Instant Pot love

The Instant Pot. I firmly believe this one kitchen item is MOM GOLD.

Unless you are the Chrissy Teigen type, you need an Instant Pot. Home girl can COOK. (Follow her on Snapchat and prepare to be amazed.)

This crazy thing can cook frozen chicken, cook spaghetti squash, cook rice, boil eggs, make soup, sauté meat, slow cook just like your crock pot, make yogurt, reheat leftovers, and cook a roast. And the newest one can do even more. Y’all. It can MAKE CAKE?!

Also, the newest one has a sanitize function! Like throw all the bottles and pacifiers and clean them?!

Are you convinced yet? Imagine all the cabinet and counter top space you could save if you got rid of your crockpot, rice cooker ,and  yogurt maker (I don’t actually own one of these and never will but I’m sure some super mom out there makes her own yogurt.) Cluttered counter tops make me nuts and this is the answer to my prayers.

Any mama’s like to make their own baby food? Get an Instant Pot. Trust me.

I don’t mean to sound like a crazy person. But I am serious when I say I use my Instant Pot almost every day.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use it:

  • Chicken. There are so many recipes out there that call for cooked chicken. Boiling chicken on the stove seems to take forever. And for some reason, every single time I try to bake chicken in the oven, I overcook it. Every time. I can throw in a pound of chicken with a cup of chicken broth, set the timer for 9 minutes and walk away. Forgot to thaw your chicken? No worries. Set the timer for 12 minutes. Done.
    • A little secret I learned: if you need to shred your chicken use your hand held mixer. Genius. Just wait until it is cooled down a little. Or have some lavender on hand for when it splatters and burns the shit out of you. Not that I have ever done that….
  • Spaghetti Squash: We are big fans of spaghetti squash around here, but it can take forever to cook in the oven. I follow this recipe for IP spaghetti squash and love it http://bit.ly/IPspagsquash .
  • Boiled eggs: I like my boiled eggs just a little soft so I use the 5:5:5 method for my IP eggs. 5 minute pressure cook. 5 minute natural pressure release or NPR. 5 minute ice bath. Perfect every time. If you like your eggs a little more firm cook for 6 minutes. (Natural pressure release simply means once your IP beeps to tell you that it’s done cooking, don’t touch it. Just let it sit and do its thing.)
  • Rice cooker: This took me a little longer to get the hang of, but I honestly had only made boxed rice prior to my IP. Real rice was totally new to me because who has time for real rice on the stove? 45 minutes? Um no. Get outta here stove. Bye. The IP comes with a small book of instructions which include cooking times. I follow the rice cooking times and water ratios from the book. You can also cook your rice in bulk, freeze it in individual serving sizes, and reheat it in your IP. Just undercook it a tad so it isn’t overcooked after you reheat. Usually reheating only takes about 5 minutes.
  • Reheat leftovers: This is a new one for me. In the Darnell house we use our microwave as little as possible. Because radiation…So when I learned I could reheat my leftovers without making a mess on the stove, I was pumped. Just pour your water into the bottom of the pot, place your metal steam rack in, and put your food in an oven safe glass bowl. Most of my leftovers have been done in less than 5 minutes. I don’t have to stand there and stir it. I can throw the bowl in the dishwasher, and it’s super-fast. Winning.
  • Baby food: I use almost the same method here as I do for leftovers. Water, metal rack, glass bowl. I then add whatever veggies I want into the bowl. Once the veggies are cooked, I simply blend them up and pour them into a Tupperware or reusable pouch. I do the same for fruits I want to add in to sweeten things up (apples and pears are our fav)

 

So needless to say, I’m obsessed. My family would eat out WAY more often if it wasn’t for our trsuty ol’ Instant Pot.

Convinced you need this in your life immediately? Purchase one here: http://amzn.to/2tmYI5m  (¬ my first affiliate link! Hooray!)

Let me know in the comments if you would like more recipes and how-to on the instant pot.

 

Now get to cookin!

 

Kisses,

Mama Darnell

Mom rules.

Rules. Some people are definite rule followers. (Me.) Some people believe all rules are meant to be broken. Or at least bent a little. (Daddy Darnell)

When I became a mom I quickly realized there were SO. MANY. RULES. And for a rule follower like me, it could be so stressful.

Bye stress. Bye guilt. Bye shame. I have no time for that shit.

So today I am breaking down some of the mom rules and how I feel about them. Prep yourself.

I firmly believe that you should do what is best for your baby, even at the expense of yourself sometimes. That’s part of the deal as a parent. However, I also firmly believe that a stressed mom, a mom with anxiety, a mom with anger, a mom that just can’t handle anymore judgement, is not what is best for baby. Mom’s sanity matters.

