homemaking

PREPARING A HOME FOR BIRTH

 
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

In the same way that I relish in seeing the contents of wardrobes, room tours, and pantry cupboards, I suspect someone out there is curious about how others prepare their homes for a birth to take place. In my circle, home birth is widely accepted but rather uncommon. Just as with preparing a bag and a carseat for the journey home from the hospital, there is necessary preparation for a home birth. This is a glimpse into how I have readied our home (with the blessed help of others!) to welcome another life.


+ A CLEAN SPACE

The biggest, most obvious task. Our house might never be as sanitary as a hospital, but on the other hand we don’t have to share the space with others, and our bodies are accustomed to the micro biomes within. In the months leading up to labor, we put in an increased effort to vacuum continuously, wash the sheets (actually, wash everything), and generally ruffle things up. Washing the windows, mowing the grass, filling the bird feeder, weeding the garden: it all contributes to a prepared head- and heart space. My preferred cleaning agents are vinegar, water, castile bar soap, and essential oils. A clean house is a calm house.

Unnecessary, but nice: A deep clean of the car and, dare I suggest, an automatic carwash. I recently took my Volvo through the carwash and found it to be genuinely therapeutic. I suppose getting cloaked in dark suds and then having it all washed off served to clean my head, too. Never mind that the birds decimated my windshield and roof mere hours later — it was worth it, and helped me feel ready for the day when we take the baby on a car ride.

preparing for a birth at home by samantha spigos
preparing for a birth at home by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

+ THE BIRTH ROOM

I intend to give birth in my bedroom again*. I feel safe and confident in there. When the work is over, I get to lay down in my own bed with a tiny, sticky bundle of love. I prefer to use trusty cotton sheets and pillowcases, rather than our decadent linen set. This, to cut out the risk of bodily fluids staining them forevermore. We drape clear shower curtains over the mattress (but under the sheets) so that it too avoids a fate of bloodstains and afterbirth. Chucks pads get placed everywhere during a home birth: anywhere I walk, on the bed, on the birthing ball, etc. For the hours and days following delivery, I keep a hot water bottle, heating pad, and a cup with a straw right next to the bed; plus snacks, a bluetooth speaker, good soap in the bathroom and a heap of prefold diapers (for use as breast pads, spills, burp cloths. . .).

Unnecessary, but nice: A clean-burning candle, or essential oil diffuser, or some kind of aromatic. (Fresh flowers are a given, right?) Will someone try this candle and tell me how it is?

*First birth story here.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

+ SUSTENANCE

Every laboring woman has different food preferences, but one thing is true for all of us: we need protein. We have tried to stock our pantry with broth and easy provisions, like nuts and bananas and yogurt. My mother-in-law generously prepared us several protein-rich veggie quiches to put in our freezer for the hazy days following. Also in the freezer: berries for quick smoothies, loaves of bread, chicken thighs and my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Plenty of tea and coffee in the cupboard. Recently we picked out some nourishing spices to make cooking a more exciting pursuit, and it’s working. And it’s peach season.

Further, let me say unequivocally: lady parts need sustenance, too. I keep maternity pads, wipes, and a peri bottle in the bathroom for gentle cleaning. Plus soft cotton pants, a robe for no pants days, and cushions in every room.

Unnecessary, but nice: Treating yourself to a few food items, like the world’s best tahini or dried mango, goes a long way. I love to buy expectant parents a gift certificate to a source like Nuts.com so they can do just that.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

+ FOR AN OLDER SIBLING

Ah, our little Rosemary, child of the good earth, soon to be a sister. I am cherishing every snuggle with her in these final days. To prepare for another life in the house, we recently went through sleep training at nap time so that she becomes comfortable and happy in her crib. She has long been a wonderful bedtime sleeper, but preferred naps be on her parents or our bed. Now she is resting in her crib, which is divine for us. Mark and I feel quite sure Rosemary will adjust beautifully to sharing her home with a sibling. A few months ago we created a real bedroom for her (which she will eventually share), touched with whimsy and corners intended for little hands. We talk constantly with her about the baby, and tell her what a good big sister she’ll be. And, best of all, we believe it.

