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.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What I want :: foster-to-adopt

Unsupervised visits began for dad and immediately a family member made a huge (slightly scary, I'm told - I haven't asked for detail) allegation against the dad and his family. So unsupervised visits were complicated because they couldn't happen at dad's house.

At long last, the claims are unfounded and the first at home unsupervised visit is in the works.
I'm so excited.
Or so I told the caseworker.
"Are you?" the caseworker asked, "I can't figure out how you want this to end."
"I don't know either," I replied, "so if you figure it out, let me know."
"Oh, so it's not just me," she said.
"No!" I wailed. "I want foster care to work."
"I do too! It just doesn't often," she said.
"So I'm excited that they could go home - this could work!" I explained. "I'm excited about a new placement. I'm also excited about how much progress they've made so far here (and mad a little at how amazing the baby is - as in ahead developmentally on every level - and maybe the older two would have been so far ahead had they had less neglect in their early life) and how much more they could gain by staying in this environment." I paused. "I'm sorry, I really don't know what I want. Both outcomes are great and both suck."
We talked about how some days I just want them GONE, but how I think that's how parents feel in general. She agreed. She also said that more experienced caseworkers than her and long term foster parents have said there's a shift that happens after you know the kids are staying forever part of your family. She said she thought I might be holding part of myself back, which I may well be doing. We talked about how this was the best case scenario - both parents have expressed that they can see how important I am to their children and they want that relationship to continue even if the kids did go home. We talked about how that's a positive thing but sometimes it is hard to draw a line on how much support you give that family as they struggle in the future. You care about these kids so much, you're willing to take them every weekend so their parents can party ... at least the kids are then safe. But that just drags out the inevitable and causes more damage. We both agreed that partying would probably not happen (did I mention that their dad is doing well and seems to have bought into the message of AA, etc?), but still good to be aware of.

After talking for several more mintues (I could talk all day about our case with our caseworker, and she's so good at helping me process and letting me go around in circles in my thought processes), we left it with a plan to talk the following day to firm up plans. We both want to give this dad as many visits as possible. He's worked damn hard, no one is doubting that, and now it's time to fish or cut bait (a term for the judge during a foster-parent training).

I got off the phone and told Ren Man about my confusion - or the caseworkers- or both. Do I want them to stay or go?
"You just want it to be over," he responded.
And it clicked into place. That is what I want.

I called the caseworker back with some other thoughts, and also shared this revelation.
"So do you want them to go home, or not?" she asked.
"I don't know," I whined. And then after a pause: "I just want to know what's going to happen. Are we raising these three kids for life or are we not?"
"You don't want to be in limbo," she said.
"YES!" again, more clarity, it felt.
"That makes sense," she replied.

And I slept better that night :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

3 concrete pours and we have functional stalls for the dairy cows!

While newly pregnant, we did a mad race with the cold weather we knew was coming to get three loads of concrete poured in the barn. The purpose was to have functional stalls. Over the last two winters we've tried bedded pack (doesn't work so well in a bank barn with low ceilings and was horrendous to clean out at the end of the year - it minimally composted) and we've done some finagling tie stalls too. We really felt like bedded pack was the way to go but after researching more (relying heavily on information from Bob White Systems), a tie stall barn seems the most humane and efficient for a small herd. We don't intend to have a milking herd above a dozen max and at this size the square footage would have to be too small for the cows comfort to make the bedded pack work.

Tie stalls it is. Which meant ripping out a barn's worth of old concrete by hand (and loading it into a skid steer bucket. Evidently there was a school of thought that concrete was stronger if you put a layer of large rocks down first, back when the concrete was layed in our barn. I would argue with this belief given how cracked our concrete was. There was a mallet and a crow bar involved too. And there were layers - a thin layer on top of thin layer.

So that was hard - but how hard can it be to pour concrete?
Harder than I thought.
There were forms to build and reinforce. Concrete is heavy and you don't want your forms to blow out! There was a dirt ground to get very level and free of debris. There were posts to put in to support the barn on blocks - sometimes temporary posts that would later be put right on the concrete slab, sometimes permanent posts, depending. This required jacking the barn (the jack kicked out more than once - one night it happened at least a dozen times). There was a level involved ... and a laser level. Late nights that were freezing and I was shutting my eyes for just a minute while Ren Man thought through the next measurement. Our three and a half year old was freaked out by the level light hitting her, she'd try to whack it off her coat and get very upset when her hand went right through the light - and if she noticed the light was on her hand ....!

And the night before each pour and the morning of we were always in a panicked rush to get a few more things done. For the first two pours Ren Man drove the skid steer to the concrete truck parked as close as possible and filled the skid steer bucket with concrete. Then he'd drive into the barn and carefully dump the concrete while I raked it into place with the help of a neighbor or two. One pour required us to use a large sheet of plywood as a slide to get the concrete over the previous pour and where it needed to go. Concrete is HEAVY! And talk about ab muscles as you scrape this thick goop into place. Did I mention I was pregnant?

