I’ve been inspired by the flavours of the Middle East for years. I’ve cooked countless Moroccan themed dinner parties and experimented with spices and ways to bring a beautiful meal to the table in a short amount of time.
One of my favourite dishes to bring to the table is an Israeli Pilaf. Every culture in the Middle East serves this dish in their own way. Today I’m giving you a recipe in my own way also…. coming from the ‘Mother of 5, get it done’ recipe! Ha!
What got me feeling good about this recipe was that I could add my housemade Vegetable broth to the dish! Game changer…. I sat there with a winning smirk on my face as my children ate up all it’s goodness.
For the chicken:
1 organic Chicken (save skin and bones to make a broth later).
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp parsley
For the Rice:
2 Tbsp olive oil
400g basmati rice (wash and soak for 1 hour)
300g Organic Lamb mince
700g Vegetable or chicken broth (housemade is best)
1 brown onion
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp all spice
Salt and pepper to taste
30g blanched almonds
1 bunch of Coriander
1 bunch of Parsley
500g Greek yoghurt
150ml Veggie broth
2 garlic cloves
After shredding the chicken toss in the cumin and cinnamon. Cover and set aside.
Heat oil in the pan, slice onion and cook until golden. Add in the garlic and spices. Stir for 1 minute.
Add in the mince and allow it to brown.
Place the rice into the pan and coat it in the oil and spices.
Carefully pour the broth in and season.
Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Once cooked allow to stand for a further 15 minutes.
In this time add yoghurt, broth and garlic in a bowl. Mix and set aside.
Place chicken in a pan and reheat quickly with parsley.
Melt butter in the pan. Cook almonds for a few minutes. Add pine nuts and cook until all golden brown.
Assemble rice on a large platter. Place chicken on top.
Then the nuts and melted butter.
Parsley and coriander.
Finally organically throw your pomegranate jewels on top.
Serve with yoghurt drizzled on top and on the side with Lebanese bread.
SELĀH IS 2! Happy Birthday to our Beautiful Baby Girl!
You came into the world in such a extravagant way! Showing us all how to enter a room. And since then you light up every room you enter. We all stop to watch your comings. We laugh at your funny facials and run to you when your big eyes well up with tears. “Woawah” (Noah) is always at your beckon call. Scarlet tries to carry you everywhere and Aquila loves to mother you and make sure you have everything you need. Now, you are a big sister. Asking to hold Abi multiple times a day. It’s just toooo much how you refer to EVERY SINGLE doll in our home as “Abi.” 🥰
You love all types of birds, calling them all “beep beep” and you love books. If you can get any of us to read to you makes you so very happy.
You are treasured in our family. You hold a very special place in our hearts. Your name meaning to rest and meditate on the Lord, has shown itself in your nature. Selāh you are an excellent sleeper. You love to snuggle in my arms. You adore daddy’s cuddles and you have always been our happiest and cuddliest baby. Thank you for that. For intentionally hugging us each so tight. For patting our backs when we cry and for screaming ‘yay’ to all the good things your siblings achieve. I will never forget when you saw your sisters on stage dancing… hundreds of people at the venue and you screaming out “hey! Hey!” In pure excitement! Selāh though you may be little, you are fierce. You have the loudest voice in our household!! When you call out, we listen.
Oh, My Darling Dove… grow this year, grow in strength and beauty. Grow in your understanding of Jesus and all He is. May He be the biggest constant in your life. Grow in your character, your kindness, your ability to give to your siblings and all you encounter. Grow in grace. May you be everything God has planned and ordained for your life. I promise my girl to walk beside you, pray for you and guide you as you grow. I will be your biggest fan, strongest supporter and cheer for you and everything you achieve. Strive and dream big baby girl. We will carry you as far as we can, protect you with every part of our beings and ask the Spirit to cover you always.
If you’re anything like my husband in ‘iso life’, you have tried, or at least thought about trying to make sourdough from scratch. We have done this whole process a few years ago, but this time round I’m feeling we’ve had more successes then fails. Through the countless youtube tutorials and a few very clever home bakers we have followed and watched the different processes we have found this is the best and easiest way to get the loaf we are happy with!
With the little extra time you might have on your hands, why not make your starter from scratch, it is an easy process that just requires a little bit of effort and love. Now, there are so many starter recipes out there, and every chef is putting up their own, but to save the hassle the one that worked for us is as follows;
Day 1 – In a glass jar mix 1/2 Cup of good white flour with 1/2 cup of filtered water (make sure there are no clumps). Leave covered for 24 hours
Day 2 – You might start to see bubbles, either way, stir your starter for air to incorporate into it. Scrape down your sides and leave for another 24 hours
Day 3 – Check to see if you start to see any activity, it should start to be bubbly, it may have also risen over night, and smell fruity (these are good signs, it means that your starter is active). From now on you are going to start the process of discard and feed.
Once your starter it active, with a nice fruity tangy smell, you need to name it (James named his Gus) and care for it like you would any other member of the family. Your starter needs to be fed everyday, as well as allowed to poop (discard). As your starter is naturally fermenting it will grow after each time you feed it.
You are going to discard most of it except for about 2 tablespoons worth. See the end of this post for ideas to do with your discard.
Each day it is to be fed with equal parts flour and water. I usually do 50g flour and 50g filtered water (I have just started to also split the flour – White 25g and Rye 25g. I like the starter it makes with this combination)
Once you have an active, happy and healthy starter, you are ready to start making Sourdough. After a feed, you want it to double in size before using it for your sourdough.
Now that we have doing this with our starter for about a month, we are now getting a much more active starter, and therefore better sourdough then when we first started.
The ‘everyday’ Sourdough Bread
James has trialled so many different sourdough bread recipes and techniques, until he has put together the ‘can’t go wrong’, everyday recipe that works (usually) every-time. Every recipe will give you percentages of this, that and the other, however, if you follow the steps below, you can’t go wrong!
You are going to start with 100g of your active sourdough starter and dissolve it into 350g of filtered water. (To know that your starter is active, you can do the ‘float test’. This is where you put a table spoon of your starter in a glass of water to see if it floats. If it does, your starter is active and ready to use.
Use your hands to break up you starter into the water
Feed your starter again to replace what you have removed. 50g flour, 50g filtered water
Once you have done this, you will add 450g of good bakers white flour and 50g rye flour. Mix all these ingredients together into a soggy mess. It will be quite sticky, but that is how you want it.
This means that for this recipe you are working with 90% White flour and 10% Rye, with 70% Hydration (Once you have perfect using this recipe, you can trial with different flours and percentages of both flour and hydration).
Leave your soggy mess for 45mins covered with a tea towel. Once you come back to it, it will be much easier to work with and less sticky.
After the 45 mins is up, you are going to add 10g salt and 25g more of filtered water. You are going to fold all ingredients together, 30 secs.
Leave for 30 mins covered with a tea towel Now you are going to do a series of ‘stretch and folds’. This is going to accumulate 2 hours, plus an extra hour rest time.
Stretch and Fold #1
Leave 30 mins
Stretch and Fold #2
Leave 30 mins
Stretch and Fold #3
Leave 30 mins
Stretch and Fold #4
Leave for an hour
Once your stretch and folds are over and your dough has rested in the bowl for an hour, you are going to do your first ‘shape’ – here you want to create some tension on the outer surface of the dough. This is harder to explain, and comes better with practice. Place your dough on your bench top with no flour. Shape the dough using your bench scraper. Before I had once i used my hands, but trust me you will want to invest in a Bench Scraper. During this process you will shape it into a ball to leave rest again.
