Monday, June 24, 2013


"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013"

Cambria: She loves to accessorize. 
Ezra: He loves to swing on Sawyer, the tire swing at my parents house.
Avett: He loves to hang out on the floor by himself only a few short minutes before wanting to be held again. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013


"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013"

Cambria: Nursing her baby. 
Ezra: His favorite spot in our house. 
Avett: He discovered his feet this week!

Friday, June 7, 2013


"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013"

Cambria: She's learning how to swing on the "big girl swings" 
Ezra: My white boy needs lots of sunscreen or he WILL burn..
Avett: First time picking strawberries! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013


At some point during the last few years my brother-in-law Phillip introduced me to Kombucha. The first time I took a sip I was intrigued but also a little put off because the taste is different from anything I'd ever tried before. Since then, I've had it a few random times until recently when I've started to really discover my love for the booch.

What is it? Fermented sweet tea.
How do you ferment it? With a culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Also known as the "mother" or "mushroom".
What does it taste like? It tastes sweet, vinegary, tangy and carbonated--all depending on how you flavor it!
Who drinks it? People all over the world. It's been consumed supposedly for thousands of years and originated in China.
Why drink it? Kombucha is thought to detox the body, boost the immune system, and supporter a healthy gut, among many other things.
How do you make it? Let me show you!

If you go into any health food store or Whole Foods you can find Kombucha for a crazy high price ranging from 3-5 dollars. That's a ton of money to spend on one drink so I wanted to find out how to brew my own. I'm a member of an awesome "natural mamas" group on Facebook and hearing about their home brews made me curious to try it myself.

The first thing I had to acquire was my SCOBY. You can buy them online from many different sites or use a baby SCOBY that you can get from a friend who brews their own Kombucha. I didn't know anyone who had a baby SCOBY ready and I wanted to make sure I got a high-quality one that was going to last for a long time, so I ordered mine online from Kombucha Kamp.

I anxiously awaited the arrival of my SCOBY and in the meantime gathered all the other tools and ingredients needed for the process:
A large glass container for the brewing vessel. I used 1 gallon.
Pure, filtered water.
Tea-loose or in bags, green or black.
1 cup of started Kombucha.
A cloth to place over your vessel.
A rubberband to hold the cloth in place and to keep fruit flies out.

I followed the recipe outlined on the Kombucha Kamp site and I watched this video as a guide as well.  The girl in that one is adorable!

First I boiled 4 cups of water. It says to use purified/bottled water, but from doing my own research and talking to others firsthand I decided to just use the filtered water from my fridge.

Then pour the boiling water and 5-6 teabags into the glass container. Or if you only have loose tea you would just need a muslin tea bag. Let it steep for 5-7 minutes.

Then remove the teas bags and dissolve 1 cup of sugar in the hot tea.

Once it's all dissolved fill the rest of your vessel with cold water. This will bring the tea down to a temperature that is acceptable for the SCOBY. If the water is too hot it could kill the culture! And you don't want to fill the vessel up the entire way because you have to leave space for the SCOBY and starter Kombucha.

Once it's full and at an acceptable temperature, you add in your SCOBY and starter tea. The SCOBY I ordered online came with the 1 cup of starter tea which was helpful because I didn't have to track some down on my own.

The tea looks lighter here because I moved it to get a better picture with more sunlight. 

At this point everything is done and you are ready to put on your cloth and rubber band to begin the fermentation process. The cloth should be breathable because the kombucha needs oxygen. Basically you let it sit in a dark (out of direct sunlight) but open (no cabinets) area for 7-21 days until you taste it and it's to your liking.  I put mine on my kitchen counter in a corner behind my blender and mixer.

I first tasted mine after 7 days but it was way too sweet, so I let it go until Day 14.  To taste it I just stuck a straw gently into the kombucha and then put it into a glass to try. Here at Day 7 you can see a new baby SCOBY forming on top. Each time you make a new batch of kombucha your mother will produce a baby. The baby can be composted, thrown away, or given to another person who can use it to start brewing their own.

This is what the baby looked like when I took the cloth off. 
Day 7. 
After another 7 days or so I tried it again and decided it was ready to be bottled. I used old Kombucha bottles for mine, but you can really use any bottle that you can seal tightly. And you can flavor it with anything that sounds good: fruit, fruit juice, herbs, ginger--really anything!  You have to remember to save 2 cups before bottling your tea. This will serve as your starter liquid for your next batch and for a batch if your baby is given to a friend. You can either immediately brew more tea and add your SCOBY to begin the process again or store it in an airtight container until ready.

This time I tried pineapple, blueberries, mint and lime, and plain. My favorite by far was blueberry! 

