Tuesday, December 23, 2014

On Birth Plans

My fourth baby is due in a month, and I've been writing my birth plan today. I know this isn't subject matter you normally come here to read, but it's what I'm thinking about, and so it's what I'm writing about. I'm assuming most of you are moms like me, anyway. If you're not, well, feel free to skip this!

Why do I write a birth plan? I suppose that on the surface of things, I'd be a person who has little need of one. Thanks be to God, my pregnancies and births to this point have been uncomplicated. I have had nothing but good experiences with the nurses and doctors at our local hospital. Everyone seems very concerned to make sure my wishes are followed.

When I began my journey to being a mother for the first time, I was obsessed with learning everything I could about pregnancy and birth. I read all the books, I researched endlessly on-line. I watched YouTube birth videos (I could never imagine videoing one of my own births, but I was very happy to watch other, braver people for the sake of self-education.). My husband gently mocked my "Hippie Mama" tendencies. I emerged with many questions for my doctor, many concerns (such as the 30% Caesarian rate here), and a decision to write a birth plan so that I could be in control of things and have a natural birth, Lord willing.

As it happened, my first baby was five weeks early. I didn't have much ready for him, much less a birth plan. Looking back, I'm thankful for that. I think it would only have reflected my ignorance at that point. When it comes down to it, you can read and research and learn all about everything related to childbirth, but nothing can prepare you for its reality, its pain, its power, its wonder. I did have a few uncomfortable experiences that informed later birth plans, but no one questioned my choice to have a natural birth, and on the whole it was a positive experience.

Since then, I have written birth plans for each of my children's births. I bring them in to my OB/Gyn about a month before I'm due so we can discuss any issues. I also take a copy in to the hospital when I go into labour. As my birth experiences have all been positive so far, my confidence has risen and my birth plans have become relatively short. However, I still would prefer not to go without one, and I would recommend having one to any mother-to-be for several reasons:

My birth plan introduces me to the staff on call at the hospital. 
Here on P.E.I., I am privileged to see the same doctor throughout my pregnancies. This doctor gets to know me and my preferences quite well. However, the staff at the hospital is on rotation, so I may or may not see my own doctor. The nurses are usually wonderful, but again, do not know me. My birth plan is a quick and easy way for them to begin to get an idea of what I'm like as a person, a patient, and a mother without having to ask a lot of questions.

My birth plan is the beginning of a relationship of mutual respect.
I'm always quite careful about the tone of my birth plan. It's very easy for it to be all negative: I don't want this done, I don't want that done, I don't want the other thing done. However, I want the nurses and doctor to understand immediately that I am grateful for their expertise, and I will listen to them and respect their opinions when I make my decisions. On the other hand, I expect them to respect my experience as a mother, and follow my wishes for my birth as far as they can.

My birth plan is based on my experience.
After my first baby, my birth plans have always reflected what I know about myself in labour. I know that I don't feel like talking much when I'm in labour. (That's why a birth plan is such a good idea for me!) I know that in the heat of the moment, I'm going to be so out of it (or inside myself) that I'm not going to care what my birth preferences were before I went into labour. But if I have a birth plan, the nurses care, and they continue to follow my wishes even then. This fact amazed me the first time I noticed it, but it confirmed my decision to continue writing birth plans.

My birth plan lets the staff know that I know my rights.
I know that the doctors and nurses here are committed to informed consent. However, I have also seen enough stories online where in the urgency of the moment, informed consent was not obtained. I don't expect that to happen here thanks to my good experiences so far, but in my birth plan, I do spell out what I want to know when any intervention is suggested or needed. I see it as a gentle reminder that I expect my right to informed consent to be respected.

You're probably curious as to what my actual birth plan looks like now, so I'll include it here. The questions for informed consent came from this website.


Birth Plan for N. P.
Due January 26, 2015
Ob/Gyn: Dr. F.

I've written this birth plan so you can help me achieve my goal of a natural birth. This will be my fourth child, and all of my birth experiences have been good ones. I have always appreciated the way the nurses and doctors here have supported me in my choice to have natural births without drugs or other interventions, and the way they have coached me through the few moments when I truly needed it.

Preferences for Labour, Delivery, and Afterwards:

- Please keep internal exams to a minimum (ideally no more than once when I come in, and once when I feel the urge to push.).

