Sunday, July 7, 2013


I have amazing friends. One of my really amazing friends just launched her new website, Surrender Birth Services. Abby Schweitzer is a wife, mama, doula, photographer, childbirth educator and an amazing woman all around. She has a passion for supporting women and mamas. She knows her stuff!

Surrender Birth Services is all about empowerment and surrendering everything to God. When pregnant, delivering, and mothering, we surrender all to Him. Our bodies, our fears, our control... our sleep! Abby is dedicated to helping women and families with that process so that we can embrace the unknown, not in fear, but empowered by God's strength and faithfulness!

Abby and I met in college when we were both living on the same floor of the gals dorm at Lincoln Christian University in Lincoln, Illinois. Though she only lived on campus for a semester (is that right, Abby?!) we hit it off and have been friends ever since! She has been such a encouragement and blessing to me over the years. Both of us got married around the same time and are now both mamas (some years later.... it's taking me a while to catch up heehee). I have called on Abby's expertise and knowledge countless times throughout my pregnancy and mommyhood, and she has always been there for me with support and love. I would consider anyone who gets to take advantage of her services, totally lucky! She's located in the Mesa, Arizona area (booooooo, move to Germany with me!) and will be starting up her Christian Childbirth Education classes very soon!

But even more than the amazing services that she's able to offer her local peeps, she has an AMAZING blog section on her website devoted to empowering and educating women and mamas! Her blog is full of birth stories, info and experiences. She's asked numerous knowledgeable mamas to be guest bloggers on their topic of passion, so you can be sure the amazing posts will just keep rolling in! Please be sure to go check out her site and blog!  You can even catch my birth story on her blog! And I will also be contributing another blog post in the near future.

I urge you to go take a look at her website and see what Surrender Birth Services has to offer! Go read some amazing stories! Ask Abby some questions, she would love to hear from you!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Happy 6 months to Oliver!

Erika Cole Photography

It's so hard to believe that my tiny little baby boy has grown to be a chunky, not so tiny 6 month old! It's so true what they say, they really do grow too quickly. I can't believe my last post on here was his birth story! I need to blog more... then again, I am the mama of a 6 month old and therefor not a lot of time for blogging! I'm a mama of a 6 month old. It's still a little weird when I really think about the fact that I'm a mama. Growing up, I never had dreams of having a family like some gals do. It was never my main goal in life, to have kids. There were even some points in my life where I thought that I would even maybe be fine with never having kids.

Then came Oliver. The biggest joy in my life and by far the most important thing I've done with my life so far. Being his mama has been such an honor and privilege! He is the most amazing thing I have ever come into contact with. He's so handsome, funny, loving, happy, occasionally demanding and sometimes just flat out frustrating. How can one little baby be all those things?? He has grown so much over the last 6 months, it's hard to believe he was ever as tiny as those photos remind me he was. It is so incredible (and very empowering) to realize that God has used my body to grow this human from just a couple cells to what he is today. My body has done all this. God made women so special. He has blessed us with the gift of creating and giving life. Never before have I been so proud to be a woman. I grew this child inside of me, I labored and delivered this child into the world, and I have fed this child from my body to help him grow. I, little old Elyse, have done all this. God has allowed me to participate in the most important and amazing job on the plant... being a mother. I have never been more proud of anything in my life.
Erika Cole Photography

Now for some Ollie updates:
I think he's around 18 pounds right now (we have his 6 month appt on Monday... will get the real weight then)
He's always been in the 50th percentile at all his wellness appointments
He's never been sick yet!
I have managed to not call his dr. or make an appointment for any reason other than for his wellness check ups..... i understand that for a first time mom, that's quite the accomplishment :-)
He's rollin over like a pro
His finally sitting up for real!
Sleeps like crap at night sometimes (pretty much my only complaint)
Loves going for walks
He thinks his brother Bruce is the most hilarious thing on earth
He is a total mama's boy
And he's already been to 3 states other than California and he's been to Germany!