Let’s just start with WHEN you get pregnant. Sure, it’s harder and involves more risk to carry a child later in life. But if you want to wait until you’re actually ready (not when society thinks you should be ready) then by all means, wait. If you decide that you don’t ever want to have kids, then don’t. See friends, it’s your life. Having a baby will COMPLETELY change that life. Want to have a baby when you’re 23? Cool, get ready, it’s a wild ride. Want to have a baby when you’re 33? Cool, get ready, it’s a wild ride. Want to have a baby when you’re 43? Cool, get ready, it’s a wild ride. Don’t want to ever have a baby? Cool, I get it, it’s a wild ride. Or just be like me wing it.

Next on my list of glorious rules, how much weight you gain while you’re pregnant. However, all women carry their babies different. I am a fairly small person and I carried my babies HUGE. I have a small torso, so those babies had nowhere else to go except out. I gained more weight than I planned with both. I also watched what I ate (while still enjoying a cupcake or five) and worked out at least 3 times a week with both babies. My body just knew what it needed in order to nourish my babies. People need to stop asking moms “When are you due?! You’re huge!?” or “Oh, you’re about to pop!” Get off people. Growing a human involves some extra weight. It’s a damn HUMAN in there.

Rule number 3: How you birth your baby. Y’all. No one gets to tell you what is best for your body. (Except maybe the doctor. Maybe.) I chose to have natural births, in a birth center setting. It was what was right for me and my family. I loved every single minute of prenatal care. I was obsessed with the beauty of the birth center. (Seriously though if they would let me move in, I would. It’s GORGEOUS.) Some women choose to have a natural birth at home. Some women choose to have a natural birth in a hospital setting. Some women choose to have a normal ol’ hospital birth with all the drugs. Some women choose to schedule their C-sections the moment they find out they are pregnant. Some women want a certain type of birth and things take an alternate route. None of these choices make you a bad mom. None. It’s your body, which means you’re in charge. Each choice has benefits to mama and baby. (Now don’t you guys even think for one second this means I am not an advocate of natural birth. I love it. It is powerful and primal and so good for baby. But bringing a baby into the world is powerful, no matter how you do it. You still grew a human.)

Rule number 4: Breast is Best. Most who know me will agree that I am a strong advocate of breastfeeding. Because science. That being said. Formula will not kill your baby. Formula will not make your baby stupid (I am a formula fed baby and somehow still managed a college degree. I am even putting these sentences together with almost no assistance.) I see the pressure to breastfeed your baby eating away at some moms. Again, the sanity of a mama can impact baby just as much as boob milk or cow milk can. I once asked in a Facebook group when nursing stay-at-home moms pumped milk. I knew I needed a date night with my husband and needed a minute away. (I loathe pumping. Hate it. Special shout out to pumping mamas.) One mom sweetly chimed in that a stay-at-home mom should never need to pump because there was no reason for her to EVER be away from baby. No date nights? Ever? No girl’s night out? No alone time while strolling the aisles of Target? Not going to work for me. I would be the ultimate crazy bitch. If that works for you, sweet. But not me. Judge me.

Once you start bottle feeding, there is a whole new world of judgement. As a non-formula mom I get stressed in the formula aisle. So many options. And bottles? Glass, plastic, long nipple, short nipple, anti-colic…stop. Just feed the babies.

Next up: Development and baby milestones. This is another one where, of course, science comes into play. But. Believe it or not, babies are human, and all humans are a little different. Babies crawl at different ages, walk at different ages, get teeth at different ages, gain weight at different paces, the list could go on forever. Baby comparison can be the death of all things fun about being a mom. My first baby was TINY for the first year of his life. He wore a 6 month onsie at his first birthday. Second baby? She is two months old today and already busting out of some 3 month old clothes. Same mom. Same boobs. Very different babies. If I give ANY advice to new moms, it is to remember that your baby is human. As long as they are moving forward in development, don’t fret. (Side note: My doctor never pressured me about Hixon’s weight being low. I appreciate that more than anything else he has done for us. If your baby is “low” in weight categories don’t feel pressured to formula feed if you don’t want to. Get a few opinions first.)

More rules:

Babywearing. It is a life saver at times. But so is a stroller. Both are ok. Stroll on moms. Wear all the babies. Whatever works for you.

Cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers. I consider myself a little on the hippie side and I had no desire to cloth diaper. None. I want to roll that shit up and throw it away. Judge me.

Screen time. I struggle with this one almost every day. Of course I want Hixon to grow and play and develop in all the best ways. We love playing outside. I also really love Moana and her power to get him to sit still. Why can Moana and Elsa get him to sit still and I can’t? They really are the best babysitters around.

To circumcise or not. Don’t even get me started on people telling me what was best for my son’s penis. “Won’t he wonder why his penis doesn’t match his dad’s?” Are we really talking about matching penises? Stop.

Healthy snacks or donuts? I tend to be picky about what Hixon eats. Sugar is a HUGE issue in our society. Feed my kid ice cream before bedtime and I’ll cut you. I also don’t ask for a full rundown of everything he ate while with grandparents. It’s called balance. Carrots are good for your kids. One hot Cheeto won’t kill them.

