Monday, September 17, 2012

My Next 30 Years...

I'm a country girl at heart. I love visiting the big city (especially now that my best friend, Leslie, has an amazing apartment in Chicago), but if I had to choose where Michael and I would ultimately raise our family, I'd choose the nearby corn fields in a heart beat. It's no surprise then, that with the end of my twenties looming in front of me, I've been listening to Tim McGraw's "My Next Thirty Years" a lot recently. 

I remember when the song came out. I was in high school, and thirty seemed a lifetime away. The lyrics were sweet and sentimental, but they didn't really resonate with me. Now, however, many of the words sing the story of my life. Here are the highlights:

I think I'll take a moment, celebrate my age--Celebrate? I suppose it's worth celebrating that I've made it this far, and while I don't love the number, I'm grateful that I'm not 21 again...seriously.

The ending of an era and the turning of a page--Today I turned thirty. I sent my son to daycare for the first time (he didn't cry; I did), and I began a new career. If that's not the end of an era, I don't know what is. The upside is that the page has been turned and I'm off to write a new chapter.

Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here--If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I've been working on focus. Now seems as good a time as any to really master it. 

Lord have mercy on my next thirty years--Another truth is that God has definitely had mercy on my past thirty years. My marriage, son, friends, family, job, and countless other things are testament to that. I am blessed, plain and simple.

Hey my next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun--This is not the end of my fun. Ladies (specifically: Becky, Chrisanne, Beth, Rachel, Jenn--take notice!)

Try to forget about all the crazy things I've done--I don't feel that this is necessary. Those crazy things got me there. And truthfully, there are quite a few that I'm already a little hazy on the details. ;)

Maybe now I've conquered all my adolescent fears
And I'll do it better in my next thirty years
--Not sure this has happened, but I plan on getting over them in the next thirty. 

My next thirty years I'm gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I'm doing here
In my next thirty years--This needs to be my mantra. 

Oh my next thirty years, I'm gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late--Time to get that body back(ish) for real! 

Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I'll remember my next thirty years--I should also include "Keep my damn mouth shut and not say stupid shit while I'm drinking" to this.

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life--If this is true, life will be amazing because the past thirty have (overall) been awesome!

Raise a little family and hang out with my wife husband--Ok, this doesn't rhyme, but you get the point. At the end of the day, the time I have with my family is the most important. I look forward to someday seeing the family we will have, the child(ren) we will raise, and the life we will build. I can't imagine loving Michael and Clark more than I do today, and yet somehow, there's never a day that I loved them more the day before.

Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear--This next thirty will consist of genuine relationships. I pray that I remember these words and drink in the moments with the people who are most important to me. 

Make up for lost time here, in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years--In true Betty fashion, I've got a plan and a checklist. It might not be filled with concrete items, but I'm pretty sure it's the greatest checklist I've ever written. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Absences & Rolling

Remember when I used to blog?

Yeah, me too. Oddly, I feel like I have less time to do things on my computer now that my little guy is getting less and less little. (If anyone has a recommendation for a good Blogger app for the iPad, I'd love to hear it!)

As a bit of a catch up (and an apology) here's a video of my not so little man. He's rolling over now. It makes me thrilled and sad simultaneously. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cloth Diapering-One Month Update

Now that Clark is two months old, Michael and I have already encountered our share of unexpected challenges and situations. Not everything has gone as I planned (something that I'm learning is pretty much par for the course in parenting), but one thing that (fortunately) HAS gone mostly as planned is cloth diapering.

Initially I planned to cloth diaper from day one. I even contemplated bring cloth diapers to the hospital for the nurses to use. (Wow--Even I know that's crazy.) However, after doing some research about effects of A & D ointment on cloth diapers, I conceded that we would need to use disposables for the week or so as Clark's circumcision site healed. After that week, I tried our cloth diapers out, but our little guy was too little  for most of our cloth diapers, so we continued with disposables for another few weeks. 

During his first month, Clark gained about two pounds and he was FINALLY big enough to fit in the cloth diapers in our stash. So, here's our update. What I love, what I hate, and what surprised me. 

Our stash (Links to Diaper Junction where most of the stash was purchased)
4-Little Joeys

22-Diaper Rite Prefolds-Small 8-18 lbs.
3-Small Thirsties Diaper covers with velcro
2-Snappies3-Flip diapers with snaps
2-Size One Thirsties Duo Wrap covers (one snap, one velcro)
6-BumGenius 4.0 Pocket diapers with snaps
6-Diaper Rite Pocket diapers1-Thirsties Duo Diaper

Little Joeys
Not much to say about these. They're cute. They work. But for us, building a newborn stash in addition to our regular stash defeated the purpose of cloth diapering to save money. I'll be selling these.

Prefolds & Covers

I love, love, love, love, LOVE our prefolds and Thirsties covers. I was definitely surprised by this. I bought these begrudgingly because I knew that initially creating an entire stash out of pocket diapers would be very pricey. I was able to get prefolds during a great Black Friday sale and decided that since I was very dedicated to cloth diapering, I could be the one to use the prefolds while I was staying home; I wouldn't make Mike use them. 

I got Snappies because that's what most cloth diapering YouTube moms suggested. I never loved using the Snappies. When I looked into different folds, I found that some people simply trifolded their prefolds and stuck them in the cover. I tried this and haven't used a Snappi since. Prefolds are quickly becoming my favorite type of diaper. They're cheap, easy to clean, and take up less space in the diaper bag than pockets.

