Having Actually Read the Nurture Assumption…

Having actually read the Nurture Assumption, I’m feeling a little embarrassed that I hadn’t read it up until this point. Now that I actually have a child of my own, I was more motivated to see what it said, because based on what I thought the book was saying, it seemed like there was a hole in my worldview. I could tell that I didn’t believe the conclusions.

The book is much better than I thought it would be. As far as I can tell, it’s pretty much completely intellectually honest, which is so rare! I’ve been reading a bunch of parenting books recently that seem particularly bad in this area. And the book addresses all the obvious objections and reactions much more completely than I thought it would.

But, most importantly, I now understand that the book is much more about the importance of the peer group than about how parenting has no effect. More specifically, it’s about how the personality developed in the peer group is the one that ends up being the adult personality. There’s a ton more I could (and maybe will) say about the book, but the upshot is that Will and I are currently feeling much more motivated to optimize Lydia’s peer group.

NVC and Requests

At this point, I am very much in the habit of converting both my own and others’ statements to NVC. However, my increased focus on efficiency these days has made me realize that I tend to mostly ignore requests. I’m pretty consistent about expressing observations instead of evaluations, sharing my emotions, and tying them to underlying needs, but don’t usually go on to make clear requests, except for empathy. I do explicitly ask for that pretty often.

But lately I’ve had less time to do emotional processing and have extended conversations where Will empathizes with me. And I’ve found that I seem to be adapting by more quickly formulating specific requests. An example that jumps out at me from a few weeks ago was that I was getting upset when I had Lydia at night and Will would wake up just a little and suggest a course of action for me to take with her, such as taking her for a pottytunity. 

When I’m already stressed out and in a mad mood, I’m not the best at accepting well-meaning suggestions. I talked about that some, but I pretty quickly moved to asking whether Will would be willing to do whatever he was suggesting himself right away. Then, we ended up talking about whether that would work.

My recent experience has left me with a new appreciation for clear requests. I do think that leaving them out can be subtly coercive. Because if I’m not being clear about what I’m actually looking for, the message can be that I want the other person to figure out what I want and fix the problem so I feel better.

What Do I Say When Someone Compliments My Baby?

When someone compliments me, I often feel the impulse to downplay it or deny it, but I mostly just say “thank you.” Or, at least, that’s my plan for what to say.

But when someone compliments my baby, I don’t have a plan; I’m confused about what response to give. If someone tells me how cute my daughter is, I feel uncomfortable saying “thank you” because I don’t think I’m all that responsible. I usually end up saying “I think so too,” but something feels off about saying that.

Downplaying or denying it seems obviously wrong, but sometimes I’ve done that too. Someone will tell me how calm she is and I’ll say something about how she isn’t always that way, out of a combined desire to correct inaccuracy (not sure why I particularly care) and get some recognition for the fact that taking care of her can be difficult sometimes when she’s less calm.

My NVC heuristics tell me to either empathize or express my own experience honestly. So maybe I could reflect back something about how peaceful it can feel to look at a baby, or whatever else would apply? Or say something about how it feels good to hear the compliment, because it usually does?

I’d love advice here. 

Why I Keep Reading About Babywise

Recently, I’ve been spending a bunch of time reading Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: Implementing the -wise series. I haven’t read Babywise, though maybe I will someday, but so far I’ve been taking a very attachment-style approach, which is quite different. Babywise emphasizes putting your baby on a schedule for eating and sleeping, getting him to sleep on his own (with “cry it out” from a very young age as part of the toolset), encouraging “meals” instead of “snacking”, and discouraging comfort nursing. I’ve been doing pretty much the opposite of those things.

So, why have I been checking babywisemom.com every day, and why did I also go back to the very beginning of the blog so I could read it all the way through?

Valerie Plowman, the author, posts six days a week, quite consistently, which I’m sure is part of it. The posting schedule makes checking in predictably rewarding. I can also give myself feel-good brownie points for engaging repeatedly and enthusiastically with someone who has a very different philosophy from mine. The author is also experienced (she has four kid), and inclined towards creating and troubleshooting systems, which means she has detailed models that are closely tied to reality. But, if I really wanted to explain what keeps me coming back, I’d point to two different reasons. Her blog tells an honest and interesting story, and she created it to fill an actual unmet need in the world, so it’s practical.

I love parenting stories, particularly long, detailed, honest ones. Here are two of my favorite ones. I could probably read stories like those all day, even if I didn’t think I was learning much from them.

But I do find myself learning a lot from this Babywise blog. Whether I plan to use the same methods or not, all the observations, conclusions, and theories of someone who has experienced babyhood four times now are very educational. And, having just read Paul Graham’s latest essay, I can’t help but notice how her creation of the blog fits his advice for how to have good startup ideas. She noticed a gap in the world. There were a bunch of mothers following the Babywise system, including her, looking for parenting advice, and all there was to be found online was a bunch of people bashing the book and its methods. Valerie started filling that gap by answering questions on forums. Then, when she realized she kept answering the same questions over and over again, she consolidated her answers on her blog. So, she found a problem that she had herself, helped figure out solutions for individual people who had similar problems, and then put together something that scaled more. I’ve been enjoying it!

