Saturday, December 16, 2017

Homeschooling Looks Like...

Sometimes homeschooling looks like little heads bent over papers at the dining room table. Writing, drawing, scribbling.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like reading a history book all snuggled up on the couch.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like bringing the mini globe out during lunch to help answer questions about continents and oceans.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like drawing in nature journals before breakfast, still in pjs, because there was a perfect spider's web just outside the window.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like practicing counting and simple addition with chocolate chips while making cookies.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like taking the books outside because the weather is too nice to stay in.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like a day at the museum.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like doing a lot of chores.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like practicing blending letter sounds using the signs in the produce section in the grocery store.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like frustration and irritation all morning.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like apologizing in the afternoon.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like setting your phone alarm for 15 minutes so you can close your eyes and try to recharge.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like questioning everything.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like worrying that you're failing them.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like throwing out a curriculum in the middle of the year and trying something different.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like giving up after breakfast and watching movies in your pajamas instead.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like saying, "No." to the field trips and get togethers so you can spend a few days at home with a little structure and sit down work.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like saying, "Yes!" to the field trips and get togethers and remembering that sit down work isn't the only way to learn.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like begging God for patience.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like asking God if you've made a mistake.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like praising God for this opportunity.

Sometimes homeschooling looks like realizing that the beauty of the whole thing is knowing that it can and will look different almost every single day.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Our Daily Routine

In all of the different Facebook groups I have ever seen, there's a common question. "What does your daily routine look like?" It comes up in homeschooling groups, minimalist/intentional parenting groups, fitness groups, cleaning groups, and just general parenting/birth month groups. It's my favorite question to answer and my favorite thread to read. It's so interesting to me to get a peek into other people's lives. I've gotten so many different ideas from these sort of posts. I also like to share our routine because it's really satisfying to me to see it all written out. It reminds me of a blog post I read once (I can't remember which blog, otherwise I'd be sure to link it here) that suggested making a 'reverse to do list' when you're having one of those days where it just feels like you've done nothing. Instead of dwelling on all of the items on your to do list that you haven't been able to cross off, you write down what you did do. For me, more often than not, it makes me feel so much better and more accomplished.

I'm going to go a step further than just leaving comments on routine questions in Facebook groups, and actually make a blog post about what our current routine is. It's something I'd like to do every year or so, to see how things change as time goes on and the kids get older (an idea I've stolen from a friend of mine who does this in her own blog 😉). So here we go. Here is what our routine looks like as of right now, in the fall of 2017. Sam age 6, Kate age 4, Henry age 2, and Anna 2.5 months.

I break our day up into blocks. I crave and thrive on routine, as do my kids for the most part, but homeschooling and raising 4 little ones requires flexibility. Breaking the day up in blocks honors both of those needs. I keep our waking, sleeping, and eating times the same and everything else just fits in between.

7am- Wake up. I'm a stickler about our wake up time. Sam and Kate watch for the 7 on their clock to know when to come out, and they read or play quietly together until then (except for bathroom breaks of course). Henry isn't old enough to really follow that rule yet, but before 7 I bring him some trucks and he's usually happy to wait until 7. Someday when I'm not waking up several times throughout the night, and when I don't have a baby in my bed by morning time, I'll be grateful for the chance to get up around 6 or so and have some quiet time to myself. For now though, I'll take any extra sleep I can get!

7-8:30am- A quiet, slow start to our day. Anna and Henry nurse and get their diapers changed. Sam and Kate play in their room or downstairs. I make my bed, wash my face, and get dressed. Anna is entertained in her crib upstairs or pack-n-play downstairs by watching what's going on around her or "talking" to a big sibling or two. I put away the clean dishes from the night before, get out everybody's clothes, possibly throw in a load of laundry depending on what day it is, and make breakfast. It sounds like a lot, but it's really a peaceful way to start the day.

 A few times a month we have to be out of the house first thing in the morning, so between 7 and 8 we are getting dressed and cleaned up, and having a little playtime. When we have morning activities I pack our breakfasts to be eaten in the car. The kids all do much better if they have a chance to play in the morning, rather than eating and then rushing out the door.

