Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dear Del ... at seven years old!!

Dear Del,
Another year! And now you're a SEVEN year old kid. Again, it's amazing it's only been a year. We've done so much, you've grown so much, and at the same time, we're still here, on our farm living our life. You've become increasingly ... um, screechy? Maybe that's the way to say it? It seems that any action someone else takes, is clearly an attack against you - at least, in your own mind. This is stressful for all and hard to know how to approach.
The biggest change for you this year, was your sisters moving back to their dads. This is what fostering is. And while you were sad to see them go and you miss them, you were also happy to see them go. I think that feeling was shared by everyone - me, you, the girls, daddy, Noah ...
And overtime, the screechy-ness ebbed and your immediate assumption that someone sniffed because they were mad at you eased. You're still drama and you still take things personally (that are not personal in the least), but you seem more comfortable in your own skin.

And it wasn't the whole year that was like that - mostly the weeks leading up to your birthday, which were also the weeks leading up to the girls moving home and involved a drawn out transition - which was challenging for everyone. Up until that point, we were having regular life, you featured as the oldest sister. You patiently read to a girl less than a year younger than you and loved playing dress up games with her. You tolerated a sister a few years younger than you, and doted on a sister 4 years younger.

You've found a passion for reading - comic books and chapter books. You like Judy Blume, Garfield, Junie. B, and most recently these random unicorn books that Grammy found for you. When you're not reading, you're a whirlwind wherever you go. When you're done with a book, you drop it; when you're done with your coat, you drop it; when you're done pouring milk into your granola, you leave it on the counter.

You're also the first one to help with a chore when asked (washing dishes! stacking wood!) and check in when you're feeling sad or you notice someone else is feeling sad. Life is fully of ups and downs and you're often looking for the person to hold responsible to remedy the situation. This can be awesome, or it can be not awesome ("guys, time to finish up on the video games." "It's not MY fault! You're the one who SAID we could do screen time!"). You're strong and smart and funny. You can come across as so confident with a huffy puff, a foot stomp, and an eye roll. And a half hour later be a ball of mush in my arms because someone didn't ask how you were doing. You're complicated. And I sit and wonder sometimes because we can feel another neurofibroma on your forehead, or near your eye. And what we've read is that learning disabilities - often with memory/reading are common. So you blow me away when you read incessantly (and correct me when I read aloud, insisting that you are right) or when you are obsessed with getting through math lessons or practicing handwriting. Like you can't get enough of life!

We've had camping trips and amusement park days. We've said bye to some great friends and you're a pro at talking on the phone now. A lot. You love every color of the rainbow, except brown or black. You insist that whatever whacky clothing combo you pick out is totally normal and not a big deal. You are disorganized to a fault, mostly because you have more important things to do in life (primarily reading). You have found a new love for twirly dresses and would love to wear dresses every day. But as always, you are "cool" only - no one is to call you "cute" or "adorable" or "sweet" or anything similar. Or they get a growl from you. Although, you recently went to work with daddy (which you LOVED and rocked with your socialness spilling all over) and people were calling you cute, etc all over the place. And you didn't growl. I was shocked to hear this. "They didn't know I didn't like to be called "cute"", you explained with a shrug like it was no big deal. After 4 years of growls. I'm impressed. And I realized this was another step in your growing process - seeing the world through someone else's eyes.

And when people ask if you're excited about being a big sister, you remind them that you've already been a big sister. But you are excited about a new baby. You want to be the first to hold the baby and you insist that we all have to agree on a name. And if we have to vote, then we will .... (except in our experience, a "vote" to you is only valid if the majority agrees with you).

You are exactly the kind of grownup I want you to become. Strong, thoughtful, sensitive, independent, compassionate ... sometimes all those wonderful attributes are hard to manage in a seven year old body. We'll keep holding your hand, helping you navigate those feelings as best we can. It's not just you who broke down crying when we got the call that the girls were leaving ... and then when asked if we were sad - we both said: "I don't know!".
I'm so proud of you, navigating all that you do with fierceness and a grin all mixed together.

