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    Chiropractor Mama Dr. Dolly and professional photographer Elisa B. share about adventures in intentional and natural parenting while living in Virginia's beautiful Blue Ridge.
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Wordless Wednesday: Happy Boy Outside

Lora’s Story

It’s officially spring now, and so many of my friends are hatching chicks! My good friend Lora and her husband Eric are expecting their first child any day now (she’s currently about 36 weeks pregnant). It’s their first pregnancy, and they are expecting a baby boy (yay, boys!).

Breaking the News: We found out together. There was a suspicion as I took out the garbage and almost threw up. After that, we both looked at each other and said – maybe we should check to see if we’re pregnant. We were both excited!

Birth Plan/Prenatal Care: We don’t really have a birth plan, per se. I am pretty open to whatever I end up needing to do. I love the idea of a hospital in the event that there is a conflict – everything is there to help. Also, it allows us to be in a different place, without a lot of clean up. Birthing somewhere other than my own space feels less stressful to me. I like the idea of spending sometime somewhere else and then bringing the baby home and getting settled. We have gone through an OB who works with Martha Jefferson Hospital, and it’s been fantastic. We’ve enjoyed all of our doctors, and we feel very cared for.

Healthy Measures: I eat healthy and avoid too much junk food and the basic things you’re supposed to avoid – like mercury seafood and too much caffeine. I’ve also tried to exercise and get rest.

Wise Words: Some of the best advice I’ve received is this: Pregnancy is difficult and beautiful. Fluctuating emotions and feeling sick is normal. Be patient with yourself and with your spouse. Read about other people; stay in community. Eat what your body tells you it wants.

Memorable Moments: I’ve learned that hormones are extremely powerful. Loving your body is important because your body morphs so quickly. Getting a lot of women to speak into your experience is very good – it helps you feel less like you’re losing your mind and that many people have gone before you.

Talk, talk, talk, talk about what you’re experiencing. Take a birthing class; it helps to have an experienced third party speaking to you and your partner.

I cried a lot in my first trimester. I was a giant ball of hormones. One time I got a call from a friend asking me how I was doing. It was late, and my husband was getting back from a wedding (he’s a wedding photographer). He got home at 9, and I wanted a corn dog. We drove 45 minutes to Waynesboro to get me a corndog and I cried the entire way about how nice my friend was to call and see how I was doing.

Forever Changed: I have been so amazed at how profoundly a body can change. It has really challenged me to think about beauty – what it means to be comfortable in my own skin, despite how it looks or changes.

Being pregnant has also helped me understand the permanence of bring a person into the world.

Lastly, it has challenged me in regards to abortion – understanding more fully the psychological impact it must have on women to abort – especially after feeling the baby move around – kick, have the hiccups, response to sound and light. It has made me more empathetic to young women who find themselves pregnant in a precarious situation.

I look forward to meeting him and watching/experiencing him grow. I look forward to seeing what his personality will be, what things he will like to do, the thoughts he will have about life, etc. I’m looking forward reading and understanding what it looks like to raise up a child. I look forward to be challenged in my own selfishness and coming to realize how intensely my attitudes and behavioral patterns impact someone else’s formation.

PS We always try to give credit where it’s due – the photos included in this post were taken by Sarah Cramer Shields of Cramer Photo and Lora’s husband (and daddy-to-be) Eric Kelley of Eric Kelley Photography.

Holly’s Story

Dolly and I realize that we’ve got the boys covered. Between Calvin and Lucien we’ll be able to comment on a great deal of mommy-hood. However, we do have some friends who are expecting little girls. I interviewed Heather, and featured her on the blog last week. This week I wanted to feature my dear friend Holly, who is also expecting a little girl!

I interviewed her a few weeks ago, when she was at 36 weeks, and we are anticipating the little one’s arrival any day now!

Breaking the News: My husband, Jason, and I had been trying to conceive for more than a year, so he’d become very invested in and knowledgeable about the process. He could read a fertility chart with alacrity! We both had longed for and prayed for a baby, and admittedly had harbored fears of infertility, even only after a year. I can’t say that I invested a lot of thought or planning into my announcement of the news. I remember feeling a mixture of elation and bewilderment when I first saw the smiley face on the pregnancy test. I wanted to tell Jason right away. Jason was doing his morning ritual of checking email and baseball news, and I immediately went in and told him we needed to stop and have a big breakfast to celebrate a big change in our family. This was a Monday or Tuesday, so I think he was initially confused as to why. So I spelled it out, “We’re pregnant!!” and a huge smile crept over his face, and I even think he was a little teary.

