Eating In

>> 2.29.2012

Recently, we set our sights on recreating my favorite appetizer: Seitan Tod from Thai Cuisine in Ithaca, NY. Our budget doesn't often allow us to dine out. That's entirely fine with us. Finding ways to eat well at home has been key to staying sane despite our new constraints.

Anyway, Seitan Tod is "batter-fried seitan marinated in spices and served with Thai sweet and sour chili-garlic sauce with ground peanuts and fresh coriander."

To make the seitan, mix together 1 cup wheat gluten with 1 cup vegetable broth in a medium bowl. The wheat gluten will only soak in as much moisture as it can -- but the rest is left as a marinade. Let sit for a couple hours. Then divide into 8 to 10 pieces.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Roll out these pieces into tiny hotdog shapes (it's the only way I could think to describe it!). Then place each on a skewer. Bake for 30 minutes to an hour -- if they start to burn at all, cover with another piece of aluminum foil (lightly oiled). That's pretty vague, but you can choose the firmness of your own personal seitan that way. When they're done baking, let them cool for around 15 minutes.

Then you'll need to whisk together the following ingredients in a medium bowl.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

***Set aside 1/4 to 1/3 cup of this dry mixture in a shallow dish for rolling. You'll see why below.

Then add these . . .

1/3 cup cold water
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon flax meal plus 3 tablespoons warm water

And here's how you fry it up:

Pour a generous amount of vegetable oil into a large frying pan. Heat until hot -- a pinch of flour should sizzle and not burn. If you see smoke, lower the heat. Coat each baked seitan with the batter from above. Then roll very quickly in the dry mixture. Doing so will keep the batter from getting soggy in the oil. Then fry on all sides until golden brown.

After you've done one, you can probably manage two at a time. Three gets tricky. But repeat this process until you're done. Then serve with some sweet red chili sauce and chopped peanuts.

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Sunday Morning

>> 2.26.2012

Ada's spending more time in the crib these days. Slowly trying to make the transition to sleeping there. So far, it isn't exactly going well. We used to do all naps in the nursery. Now if I try to get her to sleep there, all hell breaks loose. We realize that there's nothing that specifically states she needs to be in her nursery by X months old. It's more for us than anything else.

For now . . . baby steps.

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Jen's Story

>> 2.08.2012

Hi! My name is Jen, and I gave birth to our son in early October 2011, in a hospital setting without any interventions.

Our decision to give birth in a hospital was predicated on a few factors.
  • First, the women’s health care group I belong to offered “tiers” of labor and delivery care. I could opt to work with the ten ob/gyn doctors and be monitored (prenatal) and deliver under their care in the hospital setting.
  • The second option was to work with the midwives who would monitor and deliver the baby in the hospital setting. In the event that I needed a c-section a doctor and surgical team were on call and I would be under their care.
  • The third option was to give birth with the midwives group that worked in the “birth center” located in a small house on the hospital campus. This group worked exclusively without medical interventions and did not have doctors in their building. In the event of medical interventions, you would get wheeled across the campus and brought into the hospital l& d floor.
Of these options, we (my husband and I) felt that the second one seemed to feel most comfortable for us. The midwives who worked in the hospital setting advocated and supported the least medical interventions in their labor and delivery. However, I had a miscarriage prior to this birth and simply wanted the comfort of knowing that the doctors were “on call” if needed.

There are seven midwives in my ob/gyn group. I had met 6 of the 7 (due to scheduling) during my pregnancy. Of course, on the day/night of my actual delivery, the only midwife I had yet to meet- was on call. Interestingly enough, I barely saw the midwife during my delivery. I think I might have seen her for a maximum of 1 hour- probably less.

My birth story:

I was scheduled for an ultrasound on the Thursday I went into labor. They were checking to see that my fluid levels were ok. I was measuring on the small side so we had weekly checkups to ensure all was ok. I was at work (school) when I started to feel the “waves” of contractions around 1 pm. Since this was my first baby, I really was unsure what was going on. After a few waves, I started to watch the clock. Sure enough they were about 5-7 minutes apart. I left school for the scheduled ultra sound. On my drive I was tapping my phone and timing the contractions which were about 5-6 mins apart. I arrived at my appointment and told my husband that I wasn’t feeling so great. I showed him the contraction timer. He was unaware that I was even timing these or that something was up.

We had our ultrasound and when my husband told the tech that we thought I was having contractions, she noted “No babies in ultrasound room!”

We asked to speak to the nurse and ask to be seen by my midwife. At about 3:30 I was timing the contractions to be about 5 mins apart (or less). We hadn’t been seen by a midwife yet and I knew that we needed to go to the hospital. When my midwife came in to check me she could tell something was up. She did an internal and asked me “how dilated do you want to be?” Ok that was sort of strange. I didn’t have a response. I was 4 cm dilated (I was already 80% effaced so I figured I was at about 100….). She told us that we had time and to go for a walk and that my husband would know when we needed to head into the hospital. (The office and hospital are about 10 mins away from one another). We decided to go to the hospital area and walk around the campus. We headed over and called our families and I had to call my colleagues. After an hour walking around and still contracting I was starting to feel dizzy and there were a few contractions coming minutes apart 2-3 mins apart. We went into the hospital. I checked in at about 6pm.

Once in the l&d ward I met the midwife on call and the doctor. I explained that I was hoping for as few interventions as possible. OH- and that I was still at about 4cm.

I have no idea how they figured it out but they put an iv line in (this is standard procedure) and promptly started trying to get some saline into me. Apparently they knew I was really dehydrated. (By the end of the evening, I had 4 L of saline pumped into me!)

