No-Bake Rum Balls…

Crushed vanilla wafers, pecans, cocoa powder, and rum come together in no time to form the most sinfully delicious “grown-up goody”.

No Bake Rum Balls 2

Oh boy, oh boy, oh BOY! Talk about unexpected! These little babies blew my socks off! Who knew vanilla wafers and rum could make such beautiful music together?! I certainly didn’t. I had little expectations when I set out to make these. The flavor combos just sounded funky to me, but since literally every single review on these was 4-5 stars, I had to just trust the recipe. I only tweaked it slightly and sure enough, those reviewers knew what they were talking about! I’m in LOVE, people!

No Bake Rum Balls 3

These are SO simple. All you need is a food processor and time. After you roll these into balls, you want to let them sit in the fridge for 2-3 days. That part is important. They won’t look all that appetizing until you roll them in powdered sugar, but lemme tell ya- they taste fantastic. The rum flavor is SO strong and amazing. I want to turn right around and make them again. They’re that good. These are definitely a “mommy and daddy deserve a little something after wrapping all those presents, wrangling all those kids, and decking all those halls” kind of treat.

No Bake Rum Balls

No-Bake Rum Balls

11 ounce box vanilla wafer cookies
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark rum
3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Combine the vanilla wafers, pecans, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until cookies and pecans are ground up finely (it doesn’t have to be super fine, just enough that there aren’t any large chunks).

Transfer to a large bowl and add the rum and corn syrup, stirring until well-combined. Scoop out using a cookie scoop or teaspoon and roll into 1 inch balls with your hands. Place on a wax paper-line cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 days (the longer they sit, the better they’ll taste).

After chilling, roll the balls in confectioners’ sugar. You can serve them cold or at room temperature. Makes approx. 3 dozen

Recipe source: adapted from allrecipes.com

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Buttered Rum Meltaways…

Spicy, buttery, shortbread-like cookies with a kick of dark rum. Perfect with a cup of hot coffee on a cold night.

Buttered Rum Meltaways

As you can probably tell by now, I’m going for sort of a “rum theme” this week. I guess I just love rummy desserts (and I’m not even done yet! There’ll be yet another rummy recipe to come!). Can you really blame me? Something about butter, sugar, and flour combined with dark rum is…magical. And it smells even more magical while it’s baking.

These were pretty simple- just mix it all together, chill the dough, slice-n-bake, and toss in powdered sugar. Done. Cassidy enjoyed the tossing part. ;)

I’ll be honest, the rum flavor didn’t come through super strong. I’m thinking next time, using rum extract in addition to the 1/4 cup rum might be good (literally the ONLY time I can condone using rum extract). These taste like crispy, crumbly, buttery spice cookies. We enjoyed them immensely, despite the lack of rum flavor. A winner of a Christmas cookie.

 

Buttered Rum Meltaways

1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk flour, cornstarch, spices, and salt in a bowl. Put butter and 1/3 cup sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in rum and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and slowly mix in flour mixture.

Divide dough in half. Place each on a piece of plastic wrap; shape dough into 1 1/4-inch logs. Chill in freezer 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap logs. Cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds; space 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until just golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool 10 minutes. Gently toss warm cookies with remaining 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar in a ziplock bag. Makes approx. 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe source: Martha Stewart Cookies

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Chocolate-Dipped, Rum-Soaked Cake Bites

Cubes of buttery pound cake are drenched in a decadent rum syrup, then dipped in dark chocolate for a sweet little bite that packs BIG flavor!

Chocolate Covered Rum Soaked Cake Bites 3

Let me just tell you guys; I am SO pumped about Christmas baking this year! Last year I was pregnant with Elliott and sick and miserable (bah, humbug!) all the time, so I had zero desire to stand in the kitchen and bake anything. I managed to bake our traditional M&M cookies for Santa Claus with Cassidy, but that was about it. Now that Elliott is old enough to really enjoy his bouncer and spend more than 5 minutes in it, I’m able to devote lots more time to baking and being in the kitchen and I’m LOVING it! Cassidy is loving helping me, too.