I'm so so thankful you're our daughter. I can't wait to see what the next year brings - bumps, scrapes, bruises and all!

Hugs (but no kisses at your insistence),

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Our rules for baby-naming

With Noah, naming was easy. At 9 weeks gestation, I said: "I like the name 'Noah' if it's a boy." and Josh said: "I like the name 'Sophie' if it's a girl." And that was that. Noah if it was a boy and Sophie it was a girl and we were both happy.
But we also learned some things.
Like, the name you love when naming your firstborn is likely a name that many love. In the case of Noah, it was 6th the year he was born, and has climbed even higher since. Fortunately, for us, he was a boy because if he'd been a Sophie - well, that was number one that year. And Sophie has the added complication of having many variations (Sofie, Sophia, Sofia) so Sophie when all those versions are added together is very very popular.
For baby #2 the only rule was - not in the top 100. We were pretty set on a boy name but the girl name was a struggle. And after suggesting 50+names (literally) and having Ren Man turn down every.single.suggestion, I jumped at Madeleine, with the nickname Del, because I could live with it. At that point, if he had suggested Butt Head, I probably would have said "YES!" - just so the poor thing had a name.

For this baby, we've articulated many more rules. There has also been the list of 50 (before we hammered out the "rules"), that were turned down. But I think this is it:

1. Can't be too popular (ideally not in the top 100 names)
2. Can't start or end like someone else's name in our immediate family
      ie. the name can't start with a J, S, N, or D (M is a maybe)
          the name can't end with the sound /a/ or /el/
3. The name also can't end in a long /e/ as this can sound cutesy

I think those are all the rules.
Now hit me with your baby names! Feel free to be unique, think outside the naming box. We like familiar words/names just not ones where the chance of them having a peer with the same name is very likely.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Gestational Diabetes (and why I have it)

Gestaional diabetes tends to effect women over 25yrs old who are overweight and have a family history of diabetes*. During my first pregnancy, meeting none of these criteria, I was very surprised to be informed that given my medical history I would likely get gestational diabetes. Funny, because my health history had never played a huge role in my life - it was my normal.
But suddenly the fact that my perfect functioning pancreas (for me) was about to be stretched to its limit.

I was born with something called Nesidioblastis. This is a rare condition (1 in 25,000 to 50,000 source) in which an overactive pancreas secretes too much insulin. In my case this meant I wasn't waking to eat as a newborn and couldn't maintain my temperature. However, because it is so rare, it took the doctors about 5 weeks to figure out what was happening as blood tests before that were inconclusive.
At 3months old, after trying various unsuccessful protocols and researching all the options, the doctors explained that the best option was to remove 95% of my overactive pancreas. The hope was that the remaining 5% would be sufficient to sustain my insulin needs. If it was still too overactive, another surgery would need to be done and I would likely be a brittle diabetic.
Fortunately the surgery was a success. Turns out, 5% of my pancreas is perfect. I would have periods of hypoglycemia as a kid, and in order to avoid seizures I needed to eat regularly. My mom explained to anyone who was curious that I was the opposite of a diabetic - I had to work to keep my sugar levels up instead of working to keep them down. If my routine was off or I was stressed (for example, on vacation or during a week of VBS), I would have a grand mal seizure. My mom remembers when I was young, the behaviors I would start showing that said a seizure was coming. I remember (obviously I was older) an aura - I would feel numb-ish and rainbow-y spots would come into my vision - and I'd say: "umm, I'm having a seizure" and then there would be a rush to get honey and I think there was puking and drooling involved but I would be fairly out of it by then. I'd wake up a few hours later with a headache. Seizures happened a few times a year. Again, this was normal for me - it never felt like I had a health "problem".
My last seizure was when I was nine and I haven't had one since.
The only other funny health thing (which has no bearing on gestational diabetes, but does seem like a bigger deal to me because I was older and more aware) was that I had severe stomach aches off and on from the time I was six years old that would last a couple of hours. I was brought to doctors. No one could figure it out and a few attributed it to stress/school - despite my mom's insistence that I didn't seem stressed. Finally at 14 years old, I had constant stomach pain for 3 days. By the third day I couldn't keep anything down - not even water. So my parents brought me to the doctor who was dumbfounded and in the end decided with my parents that I should be brought to the hospital. After several days, the doctors reluctantly but not knowing what else to do, decided to operate again, over my original scar. At that point they removed 6inches of my small intestines and scar tissue that had adhered to the small intestine. They warned us that this could happen again, but hopefully with me being older and now mobile, it would keep scar tissue from attaching to the small intestine.

