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Daisy tells a graphic birth story.  You have been warned.

Well dear readers, Fern has had herself a Baby Boy.  As of this writing, he is exactly 48 hours old, 6 pounds and some change, and he looks like a pink Mr. Magoo with long hands and feet.  I’m totally his favorite.  Fern and her Honeyman are busy adjusting to life +1, so I shall unfold the tale for you….

In the wee, wee hours of Monday morning (or late, late Sunday night really), Baby Boy let Fern know it was time to be born.  So Fern and the Honeyman set off for the birthing center, calling cowgirl M to join them.  The predawn hours were spent in the first stages of labor, sleeping when possible, singing and breathing when sleep wasn’t possible.

I, meanwhile, was sleeping peacefully, then having my usual morning of coffee and cats and chickens and Little Boy and getting the Herban Cowboy off to work.  Just before 8am, M calls me and tells me Fern is 6cm and progressing nicely, so I have another cup of coffee and read another chapter of my book.  At this point, I assumed we had hours and hours and hours, so I casually dressed Little Boy and we finally dragged our butts to the car and headed out the door.

I called M as I left, wondering if I should go let Fern’s chickens out on the way, but the urgency in M’s voice dispersed all other thoughts.  “Um, I think you need to come right now and hurry.  She’s at 10cm.

“What?  Already?  Ohmigod.  I’m on my way.”  Pedal to the metal.  I decided if I got pulled over, I’d stick my belly way out and tell the cop I had to get to the birthing center to have a baby (technically that would not be a lie).

I was the last of the birthing party to arrive.  Back in the birthing room, Fern was in the whirlpool tub with her Honeyman behind her, supporting her.  I joined the midwives, M and the photographer, who documented the event.  The lighting was dim and the only sounds were the whispers of the women and the bubbling of the water in the tub.

And that was what astonished M and I the most.  Here was this woman, with a baby’s head pushing past her pelvic bone, and she squatted quietly in the water, occasionally moaning with her breath as she pushed through the contractions.  Um, wow.  M and I shared giggled confessions behind our hands at how much we had screamed and cursed as we’d pushed our children out of our bodies.

And Fern was so beautiful!  And not in an “oh isn’t childbirth beautiful” kind of way.  I mean literally, truly, powerfully beautiful.  She is a slender woman anyway, and her pregnant belly only added a graceful curve to her middle.  Her skin was dewy and unblemished, her chestnut hair piled gently on top of her head.  I couldn’t stop staring at her, naked and laboring, every part of her perfect and gorgeous.

You know a woman’s true self when she gives birth.  Y’all, when it happened to me, it was awful.  I was a fat, sweaty, naked, angry animal with a puffy face and frizzy hair.  I screamed like a Viking during every contraction, cursing and belching and crying in between.  There was so much sweat and poop and blood.  At one point, I even begged Death to take me.  There was no such drama for Fern.

After more than an hour of coaxing the kid towards the light at the end of the tunnel, the midwives got Fern out of the tub and into the bed to move around and change positions.  We tried a few different ones, everyone taking turns holding her up or squeezing her hands.

Standing?  No.  Hands and knees?  No.  Laying over a yoga ball?  Um, no.  Finally, Jill (the midwife leading our team) says in her thick South Georgia accent, “Well.  I hate to do this, ‘cuz usually the mamas hate it, but let’s get you on your back honey.  I hate to do it, but sometimes it’s just the magic you need.”

So we flipped Fern like a pancake and propped her up with some pillows, the Honeyman snuggling beside her in the bed.  Sure enough, not long after that, Baby Boy’s head starts coming out.

Okay.  So even though I’ve actually had a baby this way before, and I’ve seen pictures and videos, I have never actually witnessed a live human birth.  And that right there Ladies and Gentlewitches, is the coolest thing I have ever seen.

Jill said, “Somebody get the mirror.”  Ooh!  I’m on it.  I can do that.  I grabbed the big hand mirror and held it up between Fern and Jill, angling it so Fern could see all that was happening.  And Fern, who had had her eyes closed the entire time I had been there, suddenly opened her eyes wide and watched.