I am not even going to touch on if working or staying at home with your kids is best. There is soooo much judgement in this department. Again, humans are involved here. Not robots. All moms are different. All jobs are different. You do you.

Car seat forward facing or rear facing. Do your research. Don’t forward face your newborn. Don’t judge others choices. Unless their kid is in the trunk. Then judge all you want and call the police. (Did y’all know the Tesla has a five point harness seat in the trunk?! Like a station wagon. But better. Space car.)

Co sleeping until college or crib sleeping from day one? Sleep is the goal. Babies need sleep. Toddlers need sleep. Moms and dads need sleep. I don’t want any extra bodies in my bed. Not the babies, not the dogs, sometimes not even Daddy Darnell. I also have zero desire to walk to the other room to nurse a baby every two hours all damn night. So, she sleeps in our room. Some people have “family beds.” All the snuggles. Everyone is invited. You do you.

Pacifiers? Well, Hixon currently carries around two at all times. So there’s that. When I taught kindergarten, not one kid ever came in with a pacifier. Not one.

Vaccinate or not? People I am going to stop here. I won’t touch this one. For now.

Ultimately the goal as a parent is to not raise an asshole. However you do that. Crunchy mom? Cool. Helicopter mom? Cool. Free range mom? Cool. You do you.

Daddy Darnell and I have a saying: Everyone has their own freak flag. It’s your flag. Let it fly.

Kisses,

Mama Darnell

 

 

Meal Plan 2

 

Meal Plan for the week is here!

I hope you all enjoy these meal plans. I will always try to keep them simple and mostly healthy. Don’t ever be afraid to change up the recipes a little to suit your own taste buds! If I don’t like an ingredient I simply leave it out. Or replace it. (This is also why I don’t bake. That shit is like a science experiment. If you leave something out, you’re in trouble.)

Let’s take a quick minute to talk about the instant pot again. For this week’s meal plan I will use mine for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Don’t let your Instant Pot intimidate you! You’re the boss, not the machine. It will not blow up. I promise. My mom’s pressure cooker blew up once and we all survived. Except the wall paper. It was a goner. An my brother will forever have a panic attack at the mere mention of a pressure cooker.

Wednesday: I will cook the chicken in my instant pot ahead of time. If your chicken is thawed already simply put it in the pot with 1 cup of chicken broth or water. Press “manual” and set the time for 9 minutes. Make sure the pressure valve on the top is closed (just push it towards the back of the pot.) The screen will show “on” until it reaches pressure. Then your timer will begin to count down. When the timer goes off push the pressure valve back towards the front to release the pressure. Done! Super easy. If your chicken is frozen, set the timer for 12 minutes. This is the BEST for when you forget to leave the meat out to thaw and it’s five o’clock and your vultures are suddenly starving death and throwing fits. (Anyone else’s kids act like this? No? Just mine?)

Thursday: I will cook the bacon on saute mode first. In this mode your pot won’t need the lid on so you can cook the bacon just like you would in a skillet. When the bacon is finished I will just dump all the other ingredients in, set the timer for five minutes, close the valve and let it cook. Because of the amount of liquid in the pot it will take a little longer than the chicken to come to pressure and start counting down. Let the pressure release on it’s own for soups, or else it will spew out of the top when you try and move the pressure valve. It should take about ten minutes to naturally release the pressure on it’s own. When your timer goes off, the pot will start to count up, showing how many minutes it has been since the pressure started releasing. Sooo basically once I put the lid on and set the timer I will go back to wrangling babies and forget about it until after bedtime and Daddy Darnell and I finally get to sit down and eat.

Friday: I will slice the sausage, chop the cabbage, and throw everything else in. Since the pot needs liquid to come to pressure, add about 1/2 cup of chicken broth or water. Set the timer for 3 minutes and you’re done. Adding the liquid will make this dish a little more liquidy (is that a word?)  than it would be in a skillet but the three minute cook time is soooooo worth it to me. Remember, my toddler starts circling like a hungry shark around 5 o’clock. I just serve it with a slotted spoon to get rid of some of the extra liquid. This meal is seriously so easy I cook it almost once a week. It’s not Manuel’s favorite, but until he starts making the meal plans and cooking dinner, well, he will keep eating cabbage and sausage 🙂

Let me know in the comments if you have ANY questions on how to use your instant pot.

Link to meal plan below

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meal plan 2

The birth of Kimora Hope

Kimora’s birth story could not be any more different than her brother’s.

Manuel and I had started talking about whether or not we wanted another baby. I knew if I had more than one I wanted them to be close in age.

BAM. I was pregnant. We had barely started talking about it, and not really started “trying.” It is supposed to be “harder” to get pregnant while you’re still nursing a baby. NOPE. Clearly my body just does whatever the hell it wants to.

