birth affirmation cards

Hi friends! As we close in on the 36 week mark, final preparations for baby B's arrival are well underway. We enjoyed a quiet Christmas with family and although we still have New Years and our anniversary yet to celebrate (Jan 18 - 3 years!), both occasions are a bit overshadowed this year. It dawned on me this morning that although due dates mean very little, today is exactly one month from ours, which is crazy!!

Though it can feel daunting to prepare for a baby's arrival, there is lots of advice and lists available to help mom sort out her to-dos. Sadly, most of these are just about what needs to be purchased or made. (Don't get me wrong, my week is well-planned with freezer meal prep.) However, neither nursery items nor checklists are as key as an often overlooked aspect of getting yourself ready for birth...mama's mental & emotional state.

While birth is an extremely physical act, much of it is also innate. Whether a woman is ready to give birth or not, her body knows what to do and, without complications, will do it naturally and efficiently. For many modern women, the hardest part can be overcoming the mental barricades, preconceptions, or plans surrounding the birth. While availability of information is a wonderful thing, when it comes to birth, many of us overthink, overplan, and overstress on the details. It is extremely important to be your own advocate and to know your birth options. However, in the midst of all this information and advice, we often open the door self-doubt and anxiety that the women of the past did not face. For centuries, birth was unquestioned and celebrated by groups of women who understood how to help a new mother enter triumphant into this new stage of life. And while medical advances are essential in certain situations, along the way we lost our foundation of confidence in our ability to bring life to the world.

With all that being said, there are amazing resources available through birth advocates to help mamas reclaim the peace of mind to boldly approach their baby's birth, no matter what kind of birth that may be. One of these resources is Birth Affirmation Cards. Simply put, affirmation cards are positive statements regarding birth that mom can focus on leading up to the big day to reinforce her strength and her body's abilities. Many sets are available for purchase and depending on mom's preferences/beliefs, they can look very different. Trying to focus a lot of my energy on mentally preparing for the birth, I realized that my best option was to create my own set of cards...which I'd like to share with you! As a Christian, many of the cards are Bible verses which may not resonate with every woman. But, feel free to use what you like and discard those you don't. I designed them in black & white so I could color them with my favorite colors and have now posted them all around our home for me to glance at or briefly meditate on while brushing my teeth or doing dishes. Once committed to memory, these short sayings or verses can be recalled during the birth or during moments of fear/doubt leading up to the big day - which in the moment may be no small thing.
So - if you'd like a card set for yourself, simply click on the link below to download them for free. Just print, cut out, and color. I hope they encourage you to confidently anticipate your birthing-day! No matter what kind of birth you are planning or end up having, you are amazing and you can do this!!

If you'd like to purchase a more professional set or are interested in more positive birth information, check out MamaNatural.com.


fall wreath mini tutorial

Hi friends! Things are going well in these parts and some of us are very happy cooler fall weather has arrived...especially those of us carrying a few extra lbs these days. Little B is 28 weeks and we're excited to really start the countdown to meeting him/her!

In lieu of more nursery prep (which is at a bit of a logistical standstill till after Thanksgiving), I did some fall decorating this week. This tutorial is so simple it really doesn't even deserve the word. I came across this idea a few years ago and have used in on a variety of wreaths, but this new one may be one of my favorites!

Start with a straw wreath form and a skein of your choice of yarn. I liked this flecked white one since it looks a bit like a birch tree when finished. Hot glue the end of the yarn to the form. Pass the skein around and through the form over and over till it wraps it entirely. Like...over and over and over and over forever. Just kidding!
Finish by gluing the end of the yarn to the back of the form (you don't have to use the whole skein, just make sure you don't have any holes showing through). Depending on your style preference, use felt or fall accents to glue decorations to the front. I like a combination.

There are a million awesome felt flower tutorials online so the possibilities are endless. And at 30-ish cents per sheet, you really can't go wrong. For the main flower, I used this tutorial to make a dark red dahlia. It was certainly more effort than some other flowers, but it's a nice focal point. The smaller flowers are made by simply cutting a spiral, rolling it up, and securing it with glue on the bottom - there are tutorials for that style as well. The rest of the accents were pulled from an assortment of stuff I had on hand. I used a bit of wire to form a loop hot glued to the back for a hanger. Let dry completely before hanging and you're done. Total cost - $6. Ta da!

I hope you're all enjoying your own favorite bits of fall!



