eBook Review: Unbound Birth

Pregnancy, labor, and childbirth… women love to talk about it, whether it’s comparing notes on aches and pains, reflecting on our deliveries, sharing hospital horror stories (have you ever noticed when someone announces they are pregnant, the nearby women start topping each others’ crazy childbirth stories?!), or just plain amazing stories (like my friend who had her baby in the car).  Or maybe it’s the great debate between proponents of unmedicated childbirth and those who love their epidurals.  In fact, I can’t count the number of times I have been conversing on this very subject and someone says something along the lines of “Well, you don’t hear of too many unmedicated births in hospitals, and I would never have a home birth, so I guess “natural” childbirth isn’t for me.”  In some ways, I have to agree with them, in spite of myself.  Let me give a little background… with my first son, I had planned to have an unmedicated birth, but complications arose and plans changed.  I had a very difficult and painful recovery and felt sad for quite a while about how things went.  With my second son, I knew I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth again, but I knew how easily things could change.  I prepared myself as best as I could, hoped for the best, and felt blessed to be able to deliver a nine pound boy (I’m just over 5 feet) without an epidural.  There was a huge- positive- difference in my recovery afterwards, and although it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, I felt strongly that doing it that way gave amazing benefits to both me and my baby (My doctor agreed, but that’s another post).  I was pretty convinced that this was the best way for me personally to birth my children, but I also knew from my four months as a nurse working on a labor and delivery floor (it was my nursing residency, right before I graduated) that things pretty much have to go perfectly for a mother to be allowed to deliver without many interventions pushed on them (that’s also another post entirely…).  I considered home birth, but felt unsure about it given some of the complications my babies and I had experienced.

Maybe those of you who are mamas or anticipate having children someday
have been in a similar boat- having the seemingly impossible goal of an unmedicated childbirth- in the hospital.

Enter Jennifer Yarbrough and her new eBook: Unbound Birth: How to Have a Natural Birth in the Hospital. This is an awesome resource for expectant moms, first time or sixth time, who would love some support in achieving that now-not-so-impossible goal of natural childbirth in the hospital!  I was able to review Unbound Birth, and I was happy to discover valuable pregnancy and childbirth information in an easy-to-read format- as if I were just listening to another mom talk.  Jennifer (who also happens to contribute to the crafty blogosphere over at The Southern Institute) shares her own natural birth stories, and she details information that is really good on a variety of subjects, including childbirth education, using a doula, tips on relaxation and pain relief during labor, and how to help your baby stay in the optimal position for birth (anyone who has had a breech or posterior baby knows how difficult and sometimes impossible it is to go through labor normally).  Jenny also covers creating your own birth plan, and gives tips for good prenatal nutrition and exercise.  Unbound Birth is all about empowering you to be able to have the experience you want, and it is packed with great information to know if you want to give yourself the best chance possible to birth naturally in the hospital!

In case you’re wondering, the eBook is about 60 pages (it is a quick read) and it costs under $5- not bad!  If you’re thinking of buying it, it is available as of today, and you can get your own copy by clicking here.  (Also check out the Unbound Birth website or follow Unbound birth on Facebook and Twitter.)

I learned long ago that everyone has the right to choose what kind of experience they want while giving birth- and there is no right or wrong way to do it as long as everyone ends up healthy.  If you decide that unmedicated childbirth is right for you, and you have concerns, then I suggest checking this book out, and best of luck to you!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this eBook in return for reading it and posting my review; however the opinions expressed here are my honest feelings and reactions to the eBook.

Sock Monkeys for Texas

For Making the World a Little Sweeter this month, we are going to do a Craft Hope project.  If you haven’t seen the Craft Hope website, check it out.  It is a site that encourages readers to do a craft project about once a month that will benefit folks with a need somewhere in the world.

Image from http://www.crafthope.com/2011/10/stitching-sock-monkeys/

The current project at Craft Hope is sweet sock monkeys.  The recipients?  Kids in Texas who have lost their homes this past summer in fires.  Read this post to learn more, but basically 1,600 homes burned down during the record- breaking summer heat Texas experienced this year.  Many of those were likely homes for young families, and that means that there are a lot of children who have lost the homes that were familiar to them.  That’s where Project 15, Sock Monkeys for Texas comes in.  All of the sock monkeys that are collected will be given to children who have lost their homes during these fires.  I made my first-ever sock monkey this week in an afternoon’s time.  Would you care to join me in participating in this project? Here’s how:

1. You need a pair of socks, stuffing, and a few sewing notions.  I found these brand- new socks for a dollar at D.I., and I had planned another project for them, but after I read about Project 15, I knew what their ultimate destiny would be.  (Ooh-ooh-ooh-ahh-ahh!)

