Tag: family

Week of Gratitude: Day 5

Week of Gratitude: Day 5

I hope everyone has had a nice Thanksgiving! Today is all about giving thanks, and we’re now over halfway through the Week of Gratitude! I’m slipping today’s in a little before midnight.

Week of Gratitude – Day 5

I am grateful for my wonderful and loving husband Bradley. You are the love of my life, and I am so blessed to be able to enjoy each day with you. You are a fantastic father and my best friend. I am so thankful that the Lord brought us together. I love you always and forever.

Week of Gratitude: Day 4

Week of Gratitude: Day 4

Week of Gratitude – Day 4

I am grateful for the privilege of being the mother of our precious Peanut. He is three months old now, and I love him so much! He is interacting a lot more and making all sorts of sounds. I am enjoying these precious moments with him and being present in the little every day things — the cute and the messy. I look forward to watching him, day by day, grow. His toothless grin is the most adorable thing to see, and he has been “talking” to me since he woke up this morning.

Week of Gratitude: Day 1

Week of Gratitude: Day 1

This week of Thanksgiving, I want to try something a little different. Each day I am going to share something that I am thankful for.

Week of Gratitude – Day 1

I am grateful for family. Whether close or far, Bradley and I have a wonderful family filled with kind, loving, wonderful people. From parents and siblings to grant-parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and more… we are very blessed! Yesterday was Peanut’s dedication to the Lord, and I was filled with thankfulness that he will grow up in such a large, loving family.

5 Tips to Survive and Thrive

5 Tips to Survive and Thrive

Our little Peanut is two months old. It is amazing how fast time flies when you are caring for a newborn, even though there are moments in the middle of the night when it may seem like the baby never falls back asleep. Here are a few tips to help new parents not just survive the first two months, but thrive!

1. Babies cry for a reason

Babies cry for a reason, but the trick is to figure out what the reason is. I have found that with our son, he tends to cry if he is hungry, has a dirty diaper, or wants held. Each cry is a little different, but the hunger cry, if not taken care of quickly, will escalate into a screaming cry.

Sometimes you will find that you do everything — feed the baby, change the baby, hold and rock the baby — and he or she still cries whenever you try to put him or her down. Our little peanut is very needy. He wants to be held all the time! I love the cuddles, too, but sometimes I need eat or get to a few things done around the house.

During Weeks Two, Three, and Four when the sleep deprivation is at its worst, you may find your patience wearing thin as you are trying to comfort a screaming baby in the middle of the night, and it is during these periods of frustration that the danger of shaking the baby is at its greatest.

If you ever feel this, and it can happen to even the most gentle and loving parents if you are lacking sleep and already stressed out, put the baby down and walk away.

Put the baby in a safe place, like his or her bassinet or crib, and leave the room. It is okay to go get a glass of cool, refreshing water to drink or take a quick but relaxing shower. Even if the baby is still crying, take five or ten minutes to calm down and get rid of your built-up frustration, that way you can return to your baby with a clear mind, renewed patience, and tons of cuddles.

That said, there will be times when you do everything you can think of and the baby does not seem to stop crying. This could be because of colic (gas) or increased hunger due to growth spurts.

2. Prepare for growth spurts

Many babies, and our little boy was no exception, experience growth spurts around Week Three and Week Six. Be prepare for the Week Three one, because it hits when you are at your most sleep deprived. As a mom who had to pump, I was very aware of how much milk my little one was eating and so when he began crying hysterically at night even after eating, burping, diaper change, rocking, etc, it took me a few times to realize he was still hungry due to the growth spurt and to up the amount of milk he was getting. Breastfeeding moms do not necessarily have to worry about that, but they may find that the baby wants to always nurse during this time.

His first growth spurt was hard because, no matter how frequently I was pumping, I was unable to keep with his ravenous appetite. We ended up having to supplement my milk supply a few times, especially at night (which is when our son ate the most). I was already an emotional wreck from the lack of sleep and repeated failures at nursing, so having to supplement again was like a dagger to the heart. But growth spurts do not last forever, and after a few days, he settled back into a normal eating regiment that I could keep up with.

I was far better prepared for his Week Six growth spurt, and I was able to find an herbal tea that helps with milk production.

3. Increase your milk supply with tea

I love herbal teas, and one of my absolute favorite tea is Peppermint. Did you know that Peppermint can negatively affect your milk supply? Don’t drink peppermint tea if you are breastfeeding! And, for that matter, maybe cut back on the peppermint ice cream and candy.

Check out this list of herbs to avoid while breastfeeding.

Just as certain herbs may decrease your milk supply, other herbs can help you increase your supply. A few days before our little one’s Week Six growth spurt, my husband found Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics Milkmaid Tea at our local Target. This tea is a special blend of herbs that are known to help your milk production.

Each woman’s body is different and the tea may increase your supply a little or a lot. I drank it twice a day for two weeks, and it doubled my milk supply so that I was able to not only keep up with my son’s increased appetite but also start freezing milk for when I return to work. I now pump 2-4 bags extra bags of milk per day so I don’t need to drink any right now but I keep the tea around.

4. Don’t forget to take care of yourself

The majority of your focus is now on your little bundle of joy, but as much as he or she needs you, you cannot neglect taking care of yourself. New parents are often told: “Sleep when baby sleeps”, and this is important during the first few weeks when you will most likely not be getting deep, refreshing sleep at night due to waking up with the baby every 2-3 hours. If you pump exclusively like I do, those night time feedings are often twice as long because after you care for the baby, you have to go pump for another 15-20 minutes. There were times during the first month when I would be up for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night as baby would not go back to sleep immediately. To be completely honest, it was beyond exhausting but it was worth it so I could provide my milk for my little peanut. To keep my sanity, I would nap during the day when he was napping. They were not long naps, sometimes as short as twenty minutes, but it helped me to keep going.

Make the time to eat and shower, even if you have to let your little one cry for a few minutes while you prepare a quick meal for yourself or hop in the shower to wash up. Do your best not to skip either one on a regular basis. Sure, there may be the occasional skipped meal or the occasional skipped shower, but do try to do both daily.

5. Recruit some help if you need it

If you find you cannot sleep, eat, or shower, recruit someone close to you to come over and watch your baby while you catch up on your sleep or take a nice, long shower. I was fortunate that my husband was able to take three weeks of Family Leave after our son was born, so we often tag-teamed. He’d watch the baby while I showered, vice versa, and we would alternate who fed him during the nighttime sessions. If your husband is unavailable, see if your mother, mother-in-law, sister, cousin, or best friend can come over for a little while to help with household chores, bring or cook a meal, or watch the baby. Sometimes you just need a break.

If you are someone who has a family member or friend who is about to give birth or just had a little one, one of the best things you can offer is not always a physical gift but the gift of your time.

I hope that these five tips will help other new parents as you care for your precious little one. Most of all, trust your instincts and when in doubt, ask for advice or help.

What tip or piece of advice do you have for new parents to help them get through the first few months?

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.