Tag: baby #1

Bradley and I learned January 1, 2016, that we are expecting our first child (pseudonym: Peanut). This series of posts includes various pregnancy-related topics and some random thoughts as we embark on this next step of our family’s life adventure.

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine. You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps.

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

New Beginnings: Our Birth Story

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

Preparing for an Arizona Summer

Preparing for an Arizona Summer

With a due date at the beginning of September, I will be experiencing my last trimester during the peak of a blistering Arizona summer. Though a little early, this weekend is forecasted to reach high triple digits! It will probably be anywhere between 114°-116° degrees just Saturday alone. Though we, hopefully, will have a dip in temperatures towards the middle of next week, I am not looking forward to the rest of the summer.

To survive the summer heat, I am trying to prepare myself — both mentally and physically.

Water and lots of it!

Here in Arizona, especially in the summer, it is highly encouraged for everyone to carry water with them whenever they go out. My husband is always so diligent in never leaving the house without both of us having a bottle of water. Now that I am pregnant, staying hydrated is even more important.

I found that it was especially difficult to drink enough water while at work until I discovered that our break room now has an ice machine. I have not used ice on a regular basis in about two years, but being pregnant and being a little hotter than usual, I was having a hard time drinking room temperature or even slightly chilled water. Now I keep a plastic cup on my desk filled with ice, and I just refill it from my water bottle whenever it needs. I also refill the ice any time it is all gone, which gives me an excellent reason to leave the desk and walk around the entire floor.

Two bonus points for finding little ways to exercise throughout the day! 😉

Sun Protection

I also plan to wear a big floppy hat and/or use an old parasol when going out into the sun. The floppy hat was given to me years ago by my mom, and I love it! I might need to get a more formal looking floppy hat for work purposes, though. The parasol is quite old, not that pretty, and was given to me just recently by my mother-in-law. Since I tend to have meetings on the other side of campus a few times a week that require me to walk anywhere between a quarter mile to a mile, I am keeping the parasol under my desk at work. It may look hideous, but it does its job go keeping the sun off of me perfectly. (I tested it out Tuesday!)

Warm in the office, cool outside.

When it comes to choosing the proper clothes for an Arizona summer, I unfortunately have to face a dilemma that many Arizonians can relate to. Our offices are kept at barely 70°, and if the AC vent blows the cold air down on you (as it does me), then you will be very cold for about eight hours a day. You will have to dress in either pants or longer skirts and mid-length sleeves, perhaps even a cardigan or light sweater, just to not freeze. Then the moment you exit your office building, you are blasted with 110° or more heat! You would prefer to be in shorts or a knee-length skirt and a light, sleeveless top.

Now think about adding to this dramatic temperature fluctuation the fact that you are very pregnant, run a little hotter than usual, and maternity clothes tend to have a lot of additional fabric and layers that normal clothes do not: belly panels, low-cut V necklines that require a camisole underneath. With some of my maternity tops and bottoms, I have 3 thick layers of fabric around my middle. No wonder I end up feeling overheated some evenings!

So the problem I face over the next three months as the thermometer creeps over and stays above the three digit mark is finding maternity clothes that are:

  • warm enough for the cool office
  • cool enough for the hot outdoors
  • professional enough for the office
  • comfortable enough for… Well, you know. I am pregnant!

I have a feeling I’ll be wearing cotton shirts with dress pants and a sweater at work, dresses and loose skirts to church and events, and exercise shorts and baggy T-shirts when at home. I must admit that I am dreading the heat.

I already have a little hand fan that I carry in my purse and have used quite often over the last few months. I think I will also start carrying a bandana that I can soak in water and wrap around my neck if I get too hot.

Comfortable footwear

I have been able to continue wearing my usual footwear up until this week. Last Wednesday, I had an unexpected meeting come up that required me to walk about a mile in shoes that are not meant for walking long distances. If the meeting had been properly scheduled ahead of time, I would have worn appropriate shoes, but I was intending to be at my desk all day and wanted shoes that looked “cute” with my outfit. I ended up with a very bad and painful blister on my pinky toe that made the next couple of days miserable.