Leave your dough ball bench rest for 30 mins (again cover with your tea towel after a small dusting of flour so it doesn’t stick.
Once 30 mins is up you are going to do a second shape, again creating some surface tension. Using your bench scraper (or hands) form your dough into a tight ball to the place into a proofing bowl/basket to proof in the fridge overnight. In the morning;
Turn on your oven to its hottest temp with your Dutch Oven heating up with your oven. Once it is heated take out your dough from the fridge and place into the Dutch Oven on come parchment paper.
Score your dough and garnish as desired.
Place the lid on the Dutch Oven and cook covered for 20 mins. Then remove the lid to cook for a further 20 mins. (Now your oven might be different, so you might need to trial timing, you may prefer to leave it just a little longer then this like we usually do.
Pull out of the oven and let sit to cool for at least 30 mins before you cut into it (if you can resist). Enjoy you first bite with nothing on it to enjoy the taste your sourdough from scratch!
Once you have perfected your every day loaf, why not try different flour quantities and hydration. Try spelt, wholemeal or something else. Add seeds in your dough or on top. Try including turmeric, or olives, or sun-dried tomatoes. This is the fun part, improvising with the recipe.
Also, give @thesourdoughstory a follow on instagram for James’ fails, wins and everything in between.
Excess Starter Recipes
As you are feeding your starter everyday, you are also needing to discard some of it as mentioned above (every living thing also needs to poop). There are so many things you can do with your discard if you are not wanting to throw it into the bin or compost. As we trial each recipe I will add them to my blog for easy go to’s!
We would also love to see your breads and sourdough recipes, so please tag us so we can see.
Anyone with a Sourdough Starter will know that you end up with so much discard. Sure, you can throw it in the bin or compost. But, with panic buying, to find flour can be a struggle so you don’t want to just throw away. So, why not do something with it, and nothing is easier then sourdough pancakes.
You might have been storing your discard in the fridge, or you have some after a fresh feed of your starter. By just combining the following ingredients, you will have perfect fluffy pancakes before you know it.
2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 tablespoons rice malt syrup (or sugar/honey, your preference)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of Sourdough Starter
1 1/2 cups of milk
Butter (to grease pan)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, baking soda, sugar and salt
Add your sourdough starter, milk and egg. Mix so everything is combined
Butter your frypan, once hot pour in your pancake batter to your preferred size. Once it starts to bubble on top, flip the pancake to cook the other side.
Once golden remove and serve.
Enjoy with organic pure maple syrup, or yogurt and mixed berries, or local raw honey
With the above, we normally add some extra goodness. Don’t be afraid to add to your mix; chia seeds, wheatgerm, acai powder, greens powder or anything else you like to make these just that little much more healthier.
For photos sake, we kept to the original recipe this time 😉
Do you ever get that feeling, that little niggle or nudge? You can’t put your finger on it, you can’t know for sure what it is but something doesn’t sit right. It may not necessarily be a bad feeling, it’s like a caution signal. Maybe to stop and tune into your feelings and thoughts. Maybe pray or meditate. But you just don’t. Or you don’t enough. You push it away or busy yourself. You know it’s a feeling about something you have coming up in the future. You kind of end up subconsciously thinking, yeah, I haven’t got time for this feeling. Let’s just get on with it. Let’s get on with life, say that prayer, read that Bible verse but not meditate to bring about a calmness and peace in your spirit.
Well, I had to quickly get my head into a very new and different space on the 3rd of April.
Thursday night was just like any other. James and I hit the couch exhausted and ready to relax for a few hours watching mindless Netflix. At about 10pm I stood up and said “I can’t sit like this anymore. I’m just too uncomfortable.” And with that we went to bed. I tossed and turned. Nothing new here. Speaking for myself and maybe half the pregnant population (ha!) I don’t sleep so well from about 30 weeks of pregnancy.
At around 2am I suddenly felt some fluid in my underwear. Totally composed, I went to the bathroom. I just assumed this like all my others was the same feeling just before labour. The ‘show’ could be coming out or my waters about to break. However, things ended up very different…
I sat down on our toilet and focussed my very tired eyes, looking at my underwear I saw about a tablespoon of blood soaked through them. I didn’t have many thoughts just yet. Only staring at it. Then I felt something else strange. I looked into the toilet bowl and there was a blood clot about the size of a golf ball. Ah, nope… that’s not normal. I thought, ‘ Well now what?’ I called James into the bathroom. Asked him to look at it also. We stared at the bowl and then back at each other. I said out loud, “That’s not normal, I’m going to call the midwife.”
Right about now I need to add a very important point here. If I was hearing this story, I would feel all the feels right now. I would be so concerned and anxious. Particularly because I am that kind of person. However, I had that split second thought where the penny dropped. That was it! That was the niggling feeling, the nudge I was talking about. Where God was asking me to pray, go on, keep praying about your birth. Pray for safety and protection and for My hand to be upon you.
When you’re going through the motions on auto pilot like we were, you don’t have time to whip open your Bible and start proclaiming verses and songs. Instead there is only a few words you throw up to the Lord. My friend, does that make a difference? Does God need fine words and dances to answer our cries or prayers? Certainly not reader. And so, after literally saying in my mind “Keep my girl safe Oh Lord.” The next events came about without a single ounce of fear or trembling. It was just a smooth well orchestrated series of events that I can see had the markings of the Holy Spirit ALL OVER IT.
My next step was to ring my midwife. She was convinced it was just ‘the show’. I replied very directly explaining it was certainly not the show. Not satisfied with her response and knowing that this isn’t normal, I wanted a second opinion. Afterall, the health of my baby comes first. I Hung up and called Sutherland Hospital. After speaking to a lovely midwife there and answering a few important questions she advised I come in for a few tests with the hope I would come home to still have my Home birth. I assured her I would in fact be having the baby at hospital now. She replied with kindness but sounded like I had made that decision a little too early.
I just knew. It was all from that niggle I had going on in my heart a few weeks leading up. James and I both knew our baby wouldn’t be born at home. This knowing and niggling feeling we both had- sadly wasn’t communicated. Just last night as we were chatting about the events that took place he literally said to me “Everytime I walked past the birthing space it was as if something wasn’t right. Something was missing.” Now, in hindsight we know it was God preparing us for a change of plans. His plans and ways are certainly not ours. Let that be a good reminder to press into God and allow Him to always direct your path. I promise, if things don’t work out the way you imagined, YOU WILL NOT BE SADDENED because what He has for you is far greater than your thoughts or dreams!
James went and woke the children up. They came in wearing their matching little pj’s I had bought for the birth. Expecting baby would arrive in the middle of the night like her siblings did. I will never forget the smiles on the girls faces as they came into my room asking “how do we look mummy?” and “don’t forget to bring the brush for our hair mummy.” (We had a photographer ready for the birth. Scarlet and Aquila obviously wanting to look their best *wink*). The innocence on their faces. The joy. We had told them I had bled and we were on our way for mummy to have a check up. We explained that I would probably have the baby there just to be safe. No one was fazed by this decision. Noah was first into his seat. The excitement was very real for them each. Even little Selāh was just so happy and content.
Neither of us thought to pack extra clothes for myself or the baby. (Lucky for me, I don’t stay overnight when I birth!) I was in my very, very old and daggy sweats for comfort while sleeping. I put some slips on and away we went. It wasn’t actually until my baby was born and the midwives asked what my baby was going to be dressed in that I realised I HAD NOTHING FOR EITHER OF US!
