Grand Opening special where custom framing was 60% off and they would take an additional $10 off of the final price.  What a steal, right?

Well, guess what I learned.

Custom framing is FREAKING EXPENSIVE.  Like, way more than twice what I expected and that was after the discount.   And the worst part is not even the's that they look completely amazing.  Seriously, stunning.  And I cannot imagine framing my own pictures ever again.  I'm going to need to get a job or something, because now I want to frame ev-er-y-thing.

Here's one of the two we had done.  Of course, in real life it's just amazing.  The frame is gorgeous and is streaked with blue. And, when did I start thinking frames could be gorgeous?  Seems like an old person thing to say.
Here is where I need to tell all of you non-Texans how insanely weird Texas weather is.

Today was hot.  Extremely hot.  When we got in the car, the thermometer read 108 degrees.  We went to Michael's and on the way back it started to rain a bit.  In a matter of minutes, the temperature dropped to 83 degrees.  That's a 25 degree change in temperature in just a few minutes!

Also?  This left side of this picture shows what it looked like in front of me (when we got home) and the right side shows what it looked like behind me.  Is it hot and sunny?  Is it warm and rainy?  I DON'T KNOW.  Make up your mind, Texas!

Blue skies?  Cloudy skies?  Both?
Memaw and Grampa met us when we got home for dinner.  And Memaw brought Claire her first cupcake (and a special "big brother" cupcake for Jack).  Tomorrow we are having a family party for Claire and her cousin (who has a birthday next week) and Memaw is making the cake.  She threw these together with leftover ingredients and frosting.  Oh, had I inherited these skills...!

Claire was surprisingly uninterested in the frosting.  Jack, however, was far from uninterested.
And that brings me to right now.  The kids are asleep and Charles ordered us a special treat.

This big, fat, creamy, chocolate chip-filled cannoli is about to find its way directly into my mouth.
It's been a long day and I am going to wrap this up before I steal all of the internet's bandwidth.

I hope your day has been as awesome as mine, and I hope you have dessert.  Because we all need dessert.

And, Happy Birthday to my sweet, sweet Claire Ellen.

What did you do today?


Sunday, July 15, 2012

My First Birchbox (and, a Compelling Reason to Avoid Day Drinking)

Have you heard of Birchbox?

It's a monthly "beauty subscription" (for lack of a better term).  For $10 a month, you get a box full of surprise goodies, all girly and fabulous.  The beauty of this (ha!) is that you get to sample several things each month you might not normally buy for yourself (and it's nice stuff, we're not talking cheapish drugstore brands, although I kind of completely love those, myself).

Well, ladies (and gentlemen?) - I have been stalking my mail lady for days and the wait is finally over - I got my first Birchbox this weekend!  Wheeeee!

Ohhhhh, such fun!
Here's what I got: Ada Cosmetics bronzer, dirt luxe salt scrub in lemon leaf, Harvey Prince Eau Flirt perfume sample, theBalm cosmetics Stainiac in Beauty Queen (a lip/cheek stain), LARABAR vegan granola bar, Birchbox Exclusive ear buds.

I am most excited about the ear buds.  They fit perfectly in my miniature ears.  And they're pink.  It's like they knew I was at the gym on Friday cursing to myself because I lost my ear buds and had to borrow Charles' and they were too big and kept falling out during my favorite parts of "Call Me Maybe" and "Love You Like a Love Song."  Yeah...that actually happened.

You need an invitation to join, so if you want to join ask a friend who's already a member to send you one (or hit me up, I'll be happy to send you an invite!).  Once you sign up, you get on a waiting list (I was on it for maybe 2-3 weeks).  Then you get an email telling you it's time to enroll and you pay at that point.  You can buy any of the products (full-size versions) you receive (plus a bunch of other stuff, I believe).

Anyway.  I was (am!) really excited about it and wanted to share.

So that was the first part of my Saturday.

The second part was a day date with Charles, to celebrate his birthday.  We had planned on lunch but instead ended up at a pub, then a couple of antique shops, and then Central Market (a grocery store with a lot of specialty items that also sells wine and beer - that you can drink there).  Anyway, a couple of glasses of wine later and this lightweight's impulse buying was out of control.

