The Birth Story of Jasper Finley Spruill

This is the birth story of Jasper Finley Spruill. While I was nursing my daughter London, my regular monthly cycle had not returned and as the months passed by, our dream of giving her a sibling around her 2nd birthday seemed unlikely. Around Christmas, we prayed for a baby but I resolved to stop stressing about becoming pregnant and to focus on my growing Beautycounter business for 2015. And just like that, on January 2nd, we found out we were expecting—it was a Happy New Year indeed! I had a really easy pregnancy once again just like I did with my daughter and it was not until the intense heat and humidity of late August in Texas that I started to feel uncomfortable. That is to be expected with 105+ feels like temperatures daily! Weekly chiropractic adjustments helped too.
39w5d

It was definitely different this time around being pregnant while caring for a 2 year old, but it was also very sweet. London Sophia was absolutely elated about becoming a big sister soon and while I couldn’t determine if she understood that an actual baby would be coming to live with us soon, she loved hugging and kissing “Baby Jasper” ie my pregnant belly—she insisted on hugging and kissing and holding my bare belly so that was a perfect mixture of adorable and irritating as my belly got bigger and bigger. I carried Jasper very low but was also all belly once again and that generated a lot of comments from strangers. My due date was determined to be August 26th. With my first pregnancy, I went 6 days late so I was prepared that Jasper would arrive sometime in late August, but at the same time, once I hit 38 weeks, I knew that he could arrive any day. I would wake up and think, “Am I in labor? Will I be having a baby today?!” I was in no hurry this time around; with London, I was anxious and eager to have her, but with Jasper, I knew that there would be an adjustment and some exhaustion and while I was excited, I was also not wanting to rush it and I wanted to savor all of that special time with London Sophia as my only baby. I grew very emotional that last week of pregnancy and twice had near panic attacks thinking that I could potentially leave London motherless. I felt desperate to get as much done as possible with business and our home, but finally exhaustion set in and I allowed myself to rest and nap and just enjoy the last few days of pregnancy.

Sunday morning I was running a bit late but I decided that London and I would make it to church anyways. I knew it would be our last chance for a while since I was 39.5 weeks pregnant. On the way out the door, Pastor Jeff prayed over London and me, specifically for a complication-free birth and another healthy baby. I felt a great sense of peace and we enjoyed a nice dinner as a family. Devin grilled a feast and I prepared blondies and brownies for dessert. He built the storage shelves/cabinet for the office that I had been waiting on and I worked hard at unpacking and organizing that room until 3 am. That’s when I decided I had better get some rest since I could go into labor any day.

SO… about an hour later, around 4 am, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom. I noticed some mucous which is a sign that labor is starting and within 15 min or so I was woken up by contractions, which felt like intense menstrual cramps. Devin rubbed my back in his sleep but I’m not sure that he realized it was actually happening at first. At 5:09 am, I texted our midwife, Kellie and gave her the heads up—she has nearly a 2 hour drive and if rush hour started, on the very first day of school nonetheless, she probably wouldn’t have made it in time. Within 5 min, she determined she would head our way. I hated to think that she may be arriving way too early, but better safe than sorry. While she was on the way, I had no interest in timing any contractions, but they were every few minutes or so. She told me that sitting on the toilet could intensify contractions so I decided that laying on my left side in bed would be the way to go. That was the one position I swore I would NOT be employing, but Kellie told me that it could slow things down so I decided that was it. Since my sweet, dear, volunteer doula friend Debs was busy getting her 4 school kids back to school and she could not make it, and Devin was preparing the bed and the warm blankets and tending to the supplies, I had to be my own doula. In truth, I was a bit fearful to be having another home birth—my main fears were that I would hurt in ways that I just did not remember from the first birth, or that some complication would send me to the hospital, which would be a worst case scenario. So as the contractions started, I would tell myself, silently, “I was made to do this. I’m not afraid. God is with me. He did not give me a spirit of fear. I was made to do this. I’m not afraid. God is with me. He did not give me a spirit of fear.” I did not take a birthing class, and I did not intend to do affirmations, but in my head, I was chanting that to myself, and it got me through each contraction. Devin did apply pressure to my lower back and that helped, and I held his hand through several contractions. I really felt proud of myself even as it happened for just taking them as they came and getting inside of myself to get through each wave.

Kellie arrived just after 7 am. She spent a few minutes bringing in and setting up her supplies. Once that was done, she got the Doppler and monitored Jasper’s heartbeat throughout back to back contractions. They were close together. I remember telling them that I drifted off into a dream between them—it couldn’t have been 30-60 seconds, but she said it was good, that my body was taking care of me and letting me rest between contractions. I had been waiting to go to the bathroom until she arrived, so now I finally could. In the meantime, Devin started running the bathwater, which still surprised me that I was so close, so fast. I was afraid to tear, but I knew the water would help that. After using the bathroom, I had what Kellie called “a spontaneous urge to push.” With home births, my midwife does not do a vaginal exam, so there is no “you’re __ centimeters” –did you know that this is subjective by the way and that there is no ruler involved? Instead, it’s more about listening to the body, the primal sounds, and the urge to push. At this point, it was likely about 7:45 am and I was helped into the bathtub. Contractions seemed to slow down, which is natural because the water is relaxing. As a contraction came on, I could not avoid pushing even though I was a bit afraid of the crowning, ie the ring of fire. I felt that familiar burn, and I knew I had to welcome the very brief intensity to achieve the blissful result, so I spoke to Jasper and I pushed. Devin got ready to catch his son, and I heard them mention his hair. Seconds later, his head was visible, and for a few brief moments, there was no contraction forcing me to push out his body. I had to actually tell myself, “Push!” and out he came, into his Daddy and Kellie’s hands. He did have his cord wrapped around his neck, so Kellie quickly fixed that and he was laid on my chest. It was 7:58 am, just less than 4 hours after I went into labor.

