Friday, November 27, 2015

Budget Reboot Before the Holidays

My budget has been a little too flexible in the last year. Once we settled into our house in December 2014, I began to be a little more lax on our budget. Oh, I spent $50 too much in one category of my budget? I'll just increase the budget... That will make up for my mistake... Right? HELL NO! It doesn't erase bad behavior and today my friend posted a quote that reminded me of this.

So, as the holiday season approaches, what are you going to do? Are you tracking your spending? Are you counting your debts and making a plan to pay them off, or are you oogling all the pretty things you don't need and can't afford this holiday season? About three years ago, I decided to pay off our student loans, and we totally did that. Then we saved for a house, and we're now in it. But now we have two car payments that I'd rather not have and another small debt I'll be paying off next month.

Let's do this. Stay strong. Budget like crazy. And keep your eyes on the prize: financial freedom.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Recommendations on Natural Birth in Houston, Texas

Several months ago, a reader emailed me saying he was looking for a midwife who would support his wife's vegan diet. I immediately took time to respond with my thoughts on my birth team and recommending additional resources to him. He and his wife just discovered the pregnancy, and he was grateful for my honest opinions and feedback. After reading the information below, he and his wife chose the same birth center I delivered my daughter at in February 2015. I'm hoping my information below will help other couples when it's time to choose plans for their births, too!

I highly recommend Holly Shearman, my midwife who delivered my daughter in February, at West Houston Birth Center. They were supportive of my vegan diet during the pregnancy and were amazing. I miss going to my appointments and wrote a testimonial soon after delivering.

I haven't yet posted my birth experience, but Holly was very patient while I labored 7 hours at the birth center (and 11 at home!). She was calm and helped me birth the baby without any complications or fears. I also hired Debbie Hull, a doula here in the Houston area to be my birth coach. Together they were an amazing team and have worked together during dozens of births in the past.

West Houston Birth Center
I never hesitated to go there and always felt very safe, even at hour 18 of my labor. Holly has been the midwife at nearly 20 breech births (out of the hundreds she's attended), so I was totally confident in her experience and ability to handle any situtation that arose.

I made an appointment when I was 5 weeks pregnant, so I was under their care from weeks 5 to 38.5. They were prompt, friendly, and experienced. I became comfortable with several of the RNs there and there were a few midwives (although Holly is the owner).They were supportive of the Bradley method and Hypnobirthing. Neither of those methods worked for me while I was in labor, but nonetheless they are open to your "birth plan" and wishes.

We also didn't call our family until we were on our way home from the birth center.

Debbie Hull, doula
Debbie is very knowledgable. As I said, the class was intense, but it gave me the confidence and strength to get through labor. She offers a free interview with her and you meet up for coffee and chat to see if you like her and want to hire her. Well worth the money I felt!

We also attened Debbie's couple's class called BirthWorks which delves VERY deep into the entire process of birth. It is a 15-hour course spread over five weeks (three hours each), so it is intense, but extremely helpful. I was able to use that knowledge for multiple birthing positions that I otherwise wouldn't have even know to try during labor. I purchased the package that included the BirthWorks class and Debbie's support during and immediately after labor. A few hours after I gave birth to Eleanor, I looked at Debbie as I got into the car (three hours after the birth... they send you home within 2-6 hours or so if all is well) and practically wept because she made the experience moving and also gave me the strength to literally push as she talked me through each contraction.

She showed up at the birth center after I labored at home for 11 hours. I immediately leaned on her basically hugging her through some contractions and swaying with her. She spoon fed me yogurt and offered me a sip of juice and water between every contraction. She didn't leave my side during labor and was next to me always.

She also made sure my husband was OK. Debbie never overstepped her boundaries and does an in-home visit a month before the due date to discuss your and your partner's wishes during the labor and to see what you want her to do specifcally—very thorough.

We didn't want anyone else at the birth except my husband, Debbie, and the birth center staff (which was Holly and a nurse named Meagan). That was it. During our initial interview with Debbie, she asked me how I was feeling, and I found myself spilling everything that had been weighing on my in the past few months and my issues with too many people potentially attending the birth. 

Debbie immediately began brainstorming with me on how approach this issue and how to come to the conclusion that I felt most comfortable with. My bottom line: this is about you and your partner. And that decision can only made by you. My birth team fully supported me and respected me for it. It was awesome to be confident in my decision and focus on me and my baby during labor.

I can go on and on and on about how great they were! It's been more than a year now since I found out I was pregnant and I remember being terrified and elated all at once. To those who are also expecting a little one, go with your gut and do what you feel is right for your and your family. I never once doubted my birth team and I had such an awesome experience.

A quick note about deciding to give birth "without drugs"—you won't regret it immediately after the baby is born. It hurts, but I was completely alert within seconds of birthing our daughter. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Best experience ever.

Documentaries worth checking out:Happy Healthy Child—Great series that offers four hours of info on natural birth. Several experts in the field are interviewed. The trailer makes me super sappy just watching it! Well worth the money.
Birth Story—Ina May Gaskin and the midwives at The Farm in Tennessee. You'll hear her name often as you research natural birth and midwives.
Pregnant in America—Documentary a guy made when his wife was pregnant. My favorite scene that describes natural birth, as told by Robbie Davis Floyd [5:08-7:05]. Full doc is on YouTube.
The Business of Being Born—If you have any doubts about natural childbirth, this will calm your fears. Full doc is available on YouTube.
What Babies Want—Interesting doc on the conciousness of babies. It's about how the feel pain and are acutely aware of their surroundings and have emotions like adults. Full doc is on YouTube.