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Monday, February 27, 2012

Perspectives (Reflections on Preparing)

For the understatement of the year, I would like to declare that  a lot has happened in the H-G Household over the past two months.  Good times, painful times, sleepy times, joyful times... lots of times.

One Month Old
7 1/2 Weeks Old - Headed to the H-G's first Red Wings Game!

I have been thinking back a lot about the birth of our son, especially how I prepared myself towards the end of the pregnancy.  I have a lot of friends out there that are expecting babies of their own (many of them first time moms like me), so I thought I would post a bit about what helped me in my situation.  Who knows, maybe they'll be helpful to the mommies-to-be, bring insight to those who aren't as familiar with birth and young babies, or give those who have children a chance to reflect on their own experiences.

As I've posted about previously, I am a Bawler.  I cry quite easily, and pregnancy/motherhood only seemed to heighten my emotional responses.  Surprisingly though, when we headed to the hospital after contractions were consistent at home, no tears came ripping down my cheeks and I was very much excited.  (Of course, once Quincy was born I cried... You can see the introduction video Brad posted for proof!)  I think what helped keep me in good spirits and focused on the task at hand were these five items (and I'm sure countless other things... these are just what come to mind):

1. Dad & Mom-to-Be Preparing Together
It may sound strange to some of you, but Brad actually attended almost every prenatal visit with me at the Obstetrician's office.  Brad is in the medical field and so has had some experience from a clinical standpoint, but whether he were an Obstetrician or an Electrician, having him there to ask questions, learn about the progress of our baby and get to know the doctor, was so important and helpful.  He could hear what my concerns were, help me remember all the things I wanted to mention, and know what was going on with each visit.  As a friend once put it to me, this is his kid too, so he should be a part of the process as well.

One Day Old

Now, this isn't possible for all couples, and might not be what works for everyone.  But in our situation, it helped us grow as a couple and later helped with the labor and delivery because we were completely comfortable with each other.  I made a point of voicing anything I was worried about, and also made sure to ask Brad what he was worried about.  Mom has the baby, but dad has a lot to deal with, too.

2. Read A Little
Before I became pregnant, I started to read What To Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff.  She has a great way of describing necessary information in a concise manner and generally without an opinion.  Once I was pregnant, this book was also great in describing each phase of pregnancy, as well as stages of labor, positions, and other great information.

H-G's Stack'o Pregnancy Books

From the beginning, I had hoped to have an unmedicated birth and new there would be a lot of ways I would need to prepared my mind.  Several friends suggested I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  Gaskin is a well known midwife who also developed the Gaskin Maneuver to reduce shoulder dystocia (when the baby's shoulders get stuck).  The book has a variety of birth stories that I found really helpful, though the tone of the book is much more opinionated than Murkoff's book.  The book has blatant issues with hospitals, but as long as you check out what your hospital's policies are (or birthing center, or maybe you'll opt for a home birth), you should be good.  We were greatly blessed to have a fantastic hospital that encouraged low-lighting, bringing in music, trying many different positions, were very supportive of both medicated and non-medicated births, and encouraged having the baby room in with the parents instead of staying in the nursery.  Ina May would be proud!

3. Yoga
I took a prenatal yoga class offered locally, and though I wasn't much of a fan of the instructor, I was able to take away some good aspects to apply to my own birth, as well as chat about pregnancy with other soon to be mothers in the class.  Things like working on squats, breathing techniques, calming your mind, connecting with your little one (sounds silly, but it was soothing), rolling around on a birthing/exercise ball and other yoga-y things were really good for preparing.

Gaiam® Exercise Ball

If you can't find a class, pick up a prenatal video.  I have a copy of Gaiam® Prenatal Yoga with Shiva Rea that has three different women, each in a different trimester of pregnancy for you to follow as you progress through pregnancy.

