The Reality of Mom Life


This blog post has been two days in the making.  Actually longer than that because I came down with the stomach bug from HELL this weekend & am just today feeling more or less like a normal human being again.  I would seriously take pneumonia or the real flu (you know, the respiratory one) over the stomach bug ANY day of the week.  I know some people say “But the flu lasts a week; the stomach bug is just 24-48 hrs.”  HA!  Maybe for some folks but for me it’s always taken 3-4 days minimum to truly recover from a stomach bug, & it was MUCH harder this time because I was breastfeeding & caring for a 12 week old baby the entire time.  Thank goodness for my husband for helping to care for me & Rachel & for my parents for coming down on Monday to help me when my husband had to go back to work.  It’s been my nightmare ever since Rachel was born that I would come down with a stomach bug.  Well, it happened.  And it sucked.  Royally.  But I lived to tell the story.  Which brings me to the point of this post.Lavendar hanging from an old vintage door, room for copy space

Motherhood is a lot of things.  At moments it is the most glorious, wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced.  At other times it’s so incredibly hard that I wonder what I was thinking getting into this.  The good news is, as the weeks have passed, the former moments far outweigh the latter moments.  And I’ve learned that I am SO MUCH STRONGER than I ever thought possible.  So in honor of that I thought I’d post some of the realities of being a mom, at least for me, many of which are really quite humorous.  If you’re a mom I think you’ll find yourself smiling & nodding along.  If you’re not, hopefully this post will make you want to join the club.  Or not; that’s a totally acceptable choice as well!motherhood-quote

(FYI, I used feminine pronouns throughout this post simply because my baby is a girl so it was just easier for me that way . . . Also, this post is most applicable to moms with infants.  As I only have one child myself, who is just 12 weeks old, I obviously can’t yet speak to motherhood beyond this point.)

Being a mom means . . .

  • Learning to do almost anything & everything one-handed.  This includes cooking, cleaning, using the bathroom, signing for pizza delivery, texting, typing, etc, etc.  The list could go on forever!
  • As soon as you finish laundry for the day the baby will have a poop-splosion (i.e. an explosion of poop) that soils her entire outfit & possibly yours as well.  So then you have to decide if you want to hand-wash everything or run the washing machine for just a handful of items.  Usually I go with the former & figure I’m getting a taste of what motherhood must have been like for my great-grandmothers in the days before washing machines.
  • As soon as you take the burp rag away thinking for sure the baby won’t spit up on you, that is the exact moment the baby will spit up on you.motherhood not for sissies
  • As soon as you change the baby’s diaper, get her outfit on her, & put her down for a nap or to play in her bouncy seat, that is exactly when she will have yet another poop.  Babies are not economical or efficient.  But they are born with a sarcastic streak, I swear!  I know mine has one . . . But then again, how could she not with parents like me & my husband?
  • Googling everything under the sun at all hours of night & day, scouring the interwebs for any sign that whatever “strange” or annoying thing your baby is doing is normal . . . or for how in the world to make her STOP CRYING?!
  • And eventually figuring out that, despite all of your doubts, you really are the expert on your own child.  After a while you recognize patterns & pick up on cues that in the early days were all just a mysterious blur.  And when you realize how far you’ve come you feel like a TOTAL ROCK STAR.  And you are!!motherhood grocery store
  • Never eating a full meal in one sitting (or at least very rarely) because the baby always needs something as soon as you sit down to eat.  You soon get used to either eating cold food or reheating things a bunch of times.
  • Taking the fastest showers of your life because you’re scared to death the baby will explode while she’s out of your sight . . . until you realize she actually won’t & you WILL hear her crying over the sound of the water . . . So then you start taking longer & longer showers just to have some time to yourself.
  • Making up excuses to drive places just because the baby loves her carseat & takes some of her best naps while you’re in the car.
  • Loving & appreciating your own mom more than ever because you realize just how amazing she truly is.daughter quote
  • Feeling a sudden, however slight, connection to every mom you meet just because you know you share so many of the same daily struggles & delights.
  • Being willing to make career changes you never considered before becoming a mom.  For some this means becoming a stay at home mom.  For others it means changing careers completely or going part time.  For me it has meant leaving hospital nursing to pursue part time clinic work. (I was originally planning to go back to the hospital part time but decided the schedule as well as the hectic, often stressful shifts there just didn’t fit with my priorities anymore.  That’s a whole other blog post that I’ll get around to writing eventually.)
  • Experiencing a love like you’ve never experienced before.  It really is indescribable.birth-of-mother
  • Loving (& often missing) sleep more than ever.  I’ve almost always been wise enough to choose sleep over housework or any other task when I know I really need sleep . . . And I know I’m saner for it.  Trust me, if you have any doubt, the best choice is always sleep.  Husbands, moms, dads, & friends can all help with housework or caring for the baby.  But none of them can sleep for you.
  • Learning to love your body for what it can DO as well as how it looks.  It means learning to embrace your “flaws” & knowing that even if your stomach is never quite as flat again (Who am I kidding?  Mine was never super flat anyway.) & even if the stretch marks never fully fade away, you’d still choose your precious child over your old body a thousand times over.
  • Learning to give yourself a lot of grace.  I learned very fast that there were certain things I just wasn’t going to be able to do as a mom, at least as a new mom.  For example, using cloth diapers is just not going to happen any time soon.  I need my sanity, & there is no way I could handle all the work that comes with cloth diapering & stay sane right now.  It also means learning to forgive yourself when you find yourself getting frustrated & angry with your own child sometimes.  We have to learn that none of us is perfect & we all have our less than stellar moments, but it’s all just part of the journey.children-work-quote
  • You can’t watch/read the news without feeling like your heart is going to break.  Every tragedy in the world is suddenly magnified a thousand times because you realize that was someone’s BABY who was hurt/killed.  So, if you’re like me, you decide to filter most news through your husband & friends & otherwise be the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
  • Every time you start to think about having another baby in the future, something happens & you’re convinced there is no way you could ever handle more than one child.  At least not for another 3 or 4 years.  But then you worry that if you separate your kids that much they won’t be “close.”  But then you remember that having them close together in no way guarantees that they will be close to each other, just as having them further apart in no way guarantees they WON’T be.  Basically when it comes to having kids there are no guarantees.  Ever.  Which brings me to my final point . . .
  • Being a mom means learning to laugh at the chaos, to “roll with the punches,” to take whatever life throws at you & find a way to not only survive but thrive.  As I said at the beginning, being a mom means learning that no matter how hard things get, you somehow find the strength to keep on trucking because you are SO MUCH STRONGER than you ever thought possible.