Now, back to my surprise during my first appointment after finding out I was pregnant for the first time. When the midwife explained that I would likely get gestational diabetes, my first thought was: "she's confused! I have the opposite of diabetes!" At around 20 weeks gestation I happily sucked down glucola (people complain about the taste, but yum!) and was told I needed to do a three hour test (only 15% of women who test positive in the one hour test, are actually positive in the three hour test and thus diagnosed with gd - talk about unnecessary stress!). And I was surprised to learn my body wasn't working as well as it seemed to be on the outside. The three hour test confirmed that gestational diabetes was a definite. I met with a nutritionist. The whole thing was overwhelming. I had never had to worry about what I eat or didn't eat - and now suddenly all this label-reading and rules! In addition, the midwife was concerned at every appointment that I wasn't gaining enough weight. I politely informed her that my diet was very similar to this new-at-the-time-fad-atkins-diet that people were raving about because they were LOSING weight. You can't have it both ways - low blood sugar and low weight gain, or high blood sugar and more "normal" weight gain.
Insulin was discussed, I'm sure, but was never needed.
Baby number two - I declined the yummy glucola test and just asked for a prescription for a meter and the test strips as gd seemed inevitable. As it was a second pregnancy I was much more laxed about diet (frozen yogurt has fat and protein .... and some carbs ... so why not?!) ... and her birth weight and subsequent drop on the growth chart (she's been about 50% most of her life ... except at birth), I think reflects that less-than-ideal-gd-diet.

With this baby, I did the same thing. I just assume I have gd (and my numbers show me that I do).
The challenge with this baby is that I'm older and this is a third pregnancy - both factors make gd harder to manage with diet alone.
The thing hanging over my head is that our home birth midwife has made it clear that she is not comfortable attending our birth if I have to go on insulin. I have every confidence that she is knowledgeable and experienced and can handle any birth complication thrown at her. I'm also fairly certain that home birth in our state, while legal, is tenuous and she doesn't want to risk** anything - which I think is very fair and understandable.

Given the increased challenges on my body (age, third pregnancy), this round of gestational diabetes is definitely more challenging. At my last prenatal appointment the midwife suggested going off carbs entirely. This had the immediate effect of dropping my numbers impressively, which was very gratifying. But there's still a long way of pregnancy to go and hormones constantly challenging my body's ability to process food ....

*having researched gestational diabetes extensively I have strong feelings that the sugar number levels that pregnant women are expected to keep are not physiologically appropriate (the pancreas makes changes that leads to increased blood sugar to give the baby time to absorb what it needs - but the gd mom is expected to maintain lower sugar levels than the diabetic individual). I also don't see the sense in making a blanket rule that every pregnant women be tested for gestational diabetes (but I rarely think any medical protocol is appropriate across the board - humans are individuals and their medical care should reflect that). Also, if one does have the markers for getting gestational diabetes, there are alternative methods of testing versus drinking a glucola drink - if you think someone has diabetes, don't stress their body out with sugared-up orange soda! Many many of the gd concerns are based on concerns around diabetic women who are pregnant - and most of these issues are concerns in the first trimester; gd moms don't get diabetes until well out of the first trimester, so the concerns are irrelevant.

