Greeting the World with The Honest Company

Living in Africa- especially with children and ESPECIALLY with a newborn- presents a number of challenges that just aren’t a part of life in the developed world. We feel strongly about exposing our children to life in Africa (as opposed to sheltering them) as much as possible, but we have so many things to think about here- and one of the big ones is hygiene.

13012818_10206491367622929_8652254032494564540_n

Many sicknesses that have been eradicated or are very scarce in the US are still a part of life here in Rwanda- typhoid, yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, and a cornucopia of different intestinal woes are all sicknesses that happen in relative frequency here, which means that we have to be prepared! Even something as simple as shaking a hand on the street or children playing together should be, for us (as our immune systems aren’t used to the same germs) conducted with caution.

See, I will never forget the first time our daughter visited the Kibagabaga preschool and shook hands with each child through the fence. Or when we waited at our church for her daddy to get off of work, and she ended up being led by the hand into a room where the schoolchildren sang songs to her. The delight and adventure in her eyes as she got to follow these new friends and experience their world is something I want her to experience every day. It fills my heart with joy. But in the back of my mind, as a mama, I have to think- could she be being exposed to something that might make her sick?

Product-397-slide_with_zoom-88798737-7fdf-4829-b929-be32811a805c

One of our favorite tools for making our lives peaceful and worry-free is Honest Company’s Hand Sanitizer. I keep one in my purse and one in my diaper bag- and I can watch my little one knowing that she is having the time of her life and that I don’t have to fret about the germs- it kills 99% on contact, using plant-based ingredients! It’s gentle but still super-effective.

It’s crazy that something so small and simple (and affordable!) can give me such peace of mind, and empower me to be more confident in meeting new people here in a different culture! I can let new friends greet our baby with the knowledge that I am doing something to protect my little one. We can build relationships while also keeping ourselves healthy- and that makes a huge difference in my heart. Thank you, Honest Company!

Shepherd’s Birth Story

Our dear little buddy is turning 3 months old this week, so I think it’s high time I share his birth story!

Just like his sister, our precious little guy was about as late as you can go before anyone starts getting nervous- 11 days after my due date! Over the few weeks prior, we had several occurrences of false labor, and we knew that I was dilated 2-3cm already, so we figured he would come anytime. He had other plans!

For a few days before his birth, I tried many, many things to get him to come out- you might remember my post 40 ways to go into labor, well, we probably tried 38 of them! Finally, on day 10 (the day before he came) I said ENOUGH. I believed that my body knew what it was doing and that he would come when he was ready. My labor with Hallelujah was nightmarish and I didn’t want a repeat, and I remember trying EVERYTHING to get her to come. It’s like my body finally gave up and went into labor with her, but didn’t really want to yet. I didn’t want the same experience.

So, on day 10, I decided to rest in the Lord and the fact that he made my body perfectly (even though many times it’s not seemed that way). I felt this peace about just waiting and making the most of my day- and I did! I decided to cherish those moments with Halle and take what could be (and was) a last opportunity to really make her feel loved before Shepherd came. We walked to the bagel store and the grocery store, went for a swim in the frigid pool and drank hot cocoa while we swam, took a bath, took a nap, and took her to her first ever movie in a theater (Moana). We had a quiet night at home and just enjoyed each other’s company!

And then, before I knew it, I woke up at about 4:45 to basically feel like I was peeing myself (if you know me IRL you know that I know this feeling well). I stood up out of bed quickly and….it stopped? Did I really just pee myself in my sleep? I went to the bathroom and noticed that it didn’t smell like pee, didn’t really have a smell at all. I had read about / had several friends who had high water leaks, where your water breaks near the top of the uterus and then the baby’s head plugs up the hole when you stand up- so I figured that might be what was happening. I decided to lay down and go back to sleep.

Around 6am, it happened again- basically confirming what I knew. I got up, changed my pants (again) and made myself a protein shake while I still had an appetite. I was having contractions maybe 5-6 minutes apart, but nothing major. Around 6:45, I woke Matthew up and told him we needed to get ready- the contractions were getting closer together. He insisted on showering (insert eye roll for my husband who takes the longest showers of any man) while I got things together. I called the midwife, who agreed that I should come in (we were almost an hour away from the birth center) and called Matthew’s mom to have her meet us at the birth center.