And then silence. For about a minute, that to be honest felt like a lifetime, Jasper did not cry. Kellie quickly suctioned him with a DeLee suction, which is just a teeny tube that removes fluid from his lungs. Finally, he cried, and we could all breathe, and then there were happy tears. There was a brief second where it was almost out of body, where time stood still, but I did trust that God was in control and that Kellie was competent and Jasper was safe. Moments after he cried, he was rooting for the breast and latching on, which also helps to regulate his temperature and respirations. Before too long I was helped to our bed, with Jasper still attached to the placenta. The cord was cut after he had gotten a good long nursing session in, and after that he was weighed and measured—7 lbs 7 oz and 20.25” long. Amazingly enough, even after our momentary scare, he had perfect Apgar scores even immediately after. We did have one more scary moment where I was producing a lot of clots for some reason, and my lips apparently got a bit white. Kellie used various techniques to resolve this, and we were able to manage without a shot of Pitocin that would have helped my uterus to contract more quickly. I pleaded for no shot and both Kellie and my body obliged. As a precaution, I drank a lot of replenishment fluids and my vitals were good again shortly thereafter. He was born at 7:58 am, just over 3 hours after labor started, and just minutes before his sister woke to find that she was a Big Sister! “Oh, he’s here!” she squealed!
Mommy & Jasper
First herbal bath
Proud Daddy
cutting cord

Devin and London and I are all just in love with sweet Jasper, as will his older brother Hunter be when he gets to meet him soon. He is a sweet, gentle baby thus far who is already a champion nurser and sweet sleeper. London is absolutely elated to be a big sister and she can barely keep her hands off of “Baby Jasper” as she calls him! We are blissfully enjoying life as a family of 5 and we both agree that we have never felt happier in our lives. I never dreamed of being a mom when I was young and single, but it is truly what I was designed to do and it’s the greatest joy I’ve ever known. There is a superhuman experience that goes along with natural birth, especially at home, that I wish every woman could experience. The only thing that comes close to the feeling for me is that when I jumped out of an airplane—when you face a fear that you don’t know if you can survive, the natural high is indescribable. That is what home birth is like for me—I’ve never felt so accomplished and whole and proud of myself, but also grateful for my God, my husband and our team of supporters.
Mommy London Jasper

Beyond Healthy Blondies ie Vegan Protein-Packed Cookie Bars!

I owe this recipe and blogpost to my girlfriend Korrin who shared the recipe with me a few months back. I’ve tweaked it just slightly but we literally make it once or twice a week! My husband and stepson request this more than anything else! And I must admit–they are absolutely mind-blowing! Nobody would ever guess that the secret ingredient in these Cookie Bars is Chick Peas…that’s right, legumes!

This recipe is dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and refined sugar-free. It is sweetened with liquid stevia and maple syrup. I do use natural peanut butter or almond butter, but in the case of allergies, I suspect you could replace with sunbutter. I have not tried that yet.

This would be a fantastic way to sneak protein into your picky kiddo’s diet–they will be pleading for more!

Ingredients:
~1 can of organic garbanzo beans aka chick peas, strained and rinsed
~1/2 cup of natural peanut butter or almond butter (we like the grind-your-own one ingredient style from HEB or Whole Foods)
~1/8 cup of 100% Maple Syrup
~15 drops of Liquid Stevia–I prefer the Sweet Leaf Stevia Clear brand.
~2 tsp Vanilla
~1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
~1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
~1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
~1/4 cup of Enjoy Life Allergy-free, Dairy-free Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips– they are $4.91 a bag at HEB but I keep them in the freezer and they last us a good while! Perfect for these bars or chocolate chip pancakes or over some Nada Moo Dairy Free Ice Cream!

Instructions:

~Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F.
~Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips in a food processor–I prefer my Kitchen Ninja!
~Blend well.
~Add half of the chocolate chips and pulse to combine.
~Spread the “batter” into a brownie pan spritzed with olive oil or coconut oil–I like to use my pre-divided brownie pan. This recipe makes 9 bars, or half of the pan, while doubling this recipe would fill up the pan with 18 brownie-sized bars!
~Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes and serve with a cold glass of Almond Milk! Don’t forget to let them cool for 15 minutes or more so they retain their bar form as they get dunked into that almond milk!

Thank you so much Korrin for turning me on to this amazing treat! Enjoy!

Baby Bellalfredo …Dairy-free, Gluten-free & Guilt-free!

