Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What to Register for with a New Baby (or Things I'm Loving 6 Weeks In)

For some reason when I was pregnant and it was time to create a baby registry, I had major anxiety. As in, it was laughable how much the thought of picking out a car seat and a stroller and a breast pump brought on a severe case of the sweats. It's not that big a deal, right?

But he is my first baby. And I wanted the best. And I love doing research on things like this.

SO, I am imparting all my hard earned wisdom cultivated in the late night hours over the last year to all of you. I have read blogs, product reviews and Amazon descriptions, hit up new and old mamas alike and here's what I have for you: a list of things I could not be living without.

 Le swing: Fisher Price My Little Lamb Platinum Edition Cradle N' Swing

This is the first item on the list because, in some ways, it has helped me get back on track with managing my life. I didn't register for a swing because they are (mainly) huge and our house is (mainly) small. Also, I had read somewhere you should wait until your baby is born before deciding between a bouncy seat and a swing to see which one they prefer. Our friends generously let us borrow their bouncy, but alas, Jack is a swingin' kind of guy. He is not a fussy baby, as long as he's being held most of the time... uh, yeah son, mama has things to do and this arrangement is not gonna work out for long! Enter the swing. It has changed my life. It's like baby crack... fo reals!

Le Miracle: The Miracle Blanket

Some people refer to the first three months after birth as the "fourth trimester" (a bit of an oxymoron, but I digress).  Essentially, the belief is that right out of the womb, babies don't have the coping skills needed to be comfortable on planet earth. The answer? Swaddle the kid like a psycho in a strait jacket. I'm sure plenty of you know about the beautiful muslin Aden & Anais Swaddle Blankets and while we use them for a variety of things (keeping the sun out of baby's face, wiping up spit, playing fun games of "Mother Theresa dress-up"), they've been difficult to use as actual swaddles (i.e. the few times we've used them overnight, I've been awfully scared of Jack suffocating). In walks The Miracle Blanket. It's like the muslin swaddle's somewhat plain Jane sister who has a winning personality and ends up getting the guy in the end. We use it Every. Night.

Le Carrier Pour La Bébé: Cybex Aton

Before I wax poetic on this car seat, I should mention I'm almost certain this company decided to stop selling their product in the U.S. (I am SO happy we snagged one before they did!). Designed by those crafty Germans, this seat is not only the lightest on the market, it's also one of the best looking (in my opinion). Also, it clicks into its adapter easy peasy which has made my life one bit easier. No matter what direction you go in the car seat world, make sure this is on your registry... the hospital won't let you leave the hospital without one. ALSO, determine if your car seat works with the stroller you select. We ended up getting a Cybex stroller in addition to our B.O.B. so that we could push baby boy around the first 4-5 months of his life before he can sit up unassisted.

Le Mute Button: Philips Avent Soothies

I was one of those pregnant women who said, "We're gonna try to avoid using a pacifier if we can." HA! Once Jack was alive and doin' his thing, that lasted a total of one week. I had registered for some of these as a "just in case" sort of item, and I thank my lucky stars that I did. Aside from diapers, a change of clothes and the car seat, this is one item we never leave home without. 

Le Best Friend: My Brest Friend

Allow me to weigh in on the Boppy vs. My Brest Friend debate, as I've had the pleasure of using both multiple times at the lactation support group I attend (more on that later): My Brest Friend wins, hands down. While I could see the Boppy being good for tummy time with baby, it wiggles around too much, and I certainly can't get up with it around me. Aside from My Brest Friend's spelling (and oh yes, it drives me completely insane: you couldn't just have it be My Breast Friend? What's so wrong with the 'a'?), it provides back support and Jack's finally getting to the point where he can rest his head on it while having a go at my tits, which means I have a single hand free. What I can do with said free hand, I've yet to determine, but I'll let you know when I figure it out!

Le Dog Walking Assistant: The Moby Wrap

We received two types of wearable baby carriers: the Beco Gemini (structured) and the Moby (simply fabric). Jack was much smaller than we were anticipating and was unable to use the Beco right away, so we started using the Moby. Now that I've finally mastered how to tie it, I can say I love wearing Jack in it. Not only was it a lifesaver for the first six weeks during "the witching hours" from 4 to 8pm (he immediately zonks once we start moving), it's also been handy as a helper for walking Moe when Kyle's at work. In addition, seeing Kyle wear Jack in it? Holy moly, he's never been more attractive. Because, really ladies, is there anything better than seeing your husband be a kick ass father? I don't think so.

