Tag: childbirth

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

Survival Guide for Parents with a New Baby

You just had a baby or adopted a newborn. Congratulations! This is a momentous occasion and a life-changing event. You may have anticipated the bonding experiences with your baby, those quiet moments of cuddling and cooing, singing and playing. The first time he or she smiles or laughs will warm your heart.

All babies are unique. Some are mellow little cherubs content to eat, sleep, and snuggle with very little fussing. Others may be more of a handful, perhaps due to a more sensitive nature or physical challenges like reflux. Still others can make the first month or so a nightmare, with unconsolable crying for hours on end, barely sleeping for longer than 45 minutes, or being awake for hours during the night.

The first two months, though filled with lovely and wonderful moments, can also be quite difficult for parents. Here is my practical guide for surviving these tough times. If you are new to motherhood or fatherhood, this survival guide will help! (Dads, there is a special note at the bottom just for you.)

1. Sleep!

I know, I know. Everyone tells you about the importance of sleep and to “sleep when baby sleeps”. You are probably thinking right now: “Sure, it is easy to say but I can’t sleep when baby sleeps or nothing would get done.”

Perhaps baby is nursing every hour or you have to pump on a rigid schedule. Maybe just when you close your eyes to rest, the baby starts fussing or your older children demand attention. Maybe baby has finally fallen asleep but it is almost time for dinner and all of your dishes are dirty in the sink. I know how you feel. I have been there. 

But let me also remind you of something you already know: sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. Two to three hours a night, broken up into ten minutes here and twenty minutes there, is not sufficient sleep. The days and weeks after childbirth are already challenging, but if you do not get enough rest, you may unintentionally contribute to postpartum depression.

I was there. I experienced this with my second child. We had an extremely fussy/needy newborn and an 18-month-old who was teething at the same time.

The sleep deprivation contributed to my own postpartum depression, which did not resolve itself until about five and a half weeks postpartum when baby was finally sleeping for two to four hours stretches so I could sleep, too. I was too prideful to admit that I had a sleep problem. I was determined to fix it on my own, but I needed to ask for help. My husband was a lifesaver. He would watch the kids while I napped or drop the toddler off at his parents for the afternoon.

To be able to function, you need to consistently get 5 or more hours of sleep within a twenty-four hour period of time. Have your spouse watch the baby while you take a nap. Ask family to come over to watch the baby. Do what you have to do to get some sleep.

2. Eat healthy and eat often.

With the craziness that a newborn brings, you might find yourself skipping a meal here and there or grabbing a less-than-nutritious snack instead. If it only happens on a rare occasion, you are probably fine, but this can cause problems if it becomes a common occurrence.

You just had a baby so your body is in recovery and you may be breastfeeding as well. Your body needs proper nutrition to fuel recovery and to make the milk your baby needs. If you skip too many meals, your daily caloric intake may drop too low too fast. This can negatively impact your milk production and might even contribute to health problems for you.

Make sure you eat well-balanced meals throughout the day.

You may find that you need to eat a little less but more frequently (like when you were pregnant). Even if you do not feel hungry, eat something healthy. (Oats are good for you and aid in milk production!) Or maybe you have discovered that you have a ravenous appetite and you are afraid you will either gain more weight or not lose the baby weight so you are trying to put yourself on a diet.

Firstly, it is too soon to go on a diet. Your body is already going through so many changes right now, don’t make it have to work even harder. Secondly, if you are breastfeeding, some women find that they have to have a little extra weight to maintain a healthy milk supply. (I am one of them.) Thirdly, it took nine months to gain the weight, allow yourself at least a year to lose it.

If you eat healthy, snack healthy, and do moderate exercise on a daily basis, you will gradually slim down.

3. Shower at least every other day, but everyday if possible.

You may find yourself hyper-focused on caring for the new baby’s needs that you neglect your own most basic needs. Showering not only keeps you clean, but it can help you relax and deal with stress. Find the time to take a shower.

Whether it is in the early morning before the baby wakes up, mid-morning when your mom or sister or best friend comes over to watch the baby, the middle of the afternoon when baby is napping, after your husband comes home from work in the evening, or late at night right before bed. The when does not matter. Just do it. You will be glad you did!

Perhaps you are alone. Maybe you are a single parent, your spouse works long hours or is away from home for days at a time, or you have no family nearby to help. Maybe baby is crying hysterically even though s/he has been fed, burped, and changed.

My advice is to put baby down in a safe place (crib, bassinet, rock ‘n play, etc.) and take a quick five or ten minute shower. Hard though it may be to listen to, it is okay for a baby to cry a little. It is better for baby to cry in a safe place for five to ten minutes while you take a much needed emotional break then for you to become overwhelmed and, perhaps, lose your temper.

4. Understand that some housework won’t get done for awhile.

Dishes may pile up in the sink, toilets may not get cleaned for a week or two, vacuuming may go undone, clothes might pile up in the basket. And it is okay!

If you gave birth, remember that you just gave birth to a human being! Not only do you now have this precious little bundle to care for, but you are also physically recovering from a very physically demanding and sometimes traumatizing event. In the immediate days and weeks after childbirth, your body will be flooded with various hormones as your body shifts from pregnancy-mode to post-pregnancy-mode.

You will be bonding with your newborn, experiencing your milk coming in, figuring out breastfeeding via nursing or pumping, possibly figuring out bottle-feeding, barely sleeping, and so much more. Your body is going through many changes (not all visible) and this can wreck havoc on your emotions.

If you have adopted a baby, you now have this precious little bundle to care for and many of the baby-related things I mention above also apply to you! Bonding with your newborn, figuring out feeding, barely sleeping, emotional rollercoasters, etc. It is okay if the house is not spotless.

5. Ask for help!

Bottom line, Mamas, you have a lot to cope with in the first two months. And if you have older children, it will be that much harder as you navigate caring for your baby and your old children, too. So give yourself grace. Focus on what is most important: your child(ren) are fed, clean, and loved and you also are fed, clean, and rested.

If the mess really bothers you and causes stress or anxiety or you cannot get enough sleep or you need a break, ask for help. From your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your neighbors. Do not allow your pride to cause you to suffer in silence. It is not good for you, not good for baby, and not good for your family.

Be specific in what you ask for: please watch the baby while I do dishes, can you make us a meal, would you be able to clean the bathrooms, can you babysit the older child(ren) for two hours, etc.

 

Remember, you are amazing! You gave birth or adopted this precious little one. The first two months can be heavenly if you have a more mellow child, very challenging if you have a fussy newborn, or anywhere in between.

Sometimes your newborn maybe quite contented and then, suddenly, s/he cries hysterically. Go through the checklist first: fed, burped, changed, held; and repeat if necessary. Most babies cry for a reason, but it might be hard to pinpoint the exact reason in the heat of the moment. It is okay to feel confused and overwhelmed.

You may or may not know that many babies become more fussy during growth spurts (physical and developmental). After all, baby’s main job during his or her first year is to grow, grow, grow! These growth spurts tend to happen between Weeks 1-3, Weeks 6-8, three months, six months, and nine months. (But all babies are different so yours might hit a growth spurt sooner or later.)

