1 month ago

The Birth of Dominic Ross

This is most likely the boring-est of all my 5 birth stories. Sorry, not sorry to be writing it. Across the board, writing out each child’s birth story is the only thing I’ve done consistently. I don’t keep a baby journal (I guess the blog kind of counts?), and my photo documentary quality has drastically improved since Lexington was born, so much that it’s unfair.



I have become aware as I birth each baby that my body loves something called Prodromal Labor. It wasn’t until this time around that I realized a likely reason for that. Both Collin and Jude came out sideways, but I figured that was normal, or whatever. Here I am, 5 babies later, and still learning.

I reached 40 weeks pregnant.

Aside from fixing a borderline severe anemia issue, and the frustration of contractions that were fizzling out just when I started to think they were getting exciting, I was extraordinarily comfortable. Never has a pregnancy been so cozy for me. No back pain, no lightning bolt strikes of sciatic pain, or cervical stretching, nothing. PLUS, I enjoyed 40 weeks medication-free, and symptom-free from my autoimmune disease. Barring 1st trimester nausea, I had energy!

Dominic was measuring biggie. I never do kick-counts, but I noticed that his movement was significantly less. There was one moment in the middle of the night where, after repeated efforts, he did not wiggle in response and I panicked and my pregnant brain vividly imagined all the terrible scenarios that could possibly exist.

My midwife and I checked his heartbeat, and without looking, I could hear it was much lower than normal. We ran a non stress test, which the midwife lengthened a bit and he seemed to finally perk up and his heart rate went back to normal. We discussed coming back in a week for an ultrasound and another NST, but then my midwife asked how I felt about an induction.

–Let’s pause so that everyone understands my birthing history. Feel free to click the links and read my embarrassing tale-telling from many years ago, but to save time, here are the summaries:

42 weeks.
Epidural, no complications.
No awareness of anything whatsoever besides the names of my nurse and anesthesiologist.

40 weeks exactly.
Epidural, which didn’t take.
Blood pressure dropped, I blacked out.
OB cut Emmett’s head with instrument as he broke my water.

40 weeks + a few days.
No meds.
Stuck cervical lip which OB manually pushed back.
Circus act. (I thought I had “felt everything” since Emmett’s epidural didn’t take properly and therefore going natural wouldn’t make much of a difference– HA. A symphony of lies. )

40 weeks + a few more days.
No meds.
More stuck cervical lip. More manual cervical pushing.
I bit Craig a few times.
Broken blood vessels in my face.
7 day headache.

It was during the first trimester with Dominic that I started having nightly PTSD attacks and I laid there feeling like I needed a bag to breathe into to calm down. (I’m fully aware that these births are kitten fluff compared to so many women with much more traumatic births, but my experience is my own etc.)

I’ve watched The Business of Being Born, I’ve read the birthing books. I have become a lot more aware of my body, and the birth process and all that jazz. I’m aware of the potential unwanted interventions that come with getting an epidural, and I was afraid that I’d end up with a birth like Emmett’s or much more intervention-y if I chose to be induced. I knew that once they put a needle in my arm, it’d probably be the domino effect to all the other things. I HATE feeling not in control, and being put on a clock, and having medical professionals come in tapping their watches while they brandish scalpels and bright lights.


I knew I’d experience a cervical lip refusing to fully retract at 9 cm like it had in the births of yore. The sensation of having someone stretch the cervix against it’s will while battling the uncontrollable urge to push is what I believe having someone smash a searing whitehot blade into a bundle of exposed nerves might feel like.

I allowed myself to not feel …what, guilt? for settling on mental peace. I’m 9 years older than I was from my first birthing experience, and this was going to be better, even if there were medical interventions, because, frankly, I’m not so much of an airhead anymore, and I have a much deepened sense of body-awareness, medical goings-on, and of trust in the Lord’s plan for me.
I told my midwives there was a 99.999% chance I’d be getting an epidural. I told them my previous experiences, my fears, and my hopes, and they honored them.

My delivering midwife told me that in her years of experience, a veteran mother knows how her body births, and when she says she usually goes from 4cm to 9cm in 20 minutes and then gets a stuck cervical lip for a couple hours, she believes it without question. This is why I’ll pick a female midwife or OB for the rest of my days.
And would you know it, that’s what happened.

To my disbelief, I scheduled an induction at 7am on the 14th of December. My contractions had puttered out once again the morning of the induction. My mom came at 6am to stay with the boys. Craig and I ran through Starbucks for a *super nutritious* breakfast sandwich, and at 6:45am, we bounced into the waiting room/reception with a ridiculous song stuck in our heads. I almost never get songs stuck in my head. I consider it mental clutter because I’m a strange bird; yet, for my births, e v e r y time.