She didn’t really help me with these because they’re a very adult Christmas goodie. Not sure I want my 3 year old messing around with rum syrup. Although, I’m quite happy to mess around with rum syrup. One smell of this stuff and I want to bathe in it! I am an absolute sucker for my family’s rum cake, so I knew this recipe would be right up my alley. Pound cake? Good. Chocolate? Gooood. Rum syrup? GOOOOD.

Chocolate Covered Rum Soaked Cake Bites 2

These did NOT disappoint! Upon taste-testing, Joel and I each popped one in our mouth and immediately gave each other the “OHMYGOSHTHISISAMAAAAAZING!!!” look. Very minimal effort, too, I might add. Granted, there are multiple steps involved, but each step is super simple. I’m anxious to try this again with different liqueurs- amaretto, raspberry, orange…all good ideas!

Chocolate Covered Rum Soaked Cake Bites 4

Chocolate Dipped, Rum Soaked Cake Bites

1 pound cake, homemade or store-bought. I used the Sara Lee pound cake found in the freezer section of the grocery store. It worked great for this!

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
pinch salt
1/2 cup dark rum

2 cups dark chocolate (I used Guittard semi sweet)
2 tablespoons shortening

Cut the crusts off of the pound cake and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a single layer in a pie plate or platter with a little bit of a lip (to keep syrup from dripping off).

Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt. Stir over medium heat, until the mixture starts to boil and sugar is dissolved, about 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit until cool. Add the rum.

Pour the rum syrup over the cake pieces and allow them to soak for about 5 minutes. I didn’t use all of the syrup, but you certainly can if you want a soggier texture. Remove the cake pieces and place on the lined baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour. *(It’s important not to skip this step because the cake will be so soggy that it will fall apart when dipping in the hot chocolate. Freezing it first will make it nice and firm and easy to dip.)

When you’re ready to dip the cake bites, melt the chocolate and shortening together in a double boiler until smooth. You could also do this in the microwave; just be sure to take it out and stir it every 30 seconds or so.

Get out a fresh sheet of wax paper. Dip the cake pieces in the chocolate with a fork and tap to get off the excess chocolate. Place on the wax paper and sprinkle with colored sprinkles, coconut, or nuts (the sky’s the limit!). Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes for the chocolate to set. Makes approx. 12-15 bites.

Recipe source: very heavily adapted from an idea found on Swamp Hollow Designs

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World Peace Cookies…

Sandy, crumbly, dark, salty, chocolaty…these simple slice-n-bake cookies have it all! Their deliciousness is something the whole world can agree on!

World Peace Cookies

Allow me to introduce you to my favorite cookie: the World Peace Cookie, a la Dorie Greenspan (we’re like, BFFs, btw). I made these cookies for the first time 7 years ago and immediately deemed them my favorite. That’s not something to be taken lightly; I’m a COOKIE GIRL. Cookies bring me great joy and this one has it all- it’s so crumbly and sandy and deeply chocolaty and salty. Salty cookies are magical.

World Peace Cookies 2

I love how quickly these come together; just throw everything in the mixer and you’re done. BUT, this is one of those times you really must chill the dough. Normally I’m a “Psh! I’m not waiting 3 hours to bake these cookies!” kind of girl, but these cookies just will not be the same without chilling first. The chilling helps them not to spread too much while baking, and they’ll keep their  perfect, crumbly texture that way. Cassidy helped me mix the dough the night before and the we baked the cookies the next day. Worth the wait, I promise!

World Peace Cookies 3

World Peace Cookies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cups (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Sift flour, cocoa, and baking soda into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until smooth (about a minute). Add both sugars, vanilla, and sea salt; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and add flour mixture all at once. Dorie notes to drape a kitchen towel over the bowl before turning the mixer on so the flour doesn’t fly everywhere. Beat just until blended (mixture will be crumbly); do not overmix. Add chopped chocolate; mix just to incorporate (if dough doesn’t come together, knead lightly in bowl to form ball). Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap and form into 1 1/2-inch-diameter log. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm, about 3 hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using thin sharp knife, cut log into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. I like to go as far as to sprinkle a little extra salt over the top of each cookie before baking. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies appear dry (cookies will not be firm or golden at edges), 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely. These are best eaten after they’re completely cool. Or even the next day. Makes approx. 2 dozen cookies.