The waves of the contractions crashed bigger and bigger, each crest bringing us closer and closer.  With each push, Fern saw more and more of the baby she’d been growing inside her.  We held her up, we murmured our encouragement and love, we watched in agony until finally –

POP!

We all gasped as his little face appeared.  M and I began quietly sobbing with joy (such a strange feeling).  And then with an unceremonious mmmmbloomp, he was out.  Jill wiped him off and put him on Fern’s chest to be kissed and cooed at and fallen in love with, while the rest of the team sprang into action, cleaning up various fluids and baby’s first poop (mmmm is for meconium!), delivering the placenta and finishing the paperwork.

With the hand holding part over, M and I decided to make a graceful exit.  We left the happy new family in the bed, Baby Boy already a champ at latching on and nursing.

So that’s it kids.  Our newest little Herban Cowboy has arrived.  Fern has requested no visitors or phone calls if possible for this first week.  Facebook messages are fine, since she can get to them at her leisure.  If you are one of her friends and you are dying to be helpful, bring food!  Visitors are overwhelming, but food is necessary.  M and I are doing our best to keep the new family fed, but more help is always needed.  You can always call me or M to find out what you can do.

Thanks to all who have breathlessly awaited our new arrival.  And in the coming weeks, Fern will emerge from her New Mommy Cave to tell us her story herself.  And post pictures.

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fern considers the fine art of listening

well, folks, we are in the final stretch.  just 6 days until my due date.  wow.  really?  have we come this far already?

i have been blessed by an outpouring of support from so many kind and generous people in my life.  especially by my cowgirls.  with aida, daisy, and the wise and wonderful M, i have managed to find my own space to learn and to grow with my child.  the wisdom and support shared by these amazing women help to ground me in my intuition, into my own innate wisdom.

i think one of my favorite things about sharing with the cowgirls is that each of us genuinely listens to each other.  we share our stories, we bless our homesteads, we aim not to judge, and we flow.  this leaves a sacred space for sharing, and for finding our own way, however different or similar it may be to the witch beside us.  we honor that which is sacred within, while appreciating the variations that make us individuals.

each witch has her own brand of wisdom to share.  daisy leans toward the practical, giving books and nourishing food and good humor to us all.  aida shares her pain, her dirt, and her physical and emotional strength.  the wise and wonderful M shares her heart, her warmth, her gentleness.  and we all share our hands and other tools for helping when we can.

in addition to sharing wisdom and resources, the cowgirls put no demands on one another.  we assist when we can, knowing that the day will come when we may need a helping hand, or four or six, in our gardens, our homes, our births.  we share without the thought of reward, yet we find security in knowing that our own needs will be met when it is time.

never in my life have i had friends like these.  we are sisters, women, mothers and guides.  we weave a web of life, of growth.

simple gifts- mint, sage, and thyme

i have been seeking a kind of network like this for goddess knows how long.  i was seeking before i knew i was seeking, before i knew what i was missing.  somewhere along the meandering path, i set my heart’s compass to love, and i have continued to stumble into the most beautiful and enlightening situations.

that said, i have learned in my young age to be careful of the kinds of help i accept.  the cowgirls don’t call ourselves ‘helping’ one another; we prefer to think of it as simply doing what we do, what feels right for every creature involved.  often, we enjoy the doing as much as the person in need enjoys the assistance.  and we always, always have a good time doing it.

too many times we fall into the trap of self-sacrificing.  many of us have been raised with the judeo-christian mores of self-sacrifice, with the notion that this makes us somehow better than others, better than even our selves.  and while, yes, it is good to shed some of our selves from time to time and give forth to someone else who may be in need, to force ourselves into a state of ascetic piety doesn’t really help anybody.  plus, it makes us not fun to be around.

gifts that keep giving- mabel and esther

i got a lot of flack from my sister about throwing my new family a party in lieu of letting her plan a baby shower.  she griped and complained, “when will i ever have another opportunity to do something for you?”  yet, as i discussed my wishes with her regarding food and guests, she met my requests with contempt and sarcasm.  so much for doing something for me, huh?