I dont get into my opinions on parenting a WHOLE lot on Facebook, but over the last 6+ months, I have grown to have some very strong ones :-)I try to keep them off Facebook because I dont want offend anyone, but I really feel like I want to share some of my convictions and things I am very proud of with my Ollie boy, and on my blog I can say whatever I want to! haha So, I suppose I should say- Don't read on if you dont want to read about my parenting choices. :-)

I am very proud to say that Oliver has never had anything but my breast milk to eat! I went against what most everyone told me, and I didn't keep any of those free formula samples or have any formula in our house at all. Never needed it. Not that formula is bad, it's just not a great at mama's milk! If for some reason I had not been able to breastfeed, I would have gotten donor milk in a heartbeat (in fact, I am now a milk donor! I pump every other day for a baby in need!) Breast milk rocks. Breastfeeding started out as a bumpy road with lots of potholes. Breastfeeding hurt, it was frustrating, I cried at almost every feeding in the beginning, I was so tired of always having to smother lanolin everywhere, his latch sucked and it was just really hard work. But most of those frustrations only lasted a few weeks, and after that things got sooooooo much easier! Even when it was super hard, when it did finally work it was amazing. The bonding was spectacular and the closeness I felt to him was so overwhelming.  And those positive feelings only increased the easier breast feeding got. Now at 6 months, it's breeze! I have ALWAYS fed on demand and am very pro nursing in public (and public nursing photos, even on facebook!) He'll eat anywhere, anytime and in most any position haha. It's awesome.

I dont have any weaning goal in mind. I'll breastfeed him for as long as he wants to be breastfed- as long as it a positive relationship for both of us. But as far as solids go... we'll be starting those soon! He's never had rice cereal because it's nutritionally meaningless, he hasn't needed anything other than milk, and you're not supposed to start any solids until around six months anyway. People start solids waaaayyyyy too early these days. A baby's body is not ready to start solids until their gut has developed enough (around 6 months). A good way to gauge if your baby is ready for solids is if they are around 6 months in age and able to sit up on their own. We are also not going to be doing baby purees either. We'll be doing something called baby lead weaning (or feeding as us Americans would call it). So basically I'll be slicing him up some avocado here very soon and letting him feed himself! I'm so excited! Here's some good info on baby led weaning: 

 Ryan and my parenting convictions happen to fall in line with a lot of the principals of Attachment Parenting. We do not ever let Oliver cry it out. He sleeps in his cosleeper 50% of the time and next to me in bed 50% of the time. I am VERY pro co sleeping, especially for the early months. So much research as been done on the benefits of a baby sleeping near his mother. Co sleeping can regulate the heart beat and the breathing of an infant, it makes night time feedings SO much easier, and it just amplifies that bond that you're developing with your new child. But definitely research safe co sleeping, there are ways to make it totally and completely safe! We try and hold Oliver as much as possible. Babywearing is very important to us (especially during the "4th trimester"),  I'm always carrying him around in my wrap or carrier, and even Ryan loves to wear him as well! Babywearing dads are totally sexy :-)

We don't agree with RIC (routine infant circumcision). Oliver is not circumcised. There is no reason to circumcise, and PLENTY of reasons to not circumcise.  Unless it is medically needed, I feel very strongly that babies should not be circumcised. I could go on and on about this, so if you want to know more, just ask! I have lots of information!

We use cloth diapers with Oliver... and LOVE it! It's not hard. It's not gross. It's totally fun, cheap and awesome!
Erika Cole Photography

Haha I think I've covered almost everything :-) Some Mama news!: I very soon will be starting my journey toward becoming a certified Doula!!! woohoo! I'm pretty sure it's my dream job. I would love to be a doula/lactation consultant/childbirth educator someday. And I think all these things could be used as great ministry tools while in Germany or wherever we are! As I mentioned before, being a mama was never really on my radar for most of my life, but I truly believe that this is exactly what I was meant to do!

Your Mama and Daddy love you soooooo much Oliver! You are our whole world!! Happy 6 month birthday!!!