2.  If you’ve never made a sock monkey before, check out these super- useful tutorials:

  • Craft Stylish (Download the pdf file. This tutorial has a nice diagram that helps when you are cutting.)
  • Craftbits (This tutorial gives great step-by-step instructions with pictures and I found it really helpful for explaining how to put the parts together.)

3. Sew up your monkey. 😀  You can make it as simple or as fancy as you like.  Some cute kid is going to love it either way.

My skewompus but lovable sock monkey friend.

4. Mail your monkey and feel warm fuzzies. Here’s the link again for the original post which if you scroll to the bottom contains the address to send it to.

Did I mention there is a deadline?  No, I guess I didn’t… but Jade Sims (Craft Hope founder) needs the monkeys by November 24th– that’s Thanksgiving. 

I’m mailing my monkey tomorrow.  Will you join me in this monkey business?!

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Source: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/

Breast cancer awareness… a matter close to my heart.  Besides having more than one family member who has battled breast cancer, I am a public health nurse at the local health department, and one of my main functions is to screen for and educate about breast cancer.

These are the lovely ladies I work with.  I truly couldn’t have better coworkers.  I am on the bottom right in this picture.

We just had a health fair honoring breast cancer survivors and we put on a luncheon for a few women who have come through our clinic and who are being treated for cancer.

My boss put together a beautiful lunch for these women.  Yours truly was assigned to make the centerpiece.  I used my anthropologie-inspired cake platter/ cupcake tower, some beautiful rose cupcakes (that Marissa mostly frosted), fresh fruit, and rainbow tissue flowers as accents.  I think it turned out pretty good!

Important breast cancer information:
If you are at least 20 years old, you should be doing self breast exams.  I know
you may feel uncomfortable, or it may be difficult to remember, but do
whatever you have to do to remind yourself! Put a note or sticker
somewhere you will see it, or choose to do it on your birthday- date
each month. If you are at least 40 years old, you need a mammogram every
1-2 years (every year after age 50). Men, please encourage the women in
your lives to do this- it may save their life. When breast cancers are
detected early, women have an excellent chance of survival.  If you need
a reminder on how to do a self- exam, check out this link that has step- by- step instructions.

I like to tell the women I screen that doing a breast self exam isn’t
really about following a rigid set of instructions or searching for
cancer.  Thinking of it that way can cause anxiety that may cause you to
avoid even thinking about it.  I recommend being aware of your body-
becoming familiar with what is normal for you.  Think of it as a way to
have peace of mind.  If you do notice a change, whether it be a lump, a
change in color or texture of the skin on your breast, a change in shape
or appearance of any part of the breast, or anything out of the
ordinary that persists and doesn’t resolve, you should have it checked
immediately by a health care professional.

As women, we put so much of our energy into taking care of other
people that we sometimes neglect to take care of ourselves.  Please consider that you can best care for
those you love by keeping yourself healthy!  What I’m
saying is that there really isn’t any good excuse for not giving your
health the attention it deserves.

If money or lack of insurance/ underinsurance is an issue, there are
programs that offer free or low cost mammograms to women over 40 each
year if you meet certain income requirements. The clinic I work at is
one of these programs, and there are programs like this all over the
U.S. You can check out the CDC’s website to find out if you qualify.

What can you do to help?
1. Get yourself screened.
2. Spread the word and encourage someone you love to get screened.
3. Show support this month for breast cancer awareness and those who have battled breast cancer by wearing pink or the BCA ribbon.
4. Raise money for breast cancer awareness by participating in or supporting fundraisers.

Make the world sweeter this month by doing as many things in the above list as you feel you can!

Gratitude, and a free printable

Making the World a Little Sweeter this month is all about gratitude.

Ah, Gratitude: a virtue too often overlooked, when it should be a fundamental part of our way of thinking, no?

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero

You may already know that when you have an attitude of gratitude, you tend to be happier and more content with life, but did you know that making gratitude a habit actually improves your physical health and brain function? (according to research done by Daniel G. Amen, MD)   Of course, expressing that gratitude has the potential to lift and inspire others.  Think of a time when someone thanked you for something you did- even if you were not expecting anything in return.  You were probably surprised and touched, right?  So by focusing on gratitude- and expressing it- we are going to feel great and help others feel great too.

First- on cultivating an attitude of gratitude, I suggest starting a gratitude journal.  This is something I have done in the past, and it really made me think every day about the good things that happened.  I have enjoyed going back and reading things that I wrote way back in the day.  If you want to start a gratitude journal, all you need is a notebook or a scrap of paper, but if you want to motivate yourself with something cute, why don’t you check out this tutorial with free printable pages from Small + Friendly.

