Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sometimes I wish (Wordless Wednesday)

Sometimes I wish my kids were always well-mannered.


I wish they wouldn't make weird faces.
Or harass people they've just met
and give them raspberry kisses (we call them "zurburts")
Sometimes I wish they'd eat neatly.


and most of all, I wish they would smile for the camera so I could get a lovely picture of them all together, the picture of sibling harmony.
But I guess that wouldn't be nearly as much fun, would it?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Q&A: Obama

from Sandi:
I would love to know your opinion on President Obama and his plans for the future of America.
Oh man, now I have to address politics on my blog? =)

I usually shy away from that, not because I don't have opinions (I do, lots of them!), but because I have too many and I don't want controversy.

But since you asked, I'll give you a few thoughts.

I'm of the opinion that things that don't work for a household will not work for a country. So, let's say a family is deeply in debt and has lost the value of many of its investments. The best thing to do? Tighten the belt, restrain from unnecessary spending, cut back on outside activities, be creative and maybe take some drastic measures (downsizing a home, taking an extra job) to stay afloat financially.

If a country -- or state (hello, California!) -- is deeply in debt and losing the value of its investments, then it is also time for some real discipline and restraint. It is not the time to be expanding government programs or increasing the national debt. It's a time to take a good hard look at what programs could be cut and realize that we simply can't afford some things. It bothers me greatly that my children will be paying for things the government is purchasing and promising today. It also bothers me that most of our national debt is owed to China, since they are the ones who are buying our treasury bills.

And I know it's not just Democrats who are at fault. No one likes to be the voice of caution, the penny-pincher limiting each person to five pieces of candy at the government pinata. It's too easy to see how people are hurting and think, "We ought to do something about this." But the truth is, government cannot and should not be the solution to every problem in the world. Too often, government solutions are clunky, wasteful, bureaucratic messes.

On the bright side, I do think Obama has two very cute kids!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tradition

When my husband and I first got married, we had a lot of goals and dreams for our family. We hoped our children would be musical. We wanted to spend a lot of time together building relationships. We wanted our family to be different, to be better than ideal.

We were poor students when we married, with very little money and lots of schooling ahead of us. He had a small old red Geo Metro, a gift from his parents after his mission. I had a little bit of college savings. We had less than $1000 to our names, probably a lot less, but we had each other and we were determined to get this marriage off right.

So it was an easy decision to not get a television. We decided we would get a piano instead. We wanted music in our home, not noise and distraction and a lot of time wasted.

One of the first things we did was pool all the money we got from our wedding, those $15 and $20 checks, along with all the money we got from taking gifts back (we really, REALLY didn't need seven large serving dishes or fancy silver platters and punch bowls). We scraped together what we had and went in search of a piano. After a few weeks of fruitless searching, we realized that most of the pianos in our price range were old, beat-up, and badly out of tune. The old and beat-up part we didn't mind; the bad sound, we did. I found an ad in the paper for used pianos and went on a Saturday to a small home in Salt Lake that was also a music studio. The man had a number of pianos, all with wonderful sound, but all just out of reach of our price. He said he found that many of their students weren't able to find decent used pianos, so they'd started finding those with good sound and fixing them up. Finally, he showed me one they'd just hauled in that day. It was in a dusty garage and was missing a few keys. I plunked out a few beautiful notes and fell in love with that little piano. The price? $450, plus $75 delivery fee. We'd been hoping to find something for much less, but the man assured me that this piano wouldn't last and I knew we had enough to pay for it.

However, since DH was home taking a test, I was left to make the first major decision of our marriage by myself. Should I take the plunge, spend $200 more than we'd talked about, and hope DH would be okay with it, or should I drive home, talk it over with him and hope the piano would still be there when we made the decision? Nervous and hopeful, I said a silent prayer and then said, "we'll take it."

DH was very gracious and great about being left out of the decision, and it was delivered to our third-floor apartment the next week. The man said for the first time, he felt like he'd really earned that $75 delivery fee, as the hairpin turns and the narrow railing in front of our apartment necessitated turning that enormous, extremely heavy, nearly 100-year-old piano in all sorts of ways, including on its side. For about ten minutes, we weren't even sure it would fit, but soon after, there it sat, a beautiful piece of symbolism and our first real piece of furniture. I felt rich. I even got better at playing through the years, though I'm still not that great.

(our piano a few weeks after it was delivered.)