This week, I have switched to wearing tennis shoes every day. It looks extremely dorky, especially with the knee-length skirt I wore yesterday, but comfort is more important than fashion. Over the next few weeks, I might go shopping for a more office-appropriate flat walking shoe, but a part of me does not want to spend the money on new shoes when my tennis shoes (old and gray and not professional-looking in the least) will do.

If you are a mother, were you pregnant during the summer? If so, how did you survive the heat?

Over halfway there!

Over halfway there!

It has been awhile since I did a pregnancy update, but we have been quite busy. April 15th was my birthday and April 18th was our second wedding anniversary, so we took the whole weekend to relax, celebrate, and do a little bit of sightseeing in our local area. Part of that weekend, we visited the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and Biosphere 2. It was a lot of walking and stairs (my legs were quite tired the next day) but so much fun!

April 18th we also had a first ultrasound, which I did not realize would be so involved! It took nearly an hour just to do the ultrasound itself, because they check on the baby’s anatomy, growth, heart, etc. and take so many measurements. We learned the baby’s gender, but we are keeping it a secret until after our gender reveal party on May 15th for family and close friends.

On April 24th, we had one of our monthly/bimonthly family get-togethers at my parents’ house. The whole family tries to get together, especially during months when there are birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate, and April is a huge month! Three birthdays and 3-ish anniversaries! You see, my parents sort of have two anniversaries: one from their first wedding (a justice of the peace ceremony) and one from their vow renewal ceremony in 2010 (church ceremony). Anyway, since most of the family was present (we were missing one of my brothers-in-law and two oldest nephews, unfortunately), we decided to get family photos. This was also the first time I had any “baby bump” photos taken.

That is not because I have not wanted to take any pictures, it was more… I was not showing hardly at all until about Week 19 so even if we took pictures, there would have been absolutely nothing to see. So here is the first baby bump photo, taken at the halfway point: 20 weeks!

Jacquelyn Van Sant, Pregnancy #1, Week 20
April 14, 2016 – Week 20

Today I’m actually around 22 weeks and the belly keeps getting bigger, so I’ll need to ask Bradley to take some more pictures this weekend.

Cravings: So far this whole pregnancy, I have not really had any cravings. Sometimes food tastes surprisingly delicious after I start eating it, but no cravings for anything specific.

Mood: Bradley might disagree, but I wouldn’t say that I have not had any terrible mood swings. Every once in a while I’ll feel extremely exhausted and might be a little more… short/terse. I do find that I cry faster/easier than before. Not cry just to cry, but when I hear something sad I’ll tear up faster or when someone else is crying. Ugh! I’m a sympathetic crier anyway, and it seems a bit stronger now.

Baby’s Gender: Bradley and I know, but we’re keeping it a secret until May 15th! 😀

Movement: I’ve been feeling flutterings of movement for a long time, but lately the baby has been even more active and the kicks are stronger. In fact, Baby is wiggling all over my belly right this moment.

Carrying: I think I’m carrying pretty low this whole time, which makes sitting upright at my desk at work or driving uncomfortable and tends to trigger the: “Bladder is full! Must run to the restroom!” even when there is hardly a genuine need. In the evenings, the lower belly sometimes feels soooo heavy.

Weight Gain: I have my next doctor’s appointment next week so things might have changed, but up to my April appointment, I had actually lost weight. I lost about twelve or so pounds between conception and Week 20. My face, neck, and shoulders have really slimmed down, but even my hips, bottom, and thighs have shrunk (Yay!).

Aches and Pains: Somedays I end up doing a lot of walking for work, and on those days, my legs tend to ache. Last week was full of walking, not just to/from meetings across campus but also because either the bus drove right passed me so I had to walk a mile to my car OR the bus missed the turn to take us to the correct bus stops and let us off a 1.5 mile away and I ended up having to walk to the car. I’m seeing a pattern here that public transit is not reliable. Fortunately, Bradley’s summer break starts in about two weeks and he’ll start taking me in to work and picking me up so I won’t have to worry about driving and then hopping the bus (or walking) to the office during the HOT summer months!

