Because I have always loved reading birth stories. Even late ones. Here’s ours…

Twelve weeks ago last tonight (ok, so it takes me forever to post these things…), Faris and  I were walking under the glow of a full March moon just hoping our Henry would be unable to resist its gravitational tug. Just to hedge my bets, I’d also had  a castor oil root beer float (my doula’s recipe that actually tasted “not horrible”). At 10 days overdue, I had exhausted all of the natural labor inducers  and we had scheduled an induction for the following Monday.Would all of our plans to “go natural” fly out the window and be replaced with a routine induction?  I tried to keep an open mind throughout my pregnancy, because all we wanted was our sweet boy to be safe and sound in our arms…whether or not his delivery fit perfectly into  our carefully formed birth plan. BUT, we felt very strongly that as long as neither myself or Henry was in danger, we preferred a non-interventionist birth.

40 Weeks and Counting

Well, we were about to find out just what a non-interventionist birth looked like. My contractions came on and off during our walk, but I tried to contain my hopes, because I had experienced similar contractions in the days prior.

Then, at about 10:30 pm, I started having somewhat steady contractions every 10-15 minutes and I thought maybe my water was leaking.  With a crazy racing heart, I called our doula. After talking to her (who didn’t think my water had broken…and it hadn’t), I called the doctor on call, who said he would call the hospital and tell them I was coming. I feebly responded, “Well…I kind of want to labor at home for a while…” and he said that he’d tell them that I’d be in sometime that night. The thought of being in real labor was still unreal to me though.

Then things started getting more painful. I remember kneeling by the bed at one point, then trying to sleep, then making Faris (who was just beginning meds for  terrible congestion/cough and feeling awful) put counter pressure on my back. I think about 1:00 am we realized that the contractions were coming every 3-4 minutes and becoming increasingly debilitating. I’m pretty sure we had “The Office” episode in the back of our minds, where Jim is panicking when they don’t leave for the hospital at 5-7 minutes between contractions. Though my bag had been somewhat packed for weeks, we still had much to do before we left the apartment. I think I packed between contractions, but I’m not sure. I do think I was rather calm, though. Or maybe it was just the pain keeping me from rushed movements. Faris says, “I’m not really sure what you were doing. I was in frantic mode.” I remember going into the nursery/guest room to tell my mom that we were headed to the hospital and that we’d call her when we knew it was real labor (sorry, Mom, I think you had to call Faris to find out).

After some very frantic scurrying around (frantic seems to be a key word here; maybe I wasn’t calm), we headed out to the hospital. Contractions were really hurting now, and I didn’t know where I put the hospital info that told us where to park, etc. (One would expect a 10 day overdue mom to have everything in order by this point…I have no excuse on why I wasn’t completely ready…maybe because I had already passed the point of thinking I would ever go into labor.) Well, my sweet husband found his way, we checked into a very quiet floor, and the nurse made me get in bed to monitor things (I don’t know how anyone can labor in bed..that was so awful). At this point, it was 2 am, and I still didn’t know if I was “really in labor.” I do remember wondering why the nurse had to ask me so many questions, since I had pre-registered (but I didn’t have the energy to voice my question). Meanwhile, our doula arrived with the best gift a laboring woman could want: a homemade rice heating pad, which she heated every once in a while between contractions. It was SO hot and I pressed it against my stomach for relief, while Faris applied pressure to my lower back.

This was pretty much how the whole night passed, with Faris and our doula spelling each other. The whole night was somewhat of a blur, since I kept my eyes closed almost the entire time. Each contraction took all of my focus and energy–I don’t know how people scream during contractions, because it took all of me to simply breathe through them. Faris was a champion husband and coach that night. He felt simply awful with his cough, yet he only took one short nap during the entire labor. He helped me to breathe when the contractions got really bad, and he encouraged me with promises of “all the McDonald’s sundaes” I want (I have always loved their cheap-o sundaes!) and only once made the wrong comment (remarked encouragingly while looking at the monitor “That contraction wasn’t as bad as the rest” to which he says I looked at him very pointedly and said “It’s not OVER yet,” at which point the contraction spiked on the monitor). All I have to say is that he was (and is) my hero and the best coach ever.

