Wading through the “must have” lists when making a baby registry is a pregnancy rite of passage. There are so many baby accoutrements that it can feel crazy overwhelming. And new parents will pretty much take any advice they can get on what is really a necessity and what can stay on the Babies R Us store shelves.
Now that I’m a seasoned parent (ha!), I thought I might share a few of the items that we have absolutely loved over the past three months. You really have no idea what you’re going to need/like/use until you’re in the thick of things, so this list actually includes lots of items that were never on our registry, and we purchased when we realized we had a need. My recommendation? Get Amazon Prime now and download the app to your phone—you’ll thank me later when you’re ordering something you didn’t know you desperately needed at 3am.
The crazy thing about babies is they’re all different (go figure), so what’s been a must for us might be something to skip for the next set of parents. But hopefully this list will still help!
Note: this post contains affiliate links—meaning I get a small kick-back from any purchases you make after clicking on my links at no additional cost to you. All of these items are things that we use and love every single day. Thanks for your support!
Honestly, we ended up registering for these bottles mostly because the come in pretty colors! I’m so glad we picked these though because they are so solid and strong. I’ve dropped them multiple times on our hardwood floors without breaking. They also sell caps to make them into sippy cups and water bottles later. The one caveat is the nipples are way too fast of a flow for most breastfed babies, so we use Dr. Brown’s Preemie Nipples with our LifeFactory bottles and rings. Works perfectly!
I didn’t originally own one of these, but my Lactation Consultant taught me how to get positioned and comfortable using a MBF nursing pillow, and from that moment on, I was sold. It was the best $35 we’ve ever spent. I still use the pillow for many nursing sessions, but don’t rely on it anymore—I can nurse pretty much anywhere—but in those first few weeks, it was a life saver. I love it because if you position it right, you can do totally hands-free nursing with this pillow.
We’re a babywearing family, and I’m a bit of a baby carrier collector. I have seven different carriers, and they all have their merits, but the O&A carrier is my absolute favorite! Not only is it adorable and comfortable, but it’s also the only one of my carriers that I can easily and discreetly nurse in. I’ve been told that as JuneBug gets older, nursing will become easier in some of my other carriers (like my ring sling), but for now, I love my O&A!
This is Craig’s favorite carrier. It’s comfortable, and very easy to put on and take off. It so easy to use, that we often will transfer a sleeping baby from the car seat or my arms into the carrier without her noticing. Craig absolutely loves this carrier, but I have one major issue with it—it’s difficult for me to nurse in. It requires the adjustment of four different straps to get her into nursing position, and even then, it isn’t very comfortable. Obviously, this isn’t a problem for Daddy!
When I was putting together our registry, I thought people who bought wipe warmers were crazy. My girl didn’t need warm bum cleaners! And then she made her arrival, and we found out that cold wipes make for a seriously unhappy JuneBug. They would turn middle of the night diapers changes from a minor inconvenience to an all-out scream fest. The wipe warmer solved all of our diaper change issues. We love it! And I’ll never ever judge a wipe warming mother again.
A lot of cloth diapering families have an extensive stash of various types of diapers, but we chanced it and bought 24 BumGenius Freetime all-in-one diapers while I was pregnant, and I’m so thankful they’ve worked out beautifully for us. I’ve heard horror stories about newborn poopsplosions, and we’ve never had an issue with that! We’ve had a few leaks if she sleeps in late and hasn’t had a diaper change all night, but other than that, we’ve never had any issues.
We skipped the diaper pail and instead just installed a hook onto the side of our changing table to hold a hanging wet bag, and it’s been working perfectly. We really like our PlanetWise wet bags! We have two of the hanging ones, one medium one for the diaper bag, and one small one to hold wipes in the diaper bag.
Baby Girl hates this thing now because it’s so reclined, and she’s a big girl who wants to sit up, but during the first two months or so, we used it constantly! It really was nice to have a soft, cozy, and safe place to put her that was easily portable. She loved lounging around on it outside on the front porch. My one issue with it: the fabric attracts pet fur like CRAZY. We tried to keep it clean, but eventually resigned that it was a losing battle.
Best. Book. Ever. This book is just so darn fun. We love reading this one! Other books we love: Giraffes Can’t Dance, The Little Blue Truck, and The Pokey Little Puppy. Admittedly, Baby Girl is going through a “reading strike” right now (she cries when we read to her!), but hopefully that’ll end soon and we can get back to our favorites.
Baby Girl is just starting to get really interested in toys, and she started off showing her interest with this guy. She loves the fun patterns on the bottom of his feet. She also loves just staring at his face and feeling all the different textures with her fingers. (Edit to add: I JUST saw that Moritmer is on sale on Zulily today! His sister Muffin is also there.)
“They” say breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. But the truth is, it’s a learned skill (for both you and your baby), and it does hurt until you learn how to do it properly. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of it and it won’t hurt anymore, but at the beginning? Yowzers. Buy two pots of this stuff. Put one next to your nursing station and one in your diaper bag. Slather it on after every feeding. It’s not sticky, it’s all natural, and it’s super healing and moisturizing.
