Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Winslet's Premature Birth: Was I Ready to Let Go?

I haven't published here in a while, though I have been writing all these months mostly in small snippets posted to Instagram or captured in notes on my phone. It's always tough to come back from a long writing absence, especially following a time when there was so much to say. I'm posting tonight a vignette from the evening Winslet was born back in March. A birth photo from the kindest soul, Patience Salgado, serves to jog my memory.  


Winslet’s birth was for me a curious entanglement of dread and utter relief. It was a journey we made together with my mind half in and half out of my body. Surreal, calm. The context was disorienting. Contractions weren’t quitting. My cervix was dilating. There was nothing more they could do but remove the cerclage then wait and see. A magnesium drip was started to protect her tiny brain from bleeding, and the stitch that had gifted us six weeks—enough so she could have a chance to live at all—was cut and pulled from my body. 

That was the scariest moment. I feared for what would come next and I hoped to my core that my cervix wouldn’t open up right there and she be born, too fast to feel grounded in the triumph of laboring her down and pushing her out. A warmth crawled through my body from the inside out as the magnesium took effect and I closed my eyes and pleaded please, at least give me that. Let me have the privilege of doing the work to bring her earthside.

I appreciate birth for it’s purpose known and unknown, for it’s raw intensity, the power shift, the love and tenderness, and for the pain. Oh the pain. To surrender to that depth and to lean in to ourselves, to feel it all, and to such a lovely endthe experience is wholly enchanting. 

But this would be my second birth where our story's timing was all wrong. 

Despite what appeared to be true, a piece of my mama heart remained to believe I could carry her longer. Was there not more I could do?

My doula arrived and took hold of my arm confidently, firmly. She looked into my eyes and pulled me back into the moment to face the darkness. She asked me, truthteller: “Ok, but are you ready to let go of her?”—this when my body was leaving early labor and the pain was ramping up, contractions coming longer stronger and closer together. The tears came then because my baby wasn’t ready and so neither was I.

At 25 weeks there was so much more I needed to do for her. I wanted to keep her protected and the thought of letting her out of my body made me feel helpless and dark and yet I also wanted the pregnancy to end because everything about it had just been so hard. To release her would end bedrest, end my hospitalization, reconnect me to the daily lives of my other two children. The waiting for the next thing—come what may—had been emotionally exhausting and painful for all of us. Still, I wondered if I was I trying to hold her in, and if it even made a difference—maybe so. For weeks I had been holding on for her dear life.

I don’t remember if I reasonably said yes, or truthfully answered no, but in that moment I knew our course was set.  

What would she look like? Would she live? Would she be damaged because life outside of me would be so unkind?

I wasn't ready to find out but I wasn't alone.


Photo Cred: Patience Salgado

Monday, March 7, 2016

Welcoming Winslet. Empowering Preemie Birth.

Winslet Amaris Lee was born on Thursday night, March 3rd at 7:56pm. 2lbs. 12.5 inches. 25 weeks and 6 days gestation.

I have so much to share about the weeks and hours leading up to her birth but while we were living the ups and downs of it I wasn't able to process fast enough to write it in a timely way.

I've been riding the high of Winslet's birth for the last few days, a beginning that I cherish because the NICU journey sprawls out in front of us and the significance of feeling empowered as we move into the next phase of our story together can't be underestimated.

Delayed cord clamping for preemies is standard policy at the hospital we chose and all babies born early get 45 seconds of time to allow the placenta to pump additional blood into their bodies before the umbilical cord is cut. The benefits are many. Usually, the baby is held below the placenta—in the hands of the obstetrician—but a nurse on my team advocated for me to give birth on all fours so that Winslet could be passed between my legs and placed in front of me where I could look at her, touch her, and talk to her before she was taken to the NICU and hooked up to all the technology.

Having experienced a rather conservatively managed birth with Merritt, born at 33 weeks, and based on Winslet's gestational age and degree of extreme prematurity I just assumed she would be whisked away from me and that we would be reunited in the NICU some hours later. However, the whole team from the neonatologist to the obstetrician and labor nurses, supported and encouraged the idea of face-to-face time during the delayed cord clamping.