Recipe source: Dorie Greenspan, Baking From My Home to Yours

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4 Ingredient Mini Cinnamon Rolls…

Warm, gooey cinnamon rolls can be made in a snap by using crescent roll dough to save on time.

Mini Cinnamon Rolls

I always like to make something “splurge-y” for breakfast on the weekends; whether it’s donuts, pancakes, or biscuits and gravy. We all loooove cinnamon rolls, but there’s no way I’m messing with yeast and rising dough and all that craziness. I have enough craziness all on my own, thankyouverymuch. Some days, just getting cereal on the table is a struggle.

Mini Cinnamon Rolls 2I had a random can of crescent roll dough in my fridge that was just begging to be cinnamon-sugared up. All it took was 4 ingredients and about 5 minutes of prep work and we had warm, gooey mini cinnamon rolls in a jiffy! Cassidy was especially fond of them. You can make a glaze for these using a little powdered sugar and some milk if you want, but we enjoyed them plain. Great with coffee. And since these are “mini”, you can have like, 5 or 6 at a time, right? Right. [my postpartum self is not proud of this…]

Mini Cinnamon Rolls 3

4 Ingredient Mini Cinnamon Rolls

1 can refrigerated crescent roll dough
butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and cinnamon with a fork. Roll out crescent roll dough and press seams together to make one large rectangle. Spread with butter (as much or as little as you like; I probably used around 1/2 tablespoon. Just enough to make a thin layer.). Sprinkle generously with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Roll the dough lengthwise into a log; cut dough into 1 1/2 inch slices and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Makes around 10-12 mini rolls.

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

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5 Months Old…

5 months

Welp…by some magic, mysterious time warp, I suddenly seem to have a 5 month old. Don’t know where the time went, but here we are, fast approaching my baby’s first Christmas. Sheesh. When Elliott was only a couple of weeks old, I remember thinking, “if I can just make it to 6 weeks…”, and now here it is 5 months later and I don’t really know how we got here. I’m trying desperately to soak up each precious (some not-so-precious) moment with him now, because I know that, same as with Cassidy (is she seriously about to be 3?!), he won’t be a baby for very long and I’ll be longing to rock him to sleep, or burp him, or wear him in the Moby wrap again. I get teary just thinking about that.

But guys. This kid is SO sweet. Like, just a little, chubby ball of happiness. He has THE most kissable cheeks and the sweetest, sunniest smile. I love it when he hears my voice from across a room and immediately lights up and starts grinning. I’m nuts about this kid. Here are a few “stats”:

-At his 4 month appointment he weighed 16 pounds, so by now, I’m sure he’s closing in on 18 or 19. He’s a chunk.

-Finally (FINALLY!), he’s started sleeping through the night. For awhile there we were up at 2:30, then again at 5:30 every single night. Now I feed him and put him to bed in his crib around 7:30-8 and he sleeps until 6:45-7:30. Heavenly.

-He eats 9 ounces every 3-4 hours and we’ve recently introduced rice cereal because he made it abundantly clear he was ready for something more substantial. He would grab at our forks as they were going into our mouths and reach for the food on our plates. At around 6 months we’ll try some veggies. I’ve been thinking a lot about baby-led weaning, so we’ll see if I decide to go that route.

-He’s a roller. He started rolling from tummy to back at around 2 1/2 months, and back to tummy at around 3 months. As soon as I lay him on a blanket or in his pack-n-play, he immediately rolls onto his tummy. Cute.

-Lately, he’s been trying really hard to get up on his hands and knees and start learning how to crawl. He’ll kick his back legs like crazy trying to push himself up. It’s hilarious to watch. We figure he’ll probably figure it out in the next week or two.

-He loves his toes, his Sophie the giraffe, and his bouncer. Elliott LOVES bouncing and spends a good chunk of his day the bouncer. He also loves for me to wear him in the Moby wrap; lately, I’ve been wearing him a lot while I decorate the house for Christmas. He likes to be a part of it. ;)

-He laughs and talks a lot. Mostly just drooly gibberish, but we think it’s adorable. He laughs at Cassidy and the dogs the most.