There we were, 7am, sitting in the room we would meet our Dominic, whose name we’d settled on merely 12 hours before.

Since his due date was originally near the feast of St. Ambrose, I’d been angling for Gabriel Ambrose, wanting to call him Bram, pronounced “Brah-m”.

Craig had been pulling for Dominic Gabriel, which I acquiesced to because I love the name too, and Dom is equivalent to the sound of Bram so there you go. But after realizing we’d scheduled an induction on the feast of St. John of the Cross, I wanted to incorporate his name. No offense to all the Johns of the world, (you’re great.) just plain “John” wasn’t blowing our hair back. After some thinking, we came up with Ross as a middle name. Dominic ends with a “c” + Ross = Cross. Maybe that’s a stretch, but we love it and there was no looking back after Ross entered the subject.

(There may or may not have been a text conversation between Craig and I involving this GIF, after settling on the name.)

Back to 7am… The nurse blew out a vein in my arm, and I almost passed out. A different nurse, the other arm, a cool washcloth on my neck, and a few mouthfuls of hospital ice later, we were up and running with a working IV and fluids. Commence pitocin at the lowest dose, and a bit of knitting.

Pitocin dosage was increased every few hours, and honestly, my contractions were utter nonsense. Hallie Lord had been my birth texting sister in the weeks approaching once we realized we might overlap in due dates, and having given birth just a few days prior, she reminded me to ask for anti nausea meds. EXCELLENT idea, especially since I barely made it past a heplock placement.

At some point I asked for the epidural, not because the contractions were bad, they were totally pitiful. I just wanted to nap. I can’t remember if it was noon or later –oh wait, Craig remembers it was 12:40– but we got it done, and I could tell it was working, and working the way it should have. I took naps and naps, and Craig ran out for snacks. I snuck two soft pretzel sticks which were so wonderful because I was starving.

The afternoon passed and I stayed at 3 cm until 5:00 ish. In came everyone and their ticking clocks, asking me what we wanted to do. Actually, I misrepresent my midwife: she did ask me what I wanted to do: Increase Pit drip to 7-8 and wait a bit longer, break water, or do nothing, and she made it clear I was under no time pressures. BUT, I still felt the ticking anyway.

I’d told her that once I reached 4cm things would be over within a few hours, so we decided to up the pitocin and break my water once I reached 4cm.

6pm came, I’d reached 4 cm. They gently broke my water, and by 7pm, I was feeling some discomfort.

From the experience of my previous births, I recognized this pain, albeit very dull, and very not real life. I was entering transition. I could actually feel the urge to push, and as each contraction came like a (generally painless) wave, I breathed through as if I were laboring without medication. I began a few “practice” pushes without telling anyone because I knew it wasn’t time for knees to chest yet. But all of the sudden, it was time!

So here’s where during the hour and a half that I pushed, and they kept giving me oxygen, and the baby was S T U C K on my pubic bone, and my cervical lip yet again had to be pulled back by my midwife, I had a hallucination that I was no longer giving birth in a room, but up in fluffy, white clouds, with a bright blue sky, surrounded by angels who were watching and praying to our Creator for me and for baby, and waiting, waiting, waiting with such joy and excitement. Such a vivid hallucination that I wonder if that’s what actually happens for each birth that has ever and will ever take place. It makes sense if one understands the love God has for each life he creates.
Can you imagine the angels standing watch over your birth, your neighbor’s birth?

It was a few hours later as I sat nursing Dominic in the night that I realized I’d never left the hospital room at all. I looked around myself thinking, where did the bright sky go? All those clouds… did I get wheeled into a different part of the hospital at some point???” Kind of a Spare Oom Wardrobe experience. If hospitals could market a “let us take your birth experience to new heights” campaign, I bet they would.

Yes, I reached a hopeless point of frustration during pushing… I have grown accustomed to pushing for 20 minutes and having a baby in my arms right quick. So after 45 minutes I remember being so terribly frustrated. “Well, his hair is birthed,” someone said. I laughed and then cried at the report of “lots of dark hair.” I always push laying on my back, and this time, as Dominic’s head finally made it past my pubic bone, you know what that child did? HE LITERALLY STRETCHED HIS LEGS OUT IN THE WOMB.

À la:

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

I legitimately had to press my hand into my stomach to serve as a spring board for him to stretch his little feet into WHILE I WAS ALSO PUSHING. Craig, meanwhile, had been helping me curl up around my stomach and hold that position while pushing; a job I would have not been able to do at that point because I was exhausted.

