Introducing My Daughter!

To prove just how behind I am with my life, I started this post introducing my darling daughter over 10 months ago. She herself is now 18 months old, haha! Anyways, I’m back, enjoy!

I am officially back from maternity leave! It was so nice having the break to connect with my beautiful new daughter. So to celebrate I want to share my birth story with you.

Without writing out Patrick’s complete detailed birth story, the birth of my first child in 2010 was what I would consider ideal for a first time mom that doesn’t know any better. I had a perfect pregnancy. I only got sick for about two weeks, only gained 30 lbs, and had great skin and hair. I decided that I wanted a hospital birth. My mom had had 3 cesareans after 30+ hour labors, but my grandmother only had 3 hour labors with vaginal deliveries. I didn’t know what to expect or how good at birth I would be. My husband’s youngest sister also had a very traumatic birth that left her brain-damaged and immobile. He was a bit fearful of birth, as you might expect, so he wanted a hospital birth in case something went wrong. I had a typical “textbook” hospital birth. I labored for about 13 hours, got an epidural, had an episiotomy, and delivered on my back. Overall it was a really positive birth experience, but looking back I realize I had the wrong doctor for me. I had really wanted to attempt a natural birth, and she did not really support that want. She actually scoffed and made an, “I thought you wanted to do this naturally” comment when I asked for an epidural. There were also little negative comments during my prenatal appointments when I asked questions about things like birth bars and laboring in the tub. I found myself tiptoeing around questions, because I anticipated that she would say no to my requests. Pretty much, I had to do birth her way. Being a first time mom, I didn’t know any better. I do not in any way regret having a hospital birth with my first, but if I could do it again I would have found a doctor that jived better with my vision of what I had wanted my labor and delivery to be like. The Pomerado Hospital Staff, however, was incredible! They are 100% responsible for me having a positive hospital birth experience, especially my L&D nurse, Lisa.

The closest photo I have to not looking like I’m drugged.

Skip ahead two years and here came baby number two! While I have no idea when my son was conceived, I know the exact date with my daughter. I had been training for six months to compete in the World Famous Camp Pendleton Mud Run with my bestie, Kristin. I had wanted to run this 10k mud filled obstacle course ever since I watched my dad run it as a kid, and I had been telling my husband that I would kill him if he got me pregnant before the race. Well, one night of passion in two years, the night before the race, and tada! Pregnant. And this pregnancy wasn’t anything like the walk in the park that my first pregnancy had been. I was sick from 5-14 weeks. Really sick. So sick I ended up in the hospital for a night. Not fun! Again, I didn’t gain much weight (32 lbs) but carried completely different. I was so wide! The baby was always in my right side, from my hip all the way up into my ribs. I was convinced I was carrying a feisty baby since this child was so rough on my body!

She came a few days early, which was probably good considering she turned out to be so big. I was so tired of being pregnant. I hadn’t reached the, “get this baby out! I’m am DONE!”, but I was getting close. Let’s just say we tried the old adage “what puts them in the womb, brings them into the room” and it worked for us with this particular baby 😉 I lost my plug during our little romp and I started having mild but uncomfortable contractions, so I called the on-call midwife at the birth center. She said to go for a walk, and see what happens. So Tim, my husband, called into work and said he would probably not be coming in, and at 10:30am we left to get pizza and walk along the local path near the restaurant afterwards. Turns out this particular pizza place is closed on Mondays (say what?!), so we decided to go to Panera instead. Let’s just say that during the 20 minute drive from the closed pizza place to Panera I went from uncomfortable contractions to having to completely stop talking and focus on breathing contractions. I called my doula and let her know that I was going to skip any laboring at home and go straight to the birth center after we dropped of Patrick at Tim’s parents place. The plan had been for my dad to watch our now 2 year old, but I was in no mood at this point to wait the 45 minutes it would take to wait for him to leave work and meet us. I also called my mom and my sister to let them know that they may need to head over as well. It was probably a good thing we skipped the walking plan, because by the time we finished the half hour drive to the center I had dilated to 7cm!

The midwife on call had a student midwife learning under her, and she pretty much did all the hands on stuff for the rest of my labor and delivery. It was really cool to witness the passing of knowledge from the experienced to the young and enthusiastic. I was completely comfortable with the set up. Through my whole labor and delivery they made me feel confident in my ability to handle this birth. I was really much more nervous about having a baby completely natural, even though this was my second birth. I wondered quite deeply whether or not I would be able to handle the pain. It’s funny though, labor for me was so gradual that by the time I was into the depths of it I had already acclimated.

