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The Harshe Podcast – Episode #31: Large Family Efficiency

The Harshe Podcast – Episode #31: Large Family Efficiency

January and Brandon are talking the tips and tricks they’ve learned as parents of six kids! January talks bucking the stereotype of the disheveled parents of a large family and Brandon explains why it’s so important to “Just say no.” A lot of kids is a lot of work but it is sometimes possible to stack the deck in your favor.

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Click here to download Episode #31: Large Family Efficiency!


Doula Trainings International, or simply DTI, is an organization that certifies doulas while focusing on issues of justice.

DTI has reimagined what it looks like to become a modern doula, with a comprehensive 9-month program that includes ongoing peer to peer mentorship, business skills and in-depth video classes that complement a rigorous initial workshop, an extensive reading list, and practical experience requirements. 

DTI certifies both birth and postpartum doulas and that certification is for life!


DTI will be hosting its first ever conference, the Born Into This Conference on July 12-13 in Austin, TX! Birth workers, holistic health professionals, thoughtful leaders, and creators will gather together in one space to ignite the birth justice movement. For more details, visit the Born Into This Website!

A Birth{day} Party

A Birth{day} Party

Your birth my sweet Ezra was a fun one.  When it was all over my midwife Cindi teased me it was more of a tea party than a labor.

I knew you were coming early.  I trusted God when He told me you would be coming early, but you would be ok.  Your estimated date was January 26, 2012, but your birthday was December 30, 2011.  I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks.  This was most likely from carrying around your 2 year old sister Naomi and 15 month old brother Quinn and wearing your “twin” older by 4 months, sister Phoebe around all day.

I was a very busy mama while you were growing inside of me and you my little one were anxious to come out and join the family.  I had my home visit with our birth team on December 28th.  My incredible midwife Cindi was here for your brother Quinn’s birth too.  We had so much fun talking about his birth and guessing when you would arrive and estimating how much you might weigh.  We also wondered if you might be a red head like your big brothers Zane and Quinn.  The visit was very relaxed since we had just had Quinn’s homebirth 15 months earlier. We thought we knew what to expect for your impending birth.  It felt like fun girl time with Daddy as an added bonus.  I thought you might even come that night!  Cindi thought the same thing and Daddy just trusted you would come when you were ready. He was not too sure he was ready. I think you did not come that night because you and I both knew Daddy was not quite ready.

I did have some contractions that did not hurt but were stronger than my normal Braxton Hicks.  I was awake most of the night because I was so very excited to meet you!  I woke Daddy up and we cuddled and talked for a couple of hours and then fell back asleep.  I had checked before I went back to bed and I felt like I was about 6-7 cm dilated.  The next day Daddy told me he was ready for you to come so I was sure you would arrive that night.

I spent most of the day playing outside with your brothers and sisters.  I went to bed early and at about 2:00 in the morning I was having those stronger contractions again, but they still did not hurt.  I went in and out of sleep for a couple of hours then decided to get up and take a warm bath.  I climbed in and talked to you.  I told you how happy I was that I get to be your mommy, how very much I love you and that you could join us whenever you wanted to come.  I went back to bed and slept for a couple of hours.  I called my midwife Cindi when I woke up and told her I was awake most of the night for the second night in a row and that I was getting very tired.  I also told her I had checked myself and that I could feel the top of your head and I thought I was about 7 cm dilated.  She was concerned that I was going to get worn out if I had another sleepless night so we made a plan for her and the birth team to come in the afternoon when Naomi, Quinn and Phoebe were napping.

I called my friend Wendy because she and her daughter Olivia were going to come over and help Pops take care of all our little kids when they woke up. Pops and Bunny had come for Christmas and stayed to be here for your birth.  Bunny was with me for Zane and Quinn’s births too.  Pops had taught Zane to ride a bike the morning you were born!

At 8 cm dilated and hanging out with the family!

First my doula Sabrina arrived and helped me get a snack and took some pictures of our family while we still had just 4 kids here.  Cindi, my midwife, and her birth assistants, Jessie and Shay, arrived just as I was trying to get Phoebe to sleep for her nap.  She was crying which was not at all like her to do but I think she knew you were coming soon and she could sense my feelings.  Naomi and Quinn were fast asleep so Pops decided to put Phoebe in the baby carrier and go for a walk.  After I knew they were all OK, I could concentrate on you.

I begged Cindi to check me and when she did we found out I was 8 cm dilated.  We felt like the only thing preventing you from coming was my bag of water.  We thought it best to break my water so you could come and Mommy could have the energy to help you get here instead of getting worn down from a third sleepless night.  After she broke my water I sat on the birth ball while Daddy rubbed my shoulders.  My friend Libby made me some very strong red raspberry leaf tea and after I drank it I took a walk with Daddy around the block.  I still was not having contractions so we took a second lap with my friend Wendy while I inhaled clary sage on a washcloth.  I had a couple of strong tightenings, but still nothing that hurt.