8:30-9:30am- This block of time is for breakfast, morning school readings, clean up, prep for the school day, and getting dressed. Anna is typically napping at this point and her first nap is the one that she's most likely to take without me holding her, so she's usually in her swing. We do our Bible reading, devotions, prayers, and poetry readings/recitations over breakfast. My post-meal rhythm is always the same (it's so much of a habit at this point that it doesn't even feel like work anymore). Sweep under the table, wipe down the table (sometimes Sam and Kate do these tasks), wash dishes. We have a dishwasher, but tried a few days without it last winter and haven't looked back since. I lay out all of the day's schoolbooks on the kitchen counter and help Henry (and sometimes Kate) get dressed. Sam gets dressed on his own and then goes and does his copywork in the dining room as Anna is waking up from her nap and I'm sitting down to nurse her.

9:30/10ish- 11/11:30ish- This is our school block. While I'm nursing Anna I sometimes do one of our daily readings and Sam narrates it back to me while I'm changing her and getting her dressed. Anna has some floor time to wiggle and work on her rolling (she won't stay on her belly for very long at all now that she's discovered rolling onto her back!) while we do our "good morning board". The good morning board is mostly for Kate at this point. Days of the week, seasons, weather, etc. After this we'll play a game to get out some energy before doing some sit down work. Red Light, Green Light is a favorite, or we do freeze dance with whatever folk song our curriculum has us learning for that month. I usually do another reading while we're in the playroom. Especially if we have Shakespeare on the schedule, since we use toys to keep all of the characters straight. Next we move to the dining room for math and language arts. Kate and Henry stay in the playroom, or they come in the dining room to color or play one of the fine motor activities I have. Kate has been asking for help writing some letters and now that she can write her name, she likes to just write it over and over again. This has been going really well and her handwriting is fairly neat for a 4 year old! If we have any readings left, Sam and I move to the couch after his other work is finished and do a reading while Anna falls asleep in my arms.

11/11:30ish-12:30- This block is different almost every day. If we have errands to run, this is when we go out and run them, or I send the big kids outside on their own, or we all go out, or they play in the playroom while Anna naps. If we're home and inside, I do some chores if Anna lets me lay her down or if she falls asleep while wrapped. Sometimes she just wants to snuggle on my lap and I take some time to sit and snuggle her while I read or something. She's going to be too big for naps in my lap too soon, I'm taking full advantage while I can!

12:30-1ish-  Lunch. I just have a snack while the kids eat. We practice French words during lunch, or do our art study, or do another reading if there's one left that day. Same rhythm for me afterwards. Sweep, wipe, dishes.

1-1:30- Clean up. Kids clean up the playroom (sometimes easily, sometimes with much arguing. Depends on the day. But the rest of the day goes a million times better when we clean up after lunch). I put school books away and get rid of any surface clutter that has accumulated throughout the morning.

1:30/2ish-3:45- Nap/quiet time. Kate stays in the playroom to play quietly on her own, Sam goes up to their room where he usually reads and/or builds with Legos, and Henry naps in his room. Once everybody is settled, I make my lunch and eat and watch a show while getting Anna to sleep. Sometimes she'll let me put her down and I'll workout, read, watch another show, or take a little nap myself. I try to keep this time chore free. If anything I sit and write a grocery list or menu. I need the time to rest before the late afternoon/evening gets going. Sam comes downstairs at 3 and he and Kate play together without Henry for a while. This is usually a good time to pull out messy things like paint or play doh, or like to make marble runs with a magnetic set we have. Not Henry friendly activities 😉 I wake up Henry between 3:30 and 3:45 (or bedtime is way too hard). He hates waking up from his nap and pretty much throws a fit at this point every day. I try to make it a very gentle wake up, but no matter what, it's a rough 15/20 minutes or so. He and Anna nurse. I usually have them go one after the other. Nursing them at the same time is just too much for me. I feel touched out enough as it is. On really difficult days, I just nurse them together though.

4- On Thursdays we get ready to go to ballet. Boys pack up toys in their backpacks and I pack coloring, stickers, and snacks. Anna nurses again and then I get Kate dressed and do her hair. We leave around 4:30 and get home around 6:15/6:30ish.

