When Breastfeeding Ends

I walk into Mara’s room at 6am as she’s gnawing on the side of the crib. Two other sets of teeth marks imprinted under her’s, tug on a contemplative thread in my heart, despite my sleepless daze. Her toothy smile stops me right in my tracks. I sit down to comfort feed her and I’m keenly aware that this time is likely our last. 

Sadness settles onto my shoulders and gratitude in my chest for our time together. 

A familiar undercurrent that feels a lot like fear creeps in behind the scenes. Fear of what I will be left with when I return home to myself after years of baby making comes to a close. 

No more miracle in my belly, or baby on my breast; I am simply me. A sort of “back to reality” feeling – like when I came home from living in Australia – where there are no extra hormones or excuses for mood swings or ease of self care. I am back to me. 

I know from experience that once this transition has passed, I will feel more whole and free than any of these other feelings, relieved to have my body as my own. But this time, likely being the last, feels more momentous. 

There is an inherent worthiness tied to the giving of myself. What is life like when my primal purpose of creating new life has ended? Am I still worthy of love, stillness, joy, peace – all the good things – if my body is only my own? 

I always resented the words “settle down”. Now they land with an air of freedom. To settle into myself and settle into my truth; wherever that takes me. There is a spaciousness in this place, one that allows for something new. While uncertainty isn’t exactly my favorite flavor these days, a part of me remains hopeful for the certain beauty in whatever comes next.

The Day She Was Born

“Oh, and there’s one more thing,” I tenuously asked our future long-term Airbnb host. “I was wondering if you would be comfortable with us giving birth at your property?…I promise a home birth isn’t as messy as it might seem!”

Her birth story is now a story. Something that actually happened and something I can share. For nine months I thought about the day; how it would feel, when it would happen (her due date was “coincidentally” my parents’ anniversary, March 10th) and where.  I now hold all of those details in my memories; there is such relief in that. Especially because the details are both beautiful and impossibly hard, and most of all; ended with a healthy baby in our arms. 

Labor began early on Sunday morning, March 7th. Surges had been off and on for a few days, so I wasn’t sure if these waves were a warm up or the main event. I hadn’t slept well in a couple of nights and my anxious mind was starting to wear. 

I walked my pregnant self up to the ocean lookout just a few minutes away from our Airbnb in Leucadia. My sister Michelle (Meesh) sat with me on a bench and spoke beautiful prayers to help me feel more centered and connected; the exact shift I needed to come home to myself. As the day wore on and the surges held steady, I began to realize that I was definitely in “real” early labor. Mental strength was my biggest challenge during this early phase, unsure of how long I would be here before progressing to active labor. 

Ryan and I watched a couple of movies on Netflix, walked up to the ocean again and did a lot of resting. Meesh and my mom had been watching Maisley and Coura and brought them back home for bedtime. Before they went to sleep, Maisley and Coura came into my room and kissed my belly. They asked why there was a towel underneath me and I told them it was there just in case my water broke. They looked at my water bottle on the bed next to me and said, “It’s okay mommy, if your water breaks, you can borrow Mimi’s (Meesh’s).” They told me to take a big, deep breath and to be brave. 

I went to bed around 9pm and woke up around 10:30pm with a surge that shot me straight up in bed. I went from the main house of our small airbnb to our little casita that we turned into a birthing suite; bed, birth tub, shower and toilet all within an arm’s reach. Mother Mary held vigil, aglow by candlelight in the window sill from the beginning of labor to the hours after our baby lay asleep on my chest. She was accompanied by a photo of my dad and several other meaningful pieces to form a small altar of inspiration and support.

The lighting was dim, the tub was full and there was nothing left to do but have a baby. At this point, I was breathing deeply and sounding through each contraction. Ryan was helping with knee and hip compressions and simply sitting with me in between. I alternated between frog pose and lying on my side, putting all of my energy into the sound of my breath and movement of my hips to not get lost in the intense, burning pelvic pain below. As I focused all of my attention inside, Ryan was busy with his many roles: doula, husband, midwife supporter, tub temperature moderator and dad to Coura when she woke up with a nightmare as I labored. 

Meesh came into the room every so often when Ryan needed to step away and she jumped right into our rhythm or prayed silently and beautifully by my side. Michelle the midwife came quietly around 12:30pm, observing, checking our baby’s heartbeat and allowing me the space to continue as I had been laboring.

