Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dear Penny: Letters to Our Child #23

Face it, folks. This has officially become a mommy blog :P. Actually, you probably figured that out many months ago and it's me who is just beginning to accept it. I love writing about this little baby! As always, check out the Dear Baby series label to see previous letters!

Dear Penny, 1/1/2014

I have so much to say! First of all, happy 31 weeks today AND happy year of your birth!!!! I can’t believe how fast this pregnancy has continued to go. I am so, so excited for you to get here! Daddy and I have been working on simple ways to enjoy our last weeks as ‘just us’. Luckily, we are pretty simple people and most things we are doing, we could technically do fairly easily with you… just with the extra work of getting in and out of the house with a baby. We’re doing some dinners out, going for walks, having quiet evenings at home together, cuddling lots, and I’m lounging a lot but daddy has been SO busy with work. What a big change we are in for! The closer it gets, the more ‘real’ it gets. It’s scary and exciting all at the same time! Everything changes when you have a baby, but then I thought the other night about how everything changes when you get married, too, and it has been a wonderful adventure just as I know you will be! I can’t wait to hold you in my arms and stare into your little eyes.

What makes this month even crazier is that we found out at our appointment Monday that you will be a FEBRUARY baby! That just blows my mind. With a ⅗ due date, of course it was always possible, but since 1st babies are usually late, I just had March stuck in my mind. Since my blood pressure continues to be crazy, even with double doses of medications and changing medications (and the brewer’s diet!), it’s just not safe for you to stay in there much past 38-39 weeks. When the doctor first briefly mentioned induction at 27 weeks, I was so set against it. I know I’m more likely to have a csection, a harder labor, all that not fun stuff that I don’t want. But the more I researched, the more I have found that all medical research backs up what my doctor is saying. The risk of placental abruption is very real for me and being that quite a percentage of those can happen with no symptoms, I’m not going to mess with it. Especially since we can’t get a handle on my blood pressure (I might feel differently if it was well controlled). After daddy and I researched and talked, we felt so much more at peace with what the doctor was saying. I still don’t *like* it, but I do believe it’s in your best interest. I think I’m mostly at peace with the decision because I came to agree with it through tons of research, and don’t feel I was just pushed into it by the doctor. Now I’m even happier that we decided to hire a doula to help us through birth! So long story short, I’m still in shock about and absorbing the fact that your birthday is NEXT MONTH!

You have been super, super active lately. I’m pretty sure you’re posterior, which makes sense I guess since my placenta is anterior, and I’m hoping that changes before or during labor! I’ve been pouring over spinning babies and still going for weekly chiropractic adjustments so hopefully that’s helping some. I’m not sure if it’s your feet or rump, but you are always pushing so hard on my right ribcage! Sometimes I swear you are trying to get out by way of ribs. If I slouch, you get upset and I have to sit straight back up again. I can feel your hands really low down on the right side, which always amazes me. It seems like your tiny hands would be too small to feel through the uterus but nope, they are wiggly so often! Sometimes I can feel your whole head move from the right side of my stomach to over near and below my belly button. I’ll put daddy’s hand on a really hard spot on my stomach, and then you’ll disappear! We love your gymnastics :).

From here on out, I see the doctor weekly. And starting the 16th, I have an ultrasound (non stress test and biophysical profile) EVERY WEEK until you come! It’s going to be hard to balance with work and I wish I could just quit early but I have too many loose ends to tie up before 2/14 as it is. Obviously if I need to stop for your health I will, but otherwise I’m going to push through these last 6 weeks. Since you are coming in a maximum of 8 weeks, I won’t have much time in between work and baby time, but that’s ok. I know plenty of people work right up until their birth. Speaking of which, my last progesterone injection is at 36w6d (14 left!!!!) so if you want to come after that and before the induction, you’re welcome to! Obviously I want you to grow healthy and strong, but I would not mind in the least if you came on your own!

Love you so much and I think about you ALL the time as we prepare the house, our minds, and our hearts for you.

Love, Mommy

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

35 week update!

How far along are you? 
35 weeks! EEEK!

Total weight gain: 
24.5 lbs as of last week (everything is always a week behind because I turn the next 'week' on Wednesday, but my appointments are on Thursdays!)

How big is baby?:  
 We didn't get a weight guesstimate last week during the ultrasound, but I'm hoping for one this week. My weekly email says 5 1/4 lbs. 

Maternity clothes: 
Nothing much has changed since last week with those.

Stretch marks?:  
Just the one little teeny one sort of on my side. I am super, super surprised. But I can pretty much promise that my stomach will look mauled by a tiger by the time baby arrives ;). 

Meh, it comes and goes. I don't remember what a full night's sleep is like, but it's good practice. I've been more tired in the mornings lately, but I think that's more physical exhaustion from growing a person who is encroaching on my lungs!

Best moment this week?:
Steven's family threw us a shower and it was fun spending so much time with his BIG family! There are sooo many little kids, so we got lots of great advice and baby things :).

Another awesome moment was seeing Penny use his/her diaphragm on ultrasound last week. Baby wasn't doing that the week before so the ultrasound tech was really happy to see it. I didn't even know they were looking for it, but it was cool to watch and I was like 'go baby!'.

We have an incredibly active baby, and I love it, even when it hurts a little! Baby moves all the time and it is so reassuring.