Where I stored my mother and baby before giving the baby to my mom. 
After they are bottled you being the second fermentation phase. Basically you let it sit on your counter (again out of direct sunlight) for 2-7 more days until it is nice and bubbly and carbonated. After a few days pass you can place them in the fridge to get cold before opening or just open them up and have a taste! Warning: because they are naturally carbonated, depending on what you use to flavor them they can really fizz when opened. I suggest opening over the kitchen sink. NEVER shake your kombucha, it CAN explode! I'm now on my third brewing process and I am loving my boocha or booch, as it's called in our house. My favorite flavorings have been strawberry and blueberry.

A few rules I've learned:
Never let metal come in contact with your SCOBY.
Never refrigerate your SCOBY.
Always use clean hands if you touch your SCOBY.
Clean your brewing vessel with only hot water and vinegar, no soap.
If you ever see mold throw your SCOBY away.

I'm having a fun time experimenting with flavors and I plan to continuously brew more kombucha until I either get sick of it or my SCOBY goes bad. It's really simple and I would love to pass along my babies to anyone interested! :) Happy Brewing! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Avett Patrick's birth story

Exactly 5 months after it all happened, here is Avett's birth story.

It was New Years Eve and because we *had* two kids and because I was one day shy of being 37 weeks pregnant, we decided the evening would be best spent at my parent's house. My mom and I made plans to cook a few things, hang out and play with the kids, and probably call it an early night.  I showered before we left and after getting dressed I remember looking in the mirror and thinking I should take a belly picture because I felt really good about myself, despite my 35 extra pounds.  In the process of getting the kids and everything loaded and into the car, I remember having some pain in my back and thinking that it seemed to be coming and going. It was about 6 pm when we left.

We stopped at CVS and Publix on the way to my parent's to pick up a few things and at both places I ran in by myself. While inside each store I had distinct contractions that were slightly uncomfortable.  Initially, before I told Kyle, I felt nervous and excited.  I also knew I was only 36 weeks and 6 days and the requirement to birth at the birth center is 37 weeks so I started to worry about that a little.  I wasn't worried about the baby's health or slight prematurity because during both of my ultrasounds he was measuring 1-2+ weeks ahead. And I trusted my body to know when the baby was ready. Just like I don't like telling people I'm pregnant, I don't like telling people I'm in labor. It's just one of those things. Kyle kept reiterating to me during my entire pregnancy that I needed to let him know the SECOND I thought I MIGHT be going into labor. I really wanted a water birth this time around and the only way that would be possible would be to get to the birth center BEFORE I was fully dilated, not ready to push like I was with Cambria and Ezra. After getting in the car from Publix I knew I needed to tell him. I said it was probably nothing, but I would start paying closer attention and let him know if anything changed.

When we arrived at my parent's, the first thing I told my mom was that I was "feeling weird". I said it was probably nothing but because Kyle's whole family was out of town and both my sisters were out celebrating New Years, they were our only help in the case that I was actually in labor. My mom and I were preparing food for everyone and the contractions kept coming. They were really far apart, like 10 minutes at least, but they were definitely coming at a regular interval.  At one point I walked over to the couch to sit down and once I was sitting I felt a weird sensation and began to feel like I was peeing myself. No huge gush or pop sound. I think I said something like "what the heck" as I walked to the bathroom. I sat on the toilet and peed and after I was done there continued to be drips into the toilet.  At that moment I knew my water had just broke, I knew I was in labor for sure, and I knew I needed to call the birth center.
I wasn't going to let my impending labor stop me from eating the delicious food! 
I called their answering service and patiently waited to find out which midwife was on call.  The same midwife, Nancy, was there for Cambria and Ezra and I was anxious to know if I was going to have her again, Jill, or the new midwife Suzy. After a few minutes I was happy to hear Suzy's voice on the other end.  She was the midwife I had seen in my two previous visits so although I didn't know her as well, it seemed fitting that it was her.  I really liked her laid-back and calm personality during my visits. I told her what had been happening so far and we decided I should continue to track contractions and to call her back in a few hours if anything changed or progressed. She decided to just head to the birth center to sleep there instead of possibly having to drive there at 4 o'clock in the morning or something.  Kyle and I ate a little bit and then left my parent's house to head back to our house to pack our bags and get all the baby things we needed out of the attic. We are procrastinators + baby was 3 weeks early so we were NOT prepared.  My parents decided to pack their things and bring Cambria and Ezra down to our house shortly.
Kyle snapped this as we were walking out the door.  I have one like this from when I was in labor with Ezra.
On the drive to our house we called the birth photographer who was also my placenta encapsulator and Kyle's family. I also began calling both of my younger sisters Amber and Casey to let them know I was in labor.  Casey decided to just stay with her friends to celebrate the new year until things progressed.  Amber was as the beach with her boyfriend and was not answering her phone! I left her lots of messages and texts in hopes she would get them soon. Once we got to our house, I began packing things I needed for myself and Kyle started getting all of the baby things we needed out of the attic.  Once I had all of my things together I parked myself on the couch to rest and to focus on my contractions. I think at this point I found and downloaded a contraction app so I could more easily keep track of them.  At this point the contractions were still pretty mild and happening every 7-10 minutes or so and lasting anywhere from 30-50 seconds.