I hesitantly felt the call to move to the toilet, the place I knew would move things along, but would also raise some hell in the process. I swayed while holding onto Ryan as he put counter-pressure on my lower back. After a while, I started feeling a lot of low, deep pressure and felt like it was time to move into the tub. The water was magic; a welcomed feeling of levity and ease as rain unexpectedly began to fall outside.

In my mind, I was remembering my last birthing experience. I had gotten into the tub and Coura was out in 20 minutes. I had assumed the process would be similar, however assumptions and expectations don’t exactly bode well in birth.

An hour and a half later and still no progress toward pushing, I began to feel deflated. I was at 10 centimeters, far into transition as told by the back to back contractions, but something felt stalled or stuck. My doubting mind wondered if the baby would ever come, if I could handle this again? I asked Michelle to check out what was happening. I knew my water had yet to break and so I asked if she would help move things. As she manually adjusted the lip of my cervix, my water broke. I dove straight into the sensation, out of my breath and felt unbearable pain. “Fuuuuucccckkkkkkkk”, I groaned under an exhale, contrary to my former peaceful presence.

Everything was both a blur and crystal clear from here as she made her way down my pelvis. I had forgotten this next level of intensity. I bared down and pushed with every ounce of my strength for over an hour. Coura had just flown right out. Why was this so much harder? I felt angry like I had betrayed myself somehow. “Why did you put me in this position AGAIN, Jenna?”

The pressure was building, lower and lower until I could hear the midwife and Ryan talking about how to catch the baby. I grabbed the side of the tub on all fours and with one more mountainous push of pure adrenaline strength, her head emerged into the water. 30 seconds later, I was able to release her body. Ryan said he will never forget seeing her face resting peacefully in the water before her body fully emerged. 

I turned onto my back and Ryan caught her, maneuvering her like a reverse football hike through my legs and onto my chest. 

The air stood still. Time stopped at 3:56am as her warm, soft body lay peacefully on my chest. There was a quiet commotion around me, as the midwives worked to stimulate a deep breath from our baby. Once she was breathing steadily, we turned her around to reveal her gender. I thought with certainty that she was a boy, so when Ryan revealed through tears, “It’s a girl, we have a daughter!”, I too couldn’t help but feel the flood of how right and perfect she was for our family.

I laid my head back against the edge of the tub in pure ecstasy. Disbelief settled in like the stillness of water. I went from desperate to be anywhere else – get me out of my body –  to never wanting the moment to end. The juxtaposition of one of the hardest moments of my life, to one of the three best is so difficult to comprehend. 

Everyone was in awe of her thick umbilical cord. She fell asleep with her arms and legs entwined like a soft pretzel in my welcoming arms. We transferred to our comfortable bed, the best part of doing a home birth. Home births are a lot of work, but the good kind of work, because we created an experience all around personal preferences and comfort. I was able to flow from one room to the next and fully engage in the birth without worrying about leaving for the hospital. Our midwives were supportive, professional, knowledgeable and receptive to my flow. Mara squeaked and squawked like a tiny bird as their gentle hands weighed and assessed her body.

Mara was born on March 8, 2021 – International Women’s Day – at our little Aloha cottage in Leucadia, in about 100 square feet of the 700 total. Even if it’s our temporary home, we will always hold this plot of land in gratitude and awe. With her fruit trees, rose bushes and salty sea air, she was the perfect place for our third baby girl to enter the world. 

She’s Out!

I’m having a tough time distinguishing between what I said and what I thought; what I dreamt and what I did. In a matter of several beautiful, empowering, impossibly hard hours, I transitioned from being pregnant to postpartum, a baby in my womb to one on my chest. 

Our world has instantly become a sleepless blur of sweet snuggles, talking more about sleep than actually sleeping, and straight up survival mode. She’s only been here a week and I can barely scroll to photos on my phone of a time before her. 

She belongs here with us; a perfect fit. I was completely convinced for months that she was a boy. With happy tears in his eyes, Ryan announced, “It’s a girl”, and in that surprising moment, everything was right. Of course it’s her, I felt in my bones. There is something about her that makes me feel rest assured, all is well. An essence of light, softness and hope. 

Mara Jeffries; our rounded edge on a very jagged couple of years. There was a point where I didn’t think three kids was even possible. Two was too hard…life was too hard. Yet here we are, living into the weave of chaos and beauty, knitting a whole family. A completeness I wasn’t sure I would ever feel. 