I had pictured myself walking the halls of the hospital, sitting on the birthing ball, and being generally active when I was in labor. Not me! The nurse made me walk around the room to get a better reading on Henry’s heart rate at one point, and it was awful! I sat on the birthing ball for maybe 5 minutes, but I really ended up spending most of the night in the comfy armchair (where poor Faris probably wanted to be!). I leaned back between contractions, and I couldn’t have handled the intensity if Faris and my doula hadn’t been applying counter pressure to my back.

When the world was beginning to wake up and the city skyline was grey (maybe 6 am, Faris thinks), my water broke. Labor really revved up after that (OUCH), and I wanted to start pushing pretty soon after. Everyone says “you’ll know” when it’s time to push, and wow, it’s so true. We are fearfully and wonderfully made…how amazing that our bodies are designed by God to give birth…too bad the curse also brings a whole lot of pain along with the blessing.

I started pushing by squatting, but my legs soon gave out, and I switched to kneeling against the upper part of the hospital bed. This was better, but pushing was way more difficult than  I thought it would be. I kind of thought the baby would just pop out if I was in the right position (not on my back). I pushed for a while in this position, but then the nurse (oh, the power they yield over a laboring woman!) said, “I think you should flip over when the doctor comes in, and I bet the baby will just slip on out.” Yes, “slip on out” were her words, and you’ve probably never seen anyone flip over as fast as I did! Three words erased the knowledge I thought was ingrained in my mind–that lying on your back is the WORST position to in which to give birth! But alas.

Charles Henry's Debut

So there I was, on my back, pushing with every ounce of strength in my body–nurses, doula, husband, and doctor all cheering me on. My eyes were wide open at this point, and my body went from coping through contractions to waiting for their cue to push. Finally, I felt a squirmy baby making his entrance! Seeing my doctor lift him in the air and hearing Henry’s first strong, beautiful wail was just about the happiest moment of my life (second only to marrying my best friend). Then they plopped that fresh, red, screaming infant onto my lap and I felt nothing but pure, exhilarating happiness. And that’s when our sweet Henry tipped his hat to the world, and the world will never be the same again.

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Mom, I can’t let your birthday “week” slip by without comment. As you face the boxes, broken furniture, and renovations in your new home, I want you to know how grateful I am that for 30-plus years you have been “building your house” like the faithful Proverbs woman. I now realize that wearing the title of mom with grace and faith is not easy (and I’m just 3 months into it!). And as you move on to blessing a growing number of grandchildren by being their Nanette, I think all of us kids would agree that now is a good time to “rise up and call you blessed.”

My short glimpse into motherhood has reminded me of the sacrifice, love, and untiring toil this calling demands. I think about your words to Chrissie and I when we were younger: “Girls, life is hard work. Don’t be surprised by it like I was, and don’t resent it.” (paraphrased version) This nugget of wisdom has come to mind many times in the last few months as I learn to live with a little less sleep and more housework…and the trail of dirty clothes that Henry’s diapers leave behind.

But you did more than just work hard for your family. You built something over the years- a home characterized by joy, peace, and rest. It was where I wanted to be, and since I’ve moved away, a place I want to visit.

You created a refuge. I remember you and Dad talking about how you always wanted our home to be a place where anyone felt comfortable, whether they were rich or poor. That has stayed with me, and I hope I can create a home that is just as welcoming.

You extended (and still do, I know) a welcome greeting to friends and strangers at your table. You showed me that hospitality can be a way of life, and it doesn’t always have to be served up on fine china. I’m thankful for the countless meals around the table listening to visiting missionaries, church visitors, and others. I hope that our child(ren) will be able to say the same about our home.

You modeled the Gospel. I know that you and Dad wish you could have started off with the knowledge you’ve gained over the years, but your continuing repentance and growth over the years has been a testament to your children. This includes the forgiveness and reconciliation that was a part of everyday life. I am so thankful that you not only taught us to ask for forgiveness, but you modeled this yourself. Realizing that I don’t “outgrow” asking for forgiveness was perhaps the most important lesson you and Dad taught me through your actions.