If you are still not sure what is going on with your baby or concerned about a symptom (perhaps excessive spit up, unconsolable crying for hours every day), ask your pediatrician.

As my mom always said, “Motherhood is hard enough on its own, don’t make it even harder on yourself.”

Some women experience a beautiful, storybook newborn stage, and that is wonderful. However, many of us will face challenges, often outside our control, and we have to navigate those challenges carefully.

Do not expect every newborn to be the same. Just because your first was an angel who slept through the night within a week and hardly ever cried, does not mean your second will be the same, and vice versa. Do not compare yourself with other moms or your baby with other babies. Take advice — from people, books, and the internet — with a grain of salt. Do what feels right to you, but always keep your baby’s health in mind.

And, above all, remember that God chose you to be this precious child’s mother. Trust your instincts. If something feels off with you or the baby, get help. You do not have to be superwoman. You do not have to do this alone.

And if you need help, do not think any less of yourself or think you are a failure if you cannot do things perfectly. The fact that you recognized your need and sought the right solution (whatever it may be) means that you are absolutely amazing.

Yes, you are AMAZING.

 

Side note to fathers:

Dads, your wife just had a baby. Were you present during her labor and delivery? If so then you realize just how physically demanding giving birth is, and the recovery time can be weeks or even months, depending on her unique situation. If not, just take my word for it.

If you are the kind of guy who normally helps out around the house, then you are already ahead of the game. I want to thank you on your wife’s behalf for being awesome. Keep doing what you are doing and know that you might have to do a little extra for awhile until your wife is feeling better.

If you are not used to helping and have always relied on your wife to maintain the house, then we need to have a little chat. Your wife just had a baby. (I know I already said that, but it needs to be said again.) Her body is recovering. She will be uncomfortable, exhausted, and might even experience pain. She might have difficulty doing things she normally can do. Her emotions might be on a rollercoaster of highs and lows, she is also severely sleep deprived, and if you have older children, she will probably be even more exhausted.

Now is the time for you to step up and be her hero.

Make a meal (it does not have to be fancy), tidy up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, watch the crying baby for an hour or two while your wife naps, anything that you can do, now is the time to do it. Sure, you may have no clue what you are doing but you are smart, you can figure it out. And don’t do it for the recognition, do it because you love your wife and you want to help her recovery.

 

To recap: sleep, eat healthy, shower, don’t fret over housework, and ask for help when you need it. This is my survival guide for parents with a new baby. If you are a mom or dad, what tips helped you survive the first two months? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Disclosure: One of the links below is an affiliate link, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. I use this product myself on a daily basis. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient.

First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps.

Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #2

It has been seven weeks since our second son, I am calling him Pickle here, arrived into this world. He was born Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long.

For those interested, this is our birth story.

During the two weeks leading up to his birth, I was experiencing prodromal labor, or more simply put very real contractions that would not progress. Some days it would last for a handful of hours, other days it lasted all day long. Sometimes the contractions were mild and other times they were fairly strong. However, every time I thought: “Hey, we might be getting close…” the contractions would either slow or stop completely.

At our last check in with my doctor, she suggested we give Pickle the weekend to decide if he would come on his own and, if not, schedule to be induced early that next week. By this time, I was exhausted and agreed. So the induction was scheduled for 8am on February 6th, which happened to be my younger sister’s birthday. We went home and made all of the plans we needed to make. My in-laws were going to come over to watch our son, and my parents were going to meet us at the hospital.

Everything seemed all nice and neat, but I was praying all weekend long that Pickle would still come on his own. I tried whatever I could to encourage him. I bounced on the exercise ball, I raked our front yard, I did housework… Monday I really thought he would come. The contractions were more intense but never stayed at 5 minute intervals for a full hour. When I went to bed, the contractions stopped altogether. That night I had the best sleep I had had for quite a long while.

Proud Dada with our second son!
Proud Dada with our second son the day after he was born.

I awoke suddenly the next morning and happened to be checking the time when the first powerful contraction hit. The clock said 5:43am. I slipped out of bed, suspecting it might be labor, and decided to hop in the shower very quickly. It was the fastest shower I have ever taken in my life and I had two more contractions while in there. It was clear these contractions were only about 2-3 minutes apart and growing in intensity. I woke Bradley up and told him we needed to get to the hospital. Since we were already scheduled to go to the hospital that morning, he asked: “How long do we have?”

“We need to get there as fast as we can,” I told him. He jumped in the shower while I called my parents. Then I dressed and he called his parents. We did not have time to wait for the in-laws to get to our house so we decided to take our son with us to the hospital and they could pick up him there. We grabbed the hospital go bag, loaded up the car, and were on the road. The contractions were getting stronger each time. Thank the Lord, the hospital is only five minutes down the road from our house. Bradley stayed in the car with our son, as he was sleeping, and I went inside to check in.

A very short time later, I was in the triage room getting ready for the initial examination. Bradley joined me there and, though my water had not yet broken, I was in active labor. The nurse helped me into a wheelchair and I was whisked off to a labor/delivery room. My parents were able to join us there. It was nice to have my mom there. Like with my first, I decided to labor without pain medicine, but since Pickle was bigger, it was a little harder. I also had quite a bit of back labor that made pushing more of a challenge. In that moment, I completely understood why most women get pain medicine and even epidurals. I was a bit dehydrated since we had come directly after jumping out of bed, and I had the worst uncontrollable shakes the entire time. (I did not have that with Peanut!)

Exactly three hours after I felt the first contraction, Baby Van Sant (Pickle) was born! He was immediately laid on my chest and we snuggled for quite awhile. During my labor and delivery, the hospital’s computer system went down so the staff had to chart everything old school. That meant we were able to stay in the L/D room a lot longer than usual before being moved up to the recovery ward. My older sister, who was working that day in the Emergency Department, stopped by for a quick visit. After such a fast and intense experience, it was nice to relax. I ended up with a second degree tear and quite a few stitches and even just the thought of the wheelchair ride was painful.

Proud Mama holding our little Pickle.
Proud Mama holding our little Pickle before we were discharged from the hospital.

Eventually we were moved upstairs to a nice private room. My parents helped us settle in, gave me some food to eat, and then left to let us bond with Pickle and rest. The peaceful atmosphere did not last long. The nurse came in to help me use the bathroom and check my postpartum bleeding. I passed a rather large clot and the volume of blood was enough to concern the nurse. She brought her supervisor in to have a look and they decided to call my doctor back to the hospital. (Her office is, fortunately, two minutes down the road.) By now, both Bradley and I were getting worried.

My doctor arrived quickly and proceeded with a physical exam. It was the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life… and mind you, I birthed two babies without even a tiny bit of pain medicine. I remember screaming and crying. It was decided that the best course of action was to send me to surgery, be put under local anesthetic, and have a full examination to find the source of the excessive bleeding. Though the word was never mentioned by anyone, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about postpartum bleeding is hemorrhaging and that is often life-threatening.

