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Starling’s Arrival

It has been a few full and beautiful months getting to know our new little daughter.  What a blessing that in His wisdom, God should choose to give us another baby girl.  I’ll remember and celebrate what happened two months ago today by finally writing her birth story!  Starling Eliot, what follows is the story of how you came into the world:

Early, early Sunday morning, June 16, I was awakened by the loudest cricket I’d ever heard.  Sleep was impossible, so I walked to all the open windows trying to find the source of the chirping.  To my surprise, I located the deafening sound in our dining room (which is used as more of a music room/library than actual place of eating).  Somewhere behind a wall of books, the little guy was singing his song.  And I was aggravated.  Mostly because I was due to give birth any minute, planning on giving birth in this very room, and really not wanting to contract and labor to such a loud accompaniment.  So the next morning I Googled ways to get rid of crickets.  I happened to read that a cricket in the house is a sign of good things to come.  Interesting!  I then remembered that “Cricket” was the nickname Ryan and I had given this baby before Juniper changed it to “Broccoli.”  Even more interesting!  So I relaxed about the cricket, changed my attitude, and by that afternoon it had made its departure.

The following Friday Juniper (age two and a half) informed me that the baby would be born on Sunday.  Sunday would be five days after my official due date.  All weekend, she stuck to this prediction as well as her firm opinion that I would have a baby girl.  All along it had been a boy to her, but now she’d changed her mind.  Sweet, I thought.  A girl on Sunday.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Sunday morning came and with it the super moon.  On its elliptical orbit, the moon is closest to the earth once every fourteen months or so, thus making it bigger than most full moons: hence the term super moon.  In fact, for our little town of Flint, the moon would be its fullest at exactly 7:33 a.m.  Can you believe that at 7:30 Sunday morning of June 23, a week after I heard my little cricket-friend, contractions began in earnest.  I know it sounds crazy, but the moon was literally pulling this baby out of me.

Now I had been contracting, “false labor” some call it, for a few weeks up to this point.  They were slightly painful waves almost every other night, irregular and disappearing in the morning.   The contractions I felt on the morning of June 23 were different only in that they were very mild and very regular, seven to ten minutes apart and not dissipating with rest or activity.  Once Juniper was awake that morning, the first thing she said was “Mama, where is your baby?”  I was thinking boy I hope it’s on its way.  

The plan was for Ryan to go to his morning men’s bible study, do a bit of office work at the restaurant, then come home and get Juniper for church while I had a restful day at home.  By the time his bible study was over, however, I had contacted him, asked him to skip work and church, and to come home now.  The contractions were growing slightly more painful and we had work to do: prepare the house for this birth.  At this point, it was around 9:30 a.m.  I contacted my midwife Goldie to let her know that things were beginning to happen; I informed my friend and doula, Tamra, as well.

Ryan and I worked together while Juniper “read” books on her bed.  We made the bed, cleaned the kitchen, spot cleaned the bathroom, set up the birth pool, started making a loaf of bread (the smell of baking bread is thought to ease pain during labor).  Ryan suggested that I sit down with [one of] my favorite author[s], Bill Bryson.  I read only a few paragraphs of Mother Tongue when I realized contractions were speeding up, becoming more intense, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but them.  During this time, both Goldie and her assistant Amy, as well as Tamra, were on their way to our home.  We wanted my mom to be a part of this birth as well, but didn’t want her to be the first to arrive (for her own sake), so once the birth team was there around noon, Ryan called my mom.

Juniper reading.  Me?  Just chilling I guess.

Juniper reading.  Me?  Just chilling I guess.