We kept our "no-TV" vow for many years, even though we were offered several times someone's old set. Finally, when Lillian was two and Joey six months old, we got a small, 14 inch set with a DVD player so we could watch videos. We still didn't get any channels but we could enjoy our small but growing collection of fun family videos and check out others from the library. I still remember the first movie we bought was Stuart Little. The second was Annie.

That tiny TV served us very well for about five years, when we moved and upgraded to a huge 54 inch monster that matches large DVD collection. We did have cable for the first six months we lived here, but only because it was free with our internet package for that first little while. We both found ourselves watching it too much and were very happy when it was gone.

We do have one major exception to our "NO TV rule" and it happens every two years when the Olympics rolls around. We decided that was one event we didn't want to miss. We've handled it differently through the years. The first couple of times, we rented a television for a month. Then for a few years we used rabbit ears on our little TV, though we found out that the only room in our house that got good enough reception was our bedroom. So all of us crammed in there, hanging out on our bed every night as we watched.

(Lillian and Joey with Sarah and Allison, watching the summer Olympics, 2004)

The last time the Olympics was held was right after Harmony was born, and we simply paid for a month of TV with our internet provider.

But this time? It was almost the first time we didn't watch. Everywhere we called required a long-term commitment or an exorbitant installation fee. "Sure, we can sign you up and for a great price too! All we need is a three year commitment." Even our ISP wanted a two-year commitment, even though since the cables had already been run all it would require on their end is a simple switch.

So, we tried other options. We tried rabbit ears and a converter box. We got channel 11 with fabulous clarity, plus a couple of Spanish channels, but no luck on channel 5, the Olympic channel. My parents, in town for the weekend, decided to help by looking for longer rabbit ears. They came home with a digital rabbit ear set, and after about a five minutes of fiddling, we no longer got channel 11. A half hour more of tweaking and we got pretty darn good channel 5. Good enough for us, and we've enjoyed the last few days of watching.

Random Sidenote #1: Am I the only one who feels figure skating has lost its artistry with the new scoring system? All that constant blade-grabbing and doing tricks just for points has taken away from the grace and beauty of it. And it used to be that if someone fell, you knew they blew it. Now, they just miss the points for that one element and can still win the event. I'm not sure I like that.

Random Sidenote #2: Every time we have TV, whether at a hotel on vacation or while we watch the Olympics, I'm always so grateful we don't have it. It's not the programs; usually, there are tons of interesting and fascinating ones. It's the commercials -- Viagra ads come to mind, as do the many advertisements for shows that are obviously not for kids or for thinking adults. (I know, I know, you TiVo so you never have to watch those things).

What are your family's traditions? Are you watching the Olympics? How do you handle TV in your family?


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sedona, Arizona Trip in Photos (Wordless Wednesday)

First I had to show the best souvenirs ever. I laughed when I saw these, partly because they were in one of those artsy stores where you walk on eggs hoping your children don't bump anything.

We bought this one for my husband:

And this one for me:
Aren't they perfect?



We spent most of the week either swimming:



or relaxing:
or crafting:

or hiking:






(don't worry, Joey wasn't really hurt)




(Allison was so excited she caught a beetle, she carried it in her hands for over a mile and showed it to every single person we passed.)

The constable in the mining town of Jerome took this picture of our whole family. It wasn't until we got home that I realized that unless you look close, you can't even see Michael:

Monday, February 08, 2010

Q&A: Discipline for Toddlers

I'm down to just 4 questions to answer! Think I can finish them up this month?

From Crystal:
How do you discpline or teach boundaries to a child who is too young to understand or do time outs? Ex a 1 year old boy who laughs when you say no.
I think there are two great discipline tools for young babies and toddlers. The first, and most important, foundation for teaching a child boundaries is to be consistent and follow-through with what you say. For a child that young, most discipline methods like traditional time-outs just don't work. But you can still follow through. I try to remember that my child is young and I don't take defiance personally. But if I say "no" to something, I don't change my mind or give in and I try to make it clear to the child in a way that they understand. For example, if my little one is trying to get into the snacks I left on the counter, I'll say no, and then I'll put the snacks away or up high. If the child is trying to color on their older sister's homework, I'll say, "no, we don't color on that," move the homework and then hand them something more appropriate to color on.