4. Take A Birthing Class
I had hoped to take a natural childbirth class to prepare myself for what was to come, but unfortunately the class I found didn't work with Brad's schedule.  That meant I could take the class by myself, take it with a friend, or skip the class.  Though I was worried about not having a weekly class to go through different natural techniques, we ended up taking a one day class through our local hospital.  Surprisingly, it was GREAT.  The instructor was pleasant and well informed, and broke up the day with lots of breaks and activities.  They reviewed both medicated and non-medicated births, c-sections, and basic childcare items like swaddling (arms out is the new protocol), carseat installation, shaken baby warnings, and home safety.  They also gave a tour of the birthing center.  I found seeing where I would potentially be giving birth (unless I ended up giving birth in the elevator or back seat of a car), helped me picture the whole process and made it less scary.  I get anxious in hospitals, so seeing the room where we would stay and meet our son calmed that anxiety a great deal.

We also attended a breast-feeding class through the hospital.  The class was filled with other couples (so Brad was definitely not the only guy), and it was very helpful and informative for both of us.

5. Talk With Other Mothers
One thing I made sure to keep in mind is that women have been having children for thousands of years.  They didn't have books or classes or yoga videos to turn to, but they had other women who had given birth before them.  I found this to be vital to preparing myself for the birth.  Reading other mothers' stories in Gaskin's book was great, but being able to chat back and forth with other mom's about their experiences was even better.  I'll admit that I didn't really seek out any information about labor and delivery until the third trimester - I kind of wanted to avoid the whole topic and just imagine a stork dropping off the baby in time for Christmas.  Talk to your own mother, too (if at all possible).  Yes, they had you a while ago, but seeing what they went through can give you great perspective.

Don't have anyone you can chat with about the process?  Look for forums online or local Meetup groups; join a prenatal yoga/birth class and chat up other mothers; send me an email and if you're local we can chat over coffee or we can send emails if you're not so local.  Having other mothers there to talk everything through (and ask any questions that came to mind) was priceless in preparing for the birth of my son, so I'm here if you need someone.

I'd like to add that I am so excited for the friends I have that are expecting their own bundles of joy and to those that have recently given birth!  It sure is an amazing adventure.

And just because I'm slightly obsessed with this beautiful boy, here are some photos from this past weekend.


Sunday Afternoon Nap

Them's Fightin' Words!

Post-Bath Calm


Monday, February 6, 2012

My Motherhood Tool Belt

Apparently, Sears doesn't sell a Motherhood Tool Belt.  And everyone has heard the joke that children don't come with instruction manuals.  That's why I felt inspired to write this little diddy and share a few tools I would put in my Motherhood Tool Belt in hopes that Sears might read this blog and decide to pay me millions of dollars for my amazing idea... or that this is helpful to parents out there that feel unprepared for the first month of parenthood.  I guess we'll see which comes first...

Call it what you will, but having a pacifier has helped a great deal.  We started using one (which is now up to eight) when Quincy was about three weeks old.  This helped sooth him in between feedings and has helped him stay calm in car rides, drift off to sleep for bed or naps and has, frankly, kept his parents a little more sane.  I was a thumb sucker as a kid, so I worried he would pick-up that habit, but so far just the pacifier has stuck and we can take it away as needed.

Quincy's Collection of Pacifiers
Proof of the Paci's Power, mwuhahahahaha...

Did you know that a breast-feeding mother needs to get more calories than she did when she was pregnant?  Yes, it's true.  My OB told me so.  I found having easy-to-grab-and-stuff-in-your-face snacks were what helped keep me going.  And don't forget to eat in the middle of the night!  You'd be surprised how having an apple at 3:00am can set you up to be not so starving later in the morning.  Not that you need to wake up in the middle of the night to eat, but if you're up nursing/feeding the baby, be sure to get a little something healthy to appease your belly.  These are my go-to snacks:

Granny Smith Apples

Crackers, Mandarin Oranges (Canned = No Peeling), & Granola Bars

Well, there isn't an app that will change a baby's diaper or take over those middle of the night feedings, but there is one to help track when you last changed a diaper and which side you left off on for breast-feeding or how many ounces the baby took from a bottle.  Let's face it - you can't remember the last time you slept, let alone when the baby did!  I found this app, What to Expect ® Baby Tracker, for my iPhone that has been a great way to track what the baby does so I don't have to remember anything.  Before I found the app, I had a clipboard, pen and paper where I was writing out times and notes on everything... let's just say my hand-writing wasn't that great at four in the morning.  Good news - this app is free!
Options to Track (It can even track for multiple children!)
It also totals sleeping/feeding/number of diapers for you for the day!


