Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Best Friend's Homebirth

Fingers are itching.

If you were stalking my profile yesterday, as I'm sure most of you were because I am SO fascinating, you know that my best friend gave birth to her 3rd kidlet, Max. Lauren is one of mah best friends and invited me along for the ride. Lauren is like me, one of those crazy people who believe natural childbirth is optimal and that homebirth is awesome, safe and a great way to bring your kiddies into the world. Lauren has had all of her children at home. For those who don't know, I met Lauren when I was very, very newly pregnant. She was my midwife (one of two at the birth center) and we just clicked kinda quickly. Besides, she gives a good pap smear. I mean really, how many people can say they met one of their best friends during a pelvic exam. I always laughed when I'd do those silly surveys on myspace and they ask if your best friend has seen you naked. Hunny, she has seen my cervix. K? She was with me during my labor and delivered David. She's a good catcher seeing as how he rocketed out of my womb faster than a Ryan Madson fast ball (google it). And she will be delivering all my future children.

She sent me a text on the 27th at 5:49am saying she had the good ol' bloody show and had some on and off painful contractions. Lauren had been waiting (ahem) impatiently for over a week for this little guy to make his appearance. Afraid to miss it, I pretty much stayed very local to my area or my parents house. Lauren lives an hour away from me and a little less than my parents. I kept my phone charged, loud and glued to my ass. Kept the gas tank filled and kept a little bag of extra clothes and some baby stuff in my trunk. I find that funny as I'm usually never prepared for anything. That night, I had barely slept. I got in late from my parents house and then struggled with my usual insommnia. I kept telling myself that I had to sleep because I just *knew* Lauren was going to be in labor. It didn't work. I fell asleep a little bit after I got her text. She called at 7am to tell me that oh yeah it was it. I did something that would end up being the theme for the day - I got out of bed and updated my facebook status. I took a shower, Mike cooked me some eggs and got my coffee ready (read: poured it into my travel mug) and I kissed my sleeping little boy before leaving. Thankfully, Mike had the day off. Our original plan was to head to the beach, but I changed those plans a few days earlier cuz I *knew*. I was so nervous because I had to travel the dreaded blue route and some other awful highways (she is in Joisey) that have a rep for being clogged. So I prayed to God for a quick safe trip and then asked for help from my travel buddy, St. Joseph. Somebody up there likes me because that was probably the most trouble-free trip I have ever had on the blue route. Not a lick of traffic.

I had an "oh shit" moment when I pulled up to their house. Apparently, I was nervous. I was actually shaking. Yeah, shaking. WTF? I told myself to get over it, which I did seconds later, and popped into the house. Lauren was walking around in all her hugely pregnant glory. Her contractions weren't too shabby, though not regular. Her contractions never became truly regular througout the entire labor. Lauren does labor beautifully. She's very good at the labor sounds. ***Tidbit: the sound you make during labor matters a great deal. Pushing time aside, making low sounds is much better than high-pitched noises. Low sounds truly ease pain and they help that baby descend. Some women can carry that all the way through pushing, but a lot of women, myself included, yell a bit higher then (um, cuz it hurts). *** One of the first things I did was to update my status. Haha. The entire day was filled with people - me, Brian, Lauren's sister, Lauren's dad, Lauren herself (she stopped once her water broke) - updating our statuses. Priorities, yanno? Lauren's sister had posted a poll for people to guess when the baby would come and what his weight would be. I predicted 4:48pm and 8lbs 4 ounces. Um..I was kinda wrong. Haha. Lauren and I took a couple of walks. The walks probably provided the most consistent contractions. She was pretty regular then. Me and her did two walks and then she did another with Brian later. *** Tidbit - walking during labor is very beneficial. It reduces pain, gets things moving and brings the baby down lower. ***When the midwife, Kathy, got there she did all her midwifey things like check Lauren's cervix (which Lauren had been doing herself at times) and they spent time together. I watched Little Rascals the movie with Brian and the kidlets. Adorable movie, yet slightly creepy and mildly rascist (thought not as rascist as the original shorts). Kathy got out a giant stockpot and began simmering herbs - calendula, comfrey, uva ursi, yarrow and the like - to make a sitz bath and perineal wash. Lauren threw some wet diapers into the freezer. *** Tidbit - this is a GODSEND. Freeze newborn diapers to have on hand after the birth. These will be used on the perineum after the birth and they make everything feel so much better. They work MUCH better than those stupid cooling pads from the hospital. It's even better when you freeze them with the "tea" of the above mentioned herbs. Those herbs help in healing. Trust me, I did this when I had David and it made all the difference in the world. I healed very quickly. *** Brian got to work on making dinner for everyone - grilled basil chicken, which was divine. Lauren's mom and dad were there and helped keep those kiddies in line. Lauren's dad is awesome. Always very calm and he has a great sense of humor. Her mom is awesome as well. She cleaned the whole dang house while Lauren was in labor and she made brownies. YUMMY brownies.

