September 30, 2012

Papa Runs a 10K

Sunday the Carrillo household woke up early for Edu's first race as a papa. Ever since we found out we were expecting a wittle baby, Edu has talked about how they'll be at the races we run and soon they'll be winning the Kid's 1K fun runs that go on before (or sometimes after) the grand events. He can't get enough of that - it's so cute to imagine Santi all growed up with a little race bib on! He, however, was not super stoked about leaving the house early. Actually, that's a lie. He didn't care. He was happy to be fed, well rested, and bundled up for wherever-the-heck we were headed.

 This child loves himself a carseat! He might make a few squeaky what-are-you-doing-to-me noises when we transfer him in/out of the seat, but once he's buckled up and covered with a blanket he is so happy! Until, of course, we hit a really long stop light. Then he might get a little grumpy, especially when he hasn't had a good milky-meal in a while. But that's only happened once and we were literally one light away from our destination, so a little feeding in the car went down and he was back to his happy, carseat-loving self.

Grandma and Grandpa Matthews (my papa and mama) joined us on this crispy, sunny Sunday morning race. It was fun doing something "normal" that we have done so many times without baby, and now we're joined by this fun little guy! I tried doing everything just as I have always done: be the photographer, take hubby's pre-race photo, wait at the starting line, snap a dozen good ones, hang out in the meantime, catch the first placers, count them to see where Edu is, and scream "TE AMOOOO" (I love you in Spanish) when I see Edu nearing the finish, then photograph his arrival 8 times to see if I get a good shot or not. 

Of course, having a baby changes everything, so here's what really happened: arrive a little late to the race since papa bear was a sleepy one and couldn't get himself to arise when the alarm clock sound, grab his pre-race gear and shove it in a stroller, meet with grandma/grandpa, stand in the sun while papa Carrillo does a quick warm up pre-race, take a picture (maybe?), wait at the starting line, take a bunch of pictures with grandma holding onto stroller, hang out, use the restroom a few times, walk around Sports Authority with baby in stroller, get a mini-panic attack when baby Santiago decides to fuss a little in the store, move stroller around to soothe him, wait at the starting line for the first place finishers, hear baby ask for breakfast, accept grandma's help in getting the nursing cover on and baby latched onto his endless supply of milk, hand camera over to grandpa to take pictures, also put grandpa in charge of counting the finishers to see where Edu places, see Edu while I somewhat struggle to get baby to catch under a cover with all my layers of clothes on (sorry, Santi), let out a mini-shout not to freak out the baby but to support the hubby, continue to feed as all 3 of us look like lost deer, hunting with all our might for papa, the runner (Pumita would have helped us look for papi but he was lost in a breastfeeding frenzy and didn't really know what was going on).

 Edu had an amazing race, beat his personal 10K race record and brought it down to 36:08, we tackled Whole Foods with great success, ate some amazing tortilla soup prepared by a lovely friend, Beth, from church, and called it a night after my rad cousin his awesome wifey came to visit Mr. Santiguin in all his sleeping and breastfeeding glory (he fed twice while they were here - it was a pity they didn't get to see his face more!). A lovely weekend, indeed.

September 29, 2012


Oh. Saturday. We ate quinoa pancakes (recipe below!), we attempted the Moby wrap again (fail), we snuggled with Pumita, we went to the park, we breastfed in public (GASP!) and didn't cry about it (bigger GASP!), we met with my great friend, Helena, we snuggled with babe some more, we ate chef Katie's amazing potato n' bean dish that tasted like an incredible crock pot meal of delights (re: kidney beans, pinto beans, tomato, mushroom, olives, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, nutritional yeast, onions... intense flavors), and we rested. Indulge in photography, because it speaks so much nicer than words do!



Quinoa Pancakes
(for one - simply double for two, of course!)

I made up this recipe one evening when I was pregnant and famished. I decided I didn't want any wheat that evening and needed something high in protein, rich in good fats, filling and sweet. I also wanted to add some Amazing Grass Green Superfoods (I bought a blend of green powder in the first trimester of pregnancy when my mind and stomach couldn't even think about green leafy veggies without feeling sick. The one we purchased is a mix of spirulina, broccoli, kale, spinach, maca, beets, carrots, 8,000 antioxidants...etc - We bought it off Amazon and it tastes like a straight up tree from your backyard, but in pancakes it's golden delicious!)