Second- We have so many opportunities to uplift others by simply saying thank you.  Most of us are probably on our best behavior much of the time, and we say our pleases and thank-yous when we should- mostly.  But I would bet that if you think about it, you will be able to come up with someone who you’d still like to thank- or at least thank better.  At first, when I started thinking of people who deserve my thanks, I realized there wasn’t really any dramatic instance where someone saved my life, or did something that changed my whole life, but there were so many people who performed small acts that really did change my life in small ways…  The woman whose friendship meant the world to me at a time when I was a newcomer with no friends and few acquaintances.  The youth leader who listened to and encouraged me during my painfully shy and awkward adolescence.  The first friend I made as a student in a foreign country, who opened her heart to me, and who is still in my heart these years later.  The boss who wouldn’t let administration cut my part time job, and who supported me in wanting to be a mother first and foremost.  The casual friend I didn’t know too well, but who let me cry on her shoulder during a tough time, and then called me up later to find out how I was doing.  All the people who have genuinely cared about me when they didn’t have to.  Whether they knew it or not, they all left positive impressions on my life.  Some of these wonderful people I have thanked recently, and some I still need to seek out.

My challenge to you this month is to thank someone in your life- either someone from your past, or someone who is making a difference to you right now.  Could be a friend, family member, or acquaintance… anybody who has done something positive for you, or for your family.  You could surely send a thank you card, write a letter or quick email, make a phone call, or drop off a plate of cookies to that person who has made your life a little sweeter.

And, dear readers, I must thank you.  I appreciate your sticking with us, reading, and commenting.  So, just for you, here is a free printable- a thank-you checklist style card- just click the picture below, and it will open a google doc that you can then print from or download the card.  I hope you enjoy it (and use it)!

PS: You can make an envelope by trimming and folding a 12×12 piece of scrapbook paper to fit around it.  As long as the finished dimensions of any envelope are less than 6 1/8″ x 11 1/2″ and it weighs less than 3.5 oz, you should be able to mail it with one stamp- currently $0.44- in the U.S.  You don’t necessarily have to put it in an envelope though; you could punch a hole and thread some ribbon through it and attach it to a door, or a treat to give away.  Any other ideas out there about presentation?

Random Acts of Kindness

(I have to apologize for my absence here for the last little while! –I am helping to plan a health fair and the Blue and Gold Dinner for our local Cub Scouts, and I seem to have bitten off a little more than I can chew with that, plus we have been sick… blah blah blah… anyway, you’ll have to forgive my lack of a crafty post here, but I will deliver!  … just not for a few days, probably!)

Alrighty, folks.  This is the second month of Making the World Sweeter- are you ready?!  Did you know that February is Random Acts of Kindness Month?  Specifically, the week of Valentine’s day is Random Acts of Kindness Week.

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop
“Never suppress a generous thought.” -Camilla Kimball

I do have some project ideas for Random Acts of Kindness, but for now, instead of trying to be superwoman, I am just trying to incorporate little things into my day where I can.  I am trying to be more mindful of how I act toward complete strangers as well as people I know.  This week I would encourage you to do the same. Some ideas for random acts of kindness (RAK) include:

  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Be a courteous driver- let someone in in front of you, give up a good parking spot, you get the idea.
  • Put your best manners on: say please and thank you, and bless you when someone sneezes!
  • Bring a treat for your coworkers
  • Do a household chore for someone else
  • Leave a generous tip at a restaurant
  • Smile while looking someone in the eye
  • Return a shopping cart (or two) when your are in a parking lot
  • Call your grandma or grandpa (or anyone who could use some cheer) just to chat and say “I love you.”
  • Forgive someone who has wronged you
  • Write a thank you note for someone who has had a positive impact on your life
  • Leave a nice comment on someone’s facebook page or blog
  • Complement someone
  • Offer to give a back rub or scratch- without asking for one in return!
  • Go through your closet and donate items you don’t wear to charity
  • Send a nice note in your hubby’s or kid’s lunch
  • Talk to a stranger- the check out clerk, a homeless person, someone waiting next to you in line, etc.
  • Leave a room or area more beautiful/ clean than you found it
  • Volunteer to take a meal to someone in need
  • When you do your baking, make extra to give away…deliver it in person, or leave it for them anonymously, as a surprise!

If you are just hankering for a good crafty project this week that would be a great RAK, check out this great DIY Bake-it-forward plate idea over at Infarrantly Creative!