While the world spins madly on, I rest peacefully with a newborn on my chest. Her toes the size of pez (equally as edible). Her ears, the same perfect shape as my dad’s. Long, thin eyelashes frame her deep blue eyes that wander curiously about her new world. I rest and relax more this third time around, knowing how important my wellbeing is to that of our family’s.  And I also rest in gratitude. After meeting death firsthand and also watching friends give everything they’ve earned and every part of their hearts for the hope of a baby, there is nothing about this birth that I take for granted. 

The name Mara is an homage to my mom and mother-in-law’s middle name; Marie. An honoring of Mother Mary who I have grown into a deep connection with. Mara coincidentally shares the beginning and end of Maisley and Coura. It’s also the Gaelic word for Sea. And Jeffries is, of course, in celebration of my Dadio. 

“She’s out, she’s out!” yells Coura, to anyone who will listen. Our baby girl is here.

Until Baby

The girls got haircuts. We went to Leucadia Donuts, the local shop with windows covered in stickers. The car seats are installed; three in a row. We set up the birth room and then we set it up again. My altar of inspiration featuring Mother Mary, Jesus, Dadio, Surfing Madonna, Mary Magdalene, magical trees, the northern lights and a few other favorites are all framed by the window sill and spare Christmas lights that Ryan lovingly taped up.

I’m 39 weeks with baby three, and somehow I feel like he or she is running late. Braxton Hicks have been around since week 20, yet their regular rhythm has intensified. I feel grounded and ready. I’ve learned to rest more this time around, now that I’m not trying to prove how able of a pregnant person I am. What a relief. I feel overwhelmed and scared too, but it’s not the biggest piece of the feelings pie (at least today).

Every day in this waiting period before the baby is some sort of bonus day from the universe; in between this life and the next. A rebirth for me, a birth for him or her, all in a timing not on my clock. Will we even remember what life was like right now with two kids? Pizza Fridays at the beach and dancing to Maroon Five.

I dream of a beautiful sunny daytime birth. A space where Ryan and I are fully in sync and where I release this baby into the water and he or she is placed on my chest. Fully engulfed in an ocean of light, a mosaic of angels in my body and all around; fully held, healthy and safe. A birth of grace and ease where I continually find that unshakeable core of trust within and come back home to it over and over again.

Even though my tricky mind speaks otherwise, the rest doesn’t matter. Do we have enough mugs in case the midwives need tea? Do we need more ice in case I need a cold towel? Where is the peppermint essential oil I’ll certainly be craving at centimeter 7?

We bought an ez up canopy for the midwives in case the 200 square foot birthing suite isn’t big enough. It looks like a midwife check-in station at an organized sports race that should be stocked with GU and electrolytes. Although, we do have a space heater and chairs. I wonder if they’ve ever had accommodations so glamorous? Ryan is wondering if a band will come to cheer me on. Jordan suggested signs with silly puns. Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve compared birth to a marathon.

However, this marathon doesn’t have a set course, and the race day of March 10th is just an educated guess.

June 1st

The four of us lay in bed. Sitting comfortably on a cloud of hormones and pure joy. We couldn’t stop smiling and staring at her, FaceTiming our families to share the happy news. I had thought a thousand times about what her birth day would be like. June 1st now held her story forever.

IMG_3435


My water broke on May 31st at 10pm; 15 minutes before we finished the finale of The Americans and two hours after my ferocious need to wash all of the bath mats in the house. Ryan and I both leaped up from the couch, too distracted to continue watching, and began the final preparations for our planned home birth of baby girl number two.

Ryan kicked things into high gear. He pulled out the hose to begin filling the Aquadoula tub, put the plastic sheet on the bed, and gathered all of our prepared birth goodie bags full of things like towels, a baby hat, washcloths, a thermometer and a cookie sheet (who’s purpose still stumps me to this day).

I walked aimlessly around our bedroom, trying to combat my intense anxiety and excitement with meditation and deep breathing.

Our birth flags strung across the wall, illuminated by the bedside lamp. Positive affirmations from the strong women in my life decorated each flag.

I am strength. A warrior. Courageous. Sunshine.

“It’s Go Time!”

“I can do hard things.” 

The bright, teal colored Aquadoula had been setup in the corner of our room now for two weeks, staring at me in anticipation every night before bed.