When we got back I sat in our bedroom with Daddy, Cindi, Jessie, Bunny, Zane, Sabrina, Libby and Wendy.  We talked about what your name should be and when Zane shouted “Ezra, Ezra!”  I got my first STRONG contraction!  Libby made me more tea and I started sharing the story of what happened to Quinn when he was just a week old.  The story made me cry.  My contractions started to hurt so I wanted to get in the bathtub.  I climbed in and then needed a trash can to throw up in.  After I threw up I felt so much better, but decided I wanted out of the tub.

I came back into the bedroom and climbed up on my bed.  I had a few contractions on my side with Daddy holding my hand.  During this time I felt so very close to God.  I knew Wendy, Libby and Bunny were praying for me and for you.  Daddy whispered to me “There are angels in this room.”  He was right; I could feel God’s presence with us.  Cindi had me lean over the birth ball on top of the bed for a contraction but that made my hips hurt so bad I hated it!  Libby who is a missionary and has attended many births of women in the Wano tribe suggested that I stand up and hang onto Daddy for a few contractions.  I decided I would stand up, but brace my arms on my mattress.  When I did this I told Cindi I felt like pushing, but asked if it was time.  She said if I wanted to push then I should. I love how much she trusts the birth process.  She was at the ready if we needed her, but she knew you and I were working well together to get you here.

I checked and I felt the top of your head and it felt like you had hair!  When the next contraction came I pushed but I got it all wrong which your Bunny, a former labor and delivery nurse, lovingly reminded me.  I decided to take her advice and push effectively with the next contraction.  It was so amazing to feel you coming down!  When the next contraction came I pushed with everything I had in me and you slid out of me and into your Daddy’s hands.

Cindi told me to reach down and take you, but I needed a minute to breathe and I felt so shaky so Daddy and Cindi held onto you while I climbed up on our bed.  They put you on my chest and a few minutes later you latched yourself onto my breast.

That is where you are right now as I write your story, my sweet 11 month old boy.  This seems to be your favorite spot in all the world.  This is where you have spent these past months growing from the 7 lbs 11 ounce and 21 inches long little squish into the 17 lbs and 29 inch baby you are today.  As you grow Ezra Kai so my love for you grows.  You are a joy and a delight to our family.  I am so pleased to be your mommy.  {Holly}

All birth pictures by Blooming Nest Photography. Much love to midwife Cindi with Gentle Birth Options.

 All pics were taken by my doula Sabrina Lewis of Blooming Nest Photography.

Supported Home Birth of 9th Child

Supported Home Birth of 9th Child

I have written this story over and over in my head. While I sleep. While I stare in amazement into very quiet beautiful eyes.  I have so much to say, but so little words.  I want to thank everyone who has been checking in on me for the past few weeks and all of you who have sent us such beautiful words.  I have taken them all and kept them in my heart as I spend these new miraculous moments and days with our little Matthew.  Learning all the curves of his face, exhaling deeply and lovingly whenever I think of him.  I am in love!

Matthew Gerard Gaitan was born into his Poppas arms on September 11th at 5:33 PM.  It seems like just a second ago and yet here I am a week later writing down his story to remember for ever and to share with all of you.

My parents always come to stay for about 2 weeks and try to time their stay so that they can help me in the final week of my pregnancies and take care of me in the first week postpartum.  Since Alex was having her bridal shower on the 6th, they decided to come and stay for two weeks hoping to be here for the birth.  As their final days were approaching and still no baby I became upset for them and decided to try and help things along.  I normally would not do this, I prefer for my babies to come on their own time and not mine but it seemed to me that I should at least try by some natural means to see if labor would start before they had to leave.

On Monday the 10th I decided that I only had two days left before they were leaving and I did not want to have the baby on 9/11.  My midwife was coming for a visit and she had already told me the week before that I was at 4 centimeters so if I was further along I would ask her to strip my membranes. I spent the day finishing up last minute baby projects and made a nice big batch of labor aid.  An hour before my birthing team showed up I even took on a new baby project to keep my hands busy.  I was very worried that my oldest daughter Alex would not be around to take pictures so I was trying to time it while she was not at work.

When my midwife and her team arrived I was checked and I was at 5 and since Alex would soon be home from work and Poppa was also home, she did the stripping of the membranes and they decided to stay thinking that everything would happen fast.  Since we live out in the country they would not want to chance leaving and not getting back in time.  We all sat down to eat what I thought would be my last dinner while pregnant.  I did not eat much because of the anticipation.

We spent the next few hours talking, laughing and even had a knitting and crocheting class in the living room. I was loving this. I kept thinking how relaxed this was compared to being in a hospital.  We prepared the birthing pool in my room, got supplies ready and then nothing.  No contractions.  Once in a while I would get what I felt were the same Braxton Hicks contractions I had been feeling for the past few weeks but every time I was checked I was further along.  I listened to all my favorite songs and sang out loud (my midwives probably thought I was nuts but I didn’t care, I love singing out loud).  Lots of Regina Spektor, Natalie Merchant, Nil Lara and salsa music.  With every hour that passed I realized that my chance of having this baby on the 11th increased.  I really did not want to have my little baby on such a sad day but around 11:45 just gave my worries to God and decided to let it go.  The Lord made this child and had already decided when he or she would be born.