There are several dishes that have become staples on our dinner menu, but only a few that become weekly requests by my husband and stepson, and this pasta is absolutely one of them! As I was enjoying this dish last night, I couldn’t help but think that this really is the dairy-free equivalent of Mac n Cheese and based on requests for this recipe, others will feel the same way! This recipe is especially skin-friendly because ditching the dairy is one of the best things you can do for your skin! So if you crave alfredo but not the oily skin or breakouts that go along with it, this dish is for you!

bella cashew cream pasta

Besides the amazing taste of this dish, my favorite part is the overall easiness! While my pasta water is boiling, I start the sauce by combining the ingredients in the Kitchen Ninja–my favorite food processor! As the quinoa pasta is cooking, I prepare our salads and saute the baby bella mushrooms. Strain the pasta, add the sauce and mushrooms and top off with sauce, and the dish is complete! I wish they all were this simple!

As is, this recipe will serve 2. When my stepson is with us, I double the recipe and end up with a little bit leftover.

Ingredients:
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Veggie Boullion Cube
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp EVOO
1 tsp Melt Vegan Buttery Spread
3/4 cup finely ground cashews (I pre-grind these and then add the ground cashews to this recipe)
Hint of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Baby Portabella mushrooms aka Crimimi mushrooms
tsp Coconut Oil (or olive oil) for preparing the mushrooms
1 Box Ancient Grains Quinoa Penne — it’s my favorite gluten-free pasta so far!

ancient harvest GF pasta

Instructions:
Wash and cut the mushrooms into slices. Heat the Coconut Oil and saute the mushrooms as the pasta is being prepared.

Boil water for the pasta.

In a powerful food processor or blender–I use my trusty Kitchen Ninja Pro–combine all of the ingredients to the nutmeg. Add the very hot water (it doesn’t have to be boiling necessarily, but I do use the tea kettle to heat the water). Blend until completely combined. The sauce may separate and that is ok.

Add the pasta and as the box states, do not overcook. I cook my noodles for 6-7 minutes and then strain. Add the pasta back into the pasta pan and add the cashew cream sauce. Combine well. Top with the mushrooms and serve!

You can be creative and add in any veggies you choose from spinach to zucchini to sweet onion!

Best Bang For Your Buck Burrito Bowls!

Pics do no justice!

Pics do no justice!

So it seems inevitable that when we are just due slightly overdue to head to the grocery store, my husband will ask, “What are you planning for dinner, babe?” At this point, I must admit that I will always suggest Rice & Beans although I’m secretly hoping my husband will politely decline! Despite the fact that brown rice and beans are extremely nutritious, healthy, inexpensive and are always in my pantry, to be honest, I do not enjoy them much at all–until today!

And full disclosure, as soon as I was able to start writing this entry, my 5 month old woke up to nurse, so I am truly multi-tasking as I type! This one will be short and sweet!

Ingredients:
2 cups dry pinto beans, which makes 4 cups cooked
1 cup dry brown rice, which makes about 2 cups cooked
1 can rotel diced tomatoes with cilantro and lime (or one large diced tomato + cilantro and lime juice!)
1 diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic (I used the jarred stuff!)
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp sea salt
1 veggie boullion cube + 2 cups bowling water (or 2 cups veggie stock)
Tofutti Sour Cream (optional but delicious)
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Sliced Avocado

First, cover the dry pinto beans with 2 inches of water and simmer for about 75 minutes. Next, prepare the brown rice as instructed.

In a large and deep skillet, heat the grapeseed oil and the spices for about a minute. Add the diced onion and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute. After 5 minutes, add the pinto beans and rice, plus the 2 cups of veggie stock and the mostly strained can of tomatoes. Simmer on low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. I like to keep the consistency just slightly soupy, like a thick stew, as opposed to more dry.

Looks almost like vegetarian jambalaya!

Looks almost like vegetarian jambalaya!

This recipe should make 4 generous sized burrito bowls. Top with shredded lettuce, sour cream or Tofutti sour cream and sliced avocado.

My carnivore 11 year old stepson told me that this has instantly surpassed my baked “fried” chicken tenders–the only meat that I ever prepare–as his favorite and he requested it for his birthday! That is about the best compliment his sweet little heart can give!

This dish probably cost me no more than $5 for the entire meal and was packed full of protein and fiber! This meal is vegan and gluten-free, of course and has all of the flavor of your favorite Mexican food restaurant without the grease, fat or absolutely addictive and bottomless basket of tortilla chips!

Vegan Split Pea Soup ~ Hearty,Thrifty, Delish!

So I’m the type of person who can eat soup year round. It may be hotter than the surface of the sun in Houston during the summer, but thanks to the magic of air conditioning, we can always enjoy a nice bowl of soup! Best thing about this particular recipe is that it’s new mommy friendly–hearty, delicious, inexpensive and EASY to prepare in a crockpot! This soup is Dairy-Free/Vegan which is key for me as I am nursing my sweet bundle of joy and dairy is terribly upsetting for her little belly. It is also Gluten-Free, if you choose to eliminate the Barley.

As for instructions, the beautiful part is, all you must do is throw each of these things into the crockpot, with the Split Peas on the bottom! Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low and resist the urge to open the crockpot at all before the time is up! Doing so releases some of the heat and slows the cooking process.

This hearty soup is great year-round!

This hearty soup is great year-round!