Sleep: I sleep rather well and even better now that we bought new pillows this week! I do tend to have to get up once or twice in the middle of the night to use the restroom, which is a little annoying.

Nursery: I have created a mood board for inspiration on the Baby’s room and we have started clearing out some of the items we were storing in that space, but other than that, we have not made any significant progress. We have been focusing more on getting the main living areas (kitchen, living room, and dining room) completely re-organized as well as making our back patio usable space during Arizona’s extremely hot summer that is just around the corner. Our next project in the office, and only then will we really focus on the nursery. For the first few months, Baby will be in a bassinet in our bedroom so the nursery is not a crucial thing right now.

Names: We have had our names selected for quite a while and we are not changing them. 😀

As I mentioned before, we’ll probably take Week 22 pictures this weekend and I’ll have another update next week after the doctor’s appointment.

Choosing names

Choosing names

Bradley and I actually chose our favorite boys and girls names almost a year ago, long before we were ready for kids. So we have both a boy’s name and a girl’s name already chosen.

There are millions of names in the world, and if you live in a country like the United States that does not have restrictions on naming, you may find yourself wondering how you can choose the perfect name for a baby that will one day grow into his or her own person.

I have loved names since I was in middle school, probably because I love to write fictional stories and choosing the right names for characters was a fun challenge. One of the first books I ever bought at a Goodwill was a 25,000+ baby names when I was eleven, and I used that book so much that it literally fell to pieces! Though naming a fictional character and naming a real life human may have some similarities, it is also different.

Like many, I have slowly developed my own naming preferences over the years. Certain names, whether based on sound or meaning or spelling, rose higher on my favorite list and other names, perhaps due to a jump in popularity, sank lower.

There are many different methods for choosing baby names. Some couples decide on names long in advance, others take suggestions from family after announcing the genders, and some cannot decide until after the little bundle of joy has arrived. No one method is correct, and everyone will find a way to name a child that works for them.

Bradley and I choose our names long in advance. Less than a year into our marriage, Bradley and I decided to throw about names and come to a consensus on our style. I scoured the baby name sites, used generators to find similar names, looked up origins and meanings, and came up with a short list that I read aloud to Bradley. He either approved or rejected names and threw in some of his own.

Naming a human being can be a bit challenging. After all, this is a name that this little one will most likely carry with him or her from infancy throughout their life. You begin to wonder: Will s/he like the name when s/he is older? Is it good/cute for a little kid but would it also work for a professional applying for a job? Will it fit his/her personality?

Eventually, we whittled our preferences down and created a style that fit us. We actually decided on two boys names and three girls names, so we were ready whenever we would get pregnant. This gave us time to figure out what naming style we preferred without pressure, and when we did find out we were expecting, we already had names we loved!

No, I will not be sharing our specific name choices yet. (No spoilers!)

I will, however, say that Bradley and I discovered that we like classic names that are familiar but not overly popular. We also like slightly longer names that allow for multiple nickname options, so the child will be able to choose what he or she wants to be called as they grow older. This tip I took from my mom. She named my sisters and I all three syllable names with nickname options, and this has definitely been useful to my sisters who both had extremely popular names.

Anyway, we are both very satisfied with our boy and girl name choices, and we sometimes call the baby by both (m/f) to get used to hearing the names and nicknames. We will be finding out the gender in a few weeks.

Here are some fun name resources for the curious.

Swistle
Swistle is fun because she gives out naming advice, and is especially good at providing options on naming siblings. Her advice is thoughtful and diverse, and she encourages her readers to share their naming tips, too. It is just fun to read.

Social Security Administration: Baby Names
The site shares the top most popular baby names in the United States by year. Also available is downloading a list, with the numbers, of every single name registered with Social Security. It is quite hefty to wade threw, but also interesting as you can see spelling variations and some truly bizarre names.