Lauren's water broke at some point around 4. Originally, the midwife was going to give it a pop in order to get things rolling a little more since the contractions never had a particular order to them. However, it broke on it's own. Damn, with the way she contracted the whole time, if she had been in a hospital they would have hooked her up to pitocin, given her an epidural and eventually would have done a c-section because she never had a "classic" labor pattern. But, oh my, the human body DOES know what it's doing and babies are still born even if labor isn't textbook. Her contractions became significantly more painful at that point but she still worked through them beautifully. She got a lot of massages (deep counter-pressure in that cranio-sacral very well) from Kathy, Allison (5 years old), me, Brian, Jessie (Lauren's midwife friend who came to help and offer support). This is where my current status update comes from - you know you love your friend when you are willing to stand in her amniotic fluid. It's the least I could do for her as I peed on her during my labor (thankfully, she forgot that until I reminded her last night) She stood for a good portion of those contractions, leaning against the bed, getting her massage, swaying - all things that the body wants to do naturally when you give into it. Still, in between those contractions she was chit-chatting away, smiling (hell, she smiled through most of her contractions) and laughing. Awesomeness. She eventually sat in bed for some contractions as she needed to rest. Allison came to sit by her and hold her hand, massage her and tell her things were alright. At 5 years old Allison is already a pro at this birth stuff. She's pretty matter-of-fact about it, mom is a midwife after all, and she witnessed her little brother's birth. And, ohemgee, it never negatively affected her psychologically. Still in good spirits between contractions, joking during rest periods. She snapped her fingers with Brian - beatnik style. As a contraction fell from it's crest she would pout, furrow her brow and say, "I DO NOT like this AT ALL." She was awesome. You know, many epidural pushers who say us natural-birthers are martyrs try to make the point that the epidural allows them to talk between contractions, to rest, to regroup. Yeah well, nature allows that, too. Lauren was able to talk, rest, relax, laugh and snap her fingers between contractions. As she neared pushing she got up and moved to the toliet. *** Tidbit - many laboring women find sitting on the toliet helpful. Not only do you get to pee and poo, but it offers a good position for gravity to do it's job. It helps open the pelvis a little, almost as good as squatting. When allowed to labor naturally and listen to their own bodies, many women will opt to sit on the potty at some point. *** Girlfriend had some rip-roaring contractions at this point, yelling that her entire body was splitting in two. I think she was feeling those urges to push at that time. She got up and stood for a little bit. Leaning back into Brian, she put all over her weight into him and let herself go, letting the gravity take over. Actually, I think that part happened before the toliet part - or in between two trips to the toliet - but it doesn't matter. Eventually, she got back into bed and the hardest work began. For those not familiar with a birth unlike your typical hospital birth, there's no one yelling, "
pushpushpushpushpushpushpushpushpush" and counting, "1..2..3..4..5..6..7..8..9..10." No. Doesn't happen. You push with your body, not by someone's counts and "pushpushpushpushpushpush" is annoying. It was all love, man. Lots of gentle encouragement from the midwives. She didn't push for long...I think it was less than 10 good pushes...oh yeah, definitely less than 10. Lauren grabbed him as he came out and pulled him up onto her chest. He was born at 7:12 pm. And he is a gorgeous little boy.