Six Ideas for Moving Through Grief

A friend of mine who’s been going through a rough time recently asked me for advice about moving through grief. But soon after he asked the question, my baby started getting upset, and I got off the phone to help her. But I haven’t forgotten the question, so here are six strategies I would suggest for moving through grief as quickly as possible.

1. Feel the Grief as Intensely as Possible

The first and best idea I have (also exactly what my husband suggested when I asked him what he would suggest), is to feel the grief as intensely as possible by leaning into and welcoming the emotion. Let it flood over you, without trying to resist it, and it will pass much more quickly. I have found that once I really let my emotions in, they rarely last longer than minutes. Mourning something important will take longer, I think largely because there are many updates to process and emotions to release.

Especially when mourning something important, it’ll be on your mind anyway, but if you’re trying to push it away, you won’t really be processing it. Plus, allowing your emotions in instead of releasing them actually feels better. So it’s not just that if you do it this way you’ll suffer less overall, you’ll actually suffer less pretty much immediately.

2. Process Your Guilt First

Guilt will keep you stick feeling terrible unless you address it. When you notice a huge amount of pain that you’re having trouble moving through, ask yourself, “What makes me think I deserve to feel this way?” 

Listen to your automatic response, and keep in mind that it doesn’t have to make sense. Maybe some part of your brain thinks you deserve to keep being upset about breaking up with your girlfriend because you cheated on a test in fourth grade, or something similarly nonsensical. 

Once you become aware of any guilt you’re holding onto, it will usually be easy to let it go.

3. Uncover Any Anger

I don’t like thinking of myself as an angry person, and, because I didn’t like thinking of myself as an angry person, I used to be pretty bad at noticing and admitting to myself when I was feeling angry. I’m not the only one with this pattern. 

If you ever find yourself saying, “I’m not angry because X”, where X is a logical reason that it wouldn’t help the situation to be angry, or something like that, be alert for the possibility that you actually do feel some anger. It’s not just possible, it’s extremely likely that you’d have conflicting emotions, and emotions that you had good reason to believe weren’t helpful.

If you want to figure out what you might be angry about, ask yourself, “If there were one thing I were maybe a little bit annoyed about, it would be…” If you find yourself complaining about some aspect of the situation to other people, that also might be something you’re angry about.

And if you do uncover any anger, accept it and move on. It can help to admit it to yourself, so try saying out loud, “I’m angry because…” Being angry is normal, and it will usually pass quickly once acknowledged.

4. Follow the Sensation in Your Body

It’s very easy for me, for hyper-analytical types specifically, and for humans more generally, to get stuck in our thoughts to the point where it interferes without our ability to process our emotions. A good way to shift our attention is to find where we’re feeling the emotion in our body, and work with that sensation instead.

Questions to ask  yourself are:

  • “Where do I feel this in my body?”
  • “How big is it?”
  • “How big does it want to be?”
  • “Is it moving at all?”
  • “How does it want to move?”

5. What Are You Afraid Would Happen If…

The suggestions here may not work. My standard go-to if they don’t is to ask myself what I’m afraid would happen if I did them. So, if I’m trying to feel the emotion intensely and it’s not happening, I’d ask, “What am I afraid would happen if I allowed myself to feel my grief intensely?”

Or, if I can’t find my emotion in my body, I would try, “What am I afraid would happen if I felt my emotion in my body?”

I learned to ask questions of this form from studying Internal Family Systems, and I’ve found the practice to be very valuable.

6. Go at Your Own Pace

Processing emotions requires mental effort and sleep to recover, and I suspect that there are probably physical limits that we frequently run up against. And even if you don’t get to that point, most people have other commitments to attend to. 

So, while I advocate feeling your emotions as intensely as possible, there are limits. I know sometimes I’ll decide to dissociate, distract myself, and skip being in tune with my emotions from time to time. Trying to go too quickly will backfire.

One Month of Elimination Communication

Deciding to Do EC

As I mentioned in my newborn gear post, Will and I have been practicing elimination communication, or EC, with our daughter, Lydia. I’d read an article about EC quite a few years ago, well before I was pregnant, and I was intrigued. It’s just the sort of idea that tends to a appeal to me: a bit unusual, contrarian, has a good story behind it where I can talk about hunter gatherer tribes and the evolutionary environment.

But when I first heard of it, I basically decided that it would be way too much work, especially if I wanted to do things other than just stare at my baby all day. I found out through my mother that at least one of my Indian aunts had used a version of EC, though not by that name, but I hadn’t met anyone else who had successfully used EC.

Fast forward to 2012, where I’m pregnant and reading up a ton about everything baby-related. EC seems to have gotten more popular in the intervening years, and my internet browsing ends up one day at EC Simplified. The copy drew me in, and I started to get the idea that maybe EC could actually work in practice.I bought the product, quickly read through the book, and decided it was something I was going to try. I wish I could remember exactly what tipped the scales, but it might have been realizing that I could use a diaper backup full-time, and just do my best to notice patterns. I read a few more books about EC and some of the forum posts on EC Simplified, and then I met some people who used it successfully (mostly though the homebirth community), and it started to seem more and more doable.