My thoughts on Flips are brief. They're essentially expensive/fancy prefolds with covers. For that reason, I don't dislike them, but I probably won't add more to my stash at this point. One final comment about prefolds/Flips--I LOVE them for poopy diapers! (So do a lot of people, including my brother.) The reason is that it's much easier to clean the prefold/liner than a pocket. More on cleaning poop off of diapers in a bit...

BumGenius 4.0
These are my go to pocket diapers. They really are as great as everyone says. Sold separately, they'll cost you about $18. I got mine on a buy five get one free for about $90 on a Black Friday sale. You can also get these used from a variety of places (Ebay, local boutiques,, etc.). You won't save too much money buying used because these dipes really retain their value if cared for well (good news for when it's time to be done with diapers), but you should see a bit of a price break. I love these diapers because they are daddy, grandma, and babysitter friendly. The snaps are straight forward and it's easy to size right every time. (Clark is on the smallest rise with three sets of snaps in the middle.) I'm not a fan of cleaning poo off of these. The pocket usually fills with water while I'm cleaning them of off. It's irritating.

Diaper Rite Pocket 
I got two of these diapers on a whim when I was doing my Black Friday shopping. I believe they're exclusive to Diaper Junction, but don't hold me to that. At $8 a pop, you can't really beat the deal on an above average pocket diaper. I love that these are a bit more trim than my BumGenius diapers. They also have more snaps around the waist. This is great for a more customized fit (but can also be confusing to those who are diapering your kid when you're gone). I don't LOVE the inserts. Some of the full size inserts seem to have shrunk on me and they don't have tags either. (I put the tags of my BumGenius in the back so I have something to grab when I pull them out.) I will say that if I have leaks, it is usually with these (though leaks are few and far between). But they're weird leaks, on the sides toward the top--not around the legs. Maybe I just need to snap the rise up? Regardless, I like these diapers enough that I did order four more of them after Clark arrived. Overall, I'd recommend having a few in your stash if you want more pocket diapers for less money.

Thirsties Duo Diaper
I started out LOVING this diaper. There are openings in the front and back, so it's easier to stuff and the insert agitates out in the wash--no danger of touching a pee soaked insert. It used to be my go-to diaper. However, recently I've had leaks with it. Like, why-did-I-bother-putting-a-diaper-on-my-kid leaks. I haven't cared enough to find out why. I know that I always stuff it with the micro fiber insert up and bamboo down like I'm supposed to, but still, it leaks. So, for now, I wouldn't recommend this diaper especially given it too is $18.

Must Haves
I'll finish up with my "I-wouldn't-cloth-diaper-without-this-stuff" list.

Diaper Pail- I LOVE our diaper pail! It's a dry pail (as far as I know very few people use wet pails anymore--they're gross and a drowning hazard). It's not specifically made for cloth diapering, but it works like a charm! I use my Planet Wise liner and life is good. I usually just throw wet diapers in the top. For poopy diapers, I open the entire lid and pull it near the toilet for easy transfer. We haven't had any smell issues either. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!

Planet Wise liners/bags- I registered for two liners and a wet/dry bag by Planet Wise. (P.S. I HIGHLY recommend registering at Amazon. You can register for cloth diapering necessities and the deals are awesome. My friends and family loved the ease of shopping online too!) My mom got us our diaper pail and all of our liners/bags. Isn't she awesome?! I couldn't be more pleased with the liners. They fit my diaper well, never leak, and wash well. Having two is a MUST. One is in the pail while the other is in the wash. I adore our wet/dry bag as well. Although I don't know that the wet/dry combo is necessary. I think having 2-3 regular wet bags would suffice. I need to purchase a couple more because having the one is a pain.
Our diaper pail with slate colored liner
Diaper Sprayer- This probably should have been the first item of this post. Let me tell you this. IF I DID NOT HAVE A DIAPER SPRAYER I WOULD NOT CLOTH DIAPER! Seriously. This thing is awesome. We have the Bum Genius diaper sprayer. Some people complain about leaks, but we haven't had one problem with ours. My husband and his dad installed in less than 10 minutes. It has a hook that lets it hang off the toilet. It looks nice and is the best thing in the world for spraying out poopy diapers. There are other options for a sprayer. My brother used a kitchen sprayer and attached it to their toilet (I have no idea how, so don't ask) and it works beautifully too. I know because I've sprayed out my share of poopy diapers while at their house. It's pretty awesome to have that luxury while out and about. 

Here's our diaper sprayer attached to the toilet.
Eco Sprout- I use this detergent quite honestly because our local cloth diaper boutique (Cutie Poops & Bottoms) sells it and it's what my sister-in-law, Becky, uses. She's never had issues so, why mess with a good thing. So far I love it. We have no staining, wicking, ammonia, or other issues.

I'd love any recommendations, comments or questions you may have about cloth diapering!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sharing the Sweet Life

Before I had Clark, I would dream of the children I would have. In these daydreams, my fictitious children listened to and honored my requests, shared my loves and dislikes, and were quintessential mini-me’s. Now that my son has been here for six weeks, however, those daydreams have changed. I still think would be wonderful if he loved books and the ocean. And, it would be just fine with me if he disliked cats too. His father would be elated if he grew to be loyal to the White Sox and loathe the Cubs, but what if he didn’t?