We all sat in the living room and chatted though I had to “check out” every three to five minutes or so, focusing on the letter Y on the antique milk crate across the room while my uterus was working hard.  Juniper wanted to climb on me with a book, but I just couldn’t; Tamra read to her instead, mixing up the words and making her giggle and giggle.  I realized then that I was resisting contractions instead of leaning into them, so I went upstairs (where our bathroom is) to labor alone.  While I was upstairs, my mom arrived.  It was 1:30 p.m.  She came up to be with me and I was never so happy to see her beautiful face.  I told her “Mom, the birth team hasn’t had lunch yet and these contractions aren’t painful enough for me to be even close.  I think you should tell them to go get lunch and come back later.  Also, I want to get in the pool.  Will you go make sure it’s hot-hot, please?”  Or something along those lines, hopefully that polite.  Of course, my midwife knew better than to leave me; they were preparing last-minute things while I was upstairs working through what I later learned was active labor.

eagerly Juniper waits

Eagerly Juniper waits.

In minutes Ryan was upstairs, helping me come down and get in the pool.  All morning, Juniper had been excitedly asking me “Would you like to get in the birth pool?  Would you like to get in the birth pool now?” and I could finally say “Yes!”  Just like at Juniper’s birth, the water was warm and welcoming and in it I found relief.  I smelled baking bread and lavender (the midwife had made an herbal bath for me and the baby for later that day).  I was in my birth pool, in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by people I loved, having my baby, letting my body do the hard work, and I was happy.  Juniper played in the water with a fish net and softly sang songs from “The Last Unicorn” and James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind.”  The contractions became more intense, even closer together, and I needed Ryan in the pool with me to support my body and my mind.  He was there in no time.  This was around two o’clock.

Tamra, Juniper and me.

Tamra, Juniper and me.

Together Ryan and I sang the “birth song;” he imitated the low moaning I created to meet the waves, created from somewhere deep within.  Juniper was singing it too, right along with us.  Between contractions I joked with everyone, though I don’t remember my hilarious quips and that’s probably a good thing.  A few minutes later I began to feel pressure and knew that the baby was making its decent.  Ryan and I got louder.  Juniper grew nervous because of our volume and my mom took her upstairs to play.  They were only upstairs for ten minutes when Amy called them back down; the baby was crowning.  At the very last moment I got out of my head, called upon Jesus and all His angels, and the baby’s head was out!  Amazing and terrific and terrifying and wonderful and I thought my job was done.  But no, I still had to wait for the next contraction to push out the rest of the baby.  I can say that that part was very surprising.

oh hello baby!

Oh hello baby!

The baby was given directly to me, I actually helped lift it out of the water.  It didn’t reach very high on my chest because the cord (still connected) was short and fat.  The baby was big, which is why its exit had felt so very surprising.  It was coated with vernix, coughing and crying.  I tried to rub my baby’s back through the thick sticky vernix and soon the baby’s color improved.  It was around that time when we thought to check and see… a girl!  Another girl!  Which, crazy enough, was my dream-come-true.  I had always dared to dream for two girls and our merciful God sent me another girl to complete my dream.  We were so happy.   She was born at 2:32 p.m.  In all, active labor lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes; I pushed for 11 minutes.

I can't believe that you're here.  Really here.

I can’t believe that you’re here.  Really here.

and baby makes four

And baby makes four.

About forty minutes later Goldie insisted I birth the placenta but my contractions had lessened to almost nothing and I was very unmotivated to cooperate, but what choice did I have?  Once the placenta was out, baby girl and I could leave the pool.  We sat together on the couch while Ryan showered.  I nursed and cuddled our new daughter.  Once Ryan was back on the scene, he, Juniper and Goldie cauterized the cord.  Baby and I then had an herbal bath upstairs, followed by a remarkable infant exam (8 pounds! 10 ounces! 14.5 inch head! Oh my word!), then made our way back downstairs to relax on the couch.  By this time, the team had everything cleaned up and the house put back together.  How lovingly efficient.  They stayed a little longer to bask in the new-baby glow and departed around 6 p.m.  Then Juniper, sitting on the couch next to us, said: “Wait!  We forgot something this day.  We forgot to go to church!

Two days later, when we finally settled on a name, our baby looked into my eyes and smiled for the very first time.  She was to be one easy-going, happy, smiley and sweet-sweet little girl.

Starling Eliot sleeping sweetly.