Baby Name Genie
A random name generator that comes up with some funny combinations. It is more good for a laugh. 🙂

And the usual sites that give names, origins, meanings, and sometimes popularity:

Baby Center

Behind the Name
One of my favorite naming sites. It seems more reliable than some of the others.

NameBerry
This site has some fun lists of names, like “Classic Boy Names” or “Spunky Girl Names”.

Finding a Doctor

Finding a Doctor

When we discovered I was pregnant, what cause me a great deal of anxiety was finding the right doctor.

I was one of those people that did not have a regular doctor. It is not that I dislike doctors, but I feel that if you are healthy and take care of yourself, there is no reason to routinely visit a doctor. Medical personnel are there when emergencies, injuries, illnesses, or other usual things happen. Now, let me just say, I completely respect all those in the medical field. My older sister and her husband are ER nurses, specializing in pediatrics, and I have numerous close friends who are nurses, dentists, or doctors.

I just do not go to the doctor if there is no reason to.

So when the home pregnancy test came back positive, I was far more anxious about finding the right doctor than any other aspect of being pregnant or bringing a new life into the world. I spent a few weeks carefully going through my insurance’s list of OB/GYN doctors in my network, comparing their office locations and investigating the hospitals they deliver at. It was a long list, but I finally found a doctor that seemed to meet my preferences.

Every woman is going to have her own list of preferences when selecting a doctor, especially an OB/GYN or mid-wife. For me, I had three preferences:

  • a female doctor
  • accepts my insurance
  • delivers at the hospital down the street

Call me a prude or ultra-conservative, especially since I know there are many excellent male OB/GYNs, but I was adamant from the beginning that I wanted a female doctor. I also desired a doctor who delivers at the hospital down the street, for two reasons: proximity and I know that hospital’s excellent reputation. My older sister actually works there (originally in the pediatric ER and now in the adult ER), and the hospital has one of the best NICUs in the area, should anything happen.

Fortunately, the doctor I found meet all three areas. I called the office and asked if she was accepting new patients, and praise the Lord, she was!

Bradley could not come to the very first appointment, and I admit to being a bit nervous. The nurse was friendly. She took my weight, check my blood pressure, chatted with me, and gave me a pregnancy care package with pre-natal samples, pamphlets, and a hospital package with a list of classes, tours, forms, etc. A few minutes later, I met the doctor. She was so nice and friendly. I immediately felt at ease with the doctor and felt comfortable asking those silly first-time pregnant questions… Well, the few I could remember at the time.

Since then, we have had two more appointments. Both times Bradley was able to go with me, and we were able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. The first time, the doctor had just a little bit of trouble locating the heartbeat because the little one was hiding pretty low and deep. The second time, the heartbeat was easy to locate. It was so exciting lying there listening the strong and steady beating of our baby’s heart. Both times, I teared up.

My advice to women who either pregnant or plan to become pregnant, take the time to find a doctor/mid-wife that you are comfortable with. Whether you intend to deliver at a hospital, birthing center, or at home, take your time to investigate.

Week 16

Week 16

Today we’re 16 weeks!

Well, 16-ish weeks, we’re still guestimating until our ultrasound in a few weeks. We opted out of the early ultrasound, and I need to set up an appointment for the standard one in a few weeks. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to find out the baby’s gender at the time. So far we have three individuals who predicted a baby boy, including our doctor, but it is just based on old wives’ tales or opinions. Though we will be thrilled with either a boy or girl, I think both Bradley and I are kind of hoping for a girl. So we’ll know in a few weeks and then we are planning a gender reveal party for our families and closest friends before we announce it to the world. How exciting!

Tuesday afternoon was very hard for me. Sunday I went too long between meals, and I think that started the series of unfortunate events. Yesterday I intentionally ate a hearty breakfast and lunch, and I did not go long without a healthy snack. Unfortunately, my stomach did not feel right all afternoon. It was all nauseous and sick. Then minutes after getting home from work, it was a rush to the bathroom and I was throwing everything up. I threw up twice during the first trimester, but that was very minor (barely counts, in my opinion), but this time was BAD. It was the type of uncontrollable, must empty the entire stomach, can barely breathe vomiting. It even had Bradley worried.