Doulas are amazing, by the way. Everyone should have one.

I had planned on giving water birth a try, and let me tell you, Best Start is THE place to be if that’s what you want! I had the upper suite, which is completely amazing. The tub room cracked me up though. The tub is ENORMOUS and up on this pedestal, like some alter to birth. Talk about a stage for having a baby! I actually didn’t end up laboring that long in the water. I found that I wanted to feel grounded and the floating of my buoyant pregnant body was not cooperating with that instinct.

My husband even joined me in the water, but he’s not a big guy so he really didn’t give me that much leverage.

While I was in the water, I did get to the point where I wanted to have the urge to push. Not that I had the urge, but I wanted the urge. When my son was born, there was no holding back. There was no talking my body into NOT pushing. It spontaneously pushed my son out, and that was with an epidural! I asked about possibly breaking my water. There was some quiet conversation among the midwives and it was then suggested that I try walking up and down the stairs instead. Riiiiiiight. I was convinced that if I left that room that I would be giving birth in the stairwell. I didn’t learn this till after the fact, but her head was transverse. If a baby’s head is transverse, they can’t be born. If they are sunny side up, they can be born (although it’s supposedly hurts like crazy!). Walking up and down stairs is an excellent way to try and get the baby to turn. I opted to labor on the toilet for awhile. She still wasn’t turning, and I was getting really tired at this point. I was only 6 hours into active labor, but it had been intense. My doula, Cris, had just had another laboring momma 2 days earlier that had the exact same challenge, a transverse baby. They were not able to get that baby to turn, though, and ended in a c-section. She was on high alert because of this, and asked if I could labor on my side in a particular position that gets the baby to turn. So this position involved me lying on my left side on the bed with my left leg straight and my right knee pulled up as high as I could stand it. I then rolled farther to my left. If Tim had not been right there the whole time I would have ended up on the floor. I labored for several contractions and then, yes, I started to poop. Yay. It was sooooo distracting for me to realize what I was doing. I kept apologizing for it, and of course everyone kept telling me it was ok. The top dog midwife even made a comment that I didn’t realize the gravity of till many weeks after her birth, “it’s alright, once we see poo we know this baby will be born vaginally”. Eventually someone put a hot washcloth over by bottom and that really took away the distraction and let me concentrate on the final stages of labor.

So pretty much everything after that point was a blur. I really have no idea how much time I spent pushing, but it felt like 45 minutes or so. I spent some time leaning over the birth ball on the bed while holding Tim’s hands. Every time I had a contraction I would pull on him. I really felt like I needed leverage to get this baby out. I know many women find it more productive to relax into labor, but trying to do that really made me feel strangely panicky. I needed to feel grounded. I needed to flex my muscles with the contractions. I also found out afterwards that I had thrown my sweet husbands back out. Oops. I also found I’m a pretty vocal laborer. I’m not sure what the “professional” term is, but I found myself saying “oooooh” really low and slowly. If I was starting to loose my focus, my voice would go higher and there was always someone there that would start to “ooooh” lowly with me to bring my voice back down. It’s pretty incredible how much that helped!! I ended up on my side again, as I was getting really tired. I was holding Tim’s hands, pulling again with each contraction as I pushed and finally, the ring of fire! But this was the craziest feeling I had ever had. Everyone was telling me to slow down and rest between the contractions. I knew they were trying to help me keep from tearing, but I just couldn’t stop pushing. I wanted this baby OUT! I was really feeling silly about it too, since I didn’t think that it was this hard pushing my son out. I mean, yes, I had an epidural, but I know they turned it off and I felt a lot more than I anticipated. FINALLY her head was born. With my first, once his head was out, he was out. Not so with this one. I had to work a little harder and push a couple more times to get her shoulders out. Finally, she was born! The room was electric and seemed to explode in light and color.

Her very first photo




Her very first photograph.

They pulled her onto my stomach and covered her with a receiving blanket. I wanted so badly to pull her higher and kiss her, but her cord was too thick and short. She was high enough to attempt our first latch, though. Her cry was a little wet and soft, so they were rubbing her chest to help clear it. I looked into her face and she just seemed like such an old soul to me. I don’t know why, but even though she was earlier than my first baby, she already seemed very wise to me. Like she was more “done” than he had been. My speculation is that my births were so different, but that’s a post for a different time.