Le Pump: Medela Freestyle Hands-Free Double Electric Breast Pump

My friend Micaela sent me her breast pump to use before I had Jack and I'll admit, I thought I'd be using it once and a while. Like most of the things I'm discovering about motherhood, I was completely wrong and have used it non-stop. I had milk supply issues right out the gate with breastfeeding (it turns out my boobs wanted to be disappointing from high school right up to now), and the first month of Jack's life, I was essentially chained to this thing. Breastfeeding is easier than before so it's not AS important as it was in the beginning, but it does allow me to have some extra milk in the diaper bag should we need it.

Le Diapers: Pampers Swaddlers Sensitive
Yes, they're the most expensive diaper I'm aware of. Yes, they are totally and completely worth it. Do you want yellow poop shooting out the sides of your kid's onesie? Didn't think so. If you can afford it, these are the way to go.

I could go on and on about the items I'm loving (as well as the ones I think are kinda meh), but this write-up has to have an end at some point. If you want to ask me about any of it, feel free to email me at ehsutherland@gmail.com. In addition, I can't recommend Lucie's List enough for any first time parent trying to navigate "baby gear hell."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The First Month

Surprises from the first month of being a parent (and things seasoned parents don't tell you):

1. Babies are a time suck.

I think we're starting to get closer to the "set routine" portion of baby life, but the first thirty days went something like this: wake up, feed, try to do something but ultimately soothe fussy baby, change diaper, feed, try to do something but ultimately soothe fussy baby... You get the idea. I'd look at the clock and suddenly it would be 4 o'clock and all I'd have to show for my day's output was keeping another human alive.

Which is actually a pretty big deal, am I right?

2. You feel like a phony.

I must admit I still feel like a bit of a fake when it comes to this whole "mom" thing. When I pass Jack off to Kyle, I call him "Daddy" which is additionally weird and doesn't feel genuine. It's not that I don't look at my son and feel like his mother. It's more that it feels incredibly surreal and I don't put myself in any sort of "Mom" classification. I know at some point, I'll start to feel like this whole thing is not a dream, I'm just not sure when.

3. Recovering from having a baby blows... especially in the summer.

Since Jack was born in August, we've been "surviving" the worst heat wave I can remember as of the last few years. I am not built for hot weather. I wilt in the heat like a southern belle and would prefer a good winter storm any day. But can I go swimming to cool off? Nope, I have to wait until my six week check up. Have I been sweating profusely, more than I normally would in this weather? Of course! Also, sorry, a bit TMI, but having to wear maxi pads for a month and a half? All sorts of not fun. If you thought you hated them in middle school, just wait until you have a baby! It seems like a never-ending drag.

4. Your house will experience many states of non-clean.

This kind of ties into number one, but it deserves its own section. People tell you to let your house go to crap as you get used to your new routines as a parent ("Focus on your baby! Don't worry about folding the laundry or doing the dishes!"), and while this advice is all well and good, it can only get to a point of disrepair before health codes start to fail and public health nurses get called in. I imagined having a ton of time to clean while Jack was "sleeping" during the day, but I laugh at my naivete, friends... what a fool was I!

5. If you're lucky, you'll get to enjoy all sorts of free food!

While I think we are reaching the tail end of this perk, I have to say it's been pretty awesome. Our friends and family have brought take-out, homemade meals, groceries, dessert, even some booze... and it has been all kinds of helpful. Remember number one? Forget any kind of decent cooking  coming out of your kitchen for at least the first month.

6. It's not as hard as everyone says.

Don't get ahead of yourself- I am by no means saying being a mom is easy. Good god, no. What I'm trying to say is that many, MANY people will tell you the horror stories and make it sound like having a newborn is akin to trying to teach a panda how to roller-skate or surviving some sort of scary Indonesian prison. Yes, I'm not getting as much sleep as I did pre-Jack. Yes, it is work keeping a helpless human alive (I mean, the kid can't even hold his head up for christssake). However, Kyle and I have talked about it and agree: it's totally manageable and not that bad. I'm hoping this is reassuring to some readers, but I will mention that if you're a complainer or a "glass is half empty" kind of person, it will probably be quite hellish for you.

