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Author: Jody - Where The Coconuts Grow

Jody lives compactly aboard a 42' sailboat with her husband Peter, baby boy Brig, and their furry four-legged little girl, Betsy. She traded in the corporate conundrum for a life less ordinary and is now island-hopping around the Caribbean. Between a quirky obsession with organizing, capturing pretty pictures, diving with turtles and burying her toes in the sand, she feeds a passion for writing by blogging about their adventures in search of surf, sun, sand and serenity Where The Coconuts Grow.

Brig’s First Sail

For the first seven weeks of Brig’s life we had a constant stream of visiting Grandparents. My mom arrived the day after he was born and stayed for just over a month.  Then my dad and stepmom arrived, then Peter’s dad and his aunt were here. We got a little bit of overlap in each visit and it was so much fun.

It was such a special time for us so we decided to take Brig for his first sail! He had already been in the dinghy a few times but he was ready to actually go sailing. Since we had moved our boat to the dock and secured her for the remainder of hurricane season it was much easier to take Aristocat instead. There were no charters scheduled that day so it worked out perfect. Jen and Mike from Three Sheets came with us and brought their friend Shakti. Mike has been running Aristocat since Brig was born so he and Peter took care of all the sailing. It was nice for me to be back on board but it was even nicer that all I had to do was take care of Brig ;)

This was the first time Dad and Stacy could see what we had been up to for nearly two years aboard Aristocat. The last time they had visited us in the islands was before we started working so this was pretty exciting for them. They had heard so much about what we did everyday and they finally got to experience it first hand!

Mom couldn’t be happier. We were headed to her favorite place in the entire world. AND, she was taking her grandson there! She was glowing the whole way!

We sailed over to White Bay, Jost Van Dyke for the day. Brig is still too young to wear sunscreen so I kept him in the shade with me on the boat while everyone else swam to shore and had fun on the beach.

We even took an afternoon nap on the boat while everyone else was having fun on shore. I think Brig, Betsy and Peter got more sleep than I did but I did manage to doze a tiny bit.

Jen, Shakti, dad, Mike, and mom… Stacy was behind the camera. They were clearly enjoying a few Painkillers at the Soggy Dollar Bar!

I think the most memorable part of the whole day was sharing Brig’s first sail experience with both my mom and my dad. I can’t even remember when I was last around them both at the same time. Babies have a way of bringing everyone together! Brig sure is loved by a lot of people <3

 

When My Birth Plan Fell Apart

**Disclaimer: The following contains the details of Brig’s birth story so if that doesn’t interest you, I suggest you skip this post.

 

I’ve always been a planner. It’s a way to organize my thoughts and I feel much more productive if I can follow a plan for everything I do. Even if I change my plans and wing it, I quickly come up with a new plan once I know the direction I’m headed.

My pregnancy was no exception. During the beginning of my third trimester I discovered a childbirth program called Hypnobabies. It’s what all the other natural childbirth methods have evolved into these days. From Lamaze to the Bradley Method, to Hypnobirthing… but it’s important to note that Hypnobabies is a completely different program than Hypnobirthing.

I was first introduced to the Mongan Method of Hypnobirthing, a program highly recommended by my good friends Eben and Genevieve. I read the book after they sparked my interest but that program is better absorbed if you can take a local class in person. Here in BVI, childbirth education is severely lacking and I definitely didn’t have access to the kind of class I wanted to take. There was a generic childbirth class available at the local hospital but based on my experiences with the medical professionals here so far, I felt like I could learn more from Google. So, I did what I always do in situations like this… I started to research.

It turns out there are several different Hypnobirthing philosophies, one of which is Hypnobabies. Hypnobabies was developed by someone who used to be a Bradley and Hypnobirthing instructor but also found those programs to be lacking the techniques that women really needed to achieve a deep level of hypnosis during the entire birth.

The cost was about $170 – enough to discourage me from even considering it. As I continued to research more and more, I decided I’d bite the bullet and just order it. I mean, if I actually wanted to do any other class I’d be spending money on that anyway. With this one, I would have the freedom to go at my own speed at home and potentially have an amazing outcome. The Hypnobabies Home Study Course is a complete childbirth education program which comes with a binder of info and a ton of audio tracks to download. While I could’ve purchased a used older version for slightly less money, I decided to get the newest edition as some of the info and tracks had been supplemented.