We don’t swaddle, but we do use this blanket all the time! We have one muslin blanket by Zebi, and a whole pack of the Aden & Anais blankets that show up on every “must register for” list, and I have to say, we prefer the Zebi blankets. The Zebi blankets are more pricey, but they are also a ton softer and a lot bigger. I wish we had more than just one!
A good nursing bra is a must, and I’m so happy I went with these from Bravado. They are honestly more expensive than any bra I’ve ever owned before, but they are worth the cash. They are supportive, but have no underwire (vital for avoiding plugged milk ducts), and are nice and smooth and seamless, and the do a good job of flexing with an ever-changing cup-size. Highly recommended!
We originally didn’t have a mirror in the car, but the first time I tried riding in the front seat, I quickly realized we couldn’t see Baby Girl because she was rear-facing, and I kinda freaked out! We immediately ran out and bought this mirror, and attached it to the headrest. It’s nice because the mirror is fish-eye and large enough that you can see her whole body from both the driver’s and passenger’s seats. She also loves looking at her pretty little face in it!
I originally thought I’d just wash bottles in the dishwasher, but after our first bottle load, we realized there were tiny specs of food on the bottles—even though we didn’t wash any other dishes with them. And that was the end of that! We immediately ordered this bottle rack, plus the tree and flower accessories so we could hand-wash bottles, and it’s worked perfectly for us. And it’s adorable! I love adorable things.
I spent an embarrassing amount of time reading bottle brush reviews and asking for recommendations on social media. In the end I took a chance and ordered this one, and it works perfectly. It cleans well, without damaging our bottles or my pump parts, and I love that it has a nipple cleaner and a stand.
Seasoned parents: chime in in the comments with your must-have baby gear items! Help other parents-to-be create their registries.
I went back and forth about sharing Juniper’s birth story. I always knew I wanted to write it for me, but I just really couldn’t figure out if I wanted to share it publicly or not. The truth is, there are few things more personal and precious than the birth of your child, and, for some reason, I was afraid that sharing it with the masses might cheapen that feeling.
But what I realized is that, if anything, sharing my birth story might do the complete opposite. Sharing this story might amplify the joy and excitement I felt on that day, and the truth is, the further and further I got into writing the story, the more and more I began to realize that was exactly what was happening. I was excited to share my story. Especially because I feel like my story was so positive. In our trainwreck-obsessed culture, negative or traumatic birth stories tend to spread like an epidemic. Even though I had some complications, I would overall consider the birth of my daughter to be a very positive experience (and not just because I got the cutest kid in the world at the end of it).
When you’re pregnant, you hear time and time again about the horrible, terrible, excruciating experiences of some women during childbirth. And while, I’m in no way discounting those experiences, I feel like it’s just as important to share the positive experiences. The truth is, birth experiences fall on a spectrum, and just because one story lands on one end of the spectrum, it doesn’t make it any more or less valuable than one that falls on the other end. My story isn’t traumatic. It isn’t negative. It isn’t even all that long. But it is just as valuable.
The short story: I had a relatively short and easy labor. I didn’t use any pain medications, but I did have some medical complications that derailed some aspects of my birth plan. Overall, it was mostly still the experience I wanted. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. And yes, we had some hiccups. But I didn’t hate it. In fact, I feel incredibly empowered by the birth of my daughter, and that’s something I feel so fortunate to be able to experience.
The long (loooooonnnggg) story…
I suppose the real story begins back when we made the decision about who our care provider would be and where we would deliver. One of the phrases I heard early on in pregnancy is that you give birth the way you live. And that always resonated with me. I truly believe there is no “right” or “wrong” way to birth a child. Just what is right for you and your family. To me, the concept that you want a birth experience that aligns with how you live your daily life really made sense to me. Craig and I have always been on the middle path when it comes to medicine. We both appreciate the value of modern medicine, but we also believe there is a strong case for trying more natural methods for tackling ailments. I’m not afraid to pop an Excedrin if my headache gets really bad, but first, I’m going to try to drink some water and rest in a dark room for a bit—and that’s the philosophy we wanted to apply to the birth of our daughter, too.
We were very fortunate to find both a medical provider and a hospital in our area that pretty much spot-on aligned with our philosophy. We found a group of certified nurse midwives that work in conjunction with obstetricians in the same office. The idea: as long as your pregnancy is healthy and normal, you see the midwives for low-intervention care. But if something arises that requires a more medical approach, the obstetricians are available to help manage your care. We also decided to give birth in a local hospital birth center that has a reputation for being accepting to a wide-variety of birth plans—including our plan to go as intervention-free as possible. I know a lot of folks feel comfortable with home births or giving birth in stand-alone birthing centers, but it was just never something that I felt 100% comfortable with doing. I never thought of pregnancy and birth as a medical event, but I also understood that it could quickly become one (and, as it turns out, mine did). And for that reason, it felt like birthing in a hospital was the best bet for us.
Because I was having a perfectly healthy pregnancy, I was able to keep seeing the midwives through the entire duration of my pregnancy. The only inkling of an issue popped up at an appointment the day after my due date—slightly elevated blood pressure. In the office, they waited a bit, retook my BP with another cuff, and it went down some (although still a touch high), but no one was worried about it. I was given the go-ahead to keep on keeping on with my pregnancy.