~2 Cups of Organic Split Peas (I get these in the bulk section at HEB/Central Market)
~1/2 Cup of Dry Barley (eliminate for Gluten-Free Soup)
~1 Bag Organic Baby Carrots, diced (I love to pulse in my trusty Kitchen Ninja)
~1 Yellow Onion, diced (again just pulse in Kitchen Ninja or food processor or slice)
~2-3 Stalks Organic Celery, diced (you guessed it, in the Ninja!)
~5 Small or 3 Medium Potatoes, cut into cubes (I love Russet, but Sweet Potatoes would lower the Glycemic Index)
~Handful of Mini Portabella Mushrooms, sliced
~2 tsp of Minced Garlic (or 4 cloves, minced)
~2 TBSP of Better than Boullion Vegetarian Paste + 8 Cups of Water
(Alternatively, you can use 4 Cups Low Sodium Veggie Broth + 4 Cups of Water)
~2 tsp Salt
~1 tsp Cracked Black Pepper
~2 tsp Dried Basil
~2 Bay Leaves (place on top and remove before serving)
~1/4 Tsp Ground Cumin
~1/4 Tsp Ground Thyme
~Splash of Bragg’s Amino Acids

This soup makes excellent leftovers so it’s great for a busy week!

The Birth Story of London Sophia Spruill

The Birth Story of London Sophia Spruill
June 14, 2013 at 3:09 PM
8 pounds, 2 ounces ~ 20.25 inches
Those present: Mommy, Daddy, Certified Nurse Midwife, Kellie Moeller, Debs Walker, and Randi Laws

London's little feet!

London’s little feet!

Based on the date of my last menstrual period, I was due with my first baby on Saturday, June 8th, 2013. When my husband Devin and I originally discussed having a baby, I had assumed that I would simply be added to his company health insurance plan and have a traditional hospital birth. However, when we learned how very expensive it was to add a spouse to his high-deductible plan, we started to explore our options such as skipping the expensive medical insurance and opting for cash payment. I started calling hospitals and OB/GYN’s, trying often unsuccessfully to get a cost estimate, and because it was so tough to get answers over the phone, I finally started visiting hospitals and requesting the info in person. The problem is that there are so many variables and the bill would likely be much higher than anyone could estimate in advance. It was around this time that a friend suggested I look into seeing a midwife, and somehow Devin and I discovered a documentary called The Business of Being Born. Once we saw this film, we were convinced—the traditional hospital birth was not for us. I was in a Bible Study with several beautiful young mothers, a few who had shared their own personal birth stories, and I knew that if a physician advised me to have an “emergency C-section” to ensure the health of my baby, I could not go against this advice despite any plan for a natural birth. Based on what I had learned from that film, I knew that I wanted a birth that was in the best interest of me and our baby, and not what was most convenient for the doctor.

Changed our perspective completely

Changed our perspective completely

There were two specific concepts that stuck out to me from The Business of Being Born documentary: first, women giving birth in primal or rural settings do not give birth lying down in a bed, but rather they often do so squatting or on all fours and second, the cycle of medical interventions including induction and pain medications often lead to unplanned C-sections. Devin and I toured a birthing center and originally agreed to welcome our baby there, but after talking to a friend who had a successful home birth, we were introduced to Kellie Moeller, with Home Birth Experience and we decided to give birth in the privacy and comfort of our own home! We officially started seeing Kellie for our prenatal care, and we were blessed with a healthy and rather pleasant pregnancy. I give God all of the glory for this—we prayed for our baby and for a healthy, smooth and successful home birth in God’s perfect timing and that is exactly what we experienced! In fact, I felt our baby move for the first time at church on Christmas Eve—it felt like popcorn popping in my belly!

London's little feet!

London’s little feet!


London's sweet pretty profile!

In February, we finally got to have our second and final sonogram where we would hopefully learn the gender of our baby—I would have been excited either way, but since Devin already has a wonderful 10 year old son, I knew that he had his heart set on a baby girl. The sonographer took her time but we finally learned after about an hour that we were in fact expecting a girl! Devin’s reaction was to cancel our gym plans and immediately head to the store to pick out her first couple of outfits—we were so excited and we knew that she was London Sophia Spruill and we would be meeting her soon! I had a couple of dreams of a baby girl prior to learning the sex, so it turns out a mother’s instinct is as strong as they say!

It's a GIRL!!!!

Speaking of the gym, I continued to work out throughout the entire pregnancy. I wanted to be physically prepared for a natural homebirth. Working out minimized my aches and pains. I believe that God designed women to give birth and we do tend to live a rather natural lifestyle, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have some fears about giving birth—would I tear?; would my labor progress?; would I be ugly to my husband as a result of the pain? I was more afraid of having something go wrong that would lead me to the hospital than I was of the actual labor pains, but they were on my mind as well. I focused on staying healthy—from healthy meals to working out and also on my own businesses—GRACE and Beautycounter and freelance writing, which helped to remain as patient as possible as we waited for London Sophia to arrive.

Working out til the end!

Celebrating our "Due Date" and 2 year anniversary together!