Oddly enough, after it was over, my stomach was finally feeling better than it had in a long time. I rested a little while and then made a delicious dinner of stir-fry veggies and glass noodles made from sweet potato. It was amazingly delicious! And I was lucky enough to have some leftover for lunch today. 🙂

First Trimester Symptoms

First Trimester Symptoms

Family and friends who have already gone through pregnancy, pregnancy 411 books, and web sites and online communities can be very helpful in providing explanations on the weird and unexpected changes that happen during pregnancy. Some I was prepared for, but others were a surprise.

I will try to avoid going into any extremely personal details, but be warned that this post will contain details on natural bodily functions and changes that occur during the earlier stages of pregnancy. This post is intended to be informative for those who have not had children or, like me, are first-timers and often find ourselves thinking: “Is this normal?”

So to begin! I have a fairly regular cycle of 28 days and a period length of about 6 days. There have been a few times where my period came slightly late or heavier than usual, but for the most part over the last four years of charting my cycle carefully, it has been quite regular.

Side note: Ladies, I highly encourage – whether you are single or engaged or married, teen or young adult or mid-thirties – to get a calendar, chart or free app and start tracking your cycles. There are so many benefits to being familiar with your body and how it changes throughout your monthly cycle. Though some women only start tracking their cycles to either avoid or to improve the changes of conception, the greater benefit is knowing what is normal for your body and so staying on top of your health. Knowing your body can help you detect changes in your health early on that you may need to discuss with your doctor or health professional.

Because I track my cycle and know my body fairly well, the week my period was due I began noticing some changes. Very early pregnancy symptoms can sometimes be confused with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) signs, as many are nearly identical: sore or tender breasts, changes in eating habits or food cravings, cramps or abdominal discomfort, bloating, etc. The only PMS sign I typically get is bloating and some slight abdominal discomfort, so when my breasts began feeling unusually sore and tender, even somewhat heavy, and my stomach seemed a bit too queasy, I knew things were not normal.

Then my period was late. As I mentioned before, I have had the occasional late period so I had to force myself to patiently wait a few days before taking a home pregnancy test. The test was positive! Because it is difficult to determine the exact date of conception, the way modern medical science reckons the length of pregnancies is to go all the way to the beginning of your last period. So according to the charts, I was about five weeks!

During Weeks 5 and 6 there were noticeable changes to my body. I was not expecting my breasts to hurt as much as they did so early on. They grew half a cup size in just two weeks, and I had to buy larger bras to accommodate. Also, there is a significant increase in the blood flow to a woman’s uterus and lower abdomen as her body begins to build the placenta – the life-support system for the baby. I quickly discovered that this meant being highly uncomfortable “down there” due to swelling. It was not fun. Probably somewhat related to that, I was not quite prepared for the discharge, which continues sporadically even today (Week 16). The discharge is similar to what happens in the middle of a normal cycle, nothing heavy or abnormal, but uncomfortable when it happens without warning. I have started wearing panty-liners everyday, and you can pick up a small pack at the 99¢ Store.

I was prepared for morning sickness. I heard some terrifying horror stories about it, but my experience was actually quite mild. I had bouts of nausea that came and went throughout the day and then stomachaches in the evening that kept me from eating dinner a few nights a week. I also felt completely exhausted, and would just collapse on the couch after work.

The nausea gradually lessened and faded away towards the end of the first trimester (about Week 11 and 12), and Week 13 my energy began to return. I was beginning to feel “normal” again! What a relief. I finally had the energy to wash dishes or clean the bathrooms again.

I have to share how amazing my husband is. He does half of the chores anyway – vacuuming, laundry, etc. – but he was so helpful during the first trimester when I was not feeling well. There were many evenings when I could not muster enough energy to even microwave a quick meal, and he would make me whatever I wanted for dinner… even if it was just peanut butter on toast! He also makes the best cup of tea in the world, and peppermint tea is so soothing for upset tummies.

I am so very blessed to be married to such a wonderful man.