4-6:30ish- On any other day we go outside (but right now it's already starting to get dark, so outside doesn't last very long) or just play inside. This is when I'll work out if I didn't do it during naptime. Sometimes though (a lot of times lately) times gets away from me and my workout doesn't happen. Trying to work on that! A couple times a week I'll put a movie on, but I try not to do it every day. I'm finishing up that day's chores, starting dinner, doing any prep necessary for the next day (packing lunches and laying out clothes if we are going to be out of the house the next day). I fold laundry on the kitchen island and dining room table in the late afternoon sometimes. It forces me to finish and get it put away so we can eat! Anna nurses frequently throughout the evening, so I take a lot of breaks for that, not to mention all the "breaks" in my work to extract Henry from somewhere he isn't supposed to be. The house is too chaotic at this point for Anna to have any more solid naps, so she's cat napping off and on in her bouncer or in a wrap.

6:30- We eat. James' schedule is fairly inconsistent lately, but if we're lucky he's home by now and we eat together. If he's home he cleans up the kitchen and does the dishes for me because he's awesome like that. If he's not home I do it as quickly as I can, and leave dinner somewhere to keep warm for him.

6:50- I take a really deep breath and we start the process of cleaning up and getting ready for bed. I am really, really working on making it more peaceful, but currently it's rather chaotic and everybody is pretty whiny and argumentative. We're working on it. It'll get better. If James isn't home, I'm cleaning up the kitchen still while the kids get started on the playroom. When I'm finished, or while he does it if he's home, I clear any clutter from the living room and get everything ready for bedtime. Diapers on my nightstand for Anna, everybody's pjs and toothbrushes laid out. On bath nights I go bathe Anna first on her own. Once I have everything ready and Anna is bathed, if it's a bath night, I take Henry and Anna into Henry's room. Henry is more of a hindrance than a help during clean up, and I need to nurse Anna before everybody else needs me. So the little two and I have some quiet time in Henry's room while Sam and Kate finish up in the playroom and then pick up their room. On a bath night we then all go in the bathroom and get a bath. It's always a quick bath. I do not like giving baths. I would love it if the big 2 would shower, but right now it's not worth the screaming that ensues if I even mention the shower. Out of the bath, or just when everything is cleaned up, we do pjs and teeth and then everybody in Mama and Daddy's bed, or in Henry's room, for books. If attitudes have been less than stellar during clean up time, we will skip books. They love being read to, so that's a good incentive to behave and do their best cleaning up.

8- By now everybody and everything is clean and it's time to go to sleep. Sam and Kate get tucked in and kissed goodnight first and then it's Henry's turn. If James is home, this is his time with Anna while I nurse Henry and snuggle him on his own a bit. When James isn't home, Anna lays in her Moses basket on Henry's floor. By a quarter after/20 after 8, Henry is quiet enough to be left in his room to go to sleep and I take Anna to our room. James is usually home and showered by now, even on his long days, so we catch up with one another, read, or watch a show on my computer. In our current season of life, we are in our bed at 8:30 and are too tired to venture downstairs again.

9- Anna is ready for bed by now, so she gets changed, nursed, and snuggled until she's good and asleep. She starts out the night in her crib (in a corner of our room), and comes into our bed the first time she wakes up. Once she's down for the night, we usually are too! The first kid wake up (and James' alarm!) will come way too soon! Right now Henry is actually sleeping though the night about half of the time, the other half he's up once or twice. Kate is sometimes up once a couple times a week as well. Plus Anna of course. So my day continues on throughout the night.

Obviously this isn't what every single day looks like. Sometimes we scrap it all and go to Longwood Gardens instead (that's what we're doing tomorrow!), sometimes if we're out at MOPS or something all morning on a Thursday Sam and I will do schoolwork while we're at ballet that evening, sometimes we'll go run our errands during what is usually our "school block" and do schoolwork once we get home. The majority of our days go like this (or fairly close!) to this though. The kids behave so much better and are so much happier when they know what to expect next. There's less arguing (still arguing, just... less) when we're consistently cleaning up the toys right after lunch. Like I said about cleaning up after meals, it starts to just become a habit and doesn't feel like work.

I know our routine might seem way too structured for some people, and maybe nowhere near structured enough for others, but it works so well for us. Clutter and disorganization makes me feel very anxious, but with this current routine, I feel like I've struck a good balance that doesn't have me cleaning and tidying up all. day. long, but leaves me with a picked up house when we go to naps and when we go to bed.

