Monday, October 26, 2015

DIY Costume Extravaganza!

Our town was lucky enough to host a Back to the Future event for the 30th anniversary of the movie. I was so excited
I decided to look through Ethan's closet and come up with a quick Marty McFly costume.  I was able to use his
Ryder (Paw Patrol) vest and was really excited with the quick easy costume.

All children eagerly await Halloween.  You get to play dress up, it's a night full of magic and mystery, and the candy, oh the candy! As the years went by I never outgrew my love of Halloween, and although the candy is nice, for me it was always about the costumes.  Poor Jeff has put up with my crazy costume obsession. If I hear costume or theme party, you bet I'll be the first one there in full attire.  Growing up my mom always made our costumes, and not only did she make them, but they were always the most extravagant, well made, pieces of art you've ever seen.  Needless to say, this set the bar pretty high for me as an adult.  I'm not as good of a seamstress as my mom, so I have to work hard at making nice costumes that don't need a ton of sewing.  Since I was incredibly overwhelmed with work and a toddler last year I didn't write a post about the costumes that I made so this year's post will include last year and this year's costumes.  I am really terrible at tutorials, I always forget to take pictures, and I don't have the patience to do step by step instructions, so please forgive me for not including Pinterest quality tutorials.

2014 Costumes

Can of Pork and Beans

Last year Ethan was a can of pork and beans.  We received many strange looks and one person even said, "Their baby is dressed as a can of beer!" Jeff and I got a big kick out of it though and it turned out to be one of my all time favorite costumes. 

1. red felt
2. white felt
3. grey fabric
4. white t-shirt
5. thin wire

1. I never use patterns, everything I create is made as I go, so bear with me.  I measured the red felt around Ethan's body and cut to the desired length. The width was perfect for the length I wanted so I didn't have to cut that. I then eyeballed where the arm holes would go and cut those out (like I said I totally make things up as I go).
2. I cut a circle that was the size that I wanted for the top of the felt out of the white felt and the grey fabric.  With my sewing machine I sewed the white felt to the grey fabric.  I sewed 3 rows to create the ridges of the top of the can.
3. Jeff had the VanCamp's can screen printed onto a white shirt, I cut the square off of the shirt and hand sewed it onto the red felt.
4. I sewed the top of the can to the red felt with my sewing machine.
5. At the bottom of the red felt I hand sewed a seam where I inserted a wire so that the can would keep it's shape.
6. On the back I sewed 3 snaps so that the costume was easy to get in and out of.

Cartoon Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid

For school I wanted to dress up as a literary character, since I'm a Language Arts teacher.  All of my students are obsessed with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and I couldn't wait to re-create this character.  My students went crazy over it, and it was one of the only times that I've felt really cool in their eyes.

1. white t-shirt
2. black shorts
3. black backpack
4. 2 pairs of white stockings
5. white tennis shoes
6. baseball hat
7. white foam poster board
8. thick permanent marker

1. I put on the white stockings and had Jeff draw a line for the socks with a permanent marker.
2. I'm a terrible artist so Jeff printed out a huge image of Greg's head and traced it onto the white foam poster board (bought at Wal-Mart).  He then went over the pencil with a thick permanent marker.  Finally he cut it out with an x-acto knife.
3. He then cut most of the bill off of the baseball hat and glued Greg's head onto what was left of the bill with gorilla clue.  He reinforced it with cardboard.
4. I wore the baseball hat with the bill on the side of my head, so it was really easy to see and I could give that side profile pose.
5.  I cut the second pair of stockings where the legs met and wore them as gloves.  I cut a slit in the toes so that my fingers would poke through and a hole off to the side for my thumb.

Dexter and his Victim

We had a Halloween party to go to last year and I really wanted to wear my Greg costume, but since nobody there had teenage kids I didn't think they'd know what I was, and I always love doing a couples costume with Jeff.  Jeff was really into Dexter at the time so this became a really easy cool costume to put together.  These costumes were a huge hit, and I actually had a few people ask me if I was wearing anything under the celophane, hehe.


1. celophane (plastic wrap)
2. plastic knife
3. gel blood
4. skin colored camis and skin colored shorts

1. green long sleeve shirt
2. black plastic apron
3 surgical gloves
4. grey cargo pants
5. boots


1. I put on the camis and shorts. Then Jeff wrapped me in the celophane, but I made sure that below my hips it was loosely wrapped so that I could sit down.
2. Jeff took the blade off of the plastic knife and glued the handle onto a round piece of thin cardboard.  After he had wrapped me a few times he put the knife in place and started wrapping again.  I am aware that Dexter stabs his victims in the heart and I'm a stickler for accurate costumes, but we didn't wrap the celopane up that high so I had to make do.  After a few more warps we squirted the blood gel around the knife and began to once again wrap.  Once we felt I was covered enough to hide the clothes we stopped.
3. I tucked the spaghetti straps into the celophane.
4. I covered my face with concealer to give me that pale dead look, and put a line of gel blood on my cheek.

1. Jeff bought the pants, apron, and shirt off of Amazon.
2. We already had the surgical gloves in our emergency kit and he already owned the boots.