recently, two high-school girlfriends also wanted to do something for me.  i acquiesced, still feeling quite satisfied from the anticipation celebration.  i asked that my sister and mother be included, since they hadn’t had the “opportunity to do something” for me.  they agreed, and asked me about my needs here in the final two weeks of pregnancy.  i told them the truth- we were well stocked, and that all we needed now was cloth diapers.  we set up a registry for them, and intended to add a little money as we made it, or to ask others to contribute to our fund, until we had enough to get a good supply of diapers.

it’s funny how people seem to think they know what is best for you.  i loved all of the gifts i received from the women in attendance- i got adorable clothes, shoes, blankets, and yes, money (going straight to the diaper fund!).  i even got a gift certificate for homemade baked ziti!  but oddly enough, from the two women who wanted to “do something” for me, i got exactly the opposite of what i needed, or wanted.  i feel a little guilty for thinking this way, but i can’t help but wonder what about my requests seemed to them to be not in my best interest?  one friend spent a considerable amount of our time together casting doubt upon my birth choices, and the other spent a crazy amount of money on items we already had or did not need in the first place.  while i felt touched initially at the thoughtfulness of these women “doing something” for me, at the end of it, i felt a bit slighted and a little angry that my wishes had been so easily dismissed.  now i have two large bags full of items i can’t use that i have to take back to target, and still no cloth diapers.  at least now i’ll have a store credit when i’m in a pinch, or at the very least, items to re-gift when my next friend gets pregnant.

the cowgirls never cease to inquire honestly what each others’ needs are, and then listen, consider, and thoughtfully give.  i appreciate the books, herbs, chickens, bathrobes, mobiles, food, and rituals shared by these women during my time of need.  but most of all, i appreciate their commitment to the fine and delicate art of  listening.

the most sacred gift of all- space to grow and discover

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Time slows down

Fern gets the boot.

Well, dear readers…  this earth mama is in the final stretch.  Eight days to go until my due date.  Of course, any intuitive mama knows that baby comes when baby comes.

It helps to have a timeframe to focus on, even though I am not a time-conscious person.  Especially these days.  Nighttime is when I toss and turn and walk around and eat, daytime is when i sleep, eat, and cry.  Sometimes it’s the other way around. I forget which day it is.  Dishes pile up, and dogs and rarely get fed before noon.  Teeth go unbrushed for hours some mornings, and as I type this, i am still in my nightgown (perhaps the only comfortable clothing I have left), and I’m trying to remember if I showered 2 days ago or 3.

To add to my frustration, I have managed to injure my left ankle.  I saw an orthopedist yesterday who thinks it could be a stress fracture.  It seems that between the added weight, and a pregnant woman’s bone density, I could have a few hairline fractures in my precious and longsuffering foot.  This not only causes me to walk with a limp, but is now causing stress on my right leg.  And as you can imagine, my poor back is crying out for relief from both the baby and the awkward postures.

So the doc prescribed me one of those funny boots.  Which takes a lot of pressure off of the foot, but causes me even more back pain.  After the baby comes, and my lady parts have begun to resume their natural shape, I will go in for an X-ray.  Ugh.  I figure at this point, my back is more important than my foot for labor, though I had planned to move about as much as possible.  I’m applying ice packs regularly, which temporarily relieve some of the inflammation, and trying to still do some yoga to keep my spine strong and balanced.

Come around and visit me if you can.  You will find me sitting in my glider, reading and crying.

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Daisy discusses death with a three year old.

Little Boy and I saw a dead squirrel today on our walk.  It was totally gross.  It floated in the murky water of the lake at Daffin Park, patches of skin gone, revealing nasty smooth white skin underneath.  Sick.  It took me a minute to even identify it as a squirrel it was so weird looking.

“Look at vat Mommy!” Little Boy shouted as he ran towards the concrete edge.  “Eew what IS it?” he crouched to get a better look.

“I think it’s a squirrel.  It’s dead.  Eew.”  and then I added, “Aw, poor thing.”

“Aw, poor fing!” my little parrot echoed.  Little Boy wanted to stay and observe the dead squirrel some more, but I was eager to continue our walk, so we moved on. 