Photography Credit: Patience Salgado

I labored in another room but to give the NICU team sufficient space to properly support her I delivered in the operating room. My labor unfolded over the course of several hours, and when I could feel her moving down, and then an urge to push, I was wheeled down the hall to the OR. My water broke with one contraction on the way there, and with the next I turned on hands and knees and pushed her little body out before anyone else was even aware that she was coming. Someone reached through my legs moving her toward me and I picked her up and brought her closer. I was shocked at her size having given birth to 4 and 7 pound babies in the past, but she was perfect. And she looked like Merritt! I turned her face toward mine and I took her in. Her tiny hands, her big feet, her ears and hair. She didn't make any sounds, but she was strong and vigorous with her arms and legs.

Photography Credit: Patience Salgado

It had never been done before at this hospital, but we did it, and those 45 seconds were a gift to us. The opportunity to connect with her in this way lessened some of the fear I carried for her and made her early arrival feel less traumatic. Her birth was peaceful and intimate. Yes, she was fragile—intubated shortly-after for prematurity of her lungs—but not so fragile that she couldn't experience the benefits of delayed cord clamping, or the touch of her mama and papa.

Maybe other families here will get to experience such an empowering and beautiful start to their preemie parenting journey because we asked to do it first.

Photography Credit: Patience Salgado

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Claiming Winslet: loving my baby in the face of uncertainty

Melted crayon valentine hanging

Into this pregnancy I carried my best intentions to be bold and brave in the face of deep-seated worry for another baby born early, or worse. When we found out I was pregnant on the night of the super blood moon at 3 weeks and 4 days I couldn't keep it to myself, and I didn't want to. I shared our joy with friends and family, the boys told their teachers and their friends' parents at preschool. Word was out before I had even missed my period and while it felt a little eager, I chose to embrace our great happiness in that moment without pause for worry that something could go wrong or that our path might at some point change course. It was a choice I made because I wanted this third pregnancy to be different. I wanted to put to practice what I hadn't known when pregnant with the boys and liberate myself from some of the anxiety and unrest I had experienced in past antepartum and postpartum periods. I wanted to fully feel this "redemption" pregnancy. From start to finish I wanted to feel it all.

Though my heart was all-in those first few weeks I was soon in survival mode, suffering in my own ways through a long bout of morning sickness, and questioning the decision we'd made to catapult our lives back into the unknown. Sitting with the discomfort that change sometimes brings I was disappointed and unhappy about the way that our days were compromised: our adventures, our homeschool, our time spent alone and together; and with five years between pregnancies I was apprehensive about returning to that place of high physical demand mothering after having finally learned how to carve out my independence. I even wrestled with the idea that if the spotting and bleeding made a turn for the worse and we lost the pregnancy, that it would be ok—maybe even more than ok as everything could return to a familiar normal.

Beneath all these normal emotions flowed an undercurrent of anxiety. Loss and grief remain a part of my mothering story—even all these years later—and while I had every indication at the time that this pregnancy would be different, not knowing what to expect made it difficult to feel settled and to connect with this little person for whom I carried a huge burden of uncertainty. How far into the pregnancy would I make it before giving birth? Would my third baby have to endure a NICU beginning too? Would my baby be healthy and whole despite an early arrival?

To cope with these feelings of vulnerability I kept a safe distance from the emotional call of the experience. I focused on the physicality of pregnancy and maintained family life as close to normal as possible. The baby remained an intangible possibility and the pregnancy a surreal state of in between.

At 10.5 weeks we found out I was carrying a girl. I began to dream a little about all the yet to be discovered aspects of life and of my being that I wouldn't have realized had I only mothered boys. The pregnancy itself still felt otherwise precarious with first trimester spotting continuing. But still. A daughter. A baby girl who would grow and one day get a period (!), maybe even have a baby of her own. I felt more connected to her just anticipating the mutuality of shared life experience.

At 17.5 weeks, emerging from the depths of morning sickness and clinging to my perinatalogist's new optimism for a term pregnancy, I began to feel at ease and even enthusiastic. In hindsight we had made it through the fall intact, and hey—maybe in a few years I could even do this a fourth time! I was hopeful that we would realize home birth again and finally looked forward to a postpartum done right. 



We named our daughter Winslet Amaris Lee. I bought a tiny banner in felt and canvas to hang over her small nook in our bedroom. Halfway through the pregnancy (by my own count), I was feeling energetic, and getting organized again around the things we'd let slip in the fall. I was looking forward to the rest of winter and then to her arrival in late spring.