Our little one sleeping sweetly.

Starling Eliot Beuthin
2:32 p.m., 6-23-13
8 lbs, 10 oz
22 inches long
dimples & a head full of fuzzy hair
long fingers & perfect sweetness everywhere

three-week-old Starling and her proud Papa

Three-week-old Starling and her proud Papa.

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six months and six days

juniper, six months old

My Juna-Pepper, you have been with us, outside of the womb, for over half a year.  What an amazing half-year it has been, full of wonder, full of learning, full of funny little moments to treasure forever.  You’ve taught us patience, unconditional love and just how deep life can be.  You’ve brought us so much joy; what absolutely lucky parents we are.  It’s more than luck, I’m sure.

Your happiness, energy and vivacity is contagious.  Ask anyone who knows you right now.  They’ll say the same thing: you are such a smiley and talkative baby.  What a charmer, they’ll say.

We marvel at you every day.  And every day you change, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Here are some of the sweet things you currently do:

You dive for fallen toys without considering consequences.  We’re there, though, to make sure you don’t fall on your head, over and over.

For very exceptional moments, you’ve invented a cheesy, ultra-smile.  You squint up your eyes, wrinkle your little nose, lean in, and grace us with a huge grin.

You discard toys to the left of your left leg when you’re done playing with them.

You like to put your thumb on things then pivot your tiny hand.  It’s like you’re giving everything you touch one little moose antler.

Juniper, you have yet to meet a stranger.

You can’t nurse when your father’s in the room; his presence is just too distracting.

Your current sound is “blaah-blaah-blaah” mixed with some juicy raspberries and just a few shrill shrieks.  You are also working on “mmaah-mmaah-mmaah” which is delightful to me.

You sleep so soundly at night and nap during the day like a champ, usually.

Anything can be a toy.  Your current favorites: a large teaspoon and the metal rings from canning jars.  You also love things that make noise (rattles, bells, blocks beaten together) and think books are for eating.

You are playing independently, more and more.  You’re sitting up on your own.  You know where you want to go and just can’t quite get there yet.  You’ll be doing the worm scoot any day now.  Sometimes I feel like you’re more of a toddler than a baby.

When you’re not so happy, we take you outside.  The breeze, flowers and trees seem to instantly calm you.  You like to watch the cat prowl, too.

You are glad to indulge me when I want to cuddle (which is all the time, really) and give me kisses in the form of raspberries on my chin and cheeks. You hold on to the hair at the nape of my neck and will even rest your honey-colored head on my shoulder, at least for a few seconds.

We call you Slimer.  It’s because of the drool.

Last week we dedicated you to the Creator during a small church service by the river, near Rawley Springs.  Those who love you sang “The Tree Song” then blessed and anointed you with cold water from the river.  You silently watched us sing, gathered around.  We watched you take it all in, our own little tree-girl.

dedication in the water

"becoming what the Lord of trees has meant me to be... a strong young tree"

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baby’s bangerang bibs

juniper in a yellow bib

and a flower/dot bib

and a green bib with a very hungry caterpillar

My sister-in-law sews.  She even has an Etsy shop where she sells her wares.  Guess what?  She’s sewn most of Juniper’s bibs!  Her fabric choices are beautiful, her handiwork is stellar.  And her bibs are absorbent (which is something very important for a bib to be, if it can).  Juniper and I just think Christine’s Little Miss Fat Bottom bibs are great.  My sister-in-law creates more than bibs, though, friends.  She makes burp cloths and embellished onesies, too.  I’ve heard rumors that she’ll be sewing and selling skirts and am very much looking forward to that day (when Juniper isn’t naked, in pajamas or overalls, she’s in skirts).  But it’s the bibs we adore, because as you may recall, our Juniper-girl drools like a leaky faucet.  Thank you Aunt Teen-Teen!  You’re the very best and most generous bib-sewer ever.

grouch face in a pink bib

then a brown dotty bib

followed by a pinwheel bib

ending sweetly in a pink/red bib

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juniper & her knitted duck-like footwear

Out in the big world there exists so many baby bootie knitting patterns; what is a knitter to do?  What is a baby to do?  I certainly haven’t knitted each pattern, nor has Juniper tested out each bootie design (she’s only four months old, you know), but we do have experience enough, I think, to form an opinion.