Vegan vitamins?  Of course I need those!  Handmade, all-natural soap?  You bet that's coming home with us.  Expensive chocolate?  Uhhh, yes please.  Triple-cream salty brie?  YES, MA'AM.  And that's pretty much how the entire shopping trip went.  Which is all fine and dandy until you go to pay for all that stuff, and you realize that you've blown more than your entire food budget for the second half of the month in one trip.

But I learned my lesson.  After googling "do you eat the rind on brie?" for the definitive answer (no one seems to know and this has been an unsolved mystery of my adulthood), I learned that you do, indeed, eat the rind.  And eat the rind I did on the baked brie I devoured at the pub.  So yum, yum...a heaping scoop of extra creamy, briny brie purchased on a whim, spread all over an expensive cracker should be divine, right?

Oh God, no.  It wasn't.

I scooped an extra large helping onto my cracker, ate it, and promptly felt as if my entire head was filled with salt water (if you ever went to the beach as a kid and got knocked down by a giant wave and inhaled a pint of water or two...that's exactly the feeling I had after eating this brie).  I downed a handful of raspberries, some water, another cracker...nothing could soften the painful dry sensation in the back of my nose or cut through the salty taste.  

So let that be a lesson to all of you.  Day drinking = expensive shopping trips and briny brie.  But, boy was it fun!

Wine and beer, more wine and beer, a *very* full shopping cart, and checking out the record selection at the antique store.  WAIT - are records antiques??  Because I had records when I was a kid.
So, what's better - Birchbox or day drinking with the husband (I'm not sure I could pick!).

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012


When I was pregnant with Claire, I oohed and ahhed over baby dresses and hair bows and ridiculous little sparkly shoes.  I couldn't wait to dress her up!  

Of course, the reality is that she can't crawl when she's wearing a dress so I always end up using a hair tie to pull it back, she rips out her head bands and hair clips as soon as I put them on, and I can't even keep her still long enough to get shoes on her feet (let alone hope that she'll actually keep them on!).  She spends most of her days in a t-shirt and a diaper.  

But this last week, I realized that she finally has enough hair for...PIGTAILS!

My pigtail-making skills are lacking, and Claire's not one for sitting still.  But we managed, and holy cow, does she look cute.  

I couldn't keep my pigtail excitement to myself and had to share.  

Moms of Girls - please tell me it gets easier with practice!  Seriously, I have *nothing* when it comes to styling hair (all I can do to my own hair is straighten it).  I feel like I have to step up my game now!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Adventure at Aldi

I did two new things today.

One - I took both kids to the pool by myself (uhh...won't be doing again anytime soon if I can avoid it...).  And, two -  I went grocery shopping at Aldi (also with both kids).

If you're not familiar with Aldi, it's a discount grocery store.  I have never lived near one before, but urban legend has it that you can save a lot of money by shopping at Aldi.  So when one opened near us a few months ago, I thought, "Oh, yay, another perk to city living...I will have to try it out!"

But then I found Sprout's, and I already have a fancy Kroger nearby and my favorite grocery store ever, Central Market, is just a short drive away - so I never did make it to Aldi.

Which is just as well, really.  New grocery stores stress me out.  I can never find what I'm looking for, and I always load up the cart with tons of junk and store-brand treats I've never seen before because my impulses are on high alert (being in a new store and all!), at the same time managing to leave without ever finding the string cheese or the apple juice I was there to buy in the first place.

On Tuesday, as I was leafing through the junk mail and getting ready to toss it out, I saw the weekly ad for Aldi.  Three pounds of onions for $.75!  Giant zucchinis for $.25!  Strawberries for $1!  And suddenly I realized I could no longer avoid Aldi.  I knew that I must have those onions.

So this morning I loaded up the kids, returned a late library book, popped into Target to buy a birthday present for Charles, and then headed to Aldi.

I put Claire in the Ergo, grabbed my purse, and pulled Jack towards the shopping carts.