Food cravings?:
Still on a chocolate/sweet kick. Clementines are really helping, but sometimes I just gotta have chocolate milk. Thank Trader Joe's for Organic Midnight Moo syrup!

Food aversions?:
Nuts. I was eating tons throughout most of my pregnancy but lately the thoughts of them turns my stomach a little, so I don't force it.

Labor signs?: 
Soooo many braxton hicks. Last Friday they were so uncomfortable that I had to TIME THEM. Ish is getting real, folks! 

Belly button in or out?: 
Still in, but almost flush.

What I miss: 
Not taking massive amounts of pills each day. Between my blood pressure medicine, thyroid medicine, progesterone pill, progesterone shot, and a gazillion vitamins, I am taking pills ALLLL day long (because I'm convinced that I'll just pee it all out if I take them at once). It'll be nice to cut a few of those out once behbe is here! 

Oh another thing! MY NON PREGNANT FACE! So far no swelling in the hands, feet, legs, ankles... and I was kind of patting myself on the back. But my face, oh my face. It is getting so fluffy! Don't worry; I'm being checked for pre-eclampsia each week. I'm assured this is 'normal'. 

What I'm looking forward to: 
My last day of work. I'll miss my job and my coworkers but I am sooo excited to rest and nest! As much as everything is getting real now, it is going to be SO real when I finish my last day and it's almost BABY TIME! I stop at 37 weeks 2 days and my doctor's initial goal is to get me to 37 weeks. Double eek!

What I'm not looking forward to: 
Nothing major right now. I'm mostly just excited and good-anxious. Maybe the group b strep screening. I've been downing probiotics!


Monday, January 27, 2014

2014 Projects

Is it ambitious for me to have any other goals for 2014 besides keeping another human being alive? Probably so, but these can always be moved to 2015 if necessary. I find I do better with some long term goals and with having lists, even if I don't accomplish much. It helps to focus me or, after a bout of chaotic-ness, it helps to refocus me. So I began thinking about what things have been neglected over the past year or two, and what things I might have a little extra time to work on once my job is primarily in the home. A lot of times when I'm home on the weekend now, I make a list of things that needs to be done and then I choose a few things to accomplish. The rest on the list either don't happen or happen some other time. It works for me! It means I'm productive and feel good, but balanced with some relaxy time. So note that while none of these will probably get done in the near future, as before baby we're getting ready for baby and post baby we'll be getting used to baby, I'll have this to dig back up one day (hopefully) later in the year when I'm itching for a project. Getting out of the house for walks and errands help me when I'm cabin fevery, but I've noticed that projects in the house accomplish the same thing, which will be important when I have a napping baby! 

2014-2015 Goals

Finish wedding scrapbooks (ahem... so far I have scrapbooked the morning of. Still to scrapbook: the actual wedding, reception, and honeymoon)

Make online photo book of pregnancy announcement, monthly pics, both showers, and maternity photos with one of the Shutterfly coupons I have

Make and send birth announcements

Clean baseboards and woodwork

Touch up paint on walls and furniture

Clean out and organize closets

Clean out and organize cupboards

Weed gardens... repeatedly

Get estimates for fence for backyard

Get Steven to stain the deck (*snort*, my favorite projects are the ones I don't have to do!)

Get family member's birthdays written down so I can put them on the calendar each year and actually remember them

Make one of those "You are special today" plates for baptism anniversaries, feast days, birthdays, etc.

Read for fun!!! Besides just magazines.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Things People Don't Tell You About Pregnancy

Ok, granted that these don't apply to all pregnancies, but I certainly can't be the only one and I never heard anyone talk about these things! I heard all the typical things like stretch marks, heartburn, even gas etc, but for those of you who haven't been pregnant before, you may find this helpful later on! And when I'm pregnant the next time (God willing), I'm sure I will have forgotten these things and need to read it myself, so I can google less :). My TMI barrier is way lower than most people and I figure if we talk about and normalize these things, there will be less first time moms thinking something is seriously wrong with them! Of course don't mistake any of this for medical advice and ask your doctor if you have any concerns! 