Shepbirth-1

We woke Halle up and told her that her brother was coming! She was excited and behaved well as we gathered our things and got ready to go. We were in the car and headed to the birth center at about 7:30. We listened to the Hamilton soundtrack the whole way (we are sooo obsessed)! However, I began to get discouraged as my contractions slowed down to every 8-10 minutes apart. Could this seriously be another bout of false labor? I honestly think I would’ve turned around and gone home, except for my suspicion that my water was broken.

We arrived at the birth center at about 8:30, and I was completely comfortable. The midwife (Michelle, who also owned the birth center, and made our “coming from overseas” experience a breeze)) checked me and said that I was 5cm and that I was definitely having Shepherd that day! I was so relieved. After so many false starts, I was ready to go!

I told Matthew the good news (and Debbie, his mama, and Halle, who were in the waiting room together) and we went to unpack in our room. We were the only ones there in labor at the time, so we had our pick- and we chose a pretty room with a tub in-room- because of Halle’s shoulder dystocia, we wanted everything (bed and tub) close together so we could avoid having to move me mid-birth, haha! We were psyched that out ideal room was available- the bed even had a mosquito net over it, just like at home in Rwanda!

The birth assistant began filling up the tub while we unpacked. I told her I was concerned about getting in the tub too early and slowing down labor, but both she and the midwife assured me that I was already in active labor and it was fine. So I got in for a bit- it was sooooo relaxing but, after Halle’s hard birth, I couldn’t help but feel like nothing was happening! I was restless. This was too easy, right?

We decided that going for a walk would make me feel better, like I was “working”. The birth center was just a few blocks from the St John’s River, so we walked down to the riverfront a few times, The contractions stayed consistent but not painful. Soon, our photographer and dear friend Kristy, arrived!

Shepbirth-7

Shepbirth-9

Around 11:30, my contractions began to be stronger, andI stayed in bed for a bit to try to relax all of my muscles and let my body do it’s. This is when Halle decided to come give me a “checkup”- cue the preciousness! I also labored on the toilet for a bit. Everything was feeling more intense, but I was really fine! Michelle decided to check me, and I just KNEW that I would only be like 6 cm. To my surprise, I was 8!

Shepbirth-47

Shepbirth-33

I knew from my education that 8-10cm, or “transition”, can be the most intense part of birth. I wasn’t feeling that at all- that is, until Michelle pulled my bag of waters down and released all of the fluid that was left. I was laying on a chux pad on the bed, and so much fluid came out that I was soaked up to my shoulders! Holy moly. Weirdest feeling ever. And….cue the cray cray contractions- no water to balance out the pressure, it was go time!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that, to release the water still left in my uterus, Michelle actually had to push Shepherd’s head UP and allow the water to drain out. So then, when my body went from 8-10cm in about 10 minutes, when I felt like I needed to push, he wasn’t actually down in the birth canal where he should’ve been. My body was pushing but he wasn’t there yet- it was exhausting. Even though they kept telling me not to bear down, I couldn’t help it- that’s the only thing that felt right at the time. This started at about 1:15pm.

Shepbirth-55

Shepbirth-78

Shepbirth-93

Shepbirth-101

So, I labored on the toilet and then in the tub for a while. I got very nauseous at one point, but was quickly given nux vomica and it went away completely (amazing!). It was hard and more of a mental strain maybe than anything- knowing that he needed to move down and re-engage before my pushing would actually be productive. Finally, at about 2:15, Michelle said it was time to really work! He was ready and so were we.

Michelle and I had previously discussed my plan for the actual birth, especially in regards to Halle’s shoulder dystocia. While one dystocia doesn’t necessarily mean you are predisposed to it, it can- and I didn’t want to take any chances. So we had decided early on in the morning that I would deliver on the bed, flat on my back, so that my knees could be pushed up to my head and Shepherd would have optimal room to get under my pelvic bone. Not my ideal, to be sure, but I wanted a healthy baby, so I didn’t hesitate.