  • 1/4 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp chia seeds or ground flaxseeds
  • 1 scoop Green powder (optional)
  • nut milk of choice (I use almond and I don't measure it)
  • coconut oil for frying
Combine dry, add milk. I simply pour some in the bowl and mix the batter together. If it looks too thick and dry, I add a bit more milk. If it look too thin, I let it sit for 5+ minutes so the chia seeds or flax does their job of absorbing some of the extra liquid. Simple as that. Eat them after decorating the fluffy cakes with everything you can imagine. 

Expect more of these "more photos, less chat" posts. I want to share baby Santiago James with family and friends, but don't have it in me to write daily. I also would love to return to the life of sharing recipes since that is why I started this blog in the first place. So food and baby photography, here we come!

And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 
Exodus 33: 14

The Growing Pregnant Belly

Pregnancy is fun. Pregnancy is long. Pregnancy gave me stretch marks, three months of nausea, a sad aversion to bananas, months of hating green leafy vegetables, cravings for greasy food, a lack of energy, a night of food poisoning (not related to the pregnancy, but it happened!), many lunchtime walks with my mom and dad, very modified versions of my normal exercise routine, prenatal vinyasa yoga, prenatal pilates, lots of fun kicks and thuds from baby, lots of kisses on my tummy from hubby, lots of singing to a growing, not-yet-born son or daughter, lots of exciting prenatal appointments with midwives, a few ultrasounds, many braxton hicks, and a beautiful baby boy.
To go through this, or even see someone go through this amazing experience, shows God's power, the work of His glorious hands, and absolutely incredible gift of grace: giving us intense gifts that we do not deserve. Praise the Lord! I can't wait for it to happen all over again, in His good timing, whenever that may be. I'm anxious, nervous (but shouldn't be) and wondering how it will go the next time around. In the meantime, though, Edu and I are simply going to enjoy our little replica-of-his-Mexican-papa son, and not think too far into the future. We're just going to drown Santiago James in our kisses for now, and hope we have enough saved up for the next babe. :)

September 28, 2012

Anticipating the Weekend

Happy Friday! Santi and I are very happy this day has finally arrived because it means we get to spend not one but two full days with papa Carrillo. We love our papa Carrillo, miss him madly Monday through Friday, and find so much joy in these two short but oh-so-sweet days at the end of each week. Here's to it being 7:00pm tonight, Edu arriving home from work + Costco shopping, and a complete familia of three, happy as little toads.

Today Santi and I finally crawled out of bed around 10:30am. I'm trying to "sleep in" to make up for the interesting, yet normal, newborn nighttime routine of getting up 4,000 times to feed and change bebe's diaper, but it's not really working. You see, I feed him and feed him some more, I can keep my eyes closed and all, but to actually fall asleep? That won't happen until he is finished eating, he is transferred to his rock n' play, and my pillows are re-organized to non-nursing status (one under my head, one against the headboard, one between my legs or simply squished in my embrace as I hug it tenderly). Of course, little Puma has his moments of, "oh snap, I only ate for 20 minutes on the left side, I have an itch for another 15 minutes on the right side, so I'm going to wake up IMMEDIATELY!" So he does, and so do I. and by wake up, on my part, I really just mean I open one eye and hope he'll go back to sleep but shortly realize his baby-dinosaur squeaks are escalating to more of a T-Rex bear roar - if I don't pick him up and help him latch. Instant content baby - almost every time.