There are many other things you’ve taught me, modeled for me, given to me…almost 30 year’s worth (well, I should count carrying me…so over 30 year’s worth!). I will close with a few my favorite “Mom” memories and ways you have blessed me…heart-shaped brownies on Valentine’s day, walks through Covington and stops at every ditch along the way, special birthday meals, notes in our lunches, stories read aloud or created on the spot, taking me out of school so that I would play with Chrissie again :), making playdough, teaching us how to make bread, teaching us to be a team (which I didn’t like at the time), making me sit down in every skirt before I bought it, encouraging me to trust the Lord, reminding me to serve others when I least felt like it, driving across the country with me on our road trip to Idaho (and staying at the Little America), giving me wisdom and encouragement when Faris and I were dating (SO glad I said yes!), working overtime to make my wedding such a joyful and beautiful celebration, helping me get ready for Henry (our pantry is still pretty stocked!), WAITING for Henry, and then staying to help us get settled (you know how much we needed you for that transition!). The list could go on, but there’s a tiny taste of how much you’ve done for me. I hope that we can start blessing you these next 30 years. Love you, Mom!

Henry and his patient Nanette!

Happy Birthday to the best Nanette in the world!

"Tell me a story about Henry the bear!"

Hugs and kisses from the humid, sweltering south to the cool and rainy northwest! Henry wanted you to know that he is thankful for you and can’t wait to see you in July! In fact, he is so eager that he just woke up from his nap…more prose forthcoming, but the pictures are what count, right?!

We love you so much!

"I love you, Nanette!" (or Nee-nette, if Rid and Petey get a hold of him)

Birthday

4 weeks

8 weeks

Henry had his first road trip last week…all the way to Jackson, Miss. to “help” Nanette & Poppy as they figured out what to pack and move across the country. We were less help than I anticipated, but Henry enjoyed lots of quality walks with his Poppy and talks with Nanette.

Here he is, back in the ‘ham and enjoying quiet days with Momma and cheering up all of our elderly neighbors with his sweet smiles. He really is the most sought after man on the block, and we get flagged down by the over-80 crowd or their caretakers on every walk we take. Henry doesn’t mind being the most talented baby around, or as our sweet neighbor puts it: “He really is the prettiest baby I ever did see!” Speaking of our little joy-boy (as my dear cuzzin A would put it!), I need to wake him up so he will sleep tonight!

7 weeks and 1 day in this picture! He is getting chubbier, sweeter, and funnier by the day…Video coming soon to prove it!

Thanks to Nanette (and Pop Pop), our little sailor was looking his Sunday best this morning! Since we flew out the door after Henry’s second breakfast, these pics are from after church.

He wore his little hat (bonnet?) all the way through church and slept the whole time! Hurray for Henry!

And here’s the next scene: changing table and onesie…a familiar sight around our place!

On Saturday, Henry had his first trip to the park. After a nice snack in the car (parked), he was ready for a relaxing snooze while papa read the Iliad to us. Come to think of it, I think he ate twice while we were at the park. Quite the piglet!

And the last pic is just langiappe b/c I like it!

Sweet bundle

Look at those lips!

Delicious Cheeks!

9 pounds and 2 ounces of baby sweetness! Here he is at 1 1/2 weeks old…more pics and birth story forthcoming.

Mmmmm

This face makes me laugh

I have tried this before. And failed. When my little bagels plummeted into the boiling water they lost their shape and the the rest is history. I love a good bagel, and I have grown tired of eating the imposter: soft, non-chewy bread shaped like a bagel. Plus, it’s probably been 10 years since I tried making bagels and the shame of defeat has worn off, while Google has improved my discernment in picking a recipe.

Perfect! Crispy on the outside, Chewy on the inside!

Perfect! Crispy on the outside, Chewy on the inside!

