My top 20 favorite essential oils

People often ask me which Young Living oils are my favorite.  This is a HARD question as in some ways it’s like asking which of my children I love the most! I’ve been working on this list for quite a while now!  Each oil and blend is unique and has so many different uses.  This is my list though.  DISCLAIMER:  It is subject to change!!!  I’ve also noted which oils are  included in the premium starter kit (PSK) as this is how most people get started with Young Living as it offers some of the most popular oils at a discount and with a diffuser. Oils labeled as “vitality” are approved as a dietary supplement.



Young Living blend with  Citronella, Lemongrass, Lavender, Melalueca, Myrtle

This one has a really strong but clean scent. It’s one of my favorites for diffusing when I want my house to “seem” clean.  I like to use it in spray bottle mixed with alcohol and water as a natural air freshener in the bathroom.  This one is also great for helping to remove mildew scents from clothes.  A few drops in with the laundry soap does amazing things!


Contains: Tarragon, Ginger, Peppermint, Juniper, Fennel, Lemongrass, Anise, Patchouli

This is a great one for helping to ease any digestive upsets.  Take a drop or two in honey or water,or  rub directly or with a carrier oil over upset stomach.  Some people think it smells gross, other think it smells like root beer but most people agree that it helps!


 Young Living Blend with Wintergreen, Helichrysum, clove and peppermint

This one is great to have around for soothing aches and pains from aging or exercise.  I don’t get a lot of pain myself but I love being able to share it with friends and family when they need it.  It  can make a person a believer!

Not recommended for children under 2

#17 RC  (PSK)

  • Cypress, Spruce, and three types of Eucalyptus (E. globulus, E. radiata, and E. citriodora) oils, peppermint and includes the naturally occurring constituent limonene.

This one is a must have for my husband.  He really loves the way it helps him to feel more clear when he’s been congested.  I LOVE how when he’s snoring at night I can send him out for some RC and he comes back smelling great and breathing better!


Some people LOVE peppermint and others not so much.  It’s not my favorite but when I need it it’s GREAT!  Peppermint has a cool tingling feeling and can be very soothing for an aching head.  I also like it for motion sickness in the car and to rub on my belly for an upset stomach.  Oh!  And a drop on the tongue is amazing for giving you fresh breath while also helping with digestion!  Win win!

Not recommended for children under 2

Use with caution when breastfeeding as it may decrease milk supply


Young Living blend with Melaleuca , naouli, rosemary and clove

I bought this one for my four year old to help ease some skin issues she has been having.  She LOVED it right from the start!  I wasn’t crazy about the smell at first but after using it for a while I find it quite pleasant.  It’s great for supporting healthy skin and for diffusing to get rid of bad smells. It’s also great for boosting immunity!  I like to rub it on my feet or along my spine for a pick me up.


Young Living’s blend of Sweet almond, Bergamot, Myrrh, Geranium, Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood™, Ylang ylang, Coriander, Black spruce, Melissa, Hyssop and Rose.

A friend of mine I haven’t seen in a while sent me a message out of the blue to make sure I knew how amazing this oil smells and makes you feel.  It had been on my wish list for a while but her email me pull the trigger.  WOW!  She wasn’t kidding!  Its so soothing and one of my favorite oils to use as a perfume. (Thanks Kortnee!)



Copaiba has a gentle sweet and earthy smell to it.  I find it SO soothing to inhale.  I also love a drop in my afternoon tea to support overall wellbeing and to help me stay calm during “the witching hour” with my littles.  I like using it directly on my skin to help smooth out the texture and color.  It’s also my favorite for helping to ease sore muscles in my back when I wake up feeling stiff.  Mmmmm… it’s so good!


This is a blend of Coriander, Geranium, Palmarosa, Lavender, Ylang ylang, Roman chamomile, Bergamot,Lemon, Jasmine and Rose oils.

It was created to be very soothing to babies and children but I find it very lovely and relaxing myself!  It’s great for diffusing, rubbing on my littles feet at bedtime or as perfume!


Young Living blend of Black spruce, Rosewood, Blue tansy, Frankincense

Mmmm… this one is SO good!  It’s one of those oils that is as good in the morning as a pick me up as it is to help you relax at night!  Many people describe it as “grounding” and I didn’t really know what they meant by that until I tried it!  I find it helpful when in big crowds as it helps me to relax and stay in my body rather than getting all up in my head, you know?  I like to wear it as a perfume and just INHALE from my wrists.  I probably look a little strange with all my wrist inhaling but I don’t really care!


Cedarwood is one of my favorite oils for sleep.  I like to rub it on the soles of my feet and diffuse it.  It’s one of those oils that many people DON’T like the smell of at first.  It is often described as the smell of cat pee.  The strange thing about it though is that after you use it for a while it completely changes.  Now I find the smell heavenly!!! It also doesn’t hurt that this is one of the less expensive oils!


Great for moisturizing and cleansing the skin of dead cells.  I like to use this one when I’m getting a pimple or for cleaning out cuts.  It’s also great for helping to loosen up a splinter. Tea Tree is great for immunity boosting and deodorizing too!


This smell is just AMAZING.  Although apparently it’s not everyone’s favorite. It’s super earthy and sexy.  I like it as a perfume.  It’s also a very relaxing scent and can help with focus.

#7 JOY

Joy oil is a blend of Bergamot, Ylang ylang, Geranium, Lemon, Coriander, Tangerine, Jasmine, Roman chamomile, Palmarosa and Rose.

Joy is one of the best things I’ve ever smelled!  It’s floral and fruity, relaxing and uplifting. I often reach for this one if I’m feeling a little tense and just want to relax and have fun with my kids.  I also LOVE it as a daily perfume.  This past summer I learned how helpful it can be with summer skin issues too!  My whole family used it this summer to help soothe out skin from bug bites, poison ivy and general itchyness.  I’ll never be without Joy!