After not knowing I was pregnant with Hixon for so long, you can bet your ass I had googled EVERY SINGLE sign that I had missed. Obviously being sick isn’t the only sign of being pregnant…. So this time I knew. We went away for a weekend on the river with some friends and I felt sick after just one beer. I also felt super hungover the next day from that one beer. I was only a few days late in my cycle (still fairly normal for me) but for some reason I just knew. I kept telling Manuel something was up but he was in denial. Finally, after about a week or so of feeling like something was a little off in my body, I convinced him I needed to take a pregnancy test. I was genuinely so excited to take an “at-home” test since I missed that whole experience with Hixon. Test revealed what I already knew. We were pregnant!

Telling the world was a little easier this time. Way less nervous. Way less shock.

I was sicker with this baby than I was with Hixon but nothing to complain about. I mean I maybe actually threw up once. Still. More than last time. The food aversions were STRONG with this baby though. Eggs? Nope. Chicken? Nope. Anything that smelled funny? Nope. Fish? Hell no. I decided I would just eat peanut butter and toast the rest of the pregnancy. Easy enough right?

But y’all. Being pregnant and tired and a little nauseous and still having to chase around a toddler? It’s no joke. I have never been so physically exhausted in my entire life. Ever. Nap time was serious business in this house. Bed time? Even more serious. All while trying to soak up every minute of Hixon being an only child.

This time I also experience a whole lot of mom guilt. Did Hixon even want a sibling? Would he be jealous? Would he be so sad I couldn’t give him ALL my attention anymore? Did I give him enough time and love? How on earth could I love another baby this much? Maybe new baby would feel left out? So many emotions! I think I cried at least once a day. Damn hormones.

I then realized I was almost the exact same age when my brother was born. And guess what? I don’t feel traumatized. Or left out. I even sort of like him?! Needless to say, as the older sibling, I survived. And my mom and dad survived. And my brother seems ok too. We would all be ok. Hopefully.

Since Hixon was born at 37 weeks, we prepped ourselves for this baby to come early as well. And that she did. Right around 38 weeks, I had a really rough night of sleep. I felt so uncomfortable all night. The next morning I continued to feel sick. Not horrible. Just a little sick. My whole body felt a little off. Manuel had a busy day at work so I called in reinforcement to help with Hixon so I could get some rest.  I called my midwife to let her know how I was feeling. I was on strict orders to not wait so long like I did last time. I labored so fast with Hixon (at least until I started pushing) we were worried this baby would come even faster. I stayed in contact with my midwife and doula all day. I was also in constant contact with my parents since they were going to come watch Hixon. But nothing was really changing. I just felt a little off. All. Damn. Day.

Late in the afternoon, I could tell something was changing. I was no longer just feeling a little sick. I was feeling some super small contractions, but nothing crazy. I was so nervous to have everyone rush to the birth center and then nothing happen, so I kept telling them I wasn’t ready. Then I started to panic. What if this really was labor and everyone would be stuck in rush hour traffic!? What if we had to take Hixon with us to the birth center?! He had already made a huge mess in the office at almost every single appointment. I couldn’t have him destroy the beautiful birth room too! I also knew I needed to have Manuel’s full attention and help and didn’t want him to be worried about Hixon. So I started to make a few panicked phone calls and had my doula and parents to have them head this way.

Then it happened. My contractions when from 15-20 minutes apart and very light, to 6-8 minutes apart and taking me to my knees very quickly. At this point we were still at home and Manuel was still on Hixon duty. I began to gather things up to leave while he took Hixon outside. Y’all. He accidentally locked me in my room. We have child locks on the outsides of our bedroom doors so we can lock Hixon out if we need to. But once the door is child locked, you’re also locked in the room. In an effort to keep Hixon out of the room, he also locked me in. And then they went outside. Had this moment been caught on camera it would go viral on YouTube I’m sure. I was 100% sure I was about to have this baby in my room, alone, while they played outside. COMPLETE PANIC. Needless to say, I text him, and he came and let me out. It’s funny now, but at the time, that might have been the scariest moment of my life.

Around 7:00pm my parents arrived to take over with Hixon and we were ready to head to the birth center. My fears were correct and my doula was stuck in traffic, but she was close enough to meet us there.

Arriving at the birth center I felt so much peace. I wasn’t nervous like I was last time. I knew I could do this. I knew we were in a better situation this time. I was so excited to labor in the water. All felt right in the world. I also really loved laboring at night. The birth center just felt so peaceful. I was also so happy that midwife Kaitlyn would be walking me through this again. We worked so hard together last time, I knew she would help me have the perfect birth this time.

I was dilated to a 9 and almost ready to push. (A little better than last time…) I labored in the water until I felt I was ready to push. And then it got REAL. The pressure to push was REAL. But we were still waiting to get to a 10 and my body wasn’t quite ready. My midwife offered to “assist” during the next contraction. Some craziness about her fingers inside me while I contracted. I just followed instructions and let her do her job to help get this baby out faster than last time. Low and behold, my water hadn’t broken all the way. Once we got that out of the way I was ready. It was around 10:00pm.