After the first of 6 weeks into the course I was completely hooked. It requires daily practice and I got to the point of nearly being obsessed with listening to my audio tracks and practicing the techniques. I was totally in love with everything I was learning and it truly prepared me mentally for everything that could happen during the birth of my baby. I knew it would take practice and conditioning. I knew there was a chance I could have a completely pain free, easy, comfortable, drug free natural childbirth. I also knew there was a chance that everything could fall apart.

I created a birth preferences sheet for the birth process as well as a baby-care preferences sheet for everything related to the baby. During my hospital tour I met the OB that would be on call during the birth, as well as the midwives that pretty much run the maternity ward. I explained that there is language used in the Hypnobabies program that replaces harsh terms for softer ones such as Pressure instead of Pain, Pressure Waves instead of Contractions, birthing instead of labor etc.  I even printed out articles to give to the doctor and midwives explaining the evidence based items they didn’t understand. For the most part they were all very receptive and curious about my program, but there was still an underlying skepticism laced with regimented routine. I had learned so much and felt so educated and empowered and I was very proud to be able to go into the birth with knowledge about what I wanted done and what interventions I was going to refuse. I felt confident I would be able to take charge of the birth process when the time came, even if the nursing staff wasn’t familiar with my plan.

***

For some reason, I had it stuck in my head that my baby would arrive a week after his guess date (due date). I really thought I had so much time. At 38 weeks on June 13th, my water released at 6:30 am. I had been sleeping and woke to feel a small gush. I snuck out of bed, careful to not wake Peter so early. This is when my denial really took hold. I was in such denial that when Peter woke up to get ready for work I almost thought it would be okay for him to go! I thought for sure it would take me all day and possibly all night to be ready to give birth. I was still trying to convince myself that this was really happening.

Luckily we decided it would be best for Peter to stay home from work and have Scott drive down and take the charter out for him. I had started timing my pressure waves (contractions) and they were averaging 4 minutes apart, but there were some gaps of 10 minutes in between. So here I was thinking they weren’t regular enough for the 5-1-1 rule. I was waiting for them to be 5 minutes apart for 1 minute duration – consistently for one hour. Well, they were all less than 5 minutes apart but with such a thick skin of denial over me, I kept telling myself and Peter that we had plenty of time. Poor Peter kept asking if it was time yet, and what we needed to do. I kept telling him to relax and that there was nothing we needed to do. That’s when he pulled an All Is Lost moment… he started to shave! I mean, what else is a guy to do when anxiety is overwhelming him yet there’s nothing that can be done? That scene seemed so stupid in the movie but it actually makes sense to us now :)

All morning my mind was so focused on timing my waves and figuring out if it was really time. I slowly gathered my hospital bag and helped Peter decide what else we needed to take with us. I had started listening to the first track I needed to play on my birthing day. It wasn’t a deep hypnosis track but it was part of my plan. I was pretty anxious myself and of course still in denial so where I really screwed up was by not putting myself in a deep hypnosis right then and there. My only job was to just do what I had practiced. I failed. My mind was so preoccupied that I wasn’t focusing on what was really happening.

Around noon I still hadn’t gotten into my hypnosis yet. I was feeling great, no pain at all. I was actually enjoying the pressure waves, remembering that my body was made to do this. Peter finally insisted that it was time for him to take Betsy over to Jen on Three Sheets and head to the hospital. I agreed but still just wanted to relax and progress at home as long as possible. I was actually kind of irritated that he was making me go just then. That’s when I should’ve known it was time.

We got in the dinghy and I needed a little help getting back out. That’s when things started getting painful. I had told myself I’d start the deep hypnosis tracks once I got in the car, but the walk to the car put me in a totally different place. I couldn’t speak through my pressure waves. Oh how I wish they were still just pressure waves! But by this point lets just call them what they were – contractions. I attempted to sit in the front seat but that was just not going to happen. Peter cleared out the back seat for me and I climbed in, laying on my side. I immediately put my earbuds in and tried to get relaxed again with one of the deepening tracks but it just wasn’t working. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes. We had about a 25 minute drive to the hospital along a bumpy road. Needless to say, I was never able to relax again from that point on.

Starting to realize that our little boy was coming NOW, I told Peter to park the car and help me walk in from the parking lot, instead of dropping me off at the entrance. I timed my waves and walked from the car past the front desk while I barely mumbled to the ladies that I was already checked in and that I was going to the 4th floor. I didn’t want to sit so I refused their wheelchair and they looked at me like I was crazy. It’s a good thing they followed us though because there were several security swipes that were needed to open all the doors. By the time I got to the maternity ward I was in tears. I was an emotional mess as I realized then in that moment that this was really happening whether I was ready or not. It wasn’t going the way I had planned at all. I didn’t feel the happiness I thought I would feel as I walked in. I knew where I was going but I felt so lost. Everything I had planned had gone out the window hours before.