That is all the factual stuff. The rest is me. Me, me, ME. Well, I for one hada rip-roaring awesomely good very spiritual time. What a freakin' HIGH. THIS is the type of stuff that I want to roll up and smoke. I am in absolute awe of my Lauren. Now, to hear her tell it during labor is a different story, of course. She was hurtin'. All I saw was a very strong woman who let her body do it's work and trusted the process. She is an awesome birth-giver (we all are). She did such a beautiful job and I admire her so much. I am so freakin' honored and humbled that she invited me to be there for the event. Like, seriously, no one ever regards me as important enough to invite me to anything like that. Anyhoo. I was glad to be there. The whole experience validated so much in me - what I think of family, what I think of friends, what I think of birth, what I think of me and birth. Now, I don't know how they all felt about me being there. I could have been a nuisance. I tried to just play it low and take signals from Lauren. The last thing I wanted was to be all up in her face and make things less enjoyable for her. I have this thing where I always think I am in the way. I always think I'm un-wanted. You have read the blogs. You know the history behind me and what I dealt with. I think it comes from there. Even in my life at work. I feel in the way, as if I'm intruding. Hate it. Had to get over it. It was amazing to be in that environment...where a mama is in the process of giving birth, the midwife is there making herbal remedies, daddy and nanny are making food in the kitchen, poppy is telling jokes and just putting a layer of calm over everything, kids playing etc. I'm inspired by Lauren and her strength, focus and calmness during labor. Hey, I did good during labor, but Lauren is who I want to be when I grow up and have my next kidlets. There's that mushy stuff...where you are in awe of the whole experience. For a good while it was just us women in the room. Lauren, the two midwives, me and Allison. Very primal. Very real. And to have your hands on a woman wo is doing the hardest work any human can ever feel that energy, the power and all of that life --- my sentences are so short and choppy because I can't convey what I want to say. I can't put words to what I felt that would make y'all understand. I was so blessed to be there. And to see that little guy make his grand appearance, take that first breath and cry. And all that love between Brian and Lauren....the strength in them both, the way he KNOWS her and can be her rock. So freaking OM. You can't describe it. THIS is why I'm a birth addict. Ugh. I'm frustrating myself because I can't flow the way I want when I write this. I'm not a good writer and I'm frustrated because I want you all to feel how cool it was.

What did I do? I took lots of pictures. The album, Max's Birthday, on my profile is mostly the pics that I did. I really, really, really really hope I did a good job there. I'm official birth paparrazzi. Lauren and Brian have graciously agreed to cut me a $10,000 dollar check for my services. Thanks guys. Mainly, I was there to be with my friends during an important day. I played with kidlets, ate food, held Lauren through some contractions, took lots of pics, held Lauren's foot a lot and sat too close to Brian's man feet on the bed. Love them all. I am so, so grateful that I was there...words just cannot ever express how special that was to me.

Mom and baby did well. I left a few hours after the birth, tupperwear container of awesome chicken and a travel mug of awesome coffee in hand. And, wow. Did you know that the adrenaline that keeps you wide awake and alert all day for such an event will remarkably CRASH on your drive home. I drove home high and elated, praising God, listening to Bowie and drinking mah coffee. I did good most of the way home. Five minutes from home I started to crash...I was thisclose to pulling over and calling Mike to come get me. But, I made it. Mike came out to meet me and I pretty much collapsed in his arms. So dramatic. But, damn, my knees and back were killing. I should've downed some of that cauphyllum Lauren was taking during labor. I had already called out of work hours before. I knew I'd be a floppy, exhausted mess and even more useless than I usually am. And I love my bosslady (don't fire me) for being understanding. At least it wasn't a Tuesday night, Larae! I ate a little, updated facebook and watered my flowers (it rained 20 minutes later - haha) before getting almost 10 hours of sleep (thank you Mike and David).

So, yeah, I had a pretty good Thursday. The official stats are:
Maxwell Edward Hodges
Born August 27, 2009 at 7:12 pm
7lbs, 8 ounces and 21 inches
Gorgeous as can be.