We also attempted, once again, for the fifteenth time, the Moby Wrap. I don't think he is supposed to be able to hang his head outside of it, or leave a foot between him and my chest. I'm a bad mom, putting my 2 week baby in danger. Thanks, Moby wrap, you're a gem! Anyhow, I've decided to give it a try once or twice a day, 'till it finally works - which might be when he is a toddler and too big for the dang thing. Like a friend recently said, it's like origami but with a baby included. It's a $45 piece of black fabric, that was cut nicely and hemmed at the edges. It's a disaster for this new momma, but a disaster that I am willing to embrace until it becomes pure magic. I know the day will arrive, people have told me it has. So we're being patient. and laughing a lot along the way.
Today I was able to do something fun for the first time since my pregnancy days! I cleaned the bathrooms (yaaaaaayyy??) like a normal human being! I fed Santi, placed him in his fun bouncer thing, and commenced to: toilets. Of course, he decided he wanted to eat almost that very minute so I washed my hands and the poisonous chemicals off of them (for the record, we use organic soy toilet bowl cleaner, but still) and fed the little lion. After 4 years, or about 25 minutes (with burping and rest breaks in between) I was able to return to cleaning and finished in record time! It was fun business. Only because it felt good to help out the hubby who has had to do all things wifey for the past week or so since my mum has returned back to work. Life is, shall I say, back to normal? Nah, normal is boring. Life is back to Mrs.Carrillo being able to clean bathrooms, I guess. 
I have been eating like a giant mammal recently. Like a huge mammal whose appetite can never truly be satisfied by human food. During nighttime feeding with baby, I am always chugging down water as if it's been weeks since I've had anything to drink. Then, every morning around 6:00am or 7:00am, I get hit with mass hunger so I grab some walnuts, prunes and a banana, with the occasional carob date ball (made by yours truly, living in the freezer for easy access) or salted peanut ball (made by my rock star friend who makes all things from her brain without recipes and they always turn out fantastic). Then I do my sleeping, more nursing baby, and more half sleeping, and breakfast happens. But today I decided to simply skip to lunch since it was getting so late in the mornin' - and once breakfast/lunch went down the hatch, I swear I didn't stop eating. I haven't stopped eating until about 20 minutes ago when I had what seemed a lot like a second lunch the size of a large dinner and now I can hardly sit because of it. Whew. Bring on the calories, right? Am I still eating for two?

The girls at church have a ministry specifically for new-parents, where they bring meals to the family every other day for a week or two. It has been such a lovely blessing to not have to cook every day! Although, I did cook pizza the other day, so we've found ourselves with a little too much food in the fridge, the majority of which has been directed straight to the freezer for later consumption. On the menu for this week, courtesy of the lovely ladies at Alderwood Community Church:

enchilada casserole with pasta, beans, veggies, and chips on the side
* brown rice garbanzo casserole with apple and autumn flavors
* quinoa salad with pecans and bell pepper
* vegan calzones that live in the freezer so I have no idea what they contain but they smell like heaven
* spinach salad with an I'm-not-sure poppy seed vinaigrette, cranberries and pear
* vegetable soup with spring greens, garden-fresh tomatoes and vegan cupcakes
* bean n' potato n' veggie dish courtesy of my rad friend that makes the frozen salty peanut balls. Oh joys!

So, with that list of dishes and another meal coming our way tomorrow, you can see how I've been eating enough for 4 people each meal. I don't want to waste the food, throw it away, or freeze every single dish. I want to enjoy it, and enjoy each of them I (we) have. It's been fun trying new vegan meals and being inspired to attempt new recipes in the kitchen soon!

Now we let the food digest, we nap, we rest, and wait for papa to come home from work (he's actually home right now on his lunch break, but we only have his sweet presence for a few more minutes before he's out the door again). Personally, though, all I want at this moment is a deep, profound nap, with baby Jamesito in my arms, or by my side, without any worry or care, enjoying motherhood by the minute instead of being grumpy about "yet another cry for some of momma's milk" when I feel like I just.fed.him.

Happy Friday, once again, and happy day 15 of being a stay at home mom (i.e. a generally happy gal who loves each moment with her baby when he is awake, but when he is asleep she finds herself staring emotionless and lonely-like at the nearest wall or light fixture).

Oh give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good, 
for His steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

September 27, 2012

Two Weeks Old

I'm in love with this baby boy. I could stare at him all day, which, when both our bellies are full and all is well, I spend hours doing. He's such a joy to both Edu and I, as well as to both of our families and friends.
God blessed us with such a precious gift, and we are so undeserving of having Santi in our lives. All we can do is give thanks, praise our Father and glorify Him for the peace He fills us with (even during the restless nighttime hours).

Today he turns 2 weeks old, and I am being honest when I say I truly don't know what we have done for the last 14 days. It's my longest stretch away from work in probably 5+ years, which some would see as a dream, "I can do anything I want! I've longed for this much free time since I was born!" but not a moment has gone by where I have found myself with "free" time. I instantly fill it with baby time, maybe some mandatory cooking for the sweet spouse, our the occasional blog post.