I think it's important to use a no-nonsense tone of voice when you say "no." If your child hits you, for example, and you laughingly say, "no, no, sweetheart, we don't hit mommy," then the child is likely to think this is a fun game and hit again. It's important to let your child know that things like hitting are unacceptable. Harmony's at a stage right now where she grabs and pulls on hair and our faces. She's not doing it to be mean, she's just trying to get someone's attention and be playful. But it's not gentle. Depending on where I'm at when it's happening, I'll often say, "No, that hurts," with a sad frown on my face so she understands that mommy isn't happy. If it continues, I'll put her down on the floor. Usually, that makes her really upset, but it also teaches her that when she hits, she doesn't get positive attention. Other times, I've taken her hands and said, "Let's try to be gentle," and I'll move her hands softly over my face or hair and smile brightly at her, emphasizing the word gentle, over and over. We've also taught our kids to say, "No, that hurts!" when someone hurts them, while still reminding them that Harmony doesn't understand yet that it hurts and that's why we're teaching her. Eventually, the message will get through.

Another important thing to remember during the toddler years is immediacy. A child that age just doesn't have the maturity to think through their decisions from beginning to end. That's why teaching has to happen right in the moment. You can't wait an hour and then try to enforce some consequence for what the child has done because by the time an hour has gone by, the child has no real memory of the naughty thing they did just a little bit before.

There are lots of other situations where it's important to follow-through on what you say. If your child is pulling all the books off the shelf, you tell them to stop, and they don't, then it's time to get up, move your child's hands away from the books and say "no" firmly. If they head right back to the books, then it might work best to move them into another room or get them interested in another toy or even pull one book off the shelf and start reading it to them (see tool #2 below!). You might also want to pick your battles. At my house, pulling books off shelves is usually something I don't really bother about. They're not hurting anything and even if they are making a mess, it's a much easier one to clean up than, say, dumping toys into the toilet!

Another common discipline problem with toddlers is their tendency to run off with no thought for where mommy wants them to be. With this situation, it's good to remember that you are much bigger than your child for a reason! When my children take off, I remind them that they need to hold onto my hand or the stroller. For a toddler, if I say, "Come back," and they don't come back, then it's time to move as fast as I can and bring them back. If it continues to happen, you may need to have a short time out for them where they sit on your lap, happily or not. Remind them several times, "we don't run away from mommy." Several of my children (Joey and both my twins), were really naughty about staying with me. I almost always had the stroller with me on outings with them and if they didn't stay nearby or respond to my directions, then they got buckled in. Usually, they hated that and screamed and cried.

You can expect a lot of tears and tantrums as your child learns boundaries. The most important thing is to not take it personally. Sure, it's embarrassing if you're in a store and your child is screaming his head off because you made him sit in the cart rather than run up and down the aisles, but don't let it bother you. Just shrug your shoulders, try to see the humor in it, pretend to ignore the crying, and finish up your shopping as quick as you can. Depending on your child's temperament, you may be in for a long, frustrating few years, but remember that you are not in charge of how your child reacts to boundaries, he is. Your job isn't to make sure your child is happy and gets exactly what he wants all the time, it's to make sure he is safe, loved, and that he grows up learning how to control his impulses.

The second tool for good discipline at this age is distraction! Never underestimate the power of a good distraction. Especially during a tantrum, it's great if you can say, "hey, look at the kitty over there!" or, "Did you see that funny baby over there?" If your child is all-out throwing a fit, it's probably best to ignore him for a bit, but once he starts to calm down, it's great to introduce a new activity to get the child's attention away from what they were crying about. If it's a treat they wanted and you said no, you could pull out a couple of acceptable snack choices and ask, "Which do you want, the banana or the string cheese?" Usually, a question is a great way to get the child's brain working in a new direction. Even little 1-year-olds know enough words to recognize some of their favorites and start thinking about something else.

Be creative. Usually, there's something you can do to get your child's mind off the "no." Turn on some music when your child gets restless in the car or start singing some of their favorite songs. Ask them if they know where mommy's nose is or where their ears are. Tickle their toes or start doing a fun rhyme like, "This little piggy."

My best friend in middle school taught me a great trick she used on young children whenever she babysits. When they were grumpy or angry, she'd say, "Oh, man, why aren't you smiling? I bet I can find your smile!" Then she'd poke their tummy gently and say, "I think I found it . . . it's right here, and oh no, here it comes up to your face!" Then she'd twirl her fingers up their tummy and by the time she got to their mouth, they'd be smiling. I used that trick a lot during my own babysitting years and it's come in handy as a parent, too, though that one usually works better for the 2-4 year old crowd rather than the 1-year-old.