My birth preferences were still flashing through my brain despite the chaos and pain. I knew I had planned on minimal checks but upon arrival they wanted to see how dilated I was, as expected, and I didn’t have the energy to refuse. Turns out I was at 6 cm when we arrived at 12:45pm. Here’s where they started going against everything in my birth preferences. Peter was trying so hard to be supportive and he tried to enforce my preferences but the midwives were very demanding. Keep in mind, at my earlier hospital tour everyone agreed that I could move about as I wished, be in any position I wanted to, and that basically they could not force me to do anything. Well, here I was in the worst pain I had known my entire life and the damn lady would not let me lay the way I was most comfortable. They wanted me in a position that was convenient for them. Things started to escalate so with a defeated whimper I asked what my options were for pain management, should I change my mind. They told me there was nothing they could give me if I was past 7 cm so they would have to check me again to be sure. I agreed. By the time the midwife came back in to check me, maybe 20 minutes had passed by and I was at 9 cm.

My plan for having this baby without drugs was happening, except I was missing the part that would’ve prevented the pain. Without being in hypnosis from the beginning I felt like there was no way I could ever achieve it at this point. The worst moments of it all were when they took several unwanted steps to hurry the process instead of letting my body go at the speed it wanted. They forced me to lay on my back with my legs in stirrups and it was the most uncomfortable position I could be in. This was just one of many instances that they insisted on something that was more convenient for them, not for me. They insisted on an episiotomy, something the doctor was advocating from before the birth which tells me it’s a routine procedure for them. He told me it’s easier for them to stitch an episiotomy than to chance a natural tear. Even though I did not want them to do it, they told me horrible things to convince me to agree.

Just 2 hours after arriving at the hospital, Brig was born. I was still in shock after everything had spiraled out of control so fast, but once the pain was gone I was finally able to take charge of the rest of the procedures. They weren’t very happy about it and I was probably a terrible patient in their eyes but I didn’t care. I couldn’t wait for my hour of uninterrupted time with my baby and my husband. We were required to stay at the hospital for 48 hours. By the end of those two days I was more than ready to go home.

My poor mom missed the birth by one day and arrived the day after he was born. Although she was sad, we agreed that it was probably best she wasn’t there for how they were treating me during the birth. It was an experience that Peter and I were supposed to go through together and we made it.

***

Looking back, I SO wish I could have had the amazing Hypnobabies birth that I wanted and that I was prepared for. I know there are a lot of you that are thinking to yourself… “I told you so” or “that stuff doesn’t really work” but I really do think I could have had a better experience if I had just done what I was supposed to do earlier.  Everything happened so fast and so much earlier than we expected. He was born two weeks early, and really three weeks before I thought he would. I think all my practice allowed me to stay so calm and relaxed that whole morning without even needing to put myself in a deep hypnosis, and I didn’t even realize it at the time.  I could look at it like the program didn’t work for me, but I know that’s not true. If we have another baby in the future, I will ABSOLUTELY be using Hypnobabies again. I will do my best to not be in denial and I’ll embrace my birthing day without fear. Most importantly, I will NOT give birth in BVI ever again. They are too set in their ways and they did not support me like they said they would. I think I can absolutely have a different experience next time.

If you’re interested in learning more about Hypnobabies please send me a message and I’d be happy to talk more about it. There are so many beautiful birth stories from other hypnomamas and that is what inspired me to try the program. Just because my birth story didn’t turn out like theirs doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. I am still so grateful for all the knowledge I learned from the study materials and it truly helped me feel confident throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I recommend doing your own research as I did, but if you decide to try the Hypnobabies program, please consider using my link as I do get a small commission if you purchase anything on their website by first clicking my link HERE.

Hello Baby Brig!

On June 13th, 2017 our sweet little boy Brig was born! He measured in at 6 lbs 9 ounces and 18.9″ tall.

You might be wondering how we chose his name. First of all, Peter’s dad was named Peter, and his dad’s dad (Peter’s grandfather) was also named Peter. They all have different middle names.. My Peter’s dad passed away many years ago and we wanted to continue the tradition of giving his name to our son as well. Though we wanted to pass down the first name, we planned on calling our baby boy by his middle name to help ease any confusion. In searching for a suitable middle name, we tried to find one that had something to do with the ocean or water, but many of the cute ones had already become fairly common.