As we walked away, he called over his shoulder, “Bye Dead Squirrel!  I hope you feel better soon!”

I had a moment.  Do I let it go, or correct his understanding of death?  We’ve had discussions about it before.  He has seen dead animals, we’ve told stories of long dead relatives (like the Herban Cowboy’s late father “Grandpa Andy”), and we’ve even discussed how the dinosaurs died a LONG, LONG time ago, before there were even any people on the planet.  I have done my best to answer his questions as honestly as I can, in terms I think he can understand.  So far he’s been very matter of fact about it all.

So I said, as gently as I could, “Well, Honey, that squirrel is dead.  She’s not going to get better.  She’s just gone now.”

He continued walking for a moment, then stopped and turned back toward the dead squirrel.  When he turned back, I was surprised to see big, fat tears welling up in his little eyes.  “Well…” he began in a cracking little voice.  “Well…”  He was obviously thinking very hard about what he needed to say.  “Well, Mommy, but I don’t WANT the animals to die.” 

“Oh Honey.”  I swooped down to be Mommy and we hugged for a few minutes.  I broke the embrace and got face to face with him.  “Are you feeling sad about that squirrel?”

“Yes,” he replied, looking honestly more heartbroken than I’ve seen him in a long time.  And then he repeated it, and I swear his cute little chin was actually quivering, “I don’t want the animals to die.”

What could I do?  I hugged him to me again and he let me hold him without wiggling free.  I said, “I don’t want the animals to die either, Sweetheart.  I know it’s hard for you to understand right now, but that is how things have to be.  That is life, my Love.”

We walked on and he muttered, “But I don’t WANT it to be.”  We held hands and walked to the playground and talked about how important it was to have as much fun as we can every day, having adventures and making people laugh and helping people along the way.  Before long, he was laughing and showing me how he can go down the slide backwards.  Showoff.  I don’t know where he gets it.

Little Boy in the backyard.

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fern ponders the omnivore’s dilemma

food.  these days, i am rarely not thinking about it.  whether i am eating, planning to eat, or reading about eating, food is nearly always on my mind.  and now, with a wee babe on the way (due in 3 weeks!), i can’t help but wonder what kinds of food he will be eating as he grows.

of course, i can tell you what he won’t be eating.  at least, if i turn out to be the perfect mom i plan to be (ok, please stop laughing).  no fast food, no refined sugars, blah, blah, blah.  yes, i will make every attempt to keep this junk away from my precious child, but i am realistic enough to know i can’t keep him from eating at  every birthday party, halloween, or holiday event for the first 18 years of his life.  and i’m not foolish enough to think that we will never, ever have peanut butter and jelly for dinner on some hectic night.  inevitably, he will partake of some kind of sub-par badness that he will probably just love.  then i’ll face the challenge of how to deal with a tiny and tenacious sugar fiend.

so what’s a mommy to do?  well, i guess i’ll cross that bridge when i come to it.  more immediately on my mind, is how to condition his little belly when it comes time for him to begin the transition from boob to solid foods.  i know i have to birth the kid first and all, but there’s just so much to consider…

everytime i turn around, there’s a new diet revolution emerging.  or allergy.  there’s the raw food movement, the primal diet, there’s veganism and good ol’ vegetarianism.  there’s lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance.  and then, of course, there’s the rest of us:  the omnivores.

the honeyman and i are omnivores, vegetarian leaning.  we tend to eat vegetarian at home, and save our meat-eating for special occasions or when we go out.  i know, i know- this is pretty hypocritical.  after all, most of the places we eat out do not get farm-raised, free-range, organic meats.  neither do most of the people whose houses we eat at who cook meat as the main dish.  but since we’re pretty content to eat veggie at home (not to mention, we can just toss out the scraps to the chickens or the compost, and clean up using only vinegar!), we give our consciences a break when we have a date night or are guests in someone’s home.  it can get emotionally taxing to worry all the time, and it’s certainly not healthy.

so now, with the boy on the way, we wonder what kind of diet will be the best for his little gut.  i guess only time will tell.  we abandoned the ideal of perfection early in the first trimester, when money was tight and we had to cut some corners on our organic shopping budget.  we gave ourselves a break  and decided any food was better than no food.  we eat as local and organic as possible when we can afford it, and we cast love blessings upon any food we think is of questionable origin.  when it comes time for the baby boy to become aware of what and how he eats, we will be honest and share with him the ideal situation in relation to the reality.  and, hopefully, as he grows into a young man, he can decide for himself what is the best fuel for his body.

