Juliet's Birth Story.

November 17, 2014

I just couldn't believe I had never posted Juliet's birth story.  Let me fix that right up.

The story really began 9 months before her birth (HA).  No really.  You see, we had just closed escrow on the house we are living in now and that very week I found out I was pregnant.  We had decided to undertake a major remodel before moving into the house and everyone told us it would take a year, year and a half.  We had never as much as changed a faucet before, so we had every reason to believe those people.  My husband, however, being who he is, decides we are going to be finished with the house and moved in before baby's arrival.  And so that is what we set out to do.  We made lightening quick decisions on contractors, tile choices, window placements, kitchen design and about 1,000 other matters.  I meanwhile, never feeling anything but ravenous hunger during my pregnancy with Charlie, was morning sick morning/noon/night.  A toddler and morning sick mama is tough, let me tell you.  Plus back and forth to the new house and all that everyday.  I just remember wanting to close my eyes and lay on the sofa all day long.  Pretty sure that didn't happen ONCE.

Fast forward 8 months.  Pregnancy is going great (nausea ended at 12 weeks just like clockwork) and house is in the home stretch, but about 50 things still going on.  It was definitely not in a livable state but we could see the finish line.  I had been almost 2 weeks late with Charlie and I figured I had at least until my due date, and probably after, before this baby (gender still unknown!) was born.

Meanwhile, back at our old house, our things were mostly in boxes.  One afternoon at the end of my 36th week, I went in to my kitchen, squatted down to reach into my pantry to pack a few more things and a gush of water came out.  This was how things started with Charlie so I knew exactly what was happening.

I burst into tears.  I was so unprepared for that moment, truly believing I had another month before the baby would be here.  Enough time to move into our new house, have things tidied and set up….you know, a sweet little nursery and mobile and stacks upon stacks of clean receiving blankets.  Instead, I had a house full of boxes, no idea where even the car seat was, let alone a mobile and those stacks of receiving blankets.  I didn't have a hospital bag packed, heck I didn't even know where a pair of clean yoga pants were.  This was most certainly NOT my vision of how this baby was going to come into the world.

Luckily, my mom was around and she went into damage control mode.  We ordered my dad and brother in law to move all the boxes out of the house so we would have a nice livable space to bring the baby back to, and somebody better find that car seat!!  I think I took a shower and tried to drum up some courage to face what was ahead.

In Emilia's birth story, I probably went on a bit much about my doula Ann.  But my experience then was colored very much by my experience with her during Juliet's birth.  Here's how it all went down.

I called my doctor's office and of course, they told me I needed to come in so they could cheek the amniotic fluid.  I took as much time as I could to ready myself, hug and squeeze my little boy (Charlie was just 2!), walk, stretch, chant, basically anything to get contractions started.  And…the contractions just didn't come.  I went to my doctor's office, of course she was out of town so I was seen by her partner.  They sent me over to the hospital and told me, albeit unofficially, I would need to have the baby within 24 hours of my water breaking.  (The fact she was 1 day shy of 37 weeks was of some concern to them.)  So, I headed over and checked in, met Ann, and started climbing stairs.  I went up, down, all around the hospital, parking lot, adjoining parking lots, anywhere we could find that didn't take us too far.  It was 7 p.m. and dark by now.

I was trying to hide my disappointment over the doctor on call.  She seemed competent and all, but very….Western.  My own doctor had natural childbirth with her own two children and ran a birthing center years before.  She understood what I wanted and what I had done with Charlie's birth (lest you forgot, I was transferred from a birthing center to a hospital but delivered naturally after a very long, difficult, dare I say traumatic, labor).  I wanted so much more from this birth, and doing it without medication was super important to me.

The doctor checked me at 8 p.m. and my contractions were barely showing up on the monitor.  I was so bummed, although I knew I wasn't feeling anything so I wasn't surprised.  She told me they would have to start pitocin.  For the second time that day, waterworks.  And not happy ones.  My brain went straight to negative-ville (wish it would never, ever, ever do that again by the way!!) and all I heard was unbearable pain, then epidural, then c-section.  As if my body didn't matter anymore and the doctors were coming in to take over.  I know some women would be all "what's the big deal? don't you just want to get that baby out?" but I can't explain it if you don't understand it.  HA.