Blend of Copiaba, Lime, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Ocotea, and Lavender.

The starter kit comes with a roll on attachment and I immediately put it on my bottle of Stress Away and have done the same with each replacement bottle I buy.  It’s the PERFECT oil to keep in your bag.  It’s my favorite for on the go de-stressing, especially when driving because it is simultaneously uplifting and relaxing.  I swipe some on my wrists and the back of my neck and it helps to ease tension in my neck and the overall mental strain of a long drive. I also think it smells great!


Blend of Tangerine, Orange, Ylang ylang, Patchouli, Northern Lights black spruce, Matricaria, Vetiver, Cistus, Bergamot, Cassia and Davana oils.

I actually like this one more than the original Peace and Calming!  It’s great as a relaxing perfume and is awesome for helping kids during tantrums.  I keep a roller ball filled with this and a carrier oil on hand to run along my kids backs when they start to lose it.  I’m never without my Peace and Calming II!!!


Lemon is a simple but amazing oil. It’s cold pressed from the rind of the lemon so it’s not as acidic as lemon juice.  I love to add a few drops to my water with a pinch of mineral salt.  It’s a great way to start the day.  Citrus oils are amazing at breaking down petrochemicals which is a good thing but don’t put citrus oils in plastic bottles for this reason.  Lemon is great for cleaning and is a non toxic version of goo-gone for stickers and labels. It has  also been studied for it’s effects on immune function as well as mood. Here is an article that explains this more. 

CAUTION: Citrus oils should NOT be applied to skin that will be exposed to direct sunlight or ultraviolet light within 72 hours.



Lavender is known as the Swiss Army knife of essential oils because it has so many uses.  When in doubt use Lavender! Many people find that applying it over their sinuses helps with seasonal allergies.  It’s also very soothing to kitchen or sunburns as well as bee stings or other itchy bites.  I like to apply it to my face at night to help me sleep and to support healthy skin.  And of course, it’s a great for helping you to relax and sleep!


Blend of Clove, lemon, cinnamon, Eucalyptus radiata, rosemary

Thieves blend is known to be great at supporting immunity. At the first sign of a cold I put a drop on my tongue.  The effects are really great!  Of course, it’s strong and not everyone enjoys the “hot” feeling of applying it directly to sensitive skin.  Putting it on the soles of your feet is a great way to get some thieves love into your system during cold and flu season.  It also happens to smell like cookies so it’s great to diffuse!  Young Living has a whole line of Thieves products including toothpaste and a cleaning concentrate that I love!



Oh Frankincense… Where to begin?  I love the history of this oil.  It’s just so amazing to me to think about the many ways humans have used it since the beginning of time.  I’m always learning of new uses and studies being done on it’s amazing properties.  Like lavender I tend to reach for this oil for EVERYTHING. Got a bruise?  Let’s put some Frank on it!   Feeling stressed?  Inhale some frankincense!  It’s gentle but powerful.  One of the first uses that made me crazy for it was as a meditation aid.  Inhaling it along with prayer or mediation has been done for thousands of years for a reason!  It really helps my brain to go to a place of relaxation and inspiration.  It’s also an important ingredient in many of Young Living’s facial care products as it can help to smooth fine lines and improve the radiance of healthy skin.


So there you have it! My top 20 favorite oils.  I’m pretty essential oil obsessed  and have lots of other articles about how and why I use oils in my daily life on my blog. I only use and recommend Young Living oils as due to the level of purity and the company’s beyond organic and sustainable farming techniques. They have a “Seed to Seal” promise and have been the industry leaders for over 20 years.

Here’s the link to how to get started with Young Living for yourself. It’s been a really fun and life changing experience for me learning about and using these beautiful oils and I hope this has helped you to better understand why!

So which oils are your favorites?  Any that I missed?


Soothing poison ivy naturally

My husband and I both recently got poison ivy rashes.  I’m usually pretty good about immediately washing any areas that come into contact with the weed but it seems like my tendency towards overdoing it in the garden got the best of me this time.  He seems to get it without even going in the woods. The silver lining to our affliction was that we got to test out some natural remedies.

The first thing we tried was Young Living’s Joy essential oil.  It’s one of my favorite scents so I was happily surprised to hear that it was helpful for poison ivy.  Joy is a blend of Bergamot,Ylang ylang, Geranium, Lemon, Coriander ,Tangerine, Jasmine, Roman Chamomile, Palmarosa and Rose essential oils.   It smells amazing and was very soothing and calming to our skin.

We both experimented with using Young Living Lavender oil next.  It didn’t cut the itching as well as the Joy but was very soothing on the second day of when it was more of a burning sensation.   I’m a huge fan of Young Living oils and we use them for EVERYTHING but this was one of the more profound experiences I have had using them!

A few notes on safety. We applied these oils “neat” or undiluted but if you are worried about skin irritation I would suggest using a carrier oil. Young Living’s oils are extremely pure and high quality so they can be used in ways that many other brands of essential oils cannot.  I would NOT apply any other brand of oils to my skin.  Also, Joy contains citrus oils and as with any citrus you should avoid direct sun exposure after applying.


Plantain leaf is a  medicinal plant that grows wild in most yards and is considered a weed. I’ve had success using it on bug bites and also on another patch of poison ivy that popped up on my finger (I just can’t stay out of the woods!) The way I use it is to chew it up a bit to release the oils then secure it in place with a band aid over the itch.  I know people make salves with it but I haven’t tried that yet!  Here’s a photo of it growing in the yard followed by one that shows plantain leaf close up.


Also an extreme close up of my hand.  How many times must I have creased my hand to get all of those amazing lines?