We turned up to Sutherland hospital just before 3am. Driving up to the general entry doors. We prayed as a family and I kissed them each goodbye. The midwife I was speaking to on the phone assured me it would be a fast check to know just exactly what was going on. Again, that calmness hadn’t left me. I took the lifts up to the labour ward. I was met by a few lovely midwives who asked me some questions. They attached the CTG to my stomach. The sound of Abilene’s heart beat was the sweetest sound in the world. I couldn’t tell you what words were coming out of the midwives mouths in that moment. All I knew was I could hear a steady heartbeat. One that wasn’t in destress at all.
The Dr came in to ‘examine’ me. I won’t go into too much detail here…. I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Jump to the end of the examination and he explained there were lots of little blood clots. He didn’t know where they were coming from. And basically I was going to have the baby later on that morning. He explained the baby was totally fine, though I had to be induced (welcome nerves, I’ve never been induced and I heard it brings labour on super painfully?!). I went back downstairs to see James and the kids and tell them I would call when I was in labour to come back and be with me through it. They left happy and excited to be buying donuts from Seven 11 on the way home. They totally deserved that reward!
My midwife drove up to the hospital to connect with me for a moment. It was a nice gesture. I was placed into a really spacious birthing suit. Only one other woman was labouring that same night. So, the ward was really quiet. I got into bed, when the Dr came back in to chat with my midwife and myself. He looked at my midwife and said, “Did you see the size of the clot?”
My midwife: “Yeah, it was only this big… (creates a 5c coin with her fingers)
The Doctor standing on the opposite side of the bed replied, “No, It was this big… (using both hands to create a 10cm circle).
I almost burst out laughing, I felt like I was in the middle of a comedic skit! To which I promptly replied, “Neither of you are right, it wasn’t that big or that small, it was the size of a golf ball and that’s large enough to know it’s not right.” So with that I bid my midwife goodbye so she could hand over the reigns to the hospital staff. I felt really confident I was in the place I needed to be for a safe and peaceful birth.
I was supposed to be getting some sleep before being greeted with the handover of staff, but I couldn’t sleep. I was eager to meet my baby! My mind was in overdrive.
Around 7am I was met by my new Doctor. He was one of the top Dr’s in charge of the birthing ward. I liked the sound of that. The guy has gotta know what he’s doing.
And, this is where it get’s REAL GOOD… As I turned around to be greeted by the new staff I saw a beautiful, familiar face! My friend Sarah. She is a remarkable midwife and totally like minded in her faith in the Lord Jesus. Oh man, this was just pure joy to my heart. There it was, another wave of peace! She was here on the journey with me. Sarah explained she never takes the morning shift. So I knew there and then I was given another blessing by God! He is good!
Okay, back to it. This Doctor wasn’t one to pretty up a situation. He didn’t dilly dally with what has to happen. I was literally told they didn’t know where my blood clots were coming from. I would need to have an epidural in case something went wrong then resulting in an emergency C-section… a C-Section. NOT GOING TO LIE! The words C-Section worried me. My prayers kicked up!! I did not want a C-Section.
I FaceTimed James and the kids about three times before the Dr. came back into the room. Man, we were all buzzing. The Dr. walked in and I quickly hung up from the fambam. He broke my waters at 8:40am. (Have you seen the knitting needle type devise they use to break your waters? All I can say is SHIVERSSSSSS). As soon as my waters broke the Dr. was really happy. He told me baby was now engaged and I was sitting at 3cm dilated. He left and I never saw him again. I knew then and there, I was having a natural birth! 3cm is good. That’s active labour…. Let’s do this…. let’s do thissss…. Agh, nothing’s happening! I kept repeating to Sarah that nothing was happening. Not a single contraction.
ENTER- the anaesthetist, I was given an explanation on what was going to happen for this epidural. Still, not a single contraction. What is going on here? I started to think this ain’t so bad. If I’m going to get this ‘needle’ in my back at least I can enjoy a “pain free” labour…. Well so I thought!
After the injection, Sarah sat with me to allow the epidural to kick in. We chatted about everything! It was lovely to catch up and talk about life, family, faith, you name it. We chatted. My spirit was calm with her close by.
10:40am – Sarah started the drip of Syntocinon Infusion (thanks Sarah for the correct pronunciation of the word) at the lowest dose possible (to bring on labour). I then FT James and the kids again… chatting. Watching the kids do their craft. Waiting, waiting, waiting for labour to actually begin!
11:10am- Sarah was back in the room, I was in the middle of recording a video to the family again when I finally had my first contraction. AND IT KILLED ME! I FELT LIKE I WAS BEING QUICKLY RIPPED OPEN. Here’s the funny part. Because I had this epidural, all I was thinking was “man up Jennifer, what’s wrong with you? You labour without painkillers. Why are you dying now. Just focus.”
11:20am- I told Sarah I would just call James and the kids to come once I am further into the labour. Sarah graciously smiled and nodded knowing all the while the truth of the matter. Being that children are not allowed into the hospital at all while Covid-19 was still around. Then again, maybe… maybe I did know but just pushed that thought away. I convinced myself it would be ok for my family. And I needed to so I could stay focussed on my labour and not get emotional.
There it was again, BANG! The surge, the wave was unbelievable. This isn’t normal labour? Where is the duller contractions? Why am I feeling it so intensely if I had an epidural?
I turned to my side out of sheer embarrassment. Breathing slowly and deeply. It felt like the last contraction, you know the one before you push the baby out. I was dying but trying to remain calm and cool. I didn’t want Sarah thinking I wasn’t strong. I fixated my eyes on the chair in the room and covered my face with my right hand. It was shaking from the pain I was in. I could feel Sarah watching me. “Stay cool Jennifer, surely this is not normal. It will settle down soon.”
After that crazy contraction Sarah asked me how I was going. I tried to keep my voice as relaxed as possible but what came out instead sounded like a 12 year old boy who’s just hit puberty. “Um, it’s hurting a bit. Is that normal?” was my perplexed, I mean totally composed reply. Sarah assured me “Yeah, it will hurt a little, once the epidural kicks in it will be fine. You will be in active labour for up to four hours.” She left the room to grab her computer- explaining to me later on (when we debriefed after birth) she assumed I was establishing my active labour. I was secretly dying at the thought of having a long labour!
I face timed James at around 11:40am… Just explaining to him and the kids I had two contractions. Once active labour starts I would call them all to make their way over. Hanging up the phone I had another contraction. This one was smaller. I thought “You beauty, finally normal labour has sunk in. This must be the beginning of my labour.” WAIT, at the end of that contraction I felt my baby’s head actually move down. On an angle. My body wanted to push so badly. But I resisted. NOT YET! I haven’t begun proper labour yet. I turned to Sarah, using my 12 year old boy voice “I feel the baby’s head down low, there’s so much pressure there.” Sarah kept poised explaining it was all good and baby is just doing the right thing. Another contraction. And another. On this contraction I was sure I needed to push. I said ” Sarah, I think there is a head coming out, can you please look.” Sarah, totally chilled walked down to the end of the bed. Pulled back my sheet of ‘dignity’ and gasped “Oh my gosh.” she lunged for the emergency button to call back up. Sarah cried out “I don’t have my gloves on.” Bouncing off her expression and shock I used whatever stomach muscle I had left from growing 5 children to sit up just a little and say “What’s wrong? Is the baby ok.” No sooner had I said those words, then I saw six other women flood my birthing suit. Sarah called out in excitement “nothing is wrong, you’re having the baby. She’s coming out.” I glanced across the room to read the faces of the other staff and they were all smiling. Man that felt good to see. Another midwife added “look down, pick her up honey.” I gently pushed and Abilene Jewel entered the world. I lifted her onto my chest holding her in COMPLETE SHOCK AND WONDER. Sarah and I half laughing, shaking our heads saying over and over “How? How did that happen? I can’t believe it. I’m shocked.” We couldn’t stop laughing about the “I don’t have my gloves on” line.