  • Menstrual like cramps. I had them for MONTHS. I still occasionally get them. It freaked me out but the doctor said they were normal as long as they weren't accompanied by blood and to make sure I was drinking plenty of water (I drink tons). Apparently it's just your uterus expanding.
  • Losing your mucus plug throughout pregnancy. Uh, yeah that freaked me out because you only ever hear about people losing it before labor! It regenerates so if there's, again, no blood, it's normal. But a warning would have been nice, no?
  • The baby kicks and then doesn't kick again for a week in the 16w-22w (approx.) time frame. Baby can still move and hide, so it's not abnormal for you to only feel it sporadically until it gets bigger. I was convinced that the baby was... gone... so much so that we got an elective ultrasound at 18w. Worth every penny. See what I did there? Penny <3.
  • Ultrasounds hurt. At first I thought it was just because I'm.... fluffy.... but even as I've gotten bigger and baby is way closer to the surface, they still push REALLY hard. Maybe it's just the lady who does mine; I don't know. I've actually come away with bruises the next day! I never expected them to be unpleasant (but totally worth it to see that sweet face). Though they'd probably hurt less if baby's head wasn't in the go zone that they need to measure each week, but I am not complaining about good positioning.
  • Shortness of breath. Normal. Even when you just do something like carry your plate to the kitchen. I don't even notice it now, but when it first started I was convinced something was wrong. Just all that extra blood giving your body a work out! The bigger you get, the worse it gets. I frequently have to sit down after getting ready for work in the morning because, though walking and sitting don't bother me, standing makes me exhausted! 
  • Sometimes you won't feel pregnant, even when you're very pregnant. In early pregnancy, I often didn't feel pregnant but that seemed to be expected. But when I sometimes feel not pregnant at 34 weeks, it baffles me! Sometimes my belly just doesn't get in the way or I don't feel it (not sure how to accurately describe that), and I have to go in the bathroom and look at my giantness in the mirror so I feel better. I've said it a million times, but pregnancy is such a mind trip all the way around! If someone tells you that you look small, you'll probably feel like you're starving your baby. If someone tells you that you look big, you'll want to slap them. Just tell me I look wonderful, mmmk?
  • Your boobs will do all kinds of weird things. All I ever really heard about was them hurting in really early pregnancy. I'm sure this is wildly different for each woman, but I will tell you they've hurt off and on the entire time, and the hurting sensation is often different from what it was even just a week ago, or in a different location. Since my hormonal issues put me at risk for milk supply problems, it's another thing that actually makes me happy (keep hurting, girls; do your thing!), but I definitely didn't expect them to hurt past the first trimester or so.
  • Speaking of, I'm trying to not get too graphic here, but your body will do all kinds of weird things in general. I invested in a collection of cloth liners from etsy and it's probably some of the best money I've spent this entire pregnancy. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.
  • Round ligament pain! I had never heard anyone talk about this and, when I googled it, it said it was a 2nd trimester thing. But guess what? 85% of my round ligament pain was in the first trimester. And since I'd never heard about it, I of course thought something was horribly wrong until I figured out what it was. It hurts!!!! Around mid 2nd trimester I switched chiropractors and my current one does the webster technique, which includes adjusting my round ligaments each week (so awkward when other people see it and are like WHAT IS HE TOUCHING!?). But I swear by it because it hasn't happened once since then AND baby has been in the optimal position for birth since I started working with him. WIN!
I know I'm forgetting lots of things, so leave some in the comments for soon to be mommies! Check this out if you want a similar list but with a higher entertainment value ;).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

34 Week Update

How far along are you? 
34 weeks. Skipped blogging 33, but 34 feels so... substantial!

Total weight gain: 
I think 24 lbs, but my next weigh is tomorrow.

How big is baby?:  
  As of last Thursday, baby was estimated to be 4lb 7oz but I'll get a new number tomorrow! 

Maternity clothes: 
Just got a couple new shirts this week because I'm growing out of the bottom of some of the maternity stuff I've been wearing the last few months.

Stretch marks?:  
Just the one little teeny one sort of on my side.

It's been a little better again this week. Except when I have heartburn. Which no longer correlates to food (except chocolate) so I can't do much to prevent it at bed time.

Best moment this week?:
Meeting with our doula was amazing, seeing the baby's hair last week was super cute, and getting our maternity photos plus the date that followed was good, too! It was just a good overall week :).

Apparently all these uncomfortable rib jabs are because baby has long legs, which is funny since neither mommy nor daddy are particularly tall. I have to count to 5 kicks and write down how long it takes, and if I don't get 5 in an hour, I have to start back over. More times than not, Penny kicks 5 times before 5 minutes is even up! 

Food cravings?:
Salads, chocolate (even though it gives me horrible heartburn), Moe's as always.

Food aversions?:
This week I haven't been feeling eggs. Sorry Brewer's Diet.

Labor signs?: 
Braxton hicks (I know that's not really a labor sign but humor me)! It took me a while to figure out what they were, so I'm not sure how long I've been having them. The baby sometimes moves and creates pressure, so I thought that's what it was. Then it dawned on me that my stomach was hard towards the top from left to right, and baby does not take up all that horizontal space! I get them every few days for about 10 minutes at a time.

Belly button in or out?: 
Still in, but almost flush.

What I miss: 
Cuddling my hubby. The body pillow is a dream for sleeping, though! I bought the Snoogle a while back and hated it, but my body pillow is just perfect for supporting my belly, knees, and ankles! I know both of us will be glad when I trade the body pillow back in for hubby snuggles :).

What I'm looking forward to: 
Seeing the baby again tomorrow, and the shower my husband's family is throwing us on Sunday! And after that, we can SHOP (like I haven't already- haha!) for the last things we need.

What I'm not looking forward to: 
Packing a hospital bag to start taking with us on our weekly appointments (because if anything is wrong, it's off the the hospital we go and the hospital is 45 minutes from home). But I want to have it if we need it, even though I want Penny to stay in there and grow many more weeks! 

Still unknown! I got my first girl guess the other day; everyone else still says boy!

Sneak peek!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pre-baby Date Day

Steven and I were super lucky to both be off of work yesterday, which is a rarity around here. We were also really lucky that it was the one day of really amazing weather for an entire week and we had booked our maternity pictures for that day! I am so, so thankful since we both had short sleeve outfits and it was 64 out.... in the 50's today and 20's tomorrow!