These small acts of preparation brought her more fully into my conscience but it wouldn't be until a few weeks later that I would feel compelled to let down my guard entirely.

***

20 weeks.

On the morning of my emergent cerclage I ruminated over recent conversations with my provider as bright snow fell in silence outside my window.

"We'll be lucky if we can get the cerclage in, there's so little tissue left." 

"If I can't place the cerclage it is your legal right in VA to disrupt a pregnancy through week 24."

"If it buys you only three or four weeks I won't have done you any good." 

There was a chance the cerclage could not be placed—we wouldn't know until they assessed on the operating table. There was the possibility that my bag of waters could rupture during the procedure or in the weeks that followed. My amniotic sac was funneling too, which wasn't a great sign. My provider felt that if we did nothing the baby would be born in 2-3 weeks and die. Earlier that morning Andy and I had cried together, wondering to what lengths we were willing to go to intervene for her life in a very early birth.

In the hours leading up to the procedure I lay in polar bear with my hips high in the air and my head to the hospital sheeting. David Bowie's Space Oddity played softly in my ear. With my city in a snow globe and I in an unfamiliar microcosm of my own—Winslet dancing inside my belly, oblivious to all of it—I realized then that I couldn't keep her at a distance for fear of losing her. Not wanting to feel that space between us anymore I understood it was time. I needed to truly claim her. I needed to tell her. I needed to deeply feel that she was mine and ask her to stay.

So I spoke to her. Winslet, I love you. You belong with us. Please stay inside. I'm your mama and I'm going to do everything I can to keep you in as long as I can. You need to stay put. It's snowing outside. Stay cozy. Stay warm. I want you to join us when you are truly ready to be born. Move away from my cervix.

To my cervix: Cervix, you stay closed. Do not let her out. She's not ready.


***

In those hours leading up to pre-op I found clarity in the complexities that thrive in the grayest shadows of life as we know it, and it marked a turning point for me in my relationship with my daughter, a softening that rippled change into my being forever. A shiny new layer in my mothering journey.

Did it work? I'll never know, but the cerclage was successfully placed and we are still here at 22 weeks 6 days. I'm moving forward with every intention that she will live because I don't want to cheat myself of my own daughter, however this story plays out.

Winslet at 22.5 weeks. I think she looks like Merritt. 

I've assembled a small registry for a handful of things I would like to have before she arrives. I'm looking forward to a blessingway celebration for the two of us when we reach 27 weeks. I think about her skin, and the way she will smell, and how long her fingernails will be, and what color hair she'll have. I think about the weight of her little body in my arms, curled up close. I think about nursing her. Right alongside these details I'm also embracing NICU wires and sensors, and the look and feel and sounds of the hospital: plastic isolettes, hand sanitizer, white walls, and of weeks spent without sunshine just staring at her and holding her skin to mine, watching the monitors, and discussing her care at rounds. I imagine the first meeting of the boys with their little sister. I'm reading up on NICU life, re-familiarizing myself with the latest data and best practices, and planning for the ways I will care for myself while caring for her after she is born.

For every week we keep little sister inside we celebrate by lighting another candle. Tomorrow we will have 3!

At home we talk about Winslet a lot. At first I wasn't sure how far to take it with the boys, but for the same reasons I must make her real for me I must make her real for them. We are all in this together and everyone is working hard to keep her close for as long as we possibly can.

By fully embracing her in this way, a quiet acceptance for the unknown has also emerged. In allowing myself to love her right now I don't have to wait for answers. Loving her isn't contingent on knowing.

I will love her with certainty for nothing else.

An altar of our weekly candles, and flowers and blessings left on our doorstep by a friend. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

And the Beautycounter Giveaway Winner Is...!


Good morning BoldHearts!

The lucky winner of the Beautycounter giveaway is Carmen Slayton! Please email me at boldheartmama@gmail.com and I will connect you with Rebecca to complete your order and have it shipped directly to you. I can't wait to hear which product you pick!