Birth Plan/Prenatal Care: We hope and pray for a natural birth and will be seeking the support of a doula to help us achieve that goal. My husband and I have also attended birth classes and done reading (yes, Jason has faithfully been reading Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner) and had discussions to prepare. I know Jason will provide a lot of support, and we’re trying to be creative about a variety of relaxation strategies and positions to help us through the first stage of labor. I can’t say we have a strict philosophy that completely rules out the possibility for medical intervention or pain relief, but we do understand that such medical interventions are overused in our medical system and can actually hinder the labor process. I also know from the stories of some women that medical pain relief—if used wisely and not indiscriminately—can help to assist women who are completely exhausted or progressing extremely slowly in having the birth experience they long for and even prevent C-sections.

We chose our OB based on his reputation for supporting couples in having the kind birth experience they believe best and his decades-long experience in delivering babies and handling any complications. I’ve really appreciated his laid-back style and his genuine desire to avoid medical intervention or c-sections unless deemed truly necessary for the safety of the baby. Admittedly, sometimes he can seem too laid-back (after you’ve describe yet another of your incredibly unique symptoms, and he nods and chirps, “yeah, that’s normal” for the hundredth time ;)). But I’ve appreciated this and interpreted it as a conscious attempt to reduce the anxiety that many women feel during pregnancy. The stories I’ve heard from his previous patients and from the nurses who’ve worked with him at Martha Jefferson have confirmed this impression. One RN mentioned that he deliberately seemed to keep a low profile during the laboring process, because he didn’t want to be tempted to interfere with strategies for coping that were working or to rush the process. I think that’s pretty unique.

Healthy Measures: I have to say that I’ve been more conscious of my nutrition since learning I was pregnant. I have to give part of the credit to our OB, who has a reputation in town for being strict about weight gain during pregnancy. Rather than succumbing to my previous fantasies of copious indulgences and a license for eating during pregnancy, I’ve found myself deliberately trying to cover all the food groups, to avoid excessive simple carbs (my definite weakness), and to stick within reasonable calorie limits (though of course I’ve never deprived myself or the baby). I love to eat. I was blessed not to struggle with morning sickness during this pregnancy and have instead had a raging appetite, which I’ve needed to keep in check. Jason and I have also been committed to eating a lot of fresh produce and buying organic whenever possible.

Wise Words: Probably the best advice has been to take all advice and especially any parenting books with a grain of salt. There’s not a single strategy or parenting style that is best for your baby, as long as you’re providing a nurturing, loving environment for your child. Jason and I will probably be weaving a parenting tapestry from the advice we’ve received from multiple sources.

Challenges: One challenge early in the pregnancy was that Jason had accepted a grant to do some academic research at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island during the months of August and September. That meant he was away for a substantial portion of my first trimester. We’d also just adopted a new puppy (before our discovery of the pregnancy)—an adorable little Boston Terrier—and I found myself occasionally weary with caring for and training him and keeping up with life and work without my husband’s help. To top it off, we were keeping the pregnancy a secret until well into the second trimester, so I couldn’t call upon the sympathy of friends of co-workers. Fortunately, I had revealed the news to some of our dear friends locally (Elisa and her husband), and they went out of their way to support me, feed me, and help with the puppy.

More recently, I’ve been struggling with the aches and pains of the last month of pregnancy and many consistent bouts of Braxton Hicks contractions in the evenings and at night. And I’m sure Jason is becoming weary of the spurts of groaning and sighing that often accompany my effort to dress, tie my shoes (maybe that’s why he’s pushing me to buy Crocs), pick up dropped objects, and climb stairs.

Memorable Moments: I’ve learned that I am not in control—not of the timing of conception, the ultimate progress of the pregnancy, and the experience of childbirth itself. After all, Jason and I did not ultimately create this baby. God has been gracious and sweet in showing me this and teaching me to acknowledge that my own sense of control over how everything turns out is false. Not to suggest, of course, that we can’t make good choices in the best interest of this baby.  But I believe learning that I am not completely in control during pregnancy will help when I inevitably confront feelings of inadequacy as a mother.

This pregnancy has brought so much renewed joy and excitement into my life. I’m sure like most women anticipating motherhood, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for this baby girl and a deep yearning to meet her, know her, and love her well. It also gave me the freedom and excitement I needed to leave a job that was not fulfilling and to begin to consider anew what my calling is in the world—what I can contribute as a mother and wife and how my other gifts and passions might be used.

I’ve been trying to imagine the moment when Jason and I see and hold our little baby girl for the first time. The emotional impact of that moment probably can’t be understood fully until you’ve experienced it. I know that having a baby can strain a marriage, but I also look forward to the immense sense of oneness and shared love we will share when we encounter her and begin learning what it means to love her.

PS To see Holly’s maternity preview from her photo session click here.

Elisa’s New Venture/Adventure

A few months ago (I distinctly remember I was 40 weeks pregnant at the time) I mentioned to a friend of mine how much I wish that my wedding planning experience had been different. It’s been almost 6 years now since I went through the process, but this still sticks in my mind. I wished I had a community of women who were also planning their weddings – to share the joys with, to build enthusiasm with, and to share the experience with. I mentioned a desire to start something like that for women in the Charlottesville area (“perhaps over coffee …”, I said).

