A Year in My Life- July

Oops, I did it again. I forgot to share my “A Year in my Life Photos”. I was about to start writing Augusts post, when it dawned on me that I had completely skipped over July! I guess it will be July today and August tomorrow.

As can be expected the beginning of July was filled with parades and fireworks. We had a lot of fun going to a few different performances of the Army National guard that Cameron plays in. The kids always holler and scream when Daddy marches by. They’re his biggest fans.

A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
We were lucky to run into some friends at the local fireworks show.
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
I’d rather take pictures of these cuties than the fireworks
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
Army National Guard Band playing the National Anthem
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
Maddy loves her baby
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic | LuLaRoe Julia
Rocking my LuLaRoe Americana Julia as a long shirt
A Year in My Life Documenting Our Family- July | smithsquad.com |military family | Patriotic
Daddy marching in the smallest parade we’ve ever seen.

July was also great because we had a visit from Cameron’s brother and his cute little family. My kids absolutely adore their little cousin. We got a bit of rain while at the park, but that didn’t slow anyone down!

Get out of the way!
Get out of the way!
You can definitely tell these two are related.
You can definitely tell these two are related.
"just singing in the rain!"
“just singing in the rain!”
ok, maybe they don't ALL like each other.
ok, maybe they don’t ALL like each other.
Cheese!
Cheese!

It was a pretty fun low key month. The most exciting thing happened on July 23rd when I submitted my application to become a LuLARoe Fashion Consultant! MY call to purchase my initial inventory should come any day now. I can’t wait to get started in this business. I love their clothes and I know I’m going to rock it! If you haven’t gotten in on my LuLaRoe presale yet check it out. Pre-sale deals end on the day my inventory ships, which will be in about 10-14 days. Also make sure to join me in my Facebook group to get in on some fun giveaways leading up to my big launch party in a few weeks.

Are you doing a photo challenge this year? I’d love to see your work. Drop a link in the comments so I can check it out. 

A Year in My Life May- Allowing Others to serve

Wow, with all the chaos having an eighth baby brings I completely forgot to share my photos from my “A Year in My Life” project for the month of May. My goal with this project is to get the real camera out every day and document something. I would say May was not the biggest success. With Hannah being born in the middle of the month I wasn’t exactly full of motivation to take photos. Exhausted moms don’t go for the camera very regularly.

39 week pregnant belly shot |smithsquad.com| exist in photos | lifestlye maternity photography
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

On Mother’s Day after a gloriously long nap we went to a friend’s house for dinner. The dads made dinner while the moms sat and chatted. It was a really fun time. I passed off my camera to their teen daughter for a while and got what is now my final pre-baby belly shot.

newborn baby number eight |smithsquad.com| Fresh 48 photography |Newborn hospital photography | large family
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

Miss Hannah arrived on May 14th after only 2 hours of labor, her birth story is here if you care to read it. For some reason the recovery from this birth was much harder than my previous births. I usually feel pretty good physically by 3-4 days post-partum. With Hannah I still didn’t want to get off the couch after a week and didn’t feel like I was really myself till about two weeks.

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer
Wally did a lot of sock monkey cuddling while mommy was baby cuddling.

They say that every birth is different, but honestly I never really expected for recovery to ever be all that different. I know that two weeks of recovery really isn’t that bad, but compared to my normal 3-4 days it was a real downer. I’ve also struggled a LOT more with the hormones this time around. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or because I’m just completely worn out, but boy have my mood swings been crazy! I’m pretty much over it now, but there were a few rough weeks there when I just couldn’t really function. It didn’t help at all that Cameron had to go back to work 2 days after Hannah was born.

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression
Spending time outside at the park helps me to ward off post-partum depression.

So what’s a mom to do when there are seven very little people to take care of, but she is dealing with the baby blues? Ask for help. Sounds pretty easy, but boy is it hard! Somewhere in our history large families have ceased to be the norm. As such there is a lot of judgement that can come upon those of us who choose to have one when we don’t have everything 100% under control. I’ve heard it said to me or others more than once that if we can’t handle it then we shouldn’t have so many. IF I admit I need help I know I am risking negative judgment from others about my choice to allow another little person to join our family. While I am confident in my choices and know that I can not possibly escape judgment no matter what I do, it is still hard to risk opening myself up to that criticism from people who just don’t understand. I am naturally pretty independent. It is difficult to be vulnerable and admit I need help caring for all these monkeys.

It's ok to ask for help |Smithsquad.com | post partum recovery | Large Family |documentary photographer | Lifestyle photography
A local homeschool teen came over and helped out. Wally had a blast making cornbread with her help.

Luckily for me my husband does not suffer from the same insecurities. He asked the church ladies for help  and thankfully some really amazing friends jumped at the chance to serve. A fellow homeschooling family sent their teen daughter over to keep kids entertained so I could get some rest. Another friend came over later that week and brought food for a few days as well as spent the morning helping me with kiddos and laundry. People also brought us meals big enough to give me leftovers for over a week. My husband of course did his best to pick up as much slack as he could in the evenings when he was here as well.