7. Babies are incredibly talented at producing loud, audible farts.

I mean, seriously, it's impressive.

8. They're not as delicate as you anticipate they'll be. 

Going into this whole "newborn" thing, I was slightly afraid of breaking my child. I imagined that one false move and baby boy would end up in the emergency room. It turns out babies are incredibly resilient (and thank god for that, because Kyle and I aren't exactly delicate people)! As long as their basic needs are being met and their head is supported, you pretty much get an A+.

9.  Baby poop smells like rotten popcorn.

This is for breastfed babies... I can't attest to the formula fed set.

10. You will think they are perfect, you will spend an inordinate amount of time staring and it will always feel like it's flying by too quickly.

Ok, I guess this really isn't a surprise.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Birth Story: Follow Up

It seems many of you were able to appreciate the lightness of my son's birth. I come from a family that enjoys seeing the humor in things, and dear lord, the day of Jack McKay's debut was certainly filled with many opportunities to do so.

However, I realized after sharing my dramatic tale that there were a few things I forgot to mention and I decided that some follow-up is needed.

(1) All the noise I was making was not necessarily from the pain I was in. Yes, giving birth was very painful at times, however, up until some nurses taught me how to rein in my vocals, I was using being loud to actually get through the contractions in a positive way. It helped me keep my focus. I'm going to do a different write-up about natural child birth in the near future, but until I do, hear this: many natural childbirth advocates believe that an open mouth equals an open cervix. Sounds crazy, but I totally buy into the idea that if your body tenses up (like clenching your jaw), you're less likely to progress as well in labor. If you let go in regards to what your body is doing, things happen faster.

(2) The birth I had was AWESOME. I realized after a few friends commented on how terrified they now were of having a baby after reading my story that I hadn't adequately conveyed my satisfaction. Almost everything I could have envisioned about how it would go down, did. Granted, I didn't expect to show up at the hospital at the last minute, shoot amniotic fluid at some nurses and I CERTAINLY didn't think the midget from Poltergeist would be the doctor on-call delivering my child, but you can't get everything you hope for in this life!

(3) I have never felt more proud of myself or my body. Bringing another HUMAN (!) into this world the way nature intended... I did what I set out to do and no one can take it away from me. And I have the world's cutest baby to thank for it.

(4) Kyle did not get major props in my last write-up. I won't deny it: I was a little skeptical about how he would be as a birth partner leading up to "the big day." I had asked him to read three books, most of which he did not because he thought the cesarean was definitely happening. The night he started scrambling to catch up was the night I went into labor (oops). But you guys, he pulled it out. He, more than anyone else on the planet it seems, has a way of keeping me calm when things seem their most chaotic. And aside from his choice of parking space and his incorrect use of a certain "contraction tracker" app, he was awesome. I was (and still am) super proud of how he handled everything that day.

(5) I forgot to mention the world's most delicious oatmeal cookie can be found at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital. It was the first thing I ate after giving birth and I have never loved a cookie more.

In the coming weeks (because it seems I am still having difficulties getting posts up; sorry about that), I will be writing a slew of things about birth, life with baby and officially starting out as a working mom. I hope you'll join me in all my new adventures!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Birth Story

It started on the Wednesday I found out I wouldn't be having a c-section. That morning, I had woken up resigned to the fact that I would, most likely, be going in to the hospital Friday morning to have my son. He was breech (nowadays, it is very rare to find anyone who will deliver a breech baby vaginally) and I had been told over and over again that the odds of him flipping were slim to none.

They were wrong: flip he did.

Elation does not even begin to describe how I felt walking out of my OB's office that day. I had spent the majority of my pregnancy mentally preparing myself for a natural birth (sans drugs) and to have been dealt the hand of having a baby on the completely opposite end of the medical spectrum was a bit hard to swallow. I want to say it sent me into a mild depression for a while, actually.

I tried to stay positive. August 10th had been the date on the calendar for the c-section, and in the days leading up, when people would call to tell me how he would almost be here (!), I would tell them he could still flip. There was still a chance he wouldn't be born that day. And some people thought I was crazy, but I ended up being right. I am a firm believer in positive thinking.