So, here is where things get fuzzy for me. I labored for a while moaning and walking around the room. Then they asked if I wanted to go into the bathtub. WOW! It was amazing. I just lay in the tub with my husband changing the temperature at my request (likely demanding). The tub was a jet /Jacuzzi like tub and I was in there for the majority of my labor. When I got out of the tub sometime after 9:30 pm I was checked by the midwife who said I had progressed to 7 cm. However, I was really surprised that the midwife pretty much had nothing to do with my labor. It was me, my husband and the nurse.

So, I continued to labor for a while in the room. It was not until after 11 pm when my water finally broke and the nurse in the room measured me at 9 almost 10 cm and ready to push. After about 45 minutes of pushing, I gave birth to my son Sawyer. (Oh and at that point the midwife was in the room for the eventual delivery of my son!)

The majority of my labor was spent in the room with my husband and the nurse. It did not occur to me to ask for an epidural or for any other medications. However, I am mindful that my labor (active labor) was 6-1 pm about six or seven hours. I spent quite a bit of time in the tub simply breathing deeply. I know it sounds simple, but it worked for me. The nurse I had was excellent, she was practical and helpful and firm when she needed to be. Neither the nurse nor the midwife suggested medication or interventions.

I am really grateful that my experience was as I hoped it would be. I am also really grateful that my husband was there as a coach and resource for me through my labor. It was quite a special experience for both of us.

So . . . That is it my story. I would highly recommend working with a midwife group to anyone! The midwives do an excellent job with prenatal care and I felt confident that they would try to make sure that my birth experience had minimal interventions.


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Hallie's Story

>> 2.07.2012

Hello! My name is Hallie and I am a stay at home/work from home first time Mom. When I am working I am an Account Executive for a web development company and I work out of my home office here in Dallas, Texas. My husband, Chase, is a chiropractic student at Parker University.

We had our first baby, a daughter named Molly, on November 10th of last year. I write a blog called ChasingHallie about our life and daily adventures as new parents.

Before we actually got pregnant and I was thinking about having kids (in the far away future) I had always made the comment "give me the drugs as fast as you can!" I never really thought about why, it just seemed like a good idea. No pain, right. Then I fell in love and married a chiropractic student and he opened my eyes up to many things including natural childbirth.

My husband is an advocate of home births but since this was our first child I was a little uncomfortable with not having the safety net of being in a hospital should something go wrong. I wasn't quite ready to dive all the way in the deep end. But I did know that I wanted to do my best to abstain from any sort of intervention and have my baby without any medications.

My main reasons for wanting to go au naturale was to ultimately prevent drugs from entering my child's system and to keep from getting a C-Section. I also felt pretty strongly that my body was designed to deliver a child without the need for drugs or other aids. To give life to another human being is remarkable and I wanted to be completely and 100% present in that experience. And oh boy - I definitely was!

I had a great OB who was extremely encouraging and behind us in our decision to not have drugs or other interventions. We stated from our very first doctors appointment that our goal was an unmedicated delivery and from then on out she was supportive. We were also lucky in that the hospital we would be delivering in is extremely pro natural labor and has also been voted one of the best labor and delivery hospitals in the country.

To prepare for the birth of our baby girl we outlined a very simple and straightforward birth plan for our doctor and to have for the staff at the hospital when we arrived. We also took a natural birthing class at the hospital which was very helpful. I was active throughout my entire pregnancy, exercising and going to the gym as well as doing prenatal yoga on a regular basis. I also used chiropractic care throughout my pregnancy which I believe was one of the biggest aids in my amazing labor and birth experience. Lastly, towards the end of my pregnancy (36 weeks on) I took red raspberry leaf pills to make my uterus strong and evening primrose oil pills to soften my cervix. All of these things helped tremendously and I would strongly recommend them to women desiring to have a med free childbirth.

When the time came and labor began it was intense. We immediately pulled out the birthing ball (exercise ball) and I spent most of the first hour of labor on the ball. It was a huge help. My contractions came strong and often and within an hour of labor they were 2 minutes apart. When I could no longer talk or communicate at all during a contraction it was time to head to the hospital. We arrived at the hospital at 4:30am so it was fairly quiet. The nurses took us to our delivery room right away and we promptly let them know we wanted to have an unmedicated birth. The nurse told me, I am going to ask you once if you want an epidural as I fill out our paperwork and then I won't ask you again. Thank you.

The worst part of the entire experience at the hospital was having to lay in the bed for the first 20 min we were there so they could monitor the baby. That was excruciating, all I wanted to do was be walking around. Sitting in a bed through a contraction was an absolute nightmare. But as soon as it was done the nurses helped me out of the bed and told me I had free reign. For the next hour I walked around, sat on the birth ball, moaned, yelled and fought through each contraction the best I knew how. I never once asked for an epidural. I surprised myself even.

Within an hour (3 hrs into my labor) I was fully dilated and 100% effaced, time to push. Since I had not had an epidural I had the choice to push however I wanted. I could push on the ball, squat on the floor-whatever felt good to me. I chose to squat using the bar that the hospital had as leverage. I pushed twice, then laid back and pushed once more and our beautiful baby girl was in this world. Whew. The feeling of having my baby out and on my chest was something I will never forget and to this day is very hard to explain. Pure bliss.

I had done it. I had labored and delivered my baby girl without any drugs or other interventions. And it hurt. It hurt like nothing I had ever known and will never be able to replicate (until we have more kids) but it was beautiful and raw and perfect. And I will 100% without a doubt do it again. and maybe again.

I attribute our success in delivering med free to my own strength and willpower, our preparations, my wonderful and encouraging doctor, my patient and loving husband who was everything I needed him to be, the nurses who understood my desire and the forward thinking approach of the hospital.