 

 

Shepbirth-114

After pushing for about 10 minutes, a receptionist came in and told us that our dear friend Keri had arrived! Keri is an LDRP nurse and I wanted her to be at the birth SO badly- but she had been scheduled to work that day. But, surprise! She had left work and made it JUST in time. She dutifully kept a cold rag on my head while Matthew helped hold my legs up and encouraged me. Kristy kept taking amazing photos- man! I had the best team ever!

Finally, at 2:42 pm, Shepherd was born! Matthew caught him and lifted him to my chest in one of the most surreal moments of my life. Especially after so many losses- to hold my miracle son was like a dream. His placenta soon followed, and after we were both examined to be in perfect health- yes, you read that right, almost ten pounds of baby without a stitch 🙂

Shepbirth-133

Shepbirth-145

Shepbirth-157

Shepbirth-164

Shepbirth-170

Little man nursed right away and we had some quiet moments to ourselves between Matthew’s family coming to visit. Uncle Maverick and Aunt Mony brought us Smoothie King (because I was craving it) and we waited to be discharged. I have to be honest, I felt like I took longer to recover from this birth than the last at first- I think with Halle, I basically fell asleep immediately after birth for about an hour and then felt great, but with Shepherd I was lucid the entire time but felt very weak for a few hours- probably due to my low iron throughout my pregnancy. Though, luckily, I was apparently the only client that didn’t hemmhorage that day!

By about 8:00, we were ready to go! We packed up the car and drove to Matthew’s family’s home, where we spent our first two nights. Shepherd slept 5 hours in a row, and has been doing that ever since! He is a dream and we are so grateful for our little man and a great birth experience!

Shepbirth-180

Shepbirth-183

Shepbirth-187

Shepbirth-190

Shepbirth-198

Shepbirth-201

Shepbirth-203

Say Goodbye to Boring Gifts!

Alright y’all. If you actually know me personally, you may already know that gifts are my love language- giving and receiving. If you don’t already know, well- there’s nothing that makes my heart sing quite like picking out something amazing and unexpected that I know a loved one will just ADORE- especially if it’s something they’ve never seen or heard of or thought of before. Wanna know a secret? I have a source…Uncommon Goods!


I first found Uncommon Goods a few years back when searching for whiskey stones to get my husband for Christmas. What I stumbled upon was not just whiskey stones, but an entire site devoted to amazing, unique, small-maker products that made my gift giving love language soar to new heights. From the very beginning, I have worked hard to feature products that value sustainability and social/environmental responsibility, and Uncommon Goods is no exception. They are committed to working with small manufacturers and artists to bring the world products that do no harm to people or animals (so, no leather, fur, or feathers!) and they are a founding B Corporation member!

So what can you find at Uncommon Goods? Seriously…something for everyone. I spent several hours the other night just drooling over all of the awesome gifts- from gorgeous jewelry to homemade kombucha kits to socks that look like sushi to personalized champagne flutes! With spring upon us, you should consider Uncommon Goods for amazing, unique wedding gifts– no boring old toasters here. How about champagne flutes etched like trees, or a personalized cutting board?


I especially love this site for finding unique, unforgettable gifts for bridal parties- both bridesmaids and groomsmen! When I got married, we actually opted to make donations to the charity of each person’s choice rather than giving a gift, because I just didn’t want to add one more thing to the “gifts I’ll never use” pile from my friends. But had I seen these options….

Why give your faithful bridesmaids a piece of jewelry they might never wear again when you could give them something that shows just how well you know them, like a throw pillow embroidered with a special place, or a carry-on cocktail kit to make their favorite drink on their way home from the wedding? If jewelry is your style, though, there are gorgeous options- like a gold-dipped lace necklace, or super unique tiny planter earrings! 


And then there’s your dapper groomsmen– a flask or a knife is a great gift, but with Uncommon Goods, you can level up. How about a set of cuff links made from the stadium seating of their favorite team? Or maybe a custom growler is more their style- so much classier than a flask these days. Gift your men with something they will cherish for years to come- and know that you are being socially and environmentally responsible, too. 

Whatever the occasion- Uncommon Goods has your back. I love finding the perfect gift for my loved ones, and I have a blast looking through their catalog to find it! I know you will too. Enjoy!