As you may imagine, there has been a lot of discussion about names in our life lately. Whether it's family discussion about how names were chosen for relatives or the funniest names we've heard, Charlie and I have been discussing the idea at length. Though I'm not writing to share our ideas for Baby B, it has got me thinking a lot about the idea. And as God so often does, while contemplating this idea in church, we recently sang Bethel Music's song "Ever Be" and the lyrics of the second verse really struck me:

You Father the orphan / Your kindness makes us whole / And you shoulder our weakness / 
Your strength becomes our own / Now you're making me like you / Clothing me in white / 
Bringing beauty from ashes / For you will have your bride / Free of all her guilt and rid of all her shame / 
And known by her true name and it's why I sing / Your praise will ever be on my lips, ever be on my lips

Although I love my name, I've always struggled with it as well since there are inevitably a handful of Sarahs in any given group of women. What I do love about it is that my mom has always reminded me that it was my dad's doing. She was absolutely convinced that I was a boy while she was pregnant, but somehow my dad "just knew" and he chose Sarah because I was his princess. Now, I've never particularly associated with the idea of princess-hood, but to be his princess...well, that was special. Named by my father. 

So as we discuss names for our own little one and I've been thinking a lot about my dad's own choice, I heard those lyrics and was reminded of one powerful thought: "her true name." Free of our guilt and shame, mistakes and weaknesses, we have all been named by our Father. And like my dad did while I was yet born, our Father knows our true name even when we don't. At different times, I have felt Him call my name as Daughter, as Precious, as Worthy, among others. And those names have certainly been the beauty brought from the ashes at certain points. Just as the lyrics so perfectly state, it's by knowing that we are made beautiful and called, individually, by our truest name, that we sing His praises. Without that knowledge, I strongly doubt that I would even be alive today to be blessed to bring this baby to the world, never to have the chance to rejoice in the true name God already has for him/her.

As we discuss little B's name, I am so grateful that Charlie has pretty much narrowed it down for us. I love that our son/daughter will be named by his/her dad as well as his/her Father. Though he contends that we can't choose a final name until we've met him/her, I am so grateful to know that God's name for our little one has been known and written since the beginning of time.

For these incredible, breathtaking blessings, it becomes easy to keep praise ever on our lips.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out: you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration - what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread before you
The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.
Psalm 139:13-16


diy baby tag blanket

This is hands-down one of my favorite diy baby items. It's super easy, cute, fast to make, and usually free. Thankfully, I thought to capture some photos before I started on the one I just finished. I've done a few of these before but this one is extra special. A dear friend is due with her second little one just a few days before we are and while recently discussing baby-related sewing projects, I mentioned this and she hadn't heard of it before. Today's mini-project is a tag blanket, or "taggie."

So so easy, I just start with two 10"x10" squares of fabric. For hers I used cotton on the front and flannel on the back. (both prewashed with non-toxic cleaners)
Next, I ironed and pinned a 1/2" seam around the edges of the top fabric so the unfinished edge gets tucked inside.

Then, I cut an assortment of 6" lengths of ribbon and pinned them around the edges. I try to mix up the colors, styles, widths, and finish of ribbons to make it more interesting. This also can be used as an early developmental tool later as well (ex: Can you find the blue one?). The only cautionary note is to make sure the loops are big enough for little fingers to grab but not so large baby could get his/her hand caught through it.
Next, trim the excess and sew around the edge to secure the ribbons to the top piece. (note: I did go back and fold mitered corners but only because it's a gift - this isn't really necessary). Take the bottom piece, then fold and pin the edges to match the top and sew together. I usually do two passes just to make sure the ribbons are tightly secured inside. And you're done!
The hardest part is picking out the fabric and ribbons! Machine washable but air-dry because of the ribbons. Total time = 30 min. / Total cost = $0 (retails for $10-15)

A win-win sewing project if ever there was one! Naturally, another for Baby B is forthcoming.


winter quilt - finished!

I'm equally embarrassed and thrilled to finally share that I've finished my Winter Quilt Project...from two years ago!

In November 2014, I posted on my old blog about starting my second full-sized quilt project. My first quilt, which I did during my junior year of college was fun but terribly made. None of the corners matched up, the color scheme was bold and awkward, and the size is twin-ish...not so great on the measuring back then. It is, however, extremely soft now and still works great for picnics and with kids. See?
That being said, it was high time to challenge myself with a bigger more advanced project - so I started this Winter Quilt which I hoped to finish by Spring 2015. Ha! Forget that. It took forever and by the time it was pieced and ready to hand-quilt, I was just a few weeks away from double carpal tunnel surgery and knew it would be ages before I could finish it. Other than quilting two blocks, it has sat undisturbed in our closet since last September.