Sarah’s joy was as great as mine. This woman helps to bring babies into the world every single day and the joy she shared with me was as if this was the first time she had ever seen a delivery! That’s what makes her a good midwife. Such tenderness to each mother.
Here’s the next part to God’s providence! My blood loss was minimal. My placenta was immediately birthed and no drugs were given to get it out (I’m a fan of everything being natural if it can be helped). I was able to finish her birth with delayed cord clamping goodness!! I had no tearing! Still shaking my head in disbelief and wonder. Once everything went quiet, Sarah and I sat there taking it all in. I couldn’t believe how quickly she came. 10 minutes of active labour!!! Is that even possible. I will never forget the words Sarah said to me. “When I hear those stories of women birthing incredibly fast I have never ever believed it. Now, I’ve witnessed it.” I WAS TOTALLY THE SAME!! But I can confirm, It can happen. It did happen and God was all over it! A perfect birth! What happened to the blood clots? Where was all the extra blood? Or my complicated birth….. nowhere! AMEN! I overheard Sarah sharing the story with other midwives outside my room. She was showing the ladies the CTG of my contractions. I could feel my pride in boasting in what the Lord has done.
And so about 12 minutes after hanging up the phone from my husband (I birthed Abilene and cut her cord) I FaceTimed him again. I can confirm when we chatted about this last phone call as he went to answer the phone the thought did cross his mind, “Imagine she had the baby?!” And here is my only regret, I didn’t film his reaction. There I was, baby in my arms on the screen. He FLIPPED OUT! Jaw wide open in shock. He was ecstatic! The kids came running over to the screen. They lost it! screaming with happiness. Aquila blurted out “But we have to be there!” I said “She just came, she just came out! You better get ready to pick me up everyone.” No one was upset, no one was grieving our plan.
And I’ll tell you why. God made way for Abilene to enter the world in a way where it just wasn’t possible for James and the kids to arrive on time. If I knew I was in active labour and had rung. They would of been in the car on the way over when I had birthed. James would then have to stay in the carpark with the children because they were not allowed into the hospital due to the new regulations with Covid-19. This idea would of then caused stress. It would of felt horrible to sit in a car park knowing your wife and mother are just 3 floors above you giving birth! And then to go home and wait two hours before coming back to pick me up. Then we imagined dropping the children to a friends home last second. (pretending James could make it on time). Again, we know our kids. It was never ever discussed or an option. To leave them suddenly would of shattered them. Instead James and the children spent two hours making welcome home banners. They prayed a few times together and played. James has no sadness about not being there. I don’t have sadness. I never once felt alone. God painted the story in a way where we were protected from the sadness of missing out because of the time!
And it’s quite a novel idea knowing I was able to cut the umbilical cord! What a memory to cherish. It was quite amusing when one of the nurses told me it’s time to cut the cord. I looked around the room- then realising, oh wait… That’s my job!
Once all the checks were done. Sarah was finishing her shift at the same time I was leaving the hosptial. So she offered to film the family’s reactions to meeting their baby daughter/sister. All my ideas of matching pj’s and pretty clothes went out the window! And that’s ok. This is our everyday. It’s just fun to plan those special moments. But we need to be able to openly let go of our ideas and make room for God’s. I was wearing my old sweats, the kids looked like they had been playing in the dirt all day and James looked exhausted. Such is life. A life lived to the fullest. A life of joy. A life well lived. A new life added to the mix.
Welcome my littlest darling, Abilene Jewel.
You were prayed and deeply longed for.
Jennifer X (Mama).
I stumbled across this quote at 7:15am the morning of Abilene’s birth in hospital. While scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook. What a timely reminder.
“God can never be out manoeuvred, taken by surprise, or caught in a disadvantage. He is a God who knows no crisis… Before an emergency arises God in His providence has made adequately and perfectly timed provision to meet it.”
If you haven’t worked it out yet. Our family loves FOOD! I love love to cook, bake, learn, experiment with and find the easiest ways to bring nourishing food to our family table.
During lockdown I’ve seen so many people make sourdough starters. And it’s brilliant! I feel encouraged to be doing more also for my family. However, with my starter I find it grows so quickly and even for my large family we can’t keep up…. enter Pinterest…. I found so many recipes for ‘Sourdough Crumpets’. And the thing is. All you need (besides the starter) are 3 pantry ingredients.
And you know how good fermented food is for your gut? They are rich in probiotic bacteria. So by consuming them you will be adding powerful bacteria and enzymes to your overall intestinal flora, increasing the health of your gut microbiome and digestive system and enhancing the immune system!
It’s a win win situation here folks!
Check out my super easy recipe.
Prep time: 10 min Cook time: 5 min Ready in: 15 min
270 g sourdough starter
1 tablespoon of your favorite runny honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1. Combine sourdough starter, honey and salt. Leave to rest until it starts to bubble up.
2. Heat your pan to a medium low heat, grease your egg/muffin rings and place them into the pan.
3. Now add the bi carb soda to your mixture. Combine. It will start to bubble right up. Fill your rings to half way. (The batter rises).
4. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Do not turn them. Crumpets are supposed to be toasted after this step. However, we like them fresh hot off the grill.
August 21st 1942: “Now our Secret Annex has truly become secret. Because so many houses are being searched for hidden bicycles, Mr. Kugler thought it would be better to have a bookcase built in front of the entrance to our hiding place. It swings out on its hinges and opens like a door. Mr. Voskuijl did the carpentry work. (Mr. Voskuijl has been told that the seven of us are in hiding, and he’s been most helpful.) Now whenever we want to go downstairs we have to duck and then jump. After the first three days we were all walking around with bumps on our foreheads from banging our heads against the low doorway. Then Peter cushioned it by nailing a towel stuffed with wood shavings to the doorframe. Let’s see if it helps!” Anne Frank
It’s now the year 2020. Turning on my coloured LED 65” television- I sit back in my comfy leather lounge, taking a sip of my Merlot. I focus my attention to the words being plastered all over my screen, ‘Pandemic’, ‘outbreak’ and ’Covid-19’. As I flick through the stations each network streams the same information. The reality is harsh and the numbers of victims from this virus rise daily.
But I cannot seem to shake something that disturbs me throughout this time. I’ve had to sit and really think on why I feel uneasy. This is definitely not an anxiety from the Covid-19, this is different. A real disappointment in much of the human race. Why do I come off social media feeling flat and sorrowful? Don’t get me wrong, I still see so much good will. I see kindness in the humanity offering free sanitiser kits, meals, songs to keep spirits up. I see people connecting in ways I haven’t seen before. I’ve written some other thoughts on this in my previous post. Yet, there is no doubt a negative side to all that is going on. The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.
I have sat on this for the past few weeks. I have watched and listened and observed behaviours. And then I’ve thought about pandemics and crisis’ throughout the history of our earth.
Drawing questions on all that’s coming about, ‘are we any different as a human race when disaster strikes?’ ‘Do we show deep kindness and sacrifice?’ ‘Did people fight over petty items like toilet paper when say The Spanish Flu hit in 1918 killing 50 million people?’