I walked up and down the stairs repeating my mantra of “I hate these stairs” every time I came up to the top where the midwives were all sitting in the hallway reading or working on their new crochet or knitting skills, eating fritters my parents made and encouraging me to go another round up and down the stairs to get the baby to continue descending.  I could feel it working, I could feel things opening and preparing for a birth but still no regular contractions, just a few renegade waves of tightening here and there. I was now tired.

At about 4 in the morning my midwives put me to bed and they went to sleep on the couches downstairs.  I welcomed one more night of sleep or at least a few more hours before the big moment.  Poppa says I woke him up many times with a very rhythmic low moaning but I must have been very asleep through all of it.  I opened my eyes to the morning sun the next day and the sounds of my parents busy making breakfast downstairs.  I found my birthing team all still in the places they had slept, talking to my little ones and having coffee.

After breakfast, I put on my shoes and Poppa and I went on a nice long walk followed by another walk later on that morning with Jen, one of the midwives. I couldn’t help but notice that our driveway was so full of cars that it looked as if we were having a party.  I guess we were, we were having a waiting on baby party.  I enjoyed the fresh morning air, the sounds of the birds in the trees and the company of Poppa and these women who had become part of our family for the day.  I reminded myself of how different this was than the birth experience most women have and I felt very blessed.  These wonderful women were here for me and my baby and really all of my family.  They were here for the long haul and no one was hurrying or rushing us.

My daughter Alex had gone to work and I had decided upon an alternative photographer since I knew at this point that she would most probably not be out of work by the time I gave birth.  As the day went on I did have more constant contractions but they were not very uncomfortable and I kept myself upbeat by remembering that I was progressing though I had not yet felt “the pain” I associate with birth.  The pains I was having were all in my lower back and that scared me because I have heard that back labor is very painful.  My midwife did some positioning and pressing on parts of my lower back which I think might have taken care of it because I didn’t remember about the back pain until after it was all over.

I got all the way to 10 centimeters still wondering if I could truly be in labor.  We decided to start filling the birthing pool now to be ready, when someone mentioned that Alex would be getting home from work soon.  My heart skipped a beat and I hoped and prayed that she would be there in time.  My midwife told me that she was sure my body was waiting for my daughter to come home so that I could have this baby.

As soon as Alex came in through the door I started to feel more like I was in labor.  We got me in the pool while she got her camera ready.  The waves that were hitting my body were definitely labor now and though I could talk and smile in between them, they were getting very strong.  The warm water felt good on my skin as I rocked back and forth in the pool.  A few more waves and my midwife told me to push whenever I felt the urge.  I sat in the warm water thinking how I did not feel like I was that close to having my baby and all of a sudden it was there, the urge to push.  It was now that the pain hit me like a ton of bricks and I could feel myself losing my wits a bit and wanting to feel sorry for myself.  I know that this is were the heroine is triumphant and strong and takes charge but I wanted to feel sorry for myself and give into this pain.  I am human and I felt small and weak and scared.  Then all of a sudden I felt Poppa’s strong hands on my shoulders and his legs supporting me from behind.  He wiped the sweat from my forehead and told me that I was strong.  I heard the voices of those women who were there to support me telling me that I was doing it, that I was doing great.

With one long push I felt the head of my little one, I could not believe I was really almost there and before I knew it I was being told to pull my baby out of the water.  I couldn’t do it and asked Poppa to grab the baby.  This is the moment I had dreamt of all these months, the moment when I would draw my baby up out of the water into this world and here I was not able to move an inch.

When he was placed in my arms I felt a tidal flood of love hit me and all I could do was hold onto my little precious one…a boy! I couldn’t believe I was holding him.  I realized I had not really let myself fall in love during the pregnancy because I have suffered miscarriages in the past.  I also spent the past few months saying that I did not think I was going to be able to love another baby like I loved Olivia and everyone else but here I was sooo in love with a little one I just met.  Our eyes and hearts locked together and at that moment I could no longer imagine my life without my little baby boy.

Sitting in my bed that evening, where my midwife had tucked me in surrounded by all my babies, husband and parents I quietly thanked God for being so good to us. For giving us another little one to love, so perfect, so healthy.  We are all in awe.  We have spent the past week (with Momma in bed) getting used to the new normal of a newborn in the house and getting everyone the time they want holding him and being next to him. This week there has been little talk of all the commotion of the wedding in just 3 weeks.  There has been little talk of things needing to be done around the house or interference from the outside world.  For now we are alone in the world in our little love cocoon.  Soon enough there will be time to do the rest.

“Cleaning and dusting can wait ‘til tomorrow
For babies grow up, we learn to our sorrow
So cobwebs be quiet, and dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby, cause babies don’t keep!”

All Photos are the property of Alex and Co. Photography. Do Not Copy or Alter

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