Once I started pushing I had my own little version of PTSD. All those emotions and memories of pushing Hixon for so long came flooding back. I had been telling myself all along I could do this again. But suddenly I decided I couldn’t. I just couldn’t push for that long. I couldn’t be a natural birth failure again. I sure couldn’t have another hospital bill like that again. I NEEDED this to be better than last time. Cue the tears. Luckily my midwife had the perfect, calm, strong words I needed at the moment. I could do this. I had done it before. My body knew what to do.

Know how long I had been pushing? Go ahead. Take a guess.

10 minutes. That’s it. I felt like it had been forever. Once I got my little pep talk from Kaitlyn and realized it had only been 10 minutes I began to feel strong again. It took my FIVE HOURS to get this far last time. I could do this. I WAS doing this! 20 minutes later I was still pushing but making decent progress. I pushed on the bed, and pushed while sitting on the birth chair. (If you don’t know what a birth chair looks like google it. Basically an assisted squat. A super low, legs wide open, look in the mirror to see your baby coming out, low squat.) I got back in the water, along with Manuel so we could have this perfect water birth with Baby Daddy there to catch the baby. A few contractions later, baby’s heartbeat dropped a little so we decided the water wasn’t the best place. Kaitlyn and I had a quick chat about not birthing in the water and instead birthing on the bed. I decided I would obviously do whatever was best for the baby and attempted to get out of the tub. One leg out. Then suddenly things changed. What in the actual hell was that pain?! Everyone realized very quickly that I was pushing this baby out. Right there. One leg in, one leg out of the water. I place ALL my weight on Manuel and delivered that baby right there. Standing up. It was the most excruciating 30 seconds of my life. (By this point with Hixon I was too numb and swollen to feel anything) I felt it all this time. Fire. I got baby’s head out (still standing) and told my midwife that was it I was done. Obviously not an option at that point. I mustered up every last ounce of strength I had and delivered the rest of baby. Screaming. Feeling so primal.

After a few moments of what felt like complete chaos, trying to me and baby over to the bed, we were done! Kimora Hope Darnell made her quick exit at 10:32pm. Only 32 minutes of pushing! And only 3 hours of active labor! My sense of pride at that time was through the roof.

Next step was an herbal bath. Guys, aside from the women being amazing, this was the reason I wanted another chance at natural birth. The herbal bath. Peaceful, quiet, healing for mommy, and healing for baby. And the most gorgeous photos.

I wish I could say introducing Hixon to his sister was the greatest moment ever. But by the time we were settled and ready for him to come, it was almost 2am. He was a little tired. He was more excited about the new toys we told him sister brought with her. Better than crying right?

So here we are. The Darnell Family. Complete. (Maybe…) Two kids under two years old. Chaos and a whole lotta coffee.

Kisses,

Mama Darnell

Weekly Meal Plan

Special Post!

Let’s talk meal planning real quick. Without a meal plan for the week I am a complete meal time mess. Almost always. If I haven’t thought about dinner way in advance I would rather just order pizza. It really stresses me out. Especially if I try to cook but need to head to the store first. Going to the store everyday is just not a good plan for me. Daddy Darnell has pretty much accepted that if it’s four o’clock and I haven’t mentioned dinner, we are eating leftovers. Or takeout. Or even better, leftovers from last night’s takeout.

fail to plan

 

Judge me.

So before baby K was here I was really good at sitting down and making a meal plan, then headed to the grocery store and getting exactly what we needed for the week. But let’s be real, simply “heading to the store” with two kids is just not a thing. Taking a toddler to the store is the ABSOLUTE WORST. Literal hell on earth. He hates the cart, but can’t quite walk fast enough to keep up. The only way to keep him happy in the cart is snacks. And those who know my kid know how much he can eat. His thighs are the same size as mine. So keeping him happy with snacks would require so. many. goldfish. and fruit snacks. and puffs. and juice. and whatever else I can dig out of my back before he starts screaming.

I am making a STRONG effort this week to get us back on track. Leaving the toddler with Daddy Darnell of course.

As I made my meal plan for this week I started thinking…maybe you guys would want to use it also? I figure if I am going to spend the time making a meal plan every week, it is super easy to share it with y’all.

Also, I use my Instant Pot almost daily.

You can purchase here: http:///2rOdLIa

Most of my meal plans will include my instant pot meals. My goal is always quick, easy, real food for my family. I just have no desire to cook a meal that takes forever and also uses 85,632 pots, pans and dishes. Just no. I hate doing the dishes. (It would be so nice if I could just throw it all away each night and start over. But I love mother nature a little too much to produce all that trash.)

Let me know in the comments if this is something you’re interested in seeing every week. I could post a meal plan on Friday so you can shop over the weekend? It will help kick my ass into gear and plan for my own family.

Side note: I am still learning how to make links look nice and pretty for y’all, so hang in there. As I keep learning, these kind of things will look better and be easier to use. Until then, if you don’t like it….well…move on 🙂 Unless you are really good at that kind of thing. Then don’t move on. Call me. Come over. Help me. K. Thanks.