I have to say- human nature doesn’t really show much of a shift over history. We start wars, we fight, we bleed, we offer peace. Some forgive, some still plot in vain and so the cycle continues. I also see and read about great acts of bravery. Sacrifices made by men and women of old. Throughout wars and diseases, so many pull together for the greater good. This gives me a hope. I feel I can take a deep breath and say “not all is lost, not all is bad.”
But there is still this wave that hits me from time to time. Something doesn’t sit right with me reader. I’ve worked out what it is. It’s sweeping our world, mainly the first world countries. A different pandemic alongside the Corona Virus. It’s a ‘I’m hard done by’ mentality. The complaining I’m hearing, and it’s time we get a bit of a reality check!
As I sit back on my comfy lounge and watch the latest rules to come out from our government, a government who are working tirelessly to support all Australians, giving money (which non are entitled to, be thankful for where you live!) to support everyone who’s lost a job (and on that note, It’s been heartbreaking to see and witness those close to me suffer) or while their job is on hold. I am astonished at the vicious comments thrown toward the cabinet. This cabinet are continually listening to the public, trying to help and care for MILLIONS of needs all while trying to flatten the curve. They aren’t going to get it all right but they are trying their best under a pressure we have never felt.
My goodness reader, I think of my grandparents going through the Great Depression. Rationing out food. Sickness, diseases all happening around them while battling the Nazis. Another reality check from the luxury of your home, a roof over your head, hot running water and with fast speed internet you can order take out, groceries and don’t forget your comfy pj’s to self isolate at home all day. You name it. It’s only a click away… and it ends up at your doorstep.
I wonder how we in the year 2020 would cope if we were teleported back to the year 1942. How would your mental state be then?
I know some of you out there need social interaction. I get it. I know you thrive and grow in your connections. And you should. We all should. We were made for relationship. But again, I shake my head is disbelief. Let’s get some perspective friends, we click another button and we can connect. There’s Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp and who knows what else is at our finger tips (Sorry, homeschool mum here who’s been self isolating since 2011). We can get through this. My friend- what about the years of war that saw minority groups in hiding, not speaking to anyone for years. Children locked in cupboards for fear they would be taken from their parents. Imagine the fear you would have to implement on your children in order to keep them quiet every single day!
Shame on us as a society… we ramp each other up with our memes of not coping after three days in self isolation. Yet we don’t hide in the same way. Our fear isn’t the same. We proclaim our insanity from our rooftops and the comfort of our luxurious hot baths for being present at home for a few days. Look at the excerpt from Anne Frank’s Diary… and tell me friend, do your hands shake? Do you look white in the face for fear of sudden death. That the enemy will burst down your door at any second to wipe out your entire family?
October 20th 1942: “My hands still shaking, though it’s been two hours since we had the scare… The office staff stupidly forgot to warn us that the carpenter, or whatever he’s called, was coming to fill the extinguishers… After working for about fifteen minutes, he laid his hammer and some other tools on our bookcase (or so we thought!) and banged on our door. We turned white with fear. Had he heard something after all and did he now want to check out this mysterious looking bookcase? It seemed so, since he kept knocking, pulling, pushing and jerking on it. I was so scared I nearly fainted at the thought of this total stranger managing to discover our wonderful hiding place…” Anne Frank
There it is, another reality check. Here’s my biggest concern, speaking of being present… our children, our families. They are to be our number one priority. However, all I’m seeing everyday are posts on how people cannot wait to get rid of their kids. Don’t get me wrong, the memes can be hilarious. I love posting laughs and I love posting ways to help and connect you as a family, but it’s going too far. So many parents openly complain that they cannot wait until this is all over and the teachers can take their kids off their hands. They (the parent) need a break. The parents are suffering… whinge, whinge, whinge.
Let’s read this as a wake up call! Maybe, just maybe if you stopped and saw how strong and healthy your children are, how free and happy your children are, you might just stop whinging for a while. Hardly any time has passed and we complain about juggling jobs and children, schooling, cooking… managing this season of life. Yes it’s hard. I’m certainly not saying it isn’t. However, let me tell you. If you are currently reading this you are more fortunate and blessed than over half the world.
Take a moment reader, look over to your children, watch them as they sleep, play or even bickering with siblings and now put yourself into a time where working, schooling and cooking couldn’t happen because of the poverty, because you would be homeless. So go hug your kids a little tighter. Be thankful for everything you have. We WILL get through this. Put schooling on hold for a moment if you’re struggling, change what you need to and work on your family. Work on hugging and listening and laughing together. Build that bond, because nothing is stronger or more important.
And do yourself a favour. Stop publicly complaining about your children. One day when you’re old- they will click that Facebook or Instagram button and see your complaints about them. How do you think they will feel?
Rather, let me encourage you to write to a friend personally and confide in them. Ask them for help. We are all struggling in different ways. Reach out to each other personally.
Let the world know- your family is everything! Don’t forget this when you tuck your babies in at night in freshly washed sheets after a warm bath and a nutritious meal. Please, don’t forget the families in those third world countries with the same pandemic right now. And how little they are protected. Imagine what they sleep on at night. Imagine what they are eating for dinner. Imagine the lack of resources they have. Can I hear the words, REALITY CHECK?!
Let’s remember this is just a season. Embrace the sleep-ins, embrace the mess, the cancelled sports weekends and give thanks. Give thanks for those that risk their lives daily on the front line to keep you and your family safe. The doctors and nurses that cannot cuddle their children good night or eat that nutritious meal simply because they cannot take a break.
Now that’s a sobering reality check if ever I read one.
It’s 7 am on a Tuesday morning, I roll over half asleep, my hand searching for my phone. Trying to wake up, I focus on the screen. I open the news app and check to see how many more cases of this enemy there are. How many more victims has it taken from us. How many more restrictions we must live with.
I get out of bed and get on with my day with the children. It seems I’ve forgotten what’s happening outside my walls. I’m fortunate enough to not personally feel the brute force of this virus. We school, we play, we are just doing life… then my phone ‘pings’. I pick it up unaware and suddenly I’m brought back to reality again with another announcement from the Prime Minister, or President or a news breaking story. I sit down slowly, engulfed with another article. Another statistic, another plan for action. My children calling my name for attention is drowned out by the photographs I’m seeing of desolate streets in New York City and Europe, the hustle and bustle of the major airports look like a ghost town.
‘Mum, mummmmmy’ snaps me out of the chill I feel running down my spine. Surely this isn’t for real. It feels like I’m looking at photographs and video footage from a apocalyptic movie, not real life.
I get on with my day. We get ready for soccer. I hear another ‘ping,’ it’s the coach, explaining soccer us been cancelled. I have to sit down and explain to my son why this is the way it is for the next little while. He seems fine. I’m happy it hasn’t worried him. Now onto the next thing, dinner, baths, stories and Bible, we pray, we pray for our land, for the drought, for our family and friends and the homeless, poor and sick. This time we add something new into our prayers… we pray that Corona Virus will stop.
‘Mummy what’s the Corona Virus?’
I look to James, I think, I speak calmly. I explain as best as I can…
‘It’s like a cold or flu darling, but it can effect people with low immunity very harshly or the elderly. We need to try our best to keep distance to help the virus to die out.’
Seems like a good enough explanation, the children understand at least to this level. We pray, we tuck them into bed and come back downstairs. James flicks the TV on. He’s watching a documentary about the virus. Trying to become as knowledgeable as he can on the subject. I’m glued to my phone, reading statistics. Reading Facebook updates and statuses. A mutual friend shares a light hearted thought, another shares a funny meme. I scroll on, I then read another status- a sobering one. A warning. I read through the comments, I write some words of comfort. ‘Click’ I send it through and read it. Nope, it doesn’t sound genuine enough, ‘click,’ I edit it and change words around. There, that’s better. That should bring light to the situation. That should help stop the fear. I type the words as if I’m bold and brave as I sit behind my keyboard. Thinking I’m slowly saving the world, one ‘like’ and positive comment at a time.