And now I can't wait to make a routine post next fall! I'm sure SO much will have changed at that point! I hope you've all enjoyed this little peak into our life ❤

Monday, October 9, 2017

The 4th Time

4 times now I've ridden home from a hospital or birth center in the backseat of our car, not taking my eyes off of a tiny, squished faced little baby. 4 times now I've spent at least a few days keeping track of diaper output and how many times we nursed. 4 times now I've set alarms overnight to make sure my baby ate enough to get back up and over their birth weight. 4 times now I've folded diapers down so as not to irritate an umbilical cord stump. 4 times now I've changed tiny, peed on nightgowns in the middle of the night. 4 times now I've watched my body sort of... deflate (for lack of a better term). 4 times now I've snacked and sucked down entire bottles of water at 4 am because at that moment my hunger and thirst from nursing overcame even my deep need to sleep for at least an hour. 4 times now I've cried because a newborn sleeper was suddenly too tight and then fell into a fit of laughter at just how far a baby can shoot poop when they're without a diaper.

4 newborns. 4 trips through the maze that is postpartum. The past few weeks I've been reflecting on how different this particular time is from all of my others, especially the first time. When we first brought Sam home (and stood in the middle of the apartment looking around for several minutes, having no clue what to do next) there was a lot of fear. A lot of fear and so much anxiety. Was he sleeping enough? Sleeping too much? Nursing okay? Was this noise normal? Was that face normal? Was that poop a weird color? A weird consistency? Is he pooping to much? He hasn't pooped in a few hours, what's wrong? Will we ever sleep again? Will he ever sleep anywhere but on top of me? Do they make bigger swings because he's going to sleep in this thing until high school. How about swaddles? How big do those get? He'll never sleep without one. We enjoyed him. We enjoyed him and soaked him in. We really did! But the enjoying and the soaking wasn't without plenty of worry, plenty of questioning.

4 babies later, there's still some questioning. I think everybody with a newborn questions and second guesses themselves every now and then. But the enjoying and the soaking in is so much easier. If Anna suddenly wants to nurse every hour, instead of panicking that I'm not making enough milk, or that this is going to go on forever and I'll never sleep or have my body to myself, I refill my water bottle, grab a handful of pretzels, and feel grateful for an excuse to park it on the couch and turn on the tv.

Obviously, first time mom Sarah knew, realistically, that newborn Sam wouldn't be so tiny forever. She knew that newborn Sam wouldn't go off to college still needing to sleep on her chest. But first time mom Sarah's body wasn't yet used to functioning on so little sleep. First time mom Sarah didn't always think realistically. First time mom Sarah didn't know what to expect in the future, with an older baby, which made it hard to see farther than the next couple days. And the next couple days looked like a lot of center of her chest naps, cluster feeding, and many, many diapers. 

But now. Now Anna falls asleep on my chest and in my mind's eye she's 2 and we're moving her out of her crib into a 'big girl bed'.  I change her diaper for the 15th time that day, but I know that tomorrow (basically) I'll be folding her underwear and making sure she takes a potty break before we leave the house. She cluster feeds through the evening and I can hear her asking for a snack 50 times while I'm making dinner. 

Things that used to make me anxious are now my favorite parts of having a newborn. All the things that I used to worry I'd never be able to 'fix', I now wish would last just a little longer. I look forward to watching Anna hit all of the fun milestones that come in the first year. I can't wait to see her smile, hear her laugh, watch her learn to crawl, help her learn to walk... but I'm already feeling nostalgic about the huge chunks of the day I've been spending with her curled up, seemingly just as she was in my belly, sleeping on my chest. I can feel them already slipping by so quickly. I was just holding Henry this way. And now I'm watching him run back and forth in the playroom, kicking a soccer ball and yelling, "Look at me kicking mama! Look at me!" He still falls asleep on my lap, but he's spilling out of it now, long legs dangling over the side of the chair. 

Newborns are hard. They're really really hard. Having a newborn is exhausting, draining (in every sense of the word), and, at times, frustrating. That doesn't change, no matter how many times you do it. But what does change, or, at least what has changed for me, is the way I feel. There's such a great sense of calm and peacefulness that wasn't there when we brought home our first squished up little person, or even our second. Somehow, in the course of bringing home 4 very different babies, the hard, exhausting, draining, frustrating newborn phase has become one of my most favorite phases. Spit up stained nursing tanks, meals eaten one handed, fussy, gassy babies and all.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Anna's Birth Story

On August 31st, at 7:11pm, we welcomed our sweet Anna Jean into our family. She is currently snuggled up on my chest, nursing happily, and everybody is already completely and totally in love with her! While I have a moment I want to share her birth story, while the details are still fresh :) This was the strangest and most difficult (both mentally and physically!) of all of my labors. Empowering, but in a very different way than my other births have been.