The third pour was the largest with two sections to pour concrete into - the actual stalls and the center aisle. I offered to drive the skid steer. I was nervous about my aim and speed, but the truck driver was impressed. He said it's hard to find a woman who will get her fingernails dirty. I said he wasn't hanging out with the right people.

And then 2/3 of the "cow barn" concreted, which was all we needed before the winter set in. It was hard to wait as many days as possible to let the cows into the barn full time. Back in August I mapped out the pasture in my mind and figured we could make it to October with the pasture we had left. Then we started taking cuttings from a neighbor's hay fields and feeding that directly to cows, pastured on our pastures they had already eaten from. And then Ren Man's dad sold us some round bales (the huge round hay bales you see drying in fields - I think they hold the equivalent of 20 square bales) and we fed those to the cows. So it was December and the cows were still outside (awesome! It wasn't too cold, the water lines weren't freezing yet, and the poop stayed outside!). I was thrilled that they were able to stay outside so late in the season.

But it was getting colder. We'd covered "windows" (really window frames with glass long-since gone) with plastic, covered the concrete with plastic, and ran a heater whenever we were in the barn working to try and keep the temp above freezing to minimize the curing time for the concrete. And finally we put in horizontal pipes connected to the vertical pipes that were positioned in one of the concrete pours at the front of the stalls. And then we brought in the three cows we were milking.

And life in the barn took on its meaning.
We recently finished 90% of the pipework needed to complete the stalls and now have 5 cows in the barn with plans to move three more into the cow barn (right now they are in the "horse" barn, able to come into the barn or go out into the joining pasture (the "triangle piece")).

Next is the debate to work on the milk room (where the milking equipment is washed) so we can be license to sell raw milk OR work on the creamery (where cheese making will happen) and buy in milk from other licensed dairies until the milk house is complete and our milk is licensed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The 15th goal: birth a baby

I don't remember being so nervous when pregnant with Del. I knew our baby would survive and be healthy and birth would go smoothly.
This time I'm a little more hesitant. This feels like I got a nice surprise that feels too good to be true.
So what if we miscarry?
What if being 31 yrs old increases the chances for things like down syndrome ... but actually, do I care?
What if all my strong talk about homebirths and breastfeeding leads to a c-section and formula?

I try to think more positively. I've done this twice in the hospital and both experiences have been impressive natural births. Any birth is impressive. Natural births are challenging, but we've been designed to birth naturally. The hospital adds its own layer of challenges - but we chose our team carefully and we're clear with our expectations and what we were willing to compromise on.
This time, the hospital is not an option. We don't live in an area where there are options any more and I've heard that it's a challenge to birth naturally in this area.
Having said that, I'm not too worried about making it happen, if it was needed.
But among the reasons for birthing for a third time was a homebirth. And I don't want to not have that. I don't want the car ride to and from the hospital. I want our children to be present at any point before, during, or after the birth that they want to be present. I want to be able to go outside during labor. I want a gentle birth for this baby, and the most gentle experience is going to be at home (familiar sounds and smells, minimal separation from family (that car ride), etc).

The only trick is going to be keeping that gestational diabetes under control. I was getting really frustrated because fasting numbers were creeping up - even if my post-dinner number was excellent. Last night I had a handful of peanuts before bed ... back to low numbers at fasting. Phew! Hope this trick keeps working.
My other frustration about this is that I can test three different fingers in a row and get a range of 50 points. Which is the difference between diet controlling your gd, and not. So this test that this whole birth rests on seems very faulty.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflections on 14 goals

Last year I said I wanted to do all of these things in 2014.

I wanted to blog weekly. In 2014 there were 49 posts (I just counted), so not quite 56. And there were no posts all summer (from May to September) and the fall/winter was sparse. I'll keep blogging and maybe try to post at least once a month during the busy summer and fall. I expect things to be just as hectic but hopefully more exciting with progress instead of "we're still fostering, we're still pregnant, we're doing the usual every-day-chores-and-there's-no-creamery-yet".

I wanted to make soap. Lots of soap. Done and done. We don't buy soap anymore and it's so satisfying!

I wanted to read a book monthly. I read 42 books. In fact, instead of blogging time, I was reading. I love reading. Always.

A personal photo project ... I thought about this all year and came up dry. But I think our family is my project right now, in terms of personal photography. This has been lagging and so in 2015 (which starts with 5 months of birthdays - so 5 months of photoshoots) I want to give myself permission to value photographing my own family.

Blocking out time with each family member happened, and it's a time I value. The girls are really good at seeking me out for time; with Noah I have to be more conscious. Every time I snag a minute or 30 with Noah, I'm reminded how cool he is! I love spending time with him.