You don't need to be at home, or have a midwife or doula to have a successful and beautiful unmedicated birth. Hospitals and OBs can still be part of the equation. Just be strong with your decisions and state your intentions to the entire time who will be a part of your experience. And be confident and strong. You can do it, you will do it.


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Heather's Story

The second most frequent question I got when people eyed my pregnant belly {after “is it a boy or a girl?”} was “are you going to have an epidural?” Having never experienced labor or childbirth, I couldn’t fairly answer that question. I believe there’s a time and place for epidurals and other interventions, but being honest with myself, if things went smoothly I really didn’t want one.

I was more than a little nervous about giving birth in a hospital considering the push for not only epidurals, but speeding up labor, c-sections, and doing things based on written procedure vs. individualized situations. Other birthing options didn’t appeal to me or weren’t possible. Home births are illegal in my state and I wasn’t interested regardless. The closest more “naturally” geared option of a Birthing Center was over an hour away- not a scenario I imagined being pleasant when I was in labor for the first time.

So a hospital birth it was going to be. That factor was out of my control so it was up to me to figure out how to make it work best. I started by switching from a notoriously c-section happy OB-GYN to a practice of midwives who also had OB-GYNS on staff in case of complications. Setting myself up with a practitioner that was largely aligned with my perspective was the best move I could have made.

You can obsess over birth plans all you want, but there really is little you can actually plan when it comes down to it. My plan was to have no set plans, but I’d done my research- I knew the risks and benefits of different situations and interventions so I could feel comfortable making decisions quickly. Thank goodness I didn’t have my heart set on a plan because nothing happened as I had envisioned.

Three and half weeks before my due date I stood in the kitchen, my water broken and my husband out of town.

I didn’t have the results of my strep B test yet so I had to head to the hospital for antibiotics. Already I was glad to have chosen a midwife-I didn’t have to fight hospital procedures. I was allowed out of bed IV-free as long as the antibiotics weren’t flowing. Monitors were disconnected unless they needed to check on the baby, and I wasn’t immediately put on a 24 hour clock due to broken water.

Then all of a sudden things started happening. I went from no signs of labor to full on contractions within a couple hours. There was no time to discuss what would happen or what I wanted- barely enough time to call the midwife and have the baby. I didn’t have to worry about some of the things I wanted to happen. I didn’t have to protest medications or convince the staff I didn’t want to lie on my back. I had my baby placed in my arms as soon as possible- although not right away because of potential complications {there ended up being none}. I didn’t get a chance for delayed cord cutting or cord blood donation but at that moment it didn’t matter.

Even though I didn’t end up needing “medical intervention”, I’m grateful I was in the hospital. I don’t care how tough you are- labor is no joke. It’s overwhelmingly painful and can be scary. But it’s also beautiful and emotional and joyful. Had my labor lasted a long time I might have wanted that epidural. My baby wasn’t crying when he came out and the labor and delivery team was nervous at first. Nothing was wrong, but I had less to panic about because the pediatrician was right there.

In the end I was so happy with how things went. Having a care provider I trusted and had a birth philosophy I felt comfortable with was more important than where I delivered. I’d do it the same way next time…except no traveling for the husband! Read more about my son’s birth story here.

Besides being a first time mom, Heather is a registered dietitian, temporarily benched triathlete, and avid lover of iced coffee. She blogs about health and fitness at with a Side of Sneakers and chronicles her baby-related adventures at Tiny Sneakers.


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Ada's Nursery Tour

It's surprising how clean Ada's nursery looks in these photos. To take them, I had to rotate around piles of clothing and other clutter. It was worth it, though. I've been meaning to post a nursery tour for months. I'm hoping to include some tutorials on how to make certain items in the near future.

First, this is what the room looked like before we got to work:


I'm hoping to break down the total cost of this project sometime soon. In short: It wasn't expensive. We bought a crib and the window seat. Otherwise, we re-purposed or benefited from hand-me-downs. Score!

Here are some numbers I do know . . .

We purchased the following items for the space:

Crib: $299
Bench: $59
Fabric + Supplies: $50
Curtain rod: $20
Paint: $35
Musical Owl: $50
Art: $50
TOTAL: $563

Here's what we used that we already had (and approx. savings):

Mirror: $35
Rocking chair: $100
Rug: $100
Pillows: $50
Lamp: $40
Light fixture: $100
Other decorative items: $50
Changing table/dresser: $200

Of course, these numbers are only approximations based on if we bought everything new. Regardless, I'd say we did well balancing what we had with what we ended up purchasing.

If you haven't been following the baby blog, I initially wanted to keep Ada's nursery relatively gender-neutral (here's our first plan). It ended up more feminine after we discovered a floral rug in one of our closets.

Yeah. That's sort of the central theme: Budget/Handmade chic. (My best friend Lindsey made that knit blanket on the crib.) We didn't have a load of money to spend on decorating. So I made her curtains (here's how), crib skirt, and cushions.

We also made these awesome book slings that we've seen all over the internet. (My friend Dani made the framed A.)

We initially resisted wall decals. But when we found a simple black tree, we couldn't resist. It compliments out chalkboard wall perfectly. And we made it unique by installing it as half a tree versus the entire thing (there were two arrangement options).

We re-purposed our TV console for her room, too. It serves as a generously sized dresser and changing table -- all in one. We kept the decorations simple. Ada loves staring up at her name during diaper changes. (My mother-in-law gave me the letters, I spray-pained them.)

We also chose to forgo a traditional mobile. They are expensive and babies can't necessarily use them for very long. Instead, I hung colorful flags between the beaks of two thrifted birds (also spray-painted).

