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. ūüíõ

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.”

8 months ago

OBX 2017 (Svell Vacay #2) 

Just a few pics, a few too many words.

  Vacation this year was a funny trade off. First, we went to OBX.  Last year was PCB. We found a rental that had not yet been built and was literally finished the week before we arrived- so $ wise it was good. 

But man, if I had to be a privileged white girl and complain about my vacation right off the bat and send my readers to the X tab while rolling their eyes,  I’d whine about the unfriendly and chilly Atlantic waters.  We hardly spent any time on the beach because it just wasn’t enjoyable.  Windy, chilly, unsafe for small kids. The whole family concurs that Gulf of Mexico is where the party at. BUT! I won’t complain. It was vacation, and we spent an entire week with people we love, in a really nice house, eating DONUTS and ACAI BOWLS.

Only Carolyn-when-pregnant would ever consider the Maple Bacon donut, and consider it she did, the entire thing.

This year was much better as far as Emmett and Collin being older.  There were no pee-in-the-car-in-a-cup events. Emmett was officially potty efficient by September of last year, AND he’s warmed up to using public restrooms, AND he thinks doing a “standing pee” is super convenient when you’re in an unfamiliar and loud restroom (I. DO. TOO.) You win, there, males. 

BUT. Emmett is even more aware than ever about where exactly we are driving, which road we are traveling on, if we are supposed to turn left or right, and which state we are in.  He loves states, maps, directions, signs– all that stuff.  And he was extremely delighted to read the WELCOME TO VIRGINIA, then WEST VIRGINIA, and finally NORTH CAROLINA as we passed them. And he remembered exactly how we were supposed to drive back home.  So, when we had to detour, or stop for a break… there was screaming and outrage. Which, all things considered, was fine. And his end-goal was the same as ours:

We decided to minimize Emmett’s stress and frustration (and that of the whole house) by not allowing any iPad/iPhone device playing by any of the boys. Not during the 11 hour drive, not in a restaurant, not when it rained for two days.  The problem when Emmett plays is not that he doesn’t choose an educational app– he does. He really uses an iPad or iPhone way better as far as educational purposes goes than any child I’ve ever seen. But when it’s time to turn it off, say to eat, go potty, or sleep, he absolutely WILL NOT. He literally won’t stop to eat or pee.  So when we have to physically take it away, the meltdown is enormous and earsplitting.  And it’s not over quickly, and it then becomes an obsession which he repeatedly asks for, cries over, and hunts for– for the next 3-5 days ALL DAY until it fizzles out. 

It worked out so, so, so well. Except for once when he snuck and found my phone charging in our room, and took what is probably the best photographical representation of our vacation out of all the Instagrammy pics I took:

Willy-Nilly Soggy Laundry : A vacation story.

Anyway. Nice week, a little more exhausting than I’d hoped. And boy, a pregnant Carolyn can’t tolerate too much sunshine– sitting out for longer than 20 minutes made me feel sick and headachy.  I’ve read there’s a bio-med reason for this to do with adrenals, thyroid, and low sodium levels… but it was just an internet whisper so I …am not, in fact, a tan pregnant goddess this summer, and ye olde melasma will probably be forthcoming as the summer wears on. Proof in the fam pics. 

BUT! The trade off is that opposite from exactly a year ago, I had full, painless, mobility –like a normal Carolyn, only a little pregnant! And the boys had a blast. AND my sister in law, “sis” as the boys lovingly call her, was able to join us this year. She is simply a wonderful woman, she delights in the boys, and is one of the literal 5 (or less) people Craig and I can fully trust with our boys. A Carolyn at her age wanted nothing to do with children, so, she’s a wonder to me. When she’s there, everything is just better.

Craig and Christy (or Sis, as the boys call her)

My fave pic of the trip, taken by Sis.
I taught Lexington everything he knows. ūüė¨
Until next time, you guys!  I hope you’re having a beautiful summer so far. :)

2 years ago

Mothering Highs, Lows, + Elderberry Syrup Recipe.

I know this should be broken into two posts but look at all my cares. Here I go.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
When even Mom and Dad can’t get it together, family photos make for far and few.


Easter Triduum this year went remarkably better than the last¬†6 years worth of Triduums. ¬†I attribute it to creating some form of routine- and I say that with a great gagging because ridiculous things like “consistency” and “scheduling” give me rage. But it turns out, I do these things whether I like it or not and if I can trick myself into thinking I’m not creating a rigid schedule and locking myself into The Prison of Plan-Making, we end up finding ourselves actually doing an at-home Stations of the Cross, and praying a Rosary all in the same day.

Also: Lexington is 6, Emmett (albeit special needs) is 5, and Collin is 3 and will mostly tolerate the activity if his brothers are on board.