Another natural remedy that I tried out was Jewel Weed. This lovely plant is considered the natural antidote to poison ivy and is said to grow near where poison ivy is found.  We are lucky enough to have a little patch of it in the yard. It is usually found in shady and moist conditions.  This one worked really well too!  I used the same method as I did with the plantain leaf on yet another patch that popped up.  When I took the band aid off about an hour later there was NO itch or sting and the pain didn’t come back!  The first photo shows what the plant looks like in my yard in June. The second shows the flower that blooms later in the summer. I would have had NO idea what it was if I hadn’t seen it in bloom last year though!  Prairie Moon Nursery  sells Jewel Weed seeds for anyone interested in cultivating some yourself!

IMG_1117jewel weed

Overall the essential oils were easier for covering large areas but the jewel weed and plantain leaf worked well too and were great for smaller areas.  I’m so happy that we have figured these out!  I’ll continue trying to avoid it but I’m glad to know these just in case it gets me again!

If you would like purchase some Young Living Joy or Lavender for yourself send me an email at or read this post to learn more about getting started with essential oils.

What has worked for you when you had an encounter with poison ivy ?


DIY drainage swale using a reverse hugelkultur

FullSizeRender (8)Last year we had our our back yard cleared of invasive brush in the fall and then planted with low mow grass in the spring (some conventional grass seed as well, which I regret).  Over the course of the summer I couldn’t resist and put in my first attempt at at hugelkultur to house the many tomato plants that had seeded themselves around the garden.

This year I decided to take down the hugelkultur and put in a larger garden bed in it’s place.  It’s the one part of our yard that gets full sun but unfortunately it also has a bit of an underground stream flowing through it that becomes a problem during rain storms.

We got some HUGE quotes from local landscaping companies to deal with the drainage. Um, no thanks, I don’t want to spend 16k to make my back yard pretty! I’d much rather keep our money and just have a stream!

But then I started thinking about using a swale.  I’m kind of obsessed with permaculture but actually incorporating it into our landscape is an ongoing challenge.  Basically a swale creates a holding tank for excess water that will then slowly release into the land below.  Conventional drainage just moves the water away to the side of the yard or whatever.  This allows you to still USE the water for the garden!

I had made a small swale as part of my hugelkultur last year but it didn’t quite do the job. I decided to expand it to cover almost a quarter of the 20×10 garden space.


I dug a hole about 18inches deep.  Deeper would have been better but getting through the clay and rocks was a challenge.  The water quickly filled the area, delighting my kids but somewhat frustrating me!

I tried my best to keep it in line with the grade of the slope.  I want it to really hold the water rather than just funneling it away.

While digging I was sure to separate out the topsoil from the lower levels of clay. The best part though was dismantling the hugelkultur and finding tons of worm castings and nicely broke down compost!  When I put it up last year I had said, worst case scenario it will be a big compost pile and I can use the soil for my new garden.  Score!

I decided to fill the trench with rotting wood.  In the same way that a hugelkultur uses rotting wood like a sponge to hold water above ground, this should do the same under ground.  Well, I hope it does…  I looked it up again in Gaia’s Garden to make sure my line of reasoning made sense and it seems like it should work!


I just can’t help myself.  I LOVE the idea of a closed system where you just use what you make and make the things you use.  I’m REALLY far from that reality but I do have lots of rotting wood so I figure it’s worth a shot!

After I filled the trench with rotting wood I had a chance to see how it performed before covering it fully.  After a full day of spring rains I could see that it was holding a lot of water but some was escaping out the side.  I decided to go with that and create an overflow drainage ditch that is higher than the rest of the ditch so the runoff will go where I want it to.  I also caved and just bought a drainage pipe to use in there. I couldn’t figure out how to keep it open enough to move the water while also having it be just shallow enough to just catch overflow?  Maybe one of you knows?

I then filled in the crevices with some smaller sticks to help keep space for air and water.  IMG_0003

I separated out the dirt, soil and compost to rough in what will be the garden beds.  The local tree guys fortuitously called to ask me if I wanted more wood chips the week before so I used those to cover the swale and the garden paths.  They had pine, which apparently isn’t so great for plants but I’m hoping it will be fine since I’m not planting directly over it.

A traditional swale would usually have a raised mound directly down slope from the ditch.  I’m not doing it that way though. Sometimes I like to just half follow directions and see how it goes.  And when I say sometimes I mean usually.  But anyway, I’m hopeful it will work!

Next I covered the swale with wood chips which will serve as the pathways for the garden.

I also put in the beds.  I used large rotting logs to create the boundaries of the bed on the lower level of the garden.  I kind of love dragging big rotting trees from the forest! My hope is that they will help create a barrier for weeds, store extra water and break down over the next few years to eventually add more biomass to the garden. I was lucky enough to find a whole pile of rotted wood that crumbled into soil as soon as I picked it up. I filled up several wheel barrows with this and mixed it in with the soil I saved from digging the swale.  Again, rotting wood from around the property serves as a great free recourse!  And don’t worry, there is still PLENTY of rotting wood out there to feed the forest floor!


Now all I need is to put in a fence and add some extra compost and amendments to the soil.  I’m planning to break down a few more rotting trees to enrich the soil too. I hope it all works!

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“Mama, I love nature.”

“Mama, I love nature.  I love nature more than anyone else loves nature!” said my four year old daughter as I was putting her to bed tonight.  Obviously my heart melted.  And it gave me the feeling like I’m doing something right!

Today we went for what is becoming a weekly walk with friends through the forest.  We dress the kids up for wet and muddy play.  That usually means Bog boots, waterproof rain pants and jackets.  Then we just let them free.  They climb, they run, they jump.  They WALK in streams and mud.  They draw lines in the mud with sticks then use those same sticks to stir in the stream.

IMG_3475Today they surprised me by climbing up a huge rock outcropping.  I watched as my little girl scanned the area for the best path up then carefully climbed with her hands and feet to the top.  At one point I couldn’t help myself and so I shouted up, “do you feel safe?” To which she answered, “yes!”