Ann asked the doctor to leave.  She's good like that.  She is as comfortable in a nearly-unassisted home birth situation as she is in a hospital setting.  She's attended so many births at all points on the spectrum, it's as if nothing phases her.  She looked at me and held my hand.  I told her my fears.  She said she understood but she didn't think it had to be as bad as I thought.  She said I should ask for the lowest dose of pitocin possible.  I'm all, "you can do that?"  Of course you can.  You're paying for this.  If they can say yes, they will.  And you know what?  The doctor said Yes.  We can start her on 1 unit instead of the normal 15.  So we started low and I couldn't feel a thing.  Yet the contractions were happening, we could see them on the monitor.  I told Ann I could go higher, and then higher.  She was the perfect liaison between me and the doctor.

From about 8:30 to 11:00, I had no discomfort as they gradually increased the dose of pitocin.  B, my mom and Ann chatted and laughed and told stories and talked about baby names.  We still didn't know the sex and we had a list of several boys and girls names we couldn't decide on.  Somebody jokingly said, "how about Romeo if it's a boy?" (my mom maybe?) and then B looked at me and said, "Juliet."  Yes.  That would be the name if we were lucky enough to have a girl.  He's good like that.

At 11:30, I had reached 11 units of pitocin and I was contracting hard.  But managing.  I wasn't close to asking for an epidural.  I was riding the waves and in my own world.  This went on for about 2 hours. My mom later told me I was having crazy long 2 and a half minute contractions with only 30 seconds of rest (it's usually flipped if you aren't being given pitocin).  At 2:15 a.m. I was ready to push.  With Charlie, this had been a very problematic part of the labor.  I pushed for THREE HOURS, and still he was stuck.  Heart rate dropping with each contraction.  It went on so long and was pretty demoralizing. I was hoping this time would be different.

And boy, was it ever.  Three quick pushes and down she slid.  Easy peasy!  And there in my arms, a girl, a baby girl.  I realized at that moment I had been fooling myself during my whole pregnancy that I didn't care if it was a boy or a girl.  Of course I just wanted healthy, but deep down I craved a girl.  I think because deep down, I KNEW it was a girl.  Juliet, I said, it's Juliet.

She was one of the prettiest babies I have ever seen to this day (and I know what you're thinking, yeah, yeah, that's a mom for you, but have you heard me say this about my other babies?  Er, maybe not…..)
Anyway, pretty or not didn't matter, but she did feel other-worldly to me.  Like a beautiful alien, mysterious and compelling.  I had a different feeling with Emilia….knowing and familiar.  (With Charlie, I was just in awe and overwhelmed by the whole experience, I think.)

She weighed 7 pounds 6 ounces, my smallest baby, but full-term size even at barely 37 weeks.  This girl has always marched to the beat of her own drum, and done things one her own terms.  And so began our journey with this spirited, strong, loving little creature.  She continues daily to surprise us and challenge us and make our hearts ache with love.  We are so blessed to be sharing our lives with her.

{my hero, Ann}
{sweet, fresh baby}
{one of the first times he held her}

Greetings From Florence.

September 15, 2013

Well hello!  There is so much to get caught up on.  I've been busy posting some of the pretty bits of our trip on Instagram, but of course that's never the whole story.  As much as I love trying to capture the beautiful, the cute, the delicious, I want to share more than that.  I am a seeker of truth after all....the good, the bad and the ugly!

We came to Italy to fulfill a dream that B and I have shared since our very first conversation more than 11 years ago.  The dream was living abroad, in Italy to be precise.  Italy was a love of both of ours separately. Neither of us are Italian in blood, but we both feel Italian in our souls I guess you could say.  We had both lived in Italy before (separately) and studied the language (he is far more advanced than I).  And when we had kids, the desire to come here didn't go away, it just changed to include them.  So, earlier this year, after a rather soul-crushing legal matter that B worked on (all turned out well, it was just a difficult process), B came home and said Let's Just Do It.  I hemmed and hawed for about a week, because that is just what I do (it is in my blood) and then I woke up on a Tuesday and said Of Course We Are Going To Do This Thing!!