What if he would rather build things with his hands than sit and read a novel? Or what would it be like to spend our time in Florida touring the Everglades instead of sunning ourselves on the beach? Maybe one of the greatest pets of my life would have been overlooked if it weren’t for my son’s affinity for felines. And maybe, just maybe my husband would find something to like about the North side.

I guess what I’m getting at is that parenthood does change you. But for me, it’s been in ways I never imagined. When our little bundle of wonder entered our lives, I thought I would want him to be just like us, but surprisingly, that’s not what I found myself wanting. Instead, once he came into this world, all I wanted was for him to be himself. What I love sharing with him already is who he is. His personality is shining even now and I love the anticipation of all that he will become and the life we’ll have as he shares who he is with us. 

This post is also a guest post over at Reverie...go show my dear friend Sarah some love!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Breastfeeding Journey

I've waited about a month to write this post. It's one that I felt I needed to write for myself as much as anyone else. Before we even considered trying to get pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my children. There was no question in my mind. However, I quickly learned that in mothering our plans are not always possible and we have to make compromises. This is my breastfeeding journey.

I've always been small chested. Most people I tell this to are surprised because I typically don't look small chested. My only response to that is that I buy good bras...good padded bras. Most of my life I've hated my breasts. When I was younger I felt robbed of the ability to wear low cut tops and cute bathing suits without throwing a pair of "chicken cutlets" in the front. For this reason, I've always wanted to get a boob job, but decided it would be best to wait until after I had children so that I could nurse my sweet babes. In my mind, my petite breasts' only saving grace was the fact that size had no impact on breastfeeding. 

As my pregnancy with Clark progressed, I became concerned about my breasts. They weren't growing. One of the perks of pregnancy in my mind was that I would actually feel like I had a chest to be proud of. Apparently that wasn't going to happen. I talked to my midwife and asked her if there was a reason to worry that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed. She assured me that size had no impact on breastfeeding, and I would be fine. Plus, much of the growth that occurs in breasts happens right before and after delivery. As my due date approached, my chest stayed the same. I became more and more concerned that I wouldn't be able to provide for my son. Friends and family reassured me that I needed to trust my body, that things would work out. 

After an amazing natural, drug-free birth, I was able to nurse my son in the delivery room. He latched on like a champ. The fears that I had subsided. I continued nursing him in the hospital (looking back, it wasn't on a regular schedule--I'm not sure whose fault that was, mine or the nurses'). We went home the night after he was born. I nursed him and while he wasn't staying on for long, he was latching. Sunday night, our second night home, Clark screamed most of the night. We couldn't do anything to assuage him. The next morning, I made a pediatrician's appointment, desperate to find out what was wrong with our sweet boy. I also made an appointment with the lactation consultant at my midwife's office.

At the doctor's office Clark began screaming again. The nurse asked if we wanted to give him a bottle. I told her I did NOT want to give him formula. Our doctor came in and said she wanted to try giving Clark a half ounce of formula. She wanted to see if he was hungry or if there was something medically wrong with him. At that point I lost it. Through sobs I explained that I had spent ten months of pregnancy refraining from any drugs, chemicals, etc. I had given up caffeine, lunch meat, tuna, you name it. No part of me wanted to give my baby chemicals. Our doctor, who was also incredibly pregnant, compassionately explained that she understood. What she said next helped me get to the point that I agreed to give him the formula. She asked me if an induction had been part of my birth plan. (I'm certain she knew the answer to the question before she asked it. After all, from the other questions she had asked about my labor, delivery, vaccines, etc., it was clear that we--or at least I--was one of those hippy dippy Dr. Sears devotees.) I told her that an induction had definitely not been a part of our birth plan. She continued, "But when it was what was best for your baby, you did it. Sometimes we need to change our plans for what is best for our babies." I saw her point and agreed to give Clark the formula. I sobbed that I couldn't be the one to do it as I handed him to Michael. Clark chugged the half ounce of formula and was instantly "our son" again. He was quite and content. I cried even more when I realized that I was not able to give him what he needed. Our pediatrician recommended we supplement with 1/2-1 ounce after each nursing session. 

After Clark's appointment, we headed to the lactation consultant. During our hour and a half appointment, she watched me nurse. Clark was still latching, but she agreed that we should supplement until we were sure my milk had come in. We came up with a game plan to help with lactation. There were two supplements I would take around the clock. For each feeding, I would nurse--ideally for 15 minutes on each side, bottle feed, and pump for a minimum of ten minutes. We would check back with her on Wednesday. 

With the new routine, feedings took a minimum of one hour. Clark was eating every two hours, so that one hour when I wasn't feeding him was spent sterilizing bottles and breast pump parts, eating, or sleeping if I could. On Wednesday (Day 5), I talked to our lactation consultant again. She wanted me to pump for forty minutes (Clark would just get a bottle) and send her a picture of what I was able to get. After pumping, I had about a 1/2 tsp. of milk--from both breasts! She got the picture and called me. Based on the picture, it didn't look good. Most women's milk "comes in" by day 3 or 5. At the latest, it could come in by day 7 or 8. She asked me if I was willing to go on medication to promote lactation. I practically screamed, "Yes!" She gave me two medications to research. I was supposed to call her back after Mike and I made a decision. 