In tears, I grabbed Bradley’s hand and asked him to call my parents. He did and then called his parents to let them know what was happening. Then he held my hand and said a prayer. Pickle was taken to the nursery.

Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother.
Peanut being introduced to his new baby brother. He kept shouting: “Baby! Hi, Baby!”

I was helped into a wheelchair (yet again) and wheeled back downstairs. It was all very surreal as the doors to the surgery ward opened and I saw the medical team waiting for me. Everyone was very nice, friendly, and smiling but at the same time there was a certain quickness to their actions and words that was serious. Bradley gave me a kiss and then I was taken into the operating room. I admit, I had many thoughts flash through my mind, some of which went like this: “Dear Lord, I don’t want to die. I’m not ready and I cannot leave Bradley to raise Peanut and Pickle on his own.”

I was given a local anesthetic that numbed me from the waist down (aka epidural!) but left a tingling in both feet. It is the weirdest sensation, and once I was lying on the table in that very cold room, the uncontrollable shakes returned. The team was very professional and nice. Someone got me a ton of warm towels and covered me thoroughly from the waist up. Besides the shakes, which had my teeth chattering badly and my arms flopping around, it was actually quite pleasant to be all wrapped up in those warm towels. I could feel the examination but it was a very light pressure and there was absolutely no pain. I am not sure if they ever found the source of the excessive bleeding. I do know the doctor removed something from my uterus, put a few stitches in my cervix, and re-stitched the outside some as well.

When it was all said and done, I was taken to a temporary recovery room for the anesthetic to wear off. Bradley, my parents, and my older sister rushed in as soon as they were allowed to. I know I was a little out of it… Kind of loopy and having a slightly hard time pronouncing my words. I was just relieved to be out of surgery and praying everything was alright. My dad said: “Don’t you ever do that again!” And my older sister was quite upset at me, too.

In that moment, I knew, looking at the mixture of worry and relief on Bradley’s solemn face that this experience was terrifying for the both of us. Praise the Lord, nothing serious was wrong but it easily could have been. I was glad to be taken back upstairs and reunited with our little Pickle.

Pickle… our most beautiful and amazing little gift from God. Our wonderful blessing, born on his aunt’s birthday.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14, ESV

 

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

The birth of a baby is an exciting time. Whether it is the family’s first child or sixth, there is an air of anticipation and celebration when the little one arrives. In the weeks immediately after a child’s birth, there may be visits to see the new baby and gifts given to the parents.

While all gifts are wonderful, after having two children of my own, there were a few practical gifts that I absolutely loved and appreciated very deeply. So I am sharing these practical gift ideas with you. If there is someone in your life who is expecting a new baby or recently gave birth (or adopted!), these are great ideas to bless the family and provide help during a time that can be challenging.

1. Homemade meals

I cannot thank our parents enough for helping us with meals the first few days after giving birth. Homemade and delicious meals, especially that provide easy-to-reheat leftovers like soup and stew, were life-savers. My mom’s delicious tomato soup and quinoa waffles, my mother-in-law’s vegetable stew… It may seem simple but when a woman is recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, homemade meals are a very important gift.

Tip: Be sure you ask ahead of time if there are any foods or ingredients that need to be avoided due to allergies or sensitivities.

2. Housework

Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the toilet… Sure, this is definitely not the most glamorous of gifts but all it costs is a little bit of your time. Especially during the first two weeks home from the hospital or birthing center and depending upon the woman’s recovery, the gift of housework is extremely precious. Most of us probably would never have the courage to ask a family member or friend to do such chores, but if you were to offer and insist in spite any feeble protests, it just might bring tears of relief to the new mother.

My mother-in-law swept and mopped the floors in the main living area both times I was in the hospital, and I must say that it was wonderful coming home to a clean house.

3. Diapers

Going to visit a family with a new baby? Ask them what brand and size diapers they are using and grab a package on your way over. Babies go through diapers very quickly and it is never fun to run out or stress about how to get to the store for more. Does the family have multiple children in diapers at the same time? Grab a pack for the newborn and for the older sibling, too, and the parents will be forever grateful with your thoughtfulness and generosity!

4. Gift cards

Not quite sure what to get for a family with a newborn? You cannot go wrong with a gift card, especially to a store they will go to on a regular basis to buy diapers, formula, and other last minute or unexpected items. Our first son, Peanut, was unable to breastfeed due to a severe tongue tie and though my parents bought an electric pump for us, we suddenly had the unexpected need for bottles, a bottle brush, drying rack, special soap that cuts through the breastmilk residue, and pump parts. With our second son, Pickle, we now have two kids in diapers and are going through diapers and wipes quickly!

Gift cards to Target or Walmart make an excellent gift for the routine expenses. Cards to specialty stores like Babies R Us or BuyBuyBaby also make a good gift to help alleviate the cost of bigger items like high chairs, strollers, etc. that may not have been purchased or gifted earlier.

5. Babysitting

Whether it is an hour watching baby while the mother showers or naps or taking the older child(ren) for the afternoon, many parents would love the offer to babysit in the weeks immediately after a new baby’s arrival. Granted, you have to be comfortable with newborns and young children and also be close, trustworthy family member or friend.

6. Re-gifting

If you have older children and still have some of the items you used for your newborn lying around, you can re-gift them. Whether it is newborn clothes, a baby carrier or wrap, an outgrown high chair, an unused stroller — whatever you no longer need nor anticipate needing in the future. It is good to know that these items are going to a family member or friend who can put them to good use.

These are six practical gift ideas to bless a family with a new baby. Do you have more ideas? Was there something someone did for you that you really appreciated? Please share in the comments below!

His Encouragement: Isaiah 26:3

His Encouragement: Isaiah 26:3

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” — Isaiah 26:3, ESV

It has been a little over a week since we experienced a day full of conflicting emotions: exhilaration and joy followed by uncertainty and fear followed by relief and exhaustion. It was one of the happiest days of my life but also one of the scariest yet through it all, I felt the peace of the Lord with me. I will go into more detail in a future post, but the shortened version is this:

A little over a week ago our second child (pseudonym Pickle) was born after a fast yet intense labor and delivery. I felt the first strong contraction at 5:43am and he was born exactly three hours later at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long. Other than a rather painful second degree tear (Ouch!) everything was great. Pickle was nice and healthy and we were able to spend a few hours doing skin-to-skin and he practiced nursing.

Then, about four hours after delivery when the nurse was checking on me, she became concerned with my level of bleeding and the size of the clots I was passing. She called her supervising RN for a second opinion and they in turn called my doctor. After an extremely painful physical exam (the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life and I have birthed two children without pain medicine!), my doctor had me rushed down to surgery. Though the words were never spoken, everyone knew what the concerns were: possible postpartum hemorrhaging.

I had my husband call my parents to come back to the hospital and then he said a prayer over me. Pickle was wheeled off to the nursery and I was wheeled downstairs to the operating room. My doctor kept reassuring me that she did not believe anything was seriously wrong but she needed to make sure. I kissed my husband goodbye and said another prayer as the thought “I could be dying. I might not see him or my children again.” flashed through my mind. But the peace of God was over me and I was so very calm. The procedure was long, and unknown to me, dozens of our family, friends, and church members were praying.