James turns the channel over, it’s our latest news report. The crowds of people are lined up to shop. To stock up their pantries. Thinking only the worst. We watch women literally fighting over toilet paper. Empty aisles and shelves are all that’s left for the anchor woman to report on. She stands in front of where the flour and rice would be. It’s all bare- it’s like the Boxing Day sales have come to the local supermarket.
I’ve been ok up to this point. I’m doing my bit, I’m keeping my family at a distance and safe and clean and writing all the feel good social media comments. But now, now I feel a pressure in my chest, I feel that brave keyboard warrior has left. I look over to my husband. ‘ I wasn’t worried.’ I said, ‘I wasn’t worried at all, but now I am, for food.’
My thoughts escalate quickly, I realise, it’s not pay week. We can’t get to the shops this week. We can’t stock up for this ‘lockdown.’ We have six mouths to feed, six bums to wipe, what do we do?
The next morning James races up to the shops to stock up on a few non perishables. An employee approaches the area, ‘Only one pack of toilet paper mate.’ James smiles, takes one six pack while watching the single guy next to him take the last twenty four pack.
He comes home and explains how eerie it feels. People walking around aimlessly trying to figure out what to cook with nothing left. The opening hours are now shorter, he walked past a woman wearing a mask, another shopping in gloves. Later I questioned ‘should you be doing this? Should we be following these ideas?’
The next day I’m driving with the kids. My hand sanitiser is making a ‘tap, tap’ sound as I drive us to the park. It now sits in the cup holder. It’s been promoted from my hand bag. Ready for wherever we go. It’s become second nature now. We stop at the traffic lights. A man pulls up next to us, wearing a mask. We all stare. I tell the kids to just smile and look away. As we drive on Noah asks ‘why is he wearing a mask?’ I remind him of the virus. They seem to forget and are only reminded again when we get back to the car and I’m even more pedantic about using the sanitiser than usual. Will the children catch onto this uncertainty I’m feeling? After playing at the park, they wait while I grab my trusty hand sanitiser, and pump it onto their little hands. As they rub their hands together Scarlet lets out an ‘ohhhhh,’ followed by blowing air on her hands. I ask her ‘what’s wrong?’ She explains she must of scratched herself, ‘the sanitiser is killing germs and it stings.’
That night after our routine with the children we come backdown stairs to what seems like our new routine. Check the news, search for the latest information, the latest statistics. It’s the Prime Minister on channel 9. Addressing our nation. He’s firm, he’s disappointed and he says very clearly to ‘stop it, stop the hoarding, it’s unAustralian.’ He then reminds us that if we do go into lock down we will still have food. The shops will still be open and when this is all over. Our nation will continue under strict rations until our shelves are full again. He estimates about six months.
I shake my head. I realised I felt that fear, I felt that anxiousness. I read into it. I saw those shelves bare and I thought we had to go and stock up. Once I heard these words from Scott Morrison I was jolted back to a right thinking.
Do I fear this virus? Do I just expect the worst? Do I worry myself sick? Will we be the next to contract it?
I make a choice, I will not live in fear. There is one greater than this virus. There is one who can annihilate this enemy. There is one that says, “Put your trust in Me.”
I choose to be wise and act accordingly. To be kind to all people and show consideration. I choose to not be afraid but stand firm in the face of adversity. I choose not to run with hysteria but calmly face this as it comes.
I stop. I pause. That’s enough. That’s enough worry, that’s enough what if’s, that’s enough what do we do? I live in hope.
Here I am, 38 weeks pregnant with our fifth child! It’s all getting so close now. It’s all so exciting… the kids are buzzing, heck mum and dad are buzzing. I’ve finally set up my birthing area and it feels quiet and cosy. I have my diffuser with oils, candles, towels, soft mats and Bible Verses scattered around my room to provide me with the assurance I need. I look at my birthing space multiple times a day and know soon I will be there. I picture myself in that little area. I can see me breathing through each surge- preparing to welcome our baby.
I find the more times I prepare for the arrival of each of our children the more prep I do. I add another idea, something to make our lives easier or healthier or manageable. Just little things to keep our family strong while we are in that little newborn bubble of love. And let’s face it. We are a large family. These little tricks done early enough bring about the peace and quiet time I cannot wait for. A time where we just be together, not doing, just being. No distractions, slowing down.
So here it is, my list of ideas provided you’ve already got all the baby essentials and your hospital bag packed. (See here for my baby essential ideas).
The month or two before bub arrives I make litres and litres of broth and chicken stock (if I’m in a hurry). I then create soups, stews, bolognese And lasagnas out of the rich nutritious broth! We pack all these into the freezer in containers. And it lasts us months! Mama gets a break and daddy has the pressure taken off him also.
I will say here, be kind to yourself and pick recipes (because you are heavily pregnant) that is slow cooker friendly or where you can leave it simmering without watching over it! Summer babies are a little easier with food preparation. We had plenty or fresh salads and BBQS!
So, you’re food is sorted. Let me ask you, when was the last time you changed your bedding? Technically we should be doing it once every two weeks. And we certainly try to. HOWEVER, right about now is a good time to strip the beds and wash them. You want to do this one or two weeks before baby is born.
Try your best to use low to no toxins in your wash. It can be incredibly harmful for you and your children’s skin. Pick a sunny day to dry them out on the line if you can. Sunshine is a natural steriliser. It kills germs. When you make your new baby’s bassinet/cot up with bedding, don’t make it too early. It becomes a dust catcher. You will know when it’s a good time, do so and then cover it with another sheet. That way the sheet catches the dust and you can wash that easily, not worrying about setting up the bed all over again…. I know, you’re welcome 😉
I’ve linked the wash I use here. (Check out my gorgeous friends Essential Oil page. Well worth it!).
My friend, if I can make time to make this simple, pure, clean wash then I know you can. Try it out!
HOLD ON!!!! Before washing those extra clean, soft sheets you need to do something hardly anyone I know does! Clean you washing machine and dryer! Look at your user manual… get it out and read about how to clean these machines. If not, call the manufacturer and ask them to email you a copy. It’s worth it. As for the barrel and where you place your washing detergent this is how I like to clean it.
1/2 cup of white vinegar
2 Tablespoons of bicarbonate Soda
6-10 drops of lemon essential oil
Then put a small amount of this recipe into where you place the detergent and fabric softener.
Click the self clean cycle, or your longest cycle. I like to have my water nice and hot also! Easy peasy! Don’t forget to drain out your pipes to clean out that dirty water also. All this takes us 5 minutes! Then we come back 2 hours later to a sparkling and fresh smelling washing machine.
Ok, we’ve washed the sheets. CHECK. Made the fresh beds up (who am I kidding, I can’t do anything at this stage in pregnancy when it comes to manual labour. Find someone to help you! James makes the beds in our house.)
We also use these last few weeks to get a check up at the Drs. The whole family goes. We don’t want to pass any little germs onto baby. They go through enough with labour. It’s their time to get strong and chub up!
Besides the food, bedding and doctors we buy those yummy little chocolate worming tablets…. um, no, I’m happy to report we’ve actually never had worms (maybe it’s the homeschoolers environment, not surrounded by tonnes of kids. Ha) but we try to remember to do this at least twice a year. And also one week before baby is born.