I’m not going to lie and say that life with an almost 3 year old and a 5 month old is this magical, happy, harmonious existence. It’s not. Some days, I feel like it’s an achievement just that I managed to keep everyone fed and alive without losing my sanity. But other days are really, really good and I like to sit and watch my children play and laugh together; then I kiss my husband and think to myself, “you have it all.”. (But only on some days…) ;)

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Chocolate-Stuffed Pie Crust Cookies

Have leftover pie crust? Stuff it with chocolate chips, roll it in powdered sugar, and bake it into flaky, chocolaty little snow balls. This is a GREAT one for the kids to help with!

Chocolate Stuffed Pie Crust Cookies

I love to look back at my pre-children self and giggle at all the ‘from-scratch’ stuff I used to have time to make (pie crusts, biscuits, etc). I’m aaaall about the shortcuts nowadays; not because making pie crusts from scratch is hard, but because WHO WANTS TO CLEAN THAT FOOD PROCESSOR?! All those little parts to wash…. Anyway, I’ve recently discovered the AWESOMENESS of Trader Joe’s frozen pie crusts. My gosh, they’re amazing. I seriously could not make anything better from scratch. I use them all the time. Only thing is, they’re huge. Like, deep DEEP dish size. So I always have lots of extra dough just lying around.

Recently, I was making a quiche and ended up with lots of extra dough. Then I remembered this idea and decided I had the perfect opportunity to bake cookies with Cassidy. We rolled out the dough and used a round biscuit cutter to cut out circles, then Cassidy put the chocolate chunks in the center of each one. Then we closed them up, made them into little balls, rolled them in powdered sugar, and popped them in the oven! So easy and SO yummy! Like tiny little bites of chocolate pie! I can’t wait for the holidays to get here so we can make these again in different variations! Cinnamon-sugar, cherry, raspberry…the possibilities are endless!

Chocolate Stuffed Pie Crust Cookies 2

Chocolate-Stuffed Pie Crust Cookies

Leftover pie crust dough
Chocolate chunks or chips
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take all the scraps of leftover dough and form into a ball. Roll out to about 1/8-1/4 inch thickness and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or a small glass. Place 3 or 4 chocolate chunks or chips in the center of each circle and close up like a pouch. Form into a ball and roll in powdered sugar.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar, if desired.  These are great right out of the oven, or at room temperature.

Adapted from Averie Cooks

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Roasted tomatoes, onions, and garlic blended together and topped with crunchy, buttery sourdough croutons. A must for cold weather!

Roasted Tomato Soup 2

HI THERE!!! My, my, my, what a long hiatus, huh?! Life with 2 kids is honestly a lot harder than I thought it would be. Just about the time I’ll get one of them down for a nap, the other wakes up ready to party. By the end of the day, I’m too pooped to even consider sitting in front of the computer when I could be collapsed in bed catching up on recorded tv shows (Blacklist, anyone?). But it’s not like we don’t have fun. My kids are the coolest, funniest, sweetest little dumplin’s any mommy could ask for! Elliott is almost 5 months now. Don’t ask me how that happened, since clearly, I only gave birth to him yesterday. Obviously time is playing some sort of cruel trick on me. He is SO. FREAKING. ADORABLE. And Cassidy…don’t even get me started. Let’s just say she keeps me laughing and/or crying pretty much all the time. 2 year olds, yo.

It’s great to be back in the blogosphere. I’m cooking up lots of good stuff and ready to jump in again head-first (if anyone’s still out there, that is…)!

Let’s talk soup! Soup season is a magical season. A throw-whatever-you’ve-got-in-the-pot season. Which is perfect for busy moms and dads. Which is why I love it so much. For years I’ve been wanting to try making my own tomato soup, but never got around to it for some reason. Well here it is, in all its comforting yumminess.

Roasted Tomato Soup

I drizzled roma tomatoes, onions, and garlic with olive oil and roasted them all together for about an hour. Then I blended it all together with chicken broth, a little milk, and some dried basil. DONE. Easy. Those croutons, though. That was my favorite part.  I love crusty bread dipped in my soup, so these croutons were a no-brainer. This soup was loved by all. I highly recommend it!