These are the moments I dreamed of before becoming a mother. Giving my kids the space to explore their own limits and the world around them.  It just doesn’t get much better!

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My Hugelkultur

After dreaming of having one since I first learned about permaculture last spring I finally built a hugelkultur! It’s basically a big pile of rotting wood covered in rotting leaves, dirt and compost. The wood is supposed to act like a sponge, to keep the soil moist and healthy. It’s not the prettiest thing but I was happy to have a place for all the baby tomatoes that kept popping up in my garden!


I built it on a whim one day while my baby slept and my toddler played nearby.  It did what it was supposed to as far as giving my baby tomatoes a place to grow.  Unfortunately I didn’t have much of a gardening budget at the time so I used a super cheap “fence” and T posts.  The deer were able to push up the fence to come in every few weeks and eat whatever had grown.  The wind knocked the poor fence over a few times too.  Plus my husband hated the whole thing.  It was a fun experiment though and it felt good to break ground on what will someday be a new garden bed!

How to get started with Young Living Essential Oils

semicircleSince falling in love with Young Living essential oils I have felt compelled to share their awesomeness with friends near and far.  Getting started can be a bit confusing so I figured I would make this post to explain the process of getting started with Young Living essential oils…

The way that Young Living works is you can sign up either as a “retail customer” or a “wholesale member”.  Wholesale members get to buy oils directly from Young Living at 24% off of the retail price for LIFE!  Most people get started by purchasing a Premium Starter Kit which is $160 and includes 11 of the most popular oils, an essential oil diffuser and a bunch of samples, including samples of the NingXia Red supplement, which so many YL users use daily and LOVE!

The Premium Starter Kit includes:

  • 5 mL bottles of the following essential oils:
    • Lavender (for skin irritations, soothing burns and relaxation),
    • Peppermint (for muscle soreness, digestive support, fresh breath),
    • Lemon (for uplifting, cleaning and great in water),
    • Frankincense (for youthful skin and spiritual connection),
    • PanAway (for pain and discomfort),
    • ​R.C.(for ​respiratory clearing)
    • Thieves (for immunity and well-being),
    • Purification (for stinky trash, cleaning​, bug bites & bug repellent​)
    • ​Copaiba (for supporting skin health, respiratory support & soothing pain)
    • DiGize (for aiding healthy digestion- can vary based on availability)
    • Stress Away (Relaxing yet uplifting blend; great for using in the car!)

I HIGHLY recommend the Premium Starter Kit as it allows you to really start USING your oils.  There is something in there that can help with almost any ailment or mood and having the diffuser is awesome!  I don’t say this to be “salesy” as much as I’ve seen how much more the people who start out with the kit learn to USE and LOVE their oils.

It’s hard to know which oils are going to be your favorite and it can be frustrating to buy a few at retail and not really like them much, although if you choose to go the retail route I would be happy to help you pick some out!   If you have any particular concerns you would like to address using Essential Oils I would love to help you find the right oils or products for that too!

Young Living has been around growing and distilling most of their own oils on their 9 farms around the world using BEYOND organic and sustainable practices for over 20 years. Essential oils is an industry that is largely unregulated and companies can pop up overnight and make lots of claims to purity on their labels, so it’s really important to order from a company that has stood the test of time.

Becoming a member also gives you access to our members only Young Living Facebook group which is an invaluable resource and community for learning all about using EOs.  I’ll also make myself available to you to help you on your “oily journey”.

Does that all make sense?  I’m including my link below but definitely let me know if you have any questions! I LOVE discussing oils and getting other people to fall in love with them is my favorite thing! I’m always happy to help no matter which route you choose 🙂

Leah O’Donnell- Young Living Star Distributor # 3365922


Why sustainable and joyful?

12440606_10154161360189203_5728918624181701933_oA while ago I got to thinking about what it is that I really want in life.  What do I truly value that should be my guiding mantra?

Living a life full of happiness always seems like an important goal! Even if that happiness isn’t being felt in the moment, I want to strive to have a high level of contentment and lots of moments of pure joy. Who wouldn’t, right?

I am a person who can tend to be a little serious and definitely INTENSE at times, so a reminder to always seek joy is a good thing for me.  I want to laugh from my belly everyday.  I want to take time to play. All too often at the end of a long day at home with the kids I realize that although I may be content with the day I didn’t take the time to be silly and really PLAY.  Tomorrow is a new day though, and I hope I can approach it just slightly differently…

The drive towards sustainable living is something that just keeps building in me.  It’s one of those things where the more you learn the harder it is to ignore.  According to climate change researchers, “Reducing consumption and achieving more sustainable lifestyles represents the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions”.  This idea is so powerful yet most of us struggle to minimize our own consumption.  It’s also the source of so much of the seriousness that keeps me from being more joyful.  Like everything REALLY does matter!  Because if one person can do something different one time it MATTERS. And if I can inspire ONE person to do something in a way that is better for themselves it can make a difference!

Somehow I’ve never outgrown the idealist part of myself that emerged as a teenager  and won’t stop believing that change is possible. I think the belief that every little thing matters is what makes that sort of belief at all possible.

Because it DOES!  Anytime I think about a choice for myself I think, what if everyone made this same choice? How would it affect things?  Would it make the world healthier and happier or not? You know, the whole butterfly wing thing just keeps me driven.  If I can’t imagine and do it myself how could I expect other people to do it?

Of course this tends to lead me into perfectionism at times… but that has gotten much better for me over the years!  I allow myself to make mistakes and to occasionally not separate out the compost from the trash.  But it kind of hurts me to do that!  It’s just part of who I am I think.  I NEED to take it seriously.