We have had a few dinner dates recently, but haven't had one of those hours long, hang out together type dates in quite some time. Between work schedules, doctors appointments, my tiredness, saving money, etc, it just hasn't worked out in a while.We talk a lot about not losing 'us' after the baby is here (and even bought this great book to help!), so I knew we needed to practice that by not losing 'us' before the baby is here. Most of life will be, and is, focused on the baby. And we are totally ok with that, and overjoyed about that even!! But we want to make sure we still have our little moments and that we are thinking about each other, too.  So we were really excited to realize we had an entire day to just focus on us!

We started with (mostly) sleeping in. I slept until 8, which is definitely sleeping in for me, and Steven tolerated me waking up him :). We had breakfast, a little computer time, and then a good couch cuddle while we watched some Netflix. Then we hung stuff in the baby's room, had lunch together, and got ready for the day. At 3pm, we had maternity pictures at the Raulston Arboretum, which is where we had our engagement photos done. I loved the idea of celebrating two different phases of life at the same place! We worked with the photographer for a little over an hour and I can't wait to see how the pictures turn out. We had one really funny/awkward moment when we went to change into our second outfits. There is a single women's and single men's restroom with 2 ladies in line for the women's. So I just went into the men's with Steven so we could both change. But since there was nowhere to hang our hangers, it took longer than expected for us to both get changed and our old stuff hung back up without anything falling on the floor. I was feeling weird about how long it was taking, so we opened up to walk out as I was still putting my cardigan on. The looks on the faces of the people waiting for the bathroom when they saw a couple come out, still getting dressed, was priceless. I said "We're not being awkward, I swear! Just changing clothes for our photo shoot" and we all shared a laugh together. What I should have done is point at my belly and say "come on people, how much trouble can we get into?". ;)

After we finished pictures, I was famished. We went to Moe's (ongoing pregnancy craving) and had a leisurely early dinner, followed by cupcakes at Gigi's. Once we were sufficiently stuffed, we went to Whole Foods for a few items I'll need as we near induction (I'm sure that will get its own post later!), and then drove around near the apartments we used to live in to see the new neighborhood they put up. Around then it was time for our movie, The Butler, at the $2 theater which we found out is now the $2.25 theater. As we drove there, I told Steven that I was stuffed and was glad we weren't planning on popcorn. That is, until somehow with our rewards card we got a coupon for 2 free drinks and a free large popcorn (which baffled us since that is not one of the rewards listed on the website!). Then I had to have popcorn and I had to have it immediately! I got a giant water, Steven got his diet coke, and we settled into the movie with our huge bag of popcorn. The movie was so, so good and powerful. I would highly recommend it! On our way out, we got our free refill which we portion into snack sizes and lasts us a week!

As we got in the car to come home, we were both in such great moods over what a fun day we had together. I've really missed date days with my husband! Hopefully we can incorporate them back in after Penny gets here and we get settled, with things like walks and picnics in the park as the weather warms up.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

People, Let Me Tell You About My Best Friend

I feel like I have to take a second to gush. Or maybe more than a second... a whole post. Throughout my pregnancy, I've talked a lot about my feelings, my experiences, and the baby. But before baby is actually HERE and I get swept up in all that comes with that, I have to take a second to reflect on and record my husband through this pregnancy, through my eyes of course.

First of all, starting the entire process towards growing our family was not easy for him. Steven had a lot of (very normal) fears and was willing to trust in something bigger than himself to work past it. He trusted me as we openly talked about both of our feelings on getting started, what the journey could look like, and he ultimately trusted God when he realized that we had no reason to continue postponing pregnancy, though he was still scared. I am so in awe of him for that because I don't know that I would have done the same. I'm bad about trusting, and instead waiting for when I feel ready for something or when something feels right. He was such a beautiful example of love and trust for me during the months we were discerning the call to start trying to conceive.

When we began trying to get pregnant, Steven was a rock. I was an emotional basket case due to the unknowns of dealing with infertility issues and due to how medicalized the process was. It was nothing like I'd imagined and, though I am eternally grateful for the help we received, I really struggled through it. Steven was uplifting for me, reassured me, held me when he didn't have words, and shared his sadness with me in a very honest way.

When we found out we were pregnant, I expected Steven to be excited but to freak out a little at first, especially given his reservations months before. What I didn't expect was him looking at me in the car on our way back from the doctor that day (we went the same day as the positive test), beaming, and saying "I just want to tell the whole world!". It is a moment that I will never forget. I was sitting there nervous, needing numbers from my blood work in order to trust (see a theme?), and he was about to burst with excitement. He had not one shred of fear about the adventure we were embarking on.

When my progesterone levels came back really low, and then a few times later dipped into dangerous territory, he was scared just like I was, but he comforted me and encouraged me to pray through my fear. He overcame his fear of needles, blood, and all things medical to give me two shots a week with one of the biggest needles we'd ever seen. And after the shots, he would thank me for doing this for our baby, hold me on the ones that made me cry, and tell me how brave I am and what a good mom I already am.