It Actually Works

One month into having a newborn, my basic update about EC is that it’s worked really well! It’s been pretty fun and not that hard. I’ve heard from other parents that some kids take to it much more so than others, but it definitely works for Lydia.

The first week I mostly concentrated on observing and cueing. We’ve done basically no diaper-free time, but her bowel movements were hilariously easy to hear right as she made them, and using a Snappied prefold without a cover allowed us to tell when she was peeing in real time as well. 

After some failed attempts to hold Lydia over the sink when I thought maybe she had to go, I fondly remember the first time I noticed her gut rumbling and rushed her to the bathroom so she could poop in the sink. I was so proud! And after the first time it worked, it all started to feel possible.

It’s been somewhat up and down, with some evenings where it seemed like she peed in her diaper ever ten minutes, and some days where I took her to the sink again and again when she didn’t have to go. At first we couldn’t really tell when she was going to pee, but she was pooping so much that we caught a bunch of her pees anyway. Then, she slowed down a bit with her pooping and we stared to figure out her patterns with pee as well. 

Really early on, Lydia clearly got the idea that when we wanted her to poop when we held her over the sink. It was pretty adorable to see her trying, even when she didn’t really have to go. By now she seems to have also decided that she prefers peeing in the sink to going in her diaper as well, but until she actually goes, we can’t really tell whether she’s trying.

I kept vaguely planning to keep track of when she was nursing, waking up, and eliminating to figure out patterns, but I never did end up keeping actual records. Instead, I’ve been building up an approximate model that combines timing, cues, and intuition.

Right now, I’d say we’re getting well over 2/3 of her pees and almost all of her poop. Sometimes it’s been less when we’re out and about, but taking her to bathrooms wherever we end up has worked pretty well too.

Here’s how we do it:

When Lydia has just woken up, I make a judgment call and either offer Lydia a “pottytunity”, as they call it, or an opportunity to nurse. If I think she’s hungrier, based on how long it’s been since she last fed and whether she’s rooting, I’ll feed her first. Otherwise, I’ll take her to the bathroom. She doesn’t like to do much of anything other than feed when she’s hungry.

If I’m feeding Lydia and she detaches repeatedly (without also falling asleep), even after I offer her the other side, I take her to the bathroom.

If Lydia is fussing and I’m not sure what’s bothering her, I take her to the bathroom.

The coolest thing to me is at this point she already seems to be learning to wait to be taken, because early on she used to go in her diaper while she was feeding or sleeping pretty often, and now she basically never does. There’s almost always some signal before hand, even though it’s pretty nonspecific. 

She can even hold it at night when she’s sleeping in blocks of more than four hours, though sometimes she’ll wake up fussing, go to the bathroom, and go right back to sleep for an extended period of time.

It’s happened a bunch of times recently that she got through the entire night without going in her diaper at all. Other times, I’ve been too tired to pick up on her signals (this usually happens early in the night). Not a big deal, and we do put her in a diaper cover so the bed stays clean.

Benefits, Drawbacks, and Open Questions

EC has been fun to do, and I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I correctly predict Lydia’s needs and patterns.I also like that she almost never sits around in a wet or dirty diaper, and that she gets to squat for her bowel movements, which I’m sure she prefers. I like that she’s retaining awareness of her elimination patterns and also increasingly gaining control of them. Using fewer diapers is also a plus, especially when we’re out of the house, since cloth diapers are bulky to carry around. No diaper rash, but she might not have gotten that anyway. EC is also just kind of a cool trick.

However, it does take time to do EC. We still have to take a diaper off, clean her off, and put one on. The cleaning her off step is shorter, but not shorter enough to make up for the time spent holding her over the sink. It seems worth it to me, but it’s a bit inconvenient. We’re also pretty much training her to dislike going in her diaper and being in a wet diaper, so that makes her a bit higher-maintenance. I don’t mind, but it seems worth noting.

I’m hoping, naturally, that our early success continues, we get even better at this, Lydia gets out of diapers early, and we smoothly transition into her being potty trained, but it’s definitely too soon to say. My understanding is that babies often have their ups and down with EC, especially as they concentrate more on learning other skills, such as crawling, walking, and talking. We’ll see what the future holds.

Another thing I send a medium amount of thought cycles wondering about is what other babies preferences are about peeing and pooping in their diapers. Now that I see Lydia consistently complaining about the prospect of going in her diaper, I can’t help but wonder whether all the non-EC babies are doing the same thing, but their parents have no idea what they’re trying to communicate. I’m pretty sure some babies don’t care, or at least quickly learn not to care, but I’d also guess that some babies do care. I know I’d be considerably more confused about what was going on with breastfeeding if I didn’t have a model of why she sometimes refuses to latch even when she’s not done eating.

I do also realize that getting into the whole EC thing has made me into even more of the stereotypical parent who is always talking about poop. Oh well.

Parenthood and Procrastination

Having a newborn has been good for cutting through some of the thought patterns I tend to have that lead to procrastination. So, while I’m definitely getting less non-baby-related work done these days, I’ve also gotten more efficient at using the time I do have. Specifically, I’ve gotten considerably better at effectively using small blocks of time.