Love ya, Lauren. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of it. Love your whole family.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I have battled acne for the majority of my life. It's had a hold over me for 20 years now. I have used just about every single prescription product without much success. I stopped those meds nearly 4 years ago when I became pregnant. After the birth I was breastfeeding...still am...and I didn't want to put anything harsh into my body, no matter how safe some of those meds claim to be for pregnancy. I looked for natural solutions.

You can find natural acne treatments all over the place - drugstores, grocery stores, health food stores etc. The prices vary. Do the products work? I can't tell you because I've never tried them. I can tell you that I don't have much faith in them. Many natural products still contain ingredients that can irritate your skin such as parabens, artificial dyes and fragrance. So what to do you do? I looked for ways to do it myself as naturally as possible.

When I had my son I joined and began reading the message boards. I was already familiar with the magazine as I had been a subscriber for a decade. The messages boards are a.w.e.s.o.m.e. There's such a wonderful variety of people there with enormous amounts of information, resources and experience. It was after reading post after post about natural skin care that I came up with my own little regimine. There following is what I use most often:

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Lavender Essential Oil
Tea Tree Oil
Chammomile Essential Oil
Raw Honey

Apple Cider Vinegar is one of those little wonders from nature. It's very good for you when used both externally and internally. It's a purifier and can help heal a variety of ailments. Our focus here is the skin. ACV is best when organic and raw. That's not always the cheapest option, so if you have to choose between organic and raw then go with organic. ACV works as a toner, it helps regulate the pH of the skin and is also an antiseptic and will take care of the naughty little bacteria involved in acne. It's high in alpha-hydroxy acids and will help calm and smooth skin over time. There are different schools of thought on whether or not to dilute it or not before applying it to your skin. With anything, use the most gentle option first, so dilute it. For me, I apply it full strength with no problems. You can let it sit on your skin for 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing with water or you can leave it on overnight. This isn't something to apply before you go on a date as you'll smell like fermentation. Mmmmm.

Essential oils also have benefits for skin. As with ACV, organic is best and it's even better when it's organic and wildcrafted. Again, this is not always an option due to expense. For me, Lavender, Tea Tree Oil and Chammomile have all worked the best. The use of TTO for acne is pretty mainstream these days, with lavender and chammomile being lesser known. These three oils do well together. You can apply separately, alternating days, or together. I do both. There is debate, as with ACV, on application. Some believe you need to dilute it in a carrier, such as jojoba oil. Others believe you can apply it "neat," that is, directly to the skin. I apply it neat and haven't experienced issues with it. You can swipe it all over your face with a pad or you can spot treat individual pimples. When I have a nasty little whitehead, I dab a q-tip (organic cotton - you can get them cheap at whole foods) with one or a combo of these oils and apply it directly to the pimple. The whitehead is usually gone within seconds. If I'm not running right out the door I will put a little raw honey over the spot to help it heal.
  • Chammomile - I use Roman Chammomile, which I believe is generally the best for skin issues. It has many healing properties. For acne it acts as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and calming agent. It also has tonic properties. This oil is helpful when dealing with painful pimples.
  • Lavender - Like Chammomile, it has many, many healing properties. And for the skin, it works a lot like chammomile. It's antiseptic and anti-microbial. I prefer Bulgarian Lavender.
  • Tea Tree - the smelliest of the bunch. It's another germ-killer and also has analgesic properties. TTO has the ability to stimulate immune function, which helps the skin heal itself.
Raw Honey is another one of nature's little powerhouses. Bees produce a miraculous little substance that has hundreds of healing properties, both internal and external. It has been used since well before the Birth of Christ as a healing agent. For the skin it is another antibacterial/antiseptic/antimicrobial agent. It literally draws impurities out of the skin. Due to that you may experience a slight break out during the first few days of using raw honey as it works to get all the junk out from under your skin. Raw is best as it's in it's natural and pure form. Pasteurization can kill off some of the good stuff in honey. Now, I have used pasteurized honey with success, but I find that raw honey makes a world of difference. Honey heals skin amazingly well. Just apply it to a cut and see for yourself. It's jam packed with vitamins and enzymes that heal.