DSC06182

Amongst all the chaos of our new baby our goat, Alice, also had a new baby. Flora arrived a few months before we were expecting her, which means Alice was likely pregnant when we brought her home and we just didn’t know it yet. Flora was the cutest thing. I love how baby goats prance around the yard. Sadly we lost her when she was only a few days old. We’re not sure why. One morning the was hopping around cute as a button and that afternoon I found her hidden behind a large rock no longer breathing. Poor Alice took it pretty hard and kept bleating for her baby for about two days.

A new baby goat| Smithsquad.com| homesteading | Large Family
Alice loved her new baby as much as I love mine! I’m so sad we lost her.

Overall it was a pretty awesome month, and with everything that was going on I’m glad I got as many photos as I did. A huge thank you to all those who helped us make it through the month.

What was your post-partum recovery like? Did you allow others to help you? What was the most helpful thing anyone did for you after baby arrived?

Motherhood is Beautiful- Loving My Mom Body

When I first saw this family photo it was a small thumbnail in our gallery of birth photography images, and I loved it. It was a lovely real life moment of our family. Something I’ve never had captured before. Even though the moment is so beautiful I almost didn’t share it with anyone.

birth photography | Smithsquad.com | meeting baby number eight | all natural hospital birth
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

When I made the image large the first thing I thought was “wow, I look fat! No makeup, messy hair, and I’m in my pajamas. I don’t think everyone needs to see me that way.” I even considered for a moment whether I could possibly liquefy myself a bit smaller in Photoshop. Then I stopped. “What on earth is wrong with me?!?! This is less than 24 hours after giving birth to my eighth child. I can’t believe that I am being so hard on myself! I’m Super Womb-an.”

I now believe that this image is even more beautiful because of my appearance. This is a body that has carried and fed eight little humans. This is a body that has given birth naturally eight times. This is a body that has been pregnant, nursing, or both for the last nine years. This is the body that allows me to read, play, and laugh with my children. This is the body that cooks, cleans, teaches, and so much more. This is the body that my husband loves. Most importantly my body is an amazing temple of God and I need to show it more respect.

I am beautiful. My body is amazing. I will share this image with pride knowing that it is a truly beautiful moment that my children and their children can treasure for generations.

motherhood is beautiful| smithsquad.com | love your mom body | Exist in photographs
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

Mom’s please love yourselves. Love your bodies for the amazing things that they do. Don’t hide from the camera or hide away the photos because you are ashamed. There is no shame in motherhood. You are beautiful even with 20 extra pounds, no make-up and messy hair. Motherhood is beautiful in every shape and size. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate it. Show your children the beauty that created them. Give them something to treasure for the rest of their lives. Exist in photographs, it is the best gift you can give after giving them life.

I would love to document these moments for you. Whether it’s a birth, newborn, or family life session I promise you we will walk away with a treasured memory. Contact me for more information.

Have you ever had a photo of yourself that you judged too harshly? What amazing things has your mom body done? I’d love to see your favorite documentary images of yourself! Share links in the comments so I can check them out. 

Why I Hired a Birth Photographer

When I had my first child the idea of photographing the occasion never even entered my mind. I don’t think I had ever heard of a birth photographer at that point. I didn’t own a camera and this was before the days of decent quality cell phone cameras. I do not have one single picture of him in the hospital. By the time baby number two made her appearance 5 years later Cameron at least managed to get a few cell phone photos. They are tiny and bad quality, but at least I have a few images of her sweet little face.

Each subsequent child has been the same. I few photos taken in the hospital after birth by Daddy. Maybe 1-2 of me holding the baby looking awful. All of them poor quality. As much as dad tries he just isn’t a photographer. His composition often leaves much to be desired, and the auto setting on the camera can’t capture the moment in the way that I want to see it.

Then with baby #6, and my first homebirth, we didn’t get one single picture on the day of his birth. After almost two hours of start and stop labor when he decided to come it was fast, and neither one of us even thought about picking up a camera! The first pictures I have of Jack are the next day when we were visiting with Grandpa and Grandma. I am so angry at myself!

I was determined not to let that happen with the next baby. When I was in labor with Wally I got out my camera, set all the settings where I wanted them, and placed it on the counter. We were not going to forget again! Cameron snapped a few pictures of me in labor and after he delivered the baby he grabbed the camera and snapped a few more. I LOVE those pictures. Seeing myself in those precious moments is such an amazing gift, but like The Little Mermaid “I want more!”