Unnecessary, but nice: A special stuffed toy or other token of your love for the older sibling. I suspect this is more helpful as you have older children, but I did pick out a hand knit unicorn for Rosemary. Couldn’t help myself with that rainbow.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos
preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

Pretty simple stuff, really. Preparing for a birth is incredibly exciting, and can be made calmer with some advance preparation. Of course I still have moments of panic were I am sure we have nothing ready. But actually, newborns require very little. Food and cloaking and a soft place to land. It’s mom and dad who need the pampering, and a clean, calm, well stocked home lends itself nicely to just that.

Wishing you a heart-full summer. I look ahead with gladness to the day I introduce all of you to this new babe.

preparing a home for birth by samantha spigos

—S

PRUNE THE GOOSE, DEMOLITION + OTHER SMALL JOYS

 
mother and child by samantha spigos
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daughter and father enjoy morning coffee by samantha spigos
daughter and father enjoy morning coffee by samantha spigos
daughter and mother enjoy morning coffee by samantha spigos
daughter and mother enjoy morning coffee by samantha spigos
dismantling a ramp outdoors by samantha spigos
dismantling a ramp outdoors by samantha spigos
dismantling a ramp outdoors by samantha spigos
babies at a water table by samantha spigos
DSC02947.jpg

Today is Mariellen’s birthday. It would have been her 87th year this side of heaven. Instead, we have filled the rooms of her home with growth and vibrancy, and lately those same qualities have been finding their way to the flower beds, Ghost’s grave, the onion patch, et al. Yesterday was Mary Frances’s birthday. The queen of my heart and, by all scientific measures, an actual earth angel. We ate rhubarb pie together, the unofficial food patron of our family. Tomorrow is Janet’s birthday. A Chicagoan who blessedly moved to Ohio and raised the man I love most on Earth, plus flower beds that you’d swear sing with gladness. Grandmother, Mother, Mother-in-law: the marvelous trifecta of matriarchal birthdays.

I’m taking notice of this abiding peace. It is settling somewhere that I hope can’t be, or won’t be, easily penetrated. Decisions made in the name of Family and Hope and Possibility are bearing ripe and abundant fruit. Certainly nothing exotic. The boys dismantled a ramp with hammers and drills and saws, while I readied an “orange plate” consisting of every orange-colored provision I could find, and my sister set up a Slip ‘N’ Slide. When the work was finished the little ones made haste to throw on their swimsuits; as for mine, she waited exactly five minutes before pooing in her brand new swimsuit. Like I said, nothing exotic. But good, good, good.

A too-early morning with a too-full heart, if such a thing exists. Prune is settling in nicely; it is as though the spot between the rose bush and the bird feeder was waiting for a concrete goose. The sparrows don’t mind her and, oh! would you believe it, a grey catbird came to visit — a first. Subtle changes, big feelings.


“There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”

— Gerard Manley Hopkins


—S

A BUNNY OF HER OWN

 
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

Rosemary turned one on the twenty-first of January. In truth, I love this age the most. I love that she is no longer a tiny newborn, no longer a floppy, squealing six-month old, no longer a freshly crawling nine-month old. The goal of raising children and living our own lives is to keep staying alive, no? Every stage was our favorite stage (well, except the first spell of teething). I feel no sadness that the days have been slow but the year flew by. Mark and I rejoice in our one-year old girl, thanking God for her health and vibrancy and undeniable charm; thanking God she is alive and thriving! Perhaps in twenty years I will lament how quickly it all passed, but for now I feel content to spend each day with our one-year old, our Bubinga, our bunny. Speaking of, I sewed Rosemary a birthday bunny.

handsewn bunny first birthday gift by samantha spigos
handsewn wool cotton bunny first birthday by samantha spigos
first birthday gift handsewn cotton wool bunny by samantha spigos
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