    Want more inspiration?  Visit these awesome websites:
    http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/
    http://www.operationnice.com/
    http://www.kindovermatter.com/

    Making the World a Little Sweeter- January

    Are you ready to jump into the first Making the World a Little Sweeter project?  I’m excited!  Click here to read the background on what Making the World a Little Sweeter is all about!

    Our first project this year is a crocheting/ knitting project. We will be participating in the Good Goes Caps for Good program. It requires minimal time yet has the potential to make a big impact. Consider the following:

    “Nearly 4 million babies die each year in their first month of life – half within their first 24 hours – mostly from preventable or treatable causes. But by giving mothers and caregivers a package of simple tools, including guidance on healthy newborn care practices, the majority of these deaths could be prevented…. This is where you can help by making a cap! Your caps will be sent to Save the Children’s newborn health programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America.” (taken from the Caps for Good Action Kit)

    Basically, you can help save a baby’s life by making a tiny little hat which will be given to a new mama and baby somewhere far away.

    What to do:

    • Check out even more free newborn hat patterns here and here, or feel free to scroll down and use the crochet pattern and tutorial I have shared with you.
    • Knit or crochet a tiny cap.
    • Mail the cap to: 
    Save the Children, Caps for Good
    c/o The Doe Fund
    173 Cook Street
    Brooklyn, NY 11206 
    by the end of February (program ends then).
      • Tell someone about Caps for Good so they can get in on the fun.

      I know some of you are thinking “A tiny little cap?  Easy.  I can bust that out in about 20 minutes.”  People like my sister Marissa.  Come to think of it… why didn’t she write this post?  Oh, right, because she is super busy with her public health internship…  oh well, you’re stuck with me.  The rest of you (myself included) may not have such stellar skills in the needlework department.  BUT- this project really is easy.  If I could do it, you can do it too.  The hardest part for me was figuring out how to read a crochet pattern, which I have never done before.  But after some sweat and tears (well, ok, figuratively) and 5 attempts (the last two finally looked like hats!), I think I might be able to help.

      This is the pattern (minus the fancy cherries on top) which made me feel as if I could actually successfully crochet a hat, so with a few modifications, I did it!  The body of the hat is just really simple; all you need to know how to do is a single crochet stitch (click for an illustrated how- to).  So, the hat is made in a circular fashion, starting at the top, and coiling around until you get the desired length.  The instructions will be given in rounds, i.e. Rnd 1, 2, 3, etc. Most patterns will have you begin by crocheting a small chain, and working several stitches into the first stitch you made.  That really confused me at first, but you really do add all those stitches in that one little loop.  Well, I’m getting ahead of myself.  How about a picture tutorial to get you started?

      Simple Baby Beanie Tutorial & Pattern

      This beanie is sized to fit a very small infant, or newborn’s head. 

      Use any type of soft yarn to make this hat.  I used baby yarn because I have quite a bit that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and it was just begging to be used (after 20+ years…).  I used my smallest crochet hook, I would say a size F or G.  Adjust the size of your hook according to the thickness of the yarn you are using.

      First make a slipknot in your yarn, like this:

      Now crochet a chain 3 stitches long.

      Then, connect your short little chain so that it becomes a tiny little circle, by adding a single crochet stitch to the other end of the chain.

      Now add 6 more single crochets into that same stitch, and you end up with a flower- like circle, like this:

      That was Round (Rnd) 1.

      For Rnd 2, add 2 single crochets into each stitch in your circle (14 stitches in all this time around).  Your circle is getting bigger!
       

      Rnd 3: Add one single crochet (sc) into the next stitch, two sc into the next, and keep alternating between one and two sc per stitch for 21 stitches.

      Rnd 4:  One sc into the next two stitches, then two sc in the third stitch, and repeat that pattern all the way around the circle (28 stitches).

      Rnd 5: One sc into the next three stitches, then two sc in the fourth stitch, and repeat that pattern all the way around the circle (35 stitches).

      Rnd 6: One sc into the next four stitches, then two sc in the fifth stitch, and repeat that pattern all the way around the circle (42 stitches).

      Rnd 7: One sc into the next five stitches, then two sc in the sixth stitch, and repeat that pattern all the way around the circle (49 stitches).

      Rnd 8: One sc into the next six stitches, then two sc in the seventh stitch, and repeat that pattern all the way around the circle (56 stitches).

      Rnd 9-23: One sc in each stitch until the hat is the desired length (approximately 14 more rounds).

      Finishing the hat: Try any style of trim you want, or just do a simple slip stitch in each stitch once around the hat.  A slip stitch as I understand it starts out just like a sc but when you put your hook through the middle of the stitch and grab the yarn, you pull it through both of the loops you have on your hook at once.