Erika Cole Photography

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oliver Ryan's Birth Story

Oliver Ryan Dillon
7 lbs. 8 oz.
20 inches
8:50am PST

 On Wednesday December 12, Ryan was at work all day, and I had a bunch of errands to run. First off, I had to go to the chiropractor, where the doctor told me she felt like the baby was finally in the right position! After that, I still had a bunch of other places to go, but I kept feeling contractions every 10 to 20 minutes. Everywhere I went, I was so nervous that my water was going to break! The day before (on Oliver’s due date), at our appointment, the midwife said that it looked like Oliver wasn’t coming for another week or so. So, I went to the grocery store to stock up on some things to last us through the week just in case he came soon. When I got home, Ryan was home on his lunch break, and I told him about the contractions and how they felt different than all the other Braxton Hicks contractions I had felt before. Soon after Ryan went back to work I took a nap and was still able to sleep through the contractions. A little later, Brucie and I got ready to go on a very long walk, since my midwife told me I should be walking even more than I already was (which by the way was like 2.5 miles a day!). We walked about three miles around Yountville, and sometimes I even had to stand still, lean against a tree, or sit down to get through the contractions!! I got home around 3:30 – about the same time as Ryan – and we decided maybe it was time to start timing the contractions.
 My parents were coming to pick us up at 4:30 to go to happy hour dinner at Brix. So, we got ready, still not sure about the contractions but timing them nonetheless. They were definitely getting closer together and even a little more painful, but I still felt like I was able to go out to dinner. I ordered fried green beans and bacon pizza (which would make a reappearance later… yuck). Every time a contraction would start I would kick Ryan’s foot under the table for him to start timing it with the app on his phone. My dad thought I was kicking Ryan because I was mad at him for being on his phone! Grandpa Rocco also said that if my water broke there at the restaurant, we should name the baby Brix! I remember asking my mom if really early contractions felt like strong period cramps. She said she didn’t think they were really supposed to hurt at all at the very beginning, which made us wonder if this was the real deal! My parents dropped us off at home, and we all had a heightened sense of excitement knowing that baby Oliver would be coming soon!!

laboring in the birth center bathroom.

As soon as we got home, I got in the shower to try and relax, but instead, my contractions quickly picked up in intensity and frequency. About 7:30 when I got out of the shower we decided it was time to talk to the midwife. She said it sounded like this might be the real thing, but it was still too early to come in to the birth center. She told us that instead of staying at work all night, she would go ahead and go home and take a nap, knowing that I would probably be calling again later. We also called Jennifer, my aunt and doula, to let her know that tonight might be the night and that we would call back later. While Ryan was busy making sure everything was ready in case we needed to leave, I tried to take a nap. But, the contractions were far too strong and frequent, and I could not relax. We spent the next few hours making sure we were ready to go, while the contractions continued to pick up. Around 10:30, after a few really strong contractions, both Ryan and I decided it was time to call the midwife again. Since we had an hour drive, we all agreed it was a good idea to leave soon. We called Jennifer again and said we would be there in fifteen minutes to pick her up.
The car ride was bearable. I had to keep myself from asking how close we were, and thankfully the one time I did ask, we were almost there! Jennifer sat with me in the back seat helping me through contractions, while Ryan drove us there as fast as he could. He only had to run one red light! We got to the birth center just before midnight and met the midwife there. Because of how strong and frequent my contractions were the midwife even wondered if I might already be in transition… far from it actually. She checked me to see how far dilated I was because they don’t usually admit you to the birth center until you are 4 centimeters. With a little stretching, I barely made it to the 4 centimeters, ugh. So even though my contractions were strong and frequent, we still had a long way to go.

Awesome doula #1

Awesome doula #2
 We went to the birthing rooms, and I continued laboring for a long time. I tried to keep moving, so I just walked around in circles from one room to the next, stopping during contractions to lean on something. Ryan and Jennifer made sure to always rub my back because I was having bad back labor. I was feeling a lot of pressure from my bag of waters, but still it did not break. After several hours of walking around, laying on the bed, and laboring in different positions, the midwife checked, and I was 5 centimeters dilated – enough to get into the pool. But I still had to wait for it to fill up, so I went back to walking around and leaning over during contractions. Once the pool was filled, I spent the next few hours laboring in the warm water. The contractions were still very painful, but the water made them a little less bad, and I was even able to sleep for a few minutes at a time between contractions! While I was in the water I felt like I was also in a different dimension. There was no such thing as time, everyone around me disappeared (except for Ryan… I always was able to feel if he was near me or not), there was just me… and the pain. I could feel Oliver inside of me, moving and stirring. I kept imagining him moving into the perfect place, knowing just where he needed to go. 