After a little while my parents got to our house with the kids.  They got in their jammies and ate a few snacks while we all watched something on tv.  I was feeling anxious and excited and I knew I was going to be laboring all night so I tried to lay down as much as possible to save my energy.  We all collectively helped put them to bed and I remember feeling a sense of sadness when they went to sleep because I knew we would be leaving them for the night and in the morning they would have a new sibling.  This thought made me happy, but it also made me sad.  It was our last evening as a family of four.

Talking with my sister Ashley, I think. 
Pretty girl. 
Ezra and gramps hanging out. 
After the kids went to bed, Kyle cleaned our house while my parents and I sat on the couch watching the New Year's stuff on tv.  I knew I was on some sort of time frame because my water was broken, but my contractions were coming at a steady interval so I felt confident everything would happen naturally and progress as it should.  At this point it had been 4-5 hours since it broke. I called Suzy and she wanted to make a plan for me to come into the birth center at 7 a.m. unless things progressed.  When she said this I kind of laughed because I knew things were going to happen way before then. I reeeeeally wanted to have a water birth so an early arrival was the surest way to ensure I would be able to achieve it!  Shortly after midnight, I called Suzy back and told her I was certain I was in labor and I was coming to the birth center.  My dad stayed home with the kids and my mom followed us in her car.   I was nervous leaving the kids with my dad but knew they were in good hands. 

I had several contractions in the car, but they still weren't terribly painful and I was able to have a conversation the entire ride.  When we arrived, Suzy and my favorite nurse Heidi greeted us at the door. I was SO excited to see Heidi was my nurse! I love her! They hooked me up to the monitor and Suzy checked me and determined I was 3 cm dilated. My blood pressure was a little high, but Suzy and Heidi weren't concerned.  I didn't think too much about only being 3 cm because I knew it was still early and the contractions on the monitor assured us all that I was definitely in labor. I was strapped to the table for 30 minutes or so and it was actually kind of fun watching the contractions on the machine.  I had never experienced this because with the other two because I arrived too far along and didn't have time for anything but getting ready to push. During this time I noticed the contractions were starting to get more painful and slightly closer together, 6-7 minutes apart. Casey arrived during this time and we finally got a hold of Amber! 
Probably trying to explain or ask something. 
Heidi answering my question. 
Focusing through a contraction. 
Keeping track of my contractions. Lovely stretch marks. 
I have a tradition of weighing myself before heading back to the room.  This time I was my heaviest by far! 
After being monnitored, Kyle and I headed back to the "brown" room, the same one we had for the other two.  It was probably about 1 a.m. at this point.  For the next three hours or so I just moved around the room getting through the contractions by focusing and breathing.  Kyle helped me with whatever I needed and tried to sleep a little, I don't think he was very sucessful at that. I sat up, laid in the bed, sat on the birthing ball, walked around the room, drank lots of water all while keeping track of the contractions on my phone. Heidi came in to check on us every 45 minutes or so and Amber arrived at some point during this time.

Side note: having leaking waters during labor is kind of annoying because you have to wear one of those diaper things.

My mom, Casey and Amber tried to get a little sleep on the floor in the lobby while I labored. 
It was a totally different experience being at the birth center while I was in active labor.  With the past two, I did all of my laboring at home and in the car.  I was comforted being there and having Heidi's and Suzy's support because I knew that I would be able to have a water birth if everything continued as it was.  My contractions progressively got stronger and stronger with each passing minute. Gradually the contractions became all consuming and I had to hum/moan through each one.  During and between contractions my head was clear and I was in a very calm and relaxed state. Every contraction I got through brought me closer to the end, every contraction brought me closer to meeting my baby and every contraction brought me the promise of rest after it passed. Those three thoughts were constant in my head.

Around 4:30 (I think) I asked Heidi if she could wake Suzy to have her check me again. At the birth center you are only checked if you ask to be as they don't see it as a constant necessary thing for a low-risk, healthy labor.  Even though this was my third I had no idea where I would be at because I was never really checked during my labors before.  I was a little disappointed to learn I was only 6 cm.  Even though I was only at 6 I knew it wouldn't be too much longer and I knew it was only going to get harder from that point onward. Thinking back now, it seems like Suzy checking me was sort of like a turning point in my labor. It took off. I had 3 or 4 really strong contractions while Suzy was in the room and at that point she decided to start filling the tub for me. I was excited to get in and feel the relief from water I've always heard women rave about.