My due date was Tuesday the 29th. I woke up tired from being awake a lot of the night with some cramping. My mom and I had talked about spending the morning at Longwood Gardens, walking around, but it was chilly and pouring rain. I still wanted to get out of the house and do some walking, so we drove out to the mall instead. We met my sister-in-law and nephews there and the kids had fun playing in the play area. We walked around, had lunch, and played some more before heading home and all the while I was having some pretty serious cramping. Nothing that was coming or go, and no tightening, just the cramping. I really felt like the baby would be coming soon, but also wondered if I thought that just because I was so tired and ready to be done being pregnant!

On Wednesday the 30th I had an appointment at the birth center for a checkup. I told my midwife about all of the cramping I'd been having and asked to be checked. She offered to sweep my membranes and I said yes. I really felt like I was in pre-labor and wanted to move things along. I was 3cm, very soft, and she was easily able to do the sweep. I went home from my appointment feeling encouraged. I was going to be holding my baby soon. I could feel it. I had a very strong need for everything in the house to be very clean and in order so I scrubbed bathrooms and the kitchen, vacuumed, did laundry, dusted, and generally just de-cluttered everything. I wasn't feeling any contractions, just some cramping. I was exhausted by the end of the day and my patience with my super hyper children was stretched pretty thin. I went to bed praying for contractions. I needed to be finished with the pregnancy part of this story. And I think my family was about ready too ;)

Around 11:30 I woke up crampy, went to the bathroom, and was surprised by my bloody show. For me, this means labor, but I'm usually already contracting fairly regularly when I see it. I hadn't felt any contractions at this point. I went to lay back down. I felt anxious and my adrenaline was going, but I knew labor was about to get going, if it wasn't really already, and rest would be important. I used some breathing exercises from Hypnobirthing to calm myself down and sleep at least a little. Around 12:30 or so I started having some contractions that required my attention, so I started timing them. They weren't particularly regular, but on average were coming every 10-12 minutes. I chose to stay in bed rather than get up to walk and encourage them to get closer. At one point I was up with Kate, and at another point I was up with Henry. I wasn't going back to sleep when I was in bed, but I was making an effort to relax my body and keep my eyes closed as much as I could. When James' alarm went off for work, a little after 4am, I told him I thought labor was starting and that I needed him to stay home. I also told him to go back to sleep and that I was going to go downstairs to watch tv because I was too anxious to stay in bed. Henry woke up again not long after I went downstairs, but I got him back to sleep and then I ended up falling asleep for a while myself on the couch and my contractions took a bit of a break. When I woke up the sun was starting to come up and I knew the kids would be waking up soon. I waited until I knew my mom was probably awake and texted her to let her know I thought today would be the day, and then went upstairs to wait for the kids. Sam and Kate came in our room at 7 like always and we told them Daddy would be staying home today because we thought the baby might come later. They were excited, but we tried to really stress the MAYBE of the whole situation, since my contractions were still very irregular.

We spent the morning as normally as possible. Breakfast, playing, some cleaning up. My contractions weren't following any sort of pattern. After Henry nursed when he woke up, they got a little closer, maybe 7 or 8 minutes apart for a little while, but then spaced back out to about 15 minutes or so apart. Then some were even further, more like 30 minutes. When I was having contractions they were fairly strong, but they just weren't making any sort of a pattern and I was getting frustrated. We went outside so the kids could run around and so I could walk around. It was more of the same, labor-wise, out there. No rhyme or reason as to when contractions would come, but strong with a lot of pressure when they did.
Kate wanted to walk around the yard with me. She was so sweet to me the whole day :)

What's going on baby? Are we going to meet you today or not?!