** the risks immediately at birth are a baby with macrosomnia (large baby) and a baby with low blood sugar having suddenly lost its access to the overabundance of sugar it has been processing for me (this happened with both of the older two, and generally immediate breastfeeding levels things out).

Goodbyes for now and hellos soon

In ten days we will have fostered for two solid years (we've been licensed longer but our first long term placement - Child B. and Child C. - arrived 2 years ago) with a two week break between placements.
And after 18 mos child D., Child E., and Child F. are moving back to their parent's home. There are boxes and boxes of clothes and toys to pack. This transition has been progressing for over a month and it's nice to finally have some permanency instead of splitting weeks and schedules and bouncing tired cranky kids back and forth.

For all five kids, this is a sad change ... and a happy one ... so everyone is a little out of sorts and confused. But as we get closer to a consistent bed every night the more settled everyone seems.

And everyone is sympathetic to us - as in, to Ren Man and myself. I get it, kind of. But this is the point. The point is to be a safe holding spot for kids while their parents learn new skills, strengthen their community/support system, and maybe even space to re-evaluate their choices/life/future. It's not a perfect system - far from it, but in this case, it seems to have taken hold in a positive way. And fortunately for us, we're working with some pretty amazing parents who value our relationship with their kids.

Having said all that, this investment takes a ton of effort, time, resources and it's been a relatively long time - especially given how young these girls are. This is all with the underlying pressure of feeling like every move, scratch, illness, parenting choice is analyzed and assessed by an almost-stranger who you didn't invite into your life - beyond deciding to foster. The lack of respect applied to original families (which is discouraging and frustrating) is just as often arbitrarily applied to foster parents, in general (having said that - this is a general statement - we've felt beyond thankful for the hours and hours of support and guidance and explanation and respect shared with us from the caseworker for this specific case). This is completely draining.
We're so honored to have seen them grow and mature over the last 18mos. But it's discouraging to see all that progress disintegrate the longer the kids are away from you - it's not even big things. Here's a silly example: in our house, you shut the toilet lid when you're done. This is apparently not the case at the girls parents' because the lid is now consistently left up. But we know they are morphing into someone else's kids who we just happen to know really well, and the toilet seat being up or down is not a big deal for this short time during transition. It's a good reminder of all the adjustments foster kids are expected to make the instant they move from one home to another - on top of the trauma of the move in the first place.

This summer is slated to be our busiest yet. We have all kinds of projects on the brink of beginning - including one huge one we're keeping under wraps until it's a definite.
Oh yeah.
And a new baby we're growing that will presumably come out into the world at some point this summer.
So when the girls were looking more and more like they would be leaving us we talked about taking a break until November or so. This would get us past weddings and high school seniors in terms of photography and through the intensity of summer farming.
But as the Big Project becomes more and more likely we're thinking the fostering break might last years, not just months.

And part of this is saying "Goodbye" to the notion of a larger family. I have always said I wanted 6 kids. Ren Man is pretty committed to not going over five. But even at five, he gets socially overwhelmed. And child rearing is intense and when you make the choice to raise kids, you make the choice not to do other things. And right now we're making the choice to do those other things and be satisfied with 2 (and a half) kids. It's taken a while to get here - because for years (since I was a child myself, literally) I would tell everyone that I wanted 6 kids (originally it was 50 birthed and 50 adopted, so 6 seemed a reasonable compromise). Every.single.time the adult I was telling would inevitably scoff: "wait until you have one!"
How condescending!
And all that did was encourage my adamance that I would raise six kids. And I was that person that said she'd have six kids.
I also attribute this desire to raise more than four kids to my mom - who I observed first hand as she raised four kids. What a testament to her mothering, to find myself wanting to emulate her so much - and then some!
I try not to take it as a testament to my mothering then, when Del insists she wants to remain child-free. Instead I think she is wise to see that there are so many choices in life and raising children is not a more valued than another choice - but by choosing to raise children, you choose to not do other things. And by choosing to do other things, you are choosing not to raise children.
And I hope hope hope no grownup ever says to her: "just wait until you get older, then you'll see how you feel."