      Cut the yarn and tie it off by threading the end of the yarn through the loop your hook was in two times, then pulling tight.  You can then trim the yarn close to the knot or leave a tail and weave it into the hat so it doesn’t show.

      I turned my hat inside out because I like the look of the stitches on the inside best.

      Now, don’t worry if the number of stitches isn’t quite the same or stitches aren’t perfectly even or you think it is too big or too small or too anything.  The point of this is to make something to keep a little one warm and to feel warm fuzzies (no pun intended) for the recipients.  Just take a deep breath and say “It’s good enough!”

      If you need clarification on anything (or if you are a crochet pro and you find a mistake in my pattern and want to correct it), shoot me an email at rochelle@homesweethomebodies.net and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

      Good luck and I would love to see pictures and/or a link to your blog post if you make a hat! 

      October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

      Ok, I know this doesn’t follow the normal subject material for this blog, but please take a minute and read!

      I have posted about breast cancer before, but as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the information bears repeating, I am reposting.  A part of my life that I don’t really share here is that I am a public health nurse, and I work in a women’s clinic where I do breast cancer screening and education. Consequently, I have come to feel strongly about early detection/ screening and being aware of your body. I hope you will take a minute to read/ review and maybe make a few changes in your life if necessary.

      Breast cancer is a frightening disease. Most women fear that they or someone they love will get it. Our fears may or may not be well- founded, but they are made worse when we hear statistics like:

      • Over 40,000 people will die of breast cancer this year; about 400 of them will be men.
      • 85% of all diagnoses have no family history.

      Unfortunately, not all risk factors are things you can prevent, but here are a few things that can help you lower your risk of breast cancer:

      • Exercise and make wholesome food choices.  Make an effort to maintain a healthy weight.
      • Limit alcohol intake and smoking.
      • Be aware of your family history. Talk to your doctor if breast cancer is in your family. This may affect the recommendations your doctor has for you.

      In addition, set aside a few minutes each month to do a breast self- exam. Women, if you are at least 20 years old, you should be doing this (as well as getting an exam at the doctor’s office once a year)! I know you may feel uncomfortable, or it may be difficult to remember, but do whatever you have to do to remind yourself! Put a note or sticker somewhere you will see it, or choose to do it on your birthday- date each month. If you are at least 40 years old, you need a mammogram every 1-2 years (every year after age 50). Men, please encourage the women in your lives to do this- it may save their life. When breast cancers are detected early, women have an excellent chance of survival.  If you need a reminder on how to do a self- exam, check out this link that has step- by- step instructions: http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/About-Breast-Cancer/What-Is-Breast-Cancer/Breast-Self-Exam.aspx

      I like to tell the women I screen that doing a breast self exam isn’t really about following a rigid set of instructions or searching for cancer.  Thinking of it that way can cause anxiety that may cause you to avoid even thinking about it.  I recommend being aware of your body- becoming familiar with what is normal for you.  Think of it as a way to have peace of mind.  If you do notice a change, whether it be a lump, a change in color or texture of the skin on your breast, a change in shape or appearance of any part of the breast, or anything out of the ordinary that persists and doesn’t resolve, you should have it checked immediately by a health professional.

      As women, we so often put all of our energy into taking care of other people that we fail to take care of ourselves.  If you are not making your own health a priority, please consider that you can best care for those you love by keeping yourself healthy and, well, alive.  What I’m saying is that there really isn’t any good excuse for not giving your health the attention it deserves.

      If money or lack of insurance/ underinsurance is an issue, there are programs that offer free or low cost mammograms to women over 40 each year if you meet certain income requirements. The clinic I work at is one of these programs, and there are programs like this all over the U.S. You can check out the CDC’s website to find out if you qualify.

      OK- one more thing. Take a minute to check out this video. It is about a type of rare but highly dangerous form of breast cancer called Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) in which there may not be a “lump”, but rather changes in the outward appearance of the breast.

      Interesting Medical Study for Moms-to-be

      I read an interesting article that I think pertains to any woman who may ever get pregnant in the future. A one (okay, two) sentence synopsis: We already know that taking 400-800 micrograms of folate before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy is instrumental in preventing neural tube defects in developing embryos. This observational analysis study shows a correlation between supplementing with folic acid for at least 1 year prior to conception and a 50-70% reduction in premature delivery rates.
      Bottom Line: If you are planning on trying to get pregnant in the next year or two, start now with folic acid supplementation, and the chances of neural tube defect and preterm delivery will be significantly reduced.

      -Bukowski, et al.

      Read the full article here or a synopsis here.