Let me remind you that we don’t find out the sex of our babies. I was so happy I was crying and then suddenly thought to ask, “is it a boy or girl?!” The midwife smiled and said, “I don’t know, why don’t you look?” It makes me cry just typing this memory of getting to shout, “IT’S A GIRL!!!” *cue uncontrollable sobbing* There is literally no greater feeling in the whole world than to find out the sex of your baby after an intense labor. Someone asked me, “What’s her name?” and my response was, “I don’t know, but her middle name is LeAnne. Haha!”

At some point I birthed my placenta, but I don’t really remember it. Tim cut the cord and they covered my body with a warm sheet so that my dad and son could come in to say hi to the new baby. At this point no repair had been done, no stats on the baby that couldn’t be done on my chest had been taken, and she still hadn’t been named. “Poppa” brought in the new big brother and helped him up into bed with us. Patrick was 2 1/2 at the time, and I could see that he was interested in this wet pink thing mom was holding, but didn’t really understand what it was. He was also pretty tired from playing with Poppa all day and was really ready for bed. We gave our sweet boy lots of hugs and kisses and sent him home with Granny and Poppa.

Once they left, time seemed to slow down again as I came off of my crazy birth high. I got to breastfeed her while they repaired a couple superficial tears. My wonderful baby sister, Deborah, went and got me a Smash Burger, which I had never had before. Best. Burger. Of. My. Life. I still hadn’t named her, but I wanted to talk with Tim about it privately before deciding. Deborah went home and they took my baby to the other side of the room to do the normal weight and length stats as well as a few other assessment things. She was 9 lbs 4 oz! Holy Moly! I knew she looked bigger than Patrick, but not almost 2 lbs bigger! Not only that, her head was 14 3/4 inches!! I’m way more proud of that than the 9 lb part, haha! I suddenly didn’t feel so silly about how hard pushing her out had been. I’m also amazed that all I had was superficial tearing, nothing deep tissue. The ladies doing the assessment told me that 10+ lb babies had heads this big. So it turned out she wasn’t uncomfortable to carry because she was feisty, it was because she was huge!

Since her lungs had been wet, and she had been born in the evening, and we had a long ride home, they decided to let us stay over night. Usually with Best Start you can go home a few hours after giving birth. It was really nice though. They had a nice big bed in the room, and both Tim and I could sleep comfortably together with our daughter.

Our daughter! We had a daughter! I had decided on a name if we had had a boy. I think because I “knew” I was having a girl I could commit to a boys name. I wasn’t going to use it anyways, right? If she had been a boy, she would have been named Theodore Baird. But I literally had 10 girls names that I loved! Naming a person is the absolute hardest thing for me. How do you name someone you haven’t met yet? With our son we had two agreed upon boys names and 3 girls names. Since he was a boy, my husband picked. If he had been a girl, I would have picked. Since Tim named Patrick, he told me I got to name this one regardless. Talk about pressure!! Once we were alone, I quietly asked him what he thought about Tabitha. He was surprised that THAT was the one that I wanted. Honestly, I was too. It had definitely been floating around in my brain, but it really was near the bottom of my list. She just LOOKED like a Tabitha! Her middle name we had decided on long before we had children. Our first daughter’s middle name would be LeAnne. His mom’s middle name is Lee, and my mom’s middle name is Anne, so we wanted to combine the two to honor them. So Tim asked her if she wanted to be “Tabitha LeAnne”. She snuffled in her sleep as he played with her hair. Since she didn’t protest we figured she liked it 😉

The Painted Oven

I am so pleased to finally have some belly paintings for my own business! Fairly ironic that a professional belly painter didn’t have any belly paintings to promote her own business.

I had so much fun creating this freeform painting for myself. I very rarely paint without any prep, as the result of freeform is so hit and miss. We painted in a park and then the oh-so-talented miss Paige Prior came and shot some photos for me. Thank you to my beautiful model, and to the husbands that chased around all the older kids while we painted. Have a beautiful day!

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Photos courtesy of Paige Prior Photography


A Person’s A Person…

So, there I was, 9 months pregnant and yet to paint my own bump! I had been so busy with other bumps that I hadn’t had time to brainstorm my own. I needed something that would be do-able upside down and backwards. I didn’t want to get in over my head with a full belly scene like I normally do for my clients. I couldn’t come up with something that I really loved, especially since we didn’t find out if we were having a boy or girl. My sister suggested something with Dr. Seuss, and *ding ding ding*! Of course! From Horton Hears a Who, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

dr seussI used a mirror to see what I was doing, and let’s just say I haven’t exercised my brain like this for a long time. My neck was completely stiff for the three days or so after doing the painting.