Here are some of the things I can’t really tell myself these days:

  • “I’ll wait until I have a block of time so I can really concentrate.” I may not get a big block of time that day. And when I do have a longer stretch because Lydia’s taking a long nap, I don’t usually know ahead of time. Sometimes I think I’ll have longer, maybe because she just ate and Will’s taking care of her, but I’m wrong because she needs to eat again.
  • “I’ll just read this article/email/book first.” It’s been pretty hard to type while nursing, but reading is easy enough, so it’s hard to justify using time where I actually have access to my hands to read. I have plenty of time for reading.
  • “I can just do it later.” This is the most fundamental thought, procrastinationwise. There’s a very good chance that later, Lydia will need to feed. Or, if she won’t, then I’ll want to eat myself, or take a shower, or do some laundry. I can’t pretend that time “later” is abundant.

And I think that’s the key thing. Time to work on the things I care about actually does feel scarce now, in a way that it never has before, which has its upsides. I get excited about having time to work on the things I care about and I want to use it efficiently. I also feel much more motivated to figure out what’s actually of greatest importance and start with that, since I know I’m not going to get through everything on my list.

Of course, sometimes I end up deciding to sleep, because I’m tired, or play (these days it’s usually Skyrim), because I want to recharge. But more often than not, those decisions feel like conscious choices that I’ve made for good reason.

As a bonus, it seems like I’ve managed to carry over some of the mindset I internalized during labor about taking things I’m worried about minute by minute, and not dreading the future. That helps too.

Tips for Having a Natural Childbirth

I already wrote up my birth story, but I wanted to have a different post where I summarized the advice I’d give someone planning a natural childbirth. (Disclaimer: I do not consider myself an expert on this subject at all, despite having read a bunch about it. But this is what I would have wanted to hear.)

  • My first, general piece of advice is that I would recommend doing a lot of preparation, whatever that looks like for you. I did quite a bit of prep, and I think I used a pretty large proportion of it.
  • Strongly consider hiring a doula. I had Will by my side for pretty much the whole process, and he was amazingly helpful, but even so I ended up calling friends who had more experience with labor, including one who was a doula, multiple times during labor. I specifically wanted the support of people who had lots of experience with natural childbirth.
  • If it’s getting really hard, or you’re not progressing much, try calling someone. I did that a few times, and found it really helpful. (To anyone reading this who knows me: call me if you want–I’d be happy to talk!)
  • Sit down with your partner and make a list of things you’ll want him to say to you during labor. Will and I did this, and it worked really well. Most of what he said to me during contractions was straight from this list. We had phrases like, “you’re already doing it,” and “your body knows what to do.”
  • Some sort of hypnosis beforehand seems like a good idea, though I don’t know how much difference it ended up making for me. It seemed like it was helpful early and not that relevant later, but I did like it. I don’t have experience with Hypnobirthing, Hypnobabies, or the Bradley method, but I would consider doing one of those classes for next time.
  • Do whatever you can to be totally relaxed, and enlist someone to point out any tension you’re holding in your body. The pain was much more okay when I was relaxed.
  • Use vocalizations that promote relaxation. I think this one is really, really important. Any time I made a tenser, higher-pitched sound, the pain was immediately much worse. Vibrating my lips in what my midwife called “horse lips” instead ended up making a huge difference for me.
  • Use visualization, especially to channel recurring unhelpful thoughts. You want to be out of your analytical mind as much as you possibly can, and visualization helps here. If you keep thinking about wanting to escape the pain, or wishing it were over, or wanting someone else to know hard it is, or whatever else, channel the underlying desire into some sort of visualization.
  • Being able to change positions, move, and labor in water if it feels right will likely make a huge difference. I had back pain during labor, and lying on my back was awful. A number of other positions worked much better, and the tub was great for taking the weight off. I found it relatively easy to listen to what my body was telling me about what positions to be in because I got immediate and strong feedback signals–some positions hurt a lot more than others.
  • It helped me to remember that labor doesn’t happen very often, and that it’s one of the pretty big human experiences, and one I wanted to have first-hand. Appreciation and gratitude and excellent mental postures to use whenever you can, and they promote physical relaxation.
  • Practice using pain relief techniques beforehand, maybe by holding an ice cube. In my birth class, we also held our arms up long enough that it hurt, and practiced a position that bends the toes in a way that is often painful (that one didn’t work as well for me). The sensations weren’t at all similar, but I think I would have had a harder time relaxing into the pain if I hadn’t practiced.
  • Remember that usually, giving birth is hard, especially the first time you do it. Let it change you, and invite the possibility of learning something from it.
  • Get a midwife or doctor you trust and can get to know pretty well, and also consider giving birth at home. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone, but I do think more people would choose homebirth if they looked into it. I may expand on my reasons for recommending homebirth in a later post, but the gist is that you’ll have a lot more control over how things go, both during and after the birth, and possibly feel much safer and more comfortable. I would definitely plan another homebirth myself, barring a medical reason not to.


Baby Gear for the First Month

Will and I actually haven’t used all that much stuff for Lydia’s first month, but I mostly did a bunch of research for the things we did buy, so I thought I’d share our list of gear for other people who might be interested!