 It took about 10 minutes before the tub was filled at which point I hopped right in. I leaned over the side while Kyle sat on the floor next to the tub. The warm water felt nice in a way but it did not provide the relief I was hoping for.  I had a hard time getting into a comfortable position and the heat from the water made me feel lightheaded. I got out once or twice to pee and then got back in. After 20 minutes or so I started to get really nauseous. I wanted nothing but to get out of the water, so I did. Within a minute I was sitting on the bed and vomiting into a bowl. This felt HORRIBLE. I vomited during Cambria's labor too and it was really, really horrible then too. You are in labor using all of your energy and focus to get through the contractions and then you throw up. Just bad. Heidi later told me that a woman will sometimes vomit at the very end of transition, as the last of her cervix is melting away. This must have been the point I was at. After vomiting the nausea subsided and I was ready to get back in the water. Even though it wasn't making me feel great, I was determined to have that water birth I'd been wanting for years.

Avett was born about 40 minutes after I got back in the water. Those 40 minutes were the most intense of my entire labor and I almost got out of the water at one point. When I said I was wanted to get out Heidi looked me square in the eye and said "Brandie, you want this water birth, you are almost there, stay in, you can do this." She really got through to me in that moment and I had a surge of reassurance. Kyle also helped me tremendously during this part. There is a point during birth where I believe almost every woman will say that "she cannot go on" or "she cannot do it" or something of that nature. Whenever I get to that point Kyle has always been there for me with words of encouragement and love. This time he reminded me that I'd already done this twice before and that I could in fact do it again. Kyle is the perfect support for me during labor. He is truly there for me 100%, focused just as much as I am.

Kyle is my ROCK during labor. I could not do it without him. 

About five or ten minutes before Avett was born I started to feel my body pushing. I've said this before, I It's the absolute worst part of labor for me. Contractions I can handle because I am able to focus and mentally work through them. Pushing is just bad for me. I can't focus, breath, or work through it because it's just too uncomfortable of a sensation. I just do not like it. This time I fought it just like I did with Cambria and Ezra. As everyone was encouraging me to open my legs and let my body do what needed to be done, I unsuccessfully kept trying to close my legs and resist.  I started to fell weak and wanted Kyle to support me so he walked along the edge of the tub to sit behind me. It was wonderful being able to lean on him for support. I ended up wrapping my arms around his neck and pulled on it so hard that he was sore for a few days afterwards. Sorry about that, Kyle.

I remember saying many things including "someone do this for me", "I hate this", "I can't do this anymore" and I let out a few loud screams. They were all pitiful, desperate pleas.  But in the back of my mind I was aware that because I was saying those things, it would all be over soon. After one or two contractions I gave in to my body and just pushed. It was two or three contractions later and he was born. His head was out for about 10 seconds before Suzy said "Ok, you are going to have to push the rest of baby out now" and I gave it one last push and he was out.

Avett was born January 1, 2013 at 6:08 in the morning. He weighed 8 pounds even and was 20 inches long.

Caul draped over his arm. 
The second he was in my arms I looked between his legs and saw boy parts and said "Oh my gosh, it's a boy!!!" Kyle said something along those lines as well. And instantly after learning he was a boy I looked at him and thought "Avett Patrick". He was born with TONS of vernix and partially in the caul which was something that quickly caught Suzy and Heidi's attention. I remember being vaguely aware of what they were saying at the time, but since then I've learned how rare and special this occurrence is in some cultures. He was quiet the first few minutes after birth and I asked if he was alright. He was just so calm and peaceful. After a few minutes he started crying a little and all I had energy to do at that point was quietly shush him. We stayed in the tub for a few minutes and let the cord stop pulsing before Kyle cut it.
You can clearly see the caul here. 

So much vernix!!

my support team :)

Avett was taken over to the bed and placed on a heated towel to have his vitals checked while I got out of the tub to sit on the birth stool to deliver the placenta. Once it was out, I made my way over to the bed. Once Avett was in my arms he was pretty upset at that point so I put him to my breast and nursed him for the first time. Amazing. 
We spent the rest of the morning resting and eating until Cambria and Ezra arrived and we introduced them to their new baby brother. Those moments were precious. 

I had no tearing and no soreness afterwards. I don't know how it is possible for something so big to come from a space so small and to feel nothing afterwards, but that's how it was. For me, natural birth has been incredible. I don't think I'm a hero, I don't think I'm any better than any other woman that has given birth on this planet. I just think I've done exactly what my body has led me to do in the exact way it was meant to happen. I'm so grateful for that. The births of my children have been powerful, raw, and completely overwhelming in every way. I feel so fortunate to have the amazing birth center so close to my home. I feel safe, loved and empowered there. I will love those ladies for forever!

We love Avett so very much and feel that he is the perfect addition to our family! 

A big thanks to my mom and Amber for capturing such amazing photos for us when our birth photographer couldn't end up being there!! You guys are amazing!!