Though she doesn't sleep in her crib yet, I can tell Ada loves her nursery.

No. Really! I'm not just speaking for my baby. She's enthralled by all the bold colors and patterns. If she's particularly cranky, I take her up to the rocking chair and turn her around. In seconds, she's wide-eyed and taking it all in, especially the tree.

(Did you catch the clutter in that photo? I thought I got away with it. Nope!)

We'll be sure to post tutorials on how to make certain items -- like the book slings and curtains -- soon!

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Pantry Essentials

>> 2.05.2012

The majority of the recipes we share pull their ingredients from our basic vegetarian pantry. Occasionally we go for more exotic eats, but for us -- it's all about budget, nutrition, and ease. The following list details the items we typically have on hand at any given time. (There are, of course, exceptions. But we save the fun stuff for weekends.)

To replenish our stores, we spend around $65 a week on groceries, though we're trying to lower this number more toward the $50 range.

To help keep our bills low, we take advantage of seasonal CSA arrangements for additional produce and local eats. (The $65 figure factors in the CSA fees.) We also just starting buying our eggs from one of Stephen's coworkers for $2 per dozen. It's pretty cool to know the people who grow/produce your food!


Israeli couscous
Wheat berries
Brown rice
Whole wheat flour
Unbleached bread flour
Rolled oats
Yellow cornmeal
Wheat gluten
Whole wheat spaghetti
Whole wheat bowties


Maple syrup
Dark brown sugar
Chocolate chips
Cocoa powder
Baking powder/soda
Kosher salt
Ener-G egg replacer
Flax meal
Active dry yeast


Cheddar cheese (mild)
Plain Greek yogurt
Grated Parmesan cheese
Almond milk (unsweetened)


Garbanzo beans
Canelli beans
Black beans
Kidney beans
Whole tomatoes


Sweet potatoes
Red potatoes
White mushrooms
Misc. veggies/fruits from CSA (spring/summer share)


Green beans
Mixed veggies
Misc. veggies/fruits from CSA (winter share)


Curry powder
Cayenne pepper
Black pepper
Sesame seeds
Poppy seeds
Mustard (yellow and stone ground)
White vinegar
Soy sauce (low sodium)
Lemon juice


Olive oil
Sesame oil
Peanut butter
Earth Balance


Fresh herbs (unless it's summer and we pick our own)
Sweet potato fries
Walnut oil
Avocado oil
Bakery breads

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Our Go-To Cookbooks


Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and Share (by Martha Stewart)
Martha Stewart's Brownies: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat (by Martha Stewart)
Crazy About Cupcakes (by Kristina Castella)
Babycakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most-Talked-About Bakery (by Erin McKenna)
Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts (by the Moosewood Collective)
Sweetie Pie: The Richard Simmons Private Collection of Dazzling Desserts (by Richard Simmons)
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (by Martha Stewart)
Cupcakes, Muffins, and Baked Goods (by Paragon Books)


Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook (by Martha Stewart)
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home (by the Moosewood Collective)
Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant (by the Moosewood Collective)
The New Vegan Cookbook (by Lorna Sass)
Low-Fat and Fast Asian (by the editors at Vegetarian Times)
Vegetarian (Cook's Library) (by Parragon Publishing)
Better Homes and Gardens Fondue and Tabletop Cooking (by Better Homes and Gardens)
Favorite Brand Name Vegetarian Cooking (by Louis Weber)


Deceptively Delicious (by Jessica Seinfeld)
Tassajara Cookbook (by Karla Oliveira)
Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers (by the Moosewood Collective)
Everyday Food: Great Food Fast (by Martha Stewart)


How it All Vegan!: Irresistible Recipes for an Animal-Free Diet (by Sarah Kramer and Tara Barnard)
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (by Isa and Terry of PPK)
Really, any of the books by Isa and Terry
Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health (by the Moosewood Collective)
Really, any Moosewood Collective books I don't already have
The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes (by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer)
Raw: The Uncook Book (by Juliano Brotman and Erika Lenkert)
Living Raw and Raw Food/Real World (by Sarma Melngailis)


Sunday Morning

Ada's suddenly taken to teething this weekend.

The biting.
The crying.
The drooling.

Stephen's mom tells us that he cut his first tooth around 3 months. I don't know if I'm ready for my baby to have teeth. She's growing up so fast. But breastfeeding is what concerns me most. The thought of Ada nipping at my breast, drawing blood, perhaps, makes me cringe. I'm told it's not nearly as bad as I'm imagining. For now, I'll enjoy the last days, weeks, or -- hopefully -- months of her gummy smile.

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Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Fourth Trimester

For those of you who didn't follow my pregnancy -- or even if you did -- here is a listing of all my pregnancy, childbirth, and fourth trimester posts (from (never home)maker, baby!) in one place. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at writingchapterthree[at] gmail [dot] com.

We don't in any way pretend to be experts. This is our first go at becoming parents. But as I've learned these past nine months, it's always nice to know others have been there before. Right?

We got our first positive test on March 16th. The rest is . . . below!


I didn't write a lot about my first trimester of pregnancy. To us, it was all too new and uncertain to share with the world. But I definitely experienced all that came with it. The excitement. The fear. The food aversions and morning sickness.

Oh, the morning sickness!


Classic second trimester style: I had the most energy and -- by far -- felt the best. My belly was still small and lots of my clothes still fit. The aches and pains hadn't started yet. We took our Babymoon.

Things were . . . good.


By the time my third trimester came around in late August, I was tired. I began getting near-constant Braxton Hicks late in my second trimester. They continued at an uncomfortable rate (often happening for days at 5-10 minutes apart!). But we were getting closer! Who knows when this trimester will end, but it's sure to be sometime in the next two to three weeks.