We inherited a few packs of disposables from a friend’s baby. My plan was to use them until Lydia was done producing meconium, and that they’d be good to have around in any case. We ended up using them until her cord stump fell off, which happened on day four. I think it happened  quickly because she mostly wasn’t more than a diaper, so it got to air out.)

Before she was born, we had bought two dozen OsoCozy infant diapers, one dozen in 4x6x4, and one dozen in 4x8x4.

They were really long for a newborn, and, at 8 lb, Lydia was a pretty big newborn!

The diapers were fluffy, absorbent, and seemed pretty high-quality overall, but I’m really not crazy about the proportions. They worked okay with the big diaper covers Will’s aunt had made us, but most of the time we were doing without a cover so we could know right away when she peed and better learn her patterns. We ended up getting an EC belt, and, being longer, they work pretty well belted, but I ended up preferring Snappis, for the times when we weren’t using a cover, at least for now. We did try folding them them over to make them shorter, but that got bulky and didn’t work that well.

Two dozen was also not as many as we wanted. I had been thinking that we’d be able to get away with having fewer diapers because we’d be doing EC, but it didn’t work out that way. For one thing, the first week and a half or so was more about noticing her patterns and cuing with her than actually successfully pottying her very much, and we were also changing her diapers as soon as we noticed that she was wet, so she wouldn’t get used to sitting in a wet diaper, so I think we ended up using more diapers than we would have if we hadn’t been ECing.

We ended up getting one dozen Cloth-eez prefolds each in newborn and small from Green Mountain Diapers. Those were similarly fluffy, absorbent, and high-quality, but they don’t have as many layers as the more absorbent OsoCozy diapers. That didn’t matter a ton for us, since we change them right away. They’re wider though, which I very much prefer. It doesn’t matter a ton for folding them up inside a cover, but it really helps when we’re using them with Snappis, which is what we do all day unless we’re taking her out or having other people hold her a lot.

Will’s aunt had made us four small diaper covers, but they’re still pretty huge on Lydia. We use them at night (with the thicker OsoCozy prefolds), but we also got a Bummis Super Whisper Wrap in the newborn size, so we could have something that actually fit her really well and would work better under clothes. However, at almost a month, she is already close to outgrowing this cover, so I’ve ordered one more that’s a little bigger and another one that has snaps to make it different sizes. (I can review those once we get them.) The Bummis Super Brite Cover is a good size, and I like that the inside is exposed PUL, since that means we can wipe it clean and not always have to wash it every time we change her.

We did get a top hat potty with a cozy to make it less cold for Lydia to sit on, but we actually haven’t used them much yet. (I also don’t think she cares about the temperature, based on what I’ve seen.) If I’d had it from the beginning, I might have used it more, because I was mostly staying in bed for the whole first week, but we didn’t get this until the second week, and by that point we had gotten in the habit of taking her to the bathroom sink. The nice thing about the sink is that we can watch her in the mirror and see what she’s doing. I expect we’ll use this more as we’re increasingly out and about with the baby, but maybe not.

We had this wet bag from the beginning, which was great for keeping in the diaper bag, but we quickly realized we needed something to use at home. (I guess we could have just used garbage bags, but I wanted something we wouldn’t have to keep buying.) We got two large pail liners from Green Mountain Diapers, Mommy’s Touch in flight and Blueberry in monkeys. I like both patterns, and the bags are fine. We switch them out so we can wash them with the prefolds and covers.

I also didn’t want to use disposable wipes, both because I don’t think they’re ideal for the baby’s skin, and I didn’t want to have to keep buying them, so we got these wipes, one dozen small and two dozen large. I like having the option of the two surfaces. Especially since we’re ECing, we rarely use much surface area of the wipe at all, so in retrospect I probably would have gotten more of the smaller ones. I thought we might end up putting them in a wipes warmer, in which case the small would have fit better, but instead we just kept the wipes solution at room temperature, and that seemed to work fine.

For a wipes solution, we used this mixed with water stored in these spray bottles (we have two). I like that it doesn’t have too many ingredients, and it does seem to be more effective than just using water.

We got a diaper bag and changing pad from Will’s aunt too, so we used those. A regular bag and a blanket, towel, or big prefold diaper could substitute pretty easily if you don’t want to buy either of these things, but I’ve liked having them.


We inherited a bunch of clothes, and I bought a few things because I wanted them, and because they would be more EC-friendly. Onesies don’t work so well with EC because they take longer to get off, so I got some baby T-shirts, elastic waist pants, and long newborn socks. The long socks actually seem too tight around her chunky thighs in newborn size, so I don’t always pull them up all the way, but they definitely stay on better than other baby socks I’ve had experience with.

The other clothes I ended up picking out were from Babysoy.

We’ve gotten a bunch of clothes as gifts too, so we’re definitely not lacking in this department. Especially because when Lydia is at home, which has been the vast majority of the time so far, she mostly just wears a prefold diaper and a Snappi, no clothes, to facilitate skin to skin contact.


We have some non-plastic bottles that we inherited from Izzy and a manual pump that we bought, but I haven’t used them at all yet, so I can’t comment there. Eventually, I would like to pump to give me the option to be away from the baby for longer than usual, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

I did end up getting a Boppy pillow. I didn’t do any research about whether it would be better than a Brest friend or something else similar, but it works fine. I’ve used it for nursing sometimes, and also found that it was good for sitting on when I was still healing. My basic recommendation here is that having a bunch of blankets and pillows of various shapes and sizes around is good for making nursing as hands-free as possible.

