Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Feed That Boy!

"He wants some biscuits...and gravy."
No. He doesn't.

"Awww, come on! Give him something to eat!"
He just ate, thanks. Breast milk is food.

"You don't feed him anything?"
Yes, he eats all the time!

"He is hungry; look at how big he is."
Exactly. Look at how BIG he is on just breast milk.

"He needs more to eat than just milk."
Your name again? Dr.......

And my favorite...

"At least give him a drink...some sweet tea? Coke? Something."
Sweet tea and coke have got to be super great for an infant. Caffeine. HFCS. Yeah. Awesome.

Clearly, Exclusive Breastfeeding is synonymous with starvation! Seriously though, the above comments are not few and far in between. Anywhere I take Blaze, people are shocked that I have not fed him cereal or given him juice! If I were not a stubborn, determined, and well read momma, Blaze would be in his high chair with a sippy cup full of sweet tea and a pile of french fries.

Even our pediatrician brought up solids at Blaze's four month appointment! Four months folks....please read the links below before blindly doing whatever your doctor advises. Doctors are people too. Fallible, only sharing what they have been told. I, for one, don't just do whatever the doctor tells me! I educate myself. We have libraries and the internet my friends....use them!

First of all, breast milk is food! The most complete food you can give your baby!
Blaze is exclusively breastfed. This means he eats NOTHING else right now - no cereal, no animal milk, nothing.

Why EBF?

There are several good reasons, but the one that I am most convinced by is his health. Babies are born with microscopic holes in their gut (often referred to as the open or virgin gut). Breast milk is the only food designed to assist the baby's gut in sealing and does not leak into the blood stream of the infant. When foods other than breast milk are introduced too early (sadly, this applies even to formula), parts of these foods enter the baby's system and are attacked by the baby's system as an invader. This causes FOOD ALLERGIES!

I know, I know, what about the women who just CAN'T  breastfeed?
Well, I realize some will disagree with this, but it is medically confirmed that less than 2% of women truly cannot produce milk due to a medical problem. Then why do so many women say they cannot produce milk?

Well, there are lots of reasons.

Lack of education.
Lack of support.
Lack of desire.

Here is the thing, milk takes more than a New York minute to come in. I remember those first five days. Blaze had a beautiful latch and ate just fine at the hospital and when I brought him home. Yet, I could tell that  he was not drinking "milk". Thick, golden drops dribbled into his mouth. Colostrum, and it isn't much at all. Many people think this is not enough. I even had a couple people try to convince me to give Blaze supplements until my milk came! This could harm milk supply. His suckling is what stimulates the mature milk to come in. Mine showed up around the 5th day, and I had an abundance of milk by 7 days postpartum.

This can be scary. Actually, it made me quite anxious. Blaze was constantly at the breast those first few weeks, and I was wrought with concern that it meant he was not getting enough to eat. So I read. I called an ICBLC. Caring for our babies is one of the most important things we will ever do in our lifetime. Don't take it lightly. Don't just follow trends. Don't just do whatever you are told. Learn. Research. Ask. Read. Give 100% to finding out what is BEST for your child; BEST not just okay.

Some great places to educate yourself on EBF:

Several of you have messaged me requesting insight on EBF, delaying solids, baby led weaning, and Blaze's breast feeding journey. The next few posts will be dedicated to these topics.

As always, thanks so much for reading. I enjoy sharing knowledge so much and it encourages me that so many of you read the blog and glean from it. Don't hesitate to comment here or on Facebook.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Warning - Blaze's Birth Story - Full Disclosure

Okay, so now I will share the intimate details of the scariest, most wonderful, and gloriously life changing 7.5 hours of my life!

January 6th, 2013

On the way to church I casually mentioned to my husband that Blaze should hold off on his arrival until after worship because it was an amazing worship set and I knew God was going to show up that morning in a special way.

After a wonderful church service, we arrived home, ate a tasty crock pot lunch and I headed for a Sunday nap. At 4:30pm I woke up, and as I got out of bed, my water broke! Initially, I thought I had peed myself, but over the next hour my water continued to "break", two more times! Within moments of my water breaking I had contractions. They were quite painful right from the start and we began timing them at 5pm because they seemed kind of close together.