It wasn’t until the very end of my pregnancy that I found the name Brig on a baby name website. As soon as I looked up the meaning, it was instantly my new top choice. A Brig is an 18th Century sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts (not to be confused with Brigantine rigged). It’s a little bigger than a schooner; and according to Wikipedia, Brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and used during the Age of Sail as naval warships and merchant vessels before the arrival of the steam ship. The name itself is one syllable, strong and very unique, also qualities I was searching for. I had to hold him for about a day after he was born before I knew for sure, but after a little while, it became clear that Brig was his name. Absolutely positively without a doubt he looks like a Brig!

It’s almost been four weeks since we first got to hold him and I honestly have no idea where the time has gone.  We’ve taken a bazillion photos since then but I’ve been having issues with the internet here in BVI so I haven’t been able to post anything on the website :( Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can still see all the photos I’ve posted on our public Facebook Page —HERE–.

My water broke at 6:30am the morning of the 13th and it took me a few hours to not be in denial that I was about to have this baby. I almost let Peter go to work that day thinking that nothing would be happening until later that night! Boy was I wrong.  At about noon Peter finally convinced me we should head to the hospital. He took Betsy over to stay with Jen and Mike from Three Sheets and then I carefully climbed down into the dinghy. Everyone had been so worried I wouldn’t be able to get into the dinghy but it was totally fine. By the time I got out of the dinghy on shore, things were finally progressing. Peter had gone to get the car but when I went to get in the back seat I was unable to talk through my contractions. I climbed in the back and put my earbuds in to listen to my Hypnobabies tracks. (More on this later). We arrived at the hospital at 12:45 and I walked from the parking lot in through the main entrance, into the elevator, up to the fourth floor and into the Labor and Delivery ward. Brig was born just two hours later at 2:44pm.

The next day, my mom arrived from the states. She was so sad she missed it by one day!! Mom, Peter, Brig and I left the hospital and made our way home on the 15th of June. We’ve all been falling in love deeper and deeper every day.

Fast forward almost four weeks… I’m so thankful mom has been here to help out. Brig wakes up just about every two hours to eat and fill his tiny belly, then goes back to sleep, which means I feel like a zombie 24/7. Each day gets a little easier though. I’m starting to get a little more energy and Brig is starting to stay awake a little longer.

Hopefully the internet issue will get sorted out soon and I can get caught up on posting photos to share with you! In the meantime, don’t forget to check our facebook page for a steady stream of Brig pics :)

The Final Weeks

I officially made it to 36 weeks on Sunday. That means only 4 final weeks left until we reach our guess date! I also turned 34 years old this past Friday though the first number is MUCH more exciting ;) This little boy could literally decide to arrive anytime now and I’m just not quite ready.

My mom comes back to stay with us again on June 14th and she’ll be bringing a bunch of baby stuff with her. If you sent us a gift but haven’t heard from us yet, it’s most likely still at my dad’s house waiting to make the journey down from the states. It would’ve been a logistical nightmare to try to receive packages here in BVI so we are very grateful that my parents have been coordinating that part for us and are able to bring everything down with them when they come to visit the baby!

There are still a few things left on our baby registry that we definitely need. There’s really not all that much left, but it does add up. I honestly tried to keep the list as minimal as possible but it’s amazing how much stuff just one tiny little person will need in the first year! Now that I’m not working anymore, we’re really feeling the negative cash flow. We recently had to make a major purchase out of safety concerns, plus Peter has to take a very expensive supplementary class for his Captain’s license this week – a setback we weren’t accounting for. I’m sure it will all work out somehow. It’s times like this that I’m extra thankful for my Hypnobabies program which helps me stay calm, centered and confident while releasing all my fears about these big changes that are happening.

*****

Everyone knows I love to organize, make lists, and prepare for pretty much everything.  Having a baby is no different. I’ve been in nesting mode the last few weeks but I really don’t feel like it’s kicked into overdrive yet. As soon as I reached the third trimester I’ve been resting as much as my body tells me to and I try to get little projects done here and there when I have the energy. Some of those projects have involved sewing, which is fun because I get to use my awesome Sailrite LSZ-1 machine. I’ve repaired all kinds of things from Peter’s shorts, sails, zippers and canvas recently. I’ve also made some more purses like the one I carry with me, as well as messing around with some fun new ideas like a fabric basket inbox for the nav station.