Roasted Tomato Soup with Sourdough Croutons

Approx. 3 pounds Roma tomatoes, cut into halves, length-wise
1 head garlic
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk (you could use half and half if you want- just use about 1/2 cup)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
olive oil

1/2 loaf day-old sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet with the onions and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cut the top off of the head of garlic, drizzle with a little olive oil, then wrap tightly with foil, making a little pouch. Place it on the baking sheet with the tomatoes and onions. Roast for about 1 hour, or until the tomatoes and onions start to get a little browned (it may take longer depending on your oven).

Remove from the oven and place in a food processor. Remove the garlic from the foil and squeeze the cloves from the head (they should be very soft, so they’ll squeeze out easily) into the food processor. Pulse until smooth. Pour into a large pot and whisk in the chicken broth, milk, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes over medium-low heat.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the sourdough cubes. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until lightly browned and crisp, stirring constantly; about 5-7 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with as many croutons as you like! Enjoy!

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It’s A Wonderful Life…

For some reason, lately I’ve been really wanting to sit down and write about parenting. Not parenting styles or techniques; the actual act of being parents. What it means to be a parent. I guess. Honestly, I have no idea what I want to say, so I’ll just keep typing and see what comes of it.

Before kids, I used to be one of those people who looked at moms and said, “that’s never gonna be me.” Those moms with messy hair, frumpy clothes, and screaming kids biting at her ankles. I promised myself that even if I ever did have kids, I’d never lost sight of who I was or give up my freedom. Joel and I were at a restaurant once and we saw a couple with young children. They looked tired; just beaten down and worn out. They didn’t smile very much or seem to enjoy their meal or each other’s company. Even if their kids were quiet and well-behaved, the couple seemed to be short-tempered and irritable with each other. The wife especially. She looked downright unhappy. They had both ordered strong drinks. We watched them and smugly agree we’d never be like that.

Fast-forward to 2 kids, 2 dogs, and a house in our small hometown, if my past self could’ve seen all this, she would’ve run the other direction. She would’ve told me I was crazy. To be perfectly honest, she probably would’ve called me a loser (my past and present selves seem to make fun of each other a lot…). But I wish I could go back in time and explain to my smug, childless self all about the way things really are.

Sure, newborns are hard. Amazingly hard. Like, so hard, I sometimes really wonder why so many people choose to have multiple children. Elliott had to get his 2 month vaccines today and he hasn’t really stopped crying all evening (*Edit: I wrote this a couple of weeks ago; Elliott is now almost 3 months). I’ve been a mess. Seeing my baby in pain absolutely kills me! Then there’s endless poopy diapers, feedings, and the whole not being able to put him down thing. He freaks if I try to put him in his swing or rock-n-play for even 5 minutes. It’d be awesome if I could get my teeth brushed before 1:00 in the afternoon some days. Or eat lunch. Not to mention the toll it takes on your marriage. Newborn babies can take a solid, happy, loving marriage and reduce it to a strangled, non-communicative, emotionless train wreck in a matter of minutes. Insults hurt much, much worse at 3 in the morning. All it takes is some poor schmuck suggesting to his struggling breastfeeding wife that she try supplementing with a little formula to incur the fiery wrath of a thousand flaming suns. And most likely some very “adult” words.

Don’t forget about the jealous, teething toddler with a temper that would put Gordon Ramsay to shame. Try brushing her teeth. Just try it.

I’m 2 months post-partum, and still, none of my clothes fit. I have a lovely, jiggly muffin top now, no matter what pants I wear. So I wear loose-fitting tops and maternity jeans. Yep. Mom apparel. I scrubbed a giant cast iron dutch oven while wearing a screaming Elliott in the Moby wrap, gently bouncing up and down, and getting Cassidy’s lunch made the other day. How’s THAT for multi-tasking? I went out to dinner with my mom and sister last night sans children and felt so guilty about it that I could barely sleep. I bit Joel’s head off recently for no good reason (actually, I bite Joel’s head off a LOT). Not to mention feeling like a complete and utter failure as a parent, a wife, and a decent human being on most days.