I set up an appointment for 10 days later, and laughed with the receptionist that there was “no way” I’d be keeping that appointment. Joke was on me, because on June 19th (11 days after my due date) I found myself still very pregnant and back at the midwives’ office. After a few tests, we saw that the baby was happy and healthy, but I wasn’t doing so well. My blood pressure was consistently high after multiple readings, and I was showing some other signs of preeclampsia like a headache and swelling. The midwife admitted to me that they don’t know much about what causes preeclampsia or why it happens, but that it’s definitely not something to take lightly—in extreme cases, it can lead to death of both the mom and the baby. She also admitted that it was entirely possible that my symptoms were not at all related to preeclampsia and were related to other things (like the fact that it was 95° outside all week and I was probably dehydrated), but that it was something that was worrisome enough that she would like to go ahead and figure out out next steps. Unfortunately, the only treatment for preeclampsia is to give birth, so an induction was scheduled for three days later.
I had a lot of flexibility in my birth plan, but I really didn’t want to be induced. Mostly because I felt like our due date was set too early, and I really wanted Baby J to have all the time she needed in my body to come out healthy and strong. But also because I’d heard horror stories about inductions that didn’t “take” and meant days worth of laboring without much progress. But, after a few tears, I came to grips with the idea that my pregnancy might be headed away from the normal category and be turning medical—and that if the cure for that medical issue is an induction, so be it.
I hadn’t been feeling contractions at all at that point, but after being hooked up to the monitor, we discovered I was having pretty regular contractions. And after a cervical check, we found out I was already three centimeters dilated. So my body was definitely already doing some of the work to get things moving along. The midwife was pleased enough with my progress on my own that she went ahead and felt comfortable enough to strip my membranes, and to delay my induction until the end of the weekend. I had three days to get this baby out on my own. I made a call to our doula and got a list of suggestions for how to move things along, and started Operation No Induction.
The next day was my birthday! It was bittersweet to wake up that morning not in labor. Because on one hand, I really wanted to go into labor as soon as possible to avoid induction, but on the other hand, I really wanted June Bug to have her own birthday for the rest of her life. I decided that the best thing I could do would be to relax and not stress about it. So Craig and I set up shop by the pool and lounged around for hours.
My parents came over that afternoon and brought me birthday dinner. We had cake (Craig made me a giant Samoa cake). I opened my presents. And all through that—nada. I wasn’t feeling a thing. After dinner, Craig and I crawled into bed to take a nap, but I couldn’t sleep because I thought I might be feeling regular contractions. It turns out, what I had thought was just the baby’s head pushing down on my bladder for the past few weeks, was actually what a contraction felt like (if you’ve never felt them before, you have no idea!). So once they became more regular, I realized, “Hey, so that’s a contraction!” and thought back to the hundreds of times I’d felt that same thing over the past few weeks. So, as it turns out, every time I told someone I wasn’t feeling any contractions when they asked, I was lying. I just didn’t know they were contractions! Ha!
Anyway, now that I actually knew what was going on, I got up, went and made myself a snack and starting timing.
Sure enough, I was having contractions for about 45 seconds every 5 minutes. Craig got up after I was timing for about an hour (around 7pm), and I told him what was happening, and we were both very excited that it was (a) happening on its own and (b) happening late enough in the day that she was probably going to have her own birthday—woohoo! I took a shower, had Craig snap a last picture of me pregnant, and then headed to bed to try to rest as much as possible. Craig texted our doula to let her know we thought it was “it”.
I knew it was important for me to rest during this early labor, but I was honestly entirely too excited to get sleep. Craig and I both laid in bed and worked through these early contractions for a few hours. I even talked on the phone to some friends and family (who were wishing me happy birthday) between contractions.
Somewhere around 11pm, the contractions started getting intense enough that I need to change positions and really work through them. I tried all kinds of different positions—hands and knees, walking, squatting, draped over a birth ball, bouncing on the birth ball—and they all worked at different times. I’m thankful that while my contractions got much more intense and lasted much longer, they never really got much closer together than three minutes (even when I was pushing), so I had a nice break to recover between each contraction. At some point, Craig and I looked up at the clock and it was past midnight and we both did a little cheer that baby girl would have her own birthday!
Craig kept in constant contact with our doula all night long—she offered to come to our house and help me labor, but Craig and I honestly both felt like we were handling it just fine. I never felt panicked or like it was more than I could handle, so we told her we’d just keep her in the loop. A few times, she asked to listen to me go through a contraction on the phone, so she could hear the kinds of sounds I was making—that’s how she could tell how far along in the process I was. At around 6:30am, after laboring for about 12 hours at home, she asked to hear me go through a contraction and after hearing me moan and groan for two minutes, told us it was go time! Time to head to the hospital.
The timing of heading to the hospital couldn’t have been better—7am on a Saturday morning meant absolutely no traffic, and we were there in about a half hour—which was record time for that trip. I labored in the backseat, and I had heard a lot of horror stories about contractions in the car, but honestly, they weren’t that bad for me. Again, I think it’s because I had such a nice break between each contraction to gather my strength. I even felt good enough between contractions to snap a photo of the pretty sunrise out the car window!