With my most recent birth I determined that I was going to have a birth photographer. I was incredibly fortunate to find Elsa Shaw, a wonderful photographer and person. We met before hand and really clicked. When I was in labor I called her up and she rushed right on over. Unfortunately Miss Hannah decided that she was quite eager to enter the world and arrived just a few minutes before Elsa did. Elsa still got some amazing photos of those precious moments right after birth. Since she wasn’t there very long that night she offered to come back the next day when the siblings came to meet baby. I have NEVER had any pictures with the entire family in them meeting the baby. There has always been a parent or older child missing from them because someone has to hold the camera.

These photographs are completely priceless to me. They show me my own strength. They tell Hannah the story of her amazing birth. They remind me of the nobility in motherhood. They tell a story to others about the value of motherhood. They will exist long after I am gone to remind Hannah and her children that they are part of a family that loves them dearly.

Thank you Elsa! You have given me the most amazing gift that I have ever received by documenting these moments for me.

5 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Your Muchness

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My last post was about my feelings as I lost and then reclaimed my muchness. Today’s post is all about how I got my muchness back. Each person has a unique journey ahead of them, but here are a few simple steps anyone can take to help them create their own new path.

5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Your Muchness | Smithsquad.com | Alice in Wonderland quote | Mad Hatter | Finding your life's purpose

Recognize What You Have Lost

I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out that it was because I had changed. It was so easy to blame things on my circumstances and relationships. It was much harder to look inward and take responsibility for my own happiness in life. Instead of saying if only I had more money, if only I had a better relationship with my spouse, if only I didn’t have an ex, if only… I started looking back on my childhood and asked myself what about me has changed? What things am I doing differently? What things did I love that I have now given up? What talents have I buried instead of growing? Identifying what exactly it was about me that had changed, and whether those changes were good or bad led me to then ask myself. What can I change?

Identify What You Need

As you look at the changes that you’ve made for the worse you can identify what you need to change about yourself to find more fulfillment in life. Maybe you need to speak up for yourself more. Maybe you need to pursue a talent or passion that you once had. Maybe you need to leave an abusive situation. Maybe you need to work more hours, or less. Only you know what exactly it is that you need. Ask yourself is there anything that I used to love as a kid that I no longer do? Are there any specific character traits I had as a child that I wish I hadn’t lost? Is there any knowledge that I wish I had pursued? What did I want to be when I grew up and do I still want that?

Find a Great Mentor and Support System

Change is hard for anyone. When you are suffering from a lost of muchness you often find that your gumption for making change has been completely eradicated. This is when it is crucial to surround yourself with those who can lift you up and keep you going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. Sure a good rant to a supportive friend is great and necessary, but you also need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

My first steps into discovering who I am were prodded along by Jeff Jochum. He is the king of the question why? Dig deeper, why do you want/feel/need that? He can be quite aggravating at times, but that’s exactly what I needed at that point. Someone who didn’t put up with any excuses and made me ask myself the hard questions. At that point I knew I needed to make changes, but I was still afraid. I continued to build up my support base with an AMAZING church leader, a few close supportive friends, and a weekly women’s support group at church. About a year after working with Jeff I had the opportunity to attend a class at the CreativeLive studio with Julia Kelleher called The Creative Newborn Studio. At the beginning of the class she gave each of us some clay and told us to just create something. It didn’t matter what it was just create. It was such a freeing experience. I was right back in childhood and having a blast. I was proud of my cute little creations. As her class continued the focus on being artistic really opened up a desire I had stuffed down for far too long. I wanted to create. I needed to create. I was then given an amazing opportunity work with Christine Tremoulet in her Blogging Brilliantly course. I thought I was in for a great course on using blogging to help build my business. What I got was so much more. She really focused on making your brand YOU and that meant that I had to find me. She has been an amazingly supportive mentor and cheerleader and still pushes me to keep digging deeper and doing better. She is also the one who helped me create a clearly defined purpose for my life.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. That is where the true joy is found, in having and working towards a good and deep purpose. I’m not talking about a specific goal like making 100,000 a year or creating 100 art pieces. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose and you are working it suddenly so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much. Just as every person is unique so are our life purposes. What really helped me refine my purpose was creating a manifesto. This was something I did as a part of Christine’s Blogging Brilliantly class. She had me write down hundreds of statements in different forms and answering different questions. I then cut out all of those statements onto wordstrips and sorted them to decide what were my top thoughts and ideas that had to be included. My manifesto is below and you can read Christine’s manifesto here.

What is my purpose? I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, photography, and art as I care for my own large family. This isn’t just a one time achieve it and I’m done goal. This is a purpose that can and does drive me in everything I do.

My manifesto| SmithSquad.com| I Believe in the nobility of motherhood
Creating a series of I Believe statements can help you to identify your purpose in life.