Then, my midwife said “okay, this is the one, let’s do it with this push” and I thought she was just saying that to give me a last bit of oomf behind my push, but I looked down and saw Dominic’s little scrunchy face come right out from between my legs, and all the nurses and midwife exclaimed “a total OP!” Which means occiput posterior, which means completely sunny-side up, which explains why he was so stuck. (Look all that up on Spinningbabies.com , I ain’t explaining any mo’)

And now, after all that drivel, I hope the birth announcement I made a month later, while sitting in bed at night with a snuggly fat hobbit, makes a bit of sense.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

The end.

{P.S. If there’s any takeaway I want it to be this: SKIP HOSPITAL FOOD COMPLETELY and get your husband to run to your favorite places for takeout and eat like kings and queens for the next 24. You’ll pat yourself on the belly back.)

1 month ago


Carolyn? You’re really going to write a post?
..you are, aren’t you?


(though it be 5 months since the last.)

If you have not been with me over on the king of social media, here’s what’s going on:


We have a new Svell in the house.


Dominic Ross.
9lbs 11oz.
Birth story coming, perhaps.

He’s already one month old. Man if that’s any indicator that I need to just let my domain name renewal pass, I don’t know what is.
All I have to say –because really, I have a lot to say, so I’m trying to do it Princess Bride “let me sum up” style- ALL I HAVE TO SAY! Is that as far as adding baby to the family goes, the transition from one baby to having 2 kids was hardest for me. The second hardest transition seems to be from having 4 kids to 5.

And that makes me laugh because at this point, it’s like, what’s one more? But for a HSP all the yell-talking from each of the 4 children AT THE SAME TIME+nursing a floppy baby+me trying to hear my own voice delegating simple tasks to each person+Emmett having a meltdown each time the batteries on his favorite toy die (which is often.) ((THE HUMANITY.)), or robotically reciting the name of the President of Sudan 500 times in a row= yes, second hardest transition.

I’d become used to being the homeschooling heli-mom who can jump in and wipe things and people asap, and suddenly I cannot. And it makes me a bit squinty and twitchy. And one particular parent decided it’d be a grand idea to start potty training Jude at this time. I won’t say who, but it wasn’t me. GRAND IDEAR.
The messes are good. Real good.

But, the brotherhood (bickerhood?) is real good too. I’ve sat and listened to Lexington teach Collin how to add, how to spell, how to do many of the things he’s supposed to learn in Kindergarten so much to the point that I’ve considered starting him off at first grade level next year. This also serves me a big scoop of gratification as I see Lexington *is* in fact learning enough to actually teach someone else (if ever I were to feel a bit self doubt-y in homeschool land). I’ve sat nursing Dominic from my Breastfeeding Jail cell in the living room listening to both Lexington and Collin ask Emmett for help on spelling complicated words. I witness them help Emmett through difficulties, bringing him down from a thrashing screaming level, to a coherent state where it’s possible to finally figure out what he needs. Also, they make eachother lunch.
Real good.

I’ll leave it at that for now and hopefully be back with Dominic’s birth story. It involves hallucinations of clouds and choirs of angels.
A Merry Christmas and happiest of the new 2018 to you all. 💛

PS. To quell your burning curiosity, the president of Sudan is Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir. The “ah” in Ahmad has that hawk-a-loogie sound which Emmett has perfected as of today. Therefore, I have a 7 year old wandering around saying this name constantly with excellent Arabic pronunciation, while also demanding “THE BIGGEST PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN.”

7 months ago

Edel 2017 Recap

I’m back home, from a whirlwind weekend in Texas at Jen & Hallie’s Catholic women’s Edel Gathering, eating at my usual v v late mom-breakfast-hour of 10:30 and it is totally fine. 

Every spoon in the house is dirty, Jude presented me with a nice full diaper asap, Emmett has already had a meltdown about a missing T-Rex toy magnet, I discovered someone found my old mascara and painted the upstairs bathroom with it, Collin and Lexington have given me the dl about who came to visit while I was gone and how much blue colored ice cream + donuts they ate for lunch, and I’m in full-fledged panic mode about ordering their school books for the year. 

It’s so good to be home, back in the trenches of motherhood.

I left them on Friday morning at 3:30am burned out, stress tight in my neck, and preoccupied with every possible variable that could make things go wrong: whether or not I would end up sitting on the airplane in between two large men bathed in aftershave 🤢; if my much-struggled-over box of prints and table display set-up actually made it in one piece to the hotel; if people would even want to buy my artwork at all; all the possible ways things could end in death for myself or Craig and the boys while at home, was this entire trip too self-indulgent? Why do I deserve this? This is selfish… etc. etc…. This was to be my first time traveling completely alone, leaving my husband and four children all at home.