2015 Costumes

At Ethan's school they are having a superhero and princess themed party but not wanting to buy Ethan another costume I decided to make do with what I had in his closet.  They are also having 2 parties because a lot of the children that go on Thursday's don't go on Friday's, of course Ethan goes both days and I will not have him wear the same costume twice because I'm crazy like that.

Clark Kent turning into Superman

The first costume is Clark Kent turning into Superman.  He had all of the materials in his wardrobe already and it was just a matter of putting it all together.

1. Superman shirt
2. White button-down shirt
3. grey pants
4. glasses
5. black dress shoes
6. red cape (this is also not accurate but Ethan loves wearing capes and I wanted to make it fun for him)

Super E

The second costume is Super E.  My friend Katie has an awesome Etsy shop named Chilly Knits and she sells these custom made superhero shirts.  So I thought to myself if Ethan was a superhero what would he wear? I dressed him in all of his favorite things and made it look funky on purpose.  It's silly, and super fun.

1. Super E shirt from Chilly Knits
2. Plaid shorts
3. Cowboy boots
4. Dodgers hat

Ryder from Paw Patrol
The construction of this vest was DIY but it was not easy.  Sewing all of the different colors
onto very thick material was difficult and time consuming.

Ethan's favorite show is Paw Patrol so this year he was Ryder from the show.  Since I have a newborn and a toddler my mom was really sweet and made the vest for Ethan.  

1. vest
2. white, turquoise, yellow, grey, and red material
3. Red, and white felt
4. turquoise marker
5. blue pants
6. grey shoes
7. white long sleeved shirt
8. Marshall plush toy (optional)

1. My mom purchased a vest at the thrift store.  She then sewed the red, white, yellow, and blue fabric over the vest so that it looked just like Ryder's.  Some areas were hand sewn others were done by machine.
2. I created Ryder's patch using grey material, red and white felt.  I used the turquoise marker to trace the white felt paw.
3. Finally we used hair product and hairspray to spike Ethan's hair up.

Snow White

I have a rule that I never make my kid's costumes when they're babies.  It's really hard to make something for someone that little, and since she has to be carried and have her diaper changed, it's easiest to go with something simple.  Ever since Alice was born people have said that she looks like Snow White, so I couldn't resist when I saw this onesie at Babies "R" Us.  I did make her headband out of red elastic and the bow is made from felt. 

This is what we wore to my friend's costume party, since I was nursing this year I went super easy and created a cowgirl costume with clothes out of my closet.  Ethan's wearing the lederhosen outfit that my mom bought him in Switzerland 2 years ago.  Jeff's grandpa is from Germany so I love dressing him in them whenever I can, and we always share information about that part of his culture when he's wearing them.  I hope everyone's Halloween is full of fun, excitement, and awesome costumes!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Affirmations like this made me feel powerful during labor.

*I was not compensated for this post.  This is a product that I love, have purchased, and wanted to share with my readers.

In my Homebirth Story post I mentioned that when I was looking for a way to manage my pain, during labor, I stumbled upon The Calm Birth School Hypnobirthing classes.  I had always been interested in hypnobirthing but since there weren't any hypnobirthing classes in my area that I knew of, I didn't look into that method when I was pregnant with Ethan.  When I was pregnant with Alice, since I already had a toddler at home, going to a class once a week was out of the question, so online classes were the perfect solution.  The Calm Birth School is based out of the UK and is ran by Holly and Suzy.  I'm not going to go into detail about their background because you can read it all on their site, but after researching them online and reading nothing but rave reviews from moms, I decided to give it a try.  I started with the free 3 class subscription.  After watching those 3 classes I was hooked and decided to buy the whole series.

What exactly is hypnobirthing though? It's all about being in a calm and positive mindset, ready to accept the changes your body will endure during birth.  If you change the way you view birth before going into labor, and if during labor you employ meditative methods for controlling pain, you can have a calm pain controlled labor (notice I didn't say pain free).  You may be asking yourself, did it work for Luanita? I'm going to start from the beginning, because like I said their philosophy is that in order for this method to be successful you need to start using the techniques long before labor starts.

When I used to think of hypnosis the first thing that would pop into my mind is this scene from Office Space where Peter asks if the therapist can make him think he's been fishing all day after he's gotten home from a job he hates.  Even though I knew this wasn't what hypnosis was, I would always chuckle and think after taking the hypnobirthing class maybe I'll think I'm on a beach in Hawaii, instead of in the middle of giving birth.

The Preparation
What I loved about their series is that the classes are short.  They were about 15 minutes, and some were even shorter than that.  On nights that I wasn't completely exhausted, Jeff and I would sit down and watch one or even two videos.  The series also gives you relaxation and affirmation MP3's, and a PDF of all of the information that they cover in the videos.

The videos and MP3's are taught by Suzy and Holly, and I love their approach.  They're calm, understanding, and very open to every kind of situation.  A huge plus is that they have the most lovely British accents (obviously since they're from England). The reason why I loved this so much is because listening to their voices on the MP3's was extremely soothing.  I would put the relaxation MP3's on at night before going to bed and within 3 minutes Jeff would be snoring (he found them incredibly soothing).  Suzy and Holly really recommend that you listen to the MP3's everyday leading up to the birth.  It helps you to relax and begin to meditate on the experience that you may be fearing.  It also trains your mind to be relaxed while listening to these meditation exercises, so that when you play them during your birth it will be soothing even if you are in pain.