Take Action

This is usually the hardest part of the entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change adn dream about a change. It’s also very easy to come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it. It’s scary, it’s hard, and sometimes it looks near impossible. This is, once again, where an amazing support system comes into play. I clearly remember the conference call with Christine where she suggested I back away form being a full time photographer and focus on my blog. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood. She could feel my frustration that the needs of my large family, which are very important to me, were hampering my ability to make my business a real success. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home, blogging adn art, and keeping photography and a fun hobby rather than a business it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action, however, even though I knew it was the right action to take. It was very hard to give up that dream of being a full time birth and family photographer. Because I know and embrace my life’s purpose, however, I am able to refocus and accept that maybe that will happen at a later season in my life. I still fear that no one will want to read what I have to write. There are days when I suffer from some major imposter syndrome as I write. There are sometimes days on end where I look at my art supplies and just walk away because the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it becomes easier and easier.

 

You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something that we lose and never get back. It is somethign that we can strive to achieve and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a divine purpose and that we are creating the path that will help us fulfill it. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your happiness. It is the process of shedding the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards and instead creating our own ideals.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found.

Have you lost your muchness? Will you commit here and now to seek it out? Have you reclaimed your muchness? Have you found your purpose in life? What is it?

Birth Story #8-Fastest Labor Yet

My labors always tend to be pretty fast and intense, but this birth story takes the cake for fastest one yet!

Hannah's Birth story- All natural hospital birth with baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | My fastest labor yet!

On Saturday night we went to a friends house for dinner. These were the friends that had volunteered to take our kids when we went to the hospital. I had been having contractions for about two days, but they were only 2-3 in an hour and not very intense. While at their house they got a bit stronger, but not any more often. At about 9 o’clock we packed the kids up and headed home. Cameron had met me there after work, so we each had our own car.

Not quite sure why, but getting in the car triggered something. Contractions immediately were strong and frequent. I pulled up my contraction timer app on my phone and they were timing at every 2.5-3.5 minutes. I got home before Cameron, he had to stop to get gas, and told the kids to go get dressed in their Sunday clothes. (Check out my post in Calming the Sunday Morning Chaos if that sounds totally weird to you) when Cam walked in the door I asked him to call our friends and tell them we were coming back with kids. “Now?” “Yes, NOW!”

We loaded the kids back in the car and drove over to drop them off. By this time contractions were getting hard to breathe through, especially while sitting buckled in the car! As Cameron unloaded kids I stood up and leaned over the front seat to make them a bit more manageable. I also retrieved my Serenity and Clary Sage essential oils from my bag which for some reason I thought should be placed in the very back of the van.

We got back in the car to drive the additional 20 minutes to the hospital. It was really killing me to not be able to use my typical pain management techniques of walking, rocking on the birth ball, and hot water. I was NOT handling the pain well at all and was even having a hard time reminding myself to breathe. You would think that being my eighth baby I’d be a pro, but it’s new each time and for some reason I just could not get myself into a good headspace this time.

We arrived at the hospital shortly before 11 and went to the desk. They immediately got me a wheelchair and printed up my forms. At this point I was hitting transition, they had Cameron sign the forms and quickly got me into labor and delivery. The nurses told me later that as I was rolled past their desk I looked calm so they thought I had a few hours. “Then we heard you and came running!”

As I was wheeled into the room I stood up to the edge of the bed and loudly said “Cameron she’s coming NOW!” Thankfully one thing I AM a pro at is letting my body take over when it comes to the point of pushing. I managed to get myself onto the bed for hands and knees, my favorite pushing position, as the nurses ran into the room. She was already crowning and I was still dressed! Cameron took care of the clothes as the nurses caught the head. Two good pushes and Hannah arrived at 11:07 pm.

At that point I mentally checked out. Everything had happened so fast and I hadn’t really been in control the way I had in the past. My brain just had to shut down for a few minutes. Within a few minutes of baby arriving the birth photographer got there. unfortunately she missed the big show, but she got some beautiful shots of the moments right after birth.

Natural birth story, baby #8 | SmithSquad.com | natural hospital birth | Fast labor | Mother and father bond over new baby
Yep, we made that! Photo courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

The on call doctor came in at that point, because my midwife was in the middle of delivering another baby, to deliver the placenta and check us all out. I found out later that the baby my midwife was delivering was also born at exactly 11:07. She said that had never happened to her before! One thing I absolutely LOVED about Athens Regional Hospital was that they have a policy of immediate skin to skin for a minimum of one hour. We ended up snuggling for over two hours before being separated for just a few moments so that I could clean up and be moved to the mother baby unit. They respected my wish for no first bath and took us both to the new room together, no nursery visit needed. The nursery nurse came to our room to do her assessments and Hannah never had to leave my side.

It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I do this every story is completely different. Birth is such an amazing and powerful experience. It literally just took me over this time. I am incredibly grateful that my experience allowed me to just fully surrender my body to the process and let nature do its job. No tearing, no trauma, and a beautiful perfect baby as a reward. What could possibly be better?

Peace baby | SmithSquad | natural hospital birth | Athens Regional Hospital | newborn baby gives peace sign
She’s already a cool cat. Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography.