OK, here's where things start to go downhill.

The shopping carts were all chained together.  Like, in a row...with chains...and after trying (unsuccessfully) to pull them apart, I finally realized that I needed a quarter to do so!  That's right - they have little quarter slots, and once you deposit your money, the chain unbuckles and you are free to use a cart.

This threw me for a complete loop.  I pulled Jack back to the car.  I was not going to PAY to use a shopping cart!  Blasphemy!

But as I was preparing to load the kids back up, I thought about those damn onions.  $.75!  I would save much more than a quarter on those alone...and who knew what other surprise deals the store had to offer me?

So, I dug a quarter out of my purse and put it in the slot.  The chain dropped from the cart in front of mine.  The quarter stayed partially inserted (I tried to pull it back out, but no luck).

And into Aldi we went.

Yes, there were onions for $.75.  And generic Ritz crackers for $1.39, macaroni and cheese for $.39, lunch meat on sale for $1.

I loaded up the cart.

One a side note, I felt a little uneasy about my shopping choices.  I've been trying really, really hard to eat more plants and fewer animal products.  The bulk of our shopping comes from the produce section, and we rarely frequent the inner aisles of any grocery store.  This time, the entire store was the "inner aisles" and the produce section - which we went a little crazy in - was just a teensy little corner of the store.

Our cart was so full when I went to check out that Jack asked me who was going to help him out, because he was stuck under the bananas and potatoes (a big bag for $.99, HOLLA!).

The cashier was ridiculously fast.  I couldn't empty the cart fast enough, and he was working alone.  The second our cart was empty, he had already filled another one with all of our groceries.

Total bill?

$70.  BOOM.

As I was pushing the cart out, I noticed a long, wide shelf that ran along the back of the store, behind the cashiers.  "That's weird," I thought.  I could not for the life of me figure out what it was for.

It's hot in Texas, and today was no exception.  The very short walk to the car had us all sweating and Jack was in rare form.  "I'm hot!  I'm hot, Mommy...Mommy, I'm hot, I'm hooooooooot, MOMMY I'm hot, it's hot out, Mommy..." etc. etc.

"OK, Jack!  Just let me unload the groceries and we'll go home!"

I popped the trunk, and at this point, I realized something was amiss.

There were no bags full of groceries in my cart.  Just groceries.

In my haste to get the kids out of the store and to the car, I hadn't even noticed that the reason the cashier was so freaking speedy was because he wasn't bagging my groceries.  He was just putting them into another cart.


I looked in my trunk.  Two floaties from our day at the pool, a bag full of softball equipment from Charles' softball league, and my big (and dirty) saddle and bridle that we had brought home from my mom's place were all stuffed in the trunk.  I had been planning on shoving the bags in around all of this stuff, but that wasn't going to happen because there were no bags.

I stood there for awhile, contemplating my next move, Jack's relentless chant of "I'm hot" pushing me to make a decision.  Go back in the store and ask for bags (did they even have bags...)?  Or just throw everything in the trunk and make Charles help unload when we got home?

And so, I started tossing groceries in one-by-freaking-one.  Some frozen blueberries in the inner tube, a cucumber on top of a stirrup, some eggs under the baseball glove.

Until the trunk was full.

During this time, a friendly soul saw me and, clearly noticing an Aldi newbie from a mile away, came to offer her assistance.  She insisted she had made this same mistake her first trip, and informed me that by having customers bring bags from home, the store was able to keep costs down.  She also taught me the secret of the shopping carts.  The quarter that was half-in/half-out of the slot would be returned to me when I re-chained the cart to the other shopping carts.  But don't bother, she said - here's a quarter, and I'll just take your cart from you!  And just like that, the Aldi Angel saved me the hassle of pushing the cart and dragging Jack across a hot parking lot to wrestle with the shopping cart return.

When I got home, I told Charles to come out and help me unload the groceries.  They looked like this:

Hopefully we got them all out.

As Claire was nursing to sleep later in the day, I googled Aldi to find out what the heck kind of establishment I had been to.  They have a whole section about shopping there, which would have been helpful and explained a few things, but who thinks to see if a grocery store has instructions for shopping before going shopping, right?