Long before Rosemary was Rosemary, but rather a floating water baby we referred to as Shim, I purchased the materials to make a stuffed bunny. I really, really love a good stuffed toy. It’s the history of mohair bears, the companionship of fuzzy bedtime friends, and the unexpected reasons children love the ones they do that spurred my desire to sew my own. It’s no secret here that I am deeply devoted to natural fibers, in jest referring to myself as a Wool Evangelist. I know of a handful of special toy makers out there producing heirloom-quality stuffed toys made exclusively of natural fibers (cotton and wool, mostly). I want to buy all of them, but at present can not exactly afford any of them. For Christmas Rosemary received a donkey and a hedgehog from her gurny, and a pocket doll from her grandma — each one made of cotton, wool, and alpaca fibers. Talk about a lucky lady! (Or is it me who really loves them? As Mark’s mom once joked during a gas station pitstop, “You want her to have the beautiful toys, but she’s going to want the Beanie Boos from the gas station.”) Having held onto the slubby cotton fleece and peach wool felt for more than a year, I contemplated not going forward with sewing her any animal at all. Sure, I’d invested in the materials, but could anything I make really compare to the toys she had just been gifted for Christmas?

It turns out that yes, it can.

cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos
wool cotton handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.

“It's a thing that happens to you.

When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with,

but REALLY loves you,

then you become Real.

The Velveteen Rabbit

cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos
cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

It took roughly a week to sew, and this is from someone who has only sewn three garments total. Much of that week was spent waiting for the wool stuffing to arrive and hand stitching the limbs and head to the body. The day before her birthday I haphazardly freestyle embroidered her initials into the rear, because should not all handmade objects come with a love letter? This was the most enjoyable project I’ve made in a year or more. Something about knowing my child would hold it, possibly even love it, and maybe keep it close by for a very long time truly fueled me with an honest ambition I do not generally feel while making. If you have never made a loved one a stuffed toy but think you might like to, please consider this the gentle nudging you need. Unsurprisingly, I want to knit and sew stuffed toys forever now.

Happy birthday to our Rosemary Isidora, a little funny bunny of a one-year old.

cotton wool handsewn bunny by samantha spigos

For the inquisitive . . .

+ Materials used*:
Organic cotton fleece (1 yd)
Wool felt in color Peach 69 (1 mm square)
Cotton sewing thread in color 1140
Sashiko embroidery thread in color Orchid Pink
+ Soft Woolen Bunny free pattern.
+ A sunshine dress to bring cheer (from the shop of an amazing heritage toymaker).

*This material list provided enough fabric and thread that I can sew two bunnies.


Or, a few heirloom-quality bunnies ready to be gifted . . .

I’ve compiled the very best stuffed rabbits I know of. They are not inexpensive. If it’s within your means to provide a gift like this to someone you love, I would gently encourage you to trust that your gift will be cherished. Like adults, children truly do have the capacity to appreciate and respect high-quality objects.

+ Baby’s first bunny. This bunny went everywhere Rosemary went for months.
+ A true velveteen rabbit, thread whiskers and all.
+ German-made bunny that is sure to be passed down.
+ Spectacular rabbits to grow through childhood with (from the maker of the sunshine dress).


—S

WORTH THE READ

 
Knitting Wool Dala Horse Baby Hat by Samantha Spigos

Surely the changing of leaves and temperatures is indicative of a season for change in us, as well. Enough consistent years of change in this very season of the year have led me to conclude that there is, indeed, an Autumn in all of our inner lives, too. Maybe it’s a vestige of schooling, or a result of the moon lingering longer every night but, at any rate, we’ve come to expect it. This go ‘round, I am consciously trying to surrender to the change and let it wash over our family. In reality, while it sounds flowery and metaphorical, seasons of change are usually unceremonious and unpretty; less like gentle moonlight and more like a flaming ball of fire. So, in an effort to focus on What Needs Tending (namely, finishing Rosie’s winter hat and praying to my favorite saints), I am leaving you with a few links that have been fuel for me, and are very worth the read.


For the inquisitive . . .

+ Take your medicine. If you read nothing else today, read this.
+ “We’ve walked miles in tiny bursts…” (I am excited to share more soon about the mother of this family.)
+ A fellow Ohioan moves to Denmark and falls in love with it through food. Enjoy this visual feast.
+
Salt of the earth.
+
For the fiber inclined, shave ‘em to save ‘em.
+
Makers of the world’s best mug and deliverers of poetry-filled emails.


—S