People kept telling me how quickly second babies tend to come, so when my water broke, my heart leaped out of my chest thinking I would go from zero to 10, fast. (Plus I had lost my mucus plug two days before and had been feeling “off” – extra emotional and crampy – since then).

The surges began around 10:30 pm, light at 10 minutes apart, then slowly building in intensity and closer together at eight minutes apart. We called our doula, Willow, to come over and my sister, Michelle, to watch our older daughter Maisley. All signs were pointing to baby launch 2018. She was coming!

And then after an hour, the surges started to slow down. 8 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes apart.

It was a sleepless night. The surges were just strong enough to keep me awake, not to mention my anxious mind begging unhelpful questions like: When will this labor get moving? Am I going to be pregnant forever? Can I even handle this again?

I laid in bed on my side, with a pillow between my legs, lightly clutching the rosary my grandma had given me when I was a little girl. Grandma Joan, our baby’s middle-name sake.

Ryan laid next to me, dosing out a unique level of comfort and encouragement that only he could provide.

Inhale calm, exhale surrender.

IMG_0633

The sun came up on the first of a new month. It was a peaceful and warm morning, not the kind of day you imagine to match the intensity of labor. I was emotionally and physically exhausted, questioning my body and wondering when I would meet my baby girl. 

Willow continued to reassure me that this off-and-on early labor was very common for second-time moms. “Nothing is wrong. Everything you are experiencing is normal. You are doing great,” she calmly reminded me. She massaged my shoulders and guided me through the Miles Circuit to help get things moving. Willow went home to recharge and told us to call her when things started to intensify.

IMG_0648

I continued to rest in bed and then around 9:00 am I noticed a change in my body. One strong surge came and I knew it was the beginning of many more to come.

Between breaths I whispered to Ryan to call the midwife and have Willow come back as soon as possible, trying not waste any bit of energy on logistics. He was working so hard to not only help me through each surge with the support of his hands and shoulders to hang on, but managing all communications and making sure I had everything I needed; food, water, chapstick, cold towels, music, essential oils, etc.

At the peak of each surge, I felt like I had a choice; to let the pain consume me and take over, or to ride with it, be active in it, stay present and breathe deeply. Instead of being afraid of the intensity, I embraced it and welcomed it with every ounce of my mind and body (different than my mindset for my first labor and it made ALL the difference).

I was squatting next to the bed, breathing and making deep groaning noises. I moved to the toilet to labor and I could feel my body releasing her down with each surge.

The urge to push came on at around 10:15 am as I was laboring on the toilet.  That undeniable and familiar deep pressure in my pelvis was here. I had been saving the water as my final comfort during transition and was now instinctively ready to move to the tub.

I hung over the soft edge of the warm tub, in an upright child’s pose position. It was here that I experienced the hardest moment of labor so far. The moment most laboring women talk about where they feel like they can’t do it. I wanted out. I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. The pressure and burning was so intense, I felt like my body might break apart.

IMG_3294

When Willow arrived she strung cold essential oil-infused towels over my neck, poured water on my back and took turns with Ryan holding my hands and guiding my breath through each surge.

The midwives arrived at 10:30 am. Thank you God, I thought. No unassisted home birth today. They took my blood pressure, monitored baby and as one of the assistants asked if it was okay to check my dilation, I just shook my head and said I’m ready. There was no need, I could feel her coming soon.

IMG_3297

Ryan faced me, looking into my eyes with belief and whispering words of encouragement. He helped me to remain present and enjoy the peaceful moments between surges (which to my surprise was actually possible).

I began bearing down when the uncontrollable urge to push came over my body. On my third full body push, I groaned, “She’s coming!” and as her head emerged, I flipped over and reached down to feel her beautiful head. I was so shocked that she was here. There was no “ring of fire” feeling and I was only pushing for 15 minutes!

With one final push at 10:59 am her body was out and I felt the sweetest release. Ryan stood next to the midwife, delivering our baby girl and bringing her to my chest.

IMG_0661

I yelled out sighs of relief and joy, in disbelief by the continual miracle of birth. We did it. Everyone was safe and healthy.  Ryan and I held each other’s gaze, relishing in what we divinely created. She was so warm on my chest and was covered in thick, white vernix. She exuded a calm, peace and contentment I had never seen before. 