Life is sweet. Daytime and nighttime mesh together. Baby Santiago James teaches us how to live a life if self-sacrifice, of putting his needs before our own, of slowing down and taking each moment as it comes to us.

Happy two weeks, love bug. I love being your mommy, even though I'm far from perfect at it.

September 26, 2012

Little Puma's First Day: Bath

Today is day 13. I'm sleepy. I could be sleeping, since the babe is, but I'd rather blog. I have a full day to sleep, don't I? Oh, on sleep: The first few nights blurred together with the first few days. I cannot remember how well he slept at night, but I do remember him sleeping a lot during the day. I can try to recall his nights during that first week, and when I do, I see visions of me hearing his squeaky "pay attention to me" noises, picking him up, and feeding him. I tried remembering which side he fed on last, to keep the "girls" even, and he did a pretty good job latching. He would fall back asleep after a few minutes or a few 10 minutes, and I would fall back asleep as well. Only for a short while, though, from 1 hr to 1.5 hours. Edu and I were so happy to have him in our lives that we didn't care, we just laughed the screaming episodes away. Carefree. Not yet sleep deprived. It would catch up with us soon. This are our first few days with the little monkey. Let's try and re-cap, shall we?

Birth day: pink, bruised skin, silly gender-neutral hat, peaceful sleeper. Lover of life. Content in every way, making everyone who holds him immediately fill up with love and peace - he seriously just poured out this joy into people! Greatest day of our lives.
Papa Carrillo couldn't believe this little being was finally here, after we had been talking to him and kissing him on my belly for so many months. Our little Puma was in our arms, staring up at us, making sucking noises with his mouth and dinosaur squeaks when he wanted to eat. We fell in love.
Grandma was so over-joyed. I can't believe how freshly-born Santi's hair looks here. This was after we contemplated his adorable face, hands, feed, nose, ears, mouth, and eyes for about 18 million hours. We decided it was time for a bath, his hair had just-born stuff stuck in it and grandma wanted to clean it out. I didn't see any rush in giving him his first full-body bath, but I think she was just excited to use the tub she bought us. That, and, she really wanted to comb out his luscious black locks with the baby brush. She wanted to treat her first grandson to a complimentary spa day!
He hated it. We took off his clothes and discovered his very first meconium stool. Pitch black, sticky, hard to clean - I feel like we were at it with the wipes for days but it was just because he was screaming on the top of his baby-lungs for the first time, so we wanted to hurry the process but could not do so. Then he peed. His first really good, really concentrated urine - straight up into the air, onto my arm and shirt, onto the floor - all in a matter of milli-seconds before we realized what was happening and covered him with the diaper. We couldn't help but laugh. For about 20 minutes. or 20 seconds, give or take. My mom had already "filled" the tub with warm water, but by the time he was changed out of meconium/concentrated pee land, the water was much much cooler and he screamed at us for it. Then the tub fell into toddler setting. It has little legs on it and the middle section pops up or down depending on baby's size. The legs come down and the middle section pops down for toddler, and the legs stay up in locked/hidden position with the middle section in upward-locked position for newborn. I had pulled the legs down, and left the middle section in high position. My mom leaned on it ever so slightly with bebe in her hands and it fell into toddler setting. We all jumped. I stopped taking pictures. Baby Jamesy screamed 8 octaves higher.
He was so so so happy, and so so traumatized once it was over! And so was his mamma and grandma, to be honest. Oh goodness, though, the smell that the Burt's Bees shampoo left in his hair was magical. He smelled like fresh baby, which to me smells like clouds, cotton, and the color pastel blue, just sayin'. He was lovely, we all forgot about the insane bath experience, and were once again filled with newborn-baby endorphins and postpartum oxytocin.
I loved changing his clothes for the first time! It's so fun having loads of adorable baby clothing hanging in the closet for months and finally being able to dress our little chimp in 'em (and I call him monkey in the most affectionate, loving way...)! Every outfit completely changes how he looks, he transforms from one babe to another and I love it. And with all his diaper blow-outs (hasn't happened that often) and random pees-out-of-the-diaper and momma's-milk-all-ovah-his-front-side, we change his clothes a few times a day sometimes - hooray for being able to put these outfits to good use!
Today wasn't the easiest day of my life. Momma is sleepy, papa is sleepy, baby is sleepy, but eating so so well and sleeping like a rock during the day and pooping like a gem - so we have to give thanks and praise our Awesome God for all His gifts! At the same time, we need to be wise parents and sleep when daytime allows, especially after sleepless evenings occur (every evening?) - but it's hard. I don't always want to sleep, I would rather stare at baby Santi, or eat, or cook, or visit with family and friends, or blog, or check other girl's blogs, or read about breastfeeding, or watch YouTube videos about cloth diapering. Ah, discipline. Ah, the pillow. G'night, moon. Baby's wake up time? About 20 minutes from now, I'd assume, for a good evening meal. Here's to 20 minutes of rich dreaming on a Wednesday night. Taking life hour by hour.