- Please keep monitoring that involves me lying down to a minimum as well. I find it easier to cope with the pain when I'm able to move.

- I appreciate being left alone with my husband as much as possible as I labour.

- I am not planning on using anything for pain relief. I have managed through my first three births, so I’m not anticipating that will change now. If I'm losing control in transition or in the pushing stage, I do appreciate nurses taking charge and telling me (firmly, if necessary) what to do and how to breathe. This has helped immensely in the past.

- I have been a fairly efficient pusher with my first three babies. (20 minutes with the first baby, 5 with the second, less than that with the third.) You might want to be ready for that once transition hits. (And if it comes up, I’d rather have the nurse catch the baby than try to hold back on pushing.)

- I will be exclusively breastfeeding this baby (as I have all three so far). I would appreciate time for my husband and me to bond with the baby and for me to try to establish breastfeeding immediately after the birth.


I do realize that things do not always go as planned. Whenever possible, I would like the opportunity to discuss any interventions with the doctor. I realize you probably have protocols for informed consent, but I’d still like to spell out what I will want to know:

- Is this an emergency, or do we have time to talk?
- What are the benefits of doing this?
- What are the risks?
- If we do this, what other procedures or treatments might I end up needing as a result?
- What else can you suggest we try first or instead?
- What would happen if we waited an hour or two before doing it?
- What would happen if we didn't do it at all?


How about you? Have you used birth plans? I'd be very interested in comparing experiences!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some Things We've Been Enjoying Together

The boys and I have been watching the Nutcracker ballet on YouTube. It took us three sessions of watching for half an hour at a time. We all liked it. To be honest, this is the first time I've seen the Nutcracker ballet in its entirety myself, so I don't know how it compares with any other production.

My husband and I enjoyed listening to Dylan Thomas reading his own "A Child's Christmas in Wales" one evening last week. I love this for so many reasons...his voice! his sense of humour, his obvious pleasure in his own words.

We also discovered some more wonderful new-to-us books for our picture book advent calendar.
Stephen's Feast is a beautiful prose retelling of "Good King Wenceslas." We are also enjoying Ruth Bell Graham's One Wintry Night. This is a longer book with more chapters to be spread out over the advent season.

A friend gave us the gift of a Jacquie Lawson advent calendar this year, and the boys have been having so much fun with it! It's a computer download, and every day the children can open up something new to watch or do. There are puzzles to put together, snowflakes to decorate, places to explore, and many more things that are fun for people of all ages.

And lastly, we've been enjoying baking! I tried out the pannetone (Italian Christmas bread) recipe from Joy of Cooking last week. We also made several batches of cookies together: raspberry almond thumbprints, chocolate caramel thumbprints, speculaas, and mini lemon sandwiches.

Now, lest you think our Christmas season is going like a dream, I'm going to have to spend the next two days trying to get my house just a little bit neat before we leave to visit family on Christmas Eve...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: SchoolhouseTeachers.com Yearly Membership

If I have to choose between online resources and "real" books and curriculum, I tend to go for paper and ink every time. However, this attitude can be very limiting on a small budget! Even this early in my homeschooling journey (my oldest child is six), I have already found myself using inexpensive online resources more than I ever expected to.

I recently had an opportunity to explore SchoolhouseTeachers.com, an online subscription to a wide variety of curriculum, classes and resources offered by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. One subscription for your entire family costs only $139 annually. There is also the option to subscribe monthly at $12.95, but having seen the breadth of the resources offered, I think the Yearly Membership is your best bet to do justice to it. (Scroll down for a special sale on from now until Christmas.) There are parent resources and curriculum for preschool all the way through high school, including over 100 courses ranging in length from a few weeks to an entire year. The subscription format allows you to use as much or as little of what is available on the site as you choose. Whether you use it as your core curriculum or as a supplement, whether you have one child or ten, the price is the same.