Miraculously –and I mean MIRACULOUSLY– for both flights on my way to Austin, even though both planes were completely full, I ended up with the only empty seat on the plane next to me, made it to the beautiful hotel and was greeted by my roomate, Katrina (she’s here + here too, but I have no doubt you already knew that!).

Best advice: eat dinner, breakfast and lunch with people who are also pregnant and give a platter of nachos the same look you give. 😯

Let me tell you something about meeting friends you’ve made online and come to know over the years IN REAL LIFE: it’s wonderful. And those people are much more beautiful inside and out than they let on via their Instagrams, blogs, and Facebook pages.  Profoundly more beautiful. 

With the inside-and-out beautiful Sharon of Baby My Love. Seriously talented and skilled: she sews, knits, and makes baby moccs!

Every single woman I met over the weekend was a balm to my soul.  They all shared their own worries about coming to Edel, their stories at a depth you just can’t pick up from reading a blog, and oh my goodness INTROVERTS UNITE! SEPARATELY!  The blend of sisterhood was amazing to experience: The joy radiating from each woman was truly a feeling I don’t know how to describe here, but I felt it. 


The tag line for the Edel Gathering this year was “You can sit with us” and yes. I got to sit with them. I had the Big Fat Greek Wedding moment where Tula sits for lunch and has her Wonderbread Sandwich with the girls, because I have absolutely been the Katy Heron sitting in the bathroom eating lunch alone, which even for an introvert, stings a bit. I hope I was for these women what they were for me.  I got so caught up in conversation that I missed taking photos with so many ladies, and ended each evening with my cheeks aching from laughter and smiling so much.

And everyone was enormously generous. As a vendor, I was taken aback by every woman’s readiness to support their Catholic sisters’ businesses.  I love that they cried with me as I shared the story behind my “The most beautiful word I’ve ever heard” print. I love that they lingered at my table just to chat and share and enjoy eachother. 

I LOVED getting to actually shop and touch the products I’ve been admiring online for a long time. I loved learning the stories behind each woman there with her hand-made items: women who’ve lost children, women struggling through health issues, women whose shops are supporting her family while her husband goes through career changes… Providential Co. stood at her table, wearing her 7 WEEK OLD, with her husband at her side.  This lady makes beautiful, intoxicating scented soy prayer candles, AND does the art work covering them.  I am grateful I had the chance to be among them. 

The caliber of vendors at Edel was astonishing (I wish I’d thought to take some photos!). The quality of goods these wives and mothers brought with them was so impressive, worth being able to see in person, and way beyond the cheesy stuff you’ll find in your typical local Catholic shop.  I met a few attendees who were just starting out with their own business and I have to shout from the rooftops: DO IT! START IT! Don’t hesitate! Because what I saw at Edel –the work of mothers who somehow produce these beautiful things in the cracks of their day, between diaper changes, dinner, baths, and clean ups– is remarkable and inspiring and so valuable and so needed in our culture. We need you.

I had the privilege, as a vendor and volunteer helper, to have a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work put into making Edel the kind of event that it was. What Jen, Hallie, and their team of family and helpers did was 1) SO MUCH WORK. 2) Generous in every way. The energy it took from them to put this event on was overwhelming and unfathomable to me.

Each table was prayed over before dinner began on Saturday night. EACH TABLE for 300 women. 

The dinner was delicious. Wedding level delicious, or honestly, better than that. The Texas food was a pregnant woman’s dream. 

The speakers were earth shattering. Mary Lenaburg’s talk touched my heart so profoundly that I’m still soaking in her words and sitting with them on my heart. 

And let me tell you this: for as much “babbling and wagging of tongues” and “recited rote, ritualistic prayers” that Catholics are exhaustingly accused of, the power of hearing 300 women pray the exact same words in unison, together, in prayer is so so so far away from “babbling” or “ritual” than I can imagine. Knowing that you can gather a body of people from all over the country who don’t know each other (we even had a few Canadians in attendance!) and on the spot, each one of us can pray the same prayer together, know its meaning, knowing precisely Who we are praying to is just… what’s that word??? CATHOLIC. UNIVERSAL —there’s nothing else like it. Going to Mass, which is the same no matter where you are in the entire world, seeing these women there, worshipping Christ in the way He instructed us to do… it’s heaven on earth. It’s home. It’s the body of Christ’s earthly and Heavenly Church. 