But even with all that going on- man, it’s good. It’s good to be a parent. This morning, I had a lovely, beautiful, moving moment with my children in the kitchen. Elliott was in his rock-n-play absolutely screaming his head off while Cassidy was “vacuuming” the floor around my feet with one of those noisy, awful roll-y popper things. I was struggling to get lunch ready and my kitchen was an absolute mess. It was pure chaos. Like a scene straight out of It’s A Wonderful Life when George Bailey wonders “why do we have to have so many kids?!” Except for whatever reason (lack of sleep? Empty stomach?) something made me stop, take it all in, and just smile. I stood there in my loud, filthy kitchen…smiling. Smiling at what my life has become. I was EXACTLY the kind of “mom” I thought I never wanted to be…and it delights me. What a JOY to be surrounded by 2 beautiful, messy, loud children! To see baby spit up on the shoulder of my husband’s shirt. To see Cassidy’s toys strewn all over the living room. To have a baby cooing softly in the background when Joel and I say our prayers at night. WHAT. A. JOY. IT. IS.

Yes, there are times that Joel and I are that unhappy looking couple at the restaurant. Some days are just really hard and we can’t help but let it show a little. Strong drinks will definitely be ordered, defeated glances might be exchanged, one or both of us may have to take the baby outside when he gets too loud. But even at the end of the worst possible day, we both go to bed thanking God for our little family. No one could ask for a better life than ours.

 

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A Healing Birth: Our Journey to VBAC…

hospital2

VBAC: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean

Let me start by talking about c-sections. They can save lives; yours or your baby’s or even both. Sometimes, a c-section is the only safe option for giving birth. Thank God for smart, skilled doctors who are able to do what needs to be done to deliver your baby safely. I had one almost 3 years ago and it gave me the most precious, beautiful, smart, funny little girl who ever walked the earth. I don’t believe that anyone who chooses a c-section is weak, afraid, or incapable. I think each woman must decide what is right for her personally (sometimes we don’t even get the choice). This story just happens to be about me and MY choices and MY body. All mothers are incredible. However we deliver our babies is right for each of us. Period.

A bit of background on my c-section: I was your typical induction failure. My doctor absolutely refused to let me go past 41 weeks, so I was induced at exactly 1 week overdue. I wasn’t dilated at all. My body was nowhere near ready to give birth. I went in at 8:00am, they gave me the epidural, then broke my water. At 8:00pm, after pushing for 2 1/2 hours, my doctor suggested the c-section. Cassidy was born and everything was ok; however, I never really realized what kind of emotional scar her birth would leave on me.

When we got pregnant this time, we had long since moved to a different town, so I had to choose a new doctor. I ended up using a midwife this time around. The hospital in our town is super VBAC friendly, and I considered it briefly. Believing a repeat c-section would be safer than a VBAC (I was almost completely ignorant of and uneducated on the entire matter), I ended up choosing a repeat c-section. Our hospital does what they call a ‘gentle c-section’ or ‘family-centered c-section’, where the infant is immediately placed on the mother’s chest, cord clamping is delayed, and the infant never really leaves the mother’s breast until much, much later. It sounded pretty good to me! I honestly believed I wouldn’t be tough enough to endure a vaginal birth. I didn’t believe in myself and thought that my body had failed me once before and would probably do it again. I probably just wasn’t meant to give birth vaginally. I found myself making excuses for my repeat c-section to others to make myself feel better. “Well, the doctor told me last time that I never would’ve gone into labor on my own, so I probably wouldn’t this time either…”. But there was still a nagging voice in my head- “are you sure you want to do this?”

The months went by and I tried to prepare myself mentally for another surgery. I wanted to solidify my decision and feel at peace with it, so I decided to watch a couple of videos of vaginal births to scare me into it. THAT would make me feel better! Only it didn’t. I ended up watching a video of a mother giving birth, unmedicated, in a birthing tub. I somehow finagled Joel into watching it with me and we watched with our mouths agape as this woman endured all kinds of pain and embarrassment and made horrible grunting noises. We sort of chuckled and made a few immature jokes. Then after all her struggles and pain, the woman gave birth to her baby; and as she held it up to her chest, she and her husband cried and she said over and over, “I did it…I did it.” with so much joy and pride and emotion. As I watched, I realized there wear tears running down my cheeks and I knew deep down I wanted that too. That night, I asked God to show me what to do.