The midwife suggested I get up and move around to keep my labor from stalling in the water. So, I got on the bed and labored on my hands and knees for a while. She checked again and thought I was about 10 centimeters, and my waters were bulging, so she encouraged me to start pushing and see if my waters would break. But, they still wouldn’t break! Since I was at 10 centimeters but not progressing, we all decided to have her break my waters to keep things moving. After that, we realized that there was still a little bit of my cervix over the head of the baby that wasn’t budging. So, during a big push, the midwife moved that lip to the side around his head, and then I was officially fully dilated and ready to push! A lot of women have said that the pain of pushing is not as intense as the contractions… That was not the case for me- my goodness it was so intense and strong! I just wanted him out!!

My amazing midwife!

On the bed where I later delivered Oliver!

While I was in the middle of pushing, my midwife’s shift was up and one of the other three midwives was now on call. The first midwife wanted to stick around longer to see the birth, but she ended up needing to leave. If only she would have known he would come just 15 minutes later! I pushed on the bed. I pushed on the toilet. Then I went back to the bed, and finally after almost two hours of pushing, the baby started crowning. My parents were in the waiting room, and at this point my mom was called in to see the birth of her grandson. Feeling him coming out was exhilarating but very very painful. My dad remembers being in the waiting room right next door hearing so much crying and screaming, and then all of the sudden, me in such a happy sweet voice just saying, “Hi baby! Hi baby!”.  Baby Oliver was here! After about 12 hours of labor, a few of those at home and about 9 at the birth center, Oliver Ryan was born into this world completely drug free and into his daddy’s hands. Ryan and the midwife lifted him up to me and placed him on my chest. I remember looking at him for the first time, into his wide dark eyes which were staring right into mine. He cried coming out but once I was holding him, he was peaceful and so alert. Absolutely perfect.
After Oliver was born, it came time to deliver the placenta. After the placenta came out, I ended up with a lot of bleeding. A lot. Things got a little stressful and I was still in a lot of pain from them trying to stop the bleeding, but thankfully through all of that I was still able to hold my baby boy in my arms. Fortunately, with just a quick shot of pitocin (it’s good for something!) my bleeding eased up and everyone was able to relax again. Unfortunately, little Oliver was quite comfy in the womb with his arm up by his head, and that is also how he decided to come into this world… ouch. So, thanks to that precious little arm, I ended up in need of a few stitches, but throughout the whole thing, I was still able to continue skin to skin with Oliver. Even when his umbilical tie fell off and Oliver’s blood was added to the pools of my blood all over the birth bed (sorry for the gruesome image… but hey… that’s how it was, really bloody), nobody rushed him away from me. We stayed together through it all, for a few hours even, he didn’t leave me. This is one of the many reasons I am so grateful to have delivered NOT at a hospital… he was never taken from me, even when we both were in need of medical attention.
Getting ready to leave the birth center!

            So there it is, Oliver Ryan Dillon was born on a Thursday morning at 8:50am. He was 7 pounds 8 ounces and 20 inches long. He was born at the Santa Rosa Women’s Heath and Birth Center, the only birth center in northern California! No doctors were present, or needed. We didn’t need a hospital, none of us were sick. We were up and walking out the door 7 hours after delivery and feeling great! Oliver’s birth was not only completely amazing and beautiful because we got a perfectly healthy baby boy in the end, it was also so very empowering for me to be able to birth freely and be in control of my own labor and delivery! Loved delivering at the birth center, wish everyone could have the same amazing experience that I did! Anyway, almost 4 weeks later and we’re still so happy and in awe of the birth of our sweet baby boy! He’s such a total blessing and brings us so much joy (even with the many feedings and diaper changes throughout the day and night). We love you so much Oliver Ryan! We thank God everyday that He chose us to be your parents! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting Close!

Photo by Timeless Moments. Visit their Facebook page!
How far along? 38 weeks 1 day

Overall Emotion last month? Overwhelmed, nervous, excited, huge! 

Maternity clothes?  are you kidding me.... my maternity clothes are too tight for me now!

Sleep: I tend to sleep great for the first 4-5 hours... then I'm awake and end up finding something to do in the livingroom until I fall asleep on the couch. super fun.

Best moment this month: Hmmmm.... It's been a craazzzyyy month. The best moment was probably when I found out that the baby finally turned head down!! That may have been more than a month ago, I dont know :-) AND my amazing baby shower last Saturday!