I feel I should also mention that when my doctor determined with an ultrasound that Baby Boy had flipped, he finally checked me for the first time. They hadn't been doing that at prior visits due to the fact that they all assumed he would stay breech and that there wasn't any point. My doctor told me that I probably wouldn't be giving birth for at least a week; there was no sign of progress downstairs, as it were.

Fast forward to Wednesday evening. I was still on Cloud 9 about getting the birth I wanted and chatting with my friend Matt on the phone when I started getting cramps in my lower abdomen. They went away, but about 10 minutes later, returned. This pattern continued up until dinner when I finally decided to tell Kyle about them. He told me he thought my happiness over not having the c-section had tricked my brain into thinking I was going into labor. I told him he was probably right, but nonetheless, I was just keeping him informed.

They continued for hours; we watched an episode of Game of Thrones on the computer and were timing them, but they weren't bad at all and I finally told Kyle we should go to bed. He slept well that night, and though I was up a few times, going to sleep was one of the best decisions we made. If we had tried pushing it through the night, we would have been exhausted for Thursday's events.

Thursday morning rolled around and I told Kyle to go to work. The contractions were still super manageable and about 6 minutes apart, and at this point I figured there was even a chance the whole process would continue to Friday. I spent the early hours of August 9th walking Moe, watching "The Walking Dead," and drinking/eating as much as I could. I knew that if I wanted to have a natural birth, I was going to need to be well hydrated and nourished when I got to the hospital so that I could avoid interventions (and standard procedures, like an IV).

Kyle came home at lunch because he couldn't stand being at work knowing what was happening at home: he had finally accepted that I was actually in labor. I find this to be an endearing fact!

My contractions continued to be manageable for a few hours, and I spent the majority of this time on an exercise ball. The crazy thing about them is that there really is a start, a peak and an end, which helped me mentally in getting through the intensity of them because I knew they wouldn't last forever. Another thing I wasn't expecting is that they're somewhat like waves... They get stronger and stronger and stronger and then begin to fade. I can't describe them any other way, really.

I'm guessing around 4 or 5 in the afternoon is when things started to pick up. I had no concept of time, making this an absolute guess. Kyle had to start helping me through the contractions and I was in and out of the shower because the heat of the water seemed to help marginally. Up until this point, I had been able to breathe through them, completely pausing and relaxing through each one. However, as they got more intense and I started feeling them in my back, I was having trouble focusing and dealing with them. Kyle suggested I try audibly moaning as they picked up and it helped.

I'm pretty certain the entire street could hear me. And I'm almost positive they thought a cow was being butchered in our bedroom.

Kyle had been keeping track of them with this app he had downloaded on the Internet. A wise word to any husband with an expectant wife: don't ask her to keep telling you when a contraction is starting. Just pay attention. It will make her less likely to murder you. As the hours progressed, Kyle kept telling me they were only 4-5 minutes apart, which I took to be fact, even though they felt incredibly close and definitely harder to manage. Again, I had no concept of time.

The sun had gone down when I started to feel pain. In my ass. As in, I felt like I was going to shit out a baby. I mentioned this to Kyle, but he told me (based on the app), that he didn't think we were anywhere near close. It was after catching me sitting on the toilet, gripping the sink that we decided to go to the hospital to be checked.

If you're sitting at home, wondering why we waited so long, here's the deal: for couples who want a natural birth experience in a hospital, most doctors and nurses tell you to wait at home as long as possible. Once you get to the hospital, the odds of you needing medications like Pitocin, epidurals, etc. increase. Not only that, it felt more comfortable to us to labor at home.

Once we got in the car, things progressed like a movie. I stupidly sat in the front seat, and through every contraction, had to use the "Oh Shit" bar and center console to lift my body off the seat. I couldn't handle it otherwise. Kyle turned to me and said, "Babe, if you're only 4 or 5 centimeters, we're gonna go back home, right?" I should have known I was in a phase most call "transition" (the point where you are almost fully dilated) because even though I answered, "Sure," I was thinking in my head, "There is no fucking way I am going back home."

We pull up to the hospital, and to my dismay, I watch Kyle bypass the front of the hospital and hightail it to the parking garage. At this point, the barrage of curse words that flew out of my mouth were impressive, even for me. In addition, he chose to park on the second level of the structure, meaning I had to book it down two flights of stairs to get to the entrance of the hospital. In the aftermath, he explained that he was afraid to leave me alone while he parked the car- afraid for me and afraid for the helpless security guard that would have to deal with my crazy animalistic sounds.