So goodbye for now to girls - our daughters of 18mos, goodbye for now to fostering, goodbye for now to the expectation of a large family.
Hello soon to an evolved relationship with our girls, hello soon to spring and summer, hello soon to new projects, and hello soon to a new baby.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On being 32

Today is my birthday.
I remember being a bit sad to turn 30 - and shocked. I mean, when my parents turned 30, they were OLD!
But it wasn't a big deal, and I still felt like me.
But I was sad because we still had not been called for a foster placement and I was nervous that we'd always be parents of two. I wanted more kids. Two was so normal.
And now, two years later and we're pregnant with our sixth kid.

A lot can happen in two years.

ps I intended to have a picture of me with the kids ... but if you have five kids, you realize quickly that ideal doesn't always play out in reality.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pelvic Girdle Pain

You know how I said pregnancy wasn't a disability and I can listen to my body and everyone else just needs to calm down. People are pregnant all.the.time - and our population continues to grow - so I'm thinking me continuing with a normal life isn't going to change that.

I also said a long time ago that having a baby doesn't change your life that much. After all, we had Noah and life continued relatively unchanged. Then we had Del. And she demanded we alter our on-the-go lifestyle to accommodate her napping/feeding/bedtime needs.
Now we're pregnant. So things will probably slow down a bit after the baby is born, but we can prepare for that. Up until then - farming as usual .

And then there's Pelvic Girdle Pain, less commonly known as symphisis pubis pain. If you're pregnant too, don't read further - I don't even want you to know this is an option. Apparently PGP effects 80% of pregnant women ... but I'd never heard of it before. The main symptoms are extreme pain while walking, carrying, or rolling over in bed (and most noticeable pain at night). It is apparently most uncomfortable to push a cart while going grocery shopping. If only.

So Ren Man has, despite his strong feelings that pregnancy is part of life and not a disability, taken on all the chores he can - and even more than he probably should (for example, going and doing everything except milking - namely throwing/carrying hay bales and hauling buckets of water - before going off for a 12hour day of cooking at work).

After hesitating to look up "burning c^o-ch" on google - because who knows?! - I remembered a more appropriate "pelvic" word and opened a world of PGP. But at first it seemed the only solution was staying on all fours as much as possible. I imagined this. And realized there really isn't a lot of time where being on all fours would be appropriate in my life ... or arguably any adult's life. After more digging other possibilities have emerged. The issue (in theory - no one is sure) seems to be too much relaxin too early in pregnancy - so a pelvis that is normally 1-3mm spread, could be 10mm spread too soon. Anecdotally this seems to lead to a faster second stage of birth (I'll take it!). In the meantime - there's walking, carrying, and moving in bed to contend with.
As I said, on all fours is a good idea - or really anything that gets the weight of the baby off of your pelvis (and I say this a little perplexed because I'm not that far along and the baby is reportedly the size of a papaya), like getting into water. The cat-camel exercise is helpful. I've also heard sitting on a yoga ball is good, and having a pillow between your legs while side-sleeping to keep your hips even. I read more than once not to "push through the pain" - which is what I'd been doing when it was more mild, after all - what choice did I have? Cows need to be fed and watered.

More intensively, you can seek out professionals with prenatal training. Professionals include physical therapists, masseuse, osteopaths, acupuncturists, and chiropractors. Living where we do, these are not options. I did set up a consult with my MD, who is also an osteopath, for later this week. She has not special prenatal training - thus the consult instead of a straight up appointment. I'm hopeful.

This just complicates that whole gestational diabetes thing. It helps TREMENDOUSLY to do any kind of exercise, even "exercise" - like walking in circles in the living room - to bring down your numbers. Well, when your pelvic girdle is on fire and you are trying to minimize movement, exercise loses its importance really.