Jennifer took this idea and went full speed ahead. Of course, she added her event planning expertise, and by the time Lucien arrived she was ready to go big, with monthly meetings at different locations around the area where brides could have their weddings. She also had the brilliant idea to spotlight a different vendor each month, inviting them to share their knowledge with the women in the group. And so, The Bridal Ring was born. You can check out the website here: www.thebridalring.com.

All this is very exciting, and we’re thrilled about the publicity we’ve gotten so far. We’ve been featured on the CvilleEntremom website and just a few weeks ago we were on TV! You can see video of both the interview and the news show coverage of The Bridal Ring’s blog by clicking here.

I have to admit that my husband is a little afraid (“two businesses and a baby in two years?”) but also really excited. I love connecting with people; I’ve always been a people person. That’s one of the many reasons why I love photography, and one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this new venture.  How will this go with a new baby and a new business on top of my photography? We’ll find out!

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

Plump red-breasted robins are hopping on the fence while doves coo at dusk.  Sparrows skitter about, and tender lavender-colored tulips begin to stretch forth from the ground.

There’s still patches of melting snow chunks on the ground, but the grass is green.

Spring is coming!

My heart trembles at the prospect.

It feels as though we’ve been caught in a repeat episode of impermeable gray skies, chilly weather, and weekly snows for too long to remember.

Spring is coming!

The past couple of days have had temperatures surge into the 60’s.  As my son and I ventured out for an afternoon walk, I asked if he wanted his sweat shirt.  He emphatically replied, “No!”

During our walk, my smile brightened when the sun kissed my cheek.  My son’s hand brushed by green shrubs as though he was running his hand through soft-textured fabrics.

Spring is coming!

* Photo of American Robin via Alan Vernon’s Flickr photostream.

Evening Prayers

Over a year ago, I posted about our family’s bedtime routine with our son.

Calvin at 11 months

Our family routine has changed a little since then, since our son is more verbal and more interactive.

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After a bath, milk, and one or eight bedtime stories, Calvin climbs into his toddler bed.

I review with him all the fun things we saw or did throughout the day.  If I happen to forget a significant detail, he is quick to remind me.

Mama, we saw a big dog!  And, I ate like a dinosaur.

See?  How could I forget those things?

Next, we sing a few songs.  My husband and I are Calvin’s personal jukebox.  Songs can range from worship to modified verses of The Wheels on the Bus.  Have you ever heard the verse about what the dinosaurs on the bus do?  They go ROAR, ROAR, ROAR…naturally!

Finally, Daddy asks Calvin if he’d like to pray.

Calvin [pipes up]:

God bless Poppy. God bless Mimi.  God bless…[everyone he knows from relatives to friends].

Daddy: Calvin, who made you?

Calvin: God made me and dinosaurs.

Usually, Calvin’s Daddy launches into the next question, but tonight, Calvin had more to say…

Calvin: God made Daddy.  God made Mommy.  God made sharks.  God made turtles.  God made Nemos.  God made dolphins.  God made snakes.  God made bears.  God made Brickers {referring to our friends, the Bricker family}.

Do you see the pattern for his favorite animals?  Notice fuzzy kittens and ponies are not on his list.

Daddy: Calvin, why did God make you?

Calvin: Doooordy! [translation: glory]

He’s still learning the preposition “for His” preceding the word glory.

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After this verbal exchange, there’s usually 10 rounds of hugs and kisses.  Sometimes, Calvin wants to demonstrate different types of kisses: snake kisses, shark kisses, bear kisses, dinosaur kisses, puppy kisses, and the like.

There’s no big variation in his sweet little two year-old kisses, except they’re accompanied by animal sounds.

Before we leave his room, we always tell him we love him.

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Sometimes, I’ll hear complete silence a mere 5 minutes after we leave his room.  Other nights, he’s playing with his stuffed loveys in his bed and singing every song in his repertoire.

It’s times like these that I LOVE being Calvin’s Mama.

Good Morning, Saturday

This past weekend our sleep was a little rough. We’re starting to go about 8 hours between feedings, but Lucien is rousing/fussing a few times during the night, which means mommy is rocking the babe in his bed or giving him a pacifier. He’s 14 weeks, and in the 90th percentile, so I know he’s not hungry during the night – he’s just used to nursing!

I feel like we’re on the cusp of getting some serious sleep, but while we’re going longer between feedings it doesn’t mean catching more zzz’s … yet! Saturday morning was lovely though, since we got to sleep in. Lucien nursed at 7am and fell back asleep. I was tempted, tired as I was, to get up and start my day but as luck would have it he (and we) got to sleep until 9:30! I snapped these pictures just before he woke up.

Your turn: What do you do to encourage healthy sleep with your children? How old were they when you started to try for a full night of sleep?