When my blood pressure began to cause issues, he took on extra around the house, physically, mentally, and emotionally. He has cooked so many dinners for us (usually my territory), does some of 'my' chores without me even asking for help, and frankly takes my crap when I'm emotional and taking it out on the man I love the most. He forgives me in a second and works on helping me to create a calm environment to help my blood pressure. Any time I start to move, he asks how he can help. After a long day at work, he tells me to put my feet up and let him take care of things.... after he's worked a 10 or 11 hour day. When I freaked out about the possible need for an induction, he helped me find evidence based studies to make our decision from so that I would feel empowered.

 He has been to every prenatal appointment with me except 2, which is saying a lot since I'm going weekly. He gladly attended our birth class, our meetings with the doula, consignment store shopping for baby and maternity things, and meeting the pediatrician. He constantly works his work schedule around all these things so we can do it together. He not quite so gladly ;) did hours and hours of work on the nursery, and now will stand in there with me looking at items, imagining having a tiny baby in there to use them.

He has read every book I've given him or asked him read with me, watched countless videos on all kinds of topics, discussed so many important issues with me without complaint. He has listened to me, questioned about, researched, and embraced every single thing I've brought up to him... delayed and alternate vaccine schedules, babywearing, cosleeping, the possibility of donor milk if needed, the choice to not circumcise, my staying home, hiring a doula... I could go on! All of these things were so foreign to him, not only because he's new to the baby world, because often they are not 'mainstream'. Instead of just agreeing with whatever I decide, he has put in the work to learn about the issue, form an opinion, and decide as a family.

He loves this baby so, so much. I had read pre-pregnancy about how a lot of dads don't bond with the baby until the wife begins to show, because it doesn't become real to them until then. I would say that has definitely helped him, as has him being able to feel the baby move all the time, but he has kissed and rubbed my belly since before the bump existed. He has read to the baby almost every single night for months now. At church, he gives the baby the sign of peace. He prays each night for our baby to grow to be healthy and strong.

Watching his role as husband stretch and change, and watching him grow into fatherhood has been one of the most romantic, emotional, and special things I've ever experienced. I can't even imagine what it will be like after the baby is here. I suspect I will be a puddle of mush. This journey has been even more fun than I could have ever imagined, and we are only just beginning!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

To Doula or Not to Doula

Last night we had our last prenatal visit (OMG!) with our doula and, when she left, I was riding so high on emotions- good ones! I thought I'd share a little bit about what a doula does, why we decided to hire one, and why I say HIRE A DOULA! and we haven't even used her for the birth yet :). 

First, the internet can (and usually does) say it better than me. As you can find here and multiple other places, it was found through clinical studies that the use of a doula can decrease csection rates by 50%, length of labor by 25%, use of pitocin by 40%, and requests for epidural by 60%... to name a few perks! I actually didn't go into my doula search knowing that or using that as my reasoning for wanting one. I mainly wanted support for Steven! I know that labor can be looooooooong, that the nurses are very much in and out, and that it could probably easily get overwhelming for him no matter how much we prepared. But then I found so much information on how helpful doulas could be and it really cemented my belief that we should have one. Steven was iffy at first, worried about spending the money, but the more he learned about labor (and the more birth videos I had him watch- ha!), he quickly got on board. After our (wonderful) birth class 2 weeks ago, he must have said 3 different times how excited he is that we have a doula. As we practiced labor comfort techniques for probably 10-15 minutes, it was exhausting. Having the doula there means he doesn't have to be the one doing all the work, which is going to make both of our experiences better. She will not step in and take over unless one of us wants her to, and will just sort of feel us out as to what support we both need. I love that because I definitely want Steven as a very active participant.

Once things began to get complicated with my blood pressure and my doctor said I would need to be induced, I will be honest. I sort of thought to myself "ok... then is the doula pointless?" Absolutely not. First, she helped me research the medical indications of inducing for high blood pressure, which was so helpful. As I told her last night, I want to come out of the birth knowing that, even if it doesn't go the way I want it to, that I was not pushed into anything, that I researched and made decisions for myself and my baby, and that I understood and agreed with what was happening and what was recommended. So having her there to help me check out studies, and she talked to medical professionals she knows, was beyond helpful in coming to the conclusion that an induction is in our best interest. Then I began reading all about inductions online... the horrors of cytotec, the horrors of pitocin contractions, the higher risk of csection, etc. I kept telling Steven how I never really feared labor and birth (yes, I know it won't be fun or easy but it hasn't ever scared me) until we found out about the induction. Now, I was scared. 

Cue the doula who talked me through all of my fears, reassured me, let me know what things she'll be doing to help and I feel so, SO good about things now. Again, I know it will absolutely be no walk in the park. I know I could end up with outcomes I don't love. BUT I know that between my husband, doctor, and doula I have an amazing birth team and support network. And I re-learned to stop googling things. Almost everything I was reading online was worst case scenarios made to seem like they were super common place, so hearing from her what she has seen in similar patients she has supported was a breath of fresh air. She talked about things she brings to comfort women during labor, like a TENS unit, clary sage oil to help a slow labor progress, etc. I just have to show up for the party ;).

Another of the many things I love about having a doula is the ability to email, text, and call with my questions throughout pregnancy. She's very honest about what things she can answer and what I need to ask my doctor. She helped us fine tune our birth preferences and gave us the awesome suggestion of having my doctor sign it once he reviews it so the nurses will know he is in support, eliminating any confusion that day. She will not interfere in communication with medical staff but will help me advocate for myself and my wishes, and will help facilitate good communication with the staff. If I were to go into spontaneous labor, she'll come to my house and help me determine when to go to the hospital and to provide comfort there. After the baby is born, she'll help establish breastfeeding before she leaves, and she'll come back to the house within 1-2 weeks to see if there are any resources she can connect me with (ie breastfeeding support, etc). She even offered to go to a prenatal appointment with me if I need her to!