A couple weeks ago, I pulled everything in the closet out to make room for baby B and faced facts. As much as I wanted to hand quilt the entire thing, the reality was that I was never going to finish it in time for the baby to come - and being honest, if it wasn't done before then, it was never going to get done! So I picked out the hand-stitching and started over with knotting it. I finished in a few days and did the binding while my mom was visiting (though in a very rushed manner because I was just over it!). And praise be! It's finished!

All in all, it took 30 different fabrics and 1100+ total pieces to make 81 individual blocks! 
I had while-making-it photos but apparently they were lost when I transitioned my blog over so here's the finished project:
It definitely still isn't perfect, but I'm very content with finishing it and with how much I've learned in the 7 years (that can't be right!) since my last one.

And just in time too...I've already started cutting out squares for Baby B's quilt. Thankfully, it will be much smaller and simpler - plus, I've got a strict deadline! I'll have to wait to share that one though till after Baby B makes his/her appearance since the colors will give away the gender, which we learned in the last couple weeks!

Lesson here: crafters never learn. :)


nursery project #1 & updates

Good news! Despite appearances, I haven't actually fallen off the face of the earth. Things are getting busy here with stuff for baby B and with school starting back (which means back to work for me!). Before I share a fun project that I finished up a couple weeks ago, here are some quick life updates:

- Baby B is now 18.5 weeks along and allegedly the size of a sweet potato. I occasionally feel little movements but they're very sporadic. We are so in love!
- Charlie was pretty sick last week but is better now and continuing to be the perfect vision of a supportive husband and loving dad. He now only slightly rolls his eyes 
   when I mention wanting ice cream for the 15th time each day!
- I am still having bouts of fear regarding baby B but doing much better as well. I've been meditating on this song and singing it as a prayer. "You surround me with a 
   song of deliverance from (the Enemy) till all my fears are gone. I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God. ... You drown my fears in perfect love!" 
- I was excited to get lots of beautiful tomatoes out of my garden (first time growing veggies!) and spent my last week off work cooking them into lots of different dishes 
   for our freezer. Much to our dismay, after some bad storms, we discovered that the freezer outlet had shorted out and everything we had put away (10 containers 
   tomatoes and 15 of corn) had been ruined. To say it was a major bummer is quite an understatement, but such is life! Thankfully, I was able to get another small 
   batch of tomatoes before some blight took all the plants down. I would share an after photo but frankly, it's just sad at this point. Oh well!
- We've also recently joined bible study groups at our church and are so excited to continue connecting with new friends and growing together.

Now on to my first "nursery" project! Nursery in quotes because baby B only gets half the room. Regardless, I knew early on some of the artwork I wanted to put up. In addition to two adorable prints from Trafalgar Square on Etsy (whose artwork I adore!), I made the wooden plank sign below:
Just $5 from Hobby Lobby, I started by painting it all grey (though it looks a weird shade in these photos). 
I formatting the lettering digitally and printed it off to scale. I liked the idea of doing a fancy font, but decided to stick to something simple so baby B can read it more easily later. Since the boards are off-set, I cut each line so I could center them better. 
One board at a time, I penciled the letters in and then carefully painted them. I added the blue moon accent before lettering on the bottom three boards.
Sadly, the colors look really weird in photos. And no, we're not necessarily having a boy just because we're using lots of blues! The top four colors are our base colors and then if it's a boy, we'll add the dark blue; if it's a girl, we'll add a little of the pink.
The phrase on the boards is from a kids' song "Skinnamarink" popularized in the 1980s. Though I have no idea where my mom first heard it, she sang it to us almost every night, hand motions included. I have occasionally sung it to Charlie in jest and thought it would be the perfect way to incorporate one of my strongest childhood memories for baby B, who will undoubtedly be hearing it often. The video below is amazing so check out the first minute and you can learn Skinnamarink too!

That's pretty much it for us right now! I'm working on more projects so I'll be back to share soon. Have an incredible week!


tidal waves

When we were little and would wake in the night afraid, my mom always had us recount our nightmares to her. She used to say that once you spoke your fear, you could get rid of it. I don't know the medical truth to this, but it did always make us feel better. Here, many years later, I need to speak some fears so that I can try once again to banish them. Bear with me, please.