If you’d like to read my other birth stories they are all on the blog as well

Baby 1

Baby 2

Baby 3

Baby 4

Baby 5

Baby 6

Baby 7

Have you written out your birth stories? I’d love to read them. Drop a link in the comments!

Mothers- You are Amazing!

Mothers, when was the last time someone told you how incredible you are?

I see it every day, posts about how we are failing. My baby isn’t nursing, I had to supplement. My baby hasn’t learned to walk yet. How many words does your baby say? My four-year old can’t read! My eight year old won’t listen to me. My 10-year-old is refusing to do housework. I lost my temper today and I feel awful.

Help, what do I do, I feel like a failure.

You Are Not Failing!

Dear sweet mom, you are not failing. You are doing your best, and that is all your child expects from you. Just as every adult has their strengths and weaknesses, so does every child. My son, who turns 7 in a few weeks, struggles to read, but he can do multiplication problems in his head. My 8-year-old daughter is halfway through the Harry Potter series and an amazing artist. She struggles to do addition. They don’t struggle because I am a failure. They struggle because their brains work differently. It isn’t a competition, and I don’t need to be comparing them to each other or anyone else.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; very few people are actually judging you, and those who are don’t matter.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said:

The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work…Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones…Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.

One young mother wrote to me recently that…she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task…But one thing, she said, keeps her going: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him.”

Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be…You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging.

*Read the full talk here

Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership With God| SmithSquad.com | You are not a failure | Are We not all motehrs? | Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Mom’s please don’t be so hard on yourselves. The perfect mother doesn’t exist. No one can do it all, all the time, without any mistakes. Some of us may hide it better than others, but the truth of the matter is we’re all just making it up as we go! I am having baby number eight in a few weeks, and I still struggle with how to teach and discipline number seven. They’re all different, and each time I add another the rules change. My mom had six. She often doesn’t know what advice to give me when I call her in tears because I don’t’ know what to do with one of my children. “I never did figure that out.” She says.

Mom’s please love, respect, and forgive yourselves. You are amazing in every way. You stumble, you fall, you fail, but you get up and you keep going because what you are doing is the most important job in the world. It is an eternal partnership with God. He gave you his children and he will hold your hand and lead you as you attempt to do the best you can at raising them.

Are We Not all Mothers?

Are we not all mothers?| SmithSquad.com | You don't have to give birth to be a mother | Happy mother's Day to all the aunts, sisters, and friends who mother children in need

On this special weekend where we celebrate all mothers let us not forget the grandmothers, aunts, friends, and all women everywhere who love , support, and lift up our children. Motherhood does not have to begin with birth. All to often the best mothers in this life do not ever bear their own children. Motherhood is not about being pregnant and giving birth. Motherhood is that divine calling that we as women feel to love and nurture those around us. All too often children are left alone, unloved, misunderstood. To all those who step in to love and encourage them, thank you, you are their mothers and their heroes.

If you can’t celebrate your own mother then take the time to celebrate those women in your life who were there for you, who made a difference in your life. If you can’t celebrate your own genetic children then celebrate those little ones in your life whom you love so deeply. If this day is a day of pain or sadness for you then embrace it, let it in, let it carry you away. It is ok to mourn that which we did not have, or have not been given. Then pick up tomorrow and be the amazing woman who you are.

A few years ago I asked children “What is a Mother?” and created a video with their responses. I decided it was time to create a new version. I hope you enjoy the beautiful, and funny, responses from the mouths of babes.

Natural Birth- My Story and Favorite Resources

Why and How I Chose Natural Birth

If you’ve read any of my birth stories you know that I am a huge fan of drug free birth whenever possible. When I was pregnant with my first my mother told me a little about her birth experiences. She had an epidural with the first five kids and then was all natural for the 6th. She told me that if she could go back she would do them all without. Now this isn’t because she had super hero syndrome, as some people like to say those of us who choose natural birth do, it was because with the comparison of both ways behind her she could see the advantages of a medication free birth.

How and Why I chose Natural Birth and some of my favorite resources to prepare for and manage the pain | SmithSquad.com

When I had my first I hadn’t decided what I was going to do, but I had the discussion with my mother in the back of my mind. When they asked me if I wanted an epidural I thought about that giant needle in my back (shudder) and my mother’s words and said no thanks. I did, however accept their offer for IV narcotics. I had the IV meds with each of my first three babies. In all three they did nothing to relieve the pain, they just made me loopy and silly so that I didn’t care.

With baby #4 I was determined not to cave to those IV meds again, I didn’t like the way they separated me from the experience. It was almost as if I was watching someone else do the work of bringing a baby to earth. I also didn’t like the way they affected my second baby when they were administered too close to when she was born. They made her very sleepy and she refused to eat causing her to lose way too much weight in the first few days. This is also when I first started doing research in to how to have a pleasant natural birth and why anyone would want one to begin with. I learned about pain management techniques, different positions, and the reasons why in order to keep me committed.