So yes, I absolutely, absolutely recommend a doula even though we haven't labored with her yet. She has already been worth every penny we paid, and I know her value will skyrocket in say.... 6 weeks! ;) Personality is a huge factor so phone and face interview before you make a decision! This person will a) be involved in one of the most intimate experiences of your life and b) will be with you for a LONG time most likely, especially if it's your first labor (she guesstimates that if I were taken in the evening/night of day 1 for induction, baby will be born the middle of the night day 2 going into 3... so 36ish hours). If you hire someone whose personality clashes with yours, who has something that just irks you, it probably won't be a great experience.

I phone interviewed a couple doulas who I knew just from the phone call that I didn't love. Our doula is sweet, calm, confident, knowledgeable, comforting... all things that are very important to me. I couldn't deal with someone who is loud and brash, or someone who is too meek and hands off. She is the perfect balance. You know another thing that sealed the deal? I met her through a meetup group early on in my pregnancy that provides information for pregnant women. I attended their breastfeeding session, and she got in a pretty bad wreck on the way there. SHE STILL CAME. It was a meet up group and there were other people there; she easily could have gone home and everyone would have completely understood, and the meeting would have gone on. But nope, they towed her car away and she came to the meetup. I was like yeah.... she can attend my birth ;).

So there you have it.... everything you possibly never knew you wanted to know about doulas! I highly recommend this website for starting your search. 

Did you use a doula? If so, I'd love to hear your labor/birth experience! 

Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
Steven and I put so much brown sugar in steel cut oats that I think it may outweigh the health benefits of the oats themselves :P. I actually prefer old fashioned oats, but man, throw some whole milk, brown sugar, and a banana and/or pumpkin puree in the bowl and, YUM, you've got yourself a filling and tasty breakfast! We discovered a whole container of steel cut oats in the back of the pantry that expires at the end of this month, so it's been a daily breakfast for us as we try to use them up. Since oatmeal lasts a LONG time, your guess is as good as mine about how long it was sitting in there! I am missing my pb/banana/chocolate/yogurt/milk smoothies!

--- 2 ---
I'd like to say that we're spending our MLK day volunteering buuuuuut that's not exactly what we have planned (though props to all of you who are!!!!). First, we're going to sleep in as it'll be Steven's first day off in over 7 days! Then that afternoon we have maternity pictures!!! Eeek! I went back and forth for about 2 months on whether or not I wanted to get them done. I have lots of pictures of me, but I mainly was afraid I'd regret not having more pictures of Steven with me. Or rather, with my belly! So we decided to do it, and I picked the arboretum which is where we did our engagement photos. Can't wait to see them! 

--- 3 ---
I had my first weekly non stress test and biophysical profile yesterday. Depsite almost having a throw up/pass out moment on the table, the bpp went very well. Note to self: do not lay flat next week. Baby was estimated to be 4 lb 7 oz and has HAIR! :) She couldn't get a good face picture because someone stubborn had both arms in front of his or her face. The nst also went well, except that the baby got hiccups during it and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to press the button or not! You press it for movement, and technically I feel the hiccups. Anyway, baby passed so I guess it was moot. See you again next week, baby!

--- 4 ---
Tonight we meet with our doula again and I'm SO excited. I have lots to pick her brain about, plus I want her to look over our birth preferences before I give them to my doctor. I am entirely too skilled in making 'plans' that don't pan out in life to call it a birth plan ;). 

--- 5 ---
This weekend (well, the Saturday/Sunday part of it) I have approximately no plans. There is a kids/maternity consignment shop not too far that's having an awesome sale, so I might check that out but.... I might enjoy my remaining weeks of being a blob on the couch :). Annnnnd catch up on my baby/nursing reading!

--- 6 ---
A little deep, and a major switch in topics, but one of the most liberating things I learned over this past year, or at least, really came to understand and put into practice is this: God is outside of time. I knew that He was, but I guess I never thought about it practically. In a Catholic group I'm in online where we often pray for each other, I would see people say something like "oh no! I missed this prayer request, but I'll pray now because God is outside of time". And at first I thought it was kind of.... a cop out? Cheesy? I don't know. But then I thought what an amazing gift that He IS outside of time so our prayers 'count' no matter what. Love it!

 --- 7 ---
Friday question (haven't had one of those in a while!) What's a good background show on Netflix? For example, I most recently watched whatever the Cake Boss competition show is... The Next Great Baker maybe? I liked it because I could do other things and it didn't matter if I missed a detail here or there. I'm looking for shows like that when I'm home by myself on the weekend, it's just a bit too quiet, but I don't want to just sit and watch tv. Ideas?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday #3

So today we're going to go back... way back! Unfortunately I don't have easy enough access to childhood pictures to put them up on these posts. I mean, I could get them because my parents took an awesome amount of pictures, but it's enough work that I'm forgoing a picture from the actual time period. But this TBT post ties into the inspiration for our baby's nursery!