After a couple of weeks of Braxton Hicks contractions, on Thursday, June 13th, 2013, and 5 days after my official due date, I had an especially productive day. I cleaned out the refrigerator, prepared a bunch of meals, hung a dozen or so pictures in the office, ran a few errands and worked on the nursery—in retrospect, I was nesting. Prior to this week, I had tried all of the natural induction methods, from making love to spicy foods to tropical fruits to daily treadmill walks, evening primrose oil and red raspberry tea. My midwife kept telling us that if London wasn’t ready, this would prepare my cervix for labor but it wouldn’t make it start. I trusted that London would arrive when she was ready developmentally, but I secretly feared giving birth to a large baby! I just so happened to have our favorite dish that evening—Eggplant Parmesan and we went to bed soon thereafter. Around 3:45 am, I woke up to use the bathroom and I discovered that I was spotting—I knew at this point that we’d be meeting London soon! Within 15 minutes, I started feeling period-like cramps that made me squirm in bed, but I was able to sleep around them.

Thursday, June 12th

Thursday, June 12th

Around 7 am on Friday June 14th, I woke up to make Devin his Green Smoothie and see him off to work. A few times that morning I had to drop to the floor until a contraction passed. I added a contraction timing app on my phone and discovered that they were lasting 30-60 seconds and were about 5 minutes apart. By the time Devin made it from The Woodlands to Houston, I decided to ask him to turn around and head back as the contractions were seeming to be closer together and more intense. I couldn’t focus on TV or on talking to my mom on the phone or on anything else. Around 10:30 am, both Devin and our Doula friend from church, Debs, arrived just as my contractions were getting quite close and uncomfortable. Devin’s cologne was distracting me so he was kind enough to take off his work clothes and Debs kept me focused on breathing deeply in through my nose and out through my mouth from my diaphragm until Kellie the midwife arrived. When Kellie did arrive, it was probably around noon and she monitored the baby’s heart rate through several contractions. After deciding that London was doing well, Kellie left to visit a newborn baby nearby. I was so thankful that Debs was there because the labor was progressing quickly to me. Devin prepared our bed with plastic and an old sheet set—it looked perfect. Debs helped me to explore several positions, from laboring on my sides (which I did not like at all), to on a ball leaned up against her to laboring on the toilet to all fours on the bed using the ball to move London into the birthing canal.

I actually found the most relief laboring on the toilet and at some point, in the early afternoon, I felt and heard my water break. I still had no idea how much I was dilated, and just after this my friend Randi, who is in nursing school, arrived. She helped by offering me water as it’s important to stay hydrated. Sweet Devin made me some toast but I couldn’t get myself to eat it—I was hungry but just could not focus on food. I tried a Lara Bar but it smelled horrible to me while in labor. I sipped on Red Raspberry Tea as well which is supposed to speed up labor. At some point, probably around 2:00, Debs suggested that I move to our bathtub, where I planned to give birth. I had been in the tub earlier but it seemed to slow down my contractions so I had returned to the toilet. Someone had called Kellie, the midwife, who decided to return after hearing my primal laboring sounds. While in the tub for the second time, I did feel a great deal of pressure and felt the urge to push, but I was afraid of tearing if I pushed too early. I remember at one point getting irritated that our midwife hadn’t made it back yet, because I suspected that she may miss the birth. I think I held back until she made it.

We were about to receive the best gift imaginable!

We were about to receive the best gift imaginable!

When Kellie arrived, she put on gloves to examine how far along I was and to see if the baby was crowning—she was within minutes and I discovered why they call this the “ring of fire”—the sensation did burn and I remember saying, “Come on London—help your Mommy!” Overall, the burning part was brief. I remember asking the midwife, “How long can this pushing part last?” and she responded with an amused look as if she didn’t have a crystal ball, but she said “Up to an hour”… I was crushed! It felt like she was so close—sure enough, soon thereafter, someone held a mirror revealing our daughter’s hair, and that is when I felt very confident in pushing. I looked at Devin and told him I love him—I was so afraid that I would be mean in labor but I was overcome with love for him at that point. Kellie invited Devin into the bathroom to “catch” London, and she guided him on how to do so. Once her head was in his hands, I remember telling London to “swim out!” It seemed like seconds later at 3:09 pm, Devin was lifting our baby out of the water and placing her on my chest. We both had tears in our eyes and were overcome with love—we did it!
The pain was instantly gone. I was in a state of shock—I was now a mommy and I was holding our baby. She was perfect…blue at first, then instantly crying and I just remember thanking God that she was seemingly healthy and perfect. God had answered all of our prayers for a home water birth of a healthy baby girl. How could we be so blessed? Devin and I both teared up and Debs kept telling me how I had done so well. I felt like Superwoman, full of adrenaline, but honestly, at no point did I feel like I couldn’t handle the pain or that I would prefer to be in the hospital with medication. Instinctively, just as the books suggest, London was searching for my breast, and was breastfeeding while we were still in the tub. Shortly thereafter, we were helped to our bed, wrapped in warm towels and blankets and still with the umbilical cord intact. London stayed on my chest, skin to skin, for at least a couple of hours, as she and I both ate. I felt like I had never eaten or drank in my life—I inhaled whatever they put in front of me! Finally, after a few hours, Devin and Kellie took London to the scale to discover that she was 8 pounds and 2 ounces—she looked SO tiny! I could not believe that I had delivered an 8 pound baby in our bathtub—and it really was tolerable! London and I took an herbal bath to promote healing, and it was amazing to see her become still and alert in the water—like she was back at home after 10 months of floating in my belly. Soon we were back in bed and she was eating once again.

Welcome, sweet baby girl!