My Labor
During the classes they recommend you don't call your contractions contractions, since there are so many negative emotions connected to that word.  They suggest surge or wave so I'll be using the term surge. I found it to be a word that conveyed power instead of pain.  In between surges I used the Calm Birth School (CBS) Breathing to calm down and relax.  During a surge I would use the Wave Breathing.  Both of these helped me immensely.  After taking the class, Suzy and Holly had made me feel that my instincts were to be trusted, and if I listened to myself during labor everything would be fine.  I do feel like this was easier to do because it was my second labor.  I already knew what to expect but I kept praying that this time around I wouldn't have back labor because even with the hypnobirthing I didn't know if I could have a home birth with that amount of pain.

As soon as my surges began to get really intense I told Jeff to put on the affirmations MP3. In this MP3, either Holly or Suzy give you empowering messages about your birth and your body.  I lay in bed and listened to it over and over again, I must have listened to it at least 20 times in a row.  It made me feel strong and confident, it also really relaxed me.  As the audio played I would find myself nodding my head to the affirmations that really resonated, as if I was agreeing with them, and every time I did that I felt better.

I slowly started to notice that the back labor was back.  I was terrified, how on earth was I going to get through this when I wasn't able to do it the first time? I started to think of Suzy and Holly and how empowered I had felt after the classes, so I decided to listen to my body and trust my instincts.  My instincts told me to go to the bathroom, hold onto the sink and sway, so I did.  I felt like I wanted heat on my back so I told Jeff to get the heating pad and hold it on my back, it felt wonderful.  I then wanted to stand in the shower with my back getting hit by water and sway, so I did. I wanted to go to the living room hold onto the edge of the couch and sway, so I did.  Through all of this I continued my 2 breathing techniques and I replayed the affirmations in my mind (still nodding my head whenever I agreed).  The pain was intense, but with my hypnobirthing techniques I was able to make it through each surge much better than I had during Ethan's birth.

Right before the RN checked me I would have guessed that I was 4 or 5 centimeters dilated with the amount of pain I was in. I also felt that if this baby came in 6-8 hours I could handle the pain for that much longer.  You wouldn't believe my surprise when the RN said I was 8-9 cm (I had my baby an hour later).  I wanted to say, "Shut up!", but I thought everyone would laugh at me so I held that back.  Not only had I gone through transition without even noticing, I was in the most intense part of my surges and had been managing my pain really well.

After being checked I went into my shower and swayed with the water hitting my back again.  Slowly I began to crouch down until I was on all 4's (my instincts had taken over).  As a surge would come on I would breathe in and with my exhalation I would make a deep loud guttural sound; it was very primal (this is another breathing technique that they teach).  At this point I had a huge urge to push but my midwife wasn't there yet so I couldn't.  Using this form of breathing helped me control the pain and the urge the push until my midwife arrived.

After all was said and done I had my beautiful baby girl at home and although it had been very painful it was manageable and very calm.  After this experience my mind is filled with questions. If I had taken this class with my first pregnancy would things have ended up differently? Was my labor faster this time because it was my second or because I was more relaxed? No one will ever know the answers to those questions, but one thing I do know is that I felt the same pain with both labors and the way in which I handled it the second time as compared to the first was astronomically better. Since I am a huge SciFi fan get ready for a very geeky reference.  I keep thinking of that scene in the Matrix when Neo is told that if he dies in the Matrix he dies in real life because his mind makes it real.  The power that our mind has over our bodies is beyond comprehension and I truly feel that the methods that hypnobirthing employs lead to a calm mind which in turn opens your body up to the experience of labor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sharing My Experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

One thing I have learned in therapy is that in order for me to be
the best mother I can be I have to make my mental health a priority.

This post has been very difficult for me to write.  I have so many topics swimming around in my head, but until I get this post out there I feel as if sharing anything else would be a misrepresentation of what's going on in my life.

It's always scary when you start a blog, you're putting your life out there for the whole world to see.  I've shared breastfeeding, relationship, and perineal stories but my mental health is by far the hardest thing to talk about.  I ask myself why it's so easy to share embarrassing personal facts but talking about postpartum depression/anxiety is so difficult, and it all goes back to the way our culture and society deals with mental health.  It's something that should be kept behind closed doors, that shouldn't be talked about, something that may even  be shameful.

I started my blog for many reasons but one was to talk about aspects of motherhood that people don't like to talk about.  To let other moms know that they're not weird or crazy, there are plenty of women going through the same thing they are.  Since having Alice I've had to deal with the difficulty of transitioning from a one child household to a 2 children one.  It's been filled with so much joy but also with hardships.  I've had my newborn baby crying and needing me to nurse her, while my toddler cries and wants me to hold him.  I've felt overwhelmed and guilty that there aren't two of me, so that I can give both of my children all of the attention that they need and want.  On top of all of that I started to notice that I was having recurring symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety.