Of course, my eye was immediately caught by anything with Charlotte Mason's name on it! My first explorations took me to some Charlotte Mason preschool lesson plans. I was quite impressed. While not every activity included was strictly "Charlotte Mason," I felt the plans reflected Charlotte Mason's own priorities for the early years. The focus was on plenty of time outdoors based on a monthly nature study theme. Several quality picture books were suggested for each month, and a poem to read every day to encourage children to memorize it. I liked that the course did not include a lot of busywork and early academics. There are six months' worth of plans, and I look forward to following at least some of them with my four-year-old when we begin lessons again in January. (By the way, if you are one of those crafty moms and you love getting out the glitter and scissors with your preschoolers, there is plenty of that as well at schoolhouseteachers.com. I was just delighted to find something that fit my non-crafty style, too.)

Next, I read through a course for parents written by Cindy West entitled "Charlotte Mason Homeschooling: Adding a Charlotte Mason Touch to Your Homeschool." My feelings about this course were more mixed. On the plus side, it was very practical. It included many great ideas to get started doing narration, nature study, picture study, developing good habits, and everything else included in Charlotte Mason's methods. It could be a non-intimidating introduction to Charlotte Mason. However, the very thing that first attracted me to Charlotte Mason --the idea that what you believe about children and education (philosophy) matters, and works itself out in the practical (method) -- was nowhere in evidence. The fact that these educational methods and techniques have at their heart a belief that "Children are born persons" was not even hinted at. However, I would still recommend this course to homeschoolers, as long as you don't stop there, but go on to read the books recommended at the end of it!

Another resource Charlotte Mason homeschoolers will find helpful are the "Nature/Outdoors" lessons by Erin Dean. I am very excited about these! With 14 units to choose from, I will definitely be looking here for ideas for whatever nature study focus we happen to be working on throughout the year.

Since math is one of our favourite subjects, we also explored the Elementary Math section of the site. I watched one of the many videos by Dr. Peter Price on how to teach fractions, and then printed off worksheets for my sons: fractions for my six-year-old, and counting for my four-year-old, just so he wouldn't feel left out. Both boys enjoyed the lessons. I am very happy with the math program I'm working with now, but I can see myself using this as an occasional resource. There were monthly archived lessons since September 2012, and lessons are ongoing. The archives are also sorted by grade levels for parents' convenience.

I have hardly scratched the surface of what is available at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you homeschool, you will find something, (probably many somethings!) you can use here. Planners and recipes, monthly reading lists for parents and animated books for young readers, chemistry and creative writing, public speaking, home economics, and Hebrew... and there is so much more. Please check out the experiences other homeschoolers have had with with this resource to start to get an idea of how broad it really is.

If you're interested, SchoolhouseTeachers.com is having a Super Christmas Sale until Christmas day. They are offering 40% off the monthly membership (that makes it $7.77/month) or 50% off the Yearly Membership (now $64.26/year). If you join at this rate, any future renewals will go through at the same rate as long as you keep a continuous membership!

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

SchoolhouseTeachers.com Review

Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Advent Calendar Made of Picture Books

For the past two weeks, my boys have been choosing a book every day from a wrapped stack of Christmas picture books. The boy whose turn it is unwraps the "gift," and we read it aloud at our poetry tea-time.

All of these books come from our local library. I am blessed to be able to reserve books online, and I begin to reserve the books about half-way through November. In order to not tie up a huge number of their Christmas resources at once, I stagger my reservations. I also try to return the books soon after we are done with them so others can borrow them. I think our librarian actually appreciates this, as the books may come from other libraries across the PEI library system, and I return them to my local library. In this way, we help create a flow of Christmas books through our own little library.

I'm not going to list all of the books we use, but I would like to introduce you to some of our very favourites. We use a real variety... books about Jesus' birth are a given, but we also mix in some good picture books that may simply be set at Christmas, or even fantastical tales. I try to make sure the books we use are beautifully written and illustrated.

(I'm going to mention right now: I am not an Amazon associate. I just include these links for your reference. If you have a favourite blogger you like to support in this way, by all means, please buy through their links! One of my favourite Amazon associate blogs is Brandy Vencel's Afterthoughts Blog.)

For Ages Two and Up:

Martin Waddell is a wonderful children's author in general, and his Room for a Little One is very sweet. It is a gentle, imaginative tale about the animals of the stable in which Jesus was born. Beginning with "Kind Ox," each animal welcomes another animal in need to the stable. Finally they welcome a tired donkey along with Joseph and Mary, and ultimately the baby Jesus. The illustrations by Jason Cockcroft are very beautiful as well. I recommend this book for ages two and up.