I almost thought something might be wrong because she wasn’t crying, but the midwives reassured me that she was doing great.

IMG_3339

I could feel deep in my heart that we were made for each other. That and so much gratitude for her life and the empowering experience we would forever share. 

Coura Joan Nienhuis. Born 7 pounds 2 ounces in the water, at home. My courageous girl had forever changed our life. 

IMG_3355IMG_3428IMG_3389

New Home // Home Birth

I strolled into Home Depot with my checklist scribbled into the notes section of my iPhone. Maisley sat in the front of the cart, casually along for the ride and intentionally preoccupied by her Trader Joes cheddar rocket snacks.

I’m never above asking for help in that giant store, so I flagged down the first orange vest in site. “Excuse me. Are you able to tell me where I can find a cheap garden hose, a sprocket to attach the hose to a bathroom sink, large storage bins and two smoke detectors?” I asked casually, without explaining why.

I felt like I was plotting for something big. Like I was an incognito, athleisure-wearing, mom-version of Walter White from Breaking Bad gathering supplies for some illegal debauchery.

Substitute the meth for some oxytocin, and our new home and home birth prep was underway.

The Home Part

After a year of searching, the magical combo finally struck at week 32 of pregnancy number two – we fell in love with a new home and our offer was accepted. A home still in San Diego county, but just far enough away to bring out waves of that uncomfortable feeling that happens with big changes or when you’re just about to take off on an airplane to somewhere unknown. A new grocery store, new network of friends and new everyday life.

Maisley will finally have walls on her room and Ryan and I won’t have to use our bluetooth headphones to watch TV together at night. We will have a backyard where our kids can expel their endless energy and most importantly, our own mailbox in which I can paint in any way I please (a dream I have always had). 

Despite everything that feels right about our new home, it feels bittersweet to leave our town home – the first home we bought together and the only one Maisley has ever known. It’s only been three years, but three big years of growth and change from newlyweds to parents of almost two.

Nestled into the middle of my third trimester, I think I’ve actually been relatively useful during the moving process. My pointer finger is stronger than ever and new directives are popping into my vocabulary everyday. Only time will tell if I am still married after our move-in date and furniture assembly. 

The Birth Part

Nothing like welcoming ourselves to a new neighborhood with a home birth. Placenta cookies anyone?

After having an unmedicated hospital birth with Maisley, our first daughter, I was pretty set on trying for a similar process with our next daughter, “sissy” (despite the intense memories of labor that still make my stomach churn with anxious butterflies).  But a planned home birth was never really in the plans. It always seemed a little too “crunchy” and out there. Was it even safe?

As it turns out, choosing to do a home birth wasn’t really something I chose. It was a feeling, an inkling, a deep sense of curiosity that slowly bubbled to the surface during my first few weeks of pregnancy. I think she chose it.

We went about the process of interviewing midwives to educate ourselves and see if this new type of care felt right. We found someone that we loved and were 90% certain about our decision – the last 10% was made on a leap and a prayer.

This new form of prenatal care has been empowering, informative and full of research.  Everyday fluctuates between excitement and fear about sissy’s birth, but I can’t wait to hold her and see how her birth day will unfold.  

Ryan will be the tub setter-upper. A lot of people ask about the tub. Will she be born in the water? Where will it go? Does it have a recirc pump to keep the water warm? (per my handy-man Uncle). If I’m feeling it in the moment, master bedroom and yes.

While I’m overwhelmed and sometimes panicked about the weeks ahead, my gratitude level is simultaneously peaking. Change has a special way of making me feel alive.

That and boxes. So many boxes, which unlike birth, won’t be spontaneously unfolding on their own. 

 

Waiting for Maisley

As I sit here on the eve of Maisley’s first birthday, I can’t help but think about what I was doing last year at this very minute and the days leading up to her birth; endless swells of uncertainty, joy, fear and excited anticipation.

Here are some highlights from my journal entries during the last 15 days of waiting for Maisley.

8.1.16 
Pinch and a punch to the first of the month no take backs. It’s Bean’s birthday month. August 1st raises the anticipation level to “go-time”!

8.2.16
My sweet Nonno went to Heaven today. We got to see him yesterday and say I love you one more time. He’s with his beloved Christina now and that makes me so happy. How ironic that he left and Bean will be coming into this world. They passed somewhere in the soul-space of the universe. I think she will be bold and strong-willed like him. After years of Alzheimer’s and physical decline, I’m trying to remember Nonno as his old self.