Stay tuned . . .


I ran my last pregnant mile on Sunday, November 6th. 37 Weeks, 3 days. Overall, running treated me well throughout my pregnancy. But walking, workout DVDs, and yoga served as fantastic supplements. I slowed my pace, kept it easy/low-stress, and always treated each run like it might be my last. Ultimately, I stopped because running no longer feels comfortable to me.

I look forward to returning to my favorite activity post-pregnancy!


Ada Mae was born on November 16th 2011

Welcome to the World, Ada Mae!
Early Labor Through Transition
Ada's Birth Story, Part II: Pushing


1 Week
2 Weeks
3 Weeks
1 Month
5 Weeks
6 Weeks
8 Weeks
2 Months
11 Weeks
3 Months
4 Months
5 Months


2 Weeks Postpartum
3 Weeks Postpartum
4 Weeks Postpartum
8 Weeks Postpartum
11 Weeks Postpartum
12 Weeks Postpartum


Breastfeeding: The Early Weeks
Breastfeeding SUCKS (Energy)
Breastfeeding Sucks, Part II


The Sleep Situation
Falling In Love with Ada
Baby Must-Haves (0-3 Month Edition)
Cloth Diapers: How It's Going
Good Morning, Ada Mae (Video)
Our Nature "Hike" (Video)
Happy Valentine's Day, Ada Mae!
Valentine's Day Flop

Thanks to everyone who has joined us on our journey to parenthood. All of your thoughts, advice, and support have meant the world to us! We look forward to sharing more as our family grows.

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Emily's Story

>> 2.04.2012

When my husband and I found out we were expecting, we were (to put it mildly) in a state of nervous shock. What helped us begin to reconcile to the situation was a visit to a local birthing center run by a Certified Nurse Midwife. A baby had just been born and people were celebrating, calmly rushing about grabbing this and that, and laughter and infant cries could be heard from behind a closed door.

This is normal and natural, we began to realize, and having a baby is quite common and not the end of the world! Because of this and other experiences we knew we wanted a midwife to deliver our baby, but the more we pondered it the more we felt the need for a hospital setting. I grew up with home births; my mother’s last three babies were born at home, complication-free, and I was present for the last. I studied a little midwifery at one point, and have always been a vocal proponent of home birth. But I had never intended to make the decision for myself, and found that both my husband and I were far more comfortable delivering in a hospital.

We chose St. Mary’s in Blue Springs, MO, a small but well-equipped birthing center with a Level II NICU and private birthing suites for each mother. A CNM who was, according to the laws here in Missouri, overseen by a group of OB’s, administered the birth.

I was scared that we would be forced into decisions we didn’t want to make, that my desire for a natural birth would be scorned, or that the setting would be uncomfortable for us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We prepared for the birth by taking an intensive 4-session birthing class with a certified instructor. The class certainly did help us know what to expect, though I must say that it’s different knowing that chills and fever and common in transition and actually experiencing the bone-wrenching, teeth-clattering reality! Likewise birthing positions—I tried most of them but not for long, eventually finding my own combinations that worked best for me. The labor and birth were pretty normal—26 hours, some very intense moments but steady progress—but there were some complications afterward which were handled with grace and efficiency by our midwife and the hospital staff. I think a good midwife could have taken care of the situation at home just as well, but I was quite glad to be in a hospital when things began heading downhill.

Each nurse who attended was incredibly sympathetic, efficient, and non-manipulative. The nurse who was with us most treated me like a sister, which astonished and pleased me in the midst of the worst pain I had ever known. She loved natural birth, she informed us at the beginning, and proved it by being a wonderful third set of hands to help me cope. At one point I asked about pain medication options and these were presented without pressure, the midwife and nurses making it clear that what they wanted most was for me to be comfortable with my choices. When I opted not to get an epidural or any painkiller, they helped me cope with the pain in an unobtrusive way.

The entire labor, delivery, and recovery took place in one suite. Since our daughter Eire was as healthy as possible (9 and 9 on the Apgar scale!) she remained in our room with us at all times. The staff fully supported my husband’s involvement with the birth and made nursing possible for us by giving encouragement and offering the services of a wonderful lactation consultant. Recovery was much easier for me than it would have been at home since I had plentiful food, ice packs, and nurse’s assistance. I was thrilled to see that they cared for my husband’s welfare too, as he had been through a lot during the labor! When it was time for us to go home, a nurse sat with us and for over an hour gave her humorous take on life with a baby—sex, feeding, rest, recuperation, and relationship. It was tremendously helpful.

If we have another child we hope to return to St. Mary’s and use the same midwife. Our experience couldn’t have been better.


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Vanessa's Story

>> 2.03.2012

I'm a 33 year old St. Louis native, living in Maryland with my husband and our four month old son, Elliott. I'm an astronomer by training, and I met my husband in grad school. Now I teach high school math, and we live on the idyllic campus of my school.

When my husband and I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted a midwife to attend the birth. It was just a matter of where. I could not even consider a home birth, since our apartment is in a dorm with 13 high school girls! The closest birth center was over an hour away, which did not seem like a viable option. To be honest, I think I googled "Baltimore nice hospital birth," and the top hit was Mercy Medical Center, which allows midwives to deliver without an OB and supports water births. I stopped my search right there!

We took a few classes in my second and third trimesters: a hospital infant care class, a weekend-long childbirth class, and a natural pain management class. The weekend class was the most useful for me. It was run by a doula and childbirth educator, and we met for the better part of two days in her house. The class was a mix of videos, discussion, visualization/breathing practice, and Q & A. Her demonstrations of breathing and relaxation techniques proved invaluable to me. Her descriptions of the stages of labor were so vivid that I found myself recalling bits and pieces while I was in labor! Overall, the class helped me feel more confident in my ability to deliver med-free.