Take it from me - I fainted during pregnancy due to dehydration - and you still need to keep drinking fluids with a newborn, too.  I found it useful to have a water cup that has a straw.  Silly?  Yes.  Encourages you to drink? Double Yes.   Others like water bottles or just a bunch of glasses of water, but either way, get those fluids in!  To change it up, I also have been downing a lot of decaf tea, orange juice and cranberry juice.
Mint Tea - Soothing & Hydrating

Brad raved about this miraculous invention on a previous post about his Top Seven Items for a Newborn, but I have to repeat this one.  This is how I shower (buckle Quincy in, flip the vibrations on, and he chills in the bathroom with me), take naps during the day (vibrations, chill, sleep), eat dinner (vibrations, chill, hoover food), and set him down so I can do things even while awake (vibrations, chill, get stuff done).  We also have a Boppy that I use on occasion so he can just hang out.

Bouncy Seat Naptime

Boppy - Chillin'

Let's face it, sleeping only two or three (maybe four?) hours at a time for a month or two may make you appear a bit tired.  Funny how those missing hours of sleep just color in dark circles under your eyes.  But do not fear!  Dab on a bit of concealer and it's as if you have been sleeping like a baby (not a baby's momma) every night!  I found that if I was going out of the house, I felt more awake and perky if I could hide the evidence and just strut around as if I was a fully rested human being.  Will it give you back those hours of sleep that you crave?  Heck no.  But it will at least keep people from staring at you and saying "boy, do you look tired!" and instead stare and coo at your beautiful baby.

Random Concealer from my Make-Up Stash
(the blue one is probably from early high school, but it gets the job done!)

For those of you who will breastfeed, you'll find that nursing tops can be a bit pricey (at least if you plan on having more than one).   I have two I borrowed from a friend, and they are super convenient with little snaps to unhook part of the top for easy access.  But you can't wear the same two tank tops over and over and over... either you do laundry a lot or you get gross.  And no one wants to get gross.  I supplement my nursing top supply with Poor Girl Nursing Tops.  I purchased a variety of colored tank tops that have the shelf bra on the inside, and just slipped in some disposable nursing pads.  They cost anywhere from ├╝ber cheap to ten bucks, so you can get a lot instead of shelling out twenty bucks for the fancy nursing tops.  Plus, you can wear them after you're done nursing because they're regular tank tops - no big, awkward snaps on the straps to give you away.

Nursing Top or Cute Tank? They're Both!

As a new mom, especially when you are on your own once your husband/partner/baby-dad/helper is back at work or unavailable to help, you may start to feel isolated.  It's just you and a little person whose main activities consist of peeing, pooping, sleeping, eating, and crying.  Not much for conversation.  I found that having things like Facebook, email and texting helped me tremendously.  Sorry to those that got sick of seeing baby pictures in their Facebook news feed, but it was cathartic to share my little guy with friends and acquaintances, as well as receive feedback about it, too.  I was also so very fortunate to have emails and messages back and forth between some great friends going through the same thing who were encouraging and supportive.  Writing that makes me tear up a bit, because they honestly made that transition go so well from the first days home from the hospital, to my first days home without Brad, and the subsequent challenges of going out of the house with just me and Quincy and other "firsts".  Don't forget to have real friends visit you also instead of just virtual meet-ups.  I had other friends that came out to spend time with me and the baby, and having that time with friends truly was so helpful and encouraging.  So to all those girls (you know who you are) - THANK YOU.