Natural Birth Resources and Supplies |SmithSquad.com | Pain management in labor | Essential oils | Breathing | Study Methods
Me and my mommy

Here are a few of my favorite resources and techniques for achieving an enjoyable natural birth:

Natural Birth Books

There are tons of great books out there to help you prepare for a natural birth. My favorite is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Ina May is the most well-known home birth midwife in the United States and her insights are amazing. I love how she shares so many positive, yet completely different birth stories in the beginning of the book. Here is a list of the other books I’ve read and enjoyed or which have come highly recommended from other natural birth enthusiasts.


Natural Birth Pain Management

There are so many ways to manage pain from breathing to hypnosis, counter pressure to essential oils. I personally use mainly a birth ball, hot water, breathing, and oils. Believe it or not I had never even tried counter pressure until baby #7. Oh boy was it magical! You’d better believe I’ll be putting the hubs to work on that one with baby #8 due in 3.5 weeks! All of the books listed above will provide you with tips and techniques. Here are a few of my favorite products for pain management.

Natural Birth Study Courses

I personally never used a specific method, but many mothers find that studying and preparing for a specific technique really helps them. The main home study courses available are Hypnobabies and Hypnobirth. There are also several classroom options including Birth Boot Camp (also has online class options), Bradley Method, and Lamaze.

 

What helps you through a natural childbirth? What resources would you want to share with first time moms who are considering natural birth? If you are a first time mom what are your biggest fears and questions related to natural childbirth?

Lead Me, Guide Me Parenting

One of my favorite songs that my children sing at church has the line “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.” It is a plea to their parents to guide them through this life in a way that will bring them back to their Heavenly Father. Each time I hear this song I ask myself “Am I practicing positive lead me, guide me parenting?” Lead me, guide me parenting | Smithsquad.com | PArenting without threats, bribes, nagging, and fighting

Do as I say, Not as I do

It is very easy to get into bad habits of authoritarian demands, bribes and punishments, and do as I say not as I do parenting. Our world seems to celebrate this type of parenting. Public shaming has become somethign to praise and taking away a 3 year old’s ice cream and dumping it in the trash is the proper response for them forgetting to say thank you. I see these stories posted on social media and all the comments praising them and I wonder when did we go so wrong? When did we decide that children needed to be perfect little compliant robots that behave better than most of the adults caring for them? When did we decide it was perfectly acceptable for us to throw an adult temper tantrum as we rant at our kids, but completely unacceptable for them to voice a single whine or complaint? We complain about how horrible our boss is when he treats us unkindly, yet turn around and treat our children the same way. What if instead of punishing, threatening, yelling, and shaming we set the example and really walked beside them to show them the way?

Lead Me, Guide Me Parenting

Lead me, guide me parenting | Smithsquad.com | PArenting without threats, bribes, nagging, and fighting | Family work instead of chores
Dad setting the example and working hard with the kids

Lead me, guide me parenting doesn’t mean that there are no expectations, limits or consequences. It simply means that we set the proper example and enforce boundaries with love, compassion and education instead of threats, shaming, and punishment. We show our children the way we want them to treat others by treating our children with respect and kindness. We teach them compassion by serving them and involving them when we serve others. We teach them gratitude when we thank them for the good things they do or the the help they provide. We teach them to work by working together as a family and letting them see our hard work. When misbehavior occurs we take the time to talk to them, understand their feelings, and help them work out a better way to handle the situation. When simple manners are forgotten we take the initiative to say thank you and then prompt our children to voice their gratitude as well if they don’t follow our lead.

What Does Lead, Me Guide Me Look Like?

Lead me, guide me parenting| SmithSquad.com | setting the example for my children |
Working on art with my daughter teaches her it’s ok to take time to follow your passions.

Situation: A child is required to read for 10 minutes per day

Do as I say solution: If you read for 10 minutes you will earn your piece of candy. If you do not read then you must stand in the corner until you are ready to do your reading.

Lead me, guide me solution: The parent sits down and reads with the child. They may read aloud, have the child read aloud, or simply each read their own book next to each other.

Situation: Two children are fighting over a toy, yelling and hitting each other

Do as I say solution: Take the toy away, spank both children and send them to time out

Lead me, guide me solution: Place the toy on your lap and sit in between the two children. Give them each a chance to talk and ask what is going on. After they each get a turn to tell their side of the story ask them for possible solutions, and suggest solutions if they need your help. Settle on a solution as a team.

Situation: A child is throwing a fit in public because they were told no

Do as I say solution: Loudly inform the child that they are naughty, embarrassing, and in trouble. Angrily remove them from the situation. Give a punishment for being “bad”.

Lead me, guide me solution: Take the child in your arms and say “I know it is disappointing when we don’t get what we want. Let’s take a deep breath together and calm down.” Offer to sing a song, snuggle, or connect to the child in a way that is calming to them. If the child can not or will not be calmed then remove them from the situation quietly and calmly.