A lot of times I apply ACV with a fabric cosmetic round (if you want disposable, try to use organic cotton if possible. Cotton contains an innumerable amount of pesticides that don't do anything to help your skin). I use fabric to lighten the load on the planet. These are tiny and don't make a dent in my laundry. I let it sit for a few and I don't wash it off. I used to apply a mix of my three essential oils with a cosmetic round, but I've changed my routine. I now have a separate honey jar where I've mixed raw honey with lavender, chammomile and tea tree essential oils. I apply that mixture to my skin with my hands (clean, of course) and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. I do this before a shower so I wash it all off in there.

After showers, I moisturize with organic jojoba oil, which has healing properties of it's own and is usually very good for acne-prone skin. It also works well as a carrier for essential oils.

This routine has helped immensely. There is also the issue of internal reasons for acne, such as poor diet and other health conditions, which I'll address another time. The skin secretes toxins from within our body, so it's logical to believe that an imbalance within the body with manifest on the skin. So drink your water, eat well and take some skin-happy supplements like a good-quality probiotic.

If you're interested in re-usable fabric cosmetic rounds, visit HagRag That's where I got mine. They are also very easy to make.

For good quality essential oils visit Mountain Rose Herbs. (this is an affiliate link - just hit up if you don't want to go through my affiliate)

This post is part of the Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Blog hop, sponsored by Frugally sustainable.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Not so thrilled

Damn iTunes. So addictive.

Naturally, I'm spending lots o' time on iTunes downloading Michael Jackson songs. I'm such a sell-out. And to sell out even more, I'm devoting one of these here little bloggy things to the man. Yeah. Crotch grab. Hee hee.

In case you were not aware, as news never travels fast these days, Michael Jackson died. I know. Shocker, right? Well yeah, it was a shocker. I mean, you look at this 112 lb mostly plastic and bleached (???) man and wonder how his body can keep going. Looks like it couldn't. When you throw stress and lots of yummy little drugs into the mix it gets even worse for that frail body. Still, we weren't expecting that, were we? It seems like Heaven is in need of some entertainment as so many great celebs have been called to St. Peter's press junket. Droppin' like flies, they are.

I'm not flying to L.A. for his memorial service. I have not slept in bed with my MJ barbie doll while wearing a sequined white glove, rocking myself in the fetal position to the tune of P.Y.T. I haven't glued myself to the TV, the internetz or mobile updates for any and all news of his life, death and in between. I have not yelled at people making jokes about him. Hell, I made a few of my own. But, can I say his death has zero effect on me? Uh-uh.