They were.
Lasting 1 minute and only about 3 minutes apart!
What happened to the slow onset of stage 1 labor?
You know, where the contractions are short
and spread out over 15-20 minute intervals?

I knew this was the real deal.

I had made a roast for dinner.
DH (dear husband) and his mom were trying to eat.
I could not even think about food.

I walked around the house clinging to cabinets, walls, whatever I could as the waves of contractions came.
And went.

I was mad that they were eating.
I wanted DH at my side.
I could not focus.
Contractions came hard and heavy.
Fear assailed me.

I think I can do this.
First babies take forever.
This is the beginning.
Of hours.
And hours.
And hours.
Maybe days.
Oh no.

I threw up.
I showered and changed clothes.
I threw up again.
I showered and changed clothes.
I threw up again.
I showered and changed clothes.

I tried lying down,
remembering all the stories I had heard of women who nap during the early stages of labor.
They must be superwomen.
The pain in my back was searing.
All consuming.

I said pain in my BACK.
No one had mentioned that to me.
I thought labor was some crazy terrible rendition of menstrual cramps.
All in your lower abdomen.
Mine were 100% in my back.

I am not going to lie.
I was not thinking about Blaze.
I was not having peaceful images of my sweet boy flitting through my mind.

I thought I had prepared myself.
I read all the books.
Ina May.
Birthing from Within.
The Classic.
Yet I could not get ahead of the pain.
It just overwhelmed me.

At 5:30pm we called the hospital.
No midwives were on call.
The OB/GYN was on call.
Fear struck my heart as she said, "I ask all my patients to come in right away if their water broke".
My midwives had said I could labor at home for a while.
"I want a water birth," I mustered through a contraction.
"Oh, well I don't do those. I will try and page one of the midwives and have them get back to you".

No water birth?
I said a prayer before the next contraction.
Truthfully, OB/GYNs scare me.
I don't trust them to provide a natural, un-tampered with birth.
That is who I trust.
Trained to help assist a woman as she gives birth.
Not taught to time everything.
Assess everything.
Offer a thousand interventions for everything.
I realize this is somewhat inaccurate.
However, this is what was going through my mind as the contractions washed over me.

About 15 minutes later I received a phone call from one of the midwives that had been seeing me.
"How are you?"
"Not so good. Hurting bad. It is all in my back. My water broke at 4:30. And again two more times. Threw up. Can't eat. Thirsty. I took a shower. The doctor said she would have me come in now. I want a water birth. I don't want to labor in the hospital a long time. Contractions are coming every 2-3 minutes. They last 30 seconds to a minute".

I am sure my choppy stammering was quite helpful.
I wonder if midwives take a class called "Labor Gibberish"?
She was calm.
She was cheerful.
She was reassuring.
"What would you like to do?"
I have choices.
This is why I like midwives.
"Um, if it is safe, I want to stay home for a bit and try to get through some of this here".
"Okay, this is my personal cell number. Just call me when you decide to head to the hospital".
"Okay, thanks".

How long can I do this alone?
DH is in the kitchen cleaning up my puke.
Mother-in-love is lingering about the house.

I just want to be alone.
With DH.
In a dark room.
Can't think.
Breathe, Sarah, deep, relaxing breath.
Grab the counter,
Don't fall.

At 8pm I knew I could not make it much longer at home.
Contractions were over a minute in length.
Separated by two minutes or less.
We called the midwife (by the way, the show is amazing).
She told us to go to the ER to check in.

The ride to the hospital was awful.
Could not move.
DH tried to touch me reassuringly (which I usually appreciate).
It took every ounce of my strength
to calmly tell him I did not want to be touched.

This is another reason I wanted a home birth.
No 30 minute ride to the hospital.

Contraction after contraction.
And I am strapped into a moving vehicle.
I finally began to think about our Blaze.
This is his birth.
I mentioned to Jonah how energized I had felt that morning.
How much I enjoyed singing that morning.
How I could hardly believe I had sang on the worship team my entire pregnancy.
Three hours (or longer) on my feet every Sunday.
Swollen ankles.
Ignoring the urge to pee.
Singing unto the Lord with a holy fire growing in my belly.
Feeling him roll.
Delighting as he responded to our worship.