We got to the hospital, and I could immediately feel my labor slowing down. That’s one of the things I feared about going into the hospital. We were having such great progress at home, that I hated the idea of changing locations and my labor stalling. We checked in, headed to the labor and delivery room, and the nurse checked me—I was six centimeters dilated! I was so happy with that progress. We had done such good work on our own overnight.
But then, she hooked me up to the blood pressure cuff, and that’s when things started to take a turn.
The first BP reading they did on me was 175/120—dangerously high. So they did another one on me after we’d settled a bit in the room, and it dropped, but only down to 155/100—still very high and very dangerous. At that point, the nurse came into the room and said something like, “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to throw your birth plan out the window” (which I think she said to me while I was on all-fours in the bed contracting). And that’s when I burst into tears. We had worked so hard overnight to have the labor we wanted, and it felt like I suddenly had absolutely no control over what was going on. The nurse didn’t really explain what was going to happen other than the fact that I had to go on a magnesium sulfate drip, and that meant my birth plan was done. She just kept telling me all the things I couldn’t do—I couldn’t labor in the tub, I couldn’t get out bed, I couldn’t change positions. And I just kept crying. Even though my BP was probably high all night (and honestly, we’re probably lucky something “bad” didn’t happen while laboring at home), it just felt like we had gone from a perfectly healthy birth to a medical emergency in 10 seconds flat—and I wasn’t coping well. I’m sure it didn’t help that I hadn’t slept all night (I would not recommend going into labor in the evening, kids).
I managed to ask the nurse to talk to my midwife in between contractions (mostly, because the nurse was pissing me off and I wanted to hear it from someone I trusted), and the nurse told us that we couldn’t talk to her, but I could talk to the OB on call—one of the OBs that were part of my midwife’s office. I remember saying, “But I really would like to talk to our midwife.” I think I just wanted to hear it from someone who knew about my pregnancy and that I had a relationship with. And at that point, our doula turned to me and said something like, “This isn’t a midwife job anymore. It’s medical now.” And that finally registered with me—again, I think it helped hearing from someone I trusted instead of some nurse without very good bedside manner that I’d just met 10 minutes prior. So I asked to see the OB, and while we were waiting for him, Craig and our doula helped calm me down. They talked to me about all the things I still could do, and helped me focus on how much good work my body had already done. And it started to register with me that a situation exactly like this is why we chose the care providers we did—I was having a medical emergency, and we had prepared for that.
The OB came in and he was pretty much the nicest doctor in the entire world. The first thing he said to me was, “Nothing in your birth plan has to change, we just have to put you on this medicine.” And that felt like a huge relief. He had given me my control back. It wasn’t that I was so birth plan focused that I couldn’t handle changes or hiccups, it was that the nurse had made me suddenly feel like this was no longer my birth, like I had no say in the matter. And with just one sentence, the doctor gave my birth back to me. I suddenly felt like this was something I could totally handle.
Since I couldn’t use the tub to labor in, they moved us to a non-tub suite room, and we got everything set up for the long haul around 8:30am. They hooked me up to the IV and started me on the medicine, while Craig and our doula got the room cozy and comfy with a diffuser, candles, and contraband snacks (I wasn’t “allowed” to eat while on the mag drip, but we made the executive decision that me keeping my energy up was more important than the tiny chance of me aspirating during emergency surgery). They hooked me up to a high dose of magnesium and warned me that it would probably make me feel terrible for the first half hour. Thankfully though, I didn’t feel any differently, and because we had finally settled into the room, my contractions started picking back up again. The biggest issue was that I was having back labor, and laying on your back during back labor is pretty much the most miserable thing on the planet, but I had to lay flat on my back for the first half hour on the magnesium drip. It was pretty torturous. At this point, it required both Craig and my doula to talk me through the contractions. Again, I was really thankful that my contractions never got very close, I had a 2-3 minute break between each contraction.
After my half hour on the super high dose of magnesium, my blood pressure had regulated, and I was given the green light to not lay on my back (although I had to stay in bed). Our doula asked for a peanut-shaped birth ball, and I turned on my side with that ball between my knees—and with that position change, my contractions jumped up in intensity and duration. They definitely hurt, but I closed my eyes and moaned and groaned through each one. I know Craig and our doula were “working” on me while I contracting—I knew they were massaging my feet and my hands and taking care of me, but I honestly didn’t really register any of it. I just closed my eyes and went into my own world. And then when the contraction was over, I would do a big deep breath, and open my eyes to see them both smiling at me telling me how awesome I was doing. It felt so good to feel so supported.
I have no idea of the timeline, but it felt like after just a few minutes of laboring with the peanut ball between my legs, I suddenly felt the uncontrollable urge to push. It’s funny, you see all the movies and TV shows that portray birth and you hear nurses or doctors saying “Don’t push! Don’t push!”—I have no idea how someone can stop pushing. The best way I can describe it would be if someone asked you to stop throwing up in the middle of a heave—it’s so involuntary.
And with that first contraction that had a pushing sensation with it, I went with it. No one ever gave me “permission” to push, I just went with what my body wanted to do. Our doula gave me directions on how to push (what I should be feeling with a “good” push, how I should use my breath and sounds to put as much power behind them as possible), and I could feel Juniper moving down with each push—it was a really motivating feeling. I know a lot of women deal with contractions that are pretty much on top of each other during pushing, but again, I had a good three-minute break between each contraction while pushing. I literally was smiling and joking around between pushes—crazy, right?
I do remember opening my eyes after one contraction and noticing that the room was suddenly full of activity—there were five or so nurses, and our midwife was standing at the head of my bed—I didn’t even see her come in. She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt that said, “Everything is going to be okay” and I cracked up laughing. I took it as a good sign that the room was suddenly so full of people, that must mean she was getting close!
I did about 15 total minutes of pushing before everyone in the room started getting really excited—they kept telling me she was right there, but I had a hard time believing it. First of all, who only pushes for 15 minutes on their first labor? And secondly, it never really hurt badly! I felt like there was no way it could be close to being over because I hadn’t felt the excruciating, life-altering pain that I heard about. But, with the next contraction, I pushed hard (and in the middle of pushing, told Craig to look down, because I could feel her coming out), and she was out! She was actually born in her sac of water—my water never broke—and the midwife broke it as she came out. I heard everyone burst out laughing, because she apparently somersaulted out of me once the water was broken. She was born at 10:50am—about three hours after we’d checked into the hospital, and about 16 hours from when I first felt contractions.
They pulled her up on my chest, and Craig and I cried and cried over our little girl. She was perfect. We fell instantly in love.
She stayed on my chest for about two hours, while they got me cleaned up and stitched up (I had a second degree tear—not too bad, and I honestly didn’t feel it happen). The room cleared out pretty quickly and Craig and I were left to stare at our daughter.
After the birth, I had some issues with magnesium poisoning (I apparently got too much!), and my BP actually bottomed out at one point while I was holding Juniper, and I quickly asked someone to take her before my eyes rolled back in my head, and I became totally incoherent. Craig said it scared the crap out of him. But they were able to bring me back to reality with some juice and IV fluids. They had planned on keeping me on the magnesium for at least 12 hours, but because I was reacting so negatively to it, they cut me off early. Unfortunately, they were still worried my BP would spike again, so I was restricted to the bed (and my IV and catheter—not fun) for the next 12 hours. And they kept telling me I couldn’t eat or drink—but I had an awesome nurse sneak me a cheeseburger later that night. After not eating real food for the past 30 hours, it tasted like the best thing I’d ever eaten.
I feel so fortunate that I was able to have a birth like I did, and considering the complication I had, I feel really happy that the system worked for us. I’m glad we went with our instincts and decided on a birth plan that made us feel comfortable and in control. I’ve heard a lot of women who had traumatic birth experiences, and while they may have ended up with a healthy baby in the end, and a lot of people say “that’s all that matters” but the truth is, the mothers still carry around the baggage of a rough labor and delivery. Being a new mom is a hard enough emotional transition—I’m so grateful that I don’t have to go through the physical and emotional recovery from a traumatic birth as well.
As far as my recovery, I’m sure I’ll do a more in-depth post about it later, but recovery has mostly been a breeze for me. In the hospital, they kept asking me if I wanted pain medication, and I kept refusing—not because I was trying to be a hero, but because I literally didn’t feel any pain. For about a week after labor, my stitches stung a bit when I sneezed, but other than that, I felt mostly normal. It did take me a bit to recover from the physical effects of the magnesium (that stuff is nothing to mess around with) and I left the hospital anemic, but those things both resolved themselves in the first few days home from the hospital. And now, three weeks out, I feel like my old self again (other than soreness from breastfeeding—we’re still working on it). I’m still taking it easy because I know that even if I feel okay, my body is still recovering, and I want to give it all the time it needs to heal.
Anyone else out there have a relatively “easy” birth? Share your positive birth stories!
I know it’s cliché to say when you have a baby, but holy cow, how is it possible that our little June Bug is already a week old? It’s crazy, because I’ve been awake for probably twice the amount of time this week as I was last week, but this week feels like it’s half the length. It’s a very strange feeling to want both time to completely stop and wanting it to speed up.
This week has definitely been one of the hardest ones of my life. I expected it to be hard. Society conditions you to expect that. But I don’t think I quite grasped the reality of how hard it would be. And honestly, I’m not sure there is anyway to grasp that until you’re in the middle of it. Just like with the time passing thing, the emotional rollercoaster of the newborn stage is completely contradictory. On one hand, it’s so incredibly difficult, emotional and taxing, you’d think you’d want to do anything in your power to make it stop. But that’s not the case, because even though it really sucks, it’s totally worth it and you’re happier than you’ve ever been. I’ve never done anything in my life that is so difficult, but so rewarding (maybe that’s what you runners get from marathons?).
Anywho, one of the things I’ve been thinking about during 3am feedings is how much of a disconnect there can be between the expectations of a major life event and the reality. You can do as much reading, researching and learning as possible, and it still doesn’t entirely prepare you for the experience of something. I knew that going into parenthood. I knew there was no amount of reading I could do that would really ready me for the journey I was about to take, but even so, I felt like I prepared as much as I could.
Of course, even with all the preparation, there have been some things that have totally caught me off guard this week (and I’m sure more and more will bubble up as we keep on the parenthood road). I’m not naive enough to think that I have anything of substance to add to the droves of experts and parents doling out advice out there, but I can share my experience. And I think there is value in hearing everyone’s experiences. I think that same thing applies to labor and delivery, and I definitely plan on sharing that story with you guys in the near future, but first, I thought I’d do some reflecting on my expectations and reality from the first week of motherhood.