The doctor could not find a source for the exceeding bleeding. She preformed a minor D&C, added more stitches, and did a full internal examination. Afterward the whole procedure and by the grace of God, the bleeding lessened to the normal amount for post-birth and I no longer had any large clots. The experience was surreal, but the whole time I was on the operating table and later in recovery, I was talking with the Lord and felt no fear despite the uncertainty of the situation.

The words of Isaiah 26:3 says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” And that day, a day filled with celebration and concern, I experienced that promise firsthand. No matter what you are going through, when you trust in the Lord, He will give you His peace.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Peanut is getting a promotion…

Peanut is getting a promotion…

About two weeks ago, our little Peanut celebrated his 1st birthday. He is not really a little Peanut anymore. He is such a big boy now in many ways. He wants to feed himself, he is playing with toys more intentionally, he will find his favorite books for us read, and he loves to talk! (Sometimes it is words we can recognize!) He even took his first steps last week all on his own!

We actually had to postpone his 1st birthday party because he came down with his very first cold, which caused an ear infection. Poor little guy! In the end, he unintentionally gave his cold to me, both of his grandmothers, and even one grandfather and his dad had a few days where they were a little under the weather (though not nearly as sick as his grandmas and I were!).

Around the same time we were celebrating Peanut’s birthday, we also began sharing the news that he is getting a promotion to big brother!

Yes, that is right. We are having another little one!

The due date is still a little up in the air. We originally thought it was around January 28, 2018, but a recent ultrasound may suggest closer to February 10th. However, Baby #2 was not very cooperative during the scan so the tech was unable to get the full measurements that they like to have. We are going back in a few weeks for another try. I do not mind one way or another, because as I learned with Peanut, babies come when babies are ready to come.

So we could be anywhere between 18 and 20 weeks along, but I am showing much earlier with this pregnancy. (To be honest, this time around I feel and look huge.) Granted, this pregnancy has been extremely different from our first. With Peanut, I had the occasional nausea and some fatigue during the first trimester. This time I was sick all day long, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, for a little over three months! The fatigue and aches and pains have been a bit challenging, as well.

Fortunately, I have been doing much better the last three or so weeks. I have gotten a lot of my energy back and am starting to exercise again. Nothing strenuous, but I need to get into decent shape to prepare for Baby #2’s arrival. I lost some weight during the first trimester when I could barely eat anything, but now I feel like I’m gaining a little too quickly. I’m already at the weight I was when Peanut was born! (To be fair, he was only 4 pounds 11 ounces at birth.)

So I’m gradually increasing the number of times I climb the stairs as work (I’m on the fourth floor), trying to walk more (I want to get back to a mile a day), and standing at my desk more (alternating that with propping my feet up!). I think these small changes will help.

We do know the gender of Baby #2, but I will save that announcement for next time.

If you have had multiple pregnancies, how have your pregnancies differed? What was similar between them?

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

3 Things I Did Not Expect Postpartum

When you are eagerly awaiting the arrival of your first child, there are many things that you anticipate and mentally prepare yourself for: sleepless nights, dirty diapers, cries and giggles, spit up and smiles, and so much more.

In the first six months after our little one’s birth, I discovered a few very interesting things that I did not expect postpartum. I can honestly say that these three things blindsided me.

Excessive Hair Loss

This first one you may have read about in pregnancy books or on mommy blogs, but I did not fully grasp what it would mean to me until it happened. Every lady is different, but for me, I had excessive hair loss between about Week 3 postpartum until Month 5. I am not talking about a few strands here or there; after all, everyone sheds on average 75-100 strands of hair a day.

No, I was loosing hair daily in the hundreds! My shower walls would be covered in hair, hair would stick to my shirts and sweaters, and I would have to carefully examine little Peanut’s fingers and toes to make sure none of my hair had gotten tangled around his little digits. My once thick, luscious hair was suddenly thin, scraggly, and pathetic looking.

So why do some women lose large amounts of hair after childbirth?

Hair has three stages: active growth, resting, and loss (shedding). During pregnancy, the raise in certain hormones slows down the natural life cycle of our hair so more hair stays in the growth or resting stages and less strands shed. This gives pregnant ladies that thick mane many people notice and comment on. Unfortunately, after childbirth when the pregnancy hormones decrease, all those strands start entering into the shedding stage – often at the same time. This can lead to excessive shedding and what seems like hair loss.

Be comforted that this phase is not permanent. It may take a few months, but your hair will get back into a normal cycle and the excessive shedding will stop. While I waited for my hair to stop shedding, I cut it to shoulder length. Previously my hair was layered so the thinning made it look scraggly and awful. Cutting it helped to give my hair a little bit of shape again.

Fortunately, by six months postpartum, my hair stopped the excessive shedding and began to regrow.

Severe Gas Pain

The first episode struck about 10pm on the sixth day after little Peanut was born. It was the first day I ventured out of the house – Bradley took us to visit my parents (twenty-minutes away). It was a day that was full of success and achievement, as I had finally been able to pump milk successfully and relieve my poor, engorged breasts.

Around 10pm, though, I began to experience a strange pain in the center of my chest, located directly beneath/behind my sternum. As the minutes passed, the pain intensified. I tried lying down but the pain radiated around my ribcage. It felt like I was being stabbed in the chest while, at the same time, all of the muscles of my core (abs, sides, lower back, shoulders) were completely frozen or locked in place.

A few hours later, the pain had worsened to excruciating, beyond even the pain of childbirth, and it was terrifying because I did not know what was causing it. I leaned against the bed, praying for relief and groaning, wavering in my mind on whether I should ask Bradley to take me to the emergency room or not. What if we did go – call my parents, pack up our six-day-old infant, drove to the ER – and the mysterious pain vanishes as we are in the waiting room?

Bradley was very concerned. Our little one was fussy that night. It was the first time he scream-cried inconsolably for hours, and I was in too much pain to move, let alone help with the baby. Just when Bradley was about to call my parents and take me to the ER, the excruciating pain suddenly – Yes, it was very sudden! – vanished. One moment I was frozen in searing pain and the next: Poof! It was gone. All that was left was a little ache in my muscles.

This debilitating pain in my sternum seemed to happen once or twice a week for the first month postpartum. By the third episode, I was terrified that something serious was wrong with me. I tried gas relief tablets, but they had a marginal affect on the severe pain. It was about a month postpartum that I discovered that the unbearable pain was gas getting stuck in the upper part of my large intestines and putting pressure on a nerve.

When the gas started to built up, I would feel a strange pressure in my sternum and middle back. I remembered what the nurses told me in the hospital about walking, re-enforced by advice from my mom. To my relief, I found that when I took some gas relief tablets and went on a long walk, the walking helped to move the gas along and prevent it was getting stuck in that spot.