Thank you to all who entered and shared the giveaway. If would like to learn more about Beautycounter or purchase a gift for yourself or for someone else please message Rebecca Riemer directly at rebecca.p.riemer@gmail.com. She will share samples and help you to find just the right product for you or your kids. Also check out her Beautycounter Facebook page for more information.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Week 21: Bedrest Becomes You

It's been a wild week and a half. Two Thursdays ago we were gearing up for the biggest snow storm of the year. Our fridge was filled with ingredients intended for potato soup, cream biscuits, buttermilk pancakes, winter tea, and chocolate yogurt—comfort foods to make a treat out of being housebound for the weekend. All we needed, then, was a thing or two more of firewood and we would be set.

Andy had been traveling on business in the days leading up to Thursday morning and he arrived from the west coast via red-eye around 10am. On his first step into the house the kids bombarded him with their new lego builds and crafty things they'd created in his absence, while pressing to know what he had brought back to them from his airport convenience store raids for knick knacks and sweet things. Soon after, we bundled up and left to grab lunch at our favorite coffee shop, leaving Andy to nap, and returning home around 1:00 so I could make it to a routine cervical-length check appointment—my first since the preterm consult I wrote about here.

While my cervix had been a normal length (3.1 cm) at 17.5 weeks, in only two week's time it had funneled to just 7 mm. I was admitted to the hospital on bedrest Thursday night and scheduled for an emergent cerclage. The procedure itself carries inherent risk to pregnancy, and we weren't certain there was enough tissue to stitch, but a cerclage was successfully placed on Saturday. I stayed over for post-surgery monitoring and discharged late Monday afternoon.

My writers mind has been blocked these last 10 days. There's been so much activity, information, worry, and wonder—peace in my mind creates space to write with purpose, and it's been challenging under the circumstance to focus in on any one thing to write about in a coherent way. The winds have been shifting daily, and that's probably part of the challenge. I have been writing to process though it mostly occurs in text conversations and notes I make for myself, and some journaling here and there—but for my you, my reader, I've not really known where to begin. I'm probably more timely on Instagram right now, if you would like to follow along over there.

The current situation is this: I am on bedrest until I give birth. Given the nature of my pregnancy, my providers have shifted a degree, and my midwife is now serving as my doula, her collaborative physician is now my primary OB, and I'm planning a hospital birth at one of two local hospitals that I will get to choose from based on my preference for their NICUs—one has established mother baby rooming-in, and the other is undergoing a big transformation that could translate to a similar setup in the coming weeks or months, but I will have to wait to see how it all comes together. I'm also being monitored by a maternal fetal medicine specialist.

The cerclage buys time, but we don't know how much time. We are expecting Winslet to be born early, at 30 weeks or sooner. I am 21 and 2 days today and 24 is the magic week of viability. My goals right now are focused and simple: to connect with my daughter; to rally my family to protect Winslet and to remain adaptable to our new normal; to take each day as it comes; and to ask for and accept help.


Andy has altered his work schedule so that he's home 2 days a week to help me and to take Roscoe and Merritt to activities outside the house. My mom and sister are helping on the weekends and we have homemade dinners arriving nightly from friends in our community. My mama friends are coming to help with the boys and to bring their kids over for playdates. I feel well supported and so grateful. I was discussing with a friend how these strict boundaries and limitations, while challenging in their own way, do elicit a greater appreciation for the details of regular daily life, and it certainly sparks creativity and a desire to make the best of what this (crazy) season is offering me at the moment, much like seasonal eating in the winter time when variety is slim and it first looks like you don't have much to work with. I think it helps that this forced hibernation is occurring mid-winter, when everyone else is compelled inside too. Though I was annoyed by the temps today—in the high 60's—and I realized that at this point I would feel much better if it were bitter cold and miserable outside.

While my enthusiasm for bedrest will surely wax and wane, right now there is a pleasant novelty to it. I've picked up a knitting project I shelved a few years ago, and I've ordered some craft kits from purl soho to give me something to do when there is downtime. I have a new book of Henry David Thorough's work, which I will be reading voraciously for any and all inspiration. I'm craving a nature walk right now, in a bad way, and I may have to set up an observation station outside so I can sip warm drinks from a perch of my own making to feel the wind and hear the sounds, and watch my breath create smoke in the winter air. A firepit this time of year could be my new oasis.

