August 22, 2017

What I Actually Used in My Birth Bag

I’ve had a few people request that I do an updated post on what I actually used from my birth bag packing list after Lola was born so here you go! I think unless it’s your second baby you really have no idea what you will want when the time comes so I really wanted to be prepared with a list of options so I could have some choices in the moment. I had to have a bit of a “double scenario” bag since I was giving birth at a birth center with the chance of being transferred to the hospital in case of complications, but thankfully I felt prepared for that since that’s exactly what ended up happening. Here’s what I ended up using the most from the original list:

Long t-shirt for laboring
Slip on shoes (flip flops please!)
Change of underwear and socks
Sports bra for birthing tub
Nursing sleep bra and deep V-neck tops that are easy to nurse in
Pajamas (nursing friendly)
Going home outfit (I added a button up cotton dress and leggings and stretchy tank top as options)
Toiletries bag (have lots of giant pads and adult diapers at home for post partum but birth center and hospital provide those types of things along with peri bottle while there)

WHAT I USED: I did spend the first half of labor in my long t-shirt (and I wore that over to the birth center too) but eventually I was just in my nursing sleep bra since it was the most comfortable for the second half of labor. I wore the hospital gown the first night but eventually changed into a deep V-neck for the rest of the stay (so much more comfortable!) when I wasn’t doing skin-to-skin with Lola and I wore the leggings and a tank top for the ride home.

Essential oils (the birth center has a diffusor in each room so I’m taking lavender and orange oils)
Headphones for playlists, relaxing music, etc (birth center also has speakers for playing tracks out loud too )
Rice heating pad (they also have electric heating pads at birth center but you have to stay near the outlet to use that)
Pool noodle (sliced down one side to put over rim of birth tub for softer surface to lean on)
Washable bath pillow for birth tub
Massage Oil
Battery-operated candles for mood (aren’t allowed to have real ones!)

*Birth center has a ton of stuff already there like birth balls, rebozo scarves, birth stools, wall-mounted rungs to hang on, water birth tub, etc.)

WHAT I USED: I did use some peppermint essential oil on a washcloth to help with the nausea (I threw up a lot) but I didn’t end of wanting the rice heating pad at any point. Since we were there mostly during daylight hours and had a big window in the room I didn’t use the candles but I was glad to have the bath pillow in the birth tub to lean on (I didn’t use the pool noodle since I was leaning over the rounded end of the tub instead of the long straight side).

Snacks for during labor (I have protein bars, almond butter packetshoney sticks, popsicles, and chicken broth as options and then coconut water and electrolyte water to drink)
Meals/snacks for Todd during labor (he needs to keep his strength up too!)
Frozen meal for after labor

*Definitely something that we would use more or less of certain items if we were at birth center (where Mom can eat and drink) vs. hospital (where they are a lot more restrictive on that and would serve meals while we were there). Birth center has fridge and small kitchen area where we can keep and prepare food.

WHAT I USED: I was really glad I had brought different kinds of food so I could pick what I something that I felt I could handle at the moment. I don’t think I ever actually felt hungry so it was more our doula or midwife suggesting I try and eat something when I felt weak. I ended up eating parts of a protein bar, almond butter pack, honey stick, and a popsicle as well. I think the popsicle was the easier item to get down and we didn’t end up needing the frozen meals since we were transferred to the hospital. Saved those for later!

Charger for phones and camera
Change of clothes/toiletries bag for Todd
Swimming suit for Todd (birth center has a walk in shower for hydrotherapy)
Cooler for placenta (doing placenta encapsulation)
Nipple butter
Dermoplast for pain relief and stool softener (hey, no one said this was a glamorous process right? I also have organic sitz spray, but I’ll probably use that more once at home)

WHAT I USED:  I think I used everything on this list except Todd didn’t need his swimsuit since I was only in the tub and he stayed outside the tub while helping me. That nipple butter is great though…

3 outfits/hats for Baby
2-3 receiving blankets/swaddlers
Car seat (love that this one is really safe but also really light to carry!)
Nursing pillow
Coconut oil (putting some on her bottom right away will help get the meconium off easier during those first diaper changes)

WHAT I USED: I was really surprised that all the tiny outfits I brought for her were actually giant when I tried to put them on her- even the newborn ones! I’ll take a pack of newborn onesies just in case next time. Also, I bought a bunch of hats for her being convinced I would have a bald baby, but she had so much hair and most of them were so big, so I guess I didn’t need all of those! Love those swaddlers though as well as her car seat. I ended up taking that pillow but after a month or so of nursing I like this one a lot better (just wish it was organic though).