Also, I had to overcome decades of training on appropriate and inappropriate lady-like behavior and allow myself the freedom to pass gas. My poor husband! And what an embarrassing issue to discuss in public, but I am bearing my soul in the hopes of helping some other new mother who might be experiencing a similar situation. It is better to “toot” then to feel like you are being torn apart from the inside out.

With the walking and passing gas, the excruciating, feel-like-I’m-dying, pain was avoided. By the end of the second month postpartum, I no long experienced the gas pains.

Difficulties breastfeeding

If you have read Our Breastfeeding Journey, then you know some of the challenges we faced breastfeeding. I will not repeat the entire story here but just the main points.

I was not expecting our little Peanut to be born small, with a severe tongue-tie, and be unable to nurse. For the first month, we tried unsuccessfully to nurse at least once a day and each time he could not latch, I felt like a failure as a mother. The whole time, I was pumping every 2-3 hours and there were a few times when he had to be supplemented with formula because I just was not making enough milk. Finally, at the end of the month, I had to give up trying to nurse for my own sanity’s sake and for the happiness of our little family. I had to realize that him might never be able to nurse and that it was ok, as long as he was getting food and growing healthy.

During month three, he latched very weakly. With some help from a pacifier to strengthen his sucking muscles, he was able to nurse a few ounces by month four. I began nursing him through the night. At seven months, he is now a nursing pro. I still pump every 3-4 hours, as I work outside the home and need to keep my supply up, but he is also eating baby food twice a day now and he gets a bottle of formula when needed.

I was not expecting challenges with breastfeeding and, I will be brutally honest, it was an extremely difficult hurdle to jump emotionally during a time when my emotions were already all-over-the-place (postpartum hormones fluctuations!). I made it through due to the love and support of my amazing husband and my parents, especially my mom. If I could go back and do those first month over again, I would. Because of my stress and self-deprecation, I did not have the energy to leave the house more, see friends and family more, and do those precious “memories” things with Peanut… like take infant photos and stamp his little hands and feet. I have no footprints of when he was 4 lbs 7 ounces except for the one foot stamped on the certificate the hospital gave us.

My advice to other moms who might be facing difficulties with breastfeeding is something my older sister shared with me when I was very low: Fed is best. A fed, happy, and healthy baby is best, no matter how you end up providing that nourishment: through breastfeeding, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding.

While the first few days may seem to drag on, they really go by so fast. Do not waste that time with anxiety and needless stress over things beyond your control. You are amazing! You birthed or adopted this adorable precious little one so cherish every moment you have together.

Bonus: Just how much I love my little Peanut!

Okay, okay. When expecting a little one, most women are likely to be excited and eagerly anticipate the bonding that will happen between mother and newborn. However, what really surprised me was just how quickly this bonding occurred and how much I love my little Peanut. Even when he is crying and fussy, even after the fifth time he has woken me up in the middle of the night and I rolled out of bed, stumble to his room, and pick him up like a zombie, even when I find myself momentarily frustrated or overwhelmed, I just love him so much!

Baby cuddles, toothless smiles, little giggles, and the first time he said “Mom-ma” (even though he was crying and I’m pretty sure he did not do it on purpose) get me through the sleepless nights, the fits of crying, the explosive diapers that only the shower can wash away, the spit up all over my work clothes and the couch minutes before I was supposed to be walking out the door.

After all, who could not love this adorable little face?

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

I just love being a mom — especially his mom — and I would not trade this experience for anything.

So, in summary, when it comes to childbirth and its immediate affects, perhaps the old adage says it best: Expect the unexpected. In addition to these three things that blinded me, I also had some great experiences.

So remember this: no matter if you are losing your hair in clumps, experiencing severe gas pains, having trouble breastfeeding or whatever it might be — you just gave birth to a beautiful and precious little one. Cherish this gift that has been given to you. The other things will sort themselves out.

Six Weeks Post-birth

Six Weeks Post-birth

During your first pregnancy, no doubt you had or will have numerous individuals tell you that once your little one arrives, “your life will never be the same” or “your life will change forever” or “everything will be different” or some variation of this sentiment. After awhile, it can even get a little tiring hearing it over and over again. My advice? Smile and nod, because they are right!

Put aside everything you think you know about babies. Unless you have experienced firsthand spending twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week with a newborn who is relying on you for all of their needs while you are experiencing extreme sleep deprivation and possibly even recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, then you have no idea just how different your life will become after your first child arrives.

And that is okay! I’m not here to scare you, just help you prepare yourself. To do that, I’m going to share my summary of what each week after giving birth was like in my experience.

Week One

I felt like I was living in a permanent state of adrenaline during the first week. Giving birth naturally without pain medicines allowed me the opportunity to be clear-minded moments after the birth of my little Peanut. I experienced some pain and discomfort, but it was overshadowed by the rush of oxytocin (the love/bonding hormone) every time I held or looked at my newborn. My mind was filled with awe and wonder as well as a deep love and little bit of worry. I was now this little one’s mother and he would be relying on my husband and I for years to come!

Week One was also very emotional for me. Within the first twenty-four hours, we discovered that Peanut could not latch due to a number of reasons and as a result, could not breastfeed. We were concerned for many hours as we tried, with the help of nurses and a lactation consultant, to breastfeed him — even going so far as to use a small syringe to get some colostrum into his mouth. Since he was born very small, the hospital would not discharge us until they had monitored him for an extra twenty-four hours to ensure his blood sugars were stable and he had successfully eaten. The anxiety grew the longer he went without eating, either from me or the bottle. I was praying so hard that Peanut would eat something, anything! Finally, the lactation consultant was able to bottle feed him a ounce of formula and later that day my mom was able to get him to eat as well. We were able to go home the next day, and I was exhausted.

There was also some pain. About Day 4, my milk was starting to come in but it was not being expressed even though I was pumping on a regular schedule (every 2-3 hours). The only thing the pumping accomplished was to make my poor nipples extremely sore, and I watched as my breasts became engorged… swollen, hard, and extremely painful. I tried everything I could think of to get the swelling down and the milk to be expressed, but nothing seemed to be working. Finally, I found a tip on a website. On Day 5, while at my parent’s house, I used frozen water bottles and rolled them gently over my breasts for twenty minutes before pumping. It hurt but it worked, and I finally was able to pump milk. A few pumping sessions later, and the engorgement and its accompanying pain was finally gone.

Week Two

Week Two was when the sleep deprivation was beginning to take its toll, but there was still the new baby high. Fortunately, my husband was in the middle of his three weeks of family leave so we took shifts during the night. I would take one feeding session and he would do another while I pumped, and that way I was able to get back to sleep faster at night.

A lot of Week Two was spent watching Peanut sleep and feeding and changing him when he was awake. I gave him a little sponge bath with a super-soft washcloth every other day, and we would sit outside in filtered sunlight while we did it. I took tons of photos of him while he slept, and just marveled that this tiny, precious little fellow was my son, my little boy, and I was his mother. I eagerly looked forward to his first smile and began thinking of little routines I could start with him: singing, counting, letter-sounds, reading Bible stories to him, etc. Anything to help him learn my voice.