Our most favorite baby booties ever were actually the first project I attempted to knit, way back in 2008.  The first project in First Knits (the book by which I learned to knit) are these lovely duck-feet booties.  Alternatively, one could call them baby clogs.  Either way, they are stinking cute and very easy to knit.  Basically two different sized squares and one I-cord are strategically sewn together to make one infant shoe.  And the best part?  They stay on baby’s feet, even on one very kicky baby’s feet.

Juniper is a kicky baby.  So much so that her nicknames is “Kicky McGee.”  She has also been called “Shrieky McGeeky,” but that’s a different nickname with a different, rather louder, story.

a favorite pink bootie and a plump baby leg

baby duck feet, see? covering ten stinking sweet tootsies.

For Juniper’s pair of pink booties (those pictured) I used Phildar’s Partner 6, which looks and feels like cotton but is actually 50% polyamid, 25% wool and 25% acrylic (making it very machine washable; a handy trait for a baby yarn).  I knitted the body of the booties using US size six needles and finished by knitting the I-cord on US size six dnps.

Besides knitting with a higher weight yarn and larger needles than the pattern originally called for, my alternations are as follows:

  • the tie (a 3 st I-cord) is knitted about twice as long as specified, so it can be half-bow tied.
  • the tie is sewn on to the heel of the bootie off-center, such that said half-bow can be tied at the ankle instead of the front of the foot.
  • the body of the foot (the larger square) is knitted in k1 p1 ribbing, allowing for stretch as the wearer’s feet grow and for a perfect fit every time.
  • the toe of the foot (the smaller square) is knitted in a seed stitch pattern because I really like ultra textured look of the seed stitch.

These alterations make for a more functional bootie that can be worn by the wee little person for a longer period of time.  Form!  Function!  Duck-foot cuteness!  My alterations came with practice, real experience and feedback from actual mothers.  You see, I’ve knitted this bootie many times over:

  • My someday baby (back in 2008), cream
  • Risha’s Hannah, purple/brown
  • Marianna’s Oliver, purple/brown with vintage buttons
  • Emily’s Braeden, green
  • Christine’s baby C, purple/brown
  • My own baby Juniper, charcoal gray
  • Jill’s Christian, tan
  • My own baby Juniper with a bigger foot, pink

I’m the mother that usually does not dress her baby girl in pink.  My Grandma said, before she met Juniper, that I probably have her in green and brown perpetually.  She was right.  I even buy blue teething toys just to break gender stereotypes.  This really drives strangers crazy.  Evidentially I have a responsibility as a new mother to make it obvious to the general public whether this baby is a girl baby or a boy baby.  Even after knitting her a pair of pink booties, you’d be surprised how people still ask if she’s a little boy.  Only very observant strangers pick up on this subtle nod to Juniper’s girlishness.

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in the jacket/cape from Oma and Opa, she melts my heart into a million sappy pieces.

The seven little wrinkles on her middle knuckles have turned into sweet and divine dimples.

When Juniper wakes in the morning, she’s bright-eyed and smiling.  With both eyes and one adorable, toothless mouth she gives these smiles freely and gleefully.

Baby girl sleeps like a champ, would rather stand on my lap to read a book than sit, and talks and sings a wonderful idyllic babble right along with any talking and singing she hears.  She’s discovered toys just this week and made a fast and deep friendship with a stuffed giraffe from Great-grandma Blakemore, who has a knack for finding just the right stuffed animals for her grandchildren.

Juniper has brought out in me a talent for making up motions to songs I never knew I possessed.  She’s uncovered in Ryan an art for storytelling that delights and surprises us both.  We never fail to find joy and vivacity in her face and her laughter.  Every day she melts our hearts in countless new ways and, thank everything above, this is only the precious beginning.