My favorite project so far was recently completed this past weekend and I’m quite pleased! Being as though I didn’t have a diaper bag yet, I really wanted to make one out of sailcloth from an old jib I’ve had stashed in our forward cabin. Part of getting ready for baby means using up and getting rid of things that were stored in there previously, hence all the recent sewing projects.  I had some cute anchor print canvas fabric in my supply and more than enough sailcloth. It took me quite a few google image searches to figure out how I wanted the inside to look, then I had to figure out how to engineer it. I know a backpack style diaper bag would be the most practical for living on a boat but I already have a killer drybag backpack from Drycase that I use all the time so I wanted this diaper bag to be tote-style with a zippered top and inside divided pockets – more beach bag looking. Without a pattern and step-by-step instructions, sewing creations are not easy. Although there are some things I would change on a second go-around, overall I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out :) It’s super cute but I think I’m most happy about the fact that it’s one less thing we need to buy.

Our bags are (almost) all packed and ready for the hospital!

A Necessary Galley Upgrade

A very LONG overdue galley project finally got completed this week! Though it cost us nearly $2000 it was a necessary purchase. Our stove/oven had slowly become unusable over the last several years and we finally bit the bullet and replaced it!

Our old stove was a Seward Princess – a brand that is not manufactured anymore. While I liked the setup, it was just plain dangerous to use anymore.  For starters, the oven door busted on one side so it would not close all the way. It never really got very hot to begin with but when a good portion of the heat began to escape right out the front it was hardly helpful and took forever to bake anything.

Next, the front right burner was completely seized up. I guess the valves on these units eventually get all gummed up inside and its nearly impossible to clean or service them. The knob just wouldn’t turn at all.

The middle burner in the back would not stay lit unless I stood there and held in the knob for a minimum of 10 minutes after lighting it. At which time, the temperature could not be reduced to low heat, meaning I had to carefully decide what I was going to cook on that burner knowing it could only be done at high heat and I might not have an extra hand to stir anything else. Most likely, the thermo-coupler was shot, preventing it from getting hot enough to stay lit on its own. Total pain in the a$$ so I just didn’t use that burner anymore either.

The right front burner was the only one I had been able to use but it was most definitely on it’s way out too. The flame would ALWAYS blow out the first two times, requiring me to stand there and light it a total of three times. It wasn’t bad propane or a lack of oxygen, it just wouldn’t stay lit unless I did it three times. Weird. But that’s not all.  If I was using the oven at the same time, the knobs on the front of the stove would get so warm that they would stick (just like the first burner). This was particularly scary when cooking if I couldn’t shut off the frickin flame. It’s a small space to begin with and if I’m cooking up a storm then there is definitely not room to have an open flame just burning away! Shut off then required me to be done using the oven because I’d have to turn off the propane solenoid on the wall, which stopped the flow of propane, but then I had to wait for the whole unit to cool off before I could turn the stove knob back to “off” position. Yep total P.I.T.A.  And so very unsafe.

R.I.P. old girl…

It was probably meant to be… I had Peter verify my measurements of the space allowance we had compared to the new stoves available in the Budget Marine catalog.  We decided on the American version of the 3-burner Force 10 – a very popular brand and model. It was a product that the chandlery here on Tortola at Nanny Cay either carried or could order in with their regular shipments.  On our next trip past Nanny Cay we stopped in to replace our leaking BBQ propane tank (yep, more money spent on necessary upgrades). While locating the new tank we inquired about the specific part number we wanted to order since we didn’t see any three-burners on the floor.  Turns out, the very model number we wanted WAS right there in the store, on the display floor, packed nicely in it’original box!! I was sold. It was right there all along, concealed from everyone else, we just had to ask and their system told us it was right there. Perfect.

We were disappointed that the pricing had gone up since the chandlery there was no longer operating as Budget Marine but it didn’t matter. It was not economically feasible for us to try to sail our boat all the way to St. Thomas on the off chance that Peter may get a consecutive three days in a row off work. Maybe if I wasn’t 8 months pregnant, but we agreed it was just better to spend a little extra and get one that was already imported into BVI. All we had to do was load it in the car, into the dinghy and into our boat.

Luckily, our friend Mike from Three Sheets was available to help Peter with the awkward lifting. It was only about 85 lbs but still rather large and definitely a two-man job for getting it into our boat. Even our friend Branson came to help lift the new one up and through our companionway.  Such sweet guys to help a pregnant lady out ;) The old one was much easier to get it out.

It took quite a bit of cleaning once the old unit was out. Messes are nearly impossible to avoid once these suckers are installed.

While the guys hauled the old one out, I started unpacking the new one :) It’s so SHINY!! Probably the shiniest thing we have on our boat now!

Now what do I want to bake first? :)