Being present. I think overall this year, I've taken each moment as it came and just rolled with it. For me, this is being present. It doesn't help to freak out (and there have been times that have been freak-out inducing!).

Pride in small achievements go with this. Laundry has been kept up to date, for the most part (sometimes 5 loads in a row to catch up!)

Finding and making a healthy conditioner was quickly abandoned. Suave Naturals works, and so for the most part, that's what I use. This time of year I'll do some coconut/olive oil mix. And right now I'm thankful for two showers a week :)

Sugar cookies were not made, gingerbread was (never again -it wasn't hard, but the pieces didn't stick together to make houses, so that was disappointing - for me, the kids had fun!), and eggnog was made obsessively until I came to terms with the fact that it was too much sugar for this pregnant momma.

Making socks proved much more time-consuming than I thought - so I just asked for wool socks for Christmas and now I have plenty and my feet are nice and toasty.

Homemade gifts by June?! HA! There were no homemade gifts this year. I felt guilty about this, because every year the "kids" make homemade gifts for family members. Thankfully, my mom took the kids out shopping for family gifts and it was sweet to see what the kids were so excited to give (a pen for Poobah, a back scrubber for me).

Canning happened this year, but not with the enthusiasm I felt in January :)

Using new recipes? Good idea - I'll get on that. I barely cooked this year! Lately scrambled egg sandwiches are my favorite yummy go-to dinner.

Spending less happened, I think. And this year I need to buckle down more. We really want that creamery built and it's not free. I was really conscious of not spending in the beginning of the year, and the last couple months have been a $7 bagel sandwich almost every week and a coffee here and a new hat there. So yeah, there's room to spend less.

So all goals still apply for 2015. And the 15th goal can be: birth a baby.

What are your goals this year?!? Inspire me!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The big secret

Oh, blog - you're the last to know, but you'll get the most details!
Right before Halloween I took a pregnancy test, four days late, and it was positive. Very positive. The "you're pregnant" line was much darker than the "this test is working" line.
(I looked it up, because I was panicking about twins. So here's what I learned: that line on the pregnancy test measures your HcG levels - the hormone that increases rapidly when you're pregnant. If your HcG is higher than the average, the "you're pregnant" line will pull pigment from the "this test is working" line. You can have a high HcG level and be carrying a single baby; you can also have an average HcG level and be carrying twins.)

The plan all along was to birth two babies and adopt four kids. Then we birthed two babies and thought we were pretty good at birth and maybe could do it again. Then we read more about overpopulation. I've never blogged about this before, because it feels too controversial, but we felt the ethical thing to do was to not birth again. This was hard. I wasn't as present as I would like to be for a final pregnancy. I didn't revel in the new baby enough, because I didn't expect her to be my last experience. I felt angry and frustrated when we work so hard to do so much right in the world - and having a third baby is something that also has moral implications to ponder before proceeding with a new baby.

But Ren Man didn't want to do anything permanent (a vasectomy was on the table) until I was 100%.
He was also concerned about me, because I get gestational diabetes - so being older and pregnant again wasn't a risk he wanted to take.
We used birth control, a mix of barrier and Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Some months (when I knew a baby wouldn't come right in the middle of wedding season, I was more laxed). Friends had "accidental" pregnancies and I resisted feeling bitter. And most months I was pretty sure I was pregnant. But, nope. Never. Your body thinks it's pregnant, until it's not, every.single.month.
Six years after Del was born I was feeling comfortable with Ren Man getting a vasectomy. We were very beyond the baby stage and had have a lot going on. A baby would slow things down and limit the number of children we could foster/adopt.

Ren Man scheduled his appointment with his doctor to talk about scheduling a vasectomy. He was referred to a urologist. There's one relatively local urologist, who will take our insurance. But he was full. We could contact another one an hour away and see if he would do it. But that whole busy factor kicked in and we put the whole project on the back burner.

We had our last wedding (another awesomely beautiful event - 2014 was stunning) and I was four days late - but sometimes this happens. Maybe you become more irregular as you get older? The time change had recently happened and it was so dark and cloudy. I was so tired and thinking we should get one of those sun lights.
I took the test and was surprised it was positive. But also not. Because it was inevitable - every month, right? But still unbelievable.
I kept the test hidden next to our bed. I finally took a picture on the phone, because it felt weird to be secretly stashing a stick with my pee on it.
After a few hours I showed Ren Man the picture and said we had to figure out how we felt abortions (which had recently come up in conversation because another friend had gone through the exact same thing - about 9mos before us, and they had decided against an abortion).