The LORD is my Strength and my Song, 
and He has become my salvation; 
this is my God, and I will praise Him, 
my father's God, and I will exalt Him. 
Exodus 15:2

September 25, 2012

Life with Baby

Goodness me. He's 12 days old already!
I wish I had been blogging every single day since our wee-babe came into the world. I can hardly remember even a slight detail about his first week, let alone the first days of his second week. How do blogging mommies do it? For example, Kath at Kath Eats Real Food & Caitlin at Healthy Tipping Point - just became mommies this Summer and blog about it daily if not, more than once a day. I know it's not healthy to compare ourselves to others - but shoot son! I wish I had it in me. Or was motivated enough... honestly I have had a few spare minutes each day, where I guess I could have should have blogged about this new life but I chose not to blog. I chose to sleep, to eat, to cook for the hubby, to try and figure out the Moby Wrap with little Jamesy-boo inside. So, blog, you're dear to me. But it's going to be a while until I return to regular posts - or maybe this specific post will be enough push to make me start right away. I'll try. or maybe I'll just continue to hang out with Santi and learn how to be a stay at home mommy for three months. We'll see.
Oh, he just pooped. Our baby has amazing bowel movements! PS: Bum Genius cloth diapers failed - twice today. He peed right through 'em! I think he might be too small for them, even though he's over 8lbs and that's the requirement for the newborn size. Alas, we're all learning. Maybe I put them on upside down. Hubby really wants to switch back to disposable, but I hear cloth diapers + wipes are absolutely dreaaamy once you get the hang of them. Once again, we'll see!

Happy half-way-through-the-work-week and we-get-to-spend-a-whole-weekend-with-papa-soon day! Here's to a future with laws that daddy's get 3 months paid paternity leave when their wee-baby is born. And, hey, maybe mommy could get a months worth pay, too? No? A week? An hour? I dream.

September 20, 2012

Our Home Birth Story Part II

so... where did we leave off? Where the baby was crowning? I was 2 pushes away from meeting our little (or giant) peanut? Oh, no. We were in the Serious Stage of birth. There were no more giggles or jokes, midwife Cindie had just arrived at our home, and it was 2:00 in the morning.

Once Cindie was settled in, she took my blood pressure, which was good, thank you God! Then listened to the baby's heart rate, which was also a lovely 120-130 or so (I'm assuming, since it was that all through the night and morning). I was now in, as you may recall from Part I of Santi's birth story, pillow-mania position, and was about to be crazily surprised at how far along things were going.

Side note: Two weeks before bebe was born, Cindie asked me during a prenatal appointment if it was okay that she check my cervix. I think I was 37 weeks pregnant or so. I didn't want to be encouraged that labor was "right around the corner" or that labor was in a far away land that I wasn't going to be reaching anytime soon, so I told her, "only if you'd like to!" She said there are reasons they like to at this point, one being because they want to know if they need to ripen or soften the cervix if nothing is happening, since baby is now term and could arrive "any moment". So she checked me, and I was 2 centimeters dilated and babe was at negative one station - which is nice n' low for 37 weeks, and nice n' open for ye ol' cervix. I had been experiencing quite a few contraction-like cramps during the following days, through week 38 and 39, and at each weekly prenatal appointment, they asked if I wanted to have my cervix checked. Each time I told them, "only if you need to" - for the same reason I had mentioned in week 37. I didn't want to be 6cm and get all excited about labor maybe being around the corner, and I didn't want to hear "oh, you're 2.1cm" (meaning only a very tiny and lame-o change since week 37) and find myself discouraged. I just wanted to let my body do what it wanted to, when it wanted to, and wait for labor to jump on me by surprise. And so it did.