PDF Meal Plan below

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meal plan 1

 

Kisses,

Mama Darnell

The birth of Hixon Eugene

Before we can really begin Hixon’s birth story we need to go all the way back to finding out I was pregnant. This story begins there. And folks, it was a little nuts.

On January 2nd, 2015 I went to my OBGYN for an appointment. I’d had a LEEP procedure in August and this was supposed to just be a follow up appointment. WRONG. As I am sitting in the room waiting for the doctor to come in (already feeling awkward because, let’s face it, those sort of appointments are so weird) when the nurse comes back in and the following conversation happens:

Nurse: “Your test was positive!”

Me: “What test?”

Nurse: “Your pregnancy test.” (I could see her excitement changing to concern quickly.)

Me: “You must have the wrong room. I didn’t take a pregnancy test.”

Nurse, clearly concerned at this point: “Yes ma’am you provided a urine sample when you got here. You’re Katie right?”

SHIT.

SHIT. SHIT. SHIT.

Me: “Yes. That’s me.” (Cue the tears.)

Y’all I had no idea. None. Not one single ounce of me thought “Hm, maybe I’m pregnant?”

I legit thought I was getting fat. I was trying everything to not feel so bloated all the time. I had given up gluten (because that’s what everyone else was doing.) I GAVE UP CHIPS AND SALSA. FOR NO REASON!  My periods had always been irregular so missing a few didn’t shock me. I was on birth control and never missed a pill. This just wasn’t possible.

Seeing that I was in disbelief the doctor offers to do a quick sonogram to help me take the whole thing in a little better.

I of course immediately went into full panic mode. Sweating, crying, cursing, all of it. I was sobbing and the nurse was handing me tissues as fast as she could.

The next five minutes or so is a complete blur. I know there were lots of questions. Then the doctor starts measuring me (remember I was there for a quick little follow up appointment!?) He proceeds to tell me he estimates I am about fifteen weeks pregnant. Excuse me? Fifteen freaking weeks!? How in the actual hell did I not know for FIFTEEN weeks?

Once I calm down and see that he isn’t playing a horrible joke on me, I see that there is an actual human life inside of me. I am going to that little thing’s mom! Then panic sets in again. I start crying again, but this time my reasons have changed a little. It’s January 2nd. Y’all. Holidays. Alcohol. That poor little baby. It’s almost embarrassing now when I think about it. We had been through Halloween, my birthday, the margarita ball, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. I have no idea how the 1st trimester went so smoothly and this little munchkin survived. The doctor informed me that things looked okay so far. My blood was drawn, and I was sent on my way.

How on earth was I supposed to tell Manuel? We were living with his parents. We didn’t even have our own place! We were doomed. This was nuts. More crying.

When I got home, I darted to our room as fast as I could. Hoping no one would notice my red face and swollen eyes. Of course, Manuel knew something was up. He followed me and almost immediately said “You’re pregnant.” Friends, he handled this news better than I could have ever imagined. I had convinced myself he would run for the hills. He didn’t. I’m not sure what he was really thinking, but he was rock solid from my point of view. Manuel has always been a sort of “roll with the punches” kind of guy.

Since I was so far along we were able to find out the gender of the baby within the next couple of days. The doctor knew after that first sonogram but I was so overwhelmed in that moment, I wanted to wait and bring Manuel with me.

Fast forward a few months to our hospital tour. My plan at the time was to have an un-medicated hospital birth. I felt pretty strongly about natural birth and thought my doctor was on board. But that hospital tour did not sit well with me. Something felt off. When I asked questions I didn’t get the answers I wanted. A friend at work was also pregnant and had shared with me how awesome her midwives were and how she was so excited to give birth. I knew these midwife women must be doing something right because how in the hell could a woman be excited about pushing a baby through her vagina without any pain medicine? I was not excited to give birth. Not at all. Not one single bit. I knew it was what was right for my baby, but I didn’t think for one millisecond it would be fun. I decided I would at least have a consultation with the midwives and see what the whole birth center thing was all about.

From the second we sat down with midwife Gina, my mind was made up. If we could work out the finances, this is what we were doing. I never went back to my other doctor. It was clear these women knew how to prepare my body. They believed in me, heard my fears, and held my hand every step of the way.

Fast forward again, to being 37 weeks pregnant. Baby had been measuring “big” the whole pregnancy. I was huge. A damn whale. People would constantly make jokes about how I was never going to make it to my due date. (Just so we are all clear. These things are not nice to say to a pregnant woman. We know we are massive. Don’t remind us. And don’t predict our baby’s due date.)