Situation: A child forgets to say thank you after being given a treat

Do as I say solution: Take the treat away informing the child that they don’t deserve it

Lead me, guide me solution: Model gratefulness by thanking the person yourself. If the child does not follow suit then gently remind them “Did you forget to say something?” or “Did you remember to thank Sue for the treat?”

Situation: The house is a mess and needs to be cleaned up for visitors

Do as I say solution: Parents rant at the children for being so messy and not keeping up with their chores. Each child is assigned a chore and parents threaten, bribe, and talk talk talk at the kids to keep the moving and get the work complete.

Lead me, guide me solution: The entire family takes one section of the house at a time and works together to get it clean. Parents are pitching in as well and take the opportunity to play, sing, or simply talk with their children as they work.

None of Us is Perfect

Lead me, guide me parenting | SmithSquad.com | We are all just children doing our best to navigate this world
We are all just children doing the best we can to navigate this world.

Now in case you have any notion that I’m this saintly patient mom let me tell you I am nowhere near perfect at remembering to use these approaches. I raise my voice way more often than I should. I have punished when I should have taught. I have forgotten to say thank you or gone days without reading anything other than Facebook. It’s ok. Just as my children are a work in progress so am I. As I forgive myself and give myself permission to be imperfect it is much easier to do the same for my children. The key to all of this is to remember that just as I fall short in meeting the expectations of my Heavenly Father my children will also fall short in meeting my expectations. I need to give them the same grace, patience, and love that I want my Father to give to me.

Resources

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Of course there is far more to this than what can be written in one blog post. Here are some resources that have really helped me over the last few years.

Love and Logic– A wonderful book that talks about how to use both love and logic to establish control in your home without threats, nagging, fighting, etc. They also post great stuff on their Facebook page. There are also versions of the book specifically for young children, teens, and classrooms.

The Dirty Little Secret About Children and Chores– A wonderful blog post about chores vs. family work by Donna Goff.

When Anger Hurts– A book about how controlling those around you with anger can damage both them and yourself.

Parenting Isn’t for Cowards– Focuses on logical steps you can take to bring more peace and joy into the parent/child relationship.

Parenting the Ephraim’s Child– Did you know that the tribe of Ephraim was the most rebellious and difficult of the 12 tribes of Israel? This book focuses on taking those traits which are considered weaknesses and seeing them as “a strength in need of refinement.”

The Five Love Languages for Children– Everyone gives and receives love in different ways. Understanding whether your child needs words of affirmation, physical touch or another love language will help you fill their needs as well as identify how they are constantly showing their love for you.

What resources have you used and loved to help improve your relationships with your children? In what way do you already practice lead me, guide me parenting and in what ways would you like to improve?

What’s in my Hospital bag?

I can’t believe baby #8 is due in 4 weeks! Seems like the perfect time for a blog post about what’s in my hospital bag. With 5 hospital births under my belt I think I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I need and what I don’t. With my first kid we actually wheeled in a small suitcase lol. With this one I probably won’t even fill my backpack.

I usually wait to pack a hospital bag until I’m actually in labor. It gives me something to do to keep busy and not focus on obsessively timing contractions. I’m pretty good at it by now, so it is calming, not stressful. If you’re a first or second time mom you may want to at least make a list of what needs to be in your hospital bag even if you wait till the last moment to actually pack it.

What's in my Hospital Bag with baby #8 | smithSquad.com |Large Family | Birth | Natural Birth

Hospital Bag for Mom

Kindle- One of the best ways for me to relax in labor and stay entertained after baby is born is by reading a great book. I like having my Kindle Fire because it is small and can carry a ton of books. I can also use it to connect to hospital WiFi and give play by play updates of labor for the family and instantly post all the adorable brand new baby pictures I am sure to take. If reading isn’t your thing bring something that will give you a bit of entertainment/distraction like coloring supplies, music, playing cards, travel games, etc.

2-3 each comfy yoga/pajama pants and t-shirts- I’m not trying to impress anyone, I’m just trying to be comfortable! I really like the roll top waist yoga pants because they are great for adjusting to that post partum belly. If you get the ones with a little compression it can also help hold everything in when you’re feeling all jiggly and out of sorts. With my first I flattened right out in a few days, but my hips had spread and I never fit into my old jeans again. With each baby it’s taken longer to lose that pregnant look. You should just expect to look about 4 months pregnant when you get home and plan your clothing accordingly. If you want something nicer to wear for pictures or the ride home then bring a pair of your maternity pants. You won’t be putting on those pre-pregnancy clothes for a while. It’s also nice to have comfy flip flops/sandals or slip on shoes.

2 Nursing bras- I usually use only one in the few days I’m there, but it’s always great to have a back-up just in case you have any leaking, spit-up, or other mess. My favorite daytime bras are Bravado and for night a comfy nursing tank is great to have. I have also heard great things about the Cake brand nursing bras, though I haven’t tried them myself.