What I Expected: Baby blues, weepiness, crying all the time, sadness.
What I Didn’t Expect: Crushing anxiety and panic attacks.
When you’re pregnant, you hear a lot about the baby blues (and their ugly, more severe cousin, postpartum depression), so both Craig and I have been on high alert for any signs that I’m not coping well with the insane amounts of hormones that are ebbing and flowing through my body. We’ve been on the watch for your typical signs of depression, but one thing we didn’t learn until this week is that postpartum anxiety is just as common. I’m not talking run-of-the-mill anxiety because you have a tiny, fragile human to take care of. I’m talking full on, feel like you’re having a heart attack anxiety for no apparent reason. I have yet to feel down or sad, but anxiety? I’ve got that one in droves.
I’ve never suffered with anxiety much before, so this has been an incredibly confusing thing to wrap my brain around. For the first few days (both in the hospital and at home), I felt like surely something had to be wrong with me physically. Craig almost took me to the ER one night because he thought for sure I was having a heart attack. We’re both so thankful to have a great support system (both in person and online) and we’re able to figure out that anxiety is a totally normal part of the postpartum hormone crash (and we also learned that a few of the complications I had during labor can exacerbate the problem). It made me feel better just to know that what I was going through was normal. And now, I’m happy to say, after a week postpartum, the anxiety attacks are dwindling in both frequency and intensity.
What I Expected: To be sleep deprived.
What I Didn’t Expect: Insomnia.
The number of things you hear about sleep when you’re pregnant is insane. You’re going to be exhausted. You should stock up on your sleep while you can. Sleep when the baby sleeps. And while all of that is true, none of it talks about something I had no idea was common—postpartum insomnia. I’m not talking about not being able to sleep because there is a screaming baby in your room, I’m talking about when the baby is peacefully passed out in her bassinet, you’re exhausted and you can’t sleep. I had no idea insomnia was an issue in postpartum mothers. I figured I’d be so exhausted that I could fall asleep at the drop of the hat, but it hasn’t been the case. In fact, our little June Bug is actually a really awesome sleeper, and I’m the one who can’t seem to get the whole sleeping thing down. It has definitely improved as the anxiety attacks are lessening (trying to fall asleep when your heart feels like its going to explode and you are hyperventilating is not easy), but I can still tell that sleep won’t come as easily as it once did—and probably never will.
What I Expected: Craig to be an awesome Dad.
What I Didn’t Expect: Craig is an awesome Dad and an awesome husband.
I never had any doubts that my husband would pick up this whole fatherhood thing pretty quickly. I also expected to take a bit of a backseat in his life while he figured out his new role as a Daddy, but I’ve been so insanely impressed with his ability to juggle both roles. I think he grasped early on that the best thing he can do for our daughter right now is to make sure I’m taken care of, and he’s been making that his priority. Of course, he holds and loves and takes care of our little girl, but he also does everything he can to make sure I’m set up to take care of her as well. This involves everything from being the one to change the majority of the diapers to spoon-feeding me yogurt while I nurse at 2am. I feel so fortunate to have him along on this ride with me.
What I Expected: To enjoy having a support system.
What I Didn’t Expect: I need my support system.
Before I gave birth, I thought it was going to be nice to have my parents nearby. They could bring me dinner. Or come hold the baby while I showered. And while, they’ve done both of those things, the importance of having them nearby has gone so far above and beyond those menial chores. Like I said above, Craig has been amazing, but I truly believe the hard reality of life with a newborn goes beyond just what two people can handle (especially when they’re first time parents). I truly get the “it takes a village” sentiment now. If I didn’t have my parents around, I’m sure we would have muddled through it, but having their support has been so key in helping both Craig and I feel like we can succeed as parents.
My parents have done truly helpful things like laundry, cleaning (as I type this, my Mama is vacuuming our bedroom), running errands, and driving us to doctor’s appointments, but I think just the emotional support of having them nearby has been so much more important than the actions. On our second night home, at 2 am, I sat on the couch in hysterics in the middle of the panic attack, and I managed to choke out, “I want my Mommy” to Craig. He called, and she was over within a few minutes. It wasn’t that I wanted her because Craig was doing a bad job, but I wanted her because I knew I needed someone to take care of me in that moment and we needed someone to take care of the baby because I was a mess—and as awesome as Craig is, he’s just one person. I’ve said multiple times this week that I don’t understand how single parents or parents that are far away from their support systems handle the first few days/weeks of parenthood. I feel so fortunate to be in the situation I am in.
What I Expected: My appetite to return.
What I Didn’t Expect: I could eat everything ever.
I made no secret of the fact that I felt rough during pregnancy, and my appetite was particularly screwed up for the majority of those 42 weeks. I was really excited for my appetite to regulate postpartum (and a little bit terrified I’d be one of the 1% of women who still deal with morning sickness postpartum). Thankfully, all my morning sickness symptoms were going pretty much the second I pushed the little one out—literally, I was asking for a cheeseburger within the hour—but something I didn’t really expect was just how flipping hungry I’d be! I had heard breastfeeding makes you hungry, but I didn’t have any frame of reference for this kind of hunger. I imagine I’m probably wolfing down a good 3000 calories a day! It is so nice to enjoy to eat again. And hey, if my body needs all that fuel to make milk, I’m all for it.
What I Expected: This week to be difficult.
What I Didn’t Expect: This week to be hilarious.
Oh man, some of the things and situations that you land in during your first week of parenthood are absolutely hilarious. I’m not sure if it’s sleep-deprived laughter, hormonal surges or actual hilarity, but I’ve found myself all-out-cackling a few times this week. There was one night, after I had finally come down from a panic attack, Craig had finally gotten the baby to sleep in her bassinet, and I was sprawled out on the couch without shirt on (because, ow) and he was curled up sleeping on Puppyface’s bed on the floor, and I just started howling in laughter. Look at what this little eight pound bundle of cuteness had reduced us to!
What I Expected: Decisions to be black and white.
What I Didn’t Expect: Every shade of gray.
When you’re pregnant, you get asked all kinds of questions about “how” you are going to parent. Are you going to breastfeed or formula feed? Are you going to cloth diaper or use disposables? Are you going to use a bassinet or a crib? At the time, the answers feel so black and white. You do the research, and you make your decision. But when you’re in the middle of it, you realize there is a whole range of shades of gray to choose from on almost every single parenting decision. It might eventually become more clear, but for now, every decision we make is about getting through today. And that might or might not be the same decision we make for tomorrow.
What I Expected: To loathe getting up at 3am to feed.
What I Didn’t Expect: To love early morning nursing.
Everyone talks about how much it sucks to get up every two hours to feed your kid, and while, it’s not totally awesome, I’ve actually found quite a bit of enjoyment out of our early morning nursing sessions. They’ve started to regulate a bit (for now) and tend to happen after we’ve both had our longest stretches of sleep, so while I don’t feel totally rested, I feel more rested that normal, and I can just sit there by the light of the LED candles (what we use as a nightlight) and enjoy the beautiful face of my beautiful girl. It’s a really spectacular time. And then we both drift off to sleep, and the next time we wake up, the horizon is usually starting to lighten up and we’ve made it through another night (which is a victory). I can’t definitely see why mothers are hesitant to give up that last nursing session when they’re weaning.
What I Expected: All-consuming love.
What I Didn’t Expect: All-consuming every emotion.
Of course I’d love my child, and while it’s the kind of love that’s impossible to put down it words, it is definitely something I expected. What I didn’t expect was that all the other emotions that go along with her to be just as all-consuming as the love I feel for her. All-consuming worry when constantly checking to make sure she is breathing. All-consuming pride when she does something awesome like pooping (woohoo!). Every emotion that is tied to her is heightened to the nth degree. I’m not sure if that’s hormonal or just parenthood, but I’m trying to go with it. It is such a blessing to be able to feel so deeply for someone. What a lucky girl I am.
What’s the hardest (but most rewarding) thing you’ve ever done?
Craig and I are thrilled to announce the birth of our daughter:
Born June 21, 2014 at 10:50am
8 pounds 2 1/2 ounces
20 1/2 inches long
We’re all healthy, happy, and absolutely thrilled! Thank you all so much for your kind words! Lots more updates to come, but for now, I’m gonna go back to snuggling my little girl.
Well, it’s now June. And in June, I’m going to become a mother. That is insane!
I hit 39 weeks pregnant today. I’m officially only seven days away from my due date. And while both my midwives and the ultrasound tech think I’m going to go into labor early because Baby J is measuring big (I’ve been measuring at 40+ weeks since week 37), Craig and I both have the sneaking suspicion I’m going to be pregnant for a few more weeks—although we wouldn’t be crushed either way.
One of the best tidbits of advice we got from our birth classes was to think of your “due month” instead of a “due date”. People get so fixated on their due date, and really, that due date is just an educated guess (and only 4% actually go into labor on their due date). Whereas, a due month (starting at the beginning of week 38 and going until week 42—if your health care provider lets you go that long) is much more reasonable—80% of women give birth during that time. So we’re rockin’ the due month philosophy.
Either way, sometime between today and June 22nd, I’ll be a Mama to this little girl (who we found out has a lot of hair thanks to a late-term ultrasound)!
I’m feeling pretty great for being so close to the end. So many women talk about how the end of pregnancy is so incredibly uncomfortable, and while it isn’t my favorite thing in the whole world, it’s a cake walk compared to the discomfort I had in the first two trimesters. With the heat and humidity, I’m dealing with some seriously swollen feet and ankles (flip-flops are the only shoes that fit anymore). And walking up stairs or really anything with any kind of incline is an out-of-breath workout. But other than that, I’m feeling pretty normal.
I am getting excited to get my body back. I’ve gained 45 pounds, and while it’ll be nice to not have a basketball strapped to my stomach anymore and eventually work on getting back to my pre-pregnancy size, I’m really more talking about getting other things back to normal. Like being able to breathe through my nose (which hasn’t happened since October) or being able to drink water without feeling like I’m going to toss my cookies (again, happening since October).