This boy was made to be fire on the altar.
A prophetic worshipper was about to be released through this labor.

Close my eyes,
Can't walk.
DH needs to drive faster.

We made it to the hospital.
I come into the ER in the middle of a contraction.
Clinging to DH.
All eyes on me.
The people in the waiting room share sympathetic glances.
At the window a lady takes some information from DH as I cling to the wall.

A man smiles from behind her,
He did not just go there!
DH diffuses the question with a smile and a simple, "No, just one".
Crazy ER dude continues,
"Oh, she must be like 50 weeks then!"
Off with his head...
Denise, our midwife comes around the corner.
She tells DH where to park and then we begin to walk the Green Mile.
Oops, I meant we walked towards the L&D unit.

Dear, dear Denise tried to put some counter pressure on my back.
I think I nearly pinched her.
The cuddly, affectionate girl was gone.
I do not like to be touched while in labor.

We walked.
I talked.
What did I say?
Who knows.
Denise was calming.
She stayed by my side.
She had clearly been around laboring women before.
She was made for this.

We arrived in our room.
I began taking off clothes fairly quickly.
I wanted to be in the shower.
It was the only place I had a little relief.

The poor lady who did registration.
What an awful job.
Sign here please.
And here.
And here.
And here.
And here.
And here.
Um, no.
I am in the worst pain of my entire life.
I can barely hold myself up.
I cannot sign here.
DH signed here.
And here.
And here.
And here.
And here.
And here.
Registration lady wasn't my biggest fan.

Denise checked my cervix before I bulldozed my way to the shower.
6 centimeters!
The terrible back pain was doing something.

Hot water.
Thank you.
Denise stayed with me.
She made sure the water was hitting my back just right,
Thank God for this woman.
Even a tiny bit of relief was better than none at all.

I did not want to hurt my baby.
I wanted to be brave.

But I gave in.
The pain was significantly worse than I expected.
It was not in the same area I had anticipated.
I thought I would be laboring for many
more hours to come.
20 plus hours of this?
I could not do it.

Bloody show.
Poor Denise.
Poor nurses.

Maybe he would come before the anesthesiologist,
It felt like hours in the shower.

Bent over.
Head burrowed in Denise's shoulder.
Don't bite her. Don't bite her.

Felt like 45 minutes.
"Can you feel it more on one side?"
I don't know!
Hurry please.

Very little pain.

Denise checked my cervix again.
9 centimeters!
Why did I get that blasted epidural?!??!
I am nearly through.

"Um, I want to stand up".
Nurses and Denise exchange concerned glances.
"You won't really be able to with the epidural,"
one of them asserts.
"No, I really need to stand up".
"We can pull up the bed bar and let you try there."

Stand on the bed!
I am pregnant.
In labor.
They be crazy.

But maybe if they see I can stand they will allow me to stand on the floor.
Up I go.
See, I can stand.
"Well, that epidural took real well!" Denise jokingly announced.
Tingling is gone.
Burning is gone.
I can feel it all.
Well, 30 minutes of relief gave me a little break.
This baby is on his way for sure!

"I need to push".
And so it began.
Nearly two hours of pushing.
Unearthly screams like you have never heard in your life.
Unless you are a midwife.
Or L&D nurse.
Non-stop really.
Even in between, I couldn't really rest.
All fours.
On my back.

I asked a thousand and one times if it was nearly over.
God love those nurses and my midwife, Denise.
I would have smacked someone like me!
Or at least rolled my eyes.

They were patient.
Thank God.

Jonah held my hand.
Brought me Vitamin Water and Sparkling Coconut water.

I cried.
I pushed.
I begged.
I screamed.
Stupid epidural.
The thing was worthless.

Blaze was coming and I was going to have to push him out.

The last two pushes were the worst.
Ring of Fire.
It is real.
It is terrible.
I screamed.
I cried.
I sounded like an animal.
I was barely present really.

He was stuck.
His arm was raised above his head.
Giving glory to God as he came out.
But stuck.
Denise finally wrestled him out.

And then....