Juniper-girl, we love you.  Life would be so very pale without you.

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baby-wearing

We like to wear Juniper and Juniper likes to be worn.

Besides enhancing the parent-child bond, having her close at hand while getting things done in and around the house is, obviously, one of the many advantages of baby-wearing.  Juniper watches me wash the dishes, watches me count the pieces of laundry as they go into the machine, watches me make the bed.  She listens as I chat with Marmie and Aunt Christine on the phone in the hallway.  She tolerates my random knitting throughout the morning and afternoon.  She quietly scrutinizes her father’s every move as he works in the kitchen, in the garage and out in the garden.

She likes to take her morning nap just inches from my watchful eyes.  And her afternoon nap.  And her late afternoon nap.  And her evening nap.

Juniper and I like going on meandering walks together, sometimes in the woods, sometimes on campus and sometimes to the nearby coffee shop.  I love being able to kiss the top of her head almost anytime at all.  Her and her papa walk in the evenings, sometimes, when she’s just too tired to calm down after a hard day of sleeping, eating, and observing.

This girl is my favorite accessory.  And I really, really like being close to my baby.

We have a slew of helpful baby-carriers of different styles with various features for a wide range of situations.  As Juniper develops and grows, our baby-wearing needs change.  Before she was born, I read a great article on Mothering.com about baby-wearing (read it here).  In it, the author suggests investing in a number of carriers for the ever-changing needs of a baby and mama (or papa).  So here we are, strapping her on in various ways to go about business as usual (or, as new parents, business as unusual becoming usual).

the Hotsling

Christine let us borrow her and Baby C’s Hotsling, which came in so very handy as I got the hang of baby-wearing (because, after all, it does take some getting used to, for my back and shoulders and for baby).  The Hotsling is great because there is no adjusting.  The slings are sized to fit the wearer and without adjustable straps, are quick and easy to take on and off.  The down side of this is that Ryan can’t use it, as he and I are not the same size.  I use this sling mostly around the house for shorter bits of time, as it can be hard on my left shoulder if worn too long.

Juniper never liked being carried tummy to tummy as a newborn; she always wanted to face out, looking at everything around her, and still does.  The kangaroo hold (pictured above) allowed her head to rest snug against me, offering her a good view of the world.  Also, thus supported, she could fall asleep anytime.  Now, however, she’s too big, eh, long, for the kangaroo hold so we’ve transitioned to a Moby-type carrier in the last couple of weeks.  I foresee using the Hotsling again when she’s big enough to sit on my hip, supported by the sling.

sleeping sweetly in our ring sling

Similar to the Hotsling is our ring sling.  Marmie and Dad bought Juniper a Sakura Bloom ring sling, which I love.  I love it mostly because of the fabric and color and because Juniper looks so darn cute and cozy in it.  The ring part of the sling can be a bit tricky, but the upside is that Ryan can use the sling, too, as it’s fully adjustable.  He used it often when she was a very new baby and I wasn’t yet up and around; she would sleep for hours in the cradle position snug against his chest.  And like the Hotsling, I think the ring sling will come in handy when she’s bigger and can sit on our hips.

in our moby-type baby wrap

So we’ve recently been using two Moby-type wraps, neither of which are actually Mobys.  The first one, pictured above, I found at a garage sale, spruced up, and wrote about in a former post.  Juniper loves riding in these wraps.  I mean, loves it.  She laughs and smiles as soon as she’s on, which is very fun to see.  In these carriers, I do household chores that she thinks are fantastic; I hope to keep this enthusiasm strong.  The down side to these wraps is that they are complicated to put on and a bother to fold.  Also her head isn’t supported if she decides to take a cat nap.  But I love that the weight is distributed widely across both my shoulders, around my back, waist and hips.  It’s comfortable for both me, Juniper and Ryan.  The two of them are pictured below in the wrap that Christine made from I think five yards of soft, stretchy fabric.  Read more about this particular carrier on Christine’s blog post, here.