Beyond bedrest, we are all adjusting to spending more time together as a family, and helping the kids to function when there are two parents around, with the primary one sidelined. Our general routine was a shifting of responsibility, either Andy was on or I was on, but we didn't spend a lot of time each week all together, the four us. It's also tough to parent from the couch. That's not really working well at all! The boys are under their own stresses and worries for the situation, new routines, and lots of new faces around the house. Their emotions run high, so we are being mindful of their process and trying to help them to make sense of everything and stay even keeled. And for me, I've had to give up (along with everything else) my regular workout routine, which is necessary at this time but also steals away a core part of my being and a daily mental health outlet that I have learned to heavily rely on. So there's all of that!

Still, I know this is all just a matter of time. Tomorrow is February, and by June Winslet will be home with us, and we'll be hurdling together into the Summer months. The interim of now is not forever.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Beauty Counter Giveaway: YOU pick the product, Leave a Comment to Win



If you've been curious to try BeautyCounter, now may be the perfect time.

I don't often do giveaways, but when I do I pick a brand I really like and make the giveaway really simple.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below. You can earn additional entries by taking some other easy actions like sharing this contest on social media or placing an order.

____

If you care about the quality and safety of the health products that you and your family consume, from household products to hair care and makeup, you've probably noticed that the spectrum of ingredient-conscious brands has expanded and improved so much in recent years, both in quality and accessibility. Some of my longtime favorites are Alima Pure, Honest Co., Pit Paste, Dr. Bronner's, and Mac's Smack, but the process of trial and error to replace my old, less-safe brands with new safer ones is ongoing.

I was recently introduced to Beauty Counter by my friend and former neighbor Rebecca who also reps the brand. I sampled a few nice things and decided to buy a pot of peppermint lip conditioner, and a bottle of level 3 face oil—a delicious ylang ylang and wild chamomile essential oils moisturizer.

Beauty Counter's products can be a bit pricey, but I think they are a worth-it splurge if you are looking for a quality product that you can feel good about using on yourself and your kids, or if you're looking for an alternative to try as a replacement for a not-so-great brand that you've come to rely on, or if you're just looking to treat yourself. Since Beauty Counter is sold exclusively online I like that I have access to a consultant for personalized recommendations, to have my questions answered by someone who knows and uses the products, and to maybe even sample a thing or two in-person before I commit.


About Beauty Counter

Their mission is to get safe beauty products into the hands of everyone.

According to their site: There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don't have any safety data. This is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry. Only about 10% of the 10,000 chemicals commonly found in personal care products have safety data ... and the Food and Drug Administration (the agency that regulates cosmetics) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful (lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates) in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids every single day, day after day.

At Beautycounter, they've banned more than 1,500 ingredients setting a new health and safety standard.

Check out this glossary of ingredients carefully chosen for inclusion in their product lines, and likewise, a list of ingredients you'll NEVER find in any of their products.


A Few Words From Rebecca

Almost two years ago, after several close family members had some scary health diagnoses, I decided that I wanted to be more mindful about the beauty products that I use. Around that time I found BeautyCounter, whose mission is to provide safe personal care and beauty products that are extremely effective and high quality. I decided to try out a few things. My first order included Every Day moisturizer and Face Oil #2 and I was immediately hooked.

About a year later, our family moved to a new state. I was 8 months pregnant and left my full time attorney job. After my healthy baby girl was born, I had been home a few months with no real job prospects. While I loved being home with my little ones, I still felt like I wanted to do something to keep my mind busy and give myself another purpose. I contacted an old friend from college (now my BeautyCounter mentor) about joining BeautyCounter as a consultant, and the rest is history. I was very inspired by the stories of Mompreneur's on BoldHeartMama while I was kind of adrift professionally, so I have to say this community was an inspiration for me to get started, too.

I am currently back working full time and managing my BeautyCounter business, too. BeautyCounter is great because you can really make it your own. Some women do this full time and supplement their families incomes, while I have a smaller business that caters mostly to friends and family. I thought that this would be a great place to partner with Jacqueline for a giveaway because BC and BHM share many similar goals, such as mindful self care, little luxuries, and that entrepreneurial spirit. I'm so excited to share BC and hope you love it as much as I do! I'm happy to answer any product questions or talk a little more about BC's mission.


The Giveaway


On to the contest. You can enter to WIN ONE FULL-SIZE product of your choice, excluding gift sets. ANY product! If you've been hesitatant to make the investment for any reason, now is the time to enter, win, and see for yourself!