click to go to the galleryIt’s funny, I did this painting for myself because I thought it was just a simple, sweet expression of how I felt about the little person growing inside of me. I never meant for it to be anything other than personal to me. If I had stepped out of my pregnancy brain fog and actually thought about what I had just painted I might not have been so surprised about what happened after I posted my little picture to my Facebook page. It went viral. In less than a week, over 20,000 people had seen my belly! My humble little FB business page jumped from 160 to over 500 in less than six weeks. Previously, I would have done a happy dance at a 10 follower increase. Turns out, this is the perfect pro-life statement. Duh! When I first figured out that it was a pro-life page that started sharing and got the momentum going, I didn’t know how to feel about it. I’m very much pro-life, but still, my image was being shared for a very specific message. Ultimately I decided that I liked it. Especially once a well known natural parenting magazine based in Australasia (yes, it’s a term!) shared it. It’s nice to know that so many people out there appreciate and like what I’ve done.

click to go to the galleryI did not intend for this to be an image for a cause. I did not intend for it to promote my business. It was just a pure expression of the love I have for my own child. It’s funny how that simple expression, and definitely the simplest painting I’ve done, attracted the most attention.

See full process here!

Business Bellies

I have very officially launched a new service for The Painted Oven, business bellies! What is a business belly, you may ask? It is a pregnant belly painted to promote your own baby oriented business! So, let’s say you are a wonderful birth photographer, like the lovely Robin Baker.


She hired me to recreate her flowering tree logo on one of her doula clients. Oh yea, did I mention she’s a doula too? She is truly a multi-talented woman, offering many different types of photography and birth services. She is the same photographer that included me in her breast feeding mini sessions, the photos of which were featured in my last post for World Breastfeeding Week.


This was my first business belly EVER and I was so pleased to work with such a talented photographer right out of the gate. The care I witnessed of Robin with her client was truly inspiring. Her generosity with sharing some business knowledge with me was also greatly appreciated on my part!

©BirthBlessingsPhoto2013_PaintedOven_43view the full photo shoot

Birth Blessings Photography webpage


Or, perhaps you are exclusively a doula and birth educator, like the sweet Cris Harper. I may be a little biased since she was my doula for the birth of my daughter, but she’s pretty awesome. Her North County Natural Birth logo features a Palm Tree, so we did a stronger beachy vibe for her business belly.


Cris is a birth educator with Alpha Childbirth, Christ centered childbirth classes being offered for the first time outside of Tennessee. My daughter was the very first West Coast Alpha baby, by the way! Here she is modeling with the other “baby” from our class, haha!

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West Coast Alpha Classes, North County


Or, maybe you are a really good newborn photographer, like the up and coming Paige Prior. Maybe you want a baby bump to show some off your maternity photo skills. Seriously, it’s a skill. You can’t just photograph us ladies when we are pregnant from any angle!


Paige took our daughter’s newborn photos too, but those are pictures for a later post! (do you like how I teased you there?)

Paige Prior Photography webpage

My Breastfeeding Story

See my whole nursing photoshoot here...

Since it’s World Breastfeeding Week, I thought now would be appropriate timing for sharing my breast feeding story. I may not have thought to write it had it not been for the opportunity presented to me by my Doula, Cris Harper, to model for the lovely photographer Miss Robin Baker. I took breastfeeding photos with my then 3 week old daughter, Tabitha. Here is my breastfeeding story…

Two and a half years ago, I welcomed my son into the world. From the very beginning breast feeding was easy. My biggest issue was too much milk. Oh darn! We were so good at it, and enjoyed it so much that we nursed until he was 19 months old. On march 4th, I welcomed my second child, a girl. Starting out breast feeding with her was a little trickier. She “pinched” quite a bit, and after meeting with a lactation consultant discovered that she has a high pallet. OK, no big deal. We adjusted our technique and were making lovely progress.

Then, we got a phone call from our pediatrician. There is nothing more stressful as a parent than a conversation with a doctor that starts with, “Is your husband home? (yes) Can you put me on speaker?” Her PKU test had come back with high numbers for a condition called Galactosemia. With this condition a child cannot metabolize the milk sugar galactose. It’s very rare, and very serious. If not caught, it can result in such things as liver, kidney, and eye damage. Until we did a full blood test she couldn’t have any form of milk or dairy, including breast milk. She had to be on soy formula until we got the results. I would have to pump several times everyday to keep up my supply. For someone who is as incredibly passionate about breast feeding as me, it was devastating news. I am built to feed babies, breast milk is the absolute best thing you can give your baby, and I might have one that is being poisoned by my milk. I stressed about my supply as it very slowly declined. I was also really worried about nipple confusion since she already had a goofy latch and was going onto a bottle so young (only a week and a half).