There was lots of planning and researching and trips to Italian Consulates and such, and if I was more like Design Mom, I would lay all the how-to's out there for you (heck, maybe I will do that one of these days if there is interest) but right now I just want to talk about right now.  And the right now is about the kids starting school tomorrow.

Our trip has always centered around the kids attending school here in Italy.  We have this (arguably overly) romantic idea of our kids loving Italy as much as we do and more importantly, speaking the language because come on how cute would the kids be speaking the language.  Come on.  And no, they are not going to an international school or an English language school.  They are going full immersion, people.  Which I love the idea of and I am terrible frightened of as well.  Fortunately, they are attending a Waldorf/Steiner school here in Florence.  The idea is the curriculum and style and environment will be familiar to them.  And we feel good knowing they will be with loving and capable teachers.

I looked at my kids for a long time tonight after they fell asleep (it's so cute, we have them all in one room), and I felt a new feeling for them I think.  I am used to feeling love and overwhelming affection and that desperate need to make everything good in their worlds (and okay okay, frustration and agitation too) but tonight, I felt, I don't know, in AWE of them.  I believe they are all more courageous than I was at their ages.  Strike that, I KNOW they are more courageous than I was at their ages.  Their adaptivity, their honesty and insight about their feelings.....it all blows me away.

We have, of course, been talking to them about school in these last weeks.  Are you excited?  Are you nervous?  Maybe you will make some new friends.  What do you think your teacher will be like?  This type of thing.  Juju has cried but is intent on going.  She has shown real bravery this summer playing with children who do not speak any English (she is the one that will walk right up to a group of kids) and I think she is drawing on those experiences to push herself through.

The other night, B was talking to Charlie, and he was at first quiet about the whole thing.  But then he said (and I paraphrase), "Daddy, you know how people tell you something is going to be so exciting and then you are excited, but then it actually happens and you are scared?  And then after you are scared, it gets fun?  I was scared like that when I started first grade."  And of course B told him that was how this school year was going to be and that he will feel better after a few days most likely.  I am so grateful to have a son who is in touch with his feelings, can admit he is scared, and talk openly about it with his FATHER.  You see, I don't really come from a family of males who talk a lot about their feelings.  Anyway....

Then there's Little E.  She's the only one who has been almost 100% excited to start school.  (Although tonight she said, "What if I'm scared of my teacher?" and I told her the teacher is a very nice person who loves children, and then she said, "Okay" and went to sleep.)  Now, I will remind you, Little E has never even been to school, so I think it's a matter of her not really grasping what is about to happen.  Fortunately, so so fortunately, she and Juju will be in a class together.  At least they can speak English together.  Ha.

So, I guess I am here to ask for you to think of my littles tomorrow if you can....I am nervous for them (again, it is in my blood).  I packed Charlie's lunch, we laid out all of their outfits, and breakfast will be set before I go to sleep tonight.  Happy new school year to all!  And lots of baci from Florence!

Our Next Adventure.

June 5, 2013

So, there is something sort of major that I have failed to tell you guys.  I'll just go ahead and say it....we are moving to Italy for 7 months.  And we leave a week from Saturday!!

There are stories about how this all came about and what it has taken to get here, but I figure I'll just go ahead and share things about this adventure as they arise.  I really want to blog from over there....both as a way to keep in touch with you all and to help preserve the stories and photos from our big trip.

In the meantime, we have lots of packing, planning and visiting with friends and family to do!

We will be back here in about 11 days, can you believe it???  (Follow along on Instagram if you'd like....my username is missjora.)

A Little Something.

May 9, 2013

I'm pretty sure I never mentioned it, but a few years back, our family and home were featured in Riviera Magazine.  We had a fun day harvesting honey and photographer Ethan Pines was there to capture it all.  I can't get over how little the children were just a few years ago!