Tick!! That’s another strange thing we do that not many people think about.
If you have other siblings for baby, think about what you would like them to wear for those first precious photos. Have a place where they are packed away and ready for daddy to dress the kids. That way there’s no confusion and you’re not bombarded with questions right after birth like ‘what do I put the kids in? Is it warm enough? Where’s such and such’s pants?
It’s a good idea to show the kids what they will be wearing too. So they are on board and there’s no tantrums etc.
Have all your vitamins and healthy kits ready to go for when bub arrives. So everyone is building up a strong immunity. We are about to purchase our very first homeopath kit. I’m so excited! And begin to make incredible Elderberry Syrup. I’ll add my recipe to the blog in the next few weeks! I promise it will be easy.
Now let’s talk mama to be. What will help you most to be ready to endure labour? Exercise, plenty of water, meditation, reading? All these things I believe are vital! Do them! And do them as often as you can.
I’ve been meditating on God’s promises to me through His word. This is strengthening my mind for the road ahead. Drinking lots of water and Red Raspberry Leaf Tea! Giving my body the energy stores it needs. Taking the right tablets for my body, trying to sleep (damn insomnia) and one week before baby girl is due I have my hair booked in, mani, pedi and a lash treatment! (I know!!! I won it with the best in the biz. Genesis of Nellie and Ellie! I keep saying this will be my most glamorous labour haha). But seriously, be ready the way you want and need to be. Talk to your partner about what you need and how he can support you best. Talk about your birth plan and how you would like it to go. They are your biggest support. After all, you are carrying their child 😉
Talk often as a family and pray together about your life and the new baby. Chat to your children about what you expect from each of them. According to their age and what they can manage. At the moment Noah has the idea baby will be sleeping in his room (at 3am I will be wishing ha ha) and Scarlet thinks she will be wearing her all day when she is playing and schooling. Aquila acts out where she will sit on my bed to rock the bassinet! It’s all soooooo cute! And I adore them with all my heart for thinking like this- and they can do some of those things. Just not to the full extent. Welcome it, explain how important they are in this family and how much you appreciate their help daily and even more once baby arrives. But also remind them, they too are your babies and you love them just as much and want to dote on them also! Allow for those moments too… probably when baby is sleeping!
And that’s it from me… for now! Just a few little extra things you can do to prepare and to be the best for your family. You can feel ready for baby to grow and thrive.
I would love to know if there is anything out of the box you do to prepare for a new baby? Something no one ever talks or thinks about!
Here’s to preparing your home now to reap the rewards later. Breath, and be in the moment. In the present, with your whole family.
I fell pregnant with our third child right before we were relocating two hours north of Sydney to Newcastle. I didn’t even think about hospitals or midwives because the fact is, we live in the 21st Century. In Australia hospitals are generally easy enough to get to, depending on your location. We were moving to another suburban area so I just thought I’ll book my place in once we settle into and unpack our lives.
In saying that, a month or two rolled by and I was about 15 weeks pregnant from memory. I remember where I was distinctly in our little rental when I made the first phone call to our local hospital. I had just put my two babies down for a nap. I sat down on my bed and dialled the number of the hospital to begin the process. Switchboard re directed me to the midwifery section, a mid wife answered and transferred me again… a kind voice answered. Taking the time to begin with just a few questions about my previous pregnancies and births. I answered all the typical questions adequately and was waiting for her to give me a time to come in and fill out the paper work. There was a pregnant pause (pardon the pun) and she explained very simply, probably too simply for someone who knew very little, if not any information about the subject “it’s probably best you have a home birth.” I shook my head “I’m sorry, a home birth. Ahhh, no. I won’t be doing that.” Thinking all the while how negligent can this woman be. Babies are born in hospitals, not in the home. Let’s just say that very narrow minded, uneducated point of view changed in the next few weeks.
I brought the conversation up with my husband that evening. We both laughed and shrugged it off. Happy to go into the hospital to do the usual, ‘not step out of the box, hippy, homebirth nonsense.’
We came in to meet the lovely staff two weeks later and to re-familiarise all the protocols that are needed with having a baby. As I type this, in reflection I can see now these lovely ladies wouldn’t be done with me yet and our decision making. We finally met one of the midwives face to face. I can’t for the life of me remember her name, however, she was centred in her being, calm, a natural beauty. I hoped I would have her to join me on this journey. The midwife turned directly to James and said “So, Homebirth. Are you going to do it? You guys live 40 minutes from hospital and Jennifer has birthed quickly prior to this pregnancy.” Clearly they knew my answer was a flat out no and were ready to work on James!
James was hesitant and replied with the usual questions. All the what if scenarios. And everytime we thought we would stump her, this very calming midwife responded with such a vast knowledge and experience. I cannot explain the feeling that came over us. Finally she stumped us with a question herself. “Who do you have to look after your children when Jennifer goes into labour?” We were the ones stumped. We couldn’t answer her. We just aren’t blessed with a community of people who we can trust and rely on. Yep, sucks at times and it’s sad. BUT…. my goodness, God works through those trials also and continuously sheds grace, strength, capacity and breakthroughs. (Can I get an Amen from all the mothers who don’t have a community! And an extra salute to those single mamas. I see you!)
We didn’t have anyone to take our children. Now the new questions were running through my mind. What if I labour a long time in hospital with little children there? What will the kids do the whole time? How can James look after the kids and me? Will the hospital cater to children being there when I’m labouring?
As we left the appointment James turned to me and said “Well that’s it, we are home birthing. I love this idea.”
I gave James a look and replied, “Are you serious?” I was so scared. The unknown, the uncertainty, the fear. I had to go and process it all. Knowing that James felt positive to embark on this journey did help me. He could see how wonderful it would be for our whole family. He could see the peace and calm in it all. I still had to process with the Lord to get to that point.
A few weeks had passed, I prayed and prayed. God was working on me, I saw the midwives who continued to work on me in their own way also. What I learnt over those weeks was clearly profound. Nothing new of course because there is no new revelations from God but it became a new and firm certainty in my heart. You see I always relied on hospitals. Without speaking it out loud, for myself there’s this safety when you turn up to a hospital that you’re in safe hands. Nothing can go wrong now. They have all the state of the art equipment to look after each patient and fantastic care.
When I could say this out loud, and recognise why I felt safety in the hospital I could move forward. It didn’t mean I was wrong in these thoughts so to speak. It’s incredible that we live in such an age where hospitals can help us. Help so many of our needs, nonetheless, I was lacking with my trust in God. I didn’t really need to depend wholeheartedly on Him. I didn’t need to hand over every fear I could think of because my faith was in the doctors hands.
What if I removed all that? The doctors, medical staff, equipment, safety, comfort, security? Then what? What would happen to me?
God stripped me back friend. And it was truly a beautiful thing. He doesn’t strip you back where there is fear or uncertainty or doubt. As He slowly strips back each question, each reluctance I was finding more and more promises from His word. More comfort from reading His words. More safety in the Great Comforter. The Holy Spirit. More peace than ever. I actually found myself thinking about my past two births and astonished that I had no fear then. Trusting a human?? I mean really? No mans fate is safe in the hands of another.
The hands of God, a completely different story!
I began finding Bible verses, verses that would empower me with Jesus by my side! Having them around my home and in the safe space in my bedroom where I intended to birth. I put these up weeks before I gave birth as daily reminders, my medicine so to speak to keep my mind clean and focussed. I spent more time in meditation. Pleading God to be in my home, my space as I birthed His precious child. I prayed over my baby. For the labour, the midwives, my family unit. And I spoke everyday with my two eldest children about what was going to happen when I went into labour.