At my 37 week appointment, upon expressing my doubts to Shannon, my wonderful midwife, she told me I could do a trial of labor IF I were to go into labor on my own before the scheduled c-section. Yeah, ok, sure. Why not? That made me feel a little better. She asked if I wanted her to check me just to see if I was dilated at all. As she checked me her eyes got wide and she said, “do you want to know?!” Um- YES!

2 1/2 – 3 cm. already! Woah. We were so blown away we just laughed and decided right then and there we had some big decisions to make. She told me my body was favorable for labor and if I did a few things to prepare, VBAC. WAS. POSSIBLE. She told me to go home, pray about it, talk to Joel and decide if I wanted to try for a VBAC. When I got home I was practically dancing- I was elated. All it took was one look at me for Joel to know that we needed to go for the VBAC. I had asked God to show me the right path to take and He had smacked me in the face with it. I was incredibly scared, but I knew if I had faith and trusted in God, He would bless the birth of our baby boy. I just knew it in my heart. So I stopped worrying. And I got down to business.

I researched. I read books. I got on baby discussion forums and read about 3,000 birth stories. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (an amazing book- I learned so much and was so empowered after reading it) and bought essential oils to help strengthen contractions. I saw a chiropractor to make sure my body and the baby were ideally aligned for labor. I became totally committed- not only to VBAC, but doing it med-free. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I knew that with help and support from Joel and faith in God and in my body, this was going to happen.

We were all convinced the baby would come early. But my due date came and went with only a few braxton hicks contractions here and there. The 4th of July we decided to have the family over for a cookout. We ate burgers and watermelon, went swimming, and watched the fireworks (Cassidy was mesmerized!), hoping for a firecracker baby. Nope. No baby. The next day, Joel and I noticed my contractions were actually really close together, so we decided to start timing them. They were about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. That went on all afternoon. In the real world, to normal people, that means labor. But I was in total denial. Joel was starting to really flip out, especially since I was so stinking calm and nonchalant about the whole thing. I casually strolled into the baby’s room and browsed his closet to pick a cute coming home outfit, all while Joel is following me around on pins and needles. I called our friend/nurse Rachel and she came over to sit with me for a few hours. We visited while I bounced on my birthing ball and folded towels. I was getting really discouraged and doubtful that I’d ever go into labor; I knew I was about 5 cm and my body was ready, but still- nothing. Rachel and Shannon (my midwife) both told me to relax and rest for awhile and Rachel left and said she’d most likely see me later that night. Yeah, ok…whatever.

We watched a few episodes of Seinfeld and played in the floor with Cassidy. Then Rachel texted me and said I could try rocking back and forth on hands and knees to try and kickstart labor. So I got down on all fours and rocked. Cassidy thought I was playing ‘horsey’, so Joel had to get on the floor too and play horsey with us. So there we were, the 3 of us, all on hands and knees in the floor. When I went to stand up- “POP”. I looked up at Joel and said, “Water…broke……..OOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!!!” and waddled as fast as I could to the bathroom. Cassidy thought it was funny that mommy “tee-teed in her pants”. After that- intense, searing, blinding pain. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t talk. We called our parents and Rachel and as soon as our parents got to the house, Joel loaded me into the car and we flew to the hospital.