When I was about 6 years old, we were walking through the mall and I saw a teddy bear in JC Penny that I just had to have. You know how parents feel about stuffed animals. ANOTHER stuffed animal? But apparently my parents saw my intense need for this bear because one of them snuck away at some point in the mall trip and bought it. So for Christmas that year, I got Ted... full name Ted E. Bear. I was a pretty creative kid :P. Ted quickly became my stuffed animal bff. You know how most kids have a doll or stuffed animal that is special to them for their whole lives? Well, that's Ted for me. For the next few years, my parents would get me the JC Penny "Bear of the Year". And they were cool, and they joined my brood of other stuffed animals. But no one ever compared to Ted (I think they got the hint about 3 years later and quit buying me a yearly bear!). Ted went on all our family trips with us and slept in my bed every night. He went to "summer camp" at my best friend's house in 5th grade to learn how to read. On road trips, my parents would let him sit up front for a good view, and he would have to close his eyes in tunnels because he was afraid of the dark. I took Ted to sleepovers and dressed him in clothes. There were quite a few years where he lived in the crack between my bed and the wall, but he was still there. He went to college with me, though he got kicked out of bed at that point. In our current house, he has sat with a couple other special stuffed friends.

When we found out we were going to have a baby, I immediately knew that I wanted Ted to be accessible to my baby. I could have him on a shelf where he can't get messed up, or I could let my baby love on this little guy who brought me so much happiness when I was little. So then it just clicked.... a teddy bear nursery! We had already painted the nursery a light green when we moved in, knowing that it would be a nursery some day. And one day I got some awesome shimmery, tan curtains on clearance for the room just to have a window treatment in there. Well, I fell in LOVE with those curtains and they just happen to be perfect teddy bear color! So the vision was born. Ted sits on a chair that has been through the past few generations of our family, on a little teddy bear chair pad made by the baby's future Godmother, just waiting to be snotted on and have food wiped all over him. And I bet he wouldn't have it any other way :).

I think this was my 5th birthday, so not totally accurate but gives you an idea ;).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I am a Stay at Home Mom (And So Can You!)

First of all, if you get that reference we should probably be even better friends than we already are. Second of all, clearly I'm not a stay at home mom yet. Speaking of which, one month and counting!!!! I may have talked about this before because I probably just like to hear myself think, but if I forgot, then you probably forgot too. And while we're on the topic of me liking to hear myself think, I promise I don't know why my blog shows up twice in the readers. I really don't do it to force you to read me. It just does it on its own and I'm not techie enough to fix it. If you know how, tell me!

Back to the topic at hand. We have just start living on our apocalyptic Post Baby Budget *cue horror music*. We figured a month of practice would do us some good, even though our brains are screaming for eating out and $2 movies and other things that are mostly of the past. I wanted to share, though, how we are making it work. Obviously we are just now putting it into play. But what you may not know is that it has been in the works for over 2 years- since before we got married! For those of you who don't feel called to be stay at home moms, this post is not for you. This is in no way a judgement of people who don't feel that's best for their families and this is not an attempt to convert you to SAHMedness. For those of you who know there is no way on earth you can make it work, this post is not for you. I'm not trying to convince you that the earth and stars really CAN be moved you when you know they can't. And I so feel for you if you feel called to it and there is just no way to make it happen. This blog post is mostly for people who have an inkling that it could work for their families, that they feel called to be a stay at home mom, but who just aren't sure how exactly to make this thing work. I was there! And I won't say I'm coming out on the other side of it, since it is still just beginning, but we worked our butts off to make this a reality, so I thought I would share some of what we did, how we planned, and what is making it doable for us.

First, please know that we're giving up around 43% of our income by me staying home. Yes, that is our choice so I'm not complaining. But think about that percentage and know that this has not been easy to figure out by any means! I am in awe of anyone who gives up even more to make it work. Second, know that people make this decision last minute or after some of their children have been born all the time. This is from a different angle though; it's from the angle of super-planners like me. For us, I'm not sure it would have been able to work otherwise, but everyone's circumstances are different! It goes without saying that what works for us may or may not work for you. So here is what we did:

  • We began discerning my vocation well before marriage. I don't know if this is surprising to anyone, but our original 'plan' was for me to keep working after starting a family. It felt right to us for a while, until it didn't. That could probably be an entire blog post on its own. Once we realized we wanted me to stay home, we knew we had to get going on figuring out how that would happen. I refused for us to bury our heads in the sand, live somewhat frivolously, and then not be able to make our dream of me being at home come true. If it wasn't going to happen, it wasn't going to happen for a much better reason than poor planning!
  • As soon as we got married, we began living as much with just Steven's paycheck as we could. We got practice during our engagement because we had to save quite a bit of money for the portion of the wedding we paid for. So we figured, why start spending that after marriage? Instead we spent about 6 months working towards not using my income. Now we actually did use it, but not on anything in our regular budget. It was either put into savings OR used for things like unexpected expenses (that will now come from savings, but no point in depleting it when we had my paycheck), paying for progesterone throughout pregnancy etc. But it was not factored into our regular expenses for the most part. Some months we did great and others we totally tanked, but we didn't throw in the towel.
  • We learned to live without. We only had cable at the apartment we lived at when we were first married because it was free. We do 'splurge' on Netflix, but cable is just, to us, money down the drain that we could be saving and a luxury we knew we couldn't afford in the future. We also have slower internet than most people. It's not super noticably slow, and it saves quite a bit of money. We also tend to go on cheap dates (but actually have learned to have fun finding and planning those!). No drinks or desserts at restaurants for us, and we mostly eat at casual places. We only go to $2 movies when we do go and we use coupons for meals, events, etc. It takes extra planning and work but saves so much money. Now that we're in our Post Baby Budget, we will continue to stretch our minds as we live without more comfort things. To some people it's not worth it, and that's ok! To us it is, so we learn to be even more creative.
  • We beefed up our savings account. We know things will be rough financially for a while. We knew that our Post Baby Budget is tight and doesn't allow for extras or emergencies. So we knew we needed a safety net for anything that does come up. The hope is that I'll be able to supplement our income, even just a small amount, at some point in the future, but we wanted to make sure we were ok for a while until that happens. So we picked a number and made that our goal. We are actually $1,000 above our goal which is good since the first few months we will probably need random baby crap we never knew existed and will most likely drain that quickly. It was fairly easy to beef up our savings since we weren't using the majority of my income anyways. One of my checks might have gone toward the maternity retainer fee and that month's progesterone, and the next we could sock away into savings.
  • We bought a house that we could afford on just Steven's income. This one was hard. I love, LOVE our house. I really do! But a house is something that is hard not to get the "Jones" over. I see people with houses that would be easier to grow into, that have amenities like garages or bonus rooms, that have fancier finishes, and I'd love all those things! But the fact is, for us, we had to choose whether we wanted to buy a house that had all that and I kept working or to buy a house that was sustainable on one income and give up the extras. It was an easy choice for us, and we are so blessed to have found our precious house in a short sale, but it's something I have to constantly remind myself of. I know that our kids will have to share bedrooms, and I know that homeschooling in this house will have to be creative without having a dining room or extra school room space. I know this. But it is so worth it to be able to live within our means on one income. Our biggest mistake would have been buying a house with a mortgage that was 20 or 30% of our combined income because I honestly don't know that we could have made it work once I quit my job. Instead we bought a house that turns out to be about 30% percent of just Steven's income, which makes it doable in long term... probably the best decision we made. 
I'm sure there are a few things I'm missing, but I'd say these are the major things that have factored into being able to turn our dream into a reality. I would love to hear what things you all have done either as you prepared to stay at home or if you are preparing currently. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dear Penny: Letters to our Child #22

I am soooo close to being caught up to 'real time' on my letters to Penny! To read the rest, click on the "Dear Baby Series" tag!

Dear Baby Penny, 12/16/2013

We had such a wonderful weekend celebrating YOU! Our shower was at Fuddrucker’s in their party room. It was the perfect location for a couples’ shower with burgers and fries. Mom, Rachel, and Jen organized and set up everything (with help from the spouses and kids of course ;) ) and there were so many special touches! The cake was pink, blue, and white with “Penny” written on it in yellow, and each family from my family made a build-a-bear teddy bear personalized just for you! They said that any time you start missing them, you can go hug your bear <3. Mom and Dad made Bearemy, Rachel and Nicole made Peso, and Adam, Jen, Kaitie, and Dylan made Miles (as in many miles between our houses). We got some great gifts… a LOT of them. You are so loved, spoiled, and taken care of already. We had so much fun catching up with friends and seeing their babies and children. Jennifer’s son Ryan said that, if you’re a girl, you should be named Rainbow… but not if you’re a boy, he said, because that would be silly ;).

We ate, talked, opened presents, had cake, talked more, and stayed until the reservation time on the room was up. It was a cold, rainy, nasty day, but I barely noticed because I was surrounded by so much love and happiness. Daddy and I have said many times in the past 2 days how fortunate we are. And how fortunate YOU are. You are loved so much by so many already!

Saturday night we had a cookout at gammy and gampy’s house. Yes, more food! Gampy’s good friend Jay, who had come to the shower, came to the house, too. With all the Christmas decorations and the whole family there, it really did feel like Christmas! It was loud, overwhelming, and so much fun. We had chicken, steaks, fries, and salad and all just sat around talking and laughing. Daddy and I went through the cards and gifts again, this time a little more slowly since there were less eyes on us ;).

On Friday night, you let Gampy and Gammy both feel you kick and Aunt Rachel felt you on Saturday morning, but you would not kick for Aunt Jen or Uncle Adam on Saturday night! You’d kick me once and then stop as soon as they put their hand on my stomach. But after everyone left Saturday night and Daddy and I got in bed, I felt some pressure, so I put my hand on my lower stomach and felt your entire head move from one place to another! It was so bizarre and cool. It was the first time I KNEW the body part that was moving and I’ve never felt your head actually move (usually I just feel the pressure). Then you gave Daddy some good kicks while his hand was on my side. Sunday on the ride home you were soooo wiggly. Usually the car puts you to sleep, but you kicked and wiggled from sun up to sun down. I loved it!

We, and so many people!, love you baby Penny. Don’t ever forget that. Read these letters when you are down and see just how much you are loved before you even entered this world!

Love, Mommy

Best family a girl could ask for! Notice my mom (and dad!) wore Penny shirts :)!