I also want and need support in trying to live this way.  To live better and to love the world better.  I want to create a place where people can come together to discuss ways that they are working towards consuming less and striving for a more minimalist approach to life.  Once you start opening your heart and mind up to questioning the status quo and trying to live mindfully (rather than mindlessly consuming  mainstream values and habits) it is hard to unlearn and unsee the truth.

So, I’ve created a Facebook group to support these goals.  It started out as a place for friends to support each other on our KonMari journeys but has evolved as we have evolved.  Using KonMari to get in touch with what REALLY matters and sparks joy in life is an AMAZING step.  But let’s keep putting one foot in front of the other as we move towards our visions of living simple happy lives filled with joy where we are truly AWAKE to our affects on the world around us.  What’s working for you?  What’s challenging?  Let’s talk!

Here’s the link to my Facebook group if you want to join!


(Source on causes of climate chage)

Ada’s Birth Story


(One of my favorite pregnancy photos)

The evening of Friday, January 13th 2012 I started feeling cramping while out at dinner with friends.  I decided to ignore it and not say anything as I wasn’t sure if it meant anything.  Shortly before midnight as I was trying to fall asleep the cramps started to intensify for short bursts.  I watched on the bedside clock and saw that they were coming about every 8 minutes.  I was so excited!  I decided that since I couldn’t sleep  would get up and have a half glass of wine and take a bath as my midwife said the best thing to do during early labor was to try to sleep.  I also filled a big sock with rice and heated it in the microwave to use to ease the contractions while I tried to sleep.  I was pleased with myself for thinking to use  my belly band to hold it in place and it remained banded to me for most of my labor.

I was able to sleep on and off until about 5am.  Zeke woke up soon after and we were both really excited.  He decided to go up to the roof and film the sun rising on the morning of what we assumed would be the day our child was born.  We then went out to breakfast and to pick up some things from the farmers market.  I was in pain but it was pretty manageable at this point.

We had been planning to have a home birth.  I had done a lot of research and found that it was just as safe as a hospital birth and carried less of a chance of infection.  I also really wanted the chance to have a natural birth and knew that hospital births often involve lots of interventions that I wanted to avoid.  My biggest fear wasn’t the pain, but having to go to the hospital.   I was especially afraid of having to have a c-section but I knew that by attempting a home birth I would only end up having one if it was really necessary.

We called my midwife at some point during the morning to let her know that labor had started. She asked that we call back when things intensified more.  Zeke and I spent the day laboring at home and took several long walks around the neighborhood.  We found that the contractions sped up when we were walking.  I loved the feeling of laboring and walking and made up lots of strange ways to handle the pain through vocalizations and dance-walking. The hormones were surging through me and I felt as if I was on top of the world.

That evening the contractions started to intensify.  My midwife, Stacey came over around 9 pm to assess where we were.  She did an exam and found that I was only dilated to 2cm.  This was somewhat upsetting news.  She said that it was impossible to say, but I would probably would have between 6- 18 hours of labor left.  We felt somewhat deflated by this and Zeke and I were both pretty tired after not sleeping much the night before and laboring all day.  My midwife left and we decided to call my friend Rebecca, who is a doula, to see if she could come over and assist.

Rebecca got there around 1am and soon after Zeke was able to get some sleep while Rebecca helped me through the contractions. After a few hours Zeke woke up and I decided to labor in bed for a while with Zeke helping me.  I was able to sleep between the contractions but would wake up writhing in pain every 5 minutes of so when another would come.  Zeke helped by massaging me and talking to me.

The next morning, which was Sunday, Zeke went up to the roof to film the sunrise again, as we were pretty sure today would be the day!  The contractions had been getting longer, lasting about a minute and a half to two minutes but were still coming only about every 5 minutes. Stacey came back mid morning and at this exam found me to be 3-4 cm. She stripped my membranes, and tried to stretch me out a bit, which was extremely painful.  It was pretty disheartening that in the past 12 hours I had only dilated a little more than a centimeter.  She gave me some positions to try out (including standing on my head off the couch)  to try to move things along as she thought the baby might be in a less than optimal position.  She gave me black cohosh to take every hour and also told us to contact an acupuncturist.

Knowing that this could be going on for a lot longer we sent Rebecca home to get some rest and decided to take another walk while we waited for the acupuncturist to arrive.  It felt good to be outside but we had a lot less energy than the day before.  The acupuncturist came and did her thing, I’m not sure if it helped but it gave us some hope.

I’d been laboring for so long everything was becoming foggy.  All of my previous life was erased, and this was the only existence I knew.  Zeke and I decided to labor just the two of us for a while.  At some point on Sunday night/ Monday morning I insisted that Zeke try to sleep. I knew that he needed to rest and was glad that he was sleeping, but laboring on my own was physically draining and my energy was starting to fade.

Monday morning the pain started to become really intense.  I was having continuous back pain between and during contractions.   I decided to take another bath which really helped with the pain.  The contractions were coming about every four minutes or so and still lasting over a minute.  Rebecca and Stacey both arrived during my bath.  We were all frustrated that the contractions weren’t getting closer together.  This is when I first voiced my desire to go to the hospital.  I was totally exhausted after several nights of not sleeping. We decided to go for a walk together to see if a change of scenery might move things along and to consider our options.

Walking was becoming difficult.  I felt like I had cement between my legs and in my pelvis.  We walked for a while and agreed that Stacey would examine me when we got back.  It was around 2pm on Monday and I was measuring at 5cm.  I realized that I had been laboring for 62 hours.  I was really frustrated and tired.  We talked to Stacey about how much longer I might have.  She said it was impossible to say for sure but that upon examining me she had been able to feel the baby’s head and that it was turned occipital posterior, or “sunny side up”.  I couldn’t believe it!  I had been sitting with good posture for the past month to try to avoid having the baby in this position!  Stacey said that sometimes it just happens.  She explained that labor with occipital posterior babies is often very long and painful as the head doesn’t push properly on the cervix to help it to open.  She also said it  would explain my back pain as this position causes what’s known as “back labor”.  We could continue to do the exercises to try to moving the baby but until it repositioned, labor would likely continue to progress slowly.