Weight Gain: Yes. That's all I'll say for now :-)

Movement: Oh yeah. He's quite the boxer. Seems to always be trying to break out of my belly button.

Food cravings: Anything and everything. I have been indulging in quite a bit of hot chocolate- for good reason though! I swear it's the only thing that gets rid of my heartburn... i swear... really.

Anything making you queasy or sick: Said terrible heartburn.

Have you started to show yet: I'm way beyond starting to show. I have strangers coming up to me, asking if I'm have triplets. Seriously... this happened twice.

Wedding rings on or off? on 

Looking forward to: Having this baby in my arms finally! Being done with the anxiety over the anticipation of what labor will be like.

One thing I did well this month? Being an emotional mess. Well, it's been a rough month. At the beginning of November my midwife found my blood pressure to be pretty damn high. (the bottom number was 90.... which is not good) But I wasn't showing any other indicators of preeclamsia, so she ordered some lab work and put me on semi bed rest just to make sure. At my next appointment I found out that my blood work came back "okay" and that my blood pressure had come down to a more comfortable level! Although, I had been crap at the bed rest thing... which was totally stressing me out, because I was sure that all of the stress was then causing my blood pressure to go up, which then made me even more stressed. Ugh, not fun. Anyway, even though by BP was lower at this appointment, the midwaife still wanted me on semi bed rest because the levels of my BP were leaving me with no wiggle room, and I could still be at risk for developing preeclamsia. Tried to take it easy the week after that, but I had SO much to do to get ready for baby! It really was a super busy week and I was sure that my BP was going back up (all of this, by the way, made me not the most pleasant person to be married to. God bless you Ryan!). BUT at my last appointment (Last Monday) my BP had gone down even more! Down to an almost normal level. Still went and had blood work done yesterday, but I should still be fine for a normal delivery! We were all worried about the chances of me having to be induced, but everything should be fine now!  
All that to say, it's been one heck of a month!

Protein intake this month: Because of my blood pressure thing, I'm on a super high protein diet now... doing alright but could be better.

Book Currently reading: NOTHING! My brain needs a break! 

Some other things I want to mention: Going to the chiropractor has been aaammmaaaazing! Totally worth the money and the time. I hardly ever feel back pain or any discomfort anymore, whereas before... I was in pain all the time it seemed like. One week after being adjusted just 2 times, the baby turned head down! I also believe it's what really helped my blood pressure go down. I admit, I had never seen a chiropractor before and was super skeptical of the whole thing... but now I'm a total believer! I will be taking the baby there for adjustments as well. Giles Family Chiropractic in Napa, go there. Dr. Kristen is awesome, has had 2 homebirths and truly cares about the well being of her clients. So awesome. 

Also, I haven't really gotten into our delivery decisions and beliefs. Many people know that we're delivering the baby NOT in a hospital- but if you didn't know that, and are interested in some more info, let me know! We're delivering at a birthing center, no they do not have the pain medications that hospitals do... and therefore, NO I will not be having an epidural. I'm hoping for a water birth, Ryan wants to be the one to "catch" the baby, I have a doula, and I am getting my placenta encapsulated. Questions?! Just ask!  
 Okay, I'm done! Sorry it had been so long since my last baby update. Hope this one holds you over until baby comes, which I'm hoping is super soon!!!  

Photo by Timeless Moments. Visit their Facebook page! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Felting Adventure!

I made a felted scarf a couple nights ago! I love it!

This was taken right after I laid all of the wool out, before any felting occurred. It took a very long time, but it was fun and the scarf turned out beautifully! It's so soft and lightweight, I'm very pleased :-) Anyway, hoping to make some more once my order of wool comes in!

This specific scarf is now available in my Etsy shop- go check it out!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Ahhhhh, it's good to be living in the most beautiful place in the world! It sure does make my daily walking goal a little easier when I have this to look at! Anyway, these days I have been feeling more and more pregnant and less and less ready for this baby to come... not the best combo ever. We have about 2 months to go! I will be at 32 weeks in just a couple days, the end is in sight! And it's freaking me out! 

This picture was taken last week at 31 weeks along. I'll give a bit of a detailed update... not going to use that little question format though, just going to wing it!