Though very tired, Week Two was like a little bit of heaven on earth.

Week Three

Our little Peanut hit his first major growth spurt during his third week, as many babies do, but it came upon us suddenly and unexpectedly. We were not prepared for his ravenous appetite! In fact, for a couple of nights, we did not realize that the reason he was waking up and crying hysterically during the night was because he was still hungry.

Severely sleep-deprived and not knowing what to do, I was at my wit’s end. We tried a tiny bit of Gripe Water thinking he had gas or a tummy ache, but that was not it. Once I even had to set him down in his bassinet and leave the room to calm myself, because I was crying myself and frustrated that I could not figure out what was wrong with him.

Then I found out that most babies have a growth spurt during this time, and when I offered him more milk, he returned to being his usual, happy self and stopped the hysterical crying.

For a baby that, before the growth spurt, drank maybe 3 ounces in one sitting, he suddenly began guzzling the milk: 7, 9, and even 12 ounces at a time! Despite all of my valiant efforts, I was not producing enough milk to keep up with him. We ended up having to supplement, but I did not like the milk-based formula options so with my mom’s help we actually made our own formula using goat’s milk.

Milk-based formula, even though he did not show an reactions to it during his first week, made me very nervous for two reasons: 1.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and I do not want to introduce dairy to my Peanut too earlier just in case he inherited my allergy, and 2.) I am severely allergic to milk proteins, and my skin began to react when the formula powder got onto my hands while mixing the bottles. I was afraid I would end up breathing in the powder and not be able to breathe.

So I researched non-milk-based formula options but the soy-based formulas were not only expensive, but also were over 50% corn syrup. I remembered that my dad could not have milk-based products as an infant either; his mother gave him straight goat’s milk and he is one of the healthiest people I know. After doing a lot of research and experiments, my mom and I were able to make our own goat’s milk supplement that we only had to used maybe once a day or once every other day for about two weeks until my own milk production caught up with his appetite.

Week Four

The growth spurt was beginning to subside, he went down to about 4-5 ounces of milk at a time, and he began to sleep for slightly longer stretches at night. Unfortunately, my milk supply was still barely enough for the entire day: it fluctuated through the day, sometimes as little as 3 ounces and other times barely 6 ounces. However, the day we no longer had to supplement with the goat’s milk formula, I celebrated!

To increase my supply, I tried pumping every two hours, doing a marathon pumping session (where you pump for ten minutes, take a break for ten minutes, pump for ten, etc. for an hour), and put the pump suction higher, but the only thing this did was damage my nipples, especially the left one. They were blistered and raw even though I was slathering them in nipple cream, and the left one even had a blocked milk duct (resulting in a bleb or white milk blister). Overall, it became very, very painful to pump.

Towards the end of the week, I also finally gave up all attempts to breastfeed directly. I’ll write another post on our breastfeeding journey, but let’s just say, after a month of “failure”, I had to let go of the “dream” for my own sanity and the happiness of our little family. I had to come to terms with the idea that Peanut might never be able to nurse, and I would have to pump exclusively so I needed to figure out how to heal my poor nipples and increase my milk production.

Week Five

While shopping at a local Target, my husband found a box of Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea that helps with increasing milk production. I began drinking two cups of the tea a day, and after three or four days, I began to produce more. I was making about 10 ounces every 3-4 hrs, and more in the early mornings because I was now finally able to skip one pumping session at night. Peanut was also consistently drinking 5 ounces every 3-4 hrs, so the extra milk went into the freezer to save for his next growth spurt.

Easing back on the pumping schedule also helped heal my nipples. I pumped every 3-4 hours, lowered the suction power, and put cream on before and after pumping. Though it took many more weeks to see the results, the process of healing began.

Week Six

This time, we were well-prepared for Peanut’s Week Six growth spurt. I had pumped extra milk and stored it in the freezer so even when Peanut’s appetite was astounding, far beyond anything you’d think a tiny baby’s tummy could hold, we had enough milk that there was no need to supplement. (Praise the Lord!) I continued drinking the Milkmaid Tea to keep pace with him, but after the growth spurt ended, I stopped drinking the tea and my production leveled out to about 10 ounces each session. It was enough for him to eat and to re-build the supply of frozen milk to prepare for when I would return to work full-time.

By the end of week six, I was also getting a decent amount of sleep at night. Peanut would drink a little extra in the evenings and began to sleep longer at night. We were able to feed him at 11pm, and then again at 3-4am, and then again at 7-8am. Also, I was able to skip changing his diaper at 3-4am so he would go back to sleep faster, and I was able to skip pumping at that session as well.

Ah, the little things we celebrate!

So that is a general overview of how the first six weeks went for us. Your experience(s) may vary, as every woman and baby are different, but hopefully this will at the very least prepare you for the growth spurts around weeks Three and Six and encourage you that it does get easier! Your little one will figure out his/her days vs nights and start to sleep longer at night. The soreness, pain, and muscle aches eventually go away. You will also gain confidence in your abilities as mother and learn to trust your instincts.

8 Things I learned from childbirth

8 Things I learned from childbirth

Just as every woman and every baby are unique, every pregnancy and childbirth are also unique experiences and not always comparable. I was very fortunate to have a relatively easy and smooth pregnancy. My little Peanut came two weeks early and fast. (From the time my water broke to his birth was about two and a half hours).

As a first time mother, I thought I would share some of the things that I learn from the labor, delivery, and recovery on the off chance that it might help another first time mother. Let’s jump right on in.

1. Take a birth prep class.

If you are a first time mother and nervous or anxious about labor and delivery, I highly recommend taking a childbirth prep class. At first, I was skeptical. I thought I could just read up and ask my mom, older sister, and friends who recently had children any questions. But as my son’s due date came closer, I realized that I had no idea what to do when labor started or what the actual delivery would be like. So I signed myself and my husband up for a birth prep class offered at the hospital where we would deliver. We had a great nurse instructor and any little fears and doubts that were creeping into my mind were put to rest.

When the course was finished, I felt calmer and better prepared. I also learned a few techniques that made the final few weeks of pregnancy easier to manage — like sitting on an exercise ball. Believe me, it works!

Another benefit of a birthing class, especially if you take one offered by the hospital or birthing center where you are planning to deliver, is that the instructor will be able to tell you what that hospital/center prefers to do in different situations, how they handle emergencies, what techniques they approve or disapprove of, their statistics and numbers, etc. As part of the class we took, we were also given a guided tour of the labor and delivery floor and the recovery floor.

2. The importance of a good support person/people.

I cannot stress the importance of a very good support person and/or team. When active labor began very suddenly as I was waiting in the triage room for the nurse to confirm my water had broken so I could be admitted, everything I had read and learned at the prep class completely slipped my mind. Breathing techniques? Out the window. Labor positions? Gone. I was completely blown away by the intensity and frequency of the contractions.

Unlike many women, I didn’t get a gradual progression of labor and time to mentally prepare. I went from absolutely no contractions to strong, 1-minute-apart active labor contractions in a matter of minutes. Everything happened so fast that by the time I walked to the delivery room and set up, I was so dilated that I was passed the point where they allow the administration of pain medicine so I birthed our son au naturale, or as my dad later said “frontier style”.