Zeke and I agreed that it was time to abandon Plan A and move on to Plan B which included a large dose of pitocin and an epidural so I could rest.  We called a car service and soon we were at our Brooklyn neighborhood hospital, Woodhull.

Dealing with contractions while filling out paper work was kind of strange, but before I knew it, I was in the labor and delivery room getting my epidural.  They pumped me full of pitocin and we all watched the contractions and the baby’s heart rate on the monitor. Everything was going well and the baby was tolerating the contractions without an issue.  My hospital midwife, Nicole, examined me at around 8pm.  She found that my waters had broken somewhat on their own but then during the exam had broke more fully. She had me rest on my side in an effort to get the baby to move.  I was finally comfortable, and talkative again.  Zeke commanded me to pipe down and get some sleep since I hadn’t truly rested in 3 days.  I napped on and off as my contractions intensified and became more frequent…

Around 11pm I started to feel the pain of the contractions again.  I was somewhat surprised when I had to start breathing through them. Not being able to get out of bed made it really difficult to manage.  Around 11:30 I expressed this to Nicole who said that she wanted to check me out before bringing back the anesthesiologist as the epidural had run out.  She examined me and said that I was at 10cm and it was time to push!

I was so excited!  I was also happy to see that it wasn’t midnight yet and was still the 16th as I liked the idea of my baby sharing a birthday with my friend Lydia.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really could feel the contractions and was able to use that to know when to push.  Everyone gathered around and they put a large mirror in front of me so I could watch my baby emerge.  I was sitting up with my legs pulled out to the side but bent,  which actually felt pretty good.  I pushed for about 10-15 minutes and then the baby slid out.  The baby had moved positions luckily making the delivery much less difficult. I only tore a little and required 3 stitches.

Nicole put her on the bed in front of me as I had requested so I could check her out before picking her up.  We looked down at her and Zeke announced that she was a girl.  We were both pretty surprised by this as we had guessed we were having a boy.  She was so cute!  I was surprised that she didn’t look more squished up!  I picked her up and cuddled her.

552270_10150782146459203_100104118_nThe next three days were spent in the hospital negotiating the bureaucracy of policy, some of which we refused, some of which we begrudgingly accepted.  Some of the hospital staff was wonderful, while others blindly wielded hospital policy.  Finally, after three days of negotiation, a bout of post-partum pre-eclampsia for me (high blood pressure), a touch of Jaundice for Ada, and Zeke sleeping on a chair, we were able to bring our sweet baby home.

It certainly wasn’t how I had imagined Ada’s birth to play out, but ultimately I’m just happy to have a healthy baby.  Birth is an amazing experience and I still strongly believe in attempting home birth, although next time I hope it can play out a little more smoothly!

Ezra’s Home Birth Story

My first child, Ada was right on time so we expected this baby to be on time or early.  My husband, Zeke was able to take off the week before my due date and we had a wonderful time as a family going on hikes and hanging out together at home.  Every night we went to sleep wondering if tonight would be the night and every morning I woke up a little disappointed, but excited to spend another fun day with Zeke and Ada.  Starting a few days before my due date I began to feel increasingly crampy but nothing too uncomfortable.

My due date came and went, which was coincidentally our wedding anniversary.  We decided that maybe the baby wanted to share a birthday with Zeke and that August 24th would certainly be the day.  As the day passed I became less sure of this but in the early evening the crampy feeling began to intensify and I started to have very light contractions.  The next day, the 25th, was a new moon and I thought that would be a perfect time for a new beginning!  I figured this could be it so I did some final gardening I hadn’t gotten to just in case.  While putting in a plant I lost my mucus plug and got a little excited.

We had Mexican takeout and ice cream cake on the deck.  I put extra hot sauce on for good measure.  It was a beautiful night and we had a lovely meal as a family of 3.

That night Ada woke me up around 1:30 to bring her to the bathroom.  When I laid back down I felt what seemed to be a real contraction.  It was still very mild but the way it wrapped around my uterus and back made me giddy.  I laid in bed eagerly awaiting another, which came 20 minutes later.  I enjoyed breathing and imagining myself as an ocean.  Not because it was particularly painful but more just for the fun of it.  I decided to get up and have a glass of red wine to help me get back to sleep.  Sitting alone waiting for the next wave was exhilarating, but I knew I needed to stop being so excited and forget about it so I could rest up.  

I went back to bed with my birthing meditation on repeat and drifted in and out of sleep for the rest of the night.  Around 7:30 Ada and I woke up and we cuddled on the lounge chair outside as she drank her “latte” and I had my coffee.  Zeke woke up a little later and we all had breakfast on the deck.  It was another beautiful, sunny and clear day and I hoped that this would be the day we would meet our baby.

Around 9 we started to talk about how we should spend our morning.  My contractions were still about 20 minutes apart so I figured we should do something to distract ourselves.  We talked about going to a nature preserve in town and started to get ready.  I decided to call my doula and midwives to let them know that I was in early labor.  By 9:30 we hadn’t left for our hike yet and the contractions were starting to get closer together and intensify.  I suggested we just go for a walk up our street.  By 10 we hadn’t left and I decided I only wanted to sit on my birth ball.  By 10:30 I told Zeke no one was going anywhere.  