So there's some of my ideas on disciplining during the very young toddler years. The only thing I'll add is just to be patient. These years don't last forever and even if your child is absolutely appalling on a regular basis, if you're consistent and loving, they WILL grow out of it.

I know that from personal experience. I still contend I had two of the hardest and most determined two-year-olds on the planet -- at the same time! They fought and hit and bit and screamed -- oh boy, did they scream a lot. It was hard not to feel like a failure on a regular basis. I remember one time trying to watch my other children at swimming lessons. They kept trying to run around and jump in the pool, so I buckled them in the stroller, triggering their major tantrums. One of them threw a book at me so hard it really hurt my forehead. The next day, I figured the watching-the-other-kids-swim thing wasn't going to work, so I took them to the park nearby, where they were the happiest and most delightful girls climbing up the stairs and trying out the slides. That is, until it was time to leave. They screamed all the way to the stroller, screamed and squirmed and contorted their bodies every which way to try and get out of their buckles, screamed all the way back to get the other kids, screamed while I wrapped towels around the older kids and walked to the car, screamed when I buckled them into their carseats (another thing they hated), screamed all the way home, and screamed for another ten or fifteen minutes after we got home, too. Boy, that was a tough year. But gee whiz, you'd be amazed at how sweet and wonderful and even mostly obedient these same girls are now that they are five!

I'm sure there's lots of other great ideas out there -- what are your favorite discipline tricks and tantrum-busters? Anyone want to share their child's worst tantrum or most embarrassing behavior?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Landscapes of Arizona

We just got back from a fun escape-the-winter trip to Sedona, Arizona. It was lovely. We went hiking nearly every day, visited an old mining town, and relaxed. With the weather in the low 50s, it was perfect for hiking, a bit chilly for our swimming (we did it anyway), and so refreshing.

Sedona's a bit of a strange town, with artsy folks mixing with new age spiritualists. I don't think most of them knew what to make of a family our size, but they were nice to us anyway. On one popular hike, with DH carrying Harmony in the backpack and taking the lead, and myself following as the caboose, we got quite a few comments from every single hiker that passed. I reassured them, "this is the last of us" as their mouths gaped open and they started asking me, "How many? Where are you from?" and "Do you ever sleep?"

With my new camera in tow, I got some awesome photos. And for once, I wasn't the only one taking photos. Lillian and especially Joseph both carried our old digital cameras, snapping up photos left and right. Some of them are pretty good, and I'm cheering inside because I know that for once I might be included in a photo or two from our trip.

I still need to get all the photos on my computer, and I'll post some of our family later, but in the meantime, here are some lovely landscapes from Arizona's red rock country:



Hiking at Red Rock Crossing near sunset was so beautiful.
The trees and river made me feel like I was in a fairy land:

One great thing about Sedona is that the town is set right in the middle of the most beautiful scenery, with beautiful views all over town. Yet just minutes away, you can take a hike and leave it all behind. Though a couple of the trails we chose were crowded, others were nearly deserted.




We stopped at Glen Canyon dam and got a great view of Lake Powell on the way down:

And went to the Grand Canyon on the way back:


Without visiting, it's really hard to get a feel for just how huge this canyon is. I think this photo puts it in perspective.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Journey of Birth


A year ago, one of my best friends anticipated the birth of her sixth child. She expected things would go much as they had the last five times, with labor pains slowly progressing and plenty of time to get to the hospital, get an epidural, and enjoy the experience of birth.

What she got instead was a scary, overwhelming, and painful experience. The pains came the same as usual, at first. She called her husband, asking him to wrap up what he was doing and come home to take her to the hospital. Then the pains were overwhelming, and the call to her husband was urgent, "Hurry! Get home now!" Her mother, a nurse, was there to watch her kids and help her through the pain, and soon her husband arrived for the 15 minute drive to the hospital. The baby by now was anxious to make his debut as his father drove as quickly as possible down the busy road. As they were driving, they ended up behind a car going well below the 45-mile-an-hour speed limit. Desperate, as my friend endured the overwhelming pain of childbirth, her husband flashed his lights at the car, which responded by slowing down even further!

They made it to the hospital just minutes before baby arrived, but my friend had to call on all the strength inside her to endure the agony she was experiencing. No pain management, no epidurals, just the baby arriving in nature's painful way.