Travel size toiletries- Most hospitals will give you soap and shampoo for your first shower, but they aren’t the best quality and sometimes smell funny. I prefer to have my own favorite brands with me so I can really enjoy that first post-partum shower. It really does feel glorious to get clean in nice hot water after doing all that work of bringing a baby Earthside. Rather than find the small bottles of each of my favorite things I prefer to just get small travel bottles and fill them with the big bottles from my shower. And don’t forget the toothbrush, hairbrush, hair ties, chapstick, etc. that you use daily.

Snacks- The rules against eating in labor are a bunch of bologna and I always ignore them. I make sure to eat a good meal before I leave for the hospital and have a few snacks in my bag as well. Granola bars are my favorite. Carbs for instant energy and protein to get me through the marathon. If you aren’t a rebel and don’t want to eat in labor honey sticks are a great option for a little burst of energy if you start feeling drained. Plus they are really yummy! I also find that the three meals a day schedule of the hospitals doesn’t work for a breastfeeding mom. I am always STARVING before the next meal gets there. Having snacks to get me through from one meal to the next is crucial.

Essential Oils- I have a few oils that I really like to use in labor. I personally use DoTerra oils. Clary sage diluted in coconut oil is rubbed on my belly to help strengthen and regulate contractions, it is also very calming and helps a bit with pain relief. I then like to put Serenity oil on one wrist and Lemon oil on the other. The serenity oil helps me relax and breathe deep through contractions while the lemon is a refreshing pick me up.

Things you probably don’t need- Don’t bother with pads or underwear unless you are just super emotionally attached to your cute panties. The hospital will provide awesome huge pads and these cool comfy mesh underwear. They aren’t cute, but they work awesome! Some mom’s really want their own pillow, but I would recommend leaving it in the car when you go in. If you want it you can send your support person down to get it. I wouldn’t bring it into the delivery room at all because it’s likely to get messy! Don’t bring any clothes that you don’t want to ruin. Between baby blowouts, spit-up and your own blood chances are just about anything you wear in the hospital is going to come home with a stain on it.

Hospital Bag for Baby

New Baby Must Haves- Muslin Swaddle Blankets | SmithSquad.com | What things are absolutely necessary on a tight budget or in a tiny space?

Muslin swaddle blankets- These are #1 on my list of favorite baby products. The muslin blankets are so much easier to swaddle with than the hospital blankets, and way cuter too. You can use just one if it’s warm and layer then if it’s cold. They also make great spit up rags.

Going Home/Photo outfit- You don’t need a bunch of clothes for baby. While you are there it’s easiest for them to do all their routine checks if you just keep baby in the simple undershirt that they provide and swaddle them. The only clothes you will need is if you want something cute for photos and/or going home.

Things you probably don’t need- Yep, that’s really the end of my list for baby. The hospital provides a nose sucker, diapers, wipes, diaper cream, undershirts, etc. so you really don’t need much at all. They also let you take the extras from the opened packages with you, so you don’t even need diapers and wipes for the trip home. If you need a warm fuzzy you can always call and ask the hospital about what they provide and what brands in case you have any specific preferences.

Hospital bag for dad/support partner

He’s on his own- kidding….sort of. I don’t pack my husband’s bag, he really is on his own, but here are a few suggestions of things they may want to bring.

Camera- I can not believe how many times we have forgotten this! Thank goodness for cell phones with cameras! 8 years ago when Maddy was born they were pretty horrible quality. Now days a cell phone camera is perfectly adequate for basic shots to share with friends. Of course the better the camera the better the shots you will get. This time around I am finally getting a birth photographer to attend, but I will also be bringing my own camera for shots before she gets there and after she leaves. I personally shoot with and love my Sony A6000. Nice and compact, but great quality and every bit as much control as a full size DSLR.

Change of Clothes- Even if you have support people that are not planning to stay long after the birth it’s always good for them to have a change of clothes just in case. You never know how long a labor will last.

Toiletries- At a minimum they will probably want a toothbrush and hairbrush. If they are planning to stay with you the entire time then they will probably need their travel size soaps and shampoos as well.

Entertainment- While their primary role is to support you there may be moments where you just want everyone to leave you alone! It’s always good for your support person to bring a book, magazine, paperwork or something else to keep themselves busy if needed.

Miscellaneous items you may need

There are also a few things you should throw in the car for just in case scenarios. It’s great to have a small homebirth kit in case you don’t make it to the hospital in time. These small kits have gloves, a cord clamp, a pad to put under mom and a few other items to help out in an emergency birth situation. It’s also great to read up on what to do in a birth situation  in advance just in case. You will, of course, also need a carseat to bring baby home in, and depending on the weather may need warm blankets as well.

As you can see my list is rather minimalistic. I prefer to have a small bag and not much to worry about when I’m there. Is there anything you feel is a necessity that I forgot? What are your favorite bras, snacks, clothes, etc?