Mommy Daughter Herbal Healing Bath

Devin and I could not be any more grateful and elated about our decision to have a home birth. One of my first thoughts after London was born was that I could do this again! I’ve heard that God allows us to forget the pain of childbirth, but it really was such a brief moment that the pain was most intense—it just would not have been worth it for me to have had an epidural for that brief moment, especially when an epidural could have led to further interventions or adverse effects. I am extremely thankful for my husband and I think that we have a renewed sense of intimacy and respect for each other after this amazing experience. It made me happy to hear him call me his hero—I really have never felt so accomplished or worthy of respect. We plan on making the most of every single day with our growing family.

8 pounds 2 ounces--she looked so tiny to us!

We did it!

First Family Photo!

First Family Photo!

***I must add this, if you have been thinking about a home birth, or not, Devin and I really encourage you to explore the option! It was amazing–every single part of the process: from never waiting in a doctor’s office for a prenatal visit, to welcoming our baby in the comfort and privacy of our own home, to the freedom to eat and drink as I wished throughout labor, to the 24/7 support that I always had from our midwife, to the clinical ability of our midwife in the event that anything had not gone as planned, to the never having to drive to a hospital or sit in a waiting room or have a medical intervention pushed that I had been wanting to avoid. London and I, at the urging of our midwife, spent the first week or more in bed, only getting up to use the restroom, and thanks to my husband, this was made possible. That allowed me to heal beautifully and bond with our daughter as we both learned breastfeeding–we are still learning! I encourage you to trust your body, trust the One who created you as He designed you to bring babies into this world long before the invention of the epidural or Pitocin. Prior to our insurance issues, we hadn’t been educated on home birth but throughout the world, this is the standard method of birthing babies. It is gentle and dignified and I’ve never felt stronger and more capable in my life.

Almond-Crusted Tilapia with Quinoa & Veggies

Almond-Crusted Tilapia with Quinoa and Roasted Veggies

By Emilie Spruill

Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis

Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis

My husband recently read the book, Wheat Belly, written by a Cardiologist, Dr William Davis. The book uses the example of the stay-at-home mom who never drinks beer—where does her “beer belly” or “pooch” come from? He suggests that it’s actually a bagel belly or English muffin belly, and he goes on to discuss various medical issues that can be linked to Gluten, and as a result, we have cut back significantly on the wheat in our diet. Keep in mind that we are two bread-loving individuals, so this took some sacrifice, but I have learned that we can still have fantastic and flavorful meals without the gluten. Here is one of our absolute favorites: Almond-Crusted Tilapia with Quinoa and Roasted Veggies.

Protein-rich and Flavorful Almond Crusted Tilapia

Protein-rich and Flavorful Almond Crusted Tilapia

This meal is super easy to prepare and very delicious to eat! Start to finish, you can whip this up in less than 30 minutes if you follow these simple steps!

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare two glass baking dishes by lining them with Parchment paper for ultra easy cleanup. Boil water for quinoa. For 2-3 people, I tend to make 1.5 cups of quinoa and I typically have leftover, which I add to my salads! The simple rule of thumb is to double the water or veggie broth, so to make 1.5 cups of quinoa, boil 3 cups of water or veggie broth. When it reaches a boil, add the quinoa, plus a little minced garlic and your choice of seasonings from dried basil to diced celery, reduce to a simmer over low heat and cover for 15-18 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

While the water is coming to a boil, slice your zucchini and squash, or perhaps you prefer asparagus. I like to pre-slice my veggies on Sunday so it’s even faster during the week. Lightly brush with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil, and dust with Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper. Pop those in the oven and let them roast for 30 minutes. Set the timer.

Take about a half a cup of raw, unsalted almonds and pulse in your food processor—I use my ever-so-handy Kitchen Ninja Pro!

Now, on a clean surface, carefully unwrap your fresh tilapia and prepare 1 filet per person. Lightly brush the tilapia with EVOO, dust with Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper and coat with ground almonds. Only grind them to small pieces instead of a powder if you like a crunchy texture—it is really good this way! Think of the almond pieces as your “breading” and the baking as your “frying”. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or so in your parchment-paper lined Baking Dish. For a lovely touch, finish by broiling the fish for just a minute or so, but stand by because this will brown the surface quickly if you aren’t paying attention! The result is moist but well-cooked fish with the perfect texture.

Plate the Tilapia, Quinoa and Veggies and prepare to indulge in one of the healthiest, most nourishing meals that you’ve had in some time. This meal at a fine restaurant would cost you many times the cost and it would likely pack on many times the fat and calories, so you are saving money and you’re eating healthy all at the same time. This is a sure-to-please recipe, especially for someone who doesn’t think that they like fish—the flavor is mild but delicious and will earn you applause without a doubt.

Baby Bella Salad!

I have perfected the art of making salads at home–almost to the degree that I am often disappointed when I order a salad at a restaurant! Since moving to TX six years ago, I met plenty of guys who were just plain offended when they learned that I am a nearly life-long vegetarian (technically pescetarian). It reminds me of a quote that I once saw Texas-born Dan Rather make on a late night talk show interview, “Salad is what food eats!” One of the things that is most pleasing to me about my sweet husband is that he is a born and raised Texan and has the sexy drawl to prove it, but he actually respects, embraces and drives my healthy eating lifestyle. This is one of our favorite salads and since the addition last week of baby bella slices, he has repeatedly requested it for dinner! His ten-year old mini even ate it up this evening!