And I looked up birth complications. I assumed I would squat, as I did for Del, very successfully. But the goal in all the managing of PGP is to keep your legs together. Squatting is very painful right now. Which is sad. Because I was upping my squatting practice. From what I've read, all fours will be most comfortable (there it is again!) for the birth. I've also read that the birth will be overwhelming enough that PGP will not even be noticed.

Have you had this?! What helped? What didn't? What was your birth like? Any suggestions at all?!?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


"Ugh, my lower back is really starting to hurt," I said recently to Ren Man. "This happened with Noah too, but I think it was worse for him. It's something to do with your sciatic nerve. I went to a chiropractor and she said to do this cat camel exercise."
"What's that?" he asked.
"You arch your back like a camel and then stretch out like a cat, pressing your back down," I explained.
"That's sounds more like a cat-cat exercise," he stated.
"THANK YOU! I've always thought that," I enthused.
"A camel doesn't actually arch it's back, but a cat does. And a cat stretches with it's back down. I think it should be cat-cat."
"Me too, me too!"

Monday, January 26, 2015

I'm 31, not 26 (like last time)

Pregnancy is different at 31 than it is at 26 - when I was last pregnant. I'm finding myself thinking: "maybe I do want a pack and play with a changing table thing" instead of the 23 year old who found a changing table on craigslist while pregnant for the first time ... and quickly sold it on craigslist when said changing table was barely used. It's not like we lived in a huge home where it was tucked off in a corner - our apartment was about 600 sqft. It was just more convenient to plop down on the floor with the first baby (and the next one) for diaper changes, instead of wrangling a squirmy baby and the various diapering supplies on a raised surface. The jury is still out, but my guess is the floor will still be the defacto changing table.

But other than that - morning sickness was minimal - no puking, some nausea, no biggie (with Noah I puked once a day, with Del I puked 6 times total). I craved salt like CRAZY in the first trimester for this pregnancy. But mostly, I forget that I'm pregnant. It was so unexpected, and the symptoms so mild, that I forget. I mean, it's nice not having a period for months on end, and my belly is bigger - but I could just tell myself I'm gaining belly weight for some reason.

The bigger difference though, between a pregnancy (for me) at 26 (when I was last pregnant) and 31 is that a bajillion of my friends are pregnant or have recently birthed. How novel! The last two times all of my pre-mommy-ing friends were doing their 20's thing and it didn't include making babies. And now they are (or are choosing not to)! It's exciting to have peers to ride this ride with - but also interesting to see different perspectives. I recently met up with a group of moms who were all mostly my age and had all recently birthed their first kid or were pregnant with their second. The conversation around the group was the same type of conversations I'd hashed out with my playgroup friends back in Providence ... when we were having our second babies (or in my case - had recently had a second baby). I thought I'd always enjoy these type of conversations - but I was over it. I didn't need to talk about the merits of breastfeeding or cloth diapering (again). I just live my parenting life and it happens to include co-sleeping and baby-lead-feeding.

So maybe the biggest difference between a pregnancy at 26 versus a pregnancy at 31 is that you're more comfortable in your own skin. You know what works for you and your family but you don't feel the need to process it constantly and reassess. You're also more confident in what the future might hold - namely, not another pregnancy - and you see every day how this time does slip by faster than you expect. You see it every day when that eight year old you birthed yesterday, you know, the one you thought would never sleep through the night, walks by and you realize he's almost as tall as you are. You cherish every movement in utero because you'll never feel this baby (or any baby) in this unique way again. Pregnancy is so short. You'll never have heartburn like this again or feel the urge to pee again(!!) when you swear you were just in the bathroom.

Another difference - this baby already has older siblings. It is so fun to have a two year old rubbing my belly because "the baby is sad" (and also freaks me out - does she know something I don't!?!?), or a 3.5 year old announcing to everyone "there's a baby in my mommy's tummy and it's a girl! We're having a girl baby!!" (really?! News to me!), or a 6 year old grinning big and proud when anyone asks her about the baby, or a 6.5 year old gently rubbing my belly and asking if I need some water or reminding me that I need to minimize my sugar intake (thank you gestational diabetes), or the 8.5 year old who daily yells into my belly because he knows the baby can hear him. I'm so excited to see how the baby is integrated into our family. I expect it will be overwhelmed with hugs, kisses, and being read to!