I mostly used laid-back positions for breastfeeding at the beginning, which didn’t go all that well with the Boppy, but within a week I was already switching things up a bunch.


We inherited a rear-facing carseat, so we just used that for the car.

We also inherited a green Moby, and I had already bought a purple one, so we have two. It’s nice to be able to use one while the other one is in the wash, but if I were picking now, I would probably pick two different wraps instead of two of the exact same kind. I haven’t used woven wraps yet, though I’m probably going to get one soon, but I’d at least get a Boba wrap to compare, and because they’re somewhat shorter.

I could easily do with a much shorter wrap than the Moby, but it ultimately doesn’t matter that much. It takes a little while to get the Moby on, but it’s quite comfortable for walking around and doing stuff, and I like that I can get it pretty tight. I think it makes Lydia calmer to have it that way, in the same way that swaddling would (though we haven’t tried that yet).

I also ended up getting a Maya wrap ring sling a little after the birth, because I thought that would be nice to have too. The ring sling is really fast to get her in and out of, and is easier for hands-free breastfeeding, so I am definitely glad I have it. I wish I’d have it from the very beginning. It’s not quite as ergonomic, and I don’t feel as comfortable bending down and picking things up a bunch, but it’s great to have in the rotation.

We had an Ergo, but we didn’t get the infant insert, since people didn’t seem to love it, and my plan had been to use the Moby at the beginning. Yesterday, I tried Lydia in the Ergo without the insert just to see how it was, and I think it actually worked pretty well. I was going to use a blanket as an insert if it seemed like she needed it, but she seemed fine. Her legs fit inside in the froggy position, and her head was supported. The straps needed to be tightened quite a bit for it to work, but I think I’ll end up using this a fair amount too, now that I’ve tried it.


Lydia sleeps in the bed with us, so there’s not too much gear involved here. We did get a waterproof mattress cover to put under our sheet, which I would definitely recommend if you want to keep your mattress clean, and I would have wanted this even if she were sleeping somewhere else, since we hung out on the bed with her quite often, especially at first.

We inherited a baby swing, a vibrating seat, and another seat that moves in a few different ways that we haven’t used yet. The swing seems like the best of the lot, but Lydia doesn’t seem that crazy about it. Once we put her in there and she fell asleep, but in general she prefers to be closer to us (and I prefer to be closer to her). I think it’s likely we could get her used to sitting in these seats, and that it’s likely she’ll be more okay with them as she’s older, but right now I use the swing pretty infrequently, mostly when I want to put her down and go to the bathroom.

We have some swaddle blankets, but haven’t really used them. We might in the future though.

I have needed some light to wrange night-time feeding (though I expect I won’t forever). At first, Will had set up a great station for me by the side of the bed with food, water, and everything else I might want, so we put a lamp there, which worked pretty well. Now, we’ve retired that, and I have a motion-activated night light. I would have preferred a red LED, so it wouldn’t mess with our circadian rhythms, but given that it’s off when we’re not moving, I doubt it matters much.


I’d love to hear other people’s recommendations here, but I think at this age there isn’t much she’s capable of playing with. We inherited a bunch of toys and gotten some as gifts, but so far the only ones we’ve used have been some high-contrast blocks for her to look at.


It’s been hard for me to use my computer while nursing (though I’m actually doing so semi-functionally now), but reading on my iPad has worked really well. Will and I also played a ton of Dominion while I was in bed, because I could mostly do that one-handed.

Lydia’s Birth Story

Something definitely changed a bit the Sunday night before my due date, most likely the baby’s position. Maybe she dropped down a little further? Whatever it was, it made it so that whenever I lay down (on my back or either of my sides–I couldn’t try my stomach), I would feel a horrible knot of back pain in my lower back on the left side. I remember getting this same pain the previous Thursday, but at that point it hadn’t been very consistent. Sunday night, I was also getting Braxton Hicks contractions off and on, but not with a consistent pattern that I could discern.

I tried to sleep that night, and I think I did for a few hours, but then I know I called my mother at 5:30 or so in the morning. (She’s on the East Coast, so I wasn’t waking her up in the middle of the night.) I’d been searching the internet for birth stories with back labor, and, not surprisingly, there were some that sounded like what I was feeling. My mother had back labor one of the three times she gave birth, so I described what I was experiencing and asked her if it could be labor. She thought it was possible, and said to call the midwife.

I didn’t want to wake Maria up, so I hung out for the next few hours, trying to get comfortable and rest. When I did get Maria on the phone, she asked some more questions, said that it sounded early, and to let her know if anything changed.

I continued to feel more Braxton Hicks contractions, but, as it happened, it was over a week before they were in a regular, progressing pattern. It was a hard week because I couldn’t lie down on my back or my side without getting quite a lot of back pain–enough that I couldn’t sleep. I mostly slept propped up, either on one of the chairs downstairs or on a pile of pillows in the bed. The morning of Monday, October 8, I went to the sensory deprivation tank in Oakland to see if I could get some rest in there, but no such luck. I had hoped that, supported by the salt water, I’d be able to lie on my back in the tank, but a few minutes after I did, the familiar pain in the lower left part of my back returned, and I knew it wasn’t going to work. (I’m looking forward to going back to the tank now that I’m not pregnant anymore!)