There are several easy ways to enter, choose one or do them all to increase your chances of winning! Please leave one comment for EACH of your entries. 


1. Check out BeautyCounter's website and leave a comment to share the product/s you'd like to try, what you'll choose if you win, or any other topic you'd like to share!

2. Share on Facebook and tag me @boldheartmama

3. Share on Twitter and tag me @boldheartmama

4. Share on Instagram and tag me @boldheartmama

5. Place an order through "BoldheartMama's BeautyCounter Social" Link at top of page

6. Schedule an online social with Rebecca by contacting her at rebecca.p.riemer@gmail.com


Good luck BoldHearts!

The Fine Print: The BoldHeartMama BeautyCounter giveaway will close January 28th at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be chosen via random.org's random number generator and announced on February 1st. Winner will choose one full-size product, excluding gift sets, and chosen product will be shipped to the location of winner's choice. All entries will be verified; comments that contain more than one entry will be counted only once. 

Need a few ideas for where to start? In addition to the Face Oil and Lustro Sugar Scrub highlighted in Fall's Small Comforts Little Luxuries post, I also like the Enrich Body Butter. When my current brand of body oil runs out (soon!) I want to give the Rose Neroli Body Oil a try next. Annnd, with yummy scents like vanilla orange swirl and fruit cup I'm also curious to give the kid's bath collection a whirl: Nice Do Shampoo, Not A Knot Conditioner, Squeeky Clean Body Wash.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Week 18: Calm

This morning Andy and I shared our first date in a long while for a pre-term consult and the "20 week" anatomy scan. Baby is healthy and perfect, and it's official: we are having a little girl! I suppose we could have trusted the DNA fragments from the labs drawn at 10 weeks, but it was nice to get a visual confirmation the old fashioned way. We also got a quick glimpse of her face in 4D, which is always a bit wild (and sometimes concerning) but this time I melted a little as she does look a lot like her brothers, oh child of mine.

A first glimpse of baby w's profile. 

The last few months have been hard. Debilitating morning sickness and exhaustion that lasted well into the 16th week, mixed-in with Fall homeschool, and muddled by the Holidays; it has felt like a marathon to me. While this pregnancy challenges me on many levels the promise of a new year, and new beginnings, seems to have come at just the right time. 

My melancholic fog lifted around Christmas, in large part due to morning sickness finally (finally!!) leaving, but also the welcome intrusion of the Holiday into what has otherwise been experienced as a repetitive and unrelenting existence for far too many months. With Andy home and family around to share help with the boys I was able to unplug from my responsibilities for small amounts of time. Finding an extra hour or two more of sleep each night was almost transformative, and the opportunity to connect with real live people—after months spent sleeping it off in bed or hermitted away inside our house—was essential to feeling human again. It's hard to mother alone, and that fact has been underscored for me, yet again, in these Fall and early Winter months.

After feeling so low for so long, the positive energy shift was palpable and I wanted—and needed—to focus it on the good and fun parts of expecting a baby: picking her name, preparing the house, buying a thing or two for her to wear. I've put my feelers out for a birth photographer, I'm looking into placenta encapsulation, and I'm considering hiring a postpartum doula. (Did you eat your placenta?! I want to hear all about it if you did.)

We are in the very last stages of securing financing for construction of our house. Permits have been pulled and everything but the final appraisal is complete. The new house won't be move-in ready before the Summer, so our baby will be born and spend her first months in our current rental, making it easy for me to prep for her arrival because we don't have a lot of space to fret over. I'm going a simple route with plans to keep her clothes in my side dresser, and a bin for diaper-change necessities on top. I'll assemble a nursing station next to the big comfy chair in our living room and, other than gifting myself with a new sling, I think that's most of what we need.

In a nesting frenzy last week I pulled down from the attic the crates of newborn clothes I'd squirreled away for future babies, and sorted through everything marked 0-6 months. I threw away quite a bit, made a bag for goodwill, and sifted through all the boy stuff to find the gender-neutral pieces. I washed two loads of preemie (so tiny!) and newborn layette, folded them, and tucked them into the little spot I've cleared space for in our bedroom. I ordered a handsome ombre banner with her name on it to hang in celebration of her arrival, since she won't have much else that is hers in our house. I intend to have everything ready by 25 weeks, just to be on the safe side, but my consult today did give me new hope and peace of mind for a normal pregnancy and birth.