When I had Ethan I went through postpartum depression, unfortunately I didn't realize I was going through it and therefore didn't ask for help.  With all of the information that's out there you may wonder why I stayed quiet.  After having Ethan I had told myself that if I got depressed I would tell someone, and seek help right away.  Since I never felt depressed I figured that I was fine.  What I didn't know is that depression isn't the only way that postpartum depression presents itself.  After having Ethan I became very anxious and afraid.  Fears plagued my every move.  Fears that were so real it became difficult for me to convince myself that they weren't.  I'm not going to go into detail because that's one thing that is much too difficult for me to write about.  At 3 months postpartum my fears peaked and I'm very surprised that I didn't have a nervous breakdown.  At 6 months postpartum the haze started to clear and I began to feel like myself again.  I had a friend who had recently returned to work and was telling me about her postpartum depression when I realized that I had been suffering from it as well.  I was devastated that I hadn't asked for help.

After having Alice the fear, loneliness, and anxiety started to creep in.  This time I made sure to let Jeff know, and to call my OB.  He referred me to an amazing psychologist who has been helping me through this difficult time.  Having someone to talk to and learning of ways to cope with my anxiety has made all the difference.  What I still struggle with is the question that every new mom gets, how are you doing? I dread being asked that and I always hesitate because I think to myself, do they really want to know? Or are they just asking to be polite?  Sometimes I say I'm doing fine because I don't want to have to explain what's really going on.  On other occasions I find the strength to be honest and I say. "I'm not doing so great, I've been suffering from postpartum depression."  This has lead to awkward silences and sudden changes in the mood of the conversation.  I wish our society would be more O.K. with sharing our mental health struggles, I think it would help a lot of people.  I wish I could be more honest about what I'm going through.

If I had a cold and someone asked me how I was doing I would say, "Not so good I have a cold."  They'd nod and tell me how terrible that must be with 2 small children.  It would be nice if our society could get to a place where sharing that your emotional health isn't doing well could be met with the same normalcy as physical health.

If you read this post and know me in real life please don't feel sorry for me, or sad.  When you see me, if I'm happy, know that in that moment I am definitely happy.  My children bring so much light into my life that some days they are the only thing that keeps me going, and I am so thankful for that.

I found this list of symptoms very helpful after I realized I'd been suffering postpartum depression/anxiety with Ethan:  If you're going to have a baby or have just had a baby take the time to read it and be aware of the symptoms.  One thing I've learned from this experience is that there is no shame in asking for help, taking care of my mental health has made me a better mother and I'm so grateful for all the people that are supporting me on this journey.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Postpartum Products

This is a photo of Ethan when he was 5 days old that Jeff took.

*I was not compensated for this post.  These are products that I love, have purchased, and wanted to share with my readers.

Warning: I will be sharing a lot of personal information in this post.  If reading about women's bodies and bodily functions scares you, this probably isn't the post for you.
Whether you're having your baby in the hospital, or at home, when all is said and done and it's just you and your spouse at home with the baby, you have a moment where you think, Oh my gosh how the heck are we going to take care of a baby? Did they really just let us bring this baby home? We have no idea what we're doing! If you don't have these thoughts then awesome, but I know Jeff and I did.  Second time around it wasn't as shocking but there were new fears.  How am I going to care for two? Is Ethan going to feel left out? With all of that swimming around in my head one thing I didn't want to have to think about was my recovery and if I had everything I would need to feel better.  One thing that really helped me during that postpartum time was rest, I love this post from The Fike Life on How to Postpartum Like a Boss, it's all so true! The second thing that really helped are the products that I'll be talking about today.  Since I have never had a c-section I don't know if any of these products would be helpful for a cesarean recovery.

When I first had Ethan my friend Katie did the sweetest thing.  She already had a son and was well aware of how difficult postpartum recovery can be, so she sent me a care package with a lot of the products I'm going to mention today.  Not only did it feel wonderful to know that someone was thinking of me, but all of the products she sent were amazing, and really helped.  Since these are things people don't usually talk about I didn't have any of them, so they were a big help.

If you're an expecting mom and are reading this I highly recommend you purchase some of these products a month before you're due, along with the breastfeeding products I mentioned in my Tips and Products for Early Breastfeeding post.  If you're not expecting but know a new mom that is, it would be awesome to make up a gift basket with some of these and the breastfeeding products.  Most of them are very personal so it would have to be someone you feel comfortable giving these things to, but if you know this new mama doesn't have these products believe me she'll thank you for them.  

All of these products you will need right away which is why I recommend buying them a month before baby is due.  If you're giving it as a gift then drop it off on the mom's doorstep the first day she's back from the hospital and send her or her husband a text.  Most new parents prefer to be left alone for at least a week after baby comes, so it's good to get the gifts to mom right away, but not bother her with visitors quite yet.

Enough of my rambling, lets get started!

  1. Tucks: These are round medicated pads with witch hazel on them.  They're

    meant for hemorrhoids (which you may also have after giving birth), but they also feel great on your perineum (the skin between your vulva and anus).  I would put at least 2-3 of the pads on my industrial sized maxi pad and it really helped with swelling.
  2. Perineal Cold Pack: If you have your baby in the hospital they'll give these to you there.  When I had Ethan the nurse told me to hide the extras in my bag everyday, and that they would re-stock them, that way I would have some to take home.  These especially saved me with Ethan since I had a 3rd degree tear.  They're ice packs that look like a maxi pad, and believe me you will love these after giving birth.  Since I didn't go to the hospital this time around I purchased them, and even though they're expensive, they're worth every penny.
  3. Maxi Pads: Make sure you have different sizes.  At first you'll need the jumbo, overnight, super absorbent ones (I went through a whole bag in 2 weeks).  Then have a bag of the regular ones.  Finally, have a box of the light days.  It's  been a month since having Alice and I'm still using the light days pads so the bleeding goes on for quite a while.
  4. Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Spray: This spray also has witch hazel and feels
    so nice when you spray it on your perineum.  It has a fresh scent, and after I would wash with my Peri. Bottle, I loved spraying the bottom spray on.  Once you're healed, if you don't use it all it's also a face toner, so in the spirit of not being wasteful it can be added to your beauty regimen.
  5. Sitz Bath: When I had Ethan in the hospital they gave me a sitz bath to take home so I didn't need to purchase one.  It also works to fill the bathtub and sit in it, you can even add Postpartum Bath Herbs, or Epsom Salt to it for extra healing.  I thought the sitz bath was easier to set up than having to prepare the bathtub so I always preferred that, especially since I already had one.
I hope you find these recommendations as helpful as I did.  Any moms out there have other product recommendations they'd like to add? If you had a c-section what products did you feel were the most helpful with your recovery? If you're going to comment below make sure you're signed into your google account in order to do so.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips and Products for Early Breastfeeding

Smiling with a belly full of mama's milk.
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which is very fitting since I've started my second breastfeeding journey in the month of August.  There are a lot of fancy gadgets out there that can easily confuse and overwhelm a new mom.  Breastfeeding can be very tough in the beginning, especially for first time moms, so I'm hoping these tips make things a little easier for you.

I'm a very frugal person and hate spending money on gadgets that will just clutter my home.  A lot of my recommendations are things that you find around your house that can be used to make nursing easier.  They do make gadgets that also do these things but why spend money on some fancy tool when something you have in your bathroom cabinet works just as well.

Perfect water cup to use while breastfeeding

  1. Cup:  When you are breastfeeding you need to drink a lot of liquids.  While you are nursing you'll get incredibly thirsty, and since you're using one arm to hold your baby it's a little difficult to drink.  You can use any cup for this of course, but I love this cup my sister-in-law gave me.  The handle makes it really easy to hold and the lid and straw prevent me from spilling while drinking.
  2. Hair Tie:  When I'm nursing I always forget what side I nursed on last.  This causes a problem when I accidentally nurse on the same side a few too many times and realize that the other side is engorged and my baby is full.  I can always pump but I hate pumping when I don't have to, and the side that is being neglected doesn't get stimulated as much as the side that's receiving more attention.  For this reason I use a hair tie. I put the hair tie on the wrist that's the side I've already nursed from.  It's really easy to slip on and off and helps me keep track.
  3. Alarm Clock:  They make fancy apps to help you remember what side you nursed on last and
    what time you nursed last. Instead of downloading another app I just use my alarm clock on my phone.  After I nurse I set the alarm for 2 hours later and when it goes off I know it's time to feed again.  Sometimes Alice cluster feeds and nurses every 1/2 hour to an hour but other times she gets really sleepy and needs to be woken up at the 2 hour mark to feed.  The alarm clock is nice because I don't have to keep checking it, it reminds me when it's time to feed again.
  4. Nursing Pads: When you first start nursing you will become engorged and have a lot of milk. When you nurse and have your milk let-down you will leak on the side you're not nursing.  A lot of moms say this only happens for the first few weeks.  I have a really strong milk let-down so this happens to me for a few months.  In order to not leak all over your bra and shirt you use nursing pads.  There are disposable and reusable nursing pads.  I have a sensitivity to plastics and latex so when I've used the disposable pads my skin has become really irritated.  For that reason I use the reusable pads (and it's less waste, always a plus).  I bought these organic cotton pads and although they're very soft and comfortable, they leak through very quickly, so I haven't been too happy with them.  I have also used the Avent nursing pads and although they don't leak they aren't very soft and they are really thick so if you wear a tight shirt you can see them through the shirt.  Bamboobies are AMAZING! They're super thin, really soft, incredibly absorbent, and DO NOT LEAK.  The drawbacks are that they're shaped like hearts which I've found kind of awkward and they are really expnsive.  I've realized that in the nursing pad game you get what you pay for, so it's your call.
  5. Nipple Butter: When you first start nursing your nipples may become cracked and mine often get scabs.  There are a lot of products out there that can soothe this painful transition your body goes through.  I use the Lansinoh brand but there is also one made by Earth Mama Angel Baby.  I love the Earth Mama products and will definitely try it with my next baby.  When I was pregnant with Ethan I went to a lactation class and the lactation consultant gave me
    the Lansinoh brand, since it worked really well. Because I already had it, it's what I've been using with Alice (be aware that Lansinoh has lanolin in it which makes the reusable nursing pads less absorbent).  There are a lot of options out there though so follow the link and see which brand you think would fit your needs.
  6. Nursing Bra: I've talked about my frustrations with the lack of small sizes in nursing bras, in my post Goldilocks and the Nursing Bras.  Unfortunately, I still haven't found a solution to this problem but I'll let you know what I found works.  I have found the most comfortable and supportive nursing bra to be the Elle Macpherson Nursing Bra.  Sadly, no one told Elle that not all nursing moms have large breasts, so the smallest their bras come in is a 32C.  I use the Elle bras in the beginning when I'm the biggest.  Make sure you buy 1 bra that is 1-2 sizes larger than the size you are at the end of your pregnancy, just so you have something to wear in the beginning.  Once Ethan hit the 5 month mark my breasts went down to a B and eventually even an A cup.  When this happened I found that Target was the only store that carried nursing bras that were small enough for me.
  7. Nursing Cami: With Ethan I didn't think I needed nursing camis, I just used my own spaghetti strap shirts and would pull them down.  I found that this stretches out my shirts and isn't very comfortable.  A friend gave me some hand-me-down nursing camis and it's been so much easier.  I recently purchased these from Target and I really like them but the first two buttons come undone.  I also purchased the Basics Felicity cami and I LOVE them.  
For all my nursing moms out there, were there any tips and products that you found helpful when first nursing?

I've had quite a few moms ask me about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding. Since there are already so many good posts out there answering this question, I'm just going to include the link to All of the info you would need is in their article.

I am by no means an expert in breastfeeding but I hope that you find my suggestions helpful as you embark upon your nursing journey.  As always if you want to message me for support or if you have questions about anything I mentioned in my post please feel free to e-mail me or follow me on Facebook and send me a message (all links are in the upper right hand corner of my blog).  Good luck mama, happy nursing!

*I was not compensated for this post.  These are products that I love, have purchased, and wanted to share with my readers.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Our Home Birth Story

Baby feet are the best!

This is my third attempt at writing this post.  I have so much to say and finding not only the words, but a coherent way to organize all of it, while sleep deprived and completely consumed with love for our new family unit has been difficult.  I will also say that this is the Moby Dick of blog posts.  So pour yourself a cup of coffe and get comfortable, you're in for a lengthy tale.

The Plan
I mentioned in My Home Birth Plan post that I was once again going to try having a home birth with Alice.  Going into it I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself, and my body.  I kept reminding myself that the labor was probably going to be long, that I may experience back labor once again, and if we had to transfer to the hospital that was OK.  The last time I labored at home I used the Bradley Method for pain control.  I didn't find that the techniques I learned in the class really helped me during birth.  I've talked to other moms that have loved that method, but it just didn't fit my style.  This time around I found an online Hypnobirthing class.  I'm not going to go into too much detail right now, but I promise I'm going to write an entire post about it, so more info to come!  

The Beginning
At 3:00 PM I started cramping every 10-15 minutes. The cramps were of the same intensity as the cramps I'd been feeling throughout my whole pregnancy, so I didn't want to get my hopes up.  I let Jeff, my mom, and my midwife know because I had lost my bloody show the day before, so I knew that it wouldn't be too long before labor started.  I also didn't want to disrupt anyone since it was so early still.  At 7:00 PM the contractions started getting stronger and I realized that I was indeed in labor, I was finally going to meet my little girl! I let my sister know (her and my mom were both invited to the birth), to get her things ready but not to leave her house yet, in case we were in for a long 26 hour labor, like we had been the first time.  

The Turning Point
At 9:00 PM Jeff and I went to bed so that we could get as much rest as possible before things got intense.  I soon realized that my contractions were very strong and no sleeping was going to occur, they were happening every 4-5 minutes, and the back labor was back! I would not wish back labor on my worst enemies.  For some reason my body insists on birthing my children while making me feel as if someone has poured lighter fluid across my back, lit it on fire, and is simultaneously cutting me open with a saw.  

During my labor with Ethan, I now realize that I had really psyched myself out.  All of the information I'd read in books, learned in my birthing class, and watched in videos was swimming around in my head.  I had restricted myself so much because the book said not to do this yet, or the video warned against this.  This time around I decided I was going to listen to one voice, and one voice only, MINE (a result of my hypnobirthing class).  I had also read a post about a mom that said that during her contractions her nurse had made sure she kept her eyes open and focused on an object.  I remember that with Ethan, during each contraction I would instinctively close my eyes shut and tense up my entire body, hence making it impossible for my body to open up and allow me to deliver my baby.  With these two things in mind I felt like I was ready to conquer that dang back labor.  

My Sanctuary
 I tried laboring on my side and soon realized that that did not feel good.  One thing that I did really enjoy while I was on my side was keeping my eyes open during contractions and looking at my crucifix.  I've struggled with anxiety during and after my pregnancies, lately a phrase that has helped me during my anxiety attacks is, "Jesus I Trust in You".  While I was having a contraction I'd look at my crucifix and repeat this to myself over and over again, I found so much comfort in my faith, and it put me in a wonderful meditative state.  