  • Cold cut sandwiches around the table in the mobile home
  • His jokes and constant humor
  • Slipping us hundies as we walked out the door of his mobile home
  • Teaching us poker with his trickster ways
  • The way he peeled his orange with a knife in a circular motion
  • His stories from WWII
  • How he always made sure everyone else was okay
  • How much he loved my Nana with all his heart
  • How he would say “tree” instead of “three”
  • His love of basketball
  • That he was a fisherman
  • He was frugal, but he lived and traveled the world

I love that he was there on Christmas eve when we told my family that our Bean was coming into the world. They are soul mates. He left and will guide her onto the earth. He is or angel. I’m so happy he is at peace; in Heaven where he deserves to be.

8.3.16 
How are we going to keep this baby alive? We aren’t prepared at all. The bassinet situation plagued my mind at 3am. Do we tilt it upwards? Does Bean just go in there at night? How do we know what Bean needs? I forget everything from Breastfeeding and Newborn 101. Where is my Solly Baby wrap? I need to wash it. Shit is getting real at almost 38 weeks. Sleeping? Tired. I feel pregnant. I love you though, Bean.

Happy 28th Birthday Brandino.

It was so good spending the day with my mom. She is so excited to meet Bean and I’m so happy to bring her that joy. Sammie, oh sammie girl and her sensitive puppy tummy. I think she is sensing the heightened energy and hormones, that anxious soul. Ryan woke up to a real treat this morning.

8.4.16
The elusive productivity felt good today. Bean is still feeling pretty high up.  Ryan said last night that this waiting game is like the biggest game of jack-in-the-box. We have been winding up for nine months…when will I pop?? Ever since then, I can’t get the song out of my head: do do do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do do do, pop goes the weasel! I hope mine’s a baby.

I swam for 20 minutes today per my midwife’s suggestion. It feels so good to let my belly float free and weightless. It’s so surprising how heavy everything feels as I walk up the steps out of the pool. It’s peaceful in there. I think Bean likes it too.

I’m happy to see Jackie and Nicole tonight with their little loves Juno and Greyson. Pretty soon I will also be a friend with a baby. I want to always be a friend, and have my baby. I want to remember to be me. I think Bean wants that too. As the days get closer to meeting Bean, I feel more ready and simultaneously freaked out. I think I am most nervous 1) for labor 2) how everyone calls those first months the dark days. Yikes. I want to stay positive. How do I not fall into the darkness? It almost feels like something out of my control that can happen to me, not come from me. I will say yes to help. We are strong and can do hard things.

8.5.16 
Bean, I had a meltdown tonight. I sat in our rocking chair in your dark nursery; meditated and chilled out. I said to Ryan that I just want to feel normal again. I felt bad for saying it, but I was having a moment. He was comforting to me in the moment, but later said, I feel so bad because I don’t think you’re going to feel normal for another year.

8.6.16
We gardened the backyard today and re-planted our succulents. It looks so refreshing and beautiful. It was mostly me directing and Ryan actually doing the hard labor (my day is coming, I don’t feel so bad). I’m a bit useless in that sense right now. We got this new peach colored rose bush. I normally hate roses, but today they were all I wanted. They remind me of my Grandma and as kids the “Rose Hotel” we would create for her and my Papa when they would stay with us. Maybe it’s Bean. Maybe I’m just getting older, but roses are somehow back in my flower game. I slept for 10 hours last night, we got breakfast and strolled the beach. Happy.

8.7.16
38 weeks has come slow and fast. It’s almost like my body has been waiting since I was 12-years-old to get the chance to do what it was made to do. My fears are many. How will I fight through the frustrations and hormones with grace? How will I not be a control freak? I want to be nice to Ryan. I don’t want to be the crazy person people say you become in labor.

8.8.16
We said “goodbye” and “see you later” to Nonno today. It was such a happy and sad day. It was hard to know that we won’t see him or hear his voice on this earth again. It was hard to see my mom cry during her eulogy. She did so great. Father Angelos spoke about how much love, faith and generosity my Nonno and Nana exuded; he said he wants to be like them. It was so powerful to hear him speak so highly of them.

It was a surreal experience being 9 months pregnant with Bean at a funeral. One soul gone, one coming. It’s the in-between phase where neither are out in the world right now.