The most important difference - at 26 I had no interest in alcohol or coffee. Now I'm like: I could kill for a margarita or a creamy sweet coffee!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sometimes when farming ...

It isn't uncommon for people to show up at our house seeking farm goodness - a chicken or two, some steaks, a dozen eggs, etc.
So when Craig (we'd never met - but his partner had picked up a Christmas duck the week before Christmas) showed up at our front door, I invited him in and went into the back attached shed (aka "Not Garage") where the coolers and freezer are to find him a coveted duck and chicken.
We started talking about their passion for local food and their goal for renovating a building for a restaurant where they want to use only local food. I offered him some cheese random homemade farm stuff to try.

As I was explaining what was what ("I think this is cheddar and this is something stinky that I love. I wish Ren Man was in here, he could tell you more.") in walked Ren Man with a ziploc bag of hay. In his usual introverted way, he barely acknowledged the random person in our kitchen, walking past him in his serious manner, to the scale that had been left on the counter. He weighed the hay as I asked him about the cheese. (aged gouda and something stinky)

We needed to get a certain amount of hay to ship to extension so they can do an analysis of its nutrient content.

After Craig left my dad made a joke about the ziploc bag being left out for random people to see, we should be better about hiding it.

Craig hadn't even batted an eye. I don't know him well enough to call and explain - and that might make it worse.
But we laughed and laughed at how that must have looked to this guy!

Only on the farm, I guess ...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Farming and pregnant

I searched high and low online for pregnant+farming information. Mostly because I started having a sore stomach (muscles?) and wondered if it was related to handling bales of hay and 5gallon buckets of water and 50lbs of milk can+milk AND holding a uterus in place. I read over and over again that women have been farming since the beginning of farming and have been pregnant all along. On forums women recommended that pregnant women avoid chemicals when pregnant - that was the most common piece of advice. Not a concern here, thankfully. Others just recommended listening to your body and taking things slower. One person said she specifically planned for a winter baby to minimize the disruption in her organic farming (vegetables is what she's farming, it seems) and mused that this might be a choice many farming women make. I read that women shouldn't lift over 25lbs when pregnant (what?!) and was feeling a little nervous. Then realized that was silly because people have older children they have to lift - even if their life doesn't involve farming. I found an NBC article debunking pregnancy myths - and one of them was the heavy lifting thing. Again, listen to your body.

And I also read that being in shape will help with birth (and I'm definitely in better shape than I was for either of the previous pregnancies) - and the squatting while milking can only help. But I don't fill the 5 gallon buckets as full (which is a bummer because I was just getting to the point where I could carry a very full bucket), I roll hay bales instead of hauling them, and I take more stops on the walk from the barn to the house with a full milk can.

And this baby isn't coming in the winter, and I don't know if that would work best for farmers who raise animals. I'm really nervous about next winter when there will be a 6mos old to wrangle while also hauling hay bales and moving cows into a milking stall, never mind the sub zero temperatures -but right now, I'm not nervous. There's a little person growing in a warm cushiony place while I get farm chores done. And timing-wise it works out because by the third trimester the cows will be out in the pasture and the heaviest thing I'll be lifting is a fence step-in-post to give the cows more grass ... and that silly milk can still ;)

PS that big thing the cow is licking in the picture above is a 40lb molasses lick that Ren Man and I shoved uphill through the snow and ice. For real. I was on my knees wondering at our sanity. And I'm pretty sure Ren Man did most of the pushing - I did most of the complaining. But that wasn't anything compared to the upright freezer we hauled down that same snowy hill into the not-garage. He has no sympathy. All those articles talked about partners insisting their pregnant girlfriend/wife not lift too much ... not Ren Man. I put it down to his complete trust in my competency. I can grow babies and move mountains, apparently.