10365985_10152828051259203_5987408448782017926_n(This is me laboring while Ada eats ice cream cake and goldfish for lunch… Papa was in charge that day! Lol)

We set up the umbrellas on the deck so that we had a big shady area for me to labor with Zeke and Ada playing and hanging out nearby.   I decided for this labor to create a playlist mostly of classic rock and indie stuff.  Last time I used a meditation album mostly and in retrospect it felt a bit too serious.  The music was really nice and kept me relaxed and in good spirits.  From 11-1 the contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart, lasting 30 seconds.  I spoke to Nancy, the midwives assistant around 12 and she suggested I try to rest.  I checked my cervix and guessed I was about 3 cm.  I could feel the baby’s head, which was really cool! I laid down in bed but quickly decided that the time for resting had passed as it was very uncomfortable to be in that position and I felt like I needed to be moving my body.  I also realized it was much better to have Zeke alternating hot and cold packs on my lower back during contractions.  I had myself set up at the edge of the deck with towels as a pillow on the railing while sitting on the ball and staring out into nature.  I was drinking lots of labor aid and some fancy Kombucha that Zeke served me out of a champagne glass. That was fun.  Between 1:00-2:30 the contractions increased to 3.5 minutes apart and were 45 seconds long.  I was texting with my Doula, Kharis and asked her to come over soon.

She got there around 2:30 and I decided to stop tracking contractions.  I also immediately lost my focus and with it the intensity of the contractions. I felt like chatting with her upon her arrival and it gave me a break from the intensity but I quickly decided I wanted to return laborland.  I realized that I did better when I avoided talking and making eye contact with Kharis and Zeke.  Ada didn’t seem to break my focus though surprisingly.  

We tried some different positions as I had been on the ball for quite a while.  Squatting while hanging from the deck railing was intense in a good way.  Kharis suggested I try laboring on the toilet a bit as she said this would intensify things. Doing this made contractions come on fast and hard.  I decided to go with it.  Also, I took several showers and had super intense contractions while leaning on the window in the shower looking out into nature.  Walking around the yard on my own brought them on too.  It seemed that being on my own helped me to really get into the zone but I also would start to feel a little lonely if too many contractions passed in solitude.  My legs were getting crampy and Zeke massaged them which was really helpful.

Around 4 my sister Lauren arrived to help out with Ada.  This was a big relief as things were intensifying and I wanted to make sure Ada was taken care of and having a good time.  Plus I wanted Zeke all to myself!  Nancy came over to check on things and again the arrival pulled me a bit out of the zone.  She didn’t seem to think I was too far along, which was somewhat discouraging.  I didn’t completely believe her though as I knew what I was experiencing was much more intense that what I had experienced during my last labor, when I had ended up getting an epidural at 5 cm.  

Zeke and I went for a walk around the yard for a few contractions.  Ada and Lauren were having a picnic on a blanket in the yard and seeing them happy and enjoying themselves was great.  I decided to sit down in the grass as the coolness of it felt so good.  Things were getting intense.  I remember thinking about what a relief the epidural was last time but then quickly reminding myself that that wasn’t what I wanted.  I also took a moment to reflect upon how amazing it was that I got to labor outside, just as I had hoped I would.  I had been looking forward to that since finding out I was pregnant and then that we were moving to the country.

Deep breathing during contractions had been so helpful but it was starting to get harder and harder to keep my breathing under control.  I was also starting to feel overwhelmed in general and unsure where I wanted to labor and in what position.  Around 6 Ada and Lauren went out to get dinner.

Zeke, Kharis and I moved into the den where we tried various positions for laboring.  The best for contractions was me on the birth ball with Kharis behind me pressing ice into my lower back while I burrowed my head into Zeke.  I asked Zeke to do the low vocalization with me and for Kharis to verbalize what was happening with the contraction, saying it was about to peak and then that it would subside.  I started to feel nauseas and they brought a bowl, although I never actually vomited.  The contractions were now going to a peak that made me feel like my body was jumping away from the pain at the top of it.  I felt myself screaming in the middle, although Zeke and Kharis say I sounded the same as I had for the past few hours and wasn’t actually screaming. They didn’t realize my labor was moving as fast as it was.  At some point during this I realized that I really needed to concentrate on relaxing and that the only way to escape the pain would be to push into it.  I imagined myself opening with each contraction and in between reminded myself that soon this would all be a distant memory and I would have my baby.

After about an hour of laboring in the den I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom.  I also wanted to check my cervix again.  I went into the bathroom and when I reached inside myself I felt a strange bulge which I guessed was the bag of waters pushing out of my cervix. That was pretty cool and made me realize that I was close to having this baby and the pain wouldn’t last much longer!   I sat down and immediately had crazy feeling!  It was like my whole body was bucking and I made some loud, gutteral sounds.  Kharis came in then and told me to stop pushing.  I didn’t even realize that “pushing” was what had been happening.  My body had totally taken over!  She immediately had Zeke call the closer of the two midwives, Susan, and told her to come right then.  

Kharis and Zeke helped me out of the bathroom and into the birth pool on the deck.  It was around 7pm now and the sun was setting.  Kharis helped me to breath quick breaths during contractions to hold the baby in until Susan got there.  I felt so hot so they helped me to pull off my dress and gave me a cold washcloth for my forehead.  I told Zeke to get Ada back from dinner as I really wanted her present at the birth.   I had a few crazy pushing contractions in the tub that I had to hold back before Susan arrived.

As soon as I saw Susan I felt so much relief.  I knew that meant I could stop holding back as that was even harder than breathing through contractions.  Susan only managed to get one glove on before the next contraction came.  The baby’s head pushed right out.  I reached down to touch it and I told Susan the baby was coming out now!  She asked me to hold on as the cord was wrapped around the neck and she wanted to move it aside.  As soon as she said ok I pushed the rest of the body out and we both pulled the baby up.  It was amazing!  I pulled that little blue bundle right up to me.  They gave me towels to dip in the warm water and put over the baby.  We were in a state of bliss just like that for a few minutes as the baby began to cry and pink up.  Then I realized we hadn’t seen the sex of the baby yet.  I unwrapped the towels and saw that we had a little baby boy, Ezra.