Honestly, I kind of blacked out during our journey from the parking garage to the third level of the hospital (triage). I barely remember anything, except for a poor unsuspecting bystander who got stuck in the elevator with us. Sir, I apologize to you now for the 15 seconds you had to endure me.

We roll up to triage and even though I filled out all the "pre-admission forms" to expedite checking into the hospital, the nurses started hitting me with questions I wasn't prepared to answer. Mainly those like, "What is your name?", "What is your date of birth?" and my all time favorite, "What is your social security number?" Now friends, I know my social security number. I've known it since elementary school. However, when they shot that question at me, all I could muster was, "I can't answer that question right now!"

The nurses, luckily, didn't push it and let us into triage to be checked to see how dilated I was. I was almost at 10 and the nurse later admitted she could feel my son's head when she checked. Bad ass, Elizabeth, bad ass!

They rolled me into a labor and delivery room and tried putting the fetal heart rate belt on to get an accurate read of his vitals. Unfortunately, he was already so low in my pelvis, it was difficult to get the number. It also didn't help that I couldn't stand still long enough for them to get it (moving from side to side while leaning over the bed was the only thing that felt decent, and by decent, I mean not like death in my ass). After a few attempts, the nurses brought in the big guns, a woman we shall refer to as Nurse Ratchett, who told me if I didn't stand still long enough to get his heart rate, they would either drill an electrode into his head or wheel me in to have a c-section. Looking back, there's no way they could have drilled an electrode into his head in the amount of time before he made his debut, but I was not a rational woman at this point.

Finally, they said his vitals looked great and told me I could get on the hospital bed. They had me strip to put on a hospital gown, which I promptly ripped off. I had no shame being buck naked in a room full of 10 strangers, and I also felt no embarrassment when I got on all fours on the bed. The nurses were telling me I couldn't push until the doctor arrived, which I completely ignored. The second I started to bear down, my water broke.

It was not a trickle. It was not a pour. Friends, my water shot three feet behind me and two nurses had to duck out of it's gnarly path. Kyle likened it to a Super Soaker.

At this point, my band of nurses told me I was now able to start pushing and that if I had the baby before the doctor arrived, it was ok.

Truly, I wish I had been able to push Jack out before the on-call doctor arrived. Why, you ask? Because the doctor that delivered my baby looked like this:

Yep. She looked like Tangina from Poltergeist. She may or may not have been wearing an ensemble similar to this, too.

Not only was her appearance frightening as hell, she had the personality of a cardboard box. If she had had a sparkling demeanor or a southern accent like Tangina, I may have been able to overlook her deep set eyes and deathly white pallor, but alas, no such luck.

While I was pregnant, I wondered what position I would end up feeling comfortable in to push my baby out. I was surprised to find it was most comfortable to lay on my side, with one leg in the air (how very stripper of me!). Due to the fact that nurses starting having back issues because of holding up patients legs while pushing, they're no longer allowed to. Thus, Kyle helped me with my bottom leg, and I held on to the top. Again, how very stripper of me!

What can I say about pushing? It's very much like shitting out a toy fire engine. You wait for a contraction to begin, then you push steadily without letting it fade. It's like taking the largest crap of your life. The strange thing is, for a while, you feel it in your bum, but then, when the baby starts to crown, the pain has migrated to your hoo-ha.

Again, I had no concept of time when I was pushing, but Kyle said it was about 30-45 minutes. I couldn't look in that direction either, because every time I did, I'd see this staring back at me:

When I hit "the ring of fire" I actually got excited, because even though it burned like the dickens, I knew we were moments away from meeting our son.

Then his head was out. And a push or two later, the rest of him.

Now, due to my immense amount of amniotic fluid, Jack took a couple gulps on his way out, so they actually had to pump his stomach almost immediately after they put him on my chest. Poor Kyle had to maneuver back and forth between me and the baby, and finally, they gave him back to me.

Perfect does not even begin to describe.

And then we were three. It was a surreal and exciting and scary feeling. Once it sunk in though, it felt like it had always been that way.

Our little family.

{Photos courtesy of Shooting the Dream Photography}
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