And getting a chance to share that joy, that catholic sisterhood, motherhood joy with them, sharing that joy knowing so many of them are in their own battles, struggles, grief and brokenness: Priceless.  As Jennifer Fulwiler wrote: it’s a party of women who know that despite everything, ultimately, life has a happy ending in Christ.  

Bro tats & Katrina’s baby bump 💙💙💙💛

I am glad I had a few very full days away to give me a chance to miss my boys, to desire to be back wiping butts and breaking apart bickerings over crayons and who gets the top half of the bagel.  I’m grateful for the privilege of attending Edel after the previous three years knowing it was impossible to ever dream of going. I am grateful to each woman who introduced herself to me. I am grateful for the encouragement from the ladies who could not come, but really wanted to, and I truly felt their absence.  

I am grateful for the internet and the bloggy world.  I started blogging in 2004. Eventually, I discovered there was a whole network of Catholic women bloggers out there, and ultimately, through their kindness, friendship, and God’s will, I found myself in Austin this weekend. 

^^^IG story from Hallie ❤️


10 months ago

Is it just me or

…is anyone else mildly annoyed when bloggers say they have “HUGE NEWS”… but then all it turns out to be is they painted their bathroom one shade lighter than the original?  So I’m not going to say that.  But I am going to share the good things happening for the Svells which I’ve wanted to get down in a blog post forever but I just haven’t been able to because… well, you’ll see*.

Nice and easy for you, let’s do a bullet list. Least “HUGE NEWS”, to most “HUGE NEWS”. So that means if you want to know the biggie, one must make the Herculean effort of scrolling to the bottom. (Or silent troll me on Instagram, like a good little lurker, because I’m sure to photographically spill beans there too, eventually.)

+ New prints are available at Brass & Mint co.’s Etsy shop. Can I just say how bad the carpal tunnel was after digitizing this print? I can. It was sufficient.

Do it again chesterton


+ I’m going to be on The Jennifer Fulwiler show!  Totally not a big deal, I mean, yes, I’m freaking out. But it’s just for a few minutes, this Wednesday, May 10th, to talk a little bit about my shop for Mother’s day for her Vendor Hour segment.  If you listen to her, I’m scheduled to be there around 3:50pm Eastern.

+ I am going to Edel this summer. Catholic Mother’s Hooha. Catholic bloggers meet in real life. Internet nerd dreams come true. I’ve always wanted to go to Texas.

+ I am going to Edel BY MY SELF. That’s a Friday, Saturday, and a Sunday of flying, eating, bathing, sleeping in a nice hotel, not having to talk if I don’t want to, and having my thoughts to myself in general FOR. THE. FIRST. TIME.   SOLOooo, I’M FlYiNg sOLo.   …well, almost.*

+ I am going to Edel –AS A VENDOR. Like, yeah. Selling my Etsy shop prints! I’m kind of sick to my stomach in anxiety about taking my little prints and standing at a table with them hoping someone will notice them and me and maybe they’ll stop and buy one? Maybe they’ll just kind of do a slow walk-by with their hands clasped together behind their backs and go “mm-hm.” and pass on to something more neat? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing, but Craig was like “DUDE, GO.” so, dude, I’m going.

+ We have a family vacation planned this June, similar to last year, with Craig’s mother’s family. It’s our second ever vacation, and I’m grateful and excited, and will overgram it just like last year, no diggity.



+ CRAIG AND I ARE GOING TO SEE COLDPLAY.   My tears are real. Every teardrop. Is A Waterfall.

And the hugest of newses:

+ *Baby Svell Number Five is a’swimming and a’kicking. 

Pardon the Easter photo recycling, but that's all the creativity I've got for now.
Pardon the Easter photo recycling, but that’s all the creativity I’ve got for now.

FIVE. I’m alive. Feeling better from fatigue and morning sickness with each passing day. The boys are over the moon. I actually have a video of them jumping and screaming in delight, but I’m too lazy to put it here. I might later throw together another 6 hour long youtube vid like I did for Jude. 

Guys, let’s just halt all speculation right here and now– it’s a boy. I just know it. I mean, I don’t ACTUALLY know. But I do. I could make your eyes glaze over about a study I read about how girls in utero activate the mother’s immune system and it affects her state of inflammation, and since I have an autoimmune disease which has now, with the exception of some mild foot pain, actually gone dormant and I am totally off of my immunosuppressive medication,  I strongly suspect it is being kept in dormancy because, according to that study, a boy would not stir up aforementioned inflammation like a girl would.  I might be interpreting it wrong. But I think not. I do art.

I don’t know. I just read this one and it says the exact opposite. But it’s not a science-based site.