intentional living

RESTING WITHOUT SLEEPING

 
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Yesterday I knelt at the kitchen window and watched two male gold finches, each perched on his own sunflower, pulling out seeds one by one and de-shelling them with their beaks to reveal, and swallow, the seed inside. It was a marvelous display of nature’s finery. As for me, it was a blessed few minutes of resting without sleeping. Do you do this? Rest without sleep? It’s one thing to lie on the sofa and close your eyes, even if you know you will not sleep. This is effective . . . if your brain is not racing and pinging back and forth with myriad thoughts, like a mouse in a cupboard — Hi hello, that’s me! A more restful approach, for me anyway, has been focusing intently on something simple, like the gold finches. Another way I “rest” is by touching and rearranging the objects in Rosemary’s (and one day, Leo’s) room. While she colors or looks at books, I move things from here to there, there to here. Often I settle on the same arrangement as before. It’s a nice way to refresh my headspace and avoid something taxing or muddying, like doing the dishes or scrolling my phone.

In lieu of sleep, how do you like to rest? I would love to hear!

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For the inquisitive . . .

Here are a few of the sources for the objects in our child’s room. Each object holds special meaning, which is my best advice for creating an intentional room or display.

+ Wooden pastel rainbow.
+ Wooden guardian angel.
+ Wool pom wreath (sadly no longer available).
+ Saint peg dolls.
+ Saint Isidore icon.
+ Rosemary the cow & morel mushroom prints.


—S

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

A GENTLE END TO BREASTFEEDING MY FIRST CHILD

 
fresh lilac in a lilac colored ceramic vase by samantha spigos

Seven months pregnant and growing bigger and tighter and sorer every week, I felt more ready than not to start weaning my daughter off breastmilk. That’s also to say I was hardly sure if I could handle it, or if she could, but I suspected my intuition was correctly guiding me. In motherhood, there is innate wisdom borne in each of us — a most helpful truth when it comes time to make deep decisions. When I found out I was expecting another child, I wept at the thought of not being able to nurse Rosemary as long as I had originally hoped. Sure, I could co-feed both, but my personal inclination was to direct all breastmilk to the new babe and allow the older sibling to flourish independently. But my heart ached. I understand now that part of my journey in accepting my new mothering role to two was to lay bare my unsure, aching heart, and allow it to become fortified in courage. Thankfully it was fleeting (innate wisdom, etc.), and as with so many things, the transition, though not without challenge, proved quite natural. Women around me said it would be, but it’s hard to know until you know.

Being a woman particularly interested in how other women raise babies, I’ve learned that the nuances of breastfeeding are myriad and personal. A woman’s ability to breastfeed, or not, and for how long, and using what method, is humbling to hear. There is much to be gleaned from every single mother’s journey. I am blessed with a great milk supply and I genuinely love breastfeeding. It did not come easily, and after many tears, a lactation consultant, and the support of those around me, Rosemary and I established a breastfeeding bond that I remain incredibly grateful for. She and I are five weeks weaned now, something I can hardly believe!

At my midwife appointments, my body kept indicating that I was under stress and fighting off sickness. I felt so tired, regardless what I did to improve my energy. Around the same time, Rosie was thriving and seeming to use my body more for comfort than for fuel. Maybe it’s time to close this chapter, I thought. I was nervous to air those thoughts to my midwife and doulas, but as soon as I did, her response was, “You don’t have to convince us! If your body and mind are telling you it’s time, it’s time.” By my next appointment, my body was healthy and hydrated. Our intuition knows!

fresh lilacs in a lilac ceramic vase by samantha spigos

I think it took us three weeks from the day I started weaning her to the day we ended. And another two weeks for her to seem unaware that breastfeeding was an option. Now when she looks at my body or touches my breasts (which she usually does inquisitively while laughing), I tell her that the milk is all gone (using the sign for “all gone” which she knows well) and that it’s for the new baby. She seems to recognize that there is a baby inside my belly, or at the least she gives kisses and says “baby” every time she seems my bare belly. In the first few weeks, however, she would just cry with her head on my shoulder when I did not submit to her desire to nurse. Heartbreaking, but healthy — that’s how it felt. I would rub her back and offer words of comfort like, “I know this is really hard for you. This is hard for mama too. We are going through a transition together.” I would follow up with words like, “I love you, and will always hold you. It’s OK for you to cry.” By not talking about another baby, but instead allowing her to be the focus of my words and attention, I think / hope / could sense that she felt comfortable, even if she was confused. I marvel at how she adapted so quickly. Kids are amazing. Another sweet outcome of the transition was witnessing her relationship with Mark. Rest time had always been a Mom game. Now Mark could rock her for bedtime and sink into that truly unparalleled snuggle time.

Another something to note is that Rosemary uses a pacifier. We have always tried to use it sparingly, but are of the philosophy that comforting aids are not harmful as long as the parents are attentive to the emotions and signals of their little ones. During the breastfeeding transition we definitely saw Rosie become more attached to her pacifier at times of rest. She’s still using it, and each time I feel riddled with guilt or concern over it, Mark and the rest of my family lovingly respond with, “One thing at a time.” And it’s true — our family is soon to go through the biggest transition yet, and I want my daughter to feel comfortable and safe as it happens. If that includes a pacifier, great.

Where our days were punctuated with restful breaks to breastfeed, now they are filled with restful snuggling in the rocking chair. Some days I miss sitting and nursing, but most days I am content with my playful little girl. She plays for longer durations now, literally smells the flowers — ah, to smell a lilac for the first time!, and especially loves snuggling up with books. To be a mother so blessed. She is the gift of my life.

I hope to illuminate something that I was unsure about before going through it. Each woman’s path is unique, and raising humans is about as intimate as it gets. I hope my words offer you something, whether it’s a look into one woman’s approach, or the confidence to know that you too can blossom through an uncharted experience. As I have, so can you.

a child with a flower 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
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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