I love my rose bush. I wonder if the symbolism is for my grandparents or me blooming like our labor visuals. It brings me a lot of happiness right now. I will carry ‘their’ hearts with me. All of these beautiful strong souls up in Heaven, they will all help me up this mountain.

We came home from the service and had the most joy-filled afternoon with my sisters and mom and dad. Dad seems to be doing a little better. Thank you God for this glimmer of hope. I hope he feels it too. He means the world to us.

8.9.16
I haven’t thought much about the pain of labor, until now, while my lower back feels like it’s breaking apart. Holy cow, this is real. Me and Ryan talked about our labor fears last night and any residual feelings. I said the intensity, but I also know this is what we have been preparing for. Our hypnobirthing classes, rainbow relaxation meditations, visualizations, everything. It’s the big race. I remember the night before my marathon so vividly. I thought I would be nervous and unable to sleep, but I was calm and woke up well rested, ready for the event I had prepared so hard for. And then it was over, it passed, and it went great. It was God. It was me.

I’m so fortunate to have Ryan. How could I ever tell him enough? The little and the big things. He is so good to me and never complains. I’m so happy it’s him and I’m so happy he is Bean’s dad.

Also, Bean, what are YOU?! We are so anxious to find out. I’m leaning towards girl, but I’m also 50/50. I can’t wait to share your name. I can’t wait to meet you. Waiting for you is so strange. I pray you have a beautiful, healthy birthday. When will you come? I feel it getting closer. I feel it in my heart…and my lower back. We have been reading you bedtime stories at night. Can you hear them? Dad is really good at telling stories, you’ll see.

8.10.16
I cried again last night. The full belly kind of cry I used to do as a kid. The cleansing, uncontrollable kind. I’ve been trying to be tough and not ask for help and it’s not doing me any good. I’m frustrating Ryan because he feels like he can’t help. We had a really good talk last night and I exploded out my fears; some real, some not. I guess that’s what fears are; even if they aren’t real it’s whatever you perceive them to be.

Despite all of our prep, I’m afraid of the unknown of labor. So many people everywhere are pouring their opinions and experiences on me, and while they mean well, quite frankly, I’m over it. I just want to stay in my own experience. I’m so tired of advice. Advice from the lady at Trader Joe’s, advice from the random woman walking her dog, from my aunt, from friends. It’s just so overwhelming and the words are spinning like a washing machine in my head.

Me, Ryan and Bean. It’s us. It’s going to be hard, but we will get through it.

What does “mom” me look like? Does she still have long hair? Is she patient or does she have a temper? I know these waiting days are just a blip in time, but they feel forever.

8.11.16
I love you Bean. I am sick with a bad cold. My back hurts, but I love you. I’m grateful for you. I met with a mom friend Devon yesterday. She gave me good advice. I wonder what my advice will be for a new mom. I’m trying to stay positive. Other people are feeling much worse. Other people are dying to be pregnant and feel what I feel.

8.12.16
I’m feeling so much better mentally today. Less sad and scared. More excited and ready. I got a good night’s sleep which made all the difference. 39 weeks tomorrow. At 6, I couldn’t imagine this would ever come. At 29, when we had the small hospital scare, all I wanted was for you to be full term. Here we are!

I think I said in my baby hunch prediction that you would come today. Will you? You can come anytime. We are ready for you Bean. I’m so anxious to meet you and catch your glance for the first time. To feel our outer-body connection.  To feel a love I’ve never experienced. What a weird feeling to wait like this for the greatest love of all time?

8.13.16
Well Bean, you’re still fluttering around inside my belly. I’ve been waking up around 3am thinking I’m going into labor the past few nights. I have this mild cramping feeling during the night, and then I wake up wondering if it was a dream or real. After a few nights of the same thing, I’m going to chalk it up to the wonders of gas and constipation.

You are all I’m thinking about, Bean. I can be briefly distracted, but any minute alone in thought is about you. How you will come? When you will come? What will it be like?Emotionally I’m feeling much better than earlier in the week. My nesting need is fierce, but I can barely do anything to help which is so frustrating!

Me and Sammie often cuddle and hang out during my morning routine. She sits between my crossed legs and listens to our prayers. Bean, you’re going to love Sammie. She’s going to love you.

The weather has been so warm and beautiful. Before getting pregnant, I had this visual of giving birth at the hospital when it was cold and rainy (add some drama to the scene). Now, I envision being in my bathing suit, laboring at the pool and then wearing a loose sundress all the way to the hospital. It will most likely be a bright, happy, sunny day when Bean comes into the world.

It’s so fun having the Olympics on right now. Watching people push their limits and work hard – what more motivation for labor could I ask for? The track started last night. It had me thinking of the 400 and 800 meter races. I learned through sports that my body is WAY more capable than I could ever imagine. I can push myself past the limit. My heart is strong, I am strong.

The labor snacks I bought at week 38 are slowly dwindling. I need to re-stock! We’ve been reading you bedtime stories every night. Dad gets really animated. It’s so fun to have that time with you.

8.14.16
“She believed she could, so she did”. Such a simple mantra, but it just stuck to my heart. Believing in someone else gives them so much power and strength. Believing in yourself is just as empowering. I can do this. I am stronger than I think. Surrender.

Bean, I told you this morning that we are ready whenever you are! We hung out at Pizza Port with Amy and Paul, the newlyweds, last night. It was so fun to see them. I always leave feeling better than before.

Ryan had the worst seven golf holes of his life today. Was it a sign from the golf gods that he should be at home with me? Ha! It was such a bad round that he quit at hole seven and put his clubs in the attic.

I was thinking this morning how lucky I am to have my mom. She calls everyday to say how excited she is and to see how I’m doing. We are lucky to have her, our whole family. I can’t wait to see our family’s relationships with Bean.

How weird it’s going to be to not call you Bean!

 

8.15.16
I woke up this morning around 8am with pink blood. I think that meant I lost my “mucus plug” (the two grossest words ever created). I started getting some light period cramping around 9am when early labor began. Me and Ryan both started doing random chores around the house, trying not to get too nervous or excited. We are going to meet Bean, but still don’t know when, just soon.

8.16.16
Maisley Christine Nienhuis
Born at 12:58am
7 lbs, 3 ounces, 18.5 inches long
Scripps Encinitas
Willow – Doula
Danielle – Nurse
Michelle – Widwife
Ryan – Dada

IMG_0178IMG_2367

 

 

 

 

 

I carry your heart with me

Here is a letter I wrote Maisley when I was 35 weeks pregnant and she was still “Bean”.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling) – E.E. Cummings

Dear Bean,

You have been swimming around in the magical waters of my uterus for 35 weeks now. You dance to the drum of my heartbeat and swish around to the muted sounds of conversations, music, dogs barking and life outside the womb.

As time seems to melt away like an otter pop on a hot July day, one thought has remained.

We will never be as close to each other as we are right now.

I have appreciated you everyday, and tried to remember to tell you that everyday. Thinking back to the moment that a tiny stick revealed your existence, until now, just a few weeks from 40, already feels like a lifetime.

Over the last 8 months we have gone to best friend’s weddings and danced the night away. We traveled on an airplane to Portland and then later across the Atlantic Ocean to Iceland. We celebrated dad’s 30th birthday with a clambake at Newport Dunes. We went paddle boarding on the 4th of July (dad fell off but we just sat and relaxed). We celebrated your Aunt Linny’s graduation from grad school, your Aunt Mackenzie’s graduation from high school and your Aunt Meesh’s 25th birthday. We watched your sweet cousin come into the world. We saw Missy Higgins live at the Belly Up. We bought our first new baby mobile together.

We cried over uncertainty and new beginnings. We had a minor mental breakdown in BuyBuyBaby around week 29. We watched in fear as the world struggled with terror, trying to have hope that the light and love we are bringing to those around us is making a small impact.

And even though I feel your tiny, wrinkly feet nudging me awake every morning, I have so many questions.

Can you feel dad giving you fist bumps back? Do you love it or hate it when Sammie, our pup, is climbing all over you? Are you on avocado overload? Do you flip around so much because you get bored easily like me?

Soon, I will see you. Soon, I will know. Until then, I dream.

I dream that you will grow up in a world where creativity is at your fingertips, nature is your second home and curiosity is your mode of transportation. I want to show you that anything is possible and that I will always believe in you.

While physically, we can’t always remain this close, I will always carry your heart with me. And I will never forget our precious time together.

Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. Just a few weeks remain until I carry you in my arms.

Always yours,
Mom (the Bean carrier)

shewanders-jennapool-1017