Blaze Josiah
10# 4oz.
This precious babe was worth every moment.
It was over.
Or it was beginning.
Not sure which.

A purple faced, blue eyed babe was laid on my chest.
Those huge eyes.
He looked right into my heart.
He drew out emotions I do not have words to express.

Everything was a blur.
I was madly in love.
Emotion overwhelmed me.
Relief overwhelmed me.
I felt like I was on drugs.
In another world.

I delivered the placenta easily.
It was nothing compared to the labor I had just endured.

Jonah jokingly commented, "You ready to have another one?"
Only a few minutes after Blaze arrived.
I smiled and said, "Of course!"
"Birth is an experience that demonstrates that life is not merely function and utility, but form and beauty." - Largen

Sunday, June 9, 2013

One Income: The Grand Finale!

And now for the final three ways we have found to help us thrive on a limited income. Oh, and if you just started reading, don't forget to check out Part I and Part II!

8. Buy Used and Reuse - My husband can make this one a challenge...he is not a fan of wearing other people's clothes or repurposing things. I am pretty insistent though, and both myself and Blaze hardly ever wear anything brand new. I do occasionally purchase new clothes if I can find them for less than $8 at a store. Much of our furniture was given to us or sold to us at a great price because we purchased it used. Our bedroom suite (barely ever used) was $100 thanks to a teacher friend that heard we needed a bigger bed right after we got married. It consists of a queen bed/frame, a tall dresser, a long dresser/mirror combo, and a nightstand. I have bought countless items on Facebook's yard sale sites at just a fraction of the cost for same item brand new.

Reusing or repurposing items is another great money saver! I reuse anything I can. Glass jars are one way I save money. I store food, diaper cream, toothpaste, tea, hairbows, spices, etc. in the jars that I wash and reuse. I also reuse my lemon and orange peels as I soak them in vinegar to make homemade cleaners. Jonah's old socks and t-shirts become rags for housecleaning (they are magic on a mirror) and stained baby clothes are cut up to use as baby wipes and burp cloths. 

I am sure there are other things we reuse I just can't think of them right now!

9. Pay Cash - This. Is. Essential. My husband has nearly perfect credit. We don't use it. Apart from our home and the occasional car, we do not base any purchases on credit. We use an envelope system for our purchases each pay check. If we want something, we save for it. This goes against a traditional American mindset, but it works. We still eat out. We still have fun. We just do it within boundaries. Credit cards are silly in my opinion. Why by things you don't have the money for? If you are self disciplined enough, you might have one for emergencies, but most people just aren't. 

10. Simplify and Prioritize - There are so many aspects of our lives that we consider essential until we seriously review the difference between a need and a want. We want to have cable. We need food. We want an iPhone. We need clothes. For us, it is not a big deal that we don't have cable TV. Between Hulu and our Amazon Prime membership, we watch all the shows we could want and only pay a total of $120 a year. We have "dumb phones". They work great. They have excellent service. Our internet at the house provides us with all the browsing we need. We pay $70 a month for all the texting and calling we can use! We don't have a flat screen TV...we want one, but we are waiting until we buy a bed big enough for the three of us and a good quality water filtration system. Some things are just more important than others! 

So there you have it my friends! As much wisdom about living a wonderful life on a budget as I could squeeze into three posts! Please feel free to post questions, I will share whatever will be helpful. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

One Income Part II

Continuing right where we left off in yesterday's post on living off one income.

4. Meal Plan - I cannot emphasize enough the importance of meal planning! It changes so much of how I approach shopping, cooking, and time management. I started meal planning when we got married and have not stopped since. I plan dinners for Monday through Friday (my husband takes leftovers for lunch), and lunch and dinner for weekends. Here is how I do mine. 