Alison, the woman who operates the tank, recommended that I see a chiropractor, and actually ended up referring me to one of the ones who worked in my midwife’s office. I made an appointment for the next day. I’ve never been to a chiropractor before, but at that point I was very much ready to try new things to get some relief.

I never did see the chiropractor though, because that night, around 11:30pm, my contractions got to the point where they were seven minutes apart, and gradually getting closer together. I told Will that this seemed to be the real thing, but at that point they were quite manageable, and didn’t require my full attention. By around 2:30, the contractions had gotten intense enough that during them I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, but they were manageable and we decided that Will might as well try to sleep, since we knew labor could go on for quite a while longer.

I spent the next chunk of labor, from around 2:30-4:30am in the bathroom. At first I spent the contractions breathing and bouncing on the exercise ball Will had brought home from his office, but eventually I filled up our deep bathtub and moved in there. I remembered the words of the hypnosis track I had been listening to leading up to labor: “Breathe in relaxation and out stress and tension.” I think during this time I started using the first of several visualizations, one where my body was flooded with green relaxing energy, and I was releasing tense red energy. Ina May Gaskin, the “hippie midwife,” as our home birth class instructor called her, recommended visualizing a flower opening to help the cervix dilate, but that seemed too complicated for me, so I just visualized a circle opening.

Around 4:30am, things had gotten somewhat more intense (I think…hard to really be sure at this point, but my contraction log confirms that they had sped up), and I got to the point where I decided laboring by myself was lonely and demoralizing, so I woke up Will. He has since said that he had never been so grateful to get two hours of sleep in his life. Will started timing the contractions, and we hovered close to, but not over the 4-1-1 mark (we were supposed to call the midwife when the contractions were four minutes apart, one minute long, for at least an hour).

From this point in the story on, the exact timeline blurs together, but I’ll mention some of the things that happened on Tuesday.

We called Maria, our midwife, to let her know where we were, even though it wasn’t time for her to come over. She told me that 24 hours of early labor and 12 hours of active labor (it would be active labor once I got to 4-1-1) was pretty normal. We called our friend Dee, who is quite experienced with birth herself), and she told me that the important thing to remember was that labor was really hard, but that I could totally do it. She also pointed out that even if I gave birth again, my first labor would likely be pretty different from subsequent ones, so I should try to stay present with the experience. She suggested that I spend the day alternating between trying to sleep and walking around to move things forward.

We also called our friend Sahana, who’s actually a doula, who had given us some all-important advice when we had seen her at a party a little while before. That advice had been that labor would go better if I could figure out the mind game of actually wanting it to get more intense. She said that there would be ways I could get relief that would slow down progress, and that I should beware of going down that road. When we called her during labor, she told Will that I shouldn’t have tension anywhere on my face. We’d been watching out for tension in my throat, thanks to the Ina May Gaskin books I’d read, but Will noticed that I was furrowing my brow, so I made a point of relaxing that as well. I think it was Sahana who told us that labor would probably pick back up that night, which made sense to me, since that seemed to fit the pattern I’d been having with my Braxton Hicks contractions.

One of my concerns was that I would get too tired to labor, but when I talked to my mother on the phone again, she assured me that she didn’t think that would matter. She said that labor would happen whether I had energy or not, which seemed like good advice.

Tuesday morning, I did manage to get some 20 minute or so chunks of sleep, which was awesome, even though waking up to the pain of a contraction with no warning and less than optimal positioning wasn’t the most fun. Will got a couple of hours of sleep too.

At some point on Tuesday, not quite sure when, I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it through labor. The contractions hurt more than I had expected and I was still only in early labor! I was managing to get through what I was experiencing then, but it was really hard, I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep in ages, and I knew the pain would only intensify. I’d read tons of birth stories, and they mostly described transition as being way worse than anything that had come before, which seemed too awful to contemplate. I don’t think I was actually, seriously considering transferring to the hospital, but I definitely wanted to express that things were hard! I told Will that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it and promised myself (but did not say out loud to Will) that if, when it was all over, next time I decided I wanted an epidural from the beginning, or even a scheduled c-section, I would do it. (I had no such thoughts after birth was over. At this point I know I would definitely do a home birth again, barring medical reasons not to.)

We also called Maria for a pep talk. What she said that ended up being the most helpful was that, to help me take it contraction by contraction. She recommended that Will, who was timing them all with an iPhone app, tell me how long I was through each one and how long I had to go. It worked. And once I stopped ruminating on how much harder labor would be later and just concentrated on getting through each minute-long contraction, everything got much, much easier! The other things that helped a ton was that during each contraction I started using what my midwife referred to as “horse-lips”, where I was making a sound by vibrating my lips together. I got this idea from Ina May Gaskin’s books as well. I think vocalizing in this way worked much better at this stage because I could sustain it, whereas just trying to breathe through the contractions and remain relaxed was mostly failing.