My friend's experience has made me realize that I have taken for granted my calm, peaceful, and thanks to epidurals, virtually pain-free births and brought to me the clear reality that as fast as my labors can be, I might be in the same situation sometime. I've often said that if my water ever breaks on its own, then I'm likely to be giving birth on the side of the road somewhere, but until I spoke with my friend about her experience, I didn't realize just how frightening that could be for someone who isn't prepared.

In three months, I will give birth again, and for the first time, I'm considering going without the epidural. I'm ambivalent about the decision, reluctant to do something different when I've had such wonderful experiences in the past, afraid that I might not be determined enough to see it through, or that I might change my mind when the hardest pains hit but that by then it will be too late. And I'm worried that I might ruin the experience for my husband, who has been by my side with every birth and has enjoyed his wife's normal, cheerful personality throughout the process.
(with my seventh miracle)

In fact, when I first suggested the idea to him, he reminded me of what happened "the last time" I tried it, when I lost control and yelled at him. It surprised me he has such clear memories of those moments, because "the last time" I tried a natural birth, it was also my first time, nearly eleven years ago.

I was ambivalent then about the natural option, deciding I would wait and see to make that decision. I was busier than ever before in my life, working two part-time jobs and finishing my last semester of school (Lillian was born 4 days after graduation), so I didn't have much time to ponder on my choice. I didn't take any classes or read any books, but I knew that both of my sisters had given birth naturally multiple times, and I expected that if they could, then I could. One sister told me, "Sure it hurts, but it only lasts a few hours and it's over." Others offered other advice and suggestions. One friend, also pregnant, wondered aloud to me if it would mean as much if she didn't feel the pain (later, as she experienced the overpowering pain, she decided she didn't care about such philosophical questions anymore and was eternally grateful for her epidural). Two weeks before my due date, as I waited for my husband outside his class, a 40ish woman passing through stopped to talk to me. She asked me about my due date and then asked me if I was going to have an epidural.

"I haven't decided yet. I think I'll just wait and see."

"What? Why wait? Epidurals are the best thing ever invented. You're crazy if you don't have one."

I was taken aback that a stranger would be so bold as to judge a choice I hadn't even made yet, but I also knew that decisions about birthing can be quite polarizing and that just as she would think me crazy if I went without the epidural, others would think me less of a woman if I had one.

My sisters and mother had all had early births, usually two to three weeks before their due date, so I expected the same, particularly as when I was checked at 36 weeks and found to be 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced already. I had lots and lots of contractions that month. Sometimes, I'd sit in a class tuning out the teacher as I counted the intervals between contractions, "fifteen minutes . . . fourteen minutes this time . . . are they getting closer?" I was sure I'd be making a little graduation outfit for my newborn and carrying her through the ceremony. When that didn't happen, my mother feared my water might break while I was on stage. It didn't. Graduation came and went, along with my due date. Four days later, anxious and desperate, and with an induction scheduled for the next day, I figured I had nothing to lose and choked down a few teaspoons of caster oil.

Whether it was the disgusting, slimy oil or my body's natural response, I finally got those contractions to come close enough together to get to the hospital. After an overly-long admitting process, I sat with my husband for several hours waiting for things to progress. The contractions were three or four minutes apart, and it was amazing to feel my stomach tighten and squeeze at regular intervals. I wasn't in a lot of pain and was able to read while we waited. The book I was reading at that time was, ironically, Great Expectations. But soon, it felt like an intrusion to be reading when something so impressive was going on, and I set the book aside.

I had expected to feel pain. I had expected to feel nervousness and excitement. What I hadn't expected, at least not in the abundance presence, was far beyond any of those feelings. "Do you feel that?" I asked my husband quietly. It was the power of God's Spirit in that room, telling me in feelings rather than words that I was a part of something far greater than I understood. I felt tears come to my eyes as I contemplated the miracle of my baby's entrance into this world.

Soon, the doctor came in and broke my water, asking if I wanted an epidural beforehand. "No," I said, "nothing's been too bad so far." My water broke in a large gush, and the doctor left the room. Then the next contraction hit, and the pain was more than I could bear. I cried out, my husband rushed to my side, and I yelled, "Don't touch me!" I was not rational or calm, and my body began to shake during the next few contractions. I was completely out of control of the situation and I was scared. After fifteen minutes and between contractions, I told my husband, "I want an epidural."