Say what you want about the dude - he was creepy, a pedophile, a junkie, straight up fucked up - the man had a massive amount of talent. Massive. THAT, what he was, will not be seen again. No. You can't deny it. I wasn't the biggest fan. I wasn't an anti-fan, either. I liked me some Michael Jackson from time to time. Back in the day, the real day before half of you darling readers were born, I was a big fan. Before Bowie there was Michael Jackson. Interesting trivia about Bowie and Jackson. David Bowie did the moonwalk waaaaaay before Jackson. Had to get that in there. Back to the note. Ahem. Yet, he wasn't my favorite. No. My 5 year old heart belonged to Boy George. The leap from Boy George to Bowie isn't a surprise, is it? Anyhoo, back to Jackson. 2nd to that fedora-wearing, eyeliner-lovin' and ribbon-braided Karma Chameleon was the jerry-curled, moon-walking still-black Jackson. I don't care if you think he's a creepy boydiddler, I doubt there are many my age who didn't have themselves holed up in their bedrooms back in the early 80's rockin' out to Thriller, trying those dance moves and moonwalking. Uh uh. You know you put on yo mama's white isotoner glover and slid backwards, tripping over your feet while fufilling your Billie Jean fantasies. Hell yeah, I wore my brother's red leather jacket and pretended I, too, was a Zombie. I walked down the steet to Rita's house, pretending the sidewalk blocks were lighting up under my feet. Me and Rita (she was as obsessed with Jackson as I later became with Bowie) would spend time at our respective houses watching Thriller and trying to get those moves down. That shit was part of the soundtrack of our early lives. I eventually put that album away in favor of Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs and Hunky Dory, but I always respected Michael Jackson. Before my room was plastered with pictures of Jareth, The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, Halloween Jack, Ziggy Stardust, Tommy Newton etc. (hint: those are ALL Bowie), there were pictures of The Gloved-One next to pictures of George Alan O'Dowd (google it) and unicorns. BREAK: Really, Firefox? You had to underline "google?" BACK TO IT: And later, Moonwalker came out. I was a little old for that silly Michael Jackson stuff, but damn if I didn't watch it often. When no one was looking, I'd copy all the dancing from "Smooth Criminal." Good times. A few years after that allegations popped up. I don't know why, but I WANTED to believe them. Crazy I be. But, I never believed it. I go with my gut a lot and my gut always said he didn't do it. Sure, that dude was NOT normal. He had issues and could have used one or two sessions with Dr. Phil. Instead, I saw that he was incredibly fucked-up from the life he's had since his pre-school days. One can easily see that this man missed childhood so badly and that his frail mind did everything to hold onto any semblance of childhood. At some point, and with the help of drugs, those reality lines were blurred in his head. The man didn't make good decisions regarding his dealings with youngins', but I don't believe he harmed them. He was stupid. And people took advantage of that stupidity. Maybe not all parents are like me, but if someone diddled my kid there wouldn't be time for a court case. Sure, a cool $20 million would be nice, but I don't put a price on my kids like that. I would slice and dice any such bastard before I even thought of calling 1-800-Lawyer. I think both cases, especially that 2nd one, were absolute bullshit. I could be wrong. Maybe years from now MacCauley, Webster or Corey will Twitter about some sort of naughty diddling, but I doubt it. I don't think I'm wrong. I think it's a really sad situation. Someone who had his own childhood ripped out from under his feet, who tried desperately to replace it, but succumbed to mental illness and drugs.

And I will not deny that I shed a tear, or two and perhaps three for the man. My mom called me while I was on the PA Turnpike to tell me the news. I turned on the radio where a few stations were already playing the hits. Thriller came on and I remembered those days in my room or my basement, dancing with my little white glove, and I had a bit of tear for the dude.

He was supremely gifted and talented and he inspired SO MUCH. How many singers, dancers, entertainers were inspired by him? His dancing is what awed me the most as dance is a huge passion of mine (but I suck at it, lol). I just watched that video of him with Janet for the song, "Scream." Wow. I personally know dancers in my life who started back in the 80's because of Michael Jackson. You see his influence in so many moves, especially in hip hop. Eerily, the night before he died I was watching my fav show, "So You Think You Can Dance." Brandon and - shit, what's her name? - did this rock vs. rap number that was AWESOME. There were a few old school MJ moves from Thriller. The next night, on the results show, Nigel gave a nice little speech about him (and Ed and Farrah). We all know his legacy will live on, especially in dance. Though, I would like to clarify something I saw on one of those gossip shows. They said MJ was the innovator of the artist dancing with the back-up dancers dancing in unison behind him. While he certainly put his own flavor on it and made it his own 25 years ago, it wasn't something new. You can see it in ballet. So there. But, without his influence we may not have had some of our favorite artists and dancers in this age.

As for people who say, "good, I'm glad he's dead because he was creepy and sick." C'mon. Call him on his excsessive plastic surgery or his weird personal life, but it's not cool to celebrate someone's untimely death in that way. I don't care who it is....well, with the exception of someone like Osama, but you get what I mean.

So there we have it. I devoted a blog to a celebrity death. But I'd lie if I said it didn't matter to me. I truly hope he is at peace now. I believe he is.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A bit overdue computer got a virus a few months ago and I just got it back. My dear friend Brian fixed it all up and made it spiffy for me. It just took a while for us to get together so I could get this baby back. In the meantime, I completely forgot about this site. And then when I remembered I forgot my login info. Gosh.

So let's try this again, shall we?
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