My experience at Mercy was positive from start to finish. They seem to allow each health care provider to handle their deliveries however they see fit. There was an OB on the labor and delivery floor, but I never saw anyone but my midwife and nurses. I was monitored for 30 minutes immediately after I was admitted, but for the rest of my labor I was unencumbered. I paced and swayed while my midwife prepared the tub, and then spent the rest of active labor and transition in the water. My son was delivered 3 hours after I arrived at the hospital, and 6 hours after labor started! It was reassuring to know that I had access to medication and an OB, but I feel very fortunate that I didn't have to use those resources.

The tools that I found most helpful were water, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques. My husband was there to remind me to breathe and massage my shoulders early in labor. During active labor, I didn't want to be touched, but the water helped me relax between contractions. When they were intense, I developed a rhythm of deep breathing, and I realized that the worst part of the contraction was over by the end of the third breath. Focusing on getting through that third breath really helped me control my anxiety!

It's hard to write tips for expectant moms without sounding like a cheerleader, but I'll try anyway. For some reason, people love to tell their dramatic horror stories about childbirth to pregnant women. This was the last thing that I wanted to hear about as I was preparing for labor. So, here's my advice: don't feel like you have to listen politely to these stories. Feel free to cover your ears and walk away from them mid-sentence!


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Erica's Story

I’m Erica and I live in Chapel Hill, NC and I do research at UNC Chapel Hill. I got my PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology, and taught developmental and reproductive toxicology. I also like to stay on top of current research regarding drug safety for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infants. My son Griffin was born at the end of March.

I’ve been a runner for about 4 years and was so happy to run throughout my pregnancy, even completing a half marathon at 13 weeks and running on my due date! My husband, Dan, and I can’t wait to run with our little guy in the stroller, and eventually sign him up for his first kids’ race! We have a private baby blog for friends and family, but you can follow me on twitter @sassysparky!

I’m happy to share my natural childbirth experience because it was so positive and feels like such a big accomplishment. When I first became pregnant, I had never given a lot of thought to the whole labor and delivery aspect of childbirth. To be honest, I was scared because of my grandmother’s experience when she gave birth to my father in the 60’s. She had a c-section that resulted in a hysterectomy at the age of 23. Fortunately, the women behind some of the blogs that I follow {Daily Garnish, (Never Home) Maker} were pregnant, and were posting weekly updates about their journeys. These were invaluable; through these blogs and others, I was introduced to the ideas of natural childbirth and midwifery. My husband and I watched “The Business of Being Born” and I became increasingly interested in a natural childbirth experience. I learned that I could be in control of the process and that I didn’t have to be caught up in the hospital routine.

Natural childbirth really appealed to me for a variety of reasons. For one, childbirth is normal, and women have been doing it since the beginning of time. Secondly, I’m terrified of needles and surgery, and I knew that the incidence of c-sections increases with the use of epidurals and pitocin. I also wanted to be “present” for the whole experience. Finally, I’ll admit to being competitive, and I saw it as a challenge for myself. I handle stress and pain well, and my husband and I are a solid team, so I knew it was something we could tackle together. I decided early on, though, that I also wanted to give birth in a hospital.

Based on my grandmother’s experience, and my own “worst case scenario” personality, I knew I wanted to have all of my options open. I’d hate to be at home or at a birth center miles away from emergency care for myself or the baby should the need arise. In order to prepare, I first chose to see a midwife group at the women’s hospital for prenatal care. I am also fortunate to live near a hospital (NC Women’s Hospital in Chapel Hill, NC) that is “Baby Friendly,” which means that women are encouraged to labor at home for as long as possible, IVs and continuous internal monitoring are not required, breastfeeding is encouraged, and babies room in with the parents after they are born. My husband and I read “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” and took a 12-hour childbirth class (this was not a Bradley class, but it was extremely informative and helpful) where we learned about all possible interventions and how to determine their necessity. These preparations got us on the same page about what we wanted out of the childbirth experience. This way, my husband could make decisions if I was unable (which actually happened!).

Another way that I prepared for childbirth was to stay active. I was lucky to be able to run up until my due date, which was the day before I went into labor. I also did strength training and stretching throughout, so I felt strong and fit. When it came down to the final days of pregnancy, we felt excited and well-prepared for childbirth.

When I went into labor, many of the things I had hoped for happened. Contractions started around 5:30 on a Saturday morning, and I labored at home for about 26 hours. I got to go shopping, do some cooking, go on a long walk and finalize all the last minute details. When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, my favorite midwife was on call, so she was really familiar with my birth plan, and I got a great nurse. The nurse and midwife honored my wishes not to be offered any pain medication, though I did need a saline lock because I was Group B positive and needed to receive antibiotics. My labor at the hospital was intense; I was at 6 cm when I arrived so I was already in transition. The nurse and midwife got me into the bath tub to ease the pressure and I labored in there for 45 minutes. When I got out, it was time to push. My husband was the best partner I could have asked for, and between him, the nurse and the midwife, we tried every pushing position I learned, and more. Things went pretty smoothly until the end, at which point I was so glad to be in a hospital setting.