I went to the 6pm gym class, like I did most days. Worked my ass off. Did burpees. Felt better than I had in a while. When I got home I started getting dinner together and then BOOM. My water broke. Except there was no real boom. More like a trickle down my leg. I thought for a minute I had wet my pants. But then another trickle. And another. And it just kept happening. I called my midwife and let her know what was happening and she confirmed, my water was breaking. Very slowly. (How do you confirm if your water is breaking, or you’re wetting your pants you ask? You sniff. Pee smells. I’ll just leave it at that.) Manuel wasn’t home yet so I just sat at the kitchen table waiting. I knew there was no point in calling him since his phone would be in his gym bag.

When he got home all I could say was “Babe, I didn’t cook dinner, we are having a baby.”

Since no real contractions had started, I sent Manuel to get us some dinner and then we attempted to get some sleep. By the time I woke up in the morning contractions were really starting to get stronger. I called the midwives to give them an update and they instructed me to call them when contractions were consistently four minutes apart.

As I was timing contractions I started to feel like the pain was WAY more intense than I was prepared for. I assumed I was just a wimp and needed to hang in there. Contractions were still only about eight minutes apart. Then the pain got worse. So, so, so, so much worse. I began to vomit, sweat, cry, and panic. This was too much! How could I keep going until the contractions were four minutes apart?! I felt like I would for sure not make it. I was going to be a complete failure this whole natural birth thing. I needed meds. All the meds. And I needed them now.

Manuel called again to let the midwives know I was really in a lot of pain and the contractions were still not four minutes apart. Midwife Kaitlyn instructed him to wait thirty minutes and call her back with an update. My instant response was “No, you call that bitch back and tell her we’re on our way. I’m pushing this baby out!” Guys, having the urge to push while you are still at home “waiting” is just about the scariest thing ever. I was so afraid of having the baby in the car or at home! Manuel called her back and we headed to the birth center.

By the time we got there (only about 10 – 15 minute drive) I was certain I needed to push. Of course with this being my first baby Midwife Kaitlyn assumed I was not quite ready and just feeling anxious. NOPE. When she checked me to see how far along I was she realized I was completely dilated and effaced! I was right! This baby was coming! Her exact words were “Oh my gosh you have the cervix of a goddess. You’re ready. Let’s have this baby!” Midwives are so weird. The water wasn’t even warm yet in the birth tub, but I was desperate for a little relief so I got in anyways and almost immediately started pushing.

And then I pushed some more. And a little more. And a little more. I continued to push. Forever. I pushed in the water. I pushed on the bed. I pushed on the birth chair. I pushed on the birth ball. I pushed on the toilet. I pushed in the shower. I pushed while walking. I pushed and pushed and pushed. At one point I was STANDING on Kaitlyn’s knees, squatting and pushing all at the same time. Acrobatic child birth y’all. We were determined to get his baby out. Kaitlyn could see baby’s head. The assistant midwife could see baby’s head. My photographer (who was a retired midwife) could see baby’s head. Why wouldn’t this damn baby come out?!

Seven hours of active pushing later, I was completely exhausted. I had labored and dilated so quickly and then everything had come to a screeching halt. I had mentally prepared myself for a long labor. But this was so physically demanding. I had nothing left to give. Nothing. We began talking about transporting to the nearby hospital and called the doctor to get his opinion. I was so afraid that if we transported, they would make me have a C-section. After all that work. After so much prep beforehand, helping my body get ready for labor. I was even restricting carbs so that baby didn’t get too big. Only 50 carbs a day! A banana has almost 25 carbs. This was version of hell for sure. Now he was stuck. I was devastated, but too tired to protest. After talking with the doctor and filling him in on what was happening, he didn’t seem to think C-section was even necessary. He was pretty sure we could use some suction and gently help baby come on out. By this point I had been pushing almost eight hours. All I wanted was for this real life hell to be over. Anything (except a C-section.) Get this baby out.

So, we transported. Manuel drove us in our car, while my midwife led the way in her car. Everyone take a moment to really get a good image in your head. I had been pushing this baby for eight hours. I was crowning. I had a baby ALMOST out of me. And had to take a ride in the car. Pure Hell. At every stop light I just knew I was dying.

At the hospital the front desk calmly asked me to fill out some check in paperwork. Manuel about shit his pants. “Ma’am, she is crowning. She has been pushing for eight damn hours. Get us a room.” Off to a room we went. Waiting for the doctor. Still pushing. Still no baby. When the doctor finally came in the room I could tell he didn’t quite believe us. He wanted to wait for the next contraction to see what was happening. When that next contraction came his expression quickly changed. He could see now. Yes, baby was right there, just stuck. He then instructed me to push even when there was no contraction. I had to give it everything I had left (which really wasn’t much.) When I pushed, he suctioned baby’s head to make sure he didn’t pull himself back in. Less than fifteen minutes later, we finally had our sweet baby boy. Hixon Eugene. The most stubborn baby there ever was. Neither the doctor nor the midwife could explain why he wouldn’t come out. I swear he just changed his mind and wanted to stay in a little longer. I was obviously VERY swollen and Hixon had a little cone head from the suction cup, but we both survived.