Being in the hospital meant that they did provide some after care things that the birth center wouldn’t have (like meals and some postpartum care items like numbing sprays) so I had some purchases that I didn’t end up needing for that reason. I think if we ever get to Baby #2 (which sounds literally insane to me at this moment) I’ll definitely look back at this list as my starting point for packing again. If you’re in this stage of life (or will be soon) I hope it’s helpful for you as well!

P.S. If you missed Lola’s birth story, you can read all about it here!

August 11, 2017

Home Sweet Home Tours!

Hey Guys! Just wanted to let you know that I added all my “before + after” home tours to the Home Sweet Home section of the blog. We’ve been in our Nashville house two years now and it’s gone through quite a transformation, let me tell you! I’d been sharing each room as I finished it over at A Beautiful Mess but I figured some of you may have missed them as they’ve gone up or be a new reader since then (yay!). Before and afters are one of my favorite things in the world to look through so I hope you have fun checking out our progress as well!

August 5, 2017

Lola’s Birth Story

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen on my due date. I had basically been preparing my brain during pregnancy that the “due date” didn’t really mean much and I actually really liked that the birth center and a lot of other pregnancy websites and apps refer to it as a “guess date” now—it seems like a small difference but I feel like it really helped to manage my expectations about when she would actually appear. My mom was exactly three days late with all her babies and I’d heard or read somewhere that your Mom can be a good indicator for your delivery date as well so I was wondering if she would be born a few days late as well. Ever since we found out that my due date was May 3rd Todd had been saying that he wanted her to be born on my birthday (May 7th) and I would just roll my eyes every time and mumble something about having to share birthday parties, but he persisted and even up to that very week he was telling Lola (through the belly) to wait to come out until the 7th. Once I was a few days past the guess date and no baby in sight I decided to try a few of the natural induction techniques to see if any of them would work. I mean, as any 9-month pregnant lady knows, you are SO over being pregnant by then so I dived right in to all the tricks I could think of— spicy food, walking, eating dates and bananas, extracurricular marital activities (ahem)…nothing seemed to be working so I went out to watch some late night tv and since no position is comfortable in that stage of pregnancy I ended up sitting kind of frog-legged on a yoga mat while leaning forward on a birth ball. All of the sudden I felt a gush of water between my legs and it only took a second for me to rule out peeing myself before my brain went right to “I THINK MY WATER JUST BROKE!”

As calmly as I could I called out to Todd in the other room that I needed a towel because my water just broke to which he replied with a startled expletive and I heard a bunch of panicked rustling in the direction of the towel closet. Since the fluid was still leaking out a bit I caught some in a cup to make sure that it was clear and odorless – both important signs to rule out it being actual pee and show that there weren’t any signs in the fluid that the baby might be in distress. I always felt a bit nervous about my water breaking while I was out in public or sitting on a friend’s new couch or something so I was thankful that I happened to be sitting on a rubber mat at home when it happened. Best case scenario for sure! I looked up at the clock and realized that it was a few minutes before midnight on May 6th which meant that unless I had a crazy long labor for already being 4cm dilated and 90% effaced (according to my midwife visit a few days before), I was definitely going to have a birthday baby. I guess she was listening to her Daddy the whole time!

I grabbed my phone and called our birth center who patched me through to the midwife on call and she told me to try and go to sleep since I wasn’t really having contractions and didn’t have any bloody show yet. She said they’d call me in the morning to check in on my progress unless I called them before that so I put on my pjs and nervously tried to fall asleep—fat chance of that happening, right?! I may have eventually drifted off but Lola had other plans and it wasn’t more than a half hour before my contractions had not only started (the period type cramps that had been happening with Braxton Hicks on and off for a few weeks) but already progressed to a strength where it literally took my breath away with how strong the sensation got. Uh oh, I thought, this is going to be rough if that’s just the beginning. That’s when I hopped out of bed and started to make sure Todd got all the birth bag items in the car while I timed the contractions and put on some makeup between each one to distract myself. Once the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart we drove over to the birth center at about 4am (worst car ride ever!!) and found out I was at 5cm and fully effaced so we got settled into one of the birthing suites. Our doula Jessica met us at the center and I labored in the birthing suite until about 10am with her and Todd taking turns applying counter pressure on my lower back with each contraction. I personally understand now why they say that lying down is one of the worst positions to be in so you want to be somewhere where they will let you move around. Anytime I would lie or sit down the pain was probably 3 times worse for me (which is why the car ride over was pure hell) so I only wanted to be in positions where I was on my knees leaning forward when a contraction hit.

I had been looking forward to being in water for the birth (I heard the warm water feels so good and helps you relax) and while I did labor in the tub for a few hours, I had to stay on my knees leaned over the side the whole time for pain management so I was never really able to fully relax and melt into the water laying down like I had hoped. I know some people get sick and throw up a lot and since I had a pretty nauseous pregnancy I wondered if that would happen to me too…YEP! I actually got sick so many times in labor that I had sores all over my tongue for days afterwards from the acid and I literally couldn’t speak clearly because my tongue was so swollen. Gross. Anyways, going into a first-time natural labor it’s a bit hard to totally feel prepared for the pain level since you’ve never done it before, and while everyone’s experience is different, let me tell you, it was pretty painful for me. Like WOAH. I definitely had the thought over and over again of “I don’t know if I can do this” but I would look at Todd and he would tell me I could and I would repeat it aloud over and over again until I started to believe it. I always thought that the hardest part of labor would be the contractions into the transition phase, but while transition was the most painful part for sure, the hardest part for me was the pushing. The pushing part didn’t come quite as naturally for me as I would have thought it would—you are kind of using your muscles in a completely different way from how you ever have before so it took a long time to get the idea of what a “good” push should feel like. The birth center midwife Margaret was so great and was helping by pushing down on parts of my cervix or vaginal canal (it was somewhere around there, hard for me to tell at that point!) and telling me to focus on pushing in that spot. I asked later and they said that an hour is about average for pushing time but I spent at least 2 1/2 hours pushing and it felt like an eternity. Our midwife and doula kept changing positions to see what would make more progress from kneeling or laying on the bed, using the birth stool, and hanging from what looks like a giant ladder attached to the wall, but it felt as though it was never going to happen even though I was trying so hard. I didn’t know if I would be a “vocal” person in labor, but man did I scream during those pushes!

They had been checking Lola’s heart rate the whole time periodically with a hand-held doppler to make sure she was ok and they were always impressed with how strong her heartbeat was throughout labor, so when she finally dropped into the birth canal and was crowning they became concerned when her heart rate dropped low and wasn’t recovering. As a testament to our team, it really was a true emergency to be alarmed about but our midwife very calmly told me that they needed to get Baby out faster so she was was going to do an episiotomy to help me push her through now. Even though I’m only a couple of months out from the event and the memory of the overall pain has faded quite a bit, those sharp cuts are something I can still feel very clearly if I let myself think about it and I shudder every time I do. They had to cut several times but within a matter of a few minutes she was out and I felt a giant sense of relief as they laid this rather purple looking baby on my chest. I’m sure there were many emotions running through my head and it all felt rather fuzzy at the time, but I mostly just remember feeling a sense of shock and disbelief, like, “What? Was this baby in there this whole time?? Where did she come from??” Some mamas will say their baby looked just “right” to them when they were finally born, like they had imagined them correctly the whole pregnancy, but I always had a hard time imagining what she would look like so I was so surprised to finally see her beautiful face and dark hair. I always wanted a baby with dark hair (I had none at birth) so that was exciting!I was just starting to finally calm down a bit as they assessed her on my chest when I could tell that they were concerned with her oxygen level. They said she had some fluid in her lungs and her levels would drop if they didn’t keep an oxygen mask on her so they had someone from the hospital come over (the birth center is only about a mile away) to assess her and they agreed that she needed to be transported to the NICU. While they were deciding on that, the midwife delivered my placenta (which I saved and had encapsulated by the way) and told me that it looked like I had some fourth degree tears that would need surgery to repair over at the hospital so we would both be transferring over. It’s definitely a lot to take in to hear that your baby needs help breathing and you need surgery (my first!) all while trying to process that you just gave birth to this tiny human and your whole world has changed. We had talked about worst case scenario before the birth and decided that if we were separated like that Todd would go with Lola since it was more important to me that he be with her rather than me. I have to say that it was very strange going into my first surgery by myself separated from my husband and my newborn but I think my brain felt it had to “man up” so all of the sudden I got very calm and was cracking jokes with the hospital staff as a way to cope with the otherwise scary situation. After I was stitched up I wasn’t allowed to go to the NICU to see Lola until I could get into a wheelchair on my own (I had a spinal for the surgery so I couldn’t feel my legs for a few hours) so Todd would send me videos of her and I felt so relieved that she had him there with her to talk and sing to her. I honestly think that’s why they still have a special connection.It was probably 7 hours after the birth at this point but I still didn’t know what she looked like as she had an oxygen mask covering her face since right after she was born. Todd found a picture of her on my chest where they had taken it off for a second so I just stared at that photo all night mesmerized by her sweet face. I did get to see her some that night while she was asleep in the NICU but I couldn’t hold her yet and I had to stick my hands into the holes in her incubator machine to get to her tiny body and hold her hands. It was so hard to see her hooked up to so many tubes and wires and I didn’t want to leave her but I had been up for about 36 hours at that point (and given birth and had surgery in that span as well) so I was pretty exhausted and knew I needed to get some rest. They said they would have some doctors assess her breathing in the morning and she could be taken off the oxygen machine if she was doing well. Thankfully she passed the tests and the next morning I got to go back and hold her (with only a few wires attached) and try out our first attempt at breast feeding as well. They released her from the NICU later that day and she was able to stay with us in our room that night and do lots of skin to skin with us and we could finally stare at her beautiful face and just drink her in. We were released to go home the next day and while it was so great to finally be able to leave the hospital (so hard to get much sleep since they wake you up constantly to take vitals and give pills, etc.), at the same time, you have so much help there that you’re terrified you can’t do it without them! My parents came down for 10 days to help us pretty soon after we got home from the hospital and we had a post partum doula help us for the day or two in between. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without that help. Having someone make you food, clean up, and watch the baby while you take naps made one of the most difficult times I could imagine more manageable. And so many of our friends helped by bringing us dinners as well and it’s amazing how much a seemingly small gesture like that helps. If you have a friend that’s about to deliver, offer to create a meal train for them- they will be forever grateful!

While I would definitely categorize my birth experience as traumatic overall (more on that later), the important thing is that she’s out and healthy and I’m mending pretty well too and that’s a lot to be grateful for.

P.S. If you’ve got that baby fever check out what I packed in my birth bag and my newborn essentials list! Also, if you’re wondering about the Instax prints with her birth photos, you can use this tiny printer to print whatever photo you want from your phone-YES!

July 18, 2017

Palm Print Fever!

Woah Mama! The whole “Body after Baby” experience is quite an interesting thing to go through. It’s been getting close to three months since Lola was born and it’s still a process everyday of getting used to myself in a new way. I definitely understand the impatient feeling of wanting to be back to your pre-baby body, like, yesterday, but I’m realizing that it took nine months to make that baby and all the body changes sooo it’s going to be a bit before things seem familiar again. ANNND before you say it, I’m also aware that some things will never be the same and that’s part of the joys of motherhood. Like, I’m pretty sure I just have a completely different belly button now aside from all the breast changes that come with breastfeeding…file that under the “self sacrifice” category, right?? Anyways, as it gets closer to the three month postpartum mark I’m starting to feel a bit more like myself and it’s been helpful and just plain nice to have gone out a few times feeling relatively cute (like our anniversary date night a few weeks ago). I’m still pretty obsessed with the high waist trend and I think I’ll be carrying that on for a while to help my core feel more supported as my insides knit back together.

             Sunnies/GAMT, Top/ROMWE, Bag/Similar, Jeans/Asos, Shoes/Steve Madden

I basically love a palm print in just about anything wearable (like this dress and my top above) and it feels like such an appropriate nod to summer as well. Lola is still in newborn sizes of things for the most part so it’s hard to find cute outfits that are small enough for her but I’m excited to Mommy/Daughter the crap out of some outfits later….can’t wait!

July 8, 2017

My Newborn Essentials List!

Man, if I’ve learned anything over the past few months it’s that those little babies need a ton of stuff! I definitely spent a crazy majority of my time being pregnant trying to find the best items in each category (although it’s so hard to know what you need or don’t need when you haven’t taken care of a newborn before). I loved hearing and reading about what other people preferred to use so I thought I’d share my list with you now that I know what items we really use and like the most…

While I do still want to get into the cloth diaper arena, I looked for a while to find a quality disposable diaper that was more eco-friendly without a lot of the additives in regular diapers and these Bambo brand ones seem to be great so far. We do have a lot of blowout diapers that go up her back but I think that’s due to more to her having a lot of really thin poops than the diapers (we’ve had that happen in the Honest brand as well). I also have been really happy with these wipes as well and I love that they are basically just water (although I really wish they were the pop up dispenser style of wipes). This diaper pail is awesome and can be used for cloth eventually too- traps all the smells completely! Definitely make sure to put a waterproof pad under or on top of your changing pad to save the pad from blowouts and the occasions when they decide to pee again as you’re reaching for their clean diaper.

I tried a few pillows the first month and while I really wanted to like this organic one it just didn’t work for me. I feel like breastfeeding pillows are so personal and everyone has different needs but I remembered that the birth center recommended this one so I decided to give it a try and it’s definitely my favorite one so far. I also like this nipple butter which is so important to have, especially in the beginning when feedings are basically around the clock. It’s a good idea to have a handheld breast pump to take on trips (I used in the car a few times to make a bottle so we didn’t have to stop to feed her) or stash in your bag if you’ll be away from Baby for a long time. I use it at home as well when I don’t feel like having to clean all the electric pump parts (although this electric pump has been great so far although you’ll for sure want one of these hands-free bras when you use that). And for bottles I’ve been using both the Dr. Brown and these glass AVENT bottles to feed her pumped milk as needed, but lately we are using the Dr. Brown more since she tends to gulp the AVENT bottles way too fast (although I would prefer them otherwise since they are glass and not plastic). I was so happy to find this white “grass” drying rack too since it disappears into my counters way better than the green would and this bottle brush has a stand and a mini brush in the handle for bottle nipples which is nice as well. I wasn’t sure if I would use a bottle sterilizer but I think it’s really worth it- I hate doing the whole pot of boiling water thing and it dries everything too which is great. I wear deep v-neck tees and nursing tanks a lot for easy nursing access during the day and night.

Blankets and cloths:
I really do feel like you can’t have too many swaddle blankets (Kip + Co has really cute ones too) and we have them spread all over the house and in her car seat and diaper bag. You just never know when you’ll want one for a bit of extra warmth (the AC is always cranked in places during the summer) or just to wrap Baby in or lay her on for a minute (although I think it’s better to have a thicker blanket for tummy time). I also have a million of these burp cloths laying around since you reeeeally want to have one nearby at all times.

Bath Time:
I love these baby washcloths for bath time (super soft!) and this hooded bear towel is sooo sweet and soft too. I don’t always use soap for baths but I’ve been using this unscented Dr. Bronner baby soap every other bath and this baby bathtub fits in our double sink as well so I can bathe her standing in the sink if my back is tired or place it in the larger tub and use less water than if I filled the whole tub. And in the personal hygiene category, I like these baby nail scissors rather than clippers. I use them while I nurse since her hands are relaxed then (otherwise they are always in little tight fists).

So far she is sleeping in our room in a DocATot which is probably one of my top items from this whole favorites list. She likes sleeping in someones arms the best so I this was a good transition since it has the cozy sides that she can feel around her kind of like a hug. It was literally the only thing she would sleep in for the first 6 weeks so it’s totally worth it to me. We do both swaddling (I like these and these) and white noise while she sleeps. I like that machine a lot because they use the same one at the yoga studio I go to and the wave mode sounds pretty realistic to me if I ever want to use that sound.

Bouncers and Swings:
We’ve been getting her more used to this bouncer and it’s great option to place on the kitchen floor while I unpack groceries or have next to the couch while I watch tv and interact with her. I think it’s a better bouncer for kids that are a few months old since their movement is what bounces the unit so it doesn’t do much if you place a tiny newborn in it that just sits there…at first she hated the swing we bought her (and I didn’t want to buy one because I think they are rather ugly) but she’s such a clingy baby and I was desperate for something she would sit in for a bit and soooo I bought a swing! It is nice that it can turn facing the front while it swings or the side because there are definitely times where she’s over facing one way and if you turn the seat you can get some more time out of it before she gets bored.

I find the sling wraps a bit hard to figure out so I’ve been using an Ergobaby wrap and it’s a lot easier to get on and off and really comfortable on your shoulders and back. When she was really tiny she felt a bit loose in the Ergo, even with the newborn insert, so I did use this wrap while she was really small.

Stroller and Carseat:
I wanted this Nuna PIPA carseat because it’s really safe and also one of the lightest carseats on the market for my rather weak arms (I’ll build those Mommy muscles, right?). I got the Nuna MIXX stroller that goes with it and I’ve been really happy with it so far. It’s got a big basket under the stroller, it’s a really smooth ride (and I can steer it with one hand), and folds easily. We have only used it with the carseat so far (will use the regular seat as she gets bigger) and the adapters for the carseat are just OK to be honest (it’s a little hard to get the carseat off the stroller easily) but overall it works really well and looks pretty damn sleek too. It’s really helpful to have a mirror in the car to see her while driving and we’ve used this cute portable white noise machine a lot too in the car (and for naps at our destination sometimes as well).

I know it can feel like you are buying a TON of stuff for a new baby, and it’s mostly because YOU ARE!! I definitely went off of recommendations from friends when making my registry or trying to find a better option if something didn’t work well so I hope this list has been helpful for you too. Let me know if you have a favorite that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about it!