So, here’s how it is done. Beware, this recipe is not a quick bread, but it is totally worth the time and effort! I found the recipe on the Ventura County Star, but the recipe is by famous breadbaker Peter Reinhart from his book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

My additions will be in italics…

Recipe for the Perfect Bagel

Start to finish: 15 hours (1 hour 15 minutes active) Start to finish for me was about 7 hours, because we were impatient and didn’t want to wait till morning for the bagels…and they were still delish! I’ll let you know if the ones tomorrow are even better, though…

Servings: 12 large bagels or 24 small bagels

For the sponge:

1 teaspoon instant yeast (this is NOT an entire pkg, just a tsp!)

4 cups unbleached white bread flour

2 1/2 cups water, room temperature (I made mine barely warm, just to give the yeast some umph)

To make the sponge:

the sponge, after 2 hours

the sponge, after 2 hours

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the yeast and flour. Add the water and mix together with a spoon until it forms a sticky batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature about 2 hours, or until foamy and bubbly. The mixture should nearly double in size and collapse when the bowl is tapped on the counter.

For the dough:

1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

3 3/4 cups unbleached white bread flour

2 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or honey (I used barley malt syrup and found it w/ honey and syrups at Whole Foods…love that place!)

To make the dough:

Set the bowl with the sponge in the mixer with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer on low, add the yeast, then 3 cups of the flour and all of the salt and malt syrup or honey. Mix on low speed until the ingredients form a ball, slowly adding remaining 3/4 cup flour.

Let the mixer knead the dough 6 minutes. (I kneaded it by hand, b/c they don’t make kitchen aids like they used to…plus, part of the fun in making dough is getting to knead it!) The dough should be pliable and smooth, and feel satiny but not tacky. Add a few drops of water or a bit of flour as needed to get desired texture.

Dough balls ready for their 20 minute rest

Dough balls ready for their 20 minute rest

To form bagels:

Wipe down a clean work surface with a damp cloth. Transfer the dough to the work surface, then divide into 12 pieces (for large bagels) or 24 pieces (for mini bagels).

One at a time, cup each piece in your hand and firmly press it into the counter. Move your hand in a circular fashion while pressing the dough against the table. In a short time, the dough should form a tight ball.

Cover the dough balls with a damp towel and let them rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line two baking pans with parchment paper (or wax paper). Lightly mist the parchment with cooking spray.

To shape the bagels, pick the dough pieces up one at a time and push your thumb through the center. Gently rotate your thumb around the hole to stretch it to about 21/2 inches wide (slightly less for smaller bagels). Try to keep the bagel evenly shaped (no thick or thin parts). (This method is sooo much easier than the previous time I made bagels and the recipe told me to make little logs and then pinch them together. Ridiculous!)

The magic happens in the fridge.

The magic happens in the fridge.

Arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets 2 inches apart. Mist them lightly with cooking spray, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature another 20 minutes.

Refrigerate the bagels overnight (or up to two days). Or however long you can wait…2 hours…3 hours..

To finish:

1 tablespoon baking soda

Cornmeal or semolina flour, for dusting

Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt or other toppings

To cook bagels:

To help the bagels brown during baking, the first step is to boil the bagels for 2 minutes in water with baking soda. (okay, at this point, I decided to follow part of another recipe that called for the malt syrup in the water. It’s supposed to give it a glowing crust. Bad idea. The chemicals collided to form a raging, foamy, overflowing pot. Don’t do it.)

When ready to bake the bagels, arrange the oven racks in the middle of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the baking soda. Have a slotted spoon ready.

Bagels bobbing while being boiled.

Bagels bobbing while being boiled.

Remove the bagels from the refrigerator and gently place two or three (or as many as will comfortably fit) into the boiling water. After 1 minute, flip the bagels and boil another minute. If you prefer chewy bagels, extend boiling to 2 minutes per side.

While the bagels boil, sprinkle the same parchment-lined pans with cornmeal or semolina flour. As the bagels finish boiling, return them to the baking sheets. If you want to top the bagels, do it as soon as they come out of the water.

When all the bagels have been boiled, place the pans in the oven and bake for5 minutes. Rotate the pans 180 degrees, switching shelves, lower heat to 450 degrees and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until they are a light golden brown.

Let the bagels cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. (or 30 seconds…they are worth a burned finger!)