At the end of each month (sometime between the 25th and the 31st) I sit down with some colored pens and a cool calendar I printed (let's be real, who would want to meal plan on boring old paper with a black pen?). I grab my laptop and open up Pinterest and about six more tabs for all of my food boards. I have several go to meals (chicken and dumplings, chili, baked chicken, spicy chicken salad, meatloaf, etc.) that make it onto every month's menu. I go ahead and write those in on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays which are our busiest days of the month. Then, while Blaze naps in my lap, I peruse Pinterest and all of its culinary goodies for ideas. Since we share meals at least once a week and we eat at our church a couple times a month, I usually only have to plan twenty dinners per month. Ingredients for each meal make up my grocery list so I write it as I plan. I shop every two weeks so my list can be pretty lengthy .The nice thing about meal planning is once it is done, my grocery list is a cinch. As an organizer by nature, my list is set up by category (dairy, produce, canned, frozen, dry, meat, household, hygiene, other). Once my list is complete, I head out to get groceries for the next two weeks. 

How does this save money? Planning saves money. When I go to the grocery store with a plan I don't waste money on foods we won't consume. I buy what we will use plus a few snacks and that is all. Especially now that we have a baby this method has worked well for us.

Also, be aware that this process will seem daunting the first time you do it. However, as you get used to it and learn what your go to menu items are and have a great repertoire on Pinterest. Meal planning plus writing my grocery list takes about an hour for me each month.

If you just cannot imagine spending 1-3 hours each month planning out your meals, I highly recommend Holistic Squid's meal plans which are written for you with a correlating grocery list at a mere $6 per month!

5. DIY - If you read my blog regularly, you know I like to make things. There are several reasons for this. By nature, I am a creative person, so I thoroughly enjoy making things. Then there is the money factor, making things yourself saves money 99% of the time! Finally, I am a health nut! So many products we purchase are full of nasty carcinogens and chemicals I don't want near my family. Below is a list of items I make at our home that save us money and are healthier. I have shared some of these recipes already and link them on the list if so! 

6. Cloth Diaper - This is a simple one really. According to several different sources, to diaper a baby from birth to potty training in disposable diapers will cost between $1500 to $3000. This is taking into account the cost of diapers, wipes, and diaper rash creams and varies based on what brand you purchase. 

Cloth diapers can be used from birth to potty training for one child and often can be used for multiple children. The cost of diapering one child can range from $300 to $1500. These numbers are taking into account water and electricity use as well as various brands and types of diapers. We are cloth diapering Blaze and spent only $120 on Blaze's entire set of diapers. We use a homemade diaper spray and I cut up some used baby blankets I purchased at a yard sale for cloth wipes. It is easy. It is economical. It is healthier for your baby. It is smart. 

7. Breastfeed - Okay, so I am not going to get on a soap box about the amazing health benefits of breastfeeding your baby and baby led weaning (as much as I want to); I am going to tell you that breastfeeding saves you crazy large amounts of money. A decent can of formula will cost about $26 and most babies use at least one large can per week. Multiply that by 52 and you get a low number of $1300! This does not include the cost of bottles, pacifiers, soap, electricity, water, etc. 

Breastfeeding has cost us $13.00 (for the one special nursing bra I purchased and then realized I did not need). I was gifted a used Medela pump as well as eight glass bottles from my registry. If I had had to purchase these items we would have spent more like $200. The difference in cost between formula and breast feeding is staggering. Plus, my baby has access to milk wherever we are, if the electricity is out, if we are in a hurry, and it is always the right temperature, and always provides comfort and complete nutrition. 

Oh, and we don't use the bottles. I have frozen some milk for when he begins solids, but he has had two bottles since birth and he is 5 months old!

In the next post on a family of three living on less than $30,000 net pay annually I will finish up my list of 10! Hope you are gleaning something helpful or encouraging from these insights!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

One Income

Less than $30,000.
That is our annual net pay.
After taxes.
After insurance.
My little family of three.
We eat.
We live.
We travel.
We share.
We wear.
We enjoy.

On less than $30,000 net pay annually.

We used to bring home over double that amount. A year ago. When I was teaching. However, we prayed and we talked and then we decided. We decided that with some planning and some changes we could thrive (yes, I wasn't quitting my job to perish) and I could stay home to raise our son (and future children).

Why am I sharing such private information? Well, I hope to help some of you. Currently, pretty much all of my friends between the ages of 23 and 35 are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, and/or chasing around a couple kids already! My daily conversations with college friends have slowly morphed from a quick chat about weekend plans or needing notes from a class, to discussions about (even pictures of) diaper rash, homeopathic cures for snotty noses, and how many times a day a baby can/should spit up.