One week later we got the results. She did NOT have Galactosemia! She IS, however, a carrier of the mutated gene, which is why her numbers came back so high. That was the longest, most emotionally draining week of my life. Before we got the results, we agreed to the mini session with Robin. If nothing else, it would be my farewell to breastfeeding. A moment of mourning the precious bonding I knew I would miss out on as she grew. Instead, it was a celebration of breastfeeding my normal, healthy baby girl!

I am so grateful that Robin included me in the mini sessions. She was a joy to work with! She was very understanding of the stress I went through with the Galactosemia, and made me feel so comfortable during the shoot. Thank you Robin!

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July! What does this holiday mean to you? It’s one of those holidays, like Christmas or Easter, that has struggled to keep its identity in this commercialized country. Don’t get me wrong, I do like and believe that it should be a fun celebrated holiday with family and friends. However, do we realize how heavy and serious this holiday really is? It marks the day that we signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring our independence from England. Our founding fathers aren’t just a bunch of old dead guys, they set us up with a pretty cool country. A country with freedom.

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John Trumbull’s depiction of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. picture source

The Fourth of July is filled with symbolism. We use fireworks, for example, to represent the “bombs bursting in air” that are sung about in our national anthem. Our beautiful flag is also full of symbolism. The 13 red and white horizontal stripes represent the 13 original colonies that declared their independence. The current flag has the 50 stars in the blue field representing the 50 united states. It is a representation of the individuality, yet unity, of our great country. Diverse, yet we stand together. I love our country, here is my simple tribute. Happy Independence Day!

Photos courtesy of Kristin Collins

Happy Father’s Day!

So, being quirky me, I couldn’t just celebrate Father’s Day like any other artist. I had to take what I already do and put my own twist on it. The result? Daddy bellies! I had this really fun quirky idea a couple months ago when I was lamenting to my husband about missing the boat on painting some “Happy Mother’s Day” bellies. I was so busy with adjusting to life after the birth of my second child and the death of my grandmother, all of which happened within two months of each other, that Mother’s Day just came and went. So I jokingly said, “well, I’m not going to miss Father’s Day then! Bring on the daddy bellies!” The more I thought about it, the more fun the idea became. So, a week from Father’s Day I scheduled a couple paintings with some daddies that had a great sense of humor.

My friend, Briana, has been a great supportive fan of my little business since it started. She often comments how sad she is that she never got to paint her belly with either of her children. So it didn’t surprise me at all when she answered the call for a daddy belly on my Facebook page and volunteered her hubby to be a model. She was so cute during the whole painting process. She even commented that she was jealous that he was getting to do it and she wasn’t 😉 So daddy, Jacob, is a corpsman with the Navy and we decided to do a fun little character family representing them. Mommy, Briana, is a huge chargers fan. She even has a tattoo of the bolt on her foot. So that was an easy little representation to come up with for her character. They are also HUGE Disney fans. I mean, HUGE! So for her son and younger daughter I painted little classic Mickey Mouse heads on their shirts. Jacob was a fabulous sport, and I must say it was weird that my canvas wasn’t wiggling 😉 Thank you Jaime family for participating in my fun little Father’s Day Project!

The Jaime FamilyMy next family to volunteer is very near and dear to my heart, the Caustins. Shannon was my very first belly ever. I painted her belly at the suggestion of my other friend, Sarah, and thought it would only be a one time thing to do for fun. At that point nearly everyone who say pictures of the painted butterflies said I need to start doing this as a business. I made lots of excuses why I couldn’t start a business, mostly revolving around not being able to afford the expensive paint. Well, some dear friends from Hawaii gifted me money to buy paint so I had no more excuses (thank you Cris and Michelle!). Now, a year and half later, I am also painting Mike’s belly! Haha! I never thought it would come full circle like this. Mike and Shannon are huge movie fans, and especially love Star Wars. A sweet little girl leading an AT-AT with a butterfly painted on it. Mike was SUPER fun to shoot, and totally up for posing in some classic maternity poses! Baby Tori is crazy photogenic, and so into whatever it was we were doing to daddy’s belly. Thank you Mike for being so fun to work with!

The Caustin Family

I am so honored that these two great dads were down for some spoof belly paintings to honor fatherhood. Thank you both so much! A great big Happy Father’s Day to all the amazing dads out there!

A special thank you to miss Kristin for photographing both of these fun shoots.

Take a gander at the Father’s Day Album!