After researching the drugs while Michael ran errands, I called my sister-in-law/best friend, Becky, in hysterical tears. One of the medications was FDA approved to promote lactation, but the side effect was severe depression. The other medication, which did NOT have FDA approval for lactation, had side effects of seizures and cardiac episodes. I didn't know what to do. I didn't want anyone (myself included) to think I hadn't tried my best to nurse my son, but given my family's medical history, the side effects of each drug were terrifying. Becky said what I needed to hear, "If it were me, I wouldn't take either of them." Becky had a hard time at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey. Most women would have given up if faced with her situation, but she persevered and sixteen months later, she is still nursing my nephew. She believes in breastfeeding and she would tell me if she thought I was giving up without a fight. She ended our conversation by telling me that "Breastfeeding does not define you as a mother."

Mike echoed her recommendation when he got home saying, "I'm sure Clark would rather have a bottle and a mom who is there than one who is depressed or dead." I told our lactation consultant I wouldn't be going on medication. She told me to keep doing what I was doing, but that it was likely my milk wouldn't ever fully come in. I spent the rest of that first week making my peace with the fact that once again my breasts had failed me and talking to my mom and other good friends, Chrisanne and Jenn. Separately they each told me what Becky had earlier in the week. My definition as a mother did not come from my ability to exclusively breastfeed.

By the next week (Day 9), nothing had really changed. I stopped pumping and started nursing Clark after his bottle. (He got very frustrated at the breast when he was hungry, but latched on and would nurse for 15+ minutes after a bottle.) I decided I would not allow this change in plans to rob me of the precious first month with my son. I decided to be thankful that he transitioned so well between breast and bottle and that I had researched the best bottles for that purpose. Most importantly, I decided to not drive myself crazy. I would nurse Clark for as long as I could. I looked at our nursing sessions as being emotionally beneficial instead of nutritionally beneficial. I've come to cherish the fact that my son still wants to nurse! 

One month later, things are essentially the same. I have noticed that my supply has increased some. The other day I pumped out of curiosity to see how much I was producing and I actually got an ounce! While this is awesome because it means Clark is still getting some antibodies and nutritional benefits from our nursing sessions, there's no way I could ever exclusively breastfeed him. He typically wants to nurse before going to sleep. It calms him down and comforts him, and I am so thankful for those times.

The whole experience has taught me valuable lessons. The first is that not all women who give their babies formula choose to do so. Along the same lines, if they do make that choice, it doesn't make them horrible mothers. Motherhood, I've discovered, is really a series of voluntary or involuntary choices made because we believe those choices are what's best for our children and  they aide in our own general survival. We may look back on those choices later and wish we had chosen differently, but in the moment, we do what we believe is best for our families.

I've also discovered that there are very few resources for women who truly want to breastfeed but can't. In fact, they're almost impossible to find. Most sources (La Leche League included) assert that the inability to breastfeed only applies to 1% of women. I think that's absolute crap. I personally know at least three women who have suffered through something similar to what I have. Before I had my child, I was one of those bitches who just thought women weren't "trying" hard enough. When it happened to me, I had a new perspective. It's sad that so many women fight this battle alone and are made to feel inadequate and like lesser mothers. The best article I did find in support of women in my position acknowledges several of these facts. (It also felt like this woman reached inside my heart and put all my feelings into words.) I guess pro-breastfeeding groups are trying to remove any excuses from women who can  breastfeed and choose not to, but what they fail to see is that there is a large group of women with beliefs like theirs who are made to feel like pariahs. For those of us in that group, there's nothing we can do to change our circumstances, but we are told that our situations are essentially a result of our own selfishness or weakness. It's another instance of "Mommy Wars" and it's sickening that we tear one another down in this way.

I still struggle with feeding Clark in public, afraid that others will assume formula was my first choice. I dread being asked "Are you breastfeeding?" because my answer is anything but simple. I don't allow myself to think too much about the facts and statistics about formula I could practically recite before my son was born. I try not to focus on the pain of the fact that my body failed me. I work to move past feeling like less of a woman, and I focus on what the women in my life have told me. I am not defined as a mother by how I feed my child, but rather by how I love him, protect him, and raise him. Thank God for that. 

What was your breastfeeding journey like? Did you ever have guilt associated with feeding your child? How did you react/overcome it?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Top Ten

A lot of you who read this blog are already moms, but some of you are about to join the club in the next few months. This post is definitely for the latter, but could be for the former. Here's what I've found I couldn't have made it through the past mont without! About half of these items I expected to use as I planned for the hypothetical child I would raise. The other half of the items are items that my REAL child has needed. After all, babies are rarely what we expect. :)

A friend recommended that I not only get the standard Boppy but also this little gem. After two days I was so grateful for the advice. This pillow is AWESOME! Not only does it strap on to you, but it also has back support. And a pocket for stuff. And two built in "bumps" to help support baby's head. When learning how to do the whole breastfeeding thing, it's awesome to have more support for the little one. I was afraid I would regret getting two pillows for breastfeeding, but I can't imagine not having this! I LOVE it!