The kids ate lunch, I ate some cereal, and we got ready for nap/quiet time. A whole HOUR passed without a single contraction. I was so frustrated, I just felt like crying. I was nursing Henry down for his nap and for a long time I still didn't have a single contraction. And here I had been banking on his nursing bringing them back. Just as he was drifting off to sleep though, an incredibly strong contraction came. I had to quickly unlatch Henry in order to try and maintain some semblance of focus to get through this very strong, very long contraction. Poor guy was so sleepy and so confused. I couldn't even get him his binky to make up for so quickly unlatching him because I couldn't bend down to get it. Once the contraction passed I finished getting Henry to sleep, and then had another contraction after leaving his room. I was still feeling discouraged and upset. I told James I just wanted to take a nap. Thankfully I was able to sleep for about an hour and a half. I had only 2 contractions during that time, but both were very strong. I was starting to feel uneasy. It didn't feel like I was in active labor, but the intensity of my contractions made me feel like my labor was going to eventually take a very sudden turn. I told James how I was feeling and he said he was feeling the same way. I decided to call the birth center and see what the on call midwife had to say. She said, since we don't live too far from the birth center, that it wouldn't hurt to drive by at least for a check. So we started to pack up the car. I kept stressing to the kids that we MIGHT stay at the birth center to have a baby when we got there, but we also might just turn around and go home. I must have told them 50 times that we'd be leaving all of our bags in the car when we got there. At that point I had a string of strong contractions about 12 minutes apart, after they had spaced 20-40 minutes apart for a while, so I felt slightly encouraged, but then I had not a single contraction while packing up the car and driving to the birth center. When we got there I felt certain we'd be turning right around to go home. The kids started playing with the toys there and I went with the on call midwife, Sarah, into the little triage room for a quick check. I reminded her that I had been 3cm the day before, so 4 or 5cm right now wouldn't be much of a big deal. She said if I was a 4 she'd probably send me home since I didn't look to be in active labor at all and hadn't had any contractions spaced closer than 12 minutes in hours. I tried to read her face while she was checking me, but she just looked confused. She didn't say anything for a long time. I said, "So a 4?" She looked at me for a minute and said, "You're not going home." But still didn't say anything else. She was still checking. I asked, "Oh! A 6?" She sat back, "How are you so calm right now? You're a 9. 9cm. Actually more like 9.5. The only thing holding your cervix in place at all is your bag of waters." I was in shock, "Wait. What? But I don't feel like I'm in active labor. 9?" She assured me that that's why she was checking for so long, because she didn't believe it either and wanted to be really sure, "You're definitely almost complete. I could break your water right now and you would be holding your baby very soon. I'm sure of it. In fact we can do that if you want." I said I did, but that we'd need to wait for my mom and dad to get there to have help with the kids. She told me to go ahead and get a hold of my parents and then get settled in the room I'd picked. With my mom and dad on their way, the kids and I hung out in the room while James brought our things in. My contractions started to get slightly closer now, but I wasn't timing them anymore. Just trying to find my focus through my shock. At this point it was a little after 5pm.
Goodbye belly!

"Strong Like Mom" shirts seemed the most appropriate ;)

Once my parents got to the birth center, James got the kids and my dad situated out in the waiting area with toys, snacks, and movies. Sarah and I had been chatting while we waited for everybody. I expressed my concern with water slowing down my contractions even more, and also the fact that my babies have a history of 'sticky' shoulders. She was in agreement and suggested that we just keep the tub empty and plan for a land based birth. I felt most comfortable with that. With my mom and James in the room, Sarah went ahead and broke my water and felt for baby's position. She said baby was most definitely posterior, which would explain my funky labor pattern (or lack thereof). Only a small amount of fluid came out when she broke my water. Clearly baby's position was not ideal at that time. So we put the big ball up on the bed so I could kneel and drape my body over it, in hopes we'd get the baby to turn. It was close to 6pm by now. Leaning over the ball my contractions started coming much closer, and when I suddenly got very sweaty I knew I was in transition. I had a minute or two to gather myself together for what I knew was coming. I was struggling with focus. I'm used to having hours of labor prior to transition to really go inside myself to find a super calm, focused place. My contractions started piggy backing each other and, thankfully, after the first 1 or 2, I found that calm, focused place. Because of baby's position, my contractions were mostly felt in my back and my hips. Leaning over the ball did help a lot, as did James pushing my hips together during a few contractions. After a blur of these contractions I suddenly felt incredibly calm and relaxed, the contractions backed off, I picked my chest up off of the ball and asked Sarah to check me. "Transition is over. I know I'm complete." She checked and told me I was right. I love how in tune with my body I feel when I'm in labor!

This was hanging in my bathroom. Very appropriate for this particular labor!