I am so grateful that my amazing husband went with me to those classes, and he remembered everything. He was an awesome support person. He stayed with me the whole time, 98% of it holding my hand, encouraging me, gently reminding me to breathe. I remember, in the middle of full labor, opening my eyes, looking up at him, and saying: “I love you!” and he gave me a kiss and said: “You got this, babe. You’re doing great!”

So a good support person — whether it is your husband, mother, sister, doula, or whoever — is very important! Because they help you through the labor and delivery, they need to be very encouraging, understand your wants and needs, and be your voice/advocate with the paperwork and answering questions.

3. The importance of having a good medical team.

Whether you give birth at a hospital, birthing center, or at home, it is important to have a good medical team. Doctor, nurses, midwives… whomever you decide to assist you.

I had the most amazing team of nurses. Truly, they were phenomenal. They were very encouraging and guided me with my breathing and vocalizations. When I decided (very early on) that I was most comfortable lying flat on my back with both legs up, bent at the knee with my shins parallel to the floor, two of the nurses actually stood there holding my legs for me. I had my eyes closed almost the entire team to help me focus on the contractions so I have no idea what my nurses looked like but I still remember their wonderful voices. We actually had double the number of nurses as our little Peanut was born around shift-change, so the night shift nurses arrived but the day shift nurses did not want to leave until he was born.

I also had a great doctor. She actually wasn’t my regular doctor (my doctor was off that weekend) so I actually met her during the delivery. Since I progressed so fast, she barely had time to arrive and get ready before I was actively pushing. But she was great! She was both very professional and very nice. Our little Peanut was born small for a full term baby at 4 pounds 11 ounces, and the last two weeks of the pregnancy, the ultrasound had showed he was small so we were under stricter monitoring just in case something was wrong. Our son was delivered relatively easily, but there were some issues with the placenta.

Actually, to be honest, “delivering” the placenta hurt far worse than delivering my son because it was stuck. The doctor had to press on my stomach and also reach in and scoop it out. She showed me the placenta afterward and discovered a small anomaly (the umbilical cord was grown in the placenta in an odd way), which is most likely the reason our son was smaller than he should have been. Towards the last bit of the pregnancy, after the baby is fully developed but when s/he is supposed to gain some weight, our son was not getting quite all the nutrients he needed to put on the weight. So he was perfectly proportioned, symmetrical, and very strong (he lifted his head up from my chest and stared right into my face just minutes after birth!) but small and super skinny.

Anyway, the doctor was great. I am so grateful that she was on duty that day.

4. Do not worry about modesty.

I am an extremely modest person, but when you are in full labor pushing out a baby or afterwards in recovery, modesty is not a top priority. There are so many people assisting you, checking on you and the baby, encouraging skin-to-skin and breastfeeding, and even helping you use the bathroom. Yes, after childbirth, just using the bathroom is a huge and exhausting ordeal! I was also mesmerized by the amazing little bundle snuggled on my chest. Sure, you want to be decent when visitors come by, but it is okay to not stress about modesty when it is just you, the baby, and your medical team.

5. Pack a few important items but don’t stress the hospital go bag.

I was so uncertain what to pack in our hospital “go” bag. I read dozens of lists online and read tons of suggestions, and I finally settled on a change of clothes for myself and my husband, two coming home outfits for our son (neither fit because he was born premie size and all we had were newborn!), snacks for my husband in case labor was long (it wasn’t!), and some basic toiletries for me. I have sensitive skin so though the hospital provided soap for the shower, I wanted my own soap and shampoo.

What I forgot that we really needed was a receiving blanket. You see, even though my doctor had said he could come at any time, I thought we had at the very least another week. As a result, our “go” bag was not finished. I am just grateful that I listened to the Holy Spirit’s whisper that Saturday morning to throw the not-quite-finished “go” bag in the car before we left for church, or we would have not had anything when my water broke later that afternoon!

One more thing: I brought a cheap but comfortable nightgown to wear when visitors came to the recovery room. Silly me, I did not get one that opens in the front so I had to take it all the way off when pumping and trying to breastfeed. (Our little Peanut couldn’t breastfeed so I started pumping in the hospital.) As a result, I only wore it once and stuck with the regular hospital gowns the rest of the time.

Which leads me right into the next tip…

6. Rock the hospital chic!

After you give birth, you will most likely be given these amazing (some say hideous) mesh-like panties that are designed for comfort and to hold these huge diaper-like pads. Some women hate these mesh panties and diaper pads. I loved them. They are so comfortable, and I must say, after pushing out a baby and tearing a little (I had to have three stitches), I care more about comfort than fashion. I joked about “rocking the hospital chic” with my husband and actually asked for extra mesh panties and diaper pads to take home. I made those mesh panties last for two weeks post-birth! I was actually very sad when I threw the last pair away and was tempted to find a medical supply site to order more, but I found that my normal undies where suitably comfortable at that point.

7. Ask lots of questions.

Don’t be shy. Ask lots of questions and let the staff demonstrate things you might be unsure about. Never changed a newborn’s diaper before? Ask the nurse to do the first one and watch how it is done. Ask if you can watch when your little one gets his or her first “bath”. Not sure if you are positioning the baby correctly to breastfeed? Ask for help.

No question is a silly one, and these individuals are trained professionals who care for newborns on a daily basis. I watched the night nurse change little Peanut’s first diaper and swaddle him. The next afternoon I watched his first “bath” (sponge bath). I asked for help from the nurses and also a lactation consultant when I discovered Peanut was not latching properly, and my husband and I asked the hospital pediatrician tons of questions.

8. Take everything the hospital/birthing center allows you to take… and ask for extras!

It depends on the hospital or birthing center, but the hospital I delivered at offered many freebies. Use them while you are there and take the extras with you when you are discharged.

There is a reason the mesh panties and diaper pads exist. You will experience bleeding and discharge after delivering your baby. There is also a reason for the peri-bottle, pain reliever spray, and witch hazel wipes for use when using the bathroom. It is to keep you clean and ease any pain in your nether-regions. When I was being discharged, they gave me a little care package that included a pack of maternity pads. I packed up the extra mesh panties, diaper pads, peri-bottle, pain reliever spray, witch hazel wipes that I had not used and also the free pump parts that would work on the pump my parents were buying for me that very day. I also asked for extra mesh panties, maternity pads, ready-to-go formula, and disposable slow flow nipples for our son and the staff happily gave them to us.

Basically, everything that I could take home, I did and I am so glad! It made the first days at home easier because we did not have to worry about rushing to the store for pain reliever spray or more pads or formula for the baby.

These are eight things I learned from my experience giving birth to my son, and I hope it might be useful to other first time mothers out there. These may or may not be applicable to every woman’s situation, but I had fun recording my experience. After all, if it is in the Lord’s plans for our little family, we decide to have another child in the future.