The baby’s heart rate began decelerating during the contractions, so I had to wear an oxygen mask. Also, I was tired - I had been awake since 5:30 the previous morning (at this point that was about 30 hours) and nearly 2 hours of pushing had left me physically exhausted. I hadn’t eaten in about 12 hours because labor at the hospital was so intense, so I didn’t have time to eat (even though that was allowed). So when the baby got stuck in my pelvis near the end, with his heart rate decelerating during each contraction, I wasn’t able to do any vertical pushing positions, like the squat, anymore. The midwife said it was time to get some help, and she called in the chief of OB/GYN, who needed to perform a vacuum or forceps extraction. This is also where our childbirth class came into play, because we had learned about both options and had already discussed what we wanted if this happened. I was too out of it to make the decision, and my husband spoke with the doctor about which option she was more familiar with and which had the least amount of risk. He chose the forceps extraction (less risk to the baby, she had done more of them). The room filled with an amazing team of doctors for myself and the baby.

Due to the forceps delivery, the baby needed to be examined by the NICU team to make sure they he was ok, so we were not able to have delayed cord cutting or immediate skin to skin contact. The forceps delivery went quickly, and my son was taken across the room to be examined, which my husband watched. My son cried right away and was quickly examined and brought back to me within two minutes of being born. There was one final moment when I was glad to have been in a hospital. When I got out of bed after delivery to use the bathroom for the first time, I fainted due to exhaustion (I like to call this my Lindsey Lohan moment). A team of nurses revived and took care of me so that I was able to take care of my son.

In reflection, I had a really positive experience and I think that all of my preparation paid off. It is possible to have a natural childbirth experience in a hospital setting, as long as you do some planning.
  1. Choose a good provider. I had a great midwife who was familiar with and supportive of my birth plan. When anything happened that required us to deviate from the plan, she informed me and made sure that we were ok with it.
  2. Try to go to a hospital that supports women and babies, and doesn’t require interventions (like IVs, continuous monitoring, etc). If you can’t, make sure you discuss your desires with your provider and see what kind of compromises can be made. For instance, if the hospital requires IV’s, see if you can have a saline lock.
  3. Practice and prepare. Be familiar with the childbirth process, plan ahead for dealing with pain, and make sure you and your partner are familiar with various labor and pushing positions.
  4. Discuss your plans and desires with your birth partner. It was invaluable that my husband was as familiar with the birth process as I was. He knew what to expect at every stage, and he was able to speak for me when I wasn’t.
We worked as a team to bring our son into the world in the fastest and safest way possible for both of us. Now when I think about childbirth, I remember how intense, physically demanding, and exhausting it was, but it’s not scary anymore. That’s part of the reason I wanted to share this story – childbirth isn’t scary, no matter how it is portrayed by movies, tv, and even our grandmothers!


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Food & Recipes

We don't have many recipes up on this new site yet because we're, well, still very new. But here's what we do have:

Reece's PB Cup Cookies

You can also check out some other great eats in the meantime.

Before anything else, you may want to read up on our simple vegetarian pantry. We've changed how we cook, bake, and eat in recent months to reflect our budget. The recipes on this site will pull, with only few exceptions, from this list of ingredients.

As well, we've posted a list of our go-to cookbooks. But if you're in the mood for lots of recipes -- and NOW -- you can check out the ones on our other site, (never home)maker.


* Clicking on these links will take you to our other site.


Diana's Story

>> 2.02.2012

Hello everyone! My name is Diana and I run a little blog called where I talk about motherhood, food, frugality and homemaking as a stay at home mom. I'm a wife and mother of a toddler with a baby on the way in a couple weeks! Here's the story of how I gave birth to my boy.

Over a year and a half ago now I gave birth to my perfect son Avery, in a hospital completely med free with a midwife and my husband. it was perfect. Everything about my labor and delivery was better than I expected and now I look back on it as the best part of my pregnancy.

I wanted to do a natural birth for many reasons but mainly because I felt like there was pretty much no reason not to. Women have been doing this for all of humanity, after all, and while I'm grateful we have medical interventions in case of emergency, I never saw the point in using them for what I know is a natural human function.

I didn't want to go into it just assuming I'd be strong enough and so I set out to mentally prepare myself for whatever pain, hardships and duration I would come up against. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I started to research how to have the most healthy pregnancy. I kept running and working out (though lower mileage and impact in general) and I maintained my vegetarian diet.  I didn't know what labor would be like but I wanted my body to be the healthiest and strongest it could be for it. 

After the first three quarters of my pregnancy were over I began to look to actual labor prep. My husband and I attended a natural birthing class and learned about positions, the stages of labor, natural remedies for pain and managing the mental side of things. It was really enlightening and helped me understand everything so much better. Preparation is never to be underrated.

After over forty one weeks of pregnancy, my water broke slightly and began leaking at about 10:30am on a Saturday. I knew it was finally the day! I wasn't having any unusually strong contractions (I'd be having prodromal labor for weeks, was dilated to 4cm and 70% effaced before this point) and so I decided to go about the day normally with my husband. He was planning on attending a beer festival and I figured I'd just go and hang out with him until labor kicked in.

A few hours later it was going strong and by 8pm we were heading to the hospital. Upon checking in the charge nurse asked me how I knew I was in labor (as if the contractions I was breathing hard to weren't enough proof) and I mentioned that I'd been mildly leaking since that morning. This was the point where we came up against the hospital 'procedure' side. My midwife was being called but hadn't arrived yet and it was from the time we arrived to the time she arrived that I wished we hadn't gone to the hospital at all. The nurse first made me feel like a crazy person for not rushing to the hospital the second my water started leaking -- as if I didn't care about my baby's welfare. 
Then, after we had checked in, she waited for my husband to go get the hospital bag and call family to come into my room while I was alone and tell me there was no way to avoid being put on pitocin immediately and that I wouldn't be able to move during my entire labor. I asked why and she said because I wasn't 'progressing fast enough' and my water had broken. Which is funny because I was at 5cm already and had only been checked once. I told her I didn't want anything done until my midwife got there and she said I had no choice and they would do it immediately. To a woman in labor, unable to even speak in uninterrupted sentences, this was devastating. I told her we weren't doing anything until my husband got back in there at least! She begrudgingly agreed and walked out.  