Suddenly, I got this gut instinct to go to the bathroom.  Connected to our room we have a tiny bathroom that's smaller than most people's closets, but for some reason I wanted to go in there.  I held onto the bathroom sink, did my deep breathing, and swayed my hips.  I've danced Hula and Belly Dancing, and I found that the hip movements I did while dancing really helped relieve the pain.  Then I told Jeff that I wanted to go into the shower.  Any instinct I had while laboring I immediately listened to.  I got into the shower and let the hot water hit my back, I once again did my deep breathing and swayed my hips, it was glorious.  At this point the contractions were every 2 minutes, but I still didn't want to get my hopes up, Ethan's had been every 2 minutes and I had only been 2 cm dilated at that point.  I was prepared to still labor for a long time.

At 11:30 PM my sister got there and so did the RN.  My midwife was finishing at another birth and would be on her way soon.  I had tested positive for GBS (Group B Strep) and the RN had to put an IV in so that I could be given antibiotics intravenously during the labor.  Then it was the big moment, the RN said she was going to check and see how dilated I was.  In my head I was hoping for 4 or 5 cm.  If I was at 4 or 5 I'd be happy with the progress.  I had to lay on my bed while she checked and the pain was excruciating. One of the reasons I love laboring at home is the ability to move around and choose the position I labor in.  The fact that I noticed a huge difference as soon as I changed positions is exactly why I love the freedom of a home birth.  I started to think that I couldn't do this, that I'd made a huge mistake, I'm not strong enough, what had I been thinking? Then the RN said, "Girl, you're 8-9 cm dilated."  I couldn't believe my ears, I had done it, I'd passed transition without even knowing it, and was almost ready to push. Wow, this was a fast labor.  

I told Jeff to get the birthing tub ready, I really wanted to have a water birth.  In the meantime I wanted to go into the bathtub while I waited for the tub to fill.  I went into our hall bathroom and stood in the bathtub while the hot water hit my back.  I once again felt like I had things under control, I was breathing and swaying, breathing and swaying.  All of a sudden my body told me to go on my knees.  The pain was stronger than anything I'd felt before, and I had the urge to push, but my midwife wasn't there yet.  She was on the road and due any minute.  Then Jeff told me I'd have to get out of the shower so that they could fill the tub.  Husbands take note, if your wife is almost 10 cm dilated never tell her she has to move so he can fill a birthing tub (that I had actually asked him to fill 2 hours earlier, but was not listened to).  I remember grabbing the tub and saying, "I don't care how you fill that tub, but I am not getting out of here! You didn't listen to me when I told you to fill it so you have to figure it out now!" I kept seeing him and my sister running past the bathroom with a hose trying to figure out where they'd plug it in.  I finally said, "Forget it, it's too late, I don't care about the stupid tub!" I must add that we bought this tub when I was pregnant with Ethan.  It was very expensive and after 2 births has never been used. Anyone in the market for a birthing tub?

 With every contraction the urge to push was overwhelming, I began to make deep guttural sounds.  It was as if I had become an animal.  Looking back I have a few thoughts about this period.  First of all, I'm really surprised the neighbors didn't call the police. I felt as if my animalistic noises were permeating the walls and reaching all corners of my neighborhood.  Second of all, how the heck did Ethan not wake up during all of this? Finally, as painful as this all was, I have never felt so in tune with my body.  During the deep guttural howling I was transformed.  I could have been in a forest, kneeling on a bed of leaves and I would have felt as if I knew exactly how to deliver my baby.  It was a very primal transformation and afterwards incredibly empowering.

As my midwife arrived and watched me labor in the tub, she noticed I wasn't gaining enough strength to push in the position I was in, so she suggested I move to the bed.  Once I was situated on the bed I was ready to push, but my water still hadn't broken.  She wanted me to either break my water on my own, or deliver the baby with my water intact.  I pushed and really tried but the pressure on my back was so intense I hit an emotional wall.  I had come this far and now I felt as if I couldn't go another step.  I asked her to break my water for me.

Once my water was broken Alice began to descend very quickly.  This was the part of labor that I had been fearing the last nine months.  With Ethan I had felt contractions and back labor, but I had never experienced the pain that came with pushing and delivering your baby.  Once I started to push, doubt once again crept into my mind.  I felt as if I had no idea what I was doing, as if everything I was doing was wrong, and I was terrified of tearing.  I had had a 3rd degree tear with Ethan because of the Episiotomy, and I had no idea what to expect with this birth.  My midwife made me push very slowly.  She calmly instructed me to push a little, then to stop.  She'd make me stop for a few seconds then push a little more.  It was the complete opposite of what you picture in the movies, someone screaming "PUSH!" While the mom yells at her husband, and tells him, "You did this to me!"  It was one of the calmest experiences of my life.  The whole room was quiet, I was concentrating so deeply in following my midwifes instructions that everyone and everything disappeared.  Once Alice's head could be seen I felt the "Ring of Fire", an intense burning sensation, and my midwife once again told me to hold it for a few seconds, then had me push just a little.  This took all of the self-control I had but I was able to do it.  After 15 minutes of pushing Alice was delivered and I had absolutely no tearing.  I reached down and pulled my baby girl up.  I looked at her and she was all that mattered.  I still had to deliver the placenta but after everything else, that was a walk in the park.