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fern rambles on

well, dear readers, i must say i hope you haven’t missed me.  i hope you have been doing what i’ve been doing- spending time with the ones you love the most.

last month i decided to cut my “social networking” time online down to nil until after the baby boy arrives.  i fully intended to blog regularly despite my virtual diet, but, honestly, it was just so darn peaceful without the glare of the computer screen in my peepers, and with all of the holiday to-do’s, well, i just couldn’t seem to find the motivation to sit down and type.  i do hope you’ll be forgiving.

there has been, of course, a lot going on.  but, when is there not, really?  now in my 8th month of pregnancy, i am slower and yet somehow more motivated than ever.  push a baby out of me?  are you kidding?!  anything else seems like a piece of cake by comparison.

so, i’ve been kicking ass at yoga.  it makes me feel human again, and my body, having been scrunched up around my belly and limited to side-sleeping each night, welcomes the up and down dogs with wide open hips.  warrior poses make me feel ready to face birth with calm and strength, and squeeze this child right on out and into the world.  and any variation of goddess pose, a.k.a. squats, puts me deeply in touch with the eternal mother.  yeah.  i feel powerful.  hear me roar!

of course, there’s also the practical, day-to-day stuff that’s been happening.  i finally got myself on a cleaning schedule.  i know that this is not terribly exciting, but it is liberating to have a clear chart in front of me outlining daily what needs to be done.  i have the daily chores, five in the morning and five at night.  they take me less than an hour to complete.  i have 3 tasks each day to focus on, and they typically take me anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.  so i end up only spending 3-4 hours a day on housework, and i get to enjoy a tidy and welcoming home.  and even if i have a down day and end up sleeping rather than bathing dogs, the chores still seem pretty manageable when i know there’s just another wednesday around the corner to do it.  not to mention, it takes a load off of my mind knowing that the honeyman can easily check in on what needs to be done during those first weeks of sleepless baby delirium.  which is coming really, really soon.

there have been other wonderful developments.  the honeyman and i have had an outpouring of support and help from some of the most wonderful humans we have ever met.  daisy and the herban cowboy donated their lovingly cared-for carseat to us.  daisy has also gifted me with freezable soup and chili, baby toys, and two crucial books that are going to help me in a big, big way once this mothering gig is in full swing.  not to mention being enthusiastic and available (along with the lovely M) as my labor and birth support mama.  she may be an athiest, but she’s an angel to me!

my prenatal yoga teacher, another blessedly giving soul, is loaning us her co-sleeper (which, by the way, doubles as a pack-n-play!), as well as a baby wrap.  my sweet baby sister, a mother of 4 herself, passed along a gently used baby swing, a walker, bouncy jumper, 2 playmats, a baby chair, and a moses basket.  wow.  and there’ll be boy clothes galore once the baby is out of onesies.  we bought a barely used, bad-ass jogging stroller from my oldest friend at nearly 1/3 of it’s retail cost(which will totally come in handy if these skinny running dreams i keep having ever manifest!).  so far we’ve saved more than we’ve spent!

we opted not to buy a crib, or a changing table.  we found some blogs about the montessori bed method, where the entire room is baby-proofed, and once the kid is toddling around and ready to move out of the family room/bed, he sleeps right on the floor on a futon mattress.  if he rolls off, he won’t have far to fall.  many parents report a calmer, more independent babe.  and i like the idea of spending our hard-to-come-by dollars on something that our son will be able to use for a good, long time.

and if i get half as much post-partum help as i am being offered, i just may be able to get a nap AND a shower!  score!!!