Since Will was counting out the length of the contractions for me, I also noticed a pattern with the length of the contractions. During contractions, I had sometimes been shifting around to try to find a better position, but doing that consistently made them longer. I realized that I was moving around because I was trying to escape the pain, so instead I decided to channel that desire into a new visualization. What ended up feeling right was imaging myself in the ocean, riding a dolphin away from the pain. (Later, I changed the image to a monkey riding a dolphin, since I wanted to remind myself that it was my monkey, not my conscious mind, that knew what to do.) I had the detachable shower head on and aimed at my back, which simulated ocean spray, helping the imagery work.

Especially looking back, it’s cool to break down the specific things I would do that made me tense up in response to pain. In addition to wanting to run away from the sensation, I also had a strong inclination to signal to somehow express when the pain was particularly bad. The problem was, any sort of whimpering, saying, “ow,” high pitched noises, or talking about it would cause me to tense up. Eventually what I settled on was vibrating my lips faster and increasing the pitch only as much as it seemed like I needed to, then trying to relax into getting back to a lower pitch.

I would also periodically say the litany against fear (from Frank Herbert’s Dune books) to myself.

My the time Tuesday evening rolled around, I was effectively using rhythm, ritual, and relaxation to my advantage. Will and I were in a groove, and I was no longer having any thoughts of not being able to handle labor. I was pretty happy in the tub, and in between contractions I ate some of a banana and drank water with coconut palm sugar for the blood sugar and electrolytes.

As predicted, labor picked up again at night, and by 4:00am Tuesday night (technically Wednesday morning), we got to 4-1-1 and called Maria. She arrived within about half an hour or so and asked me to get out of the tub so she could check my progress. Much to our delight, I was already 8cm! Maria called the second midwife, a woman named Kristen who works out of the East Bay.

From there on out, I mostly wasn’t in the tub anymore. Maria told me that I’d been doing well at dilating, but that now I had different work to do. My water still hadn’t broken, so she told me to think more about bearing down. I did that for a while in the tub, and seemed to be making some progress.  I switched up my visualization one more time, and imagined that I was riding on the dolphin towards my baby, since I wanted to make my focus more goal-directed. Before too long though, tired and impatient as I was, I ended up getting on the bathroom floor and pushing where Maria directed (all the while complaining that I didn’t understand how to do what she was telling me).

Following Maria’s directions got my water to break pretty quickly. There was some meconium in there, which Maria said we could handle fine at home, but she also said that she didn’t want me actually pushing the baby out in the tub, so she could suction immediately if necessary. That sounded okay to me.

I think I was at 9cm after my water broke, but I wasn’t feeling the urge to push. I tried going up and down the stairs, squatting on the birthing stool, and a couple of different positions on the bed before settling on a sort of one-legged squat while lying on my back. Since I wasn’t in the water anymore, I was having Will push on my back so that didn’t hurt too much.

After lots of trying to push and not getting it quite right, the actual pushing felt extremely satisfying. I won’t say it wasn’t painful, but compared to the contractions, it was totally different, I could tell I was making progress, and I knew it would all be over soon and I’d get to meet my baby! To an outside observer, I’m sure the pushing would have seemed like the worst part, since I started screaming at the top of my lungs, but from the inside it was mostly just primal and intense, not aversive. But at that point I’d let go of all my inhibitions, quite unusual for me, and the screaming seemed to help. Something Will liked a lot was that in between all the crazy pushing and screaming, Maria told me I could reach down and feel my baby’s head, and that completely shifted me into a different state. I just reached down and said, “Oh, cool!”

The pushing went on for about an hour, and then, all of a sudden, at 8:53 Wednesday morning after about 30 hours of labor, she was out! Will caught her, and Maria suctioned her a little, but she cried right away. Her one and five minute Apgars were 7 and 9, and she was much bigger than we thought she would be! Maria had guessed maybe 6.5 pounds, but she was 8, and 21 inches long! I’m grateful to have given birth at home for a bunch of reasons, but one of the biggest things was that I trusted that everything would go the way I wanted it to right after the birth. We waited for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it, and then Will held Lydia while I squatted to deliver the placenta, which came out quickly and easily. I did have about 750mL of blood loss, which is high, but not high enough that we had to do anything about it. After I was done with the placenta, we put Lydia on my chest to feed right away. I was intrigued by the idea of the breast crawl, and had planned to let Lydia find her way to the breast on her own as much as possible, but I ended up directing her a fair amount. It felt like the right thing to do when I saw her pushing herself in completely the wrong direction. She did get latched on, and she fed for a bit, which felt good.

Here we are, shortly after she was born:

Big as she was, I did unfortunately have a bunch of tearing, and Maria was busy stitching me up while I had Lydia on my chest. The stitching took a while, maybe half an hour, and I find it funny that after 30 hours of painful labor, I objected as much as I would have any other time when I could feel the stitching poking through the lidocaine. So much for the perceptual contrast principle

After the newborn exam (everything went smoothly) and help getting me set up with what I needed after the birth, the midwives left me and Will to get to know Lydia!

It’s been hard to get writing done in the midst of baby care, but look forward to more updates soon, including collected tips for having a natural childbirth (now here) and my reflections on the early days of parenting.