I was fortunate enough to have a husband who agreed with my birth experience desires and who was willing to defend me. I gave him an update when he came back into the room and he immediately went dashing out. Within twenty seconds he was back saying 'They aren't putting ANYTHING in you!'. I still don't know what he said to those nurses but it was forceful enough for him to feel the need to apologize to them about not meaning to be rude or mean every time they came back into the room. There's a reason I love that man.

Once my midwife got there things went wonderfully. I was able to use the Jacuzzi a couple times, walk the halls, bounce on the birthing ball and basically do whatever I wanted. I was having a lot of back labor so things that I thought I would really want/need like being massaged were incredibly uncomfortable. I just internalized myself and dealt with pain the way I do with any pain...focus on it, feel it in it's entirety and overcome. My labor lasted 19 hours but finally I delivered the most beautiful 8lb 7oz baby boy I have ever seen in my life. I had second degree tearing but didn't feel a thing because he was on my chest already nursing. 

Aside from those couple hours before my midwife arrived, the nurses, hospital and midwife followed my birth plan exactly.  It was the best day of my life. I felt so incredibly strong, like I had accomplished something that I could be proud of forever, and remember whenever I felt weak, or like I couldn't be anything I wanted to be. It was the start of the biggest, most meaningful journey of my life, motherhood.

Now I am reaching the end of my second pregnancy and am so looking forward to having a fully unique and beautiful birthing experience. 

The reason we chose the hospital rather than a home birth was because we didn't feel comfortable without having the resources of the hospital close by. I was also looking forward to using their amenities like Jacuzzi, hallways, space away from any distractions (like eager family visitors).  Now I feel differently about hospitals for birthing in general but don't think my tiny home would be able to accommodate the home birth I would want (birthing pool, etc) and my husband would definitely not be comfortable with it. The most important thing is to be on the same page with things like that and I am readily willing to sacrifice my desire to be in my own bed the first night after birth in order to have his full support because I couldn't do it without that.

And so that is my story of a completely med free birth in a hospital. As long as you're educated, determined and have the right support, you can certainly have an amazing experience.


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Kim's Story

>> 2.01.2012

My name is Kim and I live with my husband and new daughter in Portland, OR, where we enjoy a vegan lifestyle.  I gave birth in early February to our first child, Alma.   I had an intervention-free hospital birth, and a labor that was just shy of 6 hours.

You can read our detailed birth story on my personal blog: Vegan Mama.

Why did you choose to give birth in a hospital?

I live in a decently sized city, so we had our choice of giving birth at home, in a birthing center, or a hospital.  My husband and I chose to deliver at a hospital, because we felt that if something were to go terribly wrong, both baby and I would have the best care possible at a hospital.  It was our first pregnancy, and we didn't know what to expect.  As I reflected on how I might feel during labor, I knew it would be important for me to feel safe, and the hospital seemed like the safest place to give birth.

What types of preparations did you do?

I work with families who have very young children, some of which had just given birth less than a year before my due date.  So I asked them about their experiences, and several of them had given birth at our hospital.  They all had great things to say about how respectful the staff was, so the more I heard about the hospital, the more confident I felt in our choice.

I also prepared for the birth by hiring a doula.  I wanted to have the extra support, since it would be just my husband and I.  Specifically, I wanted to have someone in the room who would advocate strongly for my wishes to labor and deliver without intervention.  I didn't want to place that pressure on my husband, who would likely feel conflicted seeing me in pain!  We met with our doula three times before the birth.

During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, I read the book 'Natural Hospital Birth' by Cynthia Gabriel, and I found it helpful as I mentally prepared for giving birth very soon.

When you were in labor, did you encounter any issues at the hospital that went against your plan to go naturally?

My labor was uncharacteristically fast for a first-timer, so when we got to the hospital, I was very near transition!  I didn't really want an IV put in, but I didn't specifically note that in my birth plan.  The nursing staff tried for about an hour to get a line started 'in case' I needed to be hooked up to the IV, but they weren't successful.  It didn't bother me too much, though, because by that point I didn't want to move anyway, so I just worked through my contractions, fairly oblivious to what they were doing.

What methods helped you have the birth experience you wanted/etc?

I didn't use any particular method of pain relief - I just moaned through my contractions, closed my eyes, and squeezed my husbands hands.  I had planned to use the jacuzzi, and had a labor music playlist all picked out, but things were progressing so quickly that I never found time for them.  For the most part, I shut out everything going on around me, and just listened to my body - it did all the work for me!

Having my doula by my side, helping me breath, encouraging me to use the bathroom and take sips of water was very helpful.  Sure, my husband could of done that (and he did) but I think we both needed her there to remind us of those things.   She was very calm and encouraging, and my husband was comforting simply because he is the person I am most in tune with - the two of them were just what I needed.

Also,  I had several copies of my birth plan, which my nurse asked for as soon as we checked in. She was very positive about it, so her attitude helped me relax and feel confident that my plan would be respected.

With my husband, doula and birth plan in place, I was free to labor through my contractions without fear of someone trampling my wishes.

Any tips or advice you'd like to add?

I highly recommend hiring a doula if you have the resources (you can also search for doulas-in-training for free or discounted services).  Even though my labor was so fast, and she was only there for a few hours, I was so glad we hired her!

If nothing else, make a birth plan!  You will not feel very articulate when you are laboring, so make sure you have your basic wishes in writing, preferably signed by your care provider.

You can do it!


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