It turns out that they have require a quarter to get a cart because you'll return the cart to get your quarter back - which keeps the parking lot cart-free and also reduces the need for an employee to be collecting carts.  They don't offer bags to keep costs down - and those giant shelves on the back of the store are where customers are supposed to bag their own groceries.  Doh!  If only I had known.  Or realized that the cashier wasn't bagging them for me (seriously, how did I miss that??).

But two kids in a grocery store will fry even the sharpest of brains, and I'm afraid mine is far from sharp!

So the lesson here, kids, is this - go to Aldi, get a great deal on some onions, and take your own shopping bags!

Have you ever shopped at an Aldi?  Did you know to bring your own bags (and a quarter) or did you learn the hard way, too?

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Monday, July 2, 2012

Journey to the Birth Center

I'll never forget the night I watched an episode of King of the Hill in which they (I have no idea who "they" are because I never watch that show, I just happened to see this one particular episode) toured a birthing center.  I was with my mom and I remember saying, "I know that some people are into that sort of thing, but for me...I just could not imagine delivering a baby anywhere other than a hospital.  What if something went wrong?"

So, fast-forward two years and there I am, pushing a baby out with no pain medicine and thinking OMG-this-is-for-sure-the-end-and-I-am-going-to-die-and-WTF-was-I-thinking-trying-this-without-an-epidural-and-I'm-dying-and-OMG-I-should-be-at-a-hospital!

Yeah.  I was delivering my baby in a birthing center.

And yeah.  I actually thought I was dying.  It hurt that bad.

But then?  Right after I delivered my baby girl?  The pain was gone (ok, mostly gone).  And in its place was the most intense and powerful love I could ever imagine, and I was riding high on a surge of natural endorphins that I had not experienced after delivering Jack.  And I felt like a champion, I tell you.

And just hours after her birth, Charles and I were talking about what a wonderful experience this was and how we knew we had made the right choice when we decided to have our baby at the birth center instead of the hospital (because I had done that once, too, and although it certainly had its perks - waffles in the middle of the night, HOLLA! - it wasn't an experience I wanted to recreate).

I want to share that journey here, because many people just assume that they need to have their baby in a hospital and aren't aware of the options.  Or maybe, like me, they are aware that birth centers exist...but think they're for weirdos (I guess it's up for debate whether or not I'm a weirdo, but for the sake of this blog post let's just assume I'm mostly normal...ha!).

I had a very "typical" hospital birth with Jack (and let me just say here that I know every hospital birth is not the same, for better or worse...and I am not comparing my birth experiences to anyone else's nor judging anyone else's choices - this is just my story).  My water broke when I was 37 weeks pregnant (just barely a trickle) and labor was induced.  By the time I was dilated to 6 cm my contractions were so painful I was begging for an epidural (thanks, Pitocin!).  Shortly after the epidural kicked in, I pushed for an hour and forty-five minutes.  Jack finally arrived, sunny side up with his little hand against his cheek, amidst third-degree tears (and for the record, a giant rip in the crotch is no fun, guys).

The first two months were rough.  Not only was I very, very sore and healing much slower than I had expected, but breastfeeding was also a nightmare.  Jack was eight weeks old the first time I experienced a pain-free latch - and this is also around when I first heard myself think I was starting to feel a bit more "normal."

It turned out Charles and I were quite different parents than we had imagined we'd be.  Before Jack was born, I was ambivalent towards breastfeeding - once he was born, it became very important to me.  Before he was born, I had a collection of expensive baby beds waiting for him to grace (because I was *so* not going to be "that" parent who sleeps with their kid, right??) - after he was born, we became expert co-sleepers.  We went from assuming all babies just sleep quietly in their strollers when you're running errands around town to researching baby carriers so I could keep my fussy baby close and still be a somewhat-functioning member of society.

As I started finding my way I realized I was charting my course for the next baby...and setting myself up for a much more laid-back experience (it's hard when you think parenting is going to be exactly like you see it in magazines, and then realize that's not really the case at all).