For most of my life, I dreamed of the day I would become a mother. This isn't so for every little girl and that's totally okay, but it has always been that way for me. I've loved babies and children and been fascinated by pregnancy and birth for a long time. As an adult, I've now put that love into practice as a doula. However, no amount of daydreaming could have prepared me for how things really feel now. Not the borderline moodiness on certain days or the occasional bout of feeling really yucky -- those I expected, what I was totally unprepared for was the fear. Not being fearful of the birth or of being a parent or the many changes this new life will bring to our routines...in complete honesty, I've seen too many births to think it is anything other than incredible and the rest we will just figure out along the way. For weeks, what I have been battling the ever crashing tidal wave of fear that this little life could disappear and there is nothing I can do to control that.

Already many people have commented that my experience as a doula should mean I feel very prepared for what's to come. But the truth is that it also means I know the exact statistics on loss at every stage and all the many minute things that can go wrong. And as someone connected to the birth community, it also means I know a great deal of moms who have struggled with infertility and loss at every stage. Almost weekly, I see friends on Facebook who are grieving unexpected losses or celebrating the lives of babies who have spent far longer in heaven than they did on this earth. It is devastating. They are incredibly brave women and I fully support their choice to share their experience for a number of reasons. But at the end of the day, I am a new mom who is also terrified for this tiny life.

Before we became pregnant, I wrestled a lot with God and the idea that I had to trust Him to let us have a family if and when it was part of His plan. This took months of very harsh reflection and truthful prayers. After finally feeling like I had come to some kind of peace with whatever was to come, we were surprised and overwhelmingly blessed with "little b." I immediately vowed to be grateful for every step of this journey and to not rush things or complain or take it for granted -- it was far far to precious a gift for any of that. Yet at the same time, almost from day one, fear of loss has been a constantly ebb and flow through my mind. Not nightmares easy from which to wake, but sometimes graphic images, sometimes the words that would have to be spoken, and sometimes the reactions of friends, all hovering on the periphery of my joy.

I have been meditating on scriptures that speak out against fear and been praying a lot for God to help me to continue to trust Him, no matter what comes. Even though this may help for a time, I feel like I am standing in the face of constant waves of fear, crashing upon me and around me. Once one recedes, it is only a matter of time before another surges up behind it. Gratefully, I know the truth -- that our God is big enough to figuratively and literally part the seas for a clear path through, to calm the storm threatening our hope, and to even make safe passage upon the waters when our eyes are fixed on Him. Even now, the song Good Good Father has just come on in the background as I write this, reminding me that He is "a good good Father, it's who [He] is" and that He is "perfect in all of His ways" and that ultimately who I am, who Charlie is, and who our little bean is...all are rooted in being loved by Him. This isn't a guarantee of any outcome but that reassurance sure does hold back the tidal wave longer than anything I can come up with on my own.

For years, my mom has had a painting of Jesus calming the storm hanging in her living room. It was pretty but I never paid too much particular attention to it. However, last night after reading of another friend grieving the loss of her first pregnancy, I was fitfully trying to sleep and begging God to protect our little one as well as to give me the strength to trust Him. Through the fear, statistics, and mental images...that painting came into my mind and it was all I could do to just focus on it's stillness and peacefulness while repeating 2 Timothy 1:7 "For God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

I know this is a lot to share today but my prayer is that truthfulness about this very unexpected (and often unspoken-about) part of pregnancy will encourage another as well as myself. Speaking my fears so that they may be gone. And to the many many unbelievable women for whom pregnancy or birth ended in grief, please know that you and your beautiful babies are not forgotten.

I am overwhelmed by love these days -- love for this peach-sized person, love for and from my incredible husband who is already an amazing dad, love from the multitudes of family and friends who are sharing in our joy, but more than anything else, love for and from a God who is and has always been a good father to me, who can stand between me and my fear. And love for you, if you've read all the way through this and if you'll take a moment to pray for me, for other pregnant woman you know, any mom you know, and any mom whose baby is made whole in the glorious presence of Christ. Brief encouragement for any of them never goes amiss.

Thank you

ps - this song was sung at our church on Sunday and it was such a perfect and beautiful message:
"I need to know that you're still holding / the whole world in your hands / and that is a reason to sing"