Easter Sunday Mass? Compared to last week’s Palm Sunday performance¬†(in short there was repeated, guttural bellowing of “CRUCIFY HIM” followed by maniacal cackling), it was a breath of fresh air:

Emmett¬†–if you’re new here (hi!), it’s important to know he is Autistic, mostly nonverbal, but has hyperlexia, which is defined as self-teaching how to read at an early age (We think Emmett started as early as 2, but finally showed us at 3 years old), obsession with letters or numbers, while also having difficulty understanding and communicating verbal language.
So there we were,¬†Easter Sunday, singing the closing song at my childhood parish and I hear Emmett muttering…
“Push in, and pull down!” I hear his little voice ring out like bell.

I turn around just in time to catch his hand grasping the pull handle of the FIRE ALARM, and I had to stand firmly rooted in front of it until the end of the song, because Emmett saw letters and they were telling him what to do, and why wasn’t anyone else taking care of this “push-in-and-pull-down” situation so clearly articulated and within reach? –at least, that’s what I imagine Emmett thought.

Kind of like Alice in Wonderland’s “Eat me” cookie.¬†Well if no one else will, give it here.

I don’t mean to turn this into an Emmett post but seeing him interact with the world around him is frustrating, wonderful, and hilarious. Bringing him to family events is always kind of an area of stress for Craig and I, because of Emmett’s known flight-risk, and because he screams a lot when he’s frustrated. Get a bunch of people together (even the ones you love most) who aren’t used to dealing with a kid with special needs, and he starts screaming his head off about the movie selection, or the way a toy will or won’t work, and it’s hard to calm him down, and a parent senses the anxiety spike in the room and that makes it all worse.
But Emmett is getting older and while he has new challenges, Craig and I can pretty much anticipate his frustrations and act accordingly.

What touched both Craig and I yesterday was watching Emmett happily interact with different family members in a way that we’ve not yet observed.
Roses and thorns, that’s Autism. That’s everyone, really.

Also of note! Our experimental homeschool Kindergarten year is coming to a close and while Lexington still might stare off into a daze if you ask him the purpose of Lent, I have to say: He’s finally gotten down the reason for Easter.

Craig took the boys to a Panera lunch on Saturday and the cheerful cashier used her most excited-talking-to-little-people-voice and asked them if they were going on an Easter Egg hunt that day, to which Lexington replied, “I think you mean tomorrow. It’s not Easter yet.”
and then she chipperly persisted, asking if they were SO EXCITED FOR THE EASTER BUNNY?! to which Lexington answered, “Ehh… you know what’s even better than that? ¬†Jesus opening the gates of Heaven.”
Lady didn’t say much else.


I really, really, really don’t want to be smug here because I’m really good at ending up with my foot in my own mouth but…. my work is done here. *wipes dust from hands*

Foot, I’ll taste you soon, old friend. wink.

Elderberry Syrup!
Want to make some?
I did!  (pretty much anything I do everyone else can do, and do much better, so that means this is grade K easy.)

Property of Carolyn Svellinger

It was easy, with the help of Amazon Prime. (not sponsored, but the links imma give you below ARE affiliate, just so you know.)
I made Elderberry Syrup¬†to help get us through a wave of colds the house of Svell endured a few weeks ago. I was better in 4-5 days, and it usually drags on for a few weeks. Now we are into¬†spring allergies and I found myself hitting up the syrup again this morning, so I figured I’d share the Pinterest recipe from which I adapted my own concoction:

Elderberry Syrup

  • 2/3 cup dried elderberries -can buy here
  • 3 1/2 cups of filtered water (mineral is best if possible)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh ginger root
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/2 cup raw honey –can buy here.


Fill a medium pot with the water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
-Bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until you’ve boiled the mixture down to about half of what you started with. (Should be 45 minutes)
Enjoy the Elderberry/clove/cinnamon aroma. yum-o.
Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Strain Elderberry mixture into size-appropriate bowl.
-Making sure that the syrup is no longer hot, mix in honey (if the temperature of the syrup is hot, you will lose the medicinal properties of the raw honey).
Store in a glass jar, and keep refrigerated.
-Use clean spoons or droppers to administer the syrup, never contaminating it by “double dipping”.

Kids: 1/2 – 1 Tsp
Adults: 1/2 – 1 TBSP
*Once / day*
If cold or flu is present: take every 2-3 hours.

***I’m not a doctor. Talk to your doctor to make sure this is okay for you and your family. Definitely don’t give this to a child under 1 year old as it contains raw honey***
My people approve. I hope you enjoy!
Happy Elderberry. Happy Easter – He is Risen.