Two similar choices suitable for the same age group are Who is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate and Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats is another example of a Christmas book by a beloved children's author. While not Christmas-related, I have also used his classic The Snowy Day in our picture book line-up leading up to Christmas.

For Ages Five and Up:

We have a whole list of favourites illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Not only is she an excellent illustrator, but she seems to choose the most wonderful books to illustrate. I have found that any book illustrated by her is almost guaranteed to be well-written as well.

We read and enjoyed The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston and The Remarkable Christmas of the Cobbler's Sons by Ruth Sawyer last year. This year, we added The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden, and I'm sure the boys are going to love it just as much as the others.

Another beautiful story for this age group is The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown. The boys also love The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot (as they love all his stories).

This is the Star by Joyce Dunbar is new to us this year, and I'm not entirely sure what I think of it yet. In the first place, I love the idea of it. It is the story of Jesus' birth structured in the same way as "The House that Jack Built". It is beautifully written, building and building until you come to "This is the child that was born." However, there are a couple of inaccuracies: it mentions that the shepherds saw the star as well as the wise men, and the (three) wise men visit Jesus while he is still in the stable. And I know this is a matter of taste, but I don't love the illustrations by Gary Blythe. Only you can decide if these are deal-breakers for you (and you might love the illustrations, anyway...). I'm on the fence.

Finally, just for fun, we like to include How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. Who doesn't love its rhythm?

For Ages 8 and Up:

It's true, I don't have any children ages 8 and up. But these are my favourites that my boys haven't quite grown into yet.

This may very possibly be my very favourite book on this page. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck is a story of family love so beautifully told that it almost makes me cry every time. That's all I'll say. Check it out.

I also can't wait until my boys have the attention span to really enjoy The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey with me. The illustrations of P.J. Lynch are incredibly beautiful.

(I just noticed! P.J. Lynch also illustrated an edition of O'Henry's classic story The Gift of the Magi. That's another story I am just waiting for my boys to enjoy with me. I can't wait to check it out!)

I hope this gives you some inspiration to share some beautiful picture books with your children. I would love to hear about your favourites, too! Please share them in the comments.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Another Step on the Reading Road

I was reading Who is Coming to Our House? yesterday as part of our picture book Advent calendar, and I remembered that last year, this was one of the first whole books that SA(6) read. It went on his "I Can Read it All By Myself" chart on the wall. We counted the books he read up to 70, and then we gave him a Bible of his own.

Since then, he has read many, many books. He read all the Arnold Lobel books our library had, and then he read all of Cynthia Rylant's Henry and Mudge books they had. We buddy read from Proverbs (in his own Bible, of course!).

Up until recently, all of his reading has been out loud, and with me listening. He would find an interesting library book, and he would ask me, "Can I read this, Mama?" Of course, I would always say yes. Then he would sit down near me and start reading it to me. Sometimes I would challenge him with a book that had smaller print and more words, and he would balk. Then I would offer to read every second page, and that usually was okay with him.

Now, a little less than a year after he really started reading, he has begun to peruse books quietly, on his own. I don't know if he is reading every word, or if he is selectively finding things that interest him. It doesn't really matter to me. It makes me happy to see him sprawled in a chair for half an hour at a time with a book that it would intimidate him to read aloud.

Yesterday, it was Bill Peet's Fly, Homer, Fly. I will always love Bill Peet for his illustrations that made his story so irresistible that this child could not help but read at least some of it for himself.

I still don't know how much of the books he is actually reading and absorbing so quietly all by himself. Every once in a while he surprises me with a piece of information that I know came from one of the books he was looking at. He loves non-fiction, and often will come back to a favourite book again and again.

Still, I don't feel a need to grill him and find out for sure how much he has read and understood. I think this is a natural stage which will grow until there is no doubt he is taking it all in.

Right now, my job is to keep the library basket full.

Other steps on SA's road to reading:
{The Three R's in Our Homeschool}: Reading
{Big Red Barn Reading Lessons}: Lesson 1 (additional lessons are linked at the bottom)
The Awesome Mystery of Growth in Reading
Some Favourite Books for Beginning Readers