They gave Alice a quick examination then everyone left the room and Jeff and I just gazed at our little girl.  We were left alone for a really long time and I loved how quiet and comfy it was in my room.

Since having Alice at home I've had quite a few people ask me, "Why would you want to do that?" or tell me, "You're crazy! Thank goodness everything turned out OK."  It's annoying, but I just smile and don't let it bother me.  To those reading this wondering the same thing, this is my answer.  Throughout this experience I have never felt more safe or well taken care of.  I loved being in the comfort of my own home, being able to move around as I pleased, and not being hooked up to machines.  Once she was born the comfort of being at home was amazing.  Ethan woke up about 2 hours after she was born and joined us in bed.  He held his sister, asked questions, and was elated to see the newest member of our family.  Then Jeff put him back to bed and we called it a night.  My sister slept over and the next morning my mom came and cooked breakfast for us.  From the beginning of my labor to the arrival of our baby girl everything felt natural.  I thank God for this amazing experience and know that I am forever changed because of it.

The last thing I would like to say is that even though I chose this birthing method I in no way feel that moms who do not have their children at home are any less empowered than I was at my birth.  I did not have this amazing experience because it was a home birth, I had this life altering experience because I was able to birth the way I wanted to.  My hope for every mom that reads this post is that you are able to have the birth that makes you feel empowered.  This was the path that was right for me, I hope every mother out there is able to find the one that is right for her.     

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Toddler and our Pets


We all have fond memories of stories like, The Jungle Book and Tarzan; where small children are raised by wild animals and somehow grow into valiant young men.  These are the kinds of stories that we assume can only exist in the pages of a fantasy book, but after raising a toddler with 2 dogs and a cat I start to wonder.  Maybe if I wasn't here Ethan's animal caretakers would do an OK job.

What Ethan has learned from our animals:

1. Take care of your mess: Our dogs love to kick grass and dirt over their excrement.  One day Ethan noticed this and thought it was hilarious.  Ever since then I have caught him going to the bathroom in his diaper and if he's on the grass he quickly kicks grass behind him.

2. Independence: Our dogs are very good at using their dog door.  A few weeks ago Ethan ran to the dog door and took a head first leap into it before I could stop him.  He then proceeded to scream, "Help, Ethan stuck!" It was one of those moments when I thought, "Oh my gosh, I have to get my camera!" But my camera was out of reach, and Ethan was scared, so I helped him out of the dog door instead.

3. Protecting your home and family: Chloe and Mica are chihuahua terrier mixes, so of course they are incredibly yappy.  They have taught Ethan that the mail man is their arch nemesis and that anytime he comes around, or any slight noise is heard, that they must bark angrily or our house will be invaded and destroyed.  Now when any sudden movement or noise is heard I not only have 2 barking dogs, I also have a barking toddler.

4. Always show gratitude: At first Ethan would get scared when the dogs licked him, but we explained that that was their way of telling him they loved him.  So naturally when Ethan wants to show gratitude and love he also licks now.  We have even caught him grooming our dog Mica on many occasions; yes, it's exactly what you are imagining.

5. Being Resourceful: On more than one occasion I have found Ethan trying to drink out of the dogs' water bowl.  Although his own water cup was just a few steps away.  After watching the dogs take what looks like refreshing slurps all day long why not give it a try? He has also curled up in their dog beds when needing a short rest.
Pauli insisted on having her photo done at
Sears for this post.

6. Know your surroundings: One day Ethan saw the dogs smelling leaves and twigs on our walk, he asked me what they were doing.  I told him that that's how dogs can tell where they are going and who has been there before.  Now if Ethan is checking something out for the first time he makes sure to give it a really good sniff.  I'm really trying to teach him that we don't sniff strangers though.

7. Using his imagination:  We mustn't forget our cat, Pauli.  Ethan loves her very much because she is very mysterious.  He has created an alter ego which I call Gatito (cat in Spanish). When Ethan becomes Gatito he meows, purrs, rubs against you to show you affection, and crawls underneath tables.  I have found Gatito to be a great listener, rule follower, and have a very good appetite.  When Ethan's having a hard time following directions I even ask for Gatito to come out and play, he's been a great addition to the family.

At some point Jeff and I decided that all of this madness wasn't enough, we had too much time on our hands and not enough to do.  So we recently adopted a Leopard Gecko who we named Noodles (Ethan's favorite food).  He hasn't been here long enough for Ethan to pick up any useful skills, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
One of my favorite childhood images is that of Nana, the dog from Peter Pan.  As I child I would daydream about having a dog for a nanny, and I always felt that she did a great job.  At this point I'm ready to go out and buy 3 small bonnets, because in all honesty I think our pets are doing a pretty good job of keeping our toddler in line.

If you're interested in reading about the benefits of raising kids with dogs from a scientific standpoint here's a link to my sister's (she's a microbiologist) blog post on Furry Friends and Beneficial Bugs

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