I wrapped up the majority of my work projects a few weeks ago, so I’ve been really trying to focus on embracing my nesting instincts for the past few weeks. I’m not much of a cleaner/organizer, so if these hormones are giving me the urge to do something like scrub down our recycling bins inside-and-out, I’m gonna go with it (like I did last weekend). There are still quite a few things that I’d like to get done before I go into labor (the nursery still isn’t finished, I still have a few more blog posts I’d like to write, I have some sewing projects I’d like to do), but nothing is a necessity. So I’m kinda just floating around in mega-pregnant bliss right now.
It might sound lazy, but I’m trying to embrace my last few days of not being a parent. It’s not that I’m not excited about meeting Baby J, it’s just that I’m aware that the second I feel that first contraction, my life is forever going to change. So I’m taking some time to enjoy the things that I might not get to do for the next 18 or so years. I’m taking naps. I’m sleeping in. I’m watching crappy TV. I’ve even found some time to do some more freezer cooking. Which I’m sure we will seriously appreciate over the next few months.
Anywho, there isn’t a whole lot more to report on the BabyWatch front (I have no “signs” of labor yet and I’ve opted out of cervical checks at my weekly midwife appointments—so I have no idea what’s going on up in there).
I have no plans on taking a laptop to the hospital when the time comes, so chances are, I won’t update here with an announcement that Baby J has arrived until after we get home from the hospital (and our hospital requires a minimum 48 hour stay after delivery). But I’m sure we won’t be able to keep our excitement about our new arrival off of social media. So following me on Instagram or Twitter is probably the best way to stay in the know, if you’re interested in that sorta thing.
Welcome to June, my friends. It’s gonna be a doozy.
Any big things happening for you this month?
In general, Craig and I are pretty rotten at celebrating holidays, anniversaries, and birthday. It’s not that we don’t see the value in those days (we do!). But we both really try to celebrate the everyday awesomeness of life, instead of pumping all of our effort into those certain dates on the calendar. Honestly, it’s a nice way to go through life and a marriage.
That being said, it can be nice to get out of our comfort zone every now and again and actually so something special for a special event. Like when we went on a nice beach vacation for our fifth anniversary. And, like I mentioned on Monday, our seventh anniversary was this week—and we took the opportunity to hit up a new-to-us local tapas restaurant.
I know that going out to dinner isn’t really a special thing for a lot of folks, but it’s something we very, very rarely do (like, uh, I literally can’t remember the last time we went out to eat before Monday night), so it’s a super special treat for us! Because we rarely go out to eat, we’re super picky about the places we do chose to spend our time and money. And after lots of research, we landed on spending our anniversary dinner at Habana Blues.
If you think it’s strange that a Cuban tapas restaurant is located in Southern Indiana, you should come hang out here—we’re more than just cornfields! We have such a great selection of awesome cultural restaurants. And in particular, this area (Downtown New Albany) is super hip and amazing. It’s an old downtown, right next to the Ohio river, that has had a renaissance over the past decade or so. It’s now full of incredible little shops, a wide variety of restaurants, a few wineries, a brewery, and one of the better open-air farmer’s markets in the area.
Anyway, Habana Blues came highly recommended, and we figured since it was St. Patrick’s Day, we probably would have our pick of the place since most folks would be hitting up the Irish bars and restaurants in the area, and we were right! We started off with drinks, I ended up with a virgin cucumber mojito, which was insanely delicious. I have to recreate this one at home!
We started perusing the menu and were crazy overwhelmed by all the choices. I love tapas-style dining (and tend to order tapas-style from the appetizer menu even when a restaurant isn’t a tapas restaurant) because I hate having to make the decision to stick with one thing. That’s one of the issues of never going out to eat! When I do, I want to try it all.
We ended up landing on five dishes. And man, it was so tough to narrow it down to that. We started off with a caprese salad and some fresh guacamole with plantain chips. The caprese salad seems random at a Cuban place, but the dressing wasn’t your typical balsamic drizzle, it was a balsamic reduction that had a bit of spice and some latin flavor to it. Delicious! I just wish tomatoes were in season, I’m sure it would have been a million times better in July with some Indiana heirlooms.
Next up, we had Ropa Vieja de Pollo. It was slow-cooked, shredded seasoned chicken atop of beans, rice and skillet sweet potatoes. This reminded me a little bit of cajun food, it was insanely good! And it was served with two grilled plantains, which added a really incredible sweetness to the dish.
We also got two veggie empanadas. The empanadas were awesome, but the dipping sauce was absolutely killer. It was some sort of spicy, strawberry sour cream-y concoction, that I ended up dipping pretty much everything in.
The last of our tapas were two pulled pork tacos. Craig said these were the absolute best tacos he’d ever had. The pork was slow-cooked and absolutely fell apart. And there was a sweet, avocado-lime salsa on top which was a really nice balance to the heaviness of the pork. They were darn good.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper celebration without some dessert! Craig and I both have a “thing” for key lime pie, and the second we heard they make theirs in house, we knew we were gonna be all over that. I’ve rarely met a key lime pie I didn’t like, but this one was particularly spectacular—it was like a combination of key lime pie and key lime cheesecake. YUM.
We also got a chocolate tres leches, which was good, but we should have known that compared to our shared love of key lime pie, it didn’t have a chance.
We left dinner absolutely stuffed full. And totally happy. It was a great way to celebrate seven years!