The last few days have been filled with zero lung capacity and lots of Braxton Hicks contractions! Not the most fun, but it's pretty cool to see how my body is already doing so much to prepare itself for labor. And now that this baby is getting big enough to totally take up any room my diaphragm may have had before, I'm looking forward to this baby dropping a bit lower! Limited lung capacity for an already asthmatic person is not very fun, but I'll get through it!!

I get totally freaked out whenever anyone plays Christmas music or talks about Christmas in anyway as if it's super close. Christmas time= Baby time. YIKES!

My diet has been fairly good. Lots of protein and I have been keeping up with my vitamins really well. I have been letting myself have coffee more often now that pumpkin lattes and Trader Joes pumpkin spice coffee blends are around! Everything in moderation, right :-)

ps- the Babe has hiccups right now. so. cute. 

About to have our third week of birthing class tomorrow! These classes are at our birthing center and have been amazing! I'm learning so much about how my mind and body deals with pain the best. It's scary to think and focus on the pain so much... but feeling better prepared has been very empowering! I'm realizing more and more that it is a huge passion of mine to help other women/ couples feel as knowledgeable and empowered as the amazing midwives, doulas and birth educators at my birth center have helped me feel! I would definitely love to pursue becoming a doula after this baby is born.

Ryan has been nothing but pure awesome.
Thank you dear brother for the lovely photo bombing.

Sure, it's hard sometimes when I'm feeling like life is unfair because he doesn't have to deal with all the "joys" of pregnancy. And I know I act like a total whiny brat A LOT of times, but he has been so amazing and encouraging though all of the times of feeling good and feeling not so good. He even painted my toe nails for me when I realized I could no longer reach :-) I love how confident he is in my strength and ability to have this baby. He totally gets it. Which is totally awesome. and sexy. Never once has he tried to talk me into birthing at a hospital, or questioned my convictions. Instead, he educates himself. He reads books about birth and being a good birthing partner. He's not scared of witnessing the birth of our son, he's even hoping to be the one to "catch" our baby!

Had my glucose screening test done last week. I'm assuming all is well since I have not heard back from the midwife. Dang that drink was NASTY!

Also, cloth diapers. I'm in love with my cloth diapers. Talk about addicting! I already have about 20 now. I'm going to stop there because I know I wont need many more, and I'm going to leave some space open for gifts since I still have 2 baby showers coming up. Never know what people will give! I'm just hoping the kind of diapers I purchased actually work! I've been prewashing them, and it just makes me so happy to see all the cute little diapers up on the clothes line :-) This is what my living room looked like for about an hour the other day while the diapers were waiting their turn for the line..

As you can see, we're doing cloth wipes too. Found a great deal on Etsy and now have about 30 wipes and have only spent $7 on them!

Okay, I think I'm finally out of pictures and info to share.... for now. I would love to get my act together and do a post dedicated to where we're living. Yountville is totally awesome beautiful, and well, a very weird place to live.

Hope this lovely October day finds you well! Ryan and I have plans to go "up valley" to see if there is anything fun to do in St. Helena today. We dont usually go north of Yountville, so we're excited! Peace and love to you all!

xoxo elyse

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Flowers and Acorns

This is what I spend a lot of my days doing. More acorns and more flowers. constantly. :-) It's actually a lot of fun, and I have been having a great time getting creative with the flowers and trying techniques and designs that I have always been too intimidated to try!

Every morning when I go on my walks with Bruce the Yorkie, I always make sure to do two things.... Pick a ripe and juicy fig to eat for breakfast, and to pick up as many acorn caps as humanly possible. I usually prove to be quite successful in both areas.

I love these little acorns! I sold a ton of them last year to people wanting a fun center piece at their Thanksgiving table. They are just so darn cute and charming! Some are needle felted, some are wet felted.... all depends on my mood (and the state of my poor fingers). Who knew needle felting could be so dangerous?! My fingers are covered in puncture wounds. Maybe I'll stick to wet felting the rest of these babies until my wounds heal.

And these flowers! So much fun. I love keeping them out on display in the apartment because they're so colorful and happy.

Well, that's it for now. A lot of these flowers and acorns will not be available in my Etsy shop because most of them are for a custom order/ I'm building my inventory for a craft festival I may be involved in next month. But let me know if you are interested and I'll be sure to work something out! Happy Tuesday everyone!