Aden + Anais Sleeping Bag
If you troll any mommy sites, surely you've seen Aden + Anais products. They're beautiful, modern, and expensive. But let me tell you, EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT I have of theirs I LOVE! I picked up one of their sleeping bags on a whim when it was in the clearance section at Target. Usually $32, I nabbed mine for $8. After a week, I ordered two more from (as a side SUCKS! I discourage you from using their website if at all possible, but that's a rant for another post) for $20 a piece. Clark does not like to be swaddled (remember how I told you I was planning for a hypothetical child), so the 4 swaddlers that I registered for will have to be put away for a hypothetical 2nd child. What I love about the sleeping bag is that he can have his arms out but his legs stay warm and I don't have to worry about loose blankets. Right now the "bag" is still big enough that I can wrap it up around him, but if he kicks out of it, I don't have to worry. Because it's made of muslin, it keeps him warm but not hot. I could go on, but I won't. Seriously, this is worth trying!

Long Sleeve Onesies
Having a May baby, I didn't think I'd need long sleeve onesies for my newborn, but alas, I was wrong. I sent my mom out to get a couple packs the day after we brought Clark home. Mostly he sleeps in these and his Aden + Anais sleeping bag. The combo keeps his entire body at the perfect temperature. They have the cuffs for his hands, but now he's such a big boy (at three weeks) that the cuffs make him mad. When he was a couple days old though, they helped protect his little face from those crazy sharp newborn nails.

Huggies Pure & Natural diapers
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you're questioning why disposable diapers are on my list since I was adamant that we were cloth diapering. Well, we are still going to cloth diaper, but since my little guy had a circumcision site that needed A & D ointment, and said ointment can ruin cloth diapers' absorbency, I decided to go with these organic cotton disposables to start out. I'm glad I did for a number of reasons. 1. Life with a newborn is more hectic than I realized (veteran moms, you may laugh here). 2. My baby is tiny (his pediatrician referred to him as "petite") and the prefolds I thought he could wear from birth still don't fit him. We'll probably keep him in a combo of Little Joeys and these until he's 10 lbs. I LOVE that they're made of organic cotton and they are hypoallergenic.

Safety 1st Pegasus Playard
I LOVE our pack & play. I did a lot of research before registering for one and we landed on this one for a few reasons. 1. The safety rating was incredibly high. 2. The changing table is much sturdier than others on the market. It's actually attached completely to the unit. 3. It completely matches our house! 4. The storage and hamper. I thought I would like these, but honestly--I can't imagine living without them! We have this set up in our living room, so I have everything I need (diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, extra onsies, receiving blankets, etc.) easily at my disposal but things don't look cluttered. 

Moby Wrap
Now, to be honest, I don't have the real Moby wrap. I use one that I made. (If you have scissors, you can make a Moby. There are several tutorials out there; here's one. I actually might do my own tutorial for this in the next few weeks.) I use this thing daily often for hours at a time. Babywearing is one of the major aspects of attachment parenting, and I am SO grateful that Clark likes to be worn. I get so much done with him neatly tucked away in his wrap. I actually wore him for our first several outings too. As you can see from the picture, your little one is nicely snuggled up to you and mostly covered from prying eyes (and germy hands) when out in public. 

My amazing husband bought me a new iPad 3 for a push present/Mother's Day, and I cannot tell you how much I love it! When it comes to being a mom, there are two apps that I use multiple times a day. One is Baby Log which lets me record basically everything I could ever need to for Clark (diapers, feedings, baths, etc.). The other is a white noise app (I have Relax Melodies HD). I actually have a white noise app on my iPad AND phone. 30 seconds of "Heavy Rain" and my kid is OUT! When he's especially fussy on shopping trips or in the car, I'll use my phone and prop it in his car seat. Love it!

There were several tubs I looked at before going with this one. I'm so grateful I got the one I did. That little removable bump is perfect for bathing a newborn. Clark sits perfectly in the tub with his legs draped over. There's also a stopper in the bottom of the tub for easy draining/refilling. It fits perfectly over our kitchen sink. 

Receiving Blankets
We got a TON of receiving blankets for our showers. So many that I checked with Becky to see how many I really needed. She suggested I hold on to all of them and return them if once he was here I felt I didn't need them. One of the many wonderful pieces of advice I got from my sister-in-law. We use recieving blankets for everything! I use them as a changing table cover, as burp cloths, to cover him in the car seat or swing, for swaddling, etc. The list goes on and on. I find myself folding at least four with each load of his laundry. 

Soothie Pacifiers
This is a recent love. Clark's actually only been using this for the past 48 hours or so, but wow, I'm in love. I wasn't planning on introducing a pacifier or a bottle until week 5 or 6, but things change. (I'll blog about our bottle situation later.) Mike was pretty against him ever having a pacifier. (I however would rather him grow attached to something I can take away instead of his thumb!) However, a couple of nights ago, when I could barely keep my head up while nursing, I told him I was going the next day for a pacifier. There's no way I can be my child's pacifier. After some research, I found that the Soothie usually works well with breastfed babies. Clark is still getting the hang of it, but last night after he was done nursing, I popped that sucker in his mouth and he slept in his bed (co-sleeper) until his next feeding. Mike and I are both hooked!

Hopefully one of these recommendations helps someone out. In any case, thanks for reading! :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Clark's Birth Story

My mom has been right about a lot in my life, and I always hoped that she'd be right about women forgetting the pain of childbirth once they held their child. Fortunately, I was able put another tally mark in her accuracy column. 

This is the story of my son, Clark's birth. (Warning: If you're not a fan of obnoxious pregnancy details, this post is NOT for you. There will be several TMI moments.)

I was blessed to have an amazingly healthy pregnancy. From the very beginning everything was "perfect". My weight was good, my labs were good, the baby couldn't have been more perfect, my blood pressure was occasionally high, but being that I have "white coat syndrome" it was usually good at the end of my midwife's appointment. Because everything looked good and since both Mike's and my mom were two weeks late when they carried us, I was convinced that our son would be late.

Things were shook up a little on Monday, April 30. (Thank goodness I listened to the advice of my friends and mother to go on maternity leave a week earlier than planned!) My blood pressure was high (140/90) both times they took it. In addition, I had seen "stars" several times in the past week. My midwife ordered additional labs and put me on a mild blood pressure medication. I was ordered to do a 24 hour urine screen. While not a painful test, it was definitely a hassle to collect and refrigerate all of my pee for a full day. 

I alerted my doula, Louise, to the situation via email. She called me almost the instant I hit SEND. She talked me through the possibilities and mentioned that we should prepare ourselves for the possibility of induction. So I did-kind of. I thought maybe Tuesday, if things look a little sketchy. At that point I'd be 40 weeks-on my due date. We kept news of the high blood pressure quiet not telling friends and family for fear that we'd cause unnecessary worry.

I dutifully took in my jugs of sample urine on Wednesday morning and found out that somehow I was NOT pre-registered at the hospital, so I took care of that too. I spent the rest of Wednesday running last minute baby-prep errands. On Thursday morning, nesting grabbed a hold of me and I cleaned (most of) our house before going into my blood pressure check at my midwife's. Michael was at work so I went solo to the bp check. My blood pressure was better, good even. My midwife explained that all of my labs looked good, EXCEPT for the protein in my urine from the 24 hour screen. It was 3 times the allowed limit. At that point, she told me she wanted us to meet her at the hospital that evening to begin induction. The concern was as much for Clark as it was for me. If my condition turned into true preeclampsia, I could become toxic. In the worst case scenario my kidneys could shut down and they would have to take Clark via emergency C-section.  Despite Louise's advice to be prepared for an induction, I was still shocked that we would induce so soon. I thought maybe we'd wait the extra 4 days until my due date, but no, we would be meeting our son in the next day or so.

The plan was simple (as simple as child birth can be). Cheri, my midwife, would perform a procedure called an EZ. The procedure entails inserting a catheter into the cervix and inflating a ping pong size balloon. This balloon agitates the cervix so it dilates. Michael and I arrived at the hospital right at 6 pm and within a half hour Cheri was there to insert the EZ. Due to a variety of factors (one being my labial varicosity--I warned you about TMI), I passed out during the procedure. I remember waking to approximately eight nurses surrounding me. One was inserting an IV, another was putting an oxygen mask on me, still another was wiping my head with a cold cloth. However the voice of the one who called for an emergency C- section will probably forever remain in my memory. At that point, I sat up enough to tell Michael, who looked terrified standing behind all the nurses, to call Louise. Soon, Clark's heart rate, which had dropped to 60 when I passed out, was up and in the healthy 130s again. The C-section would not be necessary. Cheri let me rest for about an hour before talking to us about our next course of action.

Once everyone was confident that Clark and I were both stable, Cheri told us that she was not going to attempt the EZ again for fear of the same result. Instead, she wanted to use a drug called cytotec to induce labor. Ironically, I knew about cytotec because my dear friend Sarah (who gave birth just two weeks before me) was supposed to induced using the same drug. She ended up going into labor naturally, but we had talked at length about the drug. There were a number of reasons I was wary about using it to induce. Other than the fact that it is not approved for induction (it's actually an ulcer medication), I was concerned that it could not be regulated after it was administered (they put a 1/4 of a tablet directly on your cervix and allow it to be absorbed). Additionally, as a drug that is routinely used for abortions, there was a possibility of hemorrhaging and death to mother and child. I asked about our other options. The other option--and the one we went with--was a drug called cervidil. It too is manually inserted, but it is approved for induction, has few if any side effects, and is on a string so it could be removed if there were a problem. Cheri inserted the cervidil at 8 pm and said a nurse would pull it at 8 am. That night Michael and I watched the Sox game and some other random shows. We talked to our parents to update them about the induction and we both tried to get some rest.

The next day started easily enough. The nurse pulled the cervidil at 8 am. At 9 am she started the pitocin. Louise joined us around 10 am. I remember the nurse telling me that I was having contractions, but I truly didn't feel them. Michael's parents came up to see us since I really wasn't feeling contractions, I was able to entertain a bit. My mom and sister also came out. Mom had put together a basket of goodies for the nurses (not that they needed to be bribed to give me outstanding care, but as teachers, my mom and I know how much it means to feel appreciated). They also brought Michael and me Panera for lunch. Cheri came to check on me a bit before 3 pm and decided to break my water to get labor going.

Here's what I remember from that point on. The contractions I couldn't initially feel turned into uncomfortable contractions that I had to breathe through. I felt better on the birthing ball, but after a half hour or so, Louise had me up and moving. We walked the halls for about a half hour. Every ten feet or so I would have to stop, lean against Michael and breathe through a contraction. When we got back to the room, my nurse checked me. I was 4 cm dilated and 90% effaced. Around 4 pm I got into the tub. It was glorious! My contractions were so much more bearable in the water. After about a half hour, Louise said I needed to switch positions in the tub. I went to a position on my knees and I hated it. She told me I needed to do six contractions in that position. (I feel like this is a perfect example of what a doula is--she's essentially a personal trainer for childbirth.) Michael counted me through the six contractions. At the end of them, I threw up. From all of my research and our birthing classes I knew this was a good sign--I was in transition. 

The next two hours are pretty fuzzy. I remember getting out of the tub and into the bed. I remember my contractions being incredibly intense. For the first time all day, I had trouble breathing through them. When Cheri arrived, she checked my progress. My time in the tub was definitely productive; I was 9 cm dilated 100% effaced.  I labored for another hour or so. There were multiple times that I asked for drugs. Michael's way of handling my pleas for relief was to stare at me blankly. Louise simply said it was too late for drugs--I'd have to do this just as I had planned--on my own, without drugs.

I had been told that by the time I got through active labor and transition pushing would feel like a relief. While that was partly true, it was still painful. The biggest relief was that I was in control of the pain. I pushed instinctively. No one was coaching me on when to push. Instead, Louise and Cheri coached me on how to push. In retrospect, it's amazing that I remembered so much from birthing class. I would stop when I felt burning, gear up and push again. My midwife and doula redirected my energy from screams to pushing. When I was certain I couldn't continue, Cheri had me reach down and touch my baby's head--he was almost here--I could finish, I would finish.

Finally, at 7:18 pm on Friday, May 4, 2012, our son, Clark Wiley Samples entered the world. He came out screaming. Michael told me later that he must have heard me during labor and assumed that's how we communicated out here. :) He also promptly peed all over me and the bed. I didn't even care. I was immediately in love with his pink screaming face. Because there were no complications, we were able to let the cord pulse before Michael cut it, just as our birth plan outlined. I delivered the placenta without any problems and even watched as my midwife took time to explain to me all the parts of the amazing life-giving sack. 

Clark stopped screaming as soon as they put him on my chest and covered us with warm blankets. His dark eyes darted between Michael and me as he saw the faces that went with the voices he'd heard for so many months. Because I had not torn, I was quickly cleaned up. Louise suggested we quickly allow our parents and my sister back to see Clark. I held him so that people would be less likely to try to take him away from us. The five members of our family came back to see our newest addition. After brief congratulations, they left us to be a family of three. I was able to nurse Clark in the delivery room before he and Michael went to the nursery for his assessment. 

I was taken over to our postpartum room shortly after Michael and Clark left me. After I got settled in, I joined Michael in the nursery as they checked out our little guy. He was perfect. The next morning, I awoke early and showered while both boys were sleeping. I knew that I needed to be ready for visitors. Cheri came to see us not long after I made it back to bed. She gave us the option to leave that night or wait until the next morning. Michael had had enough of sleeping on the uncomfortable pull-out, and I was more than tired of nurses in and out of our room at night, so we decided that two nights in the hospital were enough and told Cheri we'd go home that evening. The next several hours were filled with visits from many of our closest friends and family. By 7:50 pm we were on our way home with our one day old son. 

It's taken me over two weeks to finish this post that I started the morning after he was born. I guess that's an indication of how our lives have changed in just a couple of short weeks. I don't think I've ever been this tired, but I can't recall being this happy either. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

37 weeks...

On August 31, the morning I took my first pregnancy test, it seemed impossible that we would ever be here. There were so many doubts and concerns surrounding pregnancy. Now, I've never had any true issues that would constitute concern about successfully caring a child, but I didn't want to take this miracle of life for granted. I didn't want to arrogantly presume that my body would do what it would was supposed to do. So, on that late summer morning, the reality that I would ever be ready to deliver a full term baby was unbelievable.

Yet, here we are, one day past 37 weeks (full term), twenty days away from our due date. Our baby could be born today and be healthy (that's not an invitation, Clark--there's a lot of brain developing for you to do in the next twenty days)! It's surreal that the child I'm carrying is a honest to goodness baby. He looks like him (minus a pound or so). He has hair and nails and good Lord willing, perfect little limbs and fingers and toes. I just can't believe that I get to be a part of the miracle that he is. 

The past nine months have been such a whirlwind and a blessing. I'm not sure that any length of time is enough to feel prepared to be a parent, but the last 37 weeks have gotten us closer to being ready. I know that when our little guy gets here there will be some scary moments of questioning what we got ourselves into, but I also know that we couldn't be more excited to officially start our family. Ready or not though, Clark is coming!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Selfish Moment

If you've read this blog from the beginning of my pregnancy, you know that I've worked very hard to maintain perspective. It's important to me that above all else (my comfort, appearance, or preferences) Clark is healthy. Regardless, I think all women struggle with the how pregnancy wrecks havoc on their bodies. I knew that I would be no exception; I've struggled with my weight and body image for at least the last twenty or so years. When I got pregnant I weighed more than I wanted to, the comfort of marriage caught up to me, and I was already carrying 15 more pounds than I wanted. By medical standards I was considered overweight. According to my books, I was to gain 15-20 pounds during pregnancy. 

I did alright during my first trimester. I gained around 6 pounds. Shortly after, however, the holidays took their toll. At my appointment in January my midwife commented that I seemed to be a little high and that I should watch the sweets; I was just shy of my 20 pound mark. I followed her direction and although I still let myself have the Junior Mints and Tootsie Roll Pops that I craved, I did cut back. At my February appointment, I decided not to look at the scale. (The OBGYN's scale was always higher than mine anyway--no surprise, I usually had appointments at the end of the day.) So, for the past three months I haven't really had a clue about how much I weigh. My midwife referred to herself in one of our early appointments as a "weight Nazi", so I knew that if there was a problem she'd let me know. 

I've felt huge recently and it didn't seem wise to have my first reality check at the hospital while in labor, so this morning, I had to look. I needed to know what I was up against. Would I need to lose 60 pounds, 70 pounds, or oh, my goodness...80 pounds (remember I'm still counting that extra 15-20 that I was carrying when I got pregnant)? With trepidation, I pulled out my trusty scale, blew of the dust, and allowed it to go to zero before stepping on. While I won't tell you the number, I will tell you that I was pleasantly surprised when I realized I've "only" gained 30 pounds! If I gain the 1/2 pound a week that I'm supposed to for the next three weeks, I'll be up about 32 pounds. This, my friends, I can live with. This is doable, and this, makes me feel much less like a failure. I know is a selfish and vain moment--being concerned about losing weight before my son is born, but one of my biggest fears about life postpartum has been not feeling like me. It's nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel and know that I can once again feel comfortable in my own skin--even if it will take a lot of hard work to get there!

Shower "Back Home"

To say that I'm blessed to have been born into the Brennan/Leonard family is a gross understatement. As a child, I loved my mother's extended family, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I truly appreciated how rare the relationships I have with those amazing people are. I grew up with family holidays that included sometimes sixty people. I knew I was loved by not only my aunts, uncles and cousins, but also by great-aunts and uncles, second cousins and sometimes even more distant relatives. So, while I didn't grow up on or even near the family farm, whenever we made the journey back, I still said we were going "back home" because that's what it felt like. 

It was no surprise then that going "back home" for a baby shower will remain one of my greatest memories of pregnancy. My dear Great-Aunt Mary Ann (who is also my godmother) and my Great-Aunt Ruth hosted the most perfect shower for little Clark. While our numbers have dwindled over the years, I was still surrounded by the love and excitement of some of my favorite first, second, and third cousins as well as my aunts and great-aunts. It was a perfect day. Here are a few of the highlights.

Aunt Mary Ann, me & Aunt Ruth
Allison & Samantha were amazing present helpers
Even though Charlie & Jon couldn't be there, they made sure to send Clark (& Michael) some Dolphins love!
Kaitlyn, Aunt Mary & Janet 

How cute is she?!
Linda & Laura
The aunts with Patty
Clark got a TON of great books! Laura went through her collection and pulled out her favorites for him--how special and sweet!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Shower for our Boy

We were incredibly blessed to actually have TWO showers for our Clark. (I'll have to post pictures from the family shower "back home" in McHenry later this week--they're still on my camera which is charging.) I have a tendency to go on and on in long-winded explanations when I blog. Fortunately for you, Becky took great pictures, so I'll mostly let them tell the story. I will say that the day was PERFECT! I couldn't have asked for a shower that was more "us"! Our moms and sisters truly outdid themselves, and I am left with some precious memories. We couldn't be more thankful.

Welcome table with escort cards and "guest blocks". 
"Guest blocks" for everyone to sign and one of my favorite pictures from our maternity shoot.
Aww...Mommy & Daddy escort cards--so sweet, Courtney!
Centerpieces (each table had a letter and a coordinating item) & games
C is for Clark--LOVE our ultrasound picture of the little man!
Beautiful cake by our "Cake Lady"--I swear we didn't realize that his initials would be CWS until AFTER we decided on his name. It's a nice tribute to our Chicago White Sox, though. 
Prize table--Nice job Jen & Laura!
Not sure what my hair was doing, but we're pretty excited to be Mommy & Daddy! 
With Mono--Michael's mom
With Grandma (we're still waiting on Finn to give her  a unique name)--My mom
From the left, Grandma Hoyle, Aunt Lillian, Grandma Samples, & Grandma Gladys (one of my godmothers)
Holy gift table! Our friends and family were so incredibly thoughtful and generous!  Somehow we were able to get (most) everything to fit in the house!
Jenn, me, & Becky--We've been friends for nearly FIFTEEN years, and once Clark is here, we'll have four kids between the three of us!
Sisters & Nieces!
Back row: Michael's sisters-Jen & Laura, our niece (Jen's daughter), Ashley, me & Michael
Front row: Our niece (Laura's daughter), Nicole, My sisters-Courtney & Becky 
Finn came to the shower so Uncle Mike didn't have to be the only boy. ;)
We can't WAIT for him and Clark to play together! We're hoping they become the best of friends!
There were plenty of gift shots, but there's no need to post them all. This onesie (from Jenn) was one of my favorites!
The Girls!
From left: Chrisanne & Tenley, Beth (Reagan was with her grandma), me, Becky & Finn
We're missing Rachel & Violet in this one (it's excusable seeing as how Violet was  less than two weeks old at the time!)
Leslie mad it in from Chicago for the shower--we were so thrilled she did!
I wish we had been able to get pictures with everyone who came, however, the memories made that day with everyone who showed their love and support will always be me. Clark, I pray that you never forget that even before you were here, you were so incredibly loved by so many!