About five hours later, I was resigned to birthing again and maybe even a little excited.
We had talked about wanting the kids to experience birth, breastfeeding, and babywearing. Ren Man was 10 when his youngest sibling was born and I attribute a lot of his parenting skills to that experience. I'd love for our kids to have that background too.
In the next few days I started looking into homebirth options in this area (not many). I wasn't going to do another birth and not do a homebirth (again). We also talked about when we would tell people. We wanted to make it amazing because we knew this was the last baby (for real this time). We thought a Christmas gift that revealed all would be fun. We counted out the weeks and saw that it would be 13 weeks out. We wondered how big I would be and if we could keep it a secret that long.

I asked Noah what he'd think if we had another kid. His response: "I think we have enough already." And really, at five kids, that's a sensible response. But I asked: "what if it grew it my belly." His response (in a flat tone): "that would be interesting." Not exactly encouraging.

My dad was out of town one week for work and my mom is gone a million hours a day for work, so the first visit with the midwife wasn't a big deal. She came with her midwife-in-training. They got a little lost on the way here, but then realized that of course the place with geese, turkeys, ducks, etc running around would be the place where a home birth would be desired. They asked if I had any concerns, about home birth safety in particular. I said: "no, I know it's safer."

At Thanksgiving, I was tempted to just tell everyone. But we wanted wanted to wait for Christmas. So I hoped no one would notice my belly. I'd started wearing sweatshirts that made the belly less noticeable, but didn't think a sweatshirt as appropriate Thanksgiving Day wardrobe. Ren Man said I just had to keep my belly in until after the meal, then everyone would assume it was a turkey belly.

For the next midwife appointment I met the midwives at a friend's house who has a massage loft-like space in her finished attic. I just thought my dad would be too suspicious of me bringing a few women up to my bedroom. We do have random people over regularly, but no one traipses upstairs - well, not usually. I asked about twins at this appointment, but am measuring appropriately. We also talked about gestational diabetes. I get it every pregnancy because I only have 5% of my pancreas and it can only do so much. My impression is that if it isn't diet controlled this time (as it has been in the past - but harder to do with each pregnancy and as you age), then the home birth is not an option.

After much pinterest-searching (resisting pinning anything baby-related for fear of discovery), we decided to wrap a bottle for each family to open and tie a note to it that said:
"You'll need this when Mommy and Daddy are at weddings. I can't wait to meet you! See you in July.
The New Baby
p.s. Mommy and Daddy are just as surprised as you are."

I also knew that I wanted to tell the kids first - at least the older two. I knew our third kid wouldn't be able to keep this a secret and the younger two wouldn't get it. About three weeks before Christmas I was grumbling about a big sweatshirt (it was hot! But I had to wear it!) and Noah asked why. So I asked if he could keep a secret.
He threw himself into my arms, his head hitting sharply into my teeth. He didn't care. He was SO excited! He wanted to know how big the baby was and then we looked up pictures of how the baby looks right now. He wanted me to eat more so the baby would come faster. We talked about how that isn't how it works.
For the next three weeks, he encouraged me to eat avocados, was careful not to hug me too hard, and was careful not to share the secret.
On Christmas morning I gave him "Babies Don't Eat Pizza" (not that great, but gives a pretty balanced overview - not too hippy not too mainstream). He knew Del would be getting a gift that would reveal the news and he was very very excited. For her, I got the book "Hello, Baby" (great depiction of a homebirth, and an eye-opener for Del because there is an image of the baby between the mom's legs). She didn't get that this meant we were growing a baby at first. So we told her. Her response: (big eyes) "REALLY!?!?!"

And the kids were thrilled to watch the reactions of the grownups when they opened their gift. We arranged it so it would be the last gift opened for both families.
There was shock and tears and more shock and lots of questions. Everyone was impressed that we hadn't spilled sooner and lightbulbs went off like: "That's why you've been so tired!" and suddenly chores were too much for me to do by myself (in my mom's opinion).

So phew! Now the news is out. There's a baby on the way ... and that's how you get 6 kids. And I definitely still do chores (think of all that birth-training-squatting when milking a cow!)
There's been very little nausea, no puking, and tons of tiredness. It was fun to keep it a secret and interesting to feel that I needed to take responsibility of caring for my body even when it seemed like asking too much (like telling my father-in-law we needed to take a break when unloading hay early in the pregnancy because I needed to eat).
We're stressing a bit about finishing the creamery before the baby comes, which would be ideal - but we're needing about $25k to make that happen, on top of life and birth expenses.

Other than that it just feels unreal. This was such a surprise and now that the first trimester is done, it feels less real - except for the ever-growing bellu, and I've started to feel the occasional movement. So when the midwife came last time, I consented to listen to the heart beat (when I really want to avoid doppler/ultrasounds unless medically needed). I didn't expect to feel wowed. I wasn't with Noah (and didn't listen with Del). But this was so cool. It was strong and fast. There's really really a baby growing in there!