My emotions in that moment were so confusing. I had seen all these birth videos where the mom just loses herself when baby is laid on her chest. Tears, smiles, maybe both. I was so tired I felt nothing. I just wanted to close my eyes and rest. When I look back at the photos I can see I was just in such relief. It was finally over. I did it! A birthed a baby! With zero pain medications! I actually did it.

I can honestly say that was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was not how I had imagined it what so ever. I could have never prepared myself for what happened. I couldn’t even be upset about not getting my perfect water birth, I was just so relieved.

Two years later I now understand that we can plan and prep for birth. And birth is such a beautiful event. But we all birth differently and that’s ok. The goal is a happy, healthy baby. A mom must ultimately do what is right for her and her baby. We judge ourselves and others so much based on each other’s birth choices. No choice is a wrong choice. We do what we feel is best for us. Natural birth, epidural, scheduled C-section, emergency C-section, it’s all birth. Each option brings a new life into this world. Each shows the strength of a mom in a totally different way. Each is beautiful. And each choice is something to be celebrated.

So, cheers to birth my sweet friends, however you decide to do it. Or not. Your choice. No judgement.

Kisses,

Mama Darnell

Welcome. Let’s Get Real.

Welcome to my first ever blog post!

Since becoming a mom I have realized the saying “it takes a village” is so very true. Being a mom is hard y’all. I know I’m not the only one who has moments of complete craziness. Those moments where, if caught on camera, I’d be immediately sent to a crazy home. I sit and talk with friends about how I know I’m about to lose my marbles. And you know what? My friends seem to feel the same way.

Recently, I have heard stories about moms really struggling. Moms I know. Moms I talk to regularly. It’s always sort of a secret. Why? Why the hell do we keep all these scary, hard, completely defeating moments to ourselves? Why keep them all locked away in our diaries?

I have always had a love for writing. Not the fancy kind you had to do in school but real honest writing. More like journaling I guess. Diaries were MY THING growing up.  It always felt like it was such a judgement free way to get out ALL the feelings. But those are the kind of things you keep to yourself. There is a reason they make diaries with locks on them…

So that leads us to this. The Darnell Diaries. My journey into motherhood. I’m so over the secrets. Done feeling like I am the only one who has cried in the shower because the toddler is banging on the door and I just wanted a moment of quiet. Done letting other moms feel alone. We are in this together friends.

The Darnell Diaries will document all the craziness that goes on in my life.

Topics you might find here:

♥ Which natural deodorant works best (or doesn’t work at all…)

♥ Boosting milk supply and all things nursing a baby

♥ Essential oils and how to use them

♥ Believing in yourself and why it’s silly not to

♥ Our bodies and how they change with age and babies. And of course how to get them back under control

♥ Which concealer will best cover these dark circles under our eyes

♥ Boob jobs after nursing babies? (The answer is most definitely yes, just wait till I get this baby off the tit.)

♥ Vaginas and how to restore them to their rightful glory after babies.

♥ Maybe a book club?

♥ Potty training. (Or how my toddler just isn’t into it…)

♥ All my DIY attempts (DIY cleaning, DIY toddler play. DIY crafts. You get the idea.)

♥ Friendships/ relationships and how they evolve as we get older

♥ Self-care and why we shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

♥ Whatever else comes to mind, is suggested, or is on my heart at the time.

Things you probably won’t find here:

♥ Hair and makeup tutorials. I am astonishingly good at watching these tutorials. I am not so great at recreating them. I am lucky if I put on Chap Stick and brush my hair some mornings.

♥ Perfectly perfect photos. Of course I will do my best to have nice photos for y’all. But there will most likely still be toys, laundry, dogs etc. in the background. This is an honest blog, and those things are real life at my house.

♥ Posts telling you the best way to live your life. We are all different. This will simply be the very best version of my own life. Some things might not work for you and that’s okay. That’s the whole reason we are here. To talk about all the different challenges we’re all facing.

♥ Lastly, you will not find me tip toeing around people’s feelings. Of course I am not trying to offend anyone on purpose. But. I am also not trying to be fake. This will be the real life version of me. And the real life version uses bad words, sometimes talks about things that are inappropriate, and things we should live life as “naturally” as possible for the sake of our babies (But I also can be found at the local Chick Fil A often, and I ain’t ashamed of it.) Sometimes we might talk about things that are sensitive subjects. Again. That’s why we are here.

It’s time to get real. (But it’s also time to start being nice to each other. And offering grace to each other. And having each other’s backs.)

I hope this can be a judgement free zone, just like those locked diaries I kept as a young girl. This shit we call life is hard, and I’m here to talk about all the ups and downs.  You with me? This might not be the most eloquent blog. I might not have the best grammar. My posts may be all over the place. I will most definitely use some curse words and probably offend someone along the way. But you can bet your ass I’ll be honest and real. So get some coffee (Or wine. Or liquor. Or sweet tea.) and enjoy.