When driving, the first priority is to stay focused on the road without letting the baby distract you.  This car mirror that you install on the seat of where the carseat is located is AWESOME.  Not sure if the baby is sleeping, awake, fussy, lost their pacifier, or making faces behind your back?  Now you can see them with a quick glance into your rear view mirror.  Get one.  You'll be glad you did.

Photo Taken While Car was Parked

Not everyone will breastfeed, but for those of you who will, it's good to have a nursing cover in case you're out in public and need to feed the baby.  A friend of mine made this one for me, but you can buy them at stores (Target, BuyBuyBaby, Babies R Us, etc.) or you can always use a receiving blanket.  I've loved having this cover because it has a support piece at the top that allows you to look underneath to keep an eye on the baby, but still keeps you covered. 

Nursing Cover

Need to get around the house with the baby, but need your hands free?  Or need to go to the store and don't want to lug around the carseat?  I use this front pack baby carrier for doing the dishes/laundry/things around the house but also for running errands.  Whenever I went to the store, it was unnerving to carry the carseat all the way in, balance it on the shopping cart or set him inside the cart and not have room to put groceries.  Then, if ever I had to step away from the cart to get something, I'd have to keep glancing over at the cart because I was paranoid someone would walk up and grab him.  Yes, I think of those things.  Instead, when I arrive at the store, I jump in the back seat, unbuckle him from his carseat, and buckle him into the front pack.  I have a hands-free shopping experience, he's always right there so I don't have to fight off baby snatchers, and I have a full cart to load up without a bulky carseat in the way.  Also, there have been times when Quincy is overly tired but won't go to sleep.  I pop him into the front pack and with him snuggled in closely, its easier for him to fall asleep and I don't have to stop working on things around the house.

Beco Baby Gemini® Baby Carrier
Front Pack Nap

I guess I should maybe market a Motherhood Wheelbarrow Full of Useful Stuff instead of the tool belt, but you get the idea.  For those new moms out there or the moms-to-be, the first month is emotional, physically draining, and a lot to process, but remember that you are a fully capable woman and you are doing GREAT.  My wheelbarrow of helpful tools has gotten me a long way, but it came with meltdowns, tears, frustration and a whole lot of people there to support me when things got tough.  This adventure of motherhood is amazing, and the best part is that you have an awesome little baby who is in this world because of YOU.  It's an incredible feeling, isn't it?


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lend Me Your Shower Songs

This one is for the Shower Singers.  You may have never sung in a choir or in front of anyone, but you know who you are - got a song in your head?  Love the way the walls of your shower/bathroom echo and make your voice sound a little sweeter than it actually is?  The shower is a sanctum for singing, even if you don't have much of a voice.


What are your songs?  Nope, you don't need to be a writer or have your own made-up songs.  I'm talking about the songs you pull out of your water-logged repertoire and reserve just for those long showers so you can sing at the top of your lungs.

As a new mom, I've taken my shower songs and use them as lullabies.  Rockabye Baby just doesn't do it for me (mostly because I can only get to the second verse...), so I've used some of my favorite shower tunes instead.  I must say, there is nothing more rewarding than holding a fussy infant that wants to sleep (and yet refuses to), and they start to melt away into sleep after a few lines of a familiar song.  I thought I'd share them with you:

The Classic

Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers: Listen Here.

The Break-Up Song

I Have Loved You Wrong by The Swell Season: Listen Here.

Let's Evaluate Our Relationship Song

Open Arms by Maria Carey (Journey cover): Listen Here.

Song from My Childhood

Apples & Bananas by Raffi: Listen Here.

Funeral Gospel Song

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. I found this version by Dolly Parton that's close enough. 
(I do a bit less clapping): Listen Here.

An Actual Lullaby Song

I Have Never Loved Someone by My Brightest Diamond: Listen Here.

So all you Shower Singers out there, lend me your songs!  What can I add to the queue?