Sharing the News With Parents

Sharing the News With Parents

I could barely contain my excitement, but I wanted to share the news with our parents in a fun and memorable way.

As this is our very first child, and the first grandchild for Bradley’s parents, we wanted to share the news to our parents in a special way. Something a little more thoughtful and personal then just a basic: “Hey, Mom. Dad. Guess what? We’re having a baby.”

I searched the Internet – from Pinterest to Baby/Mommy forums – looking for ideas. Most, to be honest, were either too cheesy, too confusing, or too elaborate. Finally, I decided to just make a little keepsake myself. So Bradley and I made a quick stop to the Michael’s near our house, and I browsed the aisles looking for anything that could give me some ideas. I picked up two small square canvases, two different colored ribbon, and scrapbooking stickers.

Example of scrapbooking stickers. At home, I attempted to use glue to attach the ribbon to the canvas with little successful so I ended up just using tape. I try to be crafty, but it never seems to work out the way I plan. Oh, well! I covered each canvas with green ribbon and used a gold ribbon as an accent on the left side. Then I placed the stickers so each little keepsake read: “We’re expecting!” And there was little baby footprints and other baby-related items on the canvas.

Then I wrapped each keepsake up and placed them in two gift bags. We were seeing my parents first on a Sunday afternoon, and I thought long and hard about how to break the ice so that a gift in the middle of January would not seem odd and give it away too fast. We arrived and about five minutes into the visit, I grabbed the gift bag but kept it out of my parents’ sight. We were all congregation in the kitchen and taking about things.

That is when I said something along the lines: “So my co-worker was telling me about a book she recently read. It is by a Japanese lady named Marie Kondo, and she is really famous for her organizing methods. And my co-worker said that one thing she liked about Marie Kondo’s style was that she stresses that you should only keep the items that bring you joy.”

My parents nodded, interested. I pulled out the gift bag and handed it to my mom. “Bradley and I knew right away that this would bring you guys great joy.”

My mom took the bag and Dad joined her. As the dug through the tissue paper, they wondered aloud what the present would be. Then my mom pulled out the keepsake and they only took a second to read it.

“Congratulations!” they both said. There were hugs and lots of smiles. We spent the rest of the visit chatting about how I was feeling, how Bradley was feeling, and about the new little one.

Wednesday evening just a few days later, we picked up dinner to go from Chipotle and went over to visit Bradley’s parents. Unfortunately that day, Bradley was quite sick, but he did not want to wait to tell his parents any longer. Again, I kept the gift bag hidden from view while we ate dinner and chatted. After dinner, Bradley said a few things to his mom, and I added: “We got you something special that I think you will really like.”

I handed Bradley’s mom the gift bag, and she carefully removed the tissue paper until she was holding the keepsake. She stared at it for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity, and happy tears swelled up in her eyes. She could not even speak, so I jumped up and gave her a big hug. Bradley’s dad, who was seated on the other side of the living room, had no idea what was going on. When his mom found her voice and shared: “They are having a baby!”, I think he was in shock and it took some time to register.

We stayed and talked for a little while longer, and then hurried home so Bradley could take some medicine and sleep. He ended up staying home from work the next day with what was most likely the flu, and the following week I was sick with a sore throat.

Having both of our parents close by is a huge blessing, and I am so happy we were able to share with them our big news in a personal and meaningful way. This is the first grandchild for Bradley’s parents, so they are extremely excited and also a little overwhelmed. My parents have six other grandkids, but they are just as excited about this new addition as each of the others.

It is so much fun talking about what things my mom and Bradley’s mom did when they had babies, what items they found useful, and getting their advice and opinions. There used to be a time when new parents gleaned parenting advice from those who went before them, but now it seems that many young parents tend to disregard the experiences of the older and wiser and prefer to get advice from strangers in parenting forums online. While advice online can be helpful at times, do not get me wrong, there is something natural and beautiful about talking with your mother or mother-in-law or sister or friend who already has children face-to-face and hearing what worked for them, what they would do differently, etc.