Your new favorite salad!

Your new favorite salad!

Side note: making salads at home rather than eating out is such a great idea because it’s the perfect way to portion control so that your healthy meal doesn’t turn into a diet sabotage before you can say “dressing on the side”. You can add on fun and delicious accoutrements like feta, walnuts or dried cranberries in moderation so that your salad actually benefits your swimsuit goals instead of destroying them like some restaurant salads can! Don’t be fooled into thinking that restaurant salads are always healthy choices–one of my formerly favorite salads was from T.G.I. Fridays and packed on 1360 calories–more than are in a Whopper!!!

Here’s your simple instructions and I encourage you to be creative with your add-ons!

~First, I thoroughly wash and slice Baby Portabella Mushrooms. I saute them on medium in a non-stick skillet with some EVOO or EV Coconut Oil (just a bit), light Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper. Use a wooden spoon to toss periodically.
~While the shrooms are sauteing, I add Organic Spring Greens (I alternate between the Organic Red Leaf Lettuce and the pre-washed containers of Organic Spring Greens or Baby Spinach if I’m feeling a bit lazy).
~Chop your veggies and add them to the greens: Ideas include Yellow Bell Pepper (or Orange if you prefer), Cucumber, and four Cherry or Grape tomatoes (no chopping required).
~Add the fun stuff! Tonight I used just a few crumbles of Organic Feta, a few Dried Cranberries, a dusting of Organic Sunflower Seeds, a dozen or so Pecans (walnuts also work great) and a few slices of Avocado for some healthy fats and Skin-loving Omegas!
~Finally, the mushrooms are done when they begin to look cooked rather than raw–pretty simple!
~My favorite finishing touch is a few pieces of fruit–choose from Strawberry Slices, Blueberries or Mandarin slices!

Now for the dressing–I suggest a Balsamic Vinagrette, but be sure that whatever you are choosing contains NO MSG (most commercial ranch dressings do unless you choose Organic), and is not too high in sugar. I lightly drizzle but to be honest, this salad is so delicious, you just might find yourself skipping the dressing and using those calories on some dark chocolate later! It really is that good!

Enjoy your new favorite salad! Buon appetite!

Greener Pastures Green Smoothie

Author: Emilie Spruill

Since I’m expecting our first baby, London Sophia, this summer, I have been trying to respect my very qualified certified RN Midwife’s strict nutritional guidelines! Her main instructions are get enough protein (90-110 g daily) and avoid all sugar with the exception of very few servings of fruits, and this includes dried fruits, honey as well as refined sugars, of course. So if you are particularly interested in a low-glycemic Green Smoothie, note that I am not a nutritionist, but this one did not spike my Blood Glucose levels throughout the recent week of finger-pricking and glucose detecting that I endured! **The only time my blood sugar reading did elevate slightly was when I added banana, so I have since replaced banana with avocado–the consistency is similarly creamy without the extra sugar!

Greener Pastures Smoothie by Emilie Spruill

Greener Pastures Smoothie by Emilie Spruill

Ok next let me share the benefits of this green goodness, and then I’ll share the super-simple recipe. I literally make this for my sweet husband and me every morning, and even when I’m half-awake, the results are fabulous! All nutritional info below is courtesy of the Green Smoothies smart-phone app (www.rawfamily.com) Use all organic ingredients whenever possible.

Ingredient List (this recipe typically makes 40 ounces or so):
1 Small-Medium Avocado ~ Avocadoes are full of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may help to lower cholesterol. Also a great source of blood-pressure regulating Potassium, Avocadoes are rich in Fiber, B Vitamins (energizing), Vitamin E, C, K, folate, riboflavin, Niacin and Magnesium.

1 Small-Medium Granny Smith Apple ~ (Including Peel and Seeds; remove the stem): Besides soluble fiber, apples also contain iron, potassium, folate, calcium, phosphorus, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Note that most of the Vitamin C is in the skin so do NOT peel the apple!

1 Small Pear ~ Pears contain more Fiber (see a pattern?!), B2, C, E, Copper and Potassium. Pears are actually higher in Pectin (a water-soluble fiber) than apples. This makes them both effective at lowering cholesterol and toning intestines. Pears are safe for most allergy-sufferers.

1/2 Cucumber ~ Cucumbers are rich in Vitamin C and Caffeic Acid, both useful in soothing skin irritations and swelling. The hard skin of a cucumber is rich in Fiber and contains Silica, Magnesium and Potassium.

2 handfuls of Baby Spinach ~ Spinach is an antioxidant powerhouse, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Magnesium, Manganese, Folate, Betaine, Iron, Vitamin B2, Calcium, Potassium, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Copper, Protein, Phosphorus, Zinc, Niacin, Selenium and Omega 3s… WOW! Spinach is known for stabilizing blood sugar in diabetics and anti-oxidants are known to defend against cancer-causing and wrinkle-causing free radical damage. Vitamin K helps to promote healthy blood clotting.

1 inch of Ginger Root ~ Peeled: Ginger is packed full of Vitamins C & E, more essential minerals and is believed to have a similar effect on thinning the blood as aspirin. Ginger reduces inflammation in the body, lowers cholesterol, reduces fevers, migraines, dizziness and nausea. Ginger is great for arthritis-sufferers and those with intestinal problems.