and the piece de resistance?  my wonderful mother, for what may be the very first time in my life, got me the one thing i really wanted for christmas.  oh, trust me, she always meant well…  but being a dirt-loving tomboy, and a messy and creative child, the collectible gifts she gave me every year for as long as i can remember have all been broken.  i gleefully ripped the glued-on wigs of many a porcelain doll(each one valued at $50-$100) to see what dolls hair went best with which painted-on shoes.  fine lace and velvet frocks were lost.  many of the girls didn’t make it out of their trysts and adventures with their hands and feet intact- i think one young lady even lost a nose.  and those were just in the first 14 years of my life.  the bi-monthly moves i made between the years of 2007-2009 sent many of the remaining fractured pretties crashing into the garbage bin(sorry, mom…i tried to tell you i wanted art supplies!).  the few salvageable items i managed to mercy, i eventually gave to my sister- she shares my mom’s affection for lovely, collectible things one can put on a shelf or in a glass case and marvel at how much it might be worth one fine day.

so, i have kept you in suspense, long enough, dear reader.  my sweet mother, after years of exasperation never knowing what to get me, simply asked me what i wanted this year.  my answer?  a juicer.

and let me tell you folks, in these final days of pregnancy, when i barely leave the house (there’s still so much to do!), you can find me polishing up my juicer like some men polish their ferraris.  seriously.  i love the damn thing.  honeyman and i began our juicing adventure on new years eve, and we haven’t felt better.  we now have more veggies in our bellies than ever before, and i worry less about getting good nutrition in those first weeks postpartum (in all of his beautiful ability, the honeyman is not a cook!).  and i get super excited when i see all of that luscious, soft pulp going into the compost to become nutrient-rich soil come the spring.  oh, sure, i could bake with it- and someday i plan to- but for now, the idea of building fertile earth right from my kitchen into my backyard makes me giddier than a soccer mom on black friday.  our garbage, and even our recycling, is drastically reduced.  we make half a press of coffee rather than a full one.  nothing smells in our fridge, and no produce gets left behind- even the things we don’t normally like taste great when juiced with apples and oranges!  the honeyman and i get 3-4 servings of vegetables before we’ve even fried our morning eggs.  and i look ahead to the spring, when the eggs we eat will be from our own backyard, and with a baby on my back, i will sow the seeds of sustainability, right here in my own home.

namaste, ya’ll!

my morning kitchen

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fern does some grunt work

ugh.  35 pounds ago, i remember breathing easy, putting on shoes, sleeping on my back, and dreaming of the day i would carry a babe in my womb.  i must say, those days seem like a distant memory.

now, i get winded reaching out for a glass of water on my bedside table.  when it’s cold out, the honeyman has to help me into my socks and shoes.  my hips hurt from sleeping on my side.  and now i dream of the day when i will hug this baby out of my body and into my arms.

but i’m not the only woman who’s ever been pregnant, and i’m not the last.  and if i’d known about all of the grunting, farting, belching, and leaking that comes with pregnancy, well, i’d still have done it.  (and, yes, i hope to do it again)

like it or not, i have to slow things down a little these days.  okay, i have to slow things down a lot.  i rest in between loads of laundry or trips upstairs, and i can only walk one dog at a time, for just a block or two.  getting in and out of the car is a chore.  and i cry a little each time i have to get down to the floor to pick something up.

it’s funny how nature prepares us as women for learning to make peace with things out of our control.  like spending much of your pregnancy (1st and 3rd trimesters) doing little more than sleeping, eating, crying and going to the bathroom.  like letting some things go around the house and taking a nap instead.  like cuddling with your honey in spite of the piles of dishes and laundry and barking dogs and ringing phones, because you never know when you might get another chance to just be together.

while a part of me wishes this boy would just come on out, the rest of me knows that he’s still got some cooking to do.  so, i will cry some more, and i will patiently, and perhaps grudgingly, wait it out.  because when he’s out, i will never feel this kind of sensation with this little being again.  and something tells me i will miss it.

i wish i had something profound to share here, but i don’t.  honestly, i’m already tired of sitting over this computer, the technolighting is making me want to cry.  so, i will, right after i take another nap.

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