Interjected between comments about breastfeeding and using coconut oil for everything, my friends often share their desire to stay at home with their children. More than one friend has sighed and said, "I wish we could afford for me to stay home". This post is meant for that friend. I am being so transparent for the reader that feels like they just don't have the finances to live off of one income.

There is hope. It can be done. Here is our story. This is how we made it work. Apart from the money we save on not using daycare, here are the ten things/ways/practices we have found essential for living on one income under thirty thousand net dollars a year.

1. Tithe - I realize not all of you are Christians, and this concept may confuse and/or offend you. However, I  am merely sharing what has worked for us. Take it or leave it. By tithe, I mean bringing 10% of your gross pay (before taxes) to your local church. Indeed this seems counter intuitive. I can only speak from experience. We have tithed our entire marriage and have always had our needs met. When I was younger, I skipped a tithe occasionally due to lack of funds. When I didn't pay my tithe, my money disappeared! Seriously, if I was not tithing, I often did not have enough money for extras, or sometimes had to borrow to pay a bill. This has not happened when we tithe. We have money for what we need, and usually, a little extra for things we want.

"...'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,'
Says the Lord of hosts,
'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,'
says the Lord of hosts."

Malachi 3:9-11

2. Share - Another mind boggling concept when you think about living on a limited income. Really, it works. My in-laws (I refer to them as my "in-loves", since we are family through love and law) live just down the road. This used to really bother me. They are super sweet people, however, being so close to people that love your husband almost as much as you do can have its own set of problems (another story for another day). This past year I have realized some of the amazing benefits of living in the same small town with my in-loves. Primarily, we can share food. At least two nights a week we share a meal. How does cooking for four people instead of two save us money? Well, I pretty much cook the same amount of food and we just have less leftovers! At our home I cook enough each evening to send my beloved husband a lunch the next day, any other leftovers are eaten by me or thrown away because my dear husband won't consume anything older than 48 hours! On nights when I am cooking for my in-loves I prepare chili, spaghetti, chicken and dumplings, or something easy and inexpensive to fix. Also, in return for fixing them dinner, they fix us a meal the same week! That means we only pay for one meal and get two! We have also done "meal-sharing" with good friends in this same manner.

3. Buy in Bulk - Okay, now this is a tricky one! We eat about 75% organic, so I have to watch prices very carefully. I used to coupon and that did save us some money, but over time I realized I was often sacrificing quality food just to get what I had a coupon for. There are three different ways I buy bulk items. 

First, I use Amazon Prime. This amazing membership costs a mere $79/yr ($39/yr for college students), and includes free 2 day shipping on thousands of items as well as instant videos (we don't have cable) and a kindle lending library. I purchase a myriad of items off Amazon in bulk. Including organic spices, flours, toilet paper, clay, oils, sugar, teas, coffee, and more! Also, Amazon has an amazing feature called "subscribe and save" which further reduces the cost of an item by simply subscribing to have it shipped to you regularly. 

If you decide to join after reading this post, please use my link so I can get credit for referring you. 

The second way we buy in bulk is through our local farmer. Last year, we began purchasing half a cow from a local farm that raises their meat humanely, on grass, and using organic methods. We have saved a lot of money doing this since our local grocery store charges nearly TEN DOLLARS a pound for organic beef! When we purchase our meat we get it butchered and packaged any way we like and pay just over THREE DOLLARS a pound for all cuts (including steaks, roasts, etc.). The meat even tastes better because it is fresh!

Finally, the third way we purchase in bulk is at our grocery store and our local, seasonal farmer's market. I cook with lots of onion, carrots, garlic, and potatoes. I also make homemade flour tortillas and bread. When I go to the store or our seasonal market I carefully review the prices on these items. I have found that buying 10 pounds of onions, carrots, and potatoes saves us several dollars a month. We purchase several pounds of Amish butter at a time and receive a discount on it as well. At our local market I have even  been able to get things in bulk just by asking!

So there you have it, the first three things we do to live (happily and healthily) on less than $30,000 net pay annually. I will continue this list in my next post. Thanks for reading!