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #1

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Baby #1

Our adorable little firstborn son, we shall call him Peanut for now, was born Saturday, August 27, 2016, at 6:18pm. He was 4 lbs 11 oz and 16 inches long.

For those interested, this is our birth story.

The morning I would give birth to my little one. All dressed and ready for church! Where is the bump?!

The day was August 27, 2016, and it was a Saturday. I woke up feeling really good and decided to wear my favorite dress to church that morning. I loved this dressed because not only was it super comfortable, but from the front and back my pregnant belly was completely invisible. It was kind of fun to surprise people by turning sideways! Anyway, after church, we were planning to go to Bradley’s cousin’s house for a special Sabbath lunch since pretty much his mother’s entire side of the family (the Walkers) were in town visiting. I’m so glad Bradley took a few pictures!

Turning sideways and suddenly the bump can be seen!

We were still two weeks away from our little one’s due date and, though the doctor had said that he was super low at a check up a few days before, I was not feeling any Braxton hicks or contractions at all. We even had a no-stress test the day before to monitor baby’s heart beat and movements because he was on the small side and needed extra monitoring. According to the print out, there were no contractions during the hour long test either, and it was an interesting session. The baby was sleeping (he usually slept at that time), but they needed to get him moving. So eventually, after trying cold water and apple juice, the technician had to use a buzzer to wake him up.

Oh, my! The moment the buzzer buzzer on my belly, it was like watching a tsunami! The baby lurched away from the buzzer. It was surreal.

Back to August 27th… At the very last minute before leaving the house, I felt an impression of the Holy Spirit to grab our half-packed hospital to go bag. We had not finished packing it as I really thought we had a few more days, but there were some snacks in there for Bradley and personal care items in there for me. When I asked Bradley to grab the bag, he asked I I was feeling anything. “Nope, but just in case, I feel like we should have it with us.” So into the trunk it went!

We arrived at church, greeted friends and family, and took our seats. I began getting a little uncomfortable in the middle of the worship service. Baby had settled really, really low but still no signs that we were quickly approaching the big event. After church we chatted with a few friends and then hurried off to the cousin’s house. We arrived just in time to load up our plates with haystacks! (For those unfamiliar with the term, haystacks is the Adventist version of a gigantic tostado or taco salad. Learn more here.) I opted for a large salad and was so ravenous that I actually went back for a second salad.

After we ate, we all gathered around their television as Bradley’s uncle shared a video slideshow of family reunions that Bradley’s great-uncle had put together and mailed to each family unit shortly before he passed away. Everyone was reminiscing on the years gone by, and it was a very warm and happy atmosphere. The slideshow ended and I felt something a little odd way down deep inside. I shifted a little on the barstool I was sitting on, and felt an internal tug or pop.

So I excused myself to the bathroom. As I was stepping into the bathroom, I felt a rush of liquid. Fortunately, for the last month or two, I worn panty liners everyday. Sure enough, there was a lot of clear liquid, tinged a little pink. I cleaned up, rushed to my phone, and rushed back to the bathroom. I think only Bradley noticed. Back in the bathroom, I began texting my older sister. She is an ER nurse and has had four children herself. She confirmed that my waters broke and that we needed to “Get to the hospital right now!”

I left the bathroom and walked over to Bradley. I quietly whispered: “I think my water broke. I think we need to go to the hospital.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. I glanced at my sister’s text and nodded.

“Yes, Jenni says to go to the hospital right now.”

Bradley turned and announced to the full house of family: “Hey, everyone! It looks like we are off to the hospital!”

We rushed out, followed closely by Bradley’s parents, and drove the five minutes to the hospital. As we pulled into the Labor and Delivery circle, where parents can leave their vehicles until after checking in, I felt the first contraction. As I slipped out of the car, I felt a second stronger contraction. We walked in and I felt a little silly walking in so calmly.

“Hi, I think my waters broke.” I said very calmly to the lady at the check in desk. She signed us in (which went very fast as we had pre-registered with the hospital) and we were escorted to a triage room. The labor and delivery floor seemed very quiet. A nurse stepped in and gave me a hospital gown to change into and a bag to put my clothes in. As I changed, I felt the waters leak all over the floor. I apologized, embarrassed, and the nurse laughed.

“It is alright. Happens all the time.” Then she got a sample of the fluids just to confirm that my waters did, indeed, break. As I was laying on the examine bed, the contractions began to increase in intensity and the spacing between them dramatically decreased.

By the time the nurse returned to say that I was being officially admitted, I was in labor. Bradley and the nurse helped me walk from the triage room to the delivery room (a short distance down the hall) because I wanted to try to do it unmedicated and they encourage walking. By the time I was in the room, painful contractions were only 60 seconds apart. I sat on a birthing ball while two nurses put in a thingy on the back of my hand (to hook up IVs or whatnot should that be needed later).

A few minutes later, another nurse checked to see how far along I was and said: “Honey, it is a good thing you wanted to do this without pain medicine. You are passed the point where we can administer any medicine. You are doing this.”

I admit that there was a moment of sheer panic. In my mind, I cried I take it all back! I don’t want to do this anymore! I may have even verbally cried: “I want my mom!” who, unfortunately, was at a church retreat two hours away! Then I buckled down. I can do this! I told myself. I can do this! Women have been giving birth since Eve. If they can, I can, too! Oh, God, please help me!

And so Peanut was born “frontier-style” (as my dad said). No pain medicine. No epidurals.

 

The Van Sant Newborn
Baby Van Sant, aka Peanut, shortly after birth. Daddy not only cut the umbilical cord but also put on his first diaper!

Labor was unbelievably fast: from my water breaking to his arrival was only about two and a half to three hours.

My husband Bradley was amazing through it all, holding my hand, coaching my breathing, encouraging me, and giving me kisses. We had the most amazing team of nurses. I had my eyes closed pretty much the entire time, but I remember their voices. They were phenomenal! The doctor, who was close by, barely had time to arrive, put on her scrubs and get ready before I was pushing. Right around the time Peanut was on his way into the world, it was shift change so the night nurses joined us but the day shift nurses did not want to leave before seeing him born so they stayed with us, too.

Daddy holding Baby Peanut.
A proud Daddy holding his son.

Birthing a child is the most painful thing in the entire world. There is truly nothing that I know of that can compare to that level of pain, but intermixed with the pain was this calm thought that my body was specially designed to be able to do this most amazing thing. The entire body instinctively does as its Creator designed, and I remember hearing the nurses tell me to do what my body tells me to do.

So I did.

It is truly a surreal experience. My mom was absolutely right: it was worth every moment of pain to, with that one final, super long full-body, deep down push (the most intense “work out” in the entire world), feel him slide into the world, hear him cry, and have him laid on my chest by the doctor. Then all the pain, though still there, is completely drowned by the flood of love and joy.

Mommy holding baby.
A proud Mommy in awe at her beautiful little one.

Peanut… our most beautiful and amazing little gift from God. Our surprise Sabbath blessing.

I believe Hannah said in best in her prayer of thanksgiving: “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.” 1 Samuel 1:27, ESV

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story, Part 2