Susan, Kharis and Zeke helped me out of the pool and into the bedroom where they had set up wee-wee pads over the bed.  They laid me and Ezra down and covered us with warm dry towels.  During this time Ada and my sister returned from dinner, shocked to see that the baby had already come!  Ada was so sweet and excited.  She loved meeting her baby brother and was so gentle with him.  The other midwife, Cathy and Nancy arrived at some point during this as well.  I birthed the placenta and Susan examined me.  I was so happy to hear that even though Ezra shot out so quickly in just a few pushes I didn’t have any vaginal tears!  

Everyone helped to clean up and to settle me into bed with Zeke, Ada and Ezra.  It was just like I had always imagined and so perfect.  Giving birth on the deck while the sun was setting is about as good as it gets! That night we cuddled into our cozy nest as a family of four.  



First cuddles…


Ada and Ezra the day after he was born…

My Essential Oil Obsession

magnets.pngA few months ago I finally got around to attending an essential oil workshop at my friends house.  I had a feeling I would like it but I didn’t realize how life changing it would be for me.  For real.  As I sat listening to her talk about all the ways she uses oils in her life it was like the missing piece of my life was being explained to me.

I used to hear people talk about essential oils (or EOs as we call them) and I thought it was just a bunch of people who felt relaxed by nice smells.  I like smells, I thought, but I can’t imagine why they are SO into them.  Then I went and learned.  EOs are the oils of various plants that are extracted through specific distilling practices that allow them to retain various healing compounds.  Just in the same way that eating herbs and spices can be very healthy for us, consuming EOs, through inhalation, application on the skin or internally feeds our body with those same healing compounds.  They help to support our body’s systems to bring it back to balance.  They are also full of super high levels of antioxidants.

My friend’s talk was about Young Living essential oils specifically.  I was a little skeptical about why these oils would be worth so much more than the oils at health food stores but after her talk and then doing a lot of my own research it all made sense.  Young Living owns 9 of their own farms around the world where they grow, harvest, distill and bottle most of their own oils using BEYOND organic and sustainable practices.  They use essential oils instead of pesticides and weed by hand.  I’m big into organic gardening and permaculture so this is important to me.  They have also been around for over 20 years with this same mission.

All of the other companies I could find seem to source their oils from a variety of places and can’t have the same level of oversight in the production.  That’s really important since EOs are a largely unregulated industry where companies can pop up overnight and claim to be “therapeutic” or “100% pure” without any oversight. Many EOs on the market are completely synthetic, have fillers, were made with chemical solvents or were made with high heat and high pressure distilling practices which affect the healing qualities of the oils. It’s definitely a time where you get what you pay for.  It takes 27sq ft of lavender to make enough pure essential oil to fill a 15ml bottle.  If you find it somewhere for $5 then there is NO WAY it’s actually pure oil.  It just doesn’t add up.

Essential oils each have distinct fragrances as well as individual healing components.  My favorite is Frankincense, which is high in sesquiterpenes which stimulates and oxygenates the limbic system of the brain which helps to elevate our mood and helps us relax.  I LOVE it when I’m feeling stressed out in the afternoon or before a meditation.  It’s SO good!

Another favorite oil of mine is Thieves Blend.  This one contains clove oil, which is one of the highest antioxidant oils available!  I like to put a drop in my tea or on the soles of my feet when I’m feeling run down.  It tastes great and really helps me to feel better fast!

Lemon oil is probably the one I go through fastest!  I like to have a few drops in a big glass of water with a sprinkle of mineral salt (which helps it to disperse) to start my day.  I can really feel the difference when I forget to take it!  Lemon oil is great for helping to cleanse the body and support the liver and lymphatic system.  It’s also awesome as a natural version of goo gone and for helping to soothe acid reflux when rubbed on the throat!

RC is my husband’s favorite blend. It helps to support the respiratory system and he likes to put it over his sinuses when he’s feeling congested.  It has the added bonus of helping him to breath better and cuts down his snoring!

Peppermint is one of the strongest oils and Young Living’s peppermint really packs a punch!  It’s very soothing when applied to the temples if your head is aching.  It’s also nice on sore muscles and is even helpful for digestion when you rub it directly over your stomach or have it in a drop of water!

Peace and Calming II is the oil that my daughter asks for the most.  It’s a lovely blend and she says,”it helps me feel calm and control my body better”.  Many parents swear by this or the original Peace and Calming (which is often out of stock due to the seasonal availability of Blue Tansy)  for helping kids calm down from tantrums.  It’s also very soothing for adults and I like it as an everyday fragrance!

I could go ON AND ON!!! Just ask my friends!  Lol.  But really, essential oils have been such a positive addition to our lives.  They have helped me to get rid of a lot of toxic products around the house and have give me so much more energy and I feel better than ever!

After hearing my friend present I knew that I NEEDED to get some Young Living oils for myself and that because I would OBVIOUSLY be telling everyone about them I should probably just go ahead and make a hobby business out of it.  Definitely let me know if you are interested in getting started on your own oily journey!  Sharing these amazing oils brings me so much joy 🙂

The best way to get started with Young Living essential oils is to become a member by purchasing the Premium Starter Kit.  The kit includes eleven of their most popular oils, an essential oil diffuser and a bunch of samples.  Becoming a member is a no stings attached way to get your Young Living oils at 24% off of the retail price for LIFE as long as you spend $50 a year to keep your account active. I always recommend becoming a member and starting with the Premium Starter Kit as it’s the best way to really start USING your oils! The kit has a great assortment of oils and you have something on hand to help with anything that comes up.  Becoming a member also gives you access to our members only Facebook groups where you can connect with lots of other Young Living members and hear about all of the ways they are using and loving their oils.  Below is my link to get started.  I also offer ongoing classes locally in Westchester County NY and occasionally in Maine. Send me an email if you need any help or have questions!


If you want to read more about how Young Living works read my post on it here: