Baby essentials for the first few months

I always like reading these types of posts because I learn about new things that I never knew existed — case in point, I just yesterday discovered these bottle labels from one of my kid’s classmates.  Genius! So here are the things that have gotten me through the first five-ish months of parenthood.

The early days                
There’s not a whole lot to taking care of a newborn…pretty much just eat, sleep repeat. The most important thing was having HELP — not help with the baby, since I was nursing, but help with the household, dog, cooking, etc.  But there are a few products that did stand out.

Nursing essentials
the first few weeks of my baby’s life were pretty much all about breastfeeding.  Nursing-friendly clothes, a pillow, nursing pads, lanolin — all key to survival!  I liked the lansinoh brand of lanolin best — yes, it was really sticky, but also effective.

Rocker/glider
My parents very generously gifted us this one, which I liked because it fits well in our compact living space, and can still be used long after our babies no longer need to be rocked to sleep.  I seriously lived in this thing during my maternity leave.

Muslin swaddle blankets
Aden + Anais are the preferred brand for the royal family, but honestly I have some carter’s brand too and can’t really tell the difference.  These are great all-purpose blankets, for things like draping over the carseat in the germy pediatrician’s office, covering your boppy pillow when it gets drenched in spit-up and you haven’t had a chance to wash it, as a burp cloth, floor mat, and for a little warmth on chilly fall/spring days.  I didn’t use them much for actually swaddling, though.  For that, I used:

Velcro swaddlers
So much easier in the middle of the night, and they actually stay swaddled.  There are a bunch of different brands — we started with these, which were fine, but not multifunctional.  In retrospect I would have just gone with the Halo Sleep Sack, which we used to wean him off the swaddle and are still using as a regular old sleep sack on chilly nights.

New Yorker Subscription
Not exactly a baby item, but essential nonetheless!  It’s striking how when you have a newborn, you feel like you scarcely have a chance to get up to pee or eat, and yet are basically spending most of your day sitting around.  While I am not the best reader of books, I am a voracious consumer of long-form journalism.  I pretty much devoured each issue of the New Yorker when it came each week, keeping me intellectually stimulated during those middle of the night feedings.  A Netflix subscription was pretty great to have too!

Amazon Prime
I resisted for a while, but it has really cut down on the time I wasted running errands or waiting until I reached the minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping.

 

Out and About
Once we moved past the “fourth trimester,” it became less about survival mode.  These items helped me when we ventured out of the house and when I went back to work.

Stroller
I think I won’t LOVE any stroller until someone engineers one that is magically the weight and compactness of an umbrella stroller and yet fully-featured and rugged like that of an expensive stroller like the BOB or UppaBaby, with the ability to convert into a double.  We settled on the Britax b-agile because it seemed like a hybrid of the two, and I DO love that it folds so easily and compactly and fits well in my car/home.  But, I feel like it is still too big and heavy and will ultimately end up getting an umbrella stroller anyway.  And if I’m going to still going to end up with two strollers, well I kind of wish I had just gone with a big, fancy stroller to begin with.  But at the end of the day, I also think that it would have been a pain getting a huge stroller up and down the 10 steps to my house, and loading (and fitting) in and out of the car.  So I probably wouldn’t change anything, could I go back in time.

Stroller bassinet
Another thing I do love about the britax b-agile is that it is compatible with the bassinet attachment.  While it surely fulfilled my fantasies of pushing a baby around in an old-school pram, I also found it very useful as a moses basket for little naps around the house, and as a travel crib.  It folds down flat and doesn’t take up too much precious space in the car!

Soft-structured carrier
It took me a while to get the hang of using a carrier/wrap, but I am now totally a believer in babywearing.  It’s an instant baby-calmer and sometimes that is the only place he’ll nap!  I’ve also gotten the hang of breastfeeding while wearing him which is very convenient when out and about.

Aden + Anais burpy bib
Everyone says that cloth diapers make the best burp cloths, and while they’re really absorbent they’re kind of small/awkwardly shaped.  You can’t really drape them over your shoulder well.  Enter the burpy bib.  They are contoured so they fit well on your shoulder AND are large enough to protect the front of your blouse.  So essential for our morning commutes in the carrier to keep my work clothes dry!  As a bonus you can snap them on your baby and voilà, it’s a bib!  Love anything multifunctional.

Nosefrida
You’re not really a “mommy blogger” (ugh…) until you have dedicated blog space to extolling the virtues of this disgusting and yet effective mechanism for clearing your child’s nostrils, are you?  By the way this product is raved about online, I practically expected it to cure the common cold itself.  Needless to say, I was a little disappointed.  It is not a miracle worker.  I can see, however, how someone who had been previously using one of those useless bulb aspirators would find this product revelatory.

LifeFactory bottles
I am kind of weird about storing and serving things in plastic, so I knew I wanted to use glass bottles.  These are expensive but I swear to you, I throw them in my bag, take them on the metro, and at daycare they go from fridge to crock pot and they do.not.break.  When you’re through with them as bottles, you can add a sippy cup top, or just a regular screw-on top and use them as reusable water bottles for yourself!  Worth every penny.  My only complaint is while they fit on my Ameda pump at home, I learned the hard way that they are not really compatible with the Medela pump I use at work.

Favorite Brands

Splurge…

EarthMamaAngelBaby
In spite of the stupid name and high price tag, I have yet to find a product made by this brand that isn’t miraculous.  LOVE their diaper rash cream, baby lotion, and their line of “mama” products for, ahem, postpartum relief.

Under the Nile
He has a footed sleeper and a few toys from this line, and they are the most unbelievably soft organic cotton you’ve ever felt.  The sleeper is a flannel-like material that is nice and warm, and I like to put him in at night now that it’s cold.  I read that synthetic, fleece pajamas all inherently include flame retardants, and felt like my efforts to find a healthier mattress would all be moot if I am just putting him clothing that contains the chemicals.  So I am glad to have discovered a line of clothing that is warm and safe.

Save…

Carters
These clothes just seem to fit him perfectly — they are made for long and skinny babies!  And they are so affordable.  I’ve also heard, but have not verified, that Carter’s is one of the few remaining brands whose outlet stores are actually outlets, rather than “factory stores.”  They hold up and wash very well for the price!
The one thing I DO hate about them is how half of the stuff they make has some ridiculous and cutesy wording like “mommy’s little cutie pie” on the front.  Ugh.  Carters, why must you ruin a perfectly good onesie with a stupid little saying???

Ameda
My insurance company sent me an Ameda Purely Yours pump, and though it was free to me (well, “free,” I do pay through the nose in premiums), it retails for like half the cost of the Medela pumps and I think it works really well!  I use a Medela hospital grade pump at work, and can also say I think the Ameda is much more hygenic and has fewer little parts to wash.  Their customer service is also great — when I was having some suction problems they overnighted me an entire new pump kit.

Favorite books

I haven’t really found any parenting “how-to” books useful — as mystical as it sounds, you know your baby and you need to mostly let your instincts take over.  But there are some that are not so much guides as they are informational and thought-provoking, and helped with my perspective and approach to things.

Breastfeeding Made Simple

Bringing up Bébé

The Wonder Weeks

Nurture Shock

What baby items have you found essential?  What products does everyone rave about that you could do without?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

-R

Cloth diaper love!

Having only been at this for a couple months, I am far from the definitive voice on cloth diapering advice :). There are plenty of other blogs for that! Really, I just love my cloth diapers so much I feel the need to rave about them.

We used disposables for the first few weeks, and after one very unfortunate public poopsplosion incident, we finally switched over and have never looked back. We like them so much that we lugged our entire stash with us to the beach last week instead of just a few small compact packages of disposables. Here is why:

1. They don’t leak. Maybe it was just the brand of disposable diapers we were using, but I never met one that didn’t leak. Haven’t had a single problem with our cloth diapers!

2. For some reason, in our house, running errands — especially to big box stores– is the bane of our existence. I just KNOW that if we used disposables, we’d find ourselves having to do emergency Target runs at 9pm on a Sunday. I like that with cloth diapers, I am always just a laundry load away from a replenished stash. Plus, I figure I have to wash his clothes less anyway since we don’t have to deal with leaks.

3. They don’t smell (yet) and when I am tired of having a nasty pail of dirty diapers sitting around, I don’t have to wait for trash day…they can just be dumped in the wash.

4. The environmental benefits may be debatable, but it is nice to know they’re not ending up in a landfill any time soon.

5. Cost! This is a huge one for me. I have spent about $200 on our entire stash. I have a few more of the expensive kind that I received at my shower or that I bought for fun but don’t really need to have in my regular rotation. As he grows out of our current stash I will need to buy larger sizes again, but there is also a large market to buy and sell used diapers, so you can recoup some of your cost. I love not having to spend money on diapers every week.

6. No gross chemicals or plasticky feeling against baby’s skin. I really didn’t like how the disposables would adhere to his skin, and also just get all bloated and fall apart when full.

An extra load or two of laundry a week is much preferable to us over buying diapers, but of course others may feel differently. It just depends on your chore preference, I guess!  Also, breast milk diapers are super easy because they can go directly in the wash. Once he starts eating food, I will have to dispose of the solids in the toilet some how, which of course adds an extra layer of complication. But for now I really feel that cloth diapers are much easier and cleaner than disposables!

Here is what we have in our stash:

Prefolds

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These are the old-fashioned kind of diapers your parents or grandparents probably used. They are just a rectangular piece of absorbent cotton, with a waterproof cover you snap on top. With a cover, you technically don’t need to fasten them together first but I find it much easier to secure the diaper with a snappi (no pins needed!). We have 30 in our stash plus 4 covers and that is about enough to get us through 3 days without washing (though I usually do a load every other day as the pail gets full!).
Pros: Very affordable — each diaper is maybe $1-$3. Low maintenance — the prefolds are not as finicky about detergents, rash creams, or line drying — just wash and go. They also don’t get an ammonia smell the way the microfiber does on my other diapers.
Cons: A few extra steps to getting these diapers on — easy, but not as easy as a disposable or pocket/AIO. You have to buy multiple sizes. You have to actually touch the wet diaper during changes.

Pocket diapers

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These diapers have a “pocket” that holds an absorbent insert.
Pros: Adjustable, one-size diaper that can theoretically work from newborn through potty training. Snaps or velcroes on, mimicking the ease of a disposal. You can adjust the absorbency for daytime or overnight. Fleecy lining stays dry to the touch, also like a disposable.
Cons: Some find stuffing the pocket to be an annoying extra step. You can’t use conventional rash creams or detergent with microfiber. “One size” may not work out that way in reality.  More expensive.

All-in-one diapers

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Often abbreviated AIO. Like pocket diapers, the cover and absorbent part are integrated, making these most similar to disposables. Unlike pockets, the absorbent layer is sewn in so you don’t have to remove or stuff any inserts.

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Pros: it doesn’t get any easier! Truly just snap and go.
Cons: Many are not one size, though the BumGenius Freetimes I have are. Again, you have to be careful with washing and rash creams. The absorbency is not really adjustable, so they may not work overnight for everyone.  Expensive, especially if you have to buy more than one size.

There are SO many different kinds of cloth diapers, and so many brands on top of that — all the choices can get overwhelming!  I like the simplicity and low cost of prefolds, but it can be hard to resist adding more “modern” cloth diapers to my stash here and there!  Do you use cloth diapers?  What is your favorite system?

-R

Thoughts on med-free birth

The superstitious side of me is reluctant to post this before I actually experience childbirth … so while this may appear after the event, I am sitting here writing this at just about week 36, so I’ll have it to look back on and perhaps laugh at my naïveté :).

I honestly can’t remember the exact process that brought me to this point of planning on a “natural” birth. A few distinct memories stand out in my head:

-Hearing random news stories of babies being born in cars, on airplanes, at home — it never occurred to me when I was young that childbirth could ever be anything but an emergency that required hospitalization, physicians, interventions, and a lot of agony. That a baby could be born on someone’s bathroom floor and turn out FINE was revelatory.

-A random conversation I had with my mother years ago where I said of course I would get an epidural when I give birth, why would I deny myself perfectly safe pain relief? And she chided me and said that epidurals slow the baby’s heart rate down, so how can they be “perfectly safe?” I later looked it up. Epidurals are pretty safe. That doesn’t mean they are always safe, or completely without potentially dangerous side effects.

-A dear friend of mine wrote a package on natural/out-of-hospital birth for her newspaper in her previous life as a reporter. This was around the time Ricki Lake was out and about promoting her documentary and alternative birth methods were all over the news. Some of the things I learned from her research were so eye-opening. We hear so much about how childbirth can turn into an emergency situation in the blink of an eye. At the time, we rarely heard about the millions of happy stories of totally boring, routine and complication-free births. Nor did I realize how many routine situations have earned an “emergency” label for dubious reasons.

So clearly, I know that the concept of a natural birth had been rolling around in my head for a while. But when it came time for me to actually make the decision on what kind of birth I wanted to prepare for, I felt conflicted. The epidural vs. med-free birth debate seems like two flip sides of a feminist coin: claiming empowerment from the experience of a defining aspect of womanhood, vs. taking advantage of technology that allows us break free from the constraints of the “curse of Eve” that is our punishment as women. I could see both sides. And I wondered: was I really strong enough to push out a baby without pain relief?

Before I go any further, I want to make clear: I am a scientist by training and I believe in modern medicine. I feel incredibly fortunate that I live in a country (and in a region of said country) with great medical care, and, perhaps more importantly, that I have excellent insurance and access to that care (because let’s not forget that the US track record in maternal health outcomes is actually pretty dismal for the developed world). Medical interventions such as cesareans absolutely save lives and make having babies much safer when used under the right circumstances.

Furthermore, one of the first things you learn in your survey ecology course is that this myth of everything in nature being in balance and harmony is just that — a myth. Our bodies are not “perfectly evolved” machines, as though evolution has reached some kind of end point where we don’t need any more improvement, or that, under even normal circumstances, don’t dysfunction on the regular. Just try telling that to someone with type 1 diabetes, or cancer, or a congenital heart defect. Our bodies can AND WILL fail us at many opportunities! And some times, for some women, that happens during pregnancy or childbirth. So I don’t really buy into what some advocates of natural birth say about how women’s bodies were “designed” to give birth and we should just allow it to do its thing. Yes, they were, and some of the adaptations we have are pretty amazing. But things can also go awry, and for that, I am grateful for modern medicine.

But I will also say that I am the daughter of two lawyers, and married to one, and I am not always the most blindly trusting of all physicians. Its not like I think physicians are evil — but they are human and make mistakes and sometimes have additional motives beyond the exclusive, long-term interest of the patient’s well-being. So when deciding what kind of birth I was going to prepare for, there were some things I was pretty sure about:

1. I do not want to be induced. I have seen/heard about enough experiences from friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances to deduce that it has to be more than a coincidence that the people with the most textbook, easiest births are the ones who went into labor spontaneously, and those with traumatic birth experiences more often than not began in an induction.
Turns out my hunch was correct: elective inductions dramatically increase the chance that your labor will end in a c-section. Pitocin contractions are much more painful. Science has not yet quite elucidated the complex set of reactions that spur a woman to go into labor and a baby to be born. There is much we still don’t know. As mystical as it sounds…babies know when they are ready. And I don’t want to force mine out before its time.

2. I want to be able to move around. I may actually find that lying in bed the whole time is just how I want to be — but I want to be able to decide that. Walking, standing, squatting, etc can help the baby move into an optimal position or just use the force of gravity to keep things moving.

3. I want to avoid a c-section. Obviously, if I need one that’s a whole ‘nother thing. But I wanted a provider who would give me a fair shot at a vaginal birth, by not pushing induction without a medical reason (and by medical reason, I don’t mean “you’ve reached 41 weeks”), not jumping to diagnose “failure to progress,” etc.

4. I want a supportive, touchy-feely, happy environment. I didn’t want an impassionate doctor who didn’t listen to my concerns. And, not gonna lie, I wanted to deliver in a location that was convenient, comfortable, with private rooms and all the bells and whistles. I want to deliver in a hospital — home birth sounds kind of nice in theory, but, I dunno, it also sounds kind of messy. I am also more comfortable delivering somewhere with a high level NICU.

5. I want some specific postpartum protocol followed. Things like at least one hour of skin-to-skin, breastfeeding, allowing the cord to stop pulsating before being cut are important to me. Midwives are more likely to be on board with these things, and they are standard procedure at my practice. I think they are starting to catch on with a lot of OB practices, though.
It is also important to me that the baby and I not be administered prophylactic antibiotics. I really believe that the process of a vaginal birth is an important first step in colonizing a baby’s gut with beneficial bacteria — some scientists even have gone as far as inoculating their own children born by c-section with their vaginal fluids! I know that, had I tested positive for GBS or could possibly transmit any STDs, antibiotics would be non-negotiable. But luckily, that is a bridge I do not have to cross and so I want to minimize any additional situations that could result in routine administration of antibiotics. “I heard that” (sorry, very unscientific of me) epidurals can cause fevers in a significant minority of women who receive them, which in turn can cause complications for the baby that are treated with prophylactic antibiotics (on top of possible NICU stays or additional tests which cut into that important initial bonding time). I do not want that!

So when comparing the different providers available to me in my area, it ultimately came down to a group of hospital-based midwives who want their patients to be committed to natural birth — including foregoing the epidural. I was on board with their whole philosophy, but never having given birth before, really wondered if the pain of childbirth could be outweighed by my desire for a natural birth. Could I really remain strong while in the throes of labor? How can I make assumptions about what I can handle when I’ve never experienced it before?

I am not opposed to epidurals per se. But when it came down to it and I really thought about it, it made total sense to me that an epidural is an intervention. And you intervene when things don’t go according to plan. I decided that so long as my labor was progressing in a textbook manner, meaning, a well-positioned baby and a spontaneous labor lasting under 24 hours, the best choice for me was to forgo pain meds. If things veer off this course, then I knew I’d be in the hospital where I had access to any interventions I might need, but I wasn’t going to plan on them.

And in reading a lot of positive birth stories, there seemed to be a universal answer to the question: “am I strong enough to give birth without pain meds?” Yes. Every woman is (assuming a complication-free labor). That doesn’t mean it will be pretty or fun or easy. I am expecting it to be awfully hard. But so many women throughout time and throughout the world have given birth. Of course any woman (again, complications aside) physically can. Luckily, today we have the choice of how much pain we want to experience. But with some people’s rhetoric you’d think that surviving the pain of childbirth were an actual impossibility that one should not even dare contemplate. So just the understanding that natural childbirth is actually a POSSIBLE thing is reassuring to me.

**** Post-natal Thoughts ***

So, how did I end up doing?

If you read my birth story below, you’ll see that my experience truly covered the whole spectrum! I was able to give birth without any meds or interventions, but started hemorrhaging shortly after he was born which required a whole slew of them. I will say I am glad I decided to deliver in a hospital where all the necessary procedures could easily be performed. Postpartum hemorrhage is not super common but it is the leading cause of maternal death in the developing world, and it is a real possibility in even the most routine deliveries, as my experience demonstrates.

I honestly also wonder how interventions may have made my experience worse — for example, c-sections carry a greater risk of hemorrhage and I wonder if the so-called “cascade of interventions” would have contributed to a worse outcome for me.

As far as the actual labor and delivery goes, looking back on it I feel like it was nothing to be afraid of, at all. I can honestly say I’d rather give birth again than get a root canal or really any major dental work. I HATE the dentist! And while the pain of childbirth was certainly real, it was not unbearable or the worst pain I can imagine, and the breaks between contractions make all the difference. The only seriously bad part, transition, was fairly brief; the hours leading up to it were not fun but certainly manageable. Active labor for me was only about 6-7 hours, plus one hour of pushing. I can definitely say I’d attempt a med free birth again.

Ultimately, I think it is important that evidence-based practices are adopted and that women have the opportunity to give birth in whatever way makes the most medical and emotional sense for them.  I generally think it is good to question the medical care you’re receiving and make sure it is always in your best interest, and I’m glad I found a practitioner whose procedures were aligned with my views.  In spite of my complications, my experience was very empowering and I”m so grateful that I was able to experience everything my body was capable of, receive the necessary medical care when things came apart, and, most importantly, end up with a healthy baby.

-R

My baby’s birth story

So, I had my baby!  A little boy who is perfect in every way.  And I keep running through the events of his birth, trying to commit it to memory, and it’s keeping me up at night.  I feel like some of the details are already slipping away!  I wasn’t sure if I was going to write it up on the internet for all to see, but I don’t want to forget anything.  So here goes.

Looking back, I had probably been in early labor for several days, but at the time I figured they were just braxton hicks contractions because they weren’t very painful.  I went in to work on Monday, my due date, but fairly quickly decided that I wasn’t going to make that mistake the next day :).  And I kept thinking about all the things I still had to do at home!  So I spent Tuesday furiously finishing up thank you notes, running errands, and scrubbing my bathroom.  I guess that should have been a sign.

In the evening when my husband got home, we walked the dog, I made dinner, and kept getting increasingly uncomfortable.  I decided to go to bed around 10 and knew that sleep would determine if this was the real thing or not, as it had every other night.  Well at 1am I woke up, unable to sleep through the contractions.  They were 100% in my back, which was weird to me –  I thought “real” contractions would be both in the back and front, but I only felt tightening in my uterus.  By around 2am I had to get out of bed and concentrate through them.  I took a bath which felt amazing, did a bunch of cat/cow poses (I was worried that the back labor was a sign that he had flipped to a posterior position) and walked around — I wanted nothing more than to climb back into bed but that made the contractions so much worse.  I was also really nauseous and around 3 or 4am I threw up into the toilet, the force of which caused my water to break.  Things then started to speed up and we called the midwife and the doula and decided to head to the hospital around 4:30am.  I had expected to labor at home a lot longer, and was hoping that I wouldn’t get there only to be told to head back home, but the hospital was in downtown DC and with rush hour looming, we decided to err on the safe side.  The ride in was pretty miserable, but traffic was a breeze at that hour!

By 5:30 we were all checked in and in the hospital room.  The midwife checked me and told me I was already dilated to 7cm.  I was very pleasantly shocked at how far I had already progressed — I had been bracing myself to hear a disappointing 3 or 4 cm and expecting all this to take much longer!

There were no more rooms with tubs available when we arrived, so I spent the next couple hours in the shower, having my back massaged by my doula and just working through the contractions.  I don’t remember ever feeling an “overwhelming” urge to push.  I just kinda started feeling like pushing through the contractions might feel good.  I recalled from my bradley classes that you should wait to push until it becomes impossible not to do so, in order to conserve energy.  I waited a little while but eventually just gave in and said that I felt like pushing.  So at 8am the midwife checked me again, and confirmed that I was fully dilated.

They set me up and wheeled out a mirror so I could see what was going on.  It was a ghastly view of my nether regions, but having the mirror there was actually incredibly motivating.  I could see the progress I was making each time, and know which muscles were the most effective.

Watching my son’s head, and then the rest of his body, suddenly emerge into the world after about an hour of pushing was quite possibly the most amazing thing I have ever seen.  When the midwife caught him, I blurted out, “is it a boy or a girl?!”  She held him up and said, “can’t you tell?” They immediately placed him on my chest and there he stayed for about an hour.  He was so alert!  And started breastfeeding almost right away.  My husband cut the cord once it stopped pulsating.  The midwife held up the placenta for me to see.  It was such an incredible, joyful experience.  Throughout my pregnancy, I honestly rolled my eyes at the hippie-dippie glorification of birth being such a beautiful, blissful, empowering moment — I always assumed that it would be pretty messy, difficult and painful.    But truly, it was all of those things for my husband and me.  I know I was lucky to have an easy, quick delivery, but in spite of what I may have yelled during transition, I never felt the pain was totally unbearable, or the worst pain I’ve ever felt, or that I’d cut off an arm to make the pain go away as one person described to me.   The breaks between each contraction really make all the difference!  I lay there as the midwife was still stitching me up, saying I’d totally do that all over again, what’s the big deal?  Ha.  I realize that many women have very painful, long and difficult deliveries, and I completely support the right of women to give birth in whatever way makes them feel most comfortable, whether at home or with a scheduled c-section — but I feel like that is the message that dominates our culture’s rhetoric about childbirth, and just want you to know that it doesn’t HAVE to be that way :).  I think I will post more thoughts on this later.

After about an hour, my husband went to accompany the baby to the nursery for the initial tests, and they got me ready to transfer to the postpartum room.  And that is when the proverbial shit hit the fan and my beautiful delivery turned into an emergency.

My memory at this point becomes a little fuzzy.  I know they sat me up to assist me in getting out of bed, and the next thing I know I am laying back down.  Apparently I fainted.  The midwife gave me a shot of pitocin, saying I was bleeding a little more than normal.  I failed at a second attempt to get up and so they gave up and wheeled the whole bed into my postpartum room.  Over the next few hours there were several episodes of massive bleeding.  They gave me more pitocin, cytotec, and methergine.  At one point the midwife got on her phone to call in an OB and finally dropped the word “hemorrhage.”  They did a few (VERY PAINFUL) internal exams and a sonogram, but there was no apparent source of the bleeding.  They gave me morphine at some point.  I had a catheter put in.  The day went on like this and I kept feeling progressively worse — the room felt like it was 1000 degrees, the lights were flickering, my heart was racing, and I just generally felt like crap — but they kept reassuring me that my vitals were stable.

Until suddenly, they weren’t.  At some point early in the evening, I guess my blood pressure finally crashed and the next thing I knew they had called some kind of “rapid response” and whisked me away to the ICU.  There was little time to explain what was going on to my husband and while the ICU nurse reassured me that I was going to be fine, he was left behind thinking that I was dying!  In the ICU they hooked me up to an inordinate amount of IV lines and wires; getting stuck that many times was seriously worse than labor.  My veins were so clamped down they had to use an ultrasound to find them. They ultimately kept me overnight and transfused 3 units of blood.  The ICU was not a safe place for the baby so he had to stay behind with my husband and spend more time in the nursery than we would have liked.  But my bleeding finally stopped and the next morning I was sent back down to postpartum.  My blood levels were still well below normal, but I was stable enough to be discharged the next day.

They warned me that it would take months to restore my blood levels and fully regain my strength.  The first week home was very hard and simple tasks like getting out of bed to go to the bathroom made me feel like I had just sprinted up a flight of stairs.  But each day I feel a little better, and luckily my perfect little baby has kept things easy for me :).

So I feel like my birth story encompasses both ends of the spectrum — a natural birth followed by a whole host of drugs and interventions.   I feel very lucky to have been able to give birth in a place where all these options were available to me.

-R

Almond-Date Energy Bites

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I feel kind of lame posting this recipe, because I am sure there are at least one million exactly like this already available across the internet, and I haven’t adapted the recipe I used too drastically.  But my doula recommended I make some as quick and protein-dense fuel during labor, and they are surprisingly delicious!  I had picked up a store-bought version just in case I didn’t have a chance to make them in time, and as usual the homemade version is SO much better.  I may need to make another batch because they have really filled my need for chocolate-y sweetness without having to turn on my oven in this 90 degree heat.  They taste great right out of the freezer!

Almond-Date Energy Bites
Adapted from the recipe for “Raw Balls” in The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

1/2 cup pecans (can use walnuts, but pecans were what I had on hand)
1/2 cup dates, pits removed
Scant 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Scant 1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh almond butter
1/2 teasppoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup almonds
~2 cups shredded coconut

In a food processor, coarsely grind the pecans.  Add the dates; pulse until everything is well-combined.  Add the remaining ingredients, except the 1/2 cup whole almonds and coconut, until you have a smooth paste.

You can stir the almonds into this paste whole or coarsely chopped to your liking.

With your hands, form this mixture into balls and roll in the shredded coconut.  The paste will be very sticky; it helps to wet your hands just a little.

Freeze for about 2 hours before eating.

-R

 

37 week thought dump

2013 05 27_8212I try and keep this blog on topic and avoid veering too much into my personal life…but as I approach the end of my pregnancy it has dawned on me over the past few weeks that, uh, yes, this journey WILL actually come to an end, sooner than I realize, and I’m starting to feel a little nostalgic!  We, of course, are terribly excited to meet our little one finally (famous last words?).  But I’m also realizing that I’ll never be pregnant for the first time again, and I get a little emotional when I think about it!  So I wanted to write down my thoughts.

I wouldn’t say I am one of those people who loves being pregnant.  But, unexpectedly, I’ve actually found that I am happier now and in a better place emotionally than I have been at any other time in my pregnancy.  Perhaps it is because the never-ending and frantic slew of home renovations, and the never-ending dreary wintery weather, have finally, actually ended (for now…though I DO still have a lot of furniture to be assembled!).  My anxieties and insecurities about childbirth and parenting also seem to have calmed — I guess I’ve just arrived at a place of acceptance that there is only one way out of this situation and I’ve just gotta get through it!  I’m also incredibly confident in the “team” I’ve assembled to get me through labor and really humbled by the support my family has shown.  Taking a childbirth class and reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth really helped too.  I’ve also just finished Breastfeeding Made Simple (great book!), the nursery is finally taking shape, the car seat is installed, we have some awesome friends and family who gave us some great stuff at our shower, and we seem to finally have nearly everything we need to get off to a good start.  Everything just seems to be falling into place.  But there is always more to do, so I hope this baby stays put for a few more weekends!

Physically, I’m feeling pretty okay too…I have definitely slowed down considerably in my 8th month, and am totally, utterly wiped out by the end of the day.  I have some days where I feel so heavy and full and stretched I think I might explode.  And doing some basic tasks, like ,you know, bending over to put on pants have become nearly impossible.  But while I reserve the right to change my mind as I approach the very bitter end of pregnancy, so far it’s nothing unbearable and I’m not yet in any rush to get this kid out of me!

Other unexpected things:

-I was so tempted to break my vow of not learning the sex at my 20 week ultrasound, I thought for sure I’d cave by now.  But I am actually SO SO happy we declined to learn the sex in advance!  I am so excited to find out at the birth, at the same time we finally learn what this little person looks like and sounds like and feels like, etc.  While I obviously don’t have an experience to compare it to, I don’t think I could feel any more love or feel more connected to this baby than I do now just by knowing the sex.  I kind of love that I haven’t attached any stereotypical attributes to him or her when he or she is not even born yet; at this point, whether it’s a boy or girl just seems so irrelevant to me.  And I love that I have all these gender neutral clothes and items that can be reused again and again!  Keep in mind that this is all coming from someone whose nursery “theme,” if you want to call it that, is “Rainbow.”  LOL.

-How hard pregnancy would be.  I mean, aside from a few minor complications, I’ve had a pretty easy pregnancy.  And yet, it’s much harder than I thought it would all be.  I don’t honestly know what I thought pregnancy would be like.  It’s not something you can accurately imagine before it actually happens to you.  But I guess I thought I’d be “better” at it than I have been.  I thought I’d be that consummate pregnant woman who eats a perfect diet, exercises all the time, and never uses her pregnancy as an excuse to get out of obligations or sit on the couch eating ice cream all day.  But that most certainly went out the window as soon as morning sickness hit me!  Since then, I do my best but it’s far from perfect.  And I sometimes still feel guilty about it.  But I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’m not totally in control here.  In terms of things like weight gain, umm…digestive issues, stretch marks, etc, your body kinda does what it will do and there’s only so much you can do yourself to direct it.  Sometimes you just have to let go and let it do its thing.

-That I would be so excited.  I have this distinct memory of a year or two ago seeing a friend post on facebook how excited she was to meet her baby due any day.  And my first thought was…uh, that is not what I would be thinking!  Pretty sure I’d be dreading the sleepless nights and overnight changes to my entire life!  The decision to start a family is never entirely rational … you’ll always wish you had more savings/your career was more established/your bathroom was already finished…you just have to decide that you’ve reached a point where you can swing it and trust that things will fall into place.  So I was surprised that since I found out I have truly been so happy and yes, excited to meet this little creature that’s been growing inside me!

-But it’s still the end of an era, and I have mixed emotions about that.  I found out I was pregnant on our tenth anniversary.  For over a decade, it’s just been the two of us, plus some cats and a dog…and that is about to irrevocably change.  A good change, for sure, but I’ll still always treasure this time we had together.  We both have confessed that this pregnancy has brought us together, and we feel even more connected and happier in our marriage than ever before, and I do wonder how things will change once the baby is here.
Similarly, as I alluded to above, I’m kinda nostalgic about this pregnancy coming to an end, even though it’s not like it’s been all fun and games.  I just found myself a moment ago gazing down at all the tiny little elbows/hips/feet bulging out of of my belly and saying, “baby, I’m going to miss you being inside me when you come out!”  I really didn’t think I’d ever get to a point of being able to say that.  But it’s such a wild and amazing thing that’s going on and that I get to uniquely experience.  And there is something special about that which I will miss, I think.

Anyway.  I think that’s enough overshare for now!

-R

Updates

Posting from my phone, seems like that’s all I have time for these days! So excuse the brevity, typos and poor iPhone photos :).

Okay, I know I said I’d update this blog at least once a week, and clearly I have failed on that count. We have been devoting nearly all of our free time to preparing the house for our new arrival in just an estimated 10 weeks!

New bathroom:

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Some new and old windows:

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Plus tons of painting, patching, stripping, electrical and miscellaneous sprucing up.

And of course, when you start opening up walls you inevitably discover more projects. Turns out our simple electrical job is not so simple and the house needs significant re-wiring!

But we are incredibly lucky to have such wonderful families who have devoted a sizable amount of assistance and sweat equity in this journey! I really don’t know where we’d be without them. SOL for sure! So perhaps I’ll run out of time before I have a chance to DIY a pinterest-worthy nursery. But you learn there are more important things. It really takes a village, and we are so lucky that this baby will be welcomed into his or hers with so much love.

So that is where I’ve been. When I have a chance to breathe, I’ll post about our bathroom, refurbishing the windows, and all our other adventures. Stay tuned!