Fast forward three years, and the editor of Riviera told me she wanted to do a little something just about me and my blog in their upcoming travel issue.  Needless to say, it was flattering and I said yes!  This time Noa Azoulay of Feather Love Photography (whom I have admired through the years) came out to take the photos.  It was strange getting photographed by myself....I really don't enjoy being in front of the camera!

If you want to take a peek, here's the little piece in this the May issue of Riviera Magazine.
{i still haven't seen a hard copy....just the online version!}

Mama Time.

April 15, 2013

A mom's schedule is strange, if you ask me.  The hardest work (for me, anyway) comes early morning, afternoon and evening (especially between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m.) and weekends.  Basically, the opposite of a traditional (9-5) workday.  I get a reprieve (in terms of freedom and flexibility) in the morning on weekdays after the older kids go to school until 1 p.m. pickup.  Of course, I always have my sidekick, Little E, with me.  But in general, she is pretty easy and can entertain herself for decent periods of time.

I guess this isn't a strange schedule when hanging with other mom friends, but I happen to have several close girlfriends who don't have kids (holla!) and their days are pretty different than mine.  I guess what I'm not saying but thinking is....I LOVE MONDAY MORNINGS. I literally exhale when the weekend is finally over and I can enjoy a relatively quiet and orderly house.  I relish this time.  I even enjoy sharing it with Little E because she is such a joy and as anyone having three kids knows, having just one at home is. a. BREEZE.  Not sure which rule of nature dictates this, but it just does.

I try to do something on Monday mornings to make that time extra nice.  A real shower?  A hot breakfast?  A special beverage?  Yes, that's exactly what I made this morning.

Mama's Monday Morning Mocha

I've been eating mostly paleo lately, and this mocha reflects that effort.....I want to post more about what and how I've been eating....another day for sure.

1/2 c. homemade almond milk
1 T. raw honey
2 T. raw cacao
dash vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

Whisk all of the above ingredients together in a small saucepan.  Gently heat over medium low heat.  Pour into a mug and top with a shot of espresso, if desired/needed.  ;-)

I also drizzled a little coconut cream over top because I was feeling indulgent.

How do you decompress after the kids go to school?

Capturing Time.

March 22, 2013

My friend Karina wrote a really nice post about trying to slow down time, and offers some great ideas for achieving the feeling that life is not whizzing by.  I am always searching for ways to capture the special moments that happen everyday.  I have a terrible memory for details, but it gets better when I actually pay attention and really experience those moments.

Here are some techniques that I use (but should be using more).  The first two come from a trusted friend.

1.  Stop and pay attention to all of your senses.  Ask yourself: "What do I hear? smell? see? feel? taste?" It is amazing how that always grounds me and puts me in the present.

2.  Close your eyes and "breathe" through the tips of your fingers.  Draw your breath up your wrists, arms, shoulders, body, down your legs and out your toes.  (This is great for awakening your senses which helps with the previous exercise.)

3.  Just say no to over-scheduling.  I have never been one of those people who loves to pack my day with a million things.  I have no problem saying no if I don't really want to do something (non-essential), or if doing it will crowd my day too much.  This really works for me.  I need downtime and I need slow.  Life in a family of five is fast and busy enough.

4.  Go offline.  Nothing makes me feel less in the moment then killing an hour on the Internet.  Oh, I still do it, but that's when I feel that "time is slipping by" anxiety the most.  I am not good at turning off my phone and shutting the top of my laptop, but it always works when I do find the discipline to do it.

5.  Make a cup of tea.  It's mental, but this always relaxes and comforts me and helps me pay attention to what is going on.

What about you?  What do you do to stay in-the-moment?

photo credit unknown

Family Photos.

March 17, 2013

I'm not sure why, but I have never posted the photos that Kim took of our family last fall.  She came out on a beautiful October weekend (unseasonably warm as I recall) and we took advantage by being outdoors much of the time.  We ventured to the Salk Institute and Glider Port for a few shots late one afternoon.  The only regret I have was that B was not able to join us so he wasn't part of those photos.  Ah well.....at least we got a bunch of the kiddos in such a spectacular setting.

 I'll share some of the photos of the whole family that we took at the house sometime soon!
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