2-3 Drops Liquid Stevia: This ultra-sweet sugar-alternative is great and Midwife-approved in my case! I prefer the drops to the powder but don’t overdo it–it’s very concentrated! I found this at our local HEB/Central Market but you can also order a 2-pack here athttp://www.amazon.com/SweetLeaf-SteviaClear-Liquid-4-Ounce-Bottles/dp/B001E5E3JY

2 Cups Purified Water: Tweak this amount to achieve desired quantity and texture. I use about 2 cups everyday, but it’s not an exact science! (Replacing this with Coconut or Almond Milk would make a creamier smoothie, FYI).

Instructions:
Place in a high-powered blender and BLEND WELL! I like to blend in my Kitchen Ninja Pro for at least 1-2 minutes on Blend, and often I will add in a couple of ice cubes so that our smoothies are a bit colder!

If upon tasting, this smoothie is TOO green for you, you can try adding additional fruit, such as a Banana, Mango, Peach or Berries. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised though, because if you close your eyes, you would think that this was a fruit smoothie from your favorite chain smoothie establishment, only it has none of the hidden sugars, additives or powders! Before long, your body starts to naturally crave less refined sugars and more greens when you regularly indulge in this green goodness!

Baked Mahi Mahi with Veggie Skewers & Zesty Sauce

I must admit…this has quickly become one of my personal favorite meals. I’ve been a vegetarian since 1996, at the ripe old age of 16, although my mom will tell you that I was a born vegetarian. Technically, now though, I am pescetarian because I do eat a limited variety of fish, including Mahi Mahi, Tilapia and Seared Ahi Tuna–although that one is on hold until my baby girl is born this summer! In the meantime, I probably have either Mahi Mahi or Tilapia once every week to two weeks and I love the idea of getting lean protein and skin, heart and brain-boosting fatty acids!

Since our grill bit the dust last year, I have been relying on baking or searing our mahi mahi, although if you prefer, this recipe would work well on the grill. There are some concerns that grilling food to the point of charring it can lead to consumption of carcinogens, so I actually prefer baking. The great news is that even without the grill, the result is perfection–moist, plump and satisfying! The zesty sauce is absolutely delicious–interesting and mild, although you can kick up the heat by adding jalapeno or your choice of hot pepper!

As far as sides, you can’t go wrong with Baked Veggie Skewers and your favorite Quinoa Dish. I will share my simple, quickie side dish idea below! The result is husband-approved, and by the way, you can easily turn this recipe into lettuce wraps or healthy fish tacos by chopping up the mahi and serving alongside Bibb lettuce or tortilla shells! Oh, the possibilities are endless!

Baked Mahi Mahi with Zesty Sauce!

Baked Mahi Mahi with Zesty Sauce!

For the main dish:
~Preheat the oven to 350 (375 can work if you want to shave a few minutes off of the cooking time).
~Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper for ultra-fast cleanup!
~Lightly brush mahi mahi (since you’re baking, ask your fish specialist to remove the skin at the store–trust me!)
with Extra Virgin Olive Oil or your choice of oil… Quickly sprinkle sea salt & black pepper to taste.
~Optionally, you can squeeze the juice of a lime or lemon if you have one on hand–but it will taste great without!
~Bake for 15 minutes at 375 or up to 20 minutes at 350 (My husband is very particular about cooking fish all the way through so this allows the fish to have NO pink but will still taste moist and delicious–use your judgement!)
~I like to broil for 1-2 minutes at the end just to ensure that indeed the fish is completely cooked!

For the Veggielicious Skewers:
~Simply chop (or if possible pre-chop on grocery shopping day to save time) your favorite veggies: choose from red bell pepper, baby mushrooms, vidalia onion, green bell pepper, zucchini or more.
~Load up wooden skewers and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
~Brush lightly with EVOO, quick dusting of sea salt and black pepper, and bake alongside the Mahi Mahi! I like to prepare these before the fish, so they get a couple of extra baking minutes while I’m preparing the Mahi Mahi.

For a very simple variation of Steamed Quinoa Side Dish:
~Boil 2 cups of water or veggie stock.
~Add 1 cup quinoa, a little minced garlic (I love the jars of minced garlic–so easy), Sea Salt and Pepper (just a touch)
~Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered with a lid for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed.
~For a lovely twist, add sauteed diced squash and celery, or even diced cherry tomatoes.

For the Zesty Sauce:
~In a food processor (I LOVE my handy Kitchen Ninja!), combine the following:
~3 TBSP Grainy Mustard
~2 TBSP Red Wine Vinegar
~1/2 tsp minced garlic
~1/2 small red onion
~The fresh juice of 1/2 lime
~About a cup of Fresh Cilantro
~After the above ingredients are mixed, add about 1/4 cup EVOO (I use my judgement so that the sauce has a slightly liquid texture but still thick enough that I can spread it atop the Mahi Mahi as the perfect compliment to complete the meal!

I prepare the sauce while the fish and veggie skewers are baking, and the quinoa is boiling… it literally only takes a few minutes with the Kitchen Ninja. Simply spread the sauce atop the Mahi Mahi and plate your sides, and you instantly have a healthy meal that is sure to impress! For kids, you can easily add the Bibb Lettuce or Soft Tortillas for Fish Taco night!

Enjoy and please graciously share if you love this recipe!