While in pillow-mania position, I was feeling very intense contractions. I also started to feel really warm and sweaty, so my mom and hubby started to place damp, cool rags on my forehead, neck and shoulders. Ah, yes, and the delightful hymns had started to play off of our computer. They are truly a God send and helped me focus on my Amazing Father during the beginning of transition. Of course, the playlist wasn't quite long enough, and eventually I was slightly annoyed by the repeats, but that's beside the point! Cindie checked my cervix at this point and, shoot son, it was like a mini contraction having her fingers down there - so, so, so much pressure, but such a beautiful sound when she finished and said, "how does 7 centimeters sound?" Goodness me! Eduardo, my mom and myself were so surprised! I don't know how I was doing mentally at this point, but I remember feeling so glad inside when I heard those words.

Oh, seven centimeters, three to go, time for transition. Bradley calls this transition, going from approximately 7-10, the self-doubt signpost. This is where I am going to be exhausted to the brim, I thought, where I might tell them I can't do this anymore, where I will want to have medication injected into every part of my body to numb the pain, where I will dream of anything but a natural, let-time-take-its-course labor. I tried to prepare myself for it, but within seconds another contraction hit, so I went straight back into the zone. "this does not tell you how close you are to pushing, this does not tell you how close you are to meeting your baby" I had to remind myself this. Because we think of 7cm as pretty stinkin' close, don't we? But I could be feeling regular, insanity-like contraction for anywhere from 1 to 6 more hours! So a quick pep talk went down in my head, whether I noticed it or not, and I just continued to breath out the mountain-peak, body-controlling, muscle flexing in my uterus.

The sensation was really, really low. I whimpered a bit at times, much like a tiny baby, and I did in fact make moaning noises. I definitely pictured myself as a very quiet laboring woman, but goodness me this was not the case. It felt so necessary to make noise with each contraction, like I was somehow able to handle it a little more than the silent Jane side of me could have. Eduardo and my mom were constantly telling me breath, to relax, to drink coconut water even though the thought, taste, and sound of it grossed me out. Really, though, with each noisy breath and each sip or two of liquid, I was able to survive this labor - especially the last few hours before pushing. It was now 6:30am or so, it took me four-ish hours to move from 7cm to.... "Nicole do you mind if I check your cervix again?" Cindie asked me, I nodded. "10 centimeters," she confirmed. And I think she also mentioned baby was at +3 station - (confirm me, mom, if I'm wrong)! Insanity.

Cindie then told me to tell her when I felt like I was ready to push, because at that point she would call the birthing assistant who would be her right-hand girl during the pushing side of labor and during delivery and clean-up. She said it will be noticeable, this desire to push, because instead of a long, deep, steady breath through each contraction, I will make a long, maybe steady breath with a grunting noise at the end, followed by an extreme urge to push. She was spot on right about this, and eventually I felt the first one. You go from "hooooo..." or "mmmm..." to "hooooo uggghhhh" or "mmmmm mppphhhhh" suddenly, like an animal that takes control of  your body, and you push with all your might. It was such a huge change to actually work during a contraction, instead of lying their hopelessly waiting for it to pass, breathing deeply.

A few more of those "hooooo ugghhhh"'s went down before I shouted to Cindie (who was in the other room), "Cindie I'm pushing!" - then I swear more than a dozen contractions went by, with no urge to push in them, and the next thing I know there's another girl in the room, who I had actually met before at one of my prenatal appointments, and I felt kind of bad because nothing was happening. It was still dark outside, so I knew not too much time had gone by, but I really feel like I was boring people to death. How do amazing men and women do this? Just sit and watch a woman labor, when there is almost nothing going on but moaning? Anyhow... I remember opening my eyes often and glancing quickly (in a dazed-out way) at Cindie and Jen, the birthing assistant, and my mom n' hubby. Sometimes a contraction would come and I would look for my Edu or mom and wouldn't find them, which worried me 'cause for some reason I kept thinking they would miss something - but I probably just wanted an arm rub at the moment. They would always appear right away, though, and it was very comforting.