I had a welcome break at this point. I drank water and we talked about positions to try pushing in to keep encouraging the baby to turn. When I started to feel 'pushy' contractions beginning, probably between 6:30 and 6:40,  I asked to stay on my hands and knees since I was still feeling a lot in my back. I started breathing down through contractions and could feel the baby moving down, but not enough, and still so much pressure and discomfort in my back. I moved to semi reclining now and put a little more power behind each contraction, rather than breathing through. I still felt like baby hadn't turned. We tried a stool to help me squat. This was SO intense. I was starting to feel a little panicky and scared by how intense pushing on the stool felt. I was crying, "I want my baby." in between contractions. Sarah asked me after one if I wanted to move back to the bed because she could tell I'd made a lot of progress. I told her I'd do one more on the stool and then went deep inside myself and gave myself a pep talk. "You CAN do this. You are STRONG. You are CAPABLE." and from that moment on that was my mantra inside my head for each and every contraction. Sometimes just, "You are STRONG." over and over and sometimes the whole string of affirmations. Once I got back up on the bed I felt more productive. I knew the baby had turned while I was on the stool and wasn't posterior anymore. I had thought I had felt it, but once I felt how much more productive I felt pushing back up on the bed, I knew for sure. I asked Sarah to tell me as soon as she could see even a little of the baby's head because I needed to feel it with my hand. Shortly thereafter she told me to feel and once I did and knew how very close my baby was, I prayed for just a little more strength, and told myself I was having this baby right then. James was talking in my ear this whole time, assuring me that I was so close, that I was doing everything exactly how I was supposed to. With the next contraction, baby's head was born and then, with a little extra effort, shoulders, and finally I was pulling my baby onto my chest, "Oh I did it. Oh you're finally out!" Sarah reminded James to take a peek to find out if we had a boy or a girl, but he had caught a glimpse on the way up to my chest, "It's a little girl!" I started crying then and said, "It's Anna! This is our Anna! Hi Anna!" And, in that minute, our family grew.

I looked up at James and said, "That was hard. That was really hard." and we both remarked over how big Anna looked! The yummiest rolls on her arms and thighs! While I delivered the placenta and Sarah checked me out (I just needed one small stitch), James went out to tell the kids that they had a sister. I asked my mom to go out and capture their reactions on camera because they had been so sure it was a girl and so excited at the prospect of another sister. I knew their reactions would be so sweet, and I was not disappointed ;)

A few minutes later Anna had very easily latched on (I was very grateful to notice absolutely no tongue tie after struggling with both Kate and Henry's tongue ties!) and the kids came in to get in bed with me. Such a wonderful feeling, having all four of my babies there in bed with me. 

Comparing his thumb size to hers

The kids went back out to be with Grandpa and my mom went to start heating up food for all of us while the nurse took vitals from me and Anna and then left us to relax. This is one of my favorite parts of a birth center birth. The absolute peace of being left alone for a couple hours after your baby is born. Anna nursed, James and I talked over the strange whirlwind her labor and delivery ended up being, my mom brought us food, it was cozy and quiet and wonderful.

After a couple of hours Anna had her checkup and was weighed and measured. She was 9lbs 4oz and 20 3/4in! Our heaviest baby by a lot! I couldn't believe she had been in my belly and that I had pushed her out!

My mom and dad got the big kids into their jammies at this point and took them home to go to bed. I took a shower and our nurse went over our discharge paperwork with us before we packed up and went home ourselves, about 4 hours after Anna was born. 

Since bringing Anna home we've just been soaking her in. Everybody is just so in love with her and is always asking for a turn holding her. She's a champion little nurser and a pretty good sleeper. I think we're all enjoying a very quiet, very low key postpartum. Pajamas, movies, snacks, snuggles, naps. I've been feeling wonderful! I'm actually surprised because of how tough the actual delivery was. The only thing that's sore is my upper back and chest. I feel like I've been doing a lot of push ups actually. Probably from all of the time I spent on my hands and knees, trying to get little miss to turn. Between how much Anna has been nursing, and also nursing Henry a few times a day, I've been very very hungry. Thankfully, James is home until Tuesday and is keeping me well fed ;)

I feel so incredibly blessed to be Mama to these 4, wonderful, healthy, beautiful children and am so looking forward to settling into a routine at a family of 6!