helping papa garden on a warm february afternoon

Lastly, I’ll highlight the Ergo, pictured below.  Our Ergo was a gift from Ryan’s folks.  It is, in my opinion, the mother of all serious baby carriers out there (not that I’ve tried every single one).  When Juniper is ready for a two or three-hour nap, it’s the Ergo I turn to.  When it’s time for walks outdoors, we use the Ergo.  The adjustable straps are generously padded and the ergonomic design of the wide waistband lets the wearer to carry much of baby’s weight on his or her hips.  So comfortable, especially for the long-haul.

For infants up to four or five months, the insert (pictured below in beige) is essential.  Our Ergo baby insert was given to us by a dear friend; her baby boy used it until he was too big.  With older babies and toddlers, the Ergo can be worn on the front, hips or back.  For now, Juniper knows it’s nap time when she’s in the Ergo and only here does she tolerate being held tummy to tummy.  She is warm, secure and contented.  We rock or gently bounce her back to sleep when she stirs.  As I write this, our baby girl is sleeping peacefully right here, between me and the keyboard.  We’re listening to the Somewhere in Time soundtrack, too.

out for a winter walk: cold for me and cozy for her.

napping in the Ergo, a very regular thing.

Just this week some friends gave us their used Beco baby carrier, the fourth generation model to be exact.  Today I learned it was actually given to them used by a mutual friend.  So maybe four happy babies have been carried in this Beco so far?  What a fun legacy!  The Beco is similar to the Ergo in style but has a few less straps and adjustments and is lighter in weight.  Right now Juniper is too small for it, but I have a feeling that we’ll be using this carrier regularly quite soon.

They say it takes a community to raise a child.  It kinda feels like a community of generous and supportive friends and family have brought us to this state of baby-wearing.  Thanks to all who have contributed: my parents, Ryan’s parents, Stephen and Christine, Brad and Stefanie, Tim and Colleen, Mariza.  Thanks, you guys, for the gifts and for setting the example.  I am so grateful to be able to hold Juniper close in any way, any time of day.

And in case you’re wondering, I do sometimes just hold her in my arms.

Also, I admit I haven’t mastered the art of breastfeeding and baby-wearing yet.  This may come with time, but for now I enjoy the moments off my feet, time to relax and to focus on nursing our little girl.

Yeah for baby-wearing!

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with its top edge over the clothes line, juniper's baby quilt.

Because baby girl made her entrance into this world about a week after I expected, there was plenty of time to fill with very-last-minute details.  On the Monday before she was born, I finished Juniper’s baby quilt.  My first quilt, a log cabin design, featuring bits of fabric with various histories in blues, greens and reds.

Like many, I’ve been accumulating scraps of material ever since I can remember.  In this quilt, there are scraps from the sun dress Grandma Blakemore made me my senior year of high school.  Part of the pajama pants I made my brother in 2002 are here, as well as the pajama pants I made Ryan in 2006.  Fabric from a sewing project I did for my sister-in-law is included, along with many pieces from a number of Ryan’s old boxer shorts.  Vintage napkins, drapery from Restoration Hardware, and a pair of my own pajama bottoms help create a story we can share with Juniper when she’s old enough to ask.

The book I read and referenced when cutting, piecing, sandwiching, sewing and binding is Instant Expert Quilting by Jenni Dobson.  I very much recommend this book.  My favorite part, besides that it taught me how to quilt, were the pictures of folk and antique quilts featured throughout: so inspiring.

Juniper’s quilt is about 35 x 35 inches, with each log cabin square 7 x 7 inches.  I must confess that I loved sewing on the double binding.  It was the only bit of hand-sewing I did, (the rest was machine pieced and quilted), the very last step, the most calming and repetitive, and the most rewarding.  Maybe the most rewarding because it was the very last step?  Who knows.  Either way, I’m really looking forward to my next quilting project.  But because it was such an undertaking, this may have to wait for a very future baby.

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