Soon enough, the pushing got real, I don't think I actually went through a dozen contractions, but maybe I did. It was probably 6:45am, based off of how long Cindie told me I had pushed for. Consistent pushing was kind of crazy, I mean, you start to seek contractions, because they mean you can really go for it and give a great push. Cindie, hubby, Jen and mama were often telling me, "great job, Nicole" with certain pushes, and it was very encouraging, but also very confusing, since I thought "great job" meant "you're going to have your baby's entire head visible in about one more push" but it did not mean that. It meant that I was showing progress, that baby was indeed lowering, and that I was pushing correctly (I s'pose).

Jen, the birthing assistant, checked the baby's heart every 20 minutes from the moment she arrived 'till pushing got really intense and showed signs of crowning. Once the baby started crowning, she was checking the baby's heart between every contraction, or so it seemed. She also checked my blood pressure constantly to make sure we were both doing okay and not too stressed out. Stress = bad. But thanks to our Amazing Father, we were both given a, "perfect" or a "sounds great" with each check.

Light started to peak through the windows, but I had no idea since I kept my eyes closed for the first half of pushing, so it surprised me and excited me to see a new day. It really meant, "you're meeting your baby today, Nicole" which was so comforting. Cindie asked me at a moment, probably around 8:00am or so (I'm completely guessing), how I was feeling. I could tell by the look in her eyes that she wanted a very honest answer. I told her I was feeling good, and I was being honest, but that I felt like I was progressing very slowly, and asked her if this was normal. She said as long as I was feeling good and listening to my body, pushing when my body tells me to and not feeling too tired, that the speed I was moving at didn't matter, that I was doing great.

This was very comforting to me, because honestly I felt like I was getting no where. Pushing is, shoot I'm out of good words, intense! It really does take all your energy to give a great, strong, push, and the constant encouragement is amazing, but it doesn't mean you have only 3 more pushes left. I pushed for 3 hours and 45 minutes before my baby's head popped out completely. Cindie asked me  again how I was feeling (probably an hour or so before meeting baby). I was definitely more hopeful and perky, but tired and wanted to hold baby. She asked if I had any sports drinks or Gu Energy Gels to eat for the last bit of pushing. I told her we did, but I'm not used to eating something so strong and I was scared of getting sick. She assured me that I probably won't get sick, but that it will give me the energy I need for pushing really well. Eduardo went downstairs and mixed a chocolate Gu with a glass of water and brought it up to me. They tossed a straw in it, and even though I was scared I would get sick, I sipped half of it down and perked up like crazy! It was like drinking the richest chocolate ice cream or milkshake or straight up cake in a glass that I had ever experienced. It was fantastic, and I pushed like a hard-core athlete (oh, the one I miss from my pre-pregnancy days!) from there on out.

I was so alive in between contractions and pushing. I had so much hope and joy in my heart, and the Gu definitely gave me the energy and drive I needed for the remainder of labor. Everyone noticed, too, and gave me amazing, positive, feedback. I was still in my low, lying down, slightly propped up position, and still needed the cool rags all over my body. This was a sweaty endeavor, friends, with such an incredible reward waiting at the end.

Side note: It was beautiful, because Cindie was constantly humming along with the hymns playing on the computer, and it really gave me peace knowing that God truly placed her in our life for the birth and prenatal care. To have a believer there, a sister in Christ, was a blessing. God placed our baby's life and my life in her hands in that moment, with the help of the birthing assistant, Jen, and the support of my family. The team was all such a delight and worked together perfectly!

Once the head started showing, Eduardo and mom got really excited. Cindie asked if I wanted to see the baby as they started crowning, and I said I did. She asked if we had a mirror, but we didn't, so she used her iPhone and gave me a peak the next time I pushed. Black hair, just like his papa. But oh goodness, when they say "crowning" they don't mean "the entire head is almost out" they really just mean "oh look, first glimpse of baby, but it's an itty bitty glimpse". It was still amazing, though!

Anyhow, this is getting pretty detailed, but the end of pushing was my favorite part. Each contraction meant baby was closer, I pushed with all my might, but felt mad pain after the push, I was breathing more rapidly and heavily after the push, while the contraction trickled away,and sometimes moaned or whined. I just wanted to meet the baby so badly. At this point I was pushing more than once each contraction, even if the pain was close to unbearable. I averaged 3 really good pushes each contraction, sometimes four and once or twice I recall a fifth, but it wasn't comfortable - just filled me with hope. 