The rest was a blur. It all happened so fast. The car ride to the hospital was probably the worst part; each bump was excruciating. We got to the emergency room where Joel threw me into a wheelchair. The lovely ladies at the front desk were clearly in no hurry and began asking us all kinds of unimportant questions (“what’s the nature of your visit?”. “Um, I’m in LABOR!!!”). A middle aged couple sat staring at me as I panted and writhed in pain. An elderly woman hobbled on one leg in front of me. Another lady was rolling around on the floor moaning and puking into a large plastic cup. “Just get me the heck out of here!” I kept thinking. The pain was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before; I even bit Joel a couple of times, not even thinking. And suddenly, my body started pushing on its own. “I’MPUSHINGI’MPUSHINGI’MPUSHING!!!” Joel then went into Angry Joel Hyper Mode and started yelling at everyone, “get her into a room NOW!”. You better believe those ladies kicked it into high gear then! They got me to triage and a nice, calm looking doctor came in to check me. His eyes got huge and he looked totally surprised and said, “woah, she’s complete! The head’s right there!” I didn’t care about anything at this point; I just wanted this baby out!

Rachel got there in just enough time to insist that I wouldn’t give birth in the ER. They had just enough time to wheel me to an L&D room. Even with the intense pain I was in, I still had the presence of mind to remember all my research on optimal labor positions- I switched over to hands and knees and started pushing. Pushing provided some relief, but all the doubt and insecurities all came back to me as I remembered the last time I tried to push out a baby. I kept crying out, “I’ll never be able to push him out!” But Joel was right there by my side telling me he believed in me and how proud he was of me. He was truly amazing. I gathered all the strength I could and pushed. It was amazing how my body just knew exactly what to do; I just surrendered to it and did what felt right. I found myself making noises I’ve never made before- low and growling. Again, I was just doing what my body told me to do. It was amazing.

3 pushes. Three. And our sweet baby Elliott was born weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces; 21 inches long. 37 minutes from my water breaking to holding Elliott in my arms. I’ll never forget seeing my perfect little boy for the first time as the nurses slid him underneath me. I scooped him up in my arms, rolled onto my back, and held him on my chest. Joel was crying and saying, “you did it! You did it!” There was so much joy and happiness in those first moments after his birth. I’ve never felt more proud in my life. I was just like the woman in the video…I had done it. Words can’t express the kind of elation I was feeling that night. There’s not another feeling like that in the world. I felt like superwoman. After I got stitched up (2nd degree tear- ouch), Rachel rewarded Joel’s and my hard work with a big, gooey, chocolaty brownie she had made. After that, she took us to a room where there was a wonderful hot herbal bath waiting for us. There was soft “spa-like” music playing and the whole room smelled like lavender. She brought us cheese, crackers, and juice to snack on while we soaked. We felt like we were at a resort! Such treatment! We gave Elliott his first bath and relaxed and soaked for an hour or so. I was so wired and happy I couldn’t sleep that night. I just held Elliott on my chest and kept reliving his awesome, awesome birth.

The next day, Elliott got to meet his big sister for the first time (what an emotional moment that was!). Of course I cried like an idiot when Cassidy climbed up into my arms- those postpartum hormones are NO joke. I was so happy to see her and have her meet her little brother. She was perfect with him and still is. She loves to give him kisses and hugs and “help” mommy and daddy when we change his diaper or give him a bath. She’s an amazing big sister. My heart is so full these days…these kids are just so stinking awesome. Joel and I are very happy with our little family of 4.

The past month hasn’t been easy (duh), but we learned quite a bit our first time around, so this time hasn’t been nearly as hard for us. The good news is, I’m able to breastfeed this time, which is a HUGE blessing! It was insanely hard for the first 3 weeks, but I powered through and I’m so thankful I stuck with it. It’s not perfect yet, but I know it’ll only get better from here. Joel and I are working together as a team and we’ve got a pretty good routine down now. I’m so proud of him and the amazing father he is. I’m not saying it’s a cakewalk to have a newborn at home- there are hormones and mood swings and sleep deprivation to consider- but anytime I feel myself starting to get “blue”, I just think back and remember Elliott’s birth and smile. His birth was such a blessing to me- a truly healing experience. I am so thankful to God for leading us down this path.

hospital

Jesus said it best- “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16:21

I’ll always cherish the birth of each of my children; they are both so very different, but both gave me the exact same thing- a healthy, beautiful baby. That’s all any mother can ask for. It doesn’t matter how a child comes into the world, it’s an experience each mother should remember forever and cherish in their hearts. I’ll never forget this very special VBAC and the amazing blessing it was in our lives.

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