The fifteen minutes it took for the anesthesiologist to arrive seemed like forever, and I hardly flinched as the sting of the needle went into my back. My body continued to shake uncontrollably, and I couldn't understand why it was taking so long for that epidural to take effect. I shook and gasped with each contraction, but finally, finally, the pain subsided as the epidural took effect. I still felt the contractions, and when the time came, I felt the pressure and the need to push. I felt just enough. With some warm blankets, even some of my shaking subsided, though not completely until after the baby was born.

I felt such peace and joy during those next few hours. I felt good about the decision to get the epidural, as I could now focus on the awareness I felt of my daughter's presence. Finally, at 11:53 p.m. on the last day of our student insurance (we had other insurance through DH's new work by then, but we'd been paying through the nose for our student insurance and wanted to get the full benefits), my daughter was born. When I greeted her, it felt like a reunion, as if I was greeting my best friend, someone I had known for a long time and had just lately been parted from.

I have felt the same special feelings but in different ways with all my births. Each time, I have felt of the sacredness and have known that I was part of something larger than myself, the birth of a new soul into the world.


I have also come to love that particular anesthesiologist, Dr. L, and after having a different doctor give me an epidural with my third birth, I appreciated his amazing talent to administer just enough and no more. With my third, the doctor made me so numb I could hardly feel anything, and it took longer than ever before to wear off. We've been blessed to have Dr. L be on call with five out of our sixth births, and I'm considering scheduling this next birth, if by induction, on a day when he's at the hospital!

I've also learned a few things about my births. One is that my bag of water seems to have super-strength. Despite walking around for the last month of every pregnancy at least 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced and dealing with lots of daily contractions, it has never broken on its own, even when I was expecting twins. So I am usually induced, sometimes with pitocin and sometimes without, but always with the doctor or resident breaking my water.

Which brings me to the second thing about my births. With one exception (when the baby's head was transverse and labor halted for four hours), my births move incredibly fast after my water breaks, with the baby arriving within an hour or two of that event. With my twins, I went from 4 cm dilated to 10 in just ten minutes, and they had to hurry my doctor along and tell me not to push while they wheeled me into the O.R. (Most twins are delivered in the OR just in case of complications requiring a C-section). Allison arrived just five minutes after that, with her sister following seven minutes later.


After that "last time" as my husband put it, I have always asked for the epidural before my water breaks, and I've felt able to focus on the peace, joy, and miracle of each child's entrance into the world. Birth for me is a transforming and deeply spiritual experience, and I've never felt that my choice to use modern medicine to alleviate the pain has diminished that experience.

So why am I considering a change that this time? Why switch boats when the one I've chosen the last six times has brought me peacefully to the other side of the river? I'm not sure that I will change, but I am considering it and I've been reading a couple of books to help me decide.

I think for me it comes down to two ideas. The first is that a natural birth is something I've never done before. Like running my first 5K last fall, it's something that I know will be hard but that I'll appreciate for its difficulty. It's the idea of having a tough goal and then achieving it. I don't think I'll feel any differently towards my newborn afterwards, but I will probably feel differently about myself and my ability to cope with pain.

The second idea goes back to the "side of the road on the way to the hospital" scenario. I do worry about my ability to cope if a natural birth was ever forced upon me by circumstances. This will not be my last birth and even if all goes well this time, there's no guarantee that I might not be caught the next time without the crutch of an epidural. If I've done it once naturally, or at least prepared for it and then chosen to wimp out with an epidural, then I think the thought of such a situation will not fill me with dread.

I'm still reading, considering, and discussing my options with my husband and close friends. Whatever I decide, I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to do so. Some of my friends have needed C-sections and others have had frightening experiences where they feared for their baby's life. I realize it's a luxury to enjoy the choices of modern medicine and also a blessing that everything has always gone smoothly with my births.

What has your experience with birth been? Do you have strong feelings about the way you want give birth? How have you coped with unexpected situations in the delivery room? Do you think I'm a wimp for having epidurals (it's all right; I can take it!)? Or crazy for considering a natural birth? Will you think I'm especially wimpy if I prepare all I can for a natural birth and then opt for the epidural anyway?

Note: This post was written for my friend Rachel, an amazing mom to 5 naturally-delivered children and a labor and delivery nurse who writes about childbirth at The Beginning of Motherhood

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