Woah man moment: there was pee with a few strong pushes, there was poo, there was amniotic fluid - it got pretty messy. And my words over the past few months were being crushed: "Yeah, home birth, but I won't be all naked and squatting in my kitchen or anything...." when Cindie told me I could take off my bra so bebe could be placed right on my skin once born. Off the bra went, and I lie there, all naked like a newborn baby, and I didn't care one bit! It's funny how all your cares fade away, even with a camera on you!

Once I could truly feel the baby's head really crowning, exiting my body, pushing was a joy, I was actually working hard and feeling the results instantly - even when the baby's head clearly slid back in a little bit, I knew I could push harder next contraction and get more of the head out. The hardest part was toward the end - when I had to hold a push and wait for the next contraction. I was 2 contractions away from seeing our baby for the first time, and the ring of fire greeted me softly (sharply). You have to sit there, legs open in some way (in the air? I think mine were, as I grabbed them with my hands, felt a little bit like a caa-razy yoga pose!) with a child's head half way out of you, half way in, and are told to hang tight. Ha - real tight. Your "lips" burn, your heart races, everyone around you is so very excited for what's about to happen, and you breaaaath. Or at least that's what I was told to do. So I did. For those last two contractions, and it was glorious insanity.

Eduardo was recording this section of the birth for my hopes of eventually making a birthing video, and I would love to post it but there is a lot of boob and too much visibility in the lower parts department than I am comfortable with sharing. You all understand, don't you? So I'll just describe that last push as the most wonderful part of our life.

"One more push, Nicole, you're doing great!" Cindie, my midwife, Edu and mom were all assuring me. With one last push his incredibly huge head popped out, blue as the deep sea, swollen as a balloon. Cord wrapped around his neck twice, but I wasn't aware, since all I did was immediately start screaming "a baaaaby a baaaby!!" hardly able to believe my eyes.
 Our baby was right there, one slippery push away from lying on my belly. Our baby, the one we have been poking at and goofing around with in my belly since last December. Our baby, who kicked and pushed, hiccup-ed and shifted, filling our not-yet-parent hearts. Our baby was outside of my body, and with that split second (or 30, who's counting?) he was lying on my tummy. My squishy, no-longer-baby-carrying tummy.

**photo edited to cover up the goods! let's keep this family friendly, shall we?***

Welcome to the world, our gift: Santiago James. As he lie on my tummy, everyone is cheering and smiling, tears started flowing and I continued screaming silly things. Eduardo yelled, "it's a girl!" and I, for some reason, wanted him to double check and said, "que es?!" (what is it?!) and we opened the little legs to find ourselves: 100% boy parts. "It's a boyyy!" Eduardo shouted, we all repeated after him, "a boooooy!" and continued smiling and crying.

 He didn't take any breaths right away since the cord was around his neck twice, and was pretty motionless in general for a bit. The midwives were checking him very closely, and I was oblivious to it all, loving on this puffy-faced blue boy with dark hair and tiny fingers. He opened his huge eyes to say hello, still not letting out his first cry, but showing us how truly present he was. Those eyes! So alert, so beautiful, we definitely lost it at that point. Perfect baby boy eventually started to cry, then grunt, then grunt some more from the umbilical cord trauma, then breath nicely, then continue to lie on my chest and stare at us all.

Bliss. Joy. The most wonderful blessing we could ever have imagined. God truly placed every person that was present at the labor and delivery with such a purpose - including the Bradley Method book. It was such an incredible experience to birth at home, in our comfortable bedroom, with no rules or stress or time restrictions. No medicine was offered to me in my delirious time of 7cm-10cm, no forceps or baby-extracting vacuums were mentioned when I was pushing for 3 hours and 45 minutes - it was all about listening to my body, and taking this birth minute by minute, so freeing!

Newborn check up:
A joyful, 8 pound, 21 and 1/4 inch baby boy! I'm still in awe 7 days later. I lie in my bed and cannot believe it all happened. Then I hear our baby dinosaur squeak in his pack n' play next to me and
I am reminded:  

Hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given to us
(Romans 5:5)

From the fullness of grace we have received one blessing after another
(John 1:16)

Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
(Isaiah 41:10)

But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble
(Psalm 59:16)