My endless hours of online research (I thought I'd just automatically know what to do when I became a parent...but it's really, really hard when your instincts tell you to do one thing and the entire society you live in is telling you to do something else) led me to baby-friendly websites and parenting forums.  And in these forums, and on these websites, I started noticing that many moms were unhappy with their hospital/medicated/c-section births and had chosen a different route the second (or third, fourth, etc.) time around.  Some had chosen to birth at home.  Others at birthing centers.  Still others chose to birth in a hospital, but opted for a VBAC rather than another c-section, or chose doctors who supported their desire to have a med-free birth, or made changes to their c-section birth plan to have a birth that was more baby-friendly.

What I was realizing, slowly, was that there were options out there when it came to birthing a baby (shocking, right?  That a woman would get to have some sort of say in how and where she delivers her baby...?).  I was also paying attention to what these women were saying about these births - these births that they and their babies orchestrated.  I saw words like "love," "empowering," "amazing," "strong," "life-changing," - to name a few.

Up to this point, most of the natural birth stories I had heard were unpleasant.  They focused on pain, and misery - how awful labor was/how much tearing there had been/how horrendous recovery was...that sort of thing.  Only one person had ever told me anything positive about her natural delivery - but as I was learning more and more online about birth in general (because I knew I wanted another baby at some point), that one positive story resonated with me.

I felt fine with the way Jack's birth had gone.  In fact, I hadn't realized, until after the fact, that there were even options.  I assumed it was routine to rip to high hell, and that breastfeeding issues and a sore rear for months were part and parcel of the whole "delivering a baby" package.

So imagine how fast my brain started to spin when I learned that it didn't have to be like that.  Sure, it would hurt to deliver a baby naturally...but billions of women before me had done it, so I certainly was capable (I am, after all, built to have a baby).  And wasn't a bit of pain worth it if the results were (hopefully) a quicker recovery, fewer breastfeeding issues, and that insane after-delivery high I had been reading about?

In my opinion, yes.  It was worth it to try.  So, we looked up a local birth center that was conveniently located next to a hospital.  I wasn't really worried - I had realized, by this point, that birth is a normal thing and not something to fear - but it sure was nice to tell everyone else out there worrying about me that it was next to a hospital (seriously, people)!  We took a tour, we loved the midwife, and the next thing we knew...we were having our baby at a birthing center.

And in the end, the experience turned out to be amazing, empowering, and life-changing.

Yeah, it hurt...but it hurt in a good way, if that makes any sense.  I hope that when I share my birth experience with other women, they don't walk away thinking, "Wow, sounds painful!"  Rather, I hope they are inspired and can think about birth in a positive light - a beautiful and natural event rather than an unpleasant experience that can be largely bypassed with medical interventions (and I think medical interventions are important and certainly have a place - I just wanted to deliver my baby at a place where I would only be subject to an intervention if I really needed one, rather than have them used as "preventive" medicine).

And so, my friends, I hope you are able to take this for what it is: my story, and my story only.  I don't expect everyone out there to have the same experiences, the same circumstances, or the same desires.  I had a positive experience and I want to share it with others who may be in a similar spot and looking for encouragement (you can do it!).  And also - I want moms-to-be everywhere to know that there are options, and that this is THEIR labor and delivery.  You call the shots, ladies...whether you choose to birth at home, in a birthing center, or at a hospital - surround yourselves with love and support and compassion.  It's a beautiful thing for your baby to be born into.

Claire's about six hours old and we are headed home from the  Birth Center (I don't know if I'd even been able to pee by myself when Jack was six hours old!).

Oh!  And yes, my recovery time was faster (ridiculously so, actually), there were no breastfeeding issues (Claire latched on immediately and painlessly) and I *did* experience that after-birth high I had heard about.

I delivered Claire at the Birth & Women's Center in Dallas, TX.

Birth story junkie?  Here's Claire's! Please pardon the typos, run-on sentences, and general lack of direction in that blog post - I am pretty sure I was running on empty when I wrote it.

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