People often ask me how my kids feel about sitting in on my labours. I tell them the truth. They don’t think it should be any other way. What I mean to say is, they think this is how everyone gives birth. The family is there to support. And in this reader, if they didn’t want to be there we would allow them not to be. It’s their choice. In fact I find joy in asking them each time if they would like to be there when mummy gives birth. Purely due to their response. Little squished up noses, squinty eyed… trying to work out why I would ask such a question, followed by a long “yeaaah” sound! Music to my ears and heart. Knowing they are close by.
And so, we decided to have a homebirth after all. The midwife would visit and conduct my checkups. Her name was Jenny. She was lovely. I didn’t get to choose her, she just showed up one day to my doorstep and introduced herself. She was tall and loved to talk. She had a thick Irish accent. Sometimes I couldn’t work out what she was saying. She was the type of woman who giggled after most of her sentences. I just giggled along with her.
My due date was the 10th of July 2016. Having had miraculously my first two babes on their due dates the pressure was on. Although, I thought highly unlikely.
That evening we did our usual things, dinner, star gazing (it was winter, a fantastic time to do it) and then popped the kids into bed. We came out and sat down to watch Master Chef. At about 8:30pm I felt a trickle of water seeping through my pyjamas. I walked into the bathroom, checked… nothing… and came to sit back down. At about 9pm I felt something strange again. I walked into the bathroom saw I had lost my ‘show’. James followed me in and saw. Oh boy, he was so excited, exclaiming “Oh, you’ll go into labour now.”
I had to calm the guy down. I told him just because it happened like that before doesn’t mean it will this time…. sheesh! Was I wrong.
I walked 3 steps out of the bathroom when I fell over the back of the couch in my first huge contraction. James was excited. Telling me he was calling the midwife. (She had said to call as soon as I have my first contraction due to my history). I shooed my hand at James and explained it wasn’t a contraction. I was in denial. Again, I felt another deep surge. I stood there hands on knees, hunched over breathing through it. James picked the phone up and rang the midwife. She was on call somewhere else so I had to brace myself for another midwife to turn up. One I’ve never met or connected with. However, at this stage, I couldn’t care less.
Fiona arrived after about 20 minutes into my labour. She had a midwife in training with her. I agreed to this. Shortly after the second midwife arrived. (Homebirthing rules are you must have two midwives. One for mama and one for baby).
The midwife in training had her face in my face, rubbing my back, telling me I was doing a great job. I was dying. I wanted to scream “get out of my face.” She didn’t know I labour very quietly. I need stillness to focus on each surge of pain. And they were coming in fast and hard.
James piped up and asked them some kind of question… which meant he could take the brunt of it. I told him to shut up. He paused as if to say, I’ve done nothing and it clicked for him…He explained to the ladies I need absolute peace and quiet. Fiona stood right near me. I could see her bare feet and tie dyed pants from the corner of my eye. Slowly she came down to where I was at. On my hands and knees. She asked me what she needs to know. I told her 3 distinct things I need from her.
Be strong. Tell me I can do this.
Lie to me if anything goes wrong. I worry too easily.
Check to see how dilated I am so I can brace myself.
Fiona was everything I could of dreamt of as a midwife and more. The way she stared me down. Her eyes focussed on everything I said. I can still remember exactly how blue they were. I remember how her silver hair fell on her face and I remember her presence. She was a real Mother Earth. It felt like she was a mother to me during the labour.
Noah and Scarlet were still sleeping at this stage. Fiona checked to see just how dilated I was. I was sitting at 8cm’. Heck, I thought. I could do this.
The lamps were on in our bedroom and that’s about the only light that shone. I looked up and felt that reassurance reading all the words God had said just for me in my hour of need. I cried out in my mind “Lord, help me. Strengthen me.” That’s all I could say over and over. I had this beautiful vision of my guardian angel. The one He assigned to look after me, covering me with his wings of protection.
Very soon it was time to push. The midwives could tell. I started to make a very low moaning sound. Turning onto my back. I was positioned down the side on the floor of my bedroom. We had towels, sheets and pillows. I leant back to push, I pushed again, and again. Each time pushing harder than I ever had with my previous births. Nothing was happening. I was tired. I called out “what’s wrong?” And to honour my requests, EVERYONE replied with the stock standard “nothing” response. I couldn’t for the life of me work out why everyone including my husband was telling me to get up and go for a walk. A walk? I mean, I’m literally birthing.
During this time James went and woke up the babes and brought them in. They sat up on the bed watching. The nurses pulled me to my knees, I felt the next intense contraction. I laid back down and pushed HARD. Real hard. My baby came out in two pushes. SHE WAS HERE, she was really here in my weak, shaking, exhausted arms. I had never felt so tired from birthing. I was pushing for 30 minutes. (Big respect for the women who push for hours). Anyway, back to the story. The children and James were nothing short of overjoyed at the arrival of Aquila Jael. She had thick black hair, like a Raven, little red lips and beautiful plump cheeks. Ready for a good feed.
I looked up to Fiona and asked why it took so long? She explained I had a posterior labour and finished by explaining “they are one of the most painful of all the births to have.“
After taking our time as a family to enjoy baby Aquila. Taking in her smell, her little fingers and ears, her wrinkly feet and perfect lips it was time for me to have a shower. Noah and Scarlet played happily with the gifts Aquila had gifted them and the midwives were busy doing all their checks of my baby girl.
James slowly walked me into the bathroom. The shower was already on, running warm water. As the warmth touched my skin it felt like I was being massaged all over my back. He stayed for a while to make sure I was ok. Then left to be with the children. I leant my hands up against the glass screen, looked up to the heavens and questioned my God. Questioned my creator. I asked Him very directly “why would you allow for the most painful birth to be my first homebirth experience?” Why Lord?”
At that exact moment Fiona walked in proclaiming “well done incredible mum!” I said “yeah, thanks… but it took ages to push her out.”
Fiona challenged me. Asking me to research how long it takes a posterior baby to be born.
I opened the shower screen door and simply asked “why?”
She proceeded to humble me, “Hours Jennifer. It takes hours to labour and hours to push. And the pain is all in your back. You did it all in one and a half hours.”
Once she left I burst into tears. I felt no pain in my back at all. In fact out of all my four labours, this one felt the most like I could handle each surge better than the rest. Tears of love, adoration and yes sorrow too. I was sorry for questioning my great God. A God who has had His hand on me since the very beginning of my life. I could see Him so clearly all this time in my pregnancy…. why would He run or flee from me now. Yes, He humbled me. Gently as always. Holding me as His corrects my doubt, my sin. I looked up again and this time out loud shaking my head, tears rolling down my face. I spoke out loud “thank you, thank you Jesus. That you love me this much. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for doubting. Thank you.”
I was thankful, deeply awe struck in praise to my God. The God who created life, who created me, created women to be strong enough to handle labour, who created my beautiful perfect baby girl (all of them for that matter). I was thankful that His promises remain true.
I’ve kept those Bible verses. I’ve used them again for the birth of our fourth child. This week I will pull them out again and place them around my home as a good reminder of the pain that will come, and indeed it will come and no doubt I am just as scared- but I know the assurance of Jesus standing firm with me in the pain. I’ve felt it before. It’s real dear reader.
And who knows, perhaps I can pass these little notes of promises onto my children when they each experience their own births. Their own journey to rely wholeheartedly on the name of the Lord.