Based on the context of my past pregnancies and birth history, my perinatalogist is optimistic that I'll carry to term. I've declined progesterone prophylaxis in favor of watchful waiting of my cervix and bimonthly monitoring. If at any point it begins to shorten I'll get a cervical cerclage, but hopefully that won't be needed. This approach relieves much of the immediate stresses I associate with anticipating an early birth by reducing the dreaded element of surprise because we'll have information to go off of all along the way.

For now I'm relieved to know that our girl is healthy, and that she has a good chance at a peaceful entry into the world.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mulled Cranberry Punch: A Winter Guest Post


Recipe for Mulled Cranberry Punch. A guest post by Heidi Bone, kitchen maven extraordinaire, seasonally inspired Pinner, and mini blogger at Deliberate Cookery. The boys and I love this recipe. They prefer theirs cut with apple cider, and I have enjoyed savoring small cups of this addictively tart non-alcoholic drink in the evenings while I wait for the kids to fall asleep. Don't worry, you can add a little something to yours if you're feeling more festive. :) Thank you Heidi, for sharing your inventive culinary spirit with us!

Winter is the perfect time to play with a recipe like this fantastic mulled cranberry punch because HEAT is necessary for the infusion of spices in juice.

This warm and spicy punch is married with honey to create a sweet and tart drink that makes a lovely companion for dark mornings and afternoons, when aromatic steam rising from a simmering pot in a chilly kitchen is incredibly comforting.

The fun in this recipe is it’s versatility. Experiment with the flavors and make it your own! I look forward to stockpiling a variety of juices this winter and simmering small batches with spices, herbs, and teas just for fun, and for warmth of body and soul. I hope this recipe inspires you to find your new favorite drink this season.

Let’s get started!


Cranberries are über tart. If you take a perusal down any juice section of your local market most cranberry juices are sold in cocktails and blended with grape or apple to cut through the tang and highlight the sweet notes, so it can be a challenge to start with only pure organic unsweetened cranberry juice. I used R.W. Knudsen’s organic "Just" cranberry sold in a 32 oz. glass jar.



The Basic Punch

Combine into a large stock pot or sauce pan:
  • Cranberry Juice, 32oz. 
  • Two fresh squeezed oranges (I recommend something high in natural sugar content, like a sweet and juicy Cara Cara or Sweet Valencia.)
  • One tablespoon of crushed mulling spices (You can make your own with what you have on hand! See below.)
  • Eight crushed cardamom pods
  • One tablespoon and a half of pomegranate or hibiscus flowers (Find them at your local health food store.) 
  • One knob of ginger 1/2 to 2 inches in length, chopped (Add more if you like more spice, or less if you don’t.)

Once combined you will have a big pot of spicy acidic tang! Bring to a boil without a lid and then lower to medium-low heat and simmer 20 minutes or more, taste-testing the infusion to your liking.
 

Now Sweeten...

To sweeten the mix naturally and nutritiously I would use the Really Raw Honey brand or, if you can afford it, Manuka honey. Of course, local honey is fine too. Start with half a cup of honey and add more to taste.

Strain...

Once it tastes the way you like, strain and funnel into your favorite serving pot or, like I did, back into the glass jug the cranberry juice came in for refrigeration.

and Serve!

I recommend a 6oz serving at a time, warmed stovetop.

Variations: 

The fun in this recipe is experimenting to make it your own:
  • Try a different juice as a base
  • Add a bit of rum at night for extra warmth
  • Steep loose or bagged rooibos in this mix for extra depth, 1tsp for 1 serving or or 1 bag for the pot. 
  • For a sweeter cranberry punch, use half cranberry and half pear/apple/grape/or carrot, with less honey
  • Add fresh citrus peel or zest
  • Serve with honey sticks, for the kids
  • Drink cold over ice: 
    • Try half punch and half lightly sweetened herbal/green/black tea,
    • or half punch, and half coconut water, or seltzer in the warmer months


MAKE YOUR OWN MULLING SPICE MIX

I buy a bulk mulling spice mix at the farmers market but you can make your own with any combination of what you have on hand at home: fresh or dried orange peel, cinnamon bark, allspice, cloves, and anise seed. Check the bulk section of your organic market to assemble your spice mix less expensively than buying whole individual containers of each spice.


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