    'Hey, half my chromosomes are YOURS, you know.'

    Considering my husband is a geneticist by trade, our daughter may very well say this to us someday.  Ha!

Beyonce is Overrated & Not a Role Model


Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day & sorry, I’m not sorry if this post breaks your heart a little bit.  But first a preface on why I’m writing this today:

I didn’t watch the Grammys this year for a number of reasons, mostly because I have a 2.5 month old baby, so my bedtime is about 8 pm these days in order to make up for being up to feed her in the middle of the night . . . But also because the Grammys have become so ridiculously stupid that they are honestly a joke.  I mentioned this last year but when “Call Me Maybe” gets nominated for a Grammy you know the music industry is in a truly shitty place.  (Actually to be truly honest, I don’t think I’ve ever watched the Grammys & after the way Metallica was treated at this year’s show I’m pretty sure I never will.)broken-heart

Anyhow, all this talk about the Grammys & how “devastating” it is that Beyonce’s Lemonade album didn’t win album of the year has me thinking about just how overrated she really is.  Yes, I said it: Beyonce is overrated.  I know she has become this sacred cow that no one is allowed to criticize or else you’re deemed sexist, racist, misogynist, or whatever else is considered politically incorrect these days.  But the fact of the matter is I couldn’t possibly care less about being politically correct.  (One of the biggest & best ways being a mom has changed me is that it has made me FAR less concerned about other people’s opinions.  There is so much freedom in being able to express exactly how I feel & not worry about what others will think of me because of it.)beyonce

Now let me expound on this matter a bit lest you think I’m just some hateful bitch who is jealous of Beyonce’s talent, wealth, beauty, or fame.  Does she have a great voice?  Yes.  Is she a talented dancer?  Sure.  Is she beautiful?  Absolutely.  But is she worth all the hype & praise that has landed her being called a role model by someone as imminent as Michelle Obama?  Hell no!    (P.S. I can’t help but wonder if Michelle’s statement was colored a bit by the fact that Beyonce helped raise millions of dollars for Obama.  Hmmm . . . ) I’m sorry but I find it extremely hypocritical that Beyonce has somehow become this feminist icon when she is just another pop star who has allowed her sexuality to overshadow any other aspect of her persona.  beyonce-superbowl

I’ve been trying to give Beyonce the benefit of the doubt for years now, but when I watched her Superbowl performance I couldn’t help but be disappointed (though not surprised) at how sexually suggestive it was.  However, when I read all the praise about her latest album, I decided to peruse the lyrics & see if maybe this album was more serious than some of her previous releases.  But alas, my suspicions were confirmed when I found lyrics as inanely stupid, not to mention sexually explicit & derogatory, as these.  “Suck on my balls . . .”  Seriously?  This is the stuff that people consider worthy of a Grammy?  Oh, & then there’s this jewel in which she sings “When he fuck me good I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay.”  Say what now?!  Love Drought is actually not half bad, but she ends the song with “Them old bitches so wack, I’m so tough, wassup?” & completely ruins any momentum she had gained.  Worst of all are the disgusting lyrics in Don’t Hurt Yourself when she sings “Who the fuck do you think I is?/You ain’t married to no average bitch, boy/You can watch my fat ass twist, boy/As I bounce to the next dick, boy.”  Umm, what?!  As if the grammatical felonies committed here weren’t bad enough, “bounce to the next dick” is considered a lyric worthy of a Grammy?  Please!  beyonce-lemonade

And let’s not forget some of Beyonce’s earlier work which includes such gems as Bow Down Bitches in which she repeatedly sings that illustrious phrase or Partition in which she crudely describes herself performing oral sex on a man in the backseat of a car.

Now explain to me again how this woman has become a “role model” for women & little girls!  I don’t know about y’all but Beyonce is not a role model for me & she sure as hell won’t be one for my little girl either.role-model

Not only are most of Beyonce’s lyrics grammatically incorrect well beyond the grace of poetic license, more importantly they are vapid & just plain ridiculous.  And what’s even sadder is the lyric credits for most of the songs are a mile long.  Seriously, it takes five or six people to come up with this nonsense?  Apparently so.  If you’re wondering why I care so much it’s because music is like a religion to me.  As the great Corey Taylor so wisely stated “Music is not a fucking soda.  It is not a fucking insurance rate.  It is not a fucking T-shirt.  It is the only real religion that is worth devoting your soul to.  It is the last remnant of the primal scream, the funeral dirge, & the wedding march.  It is the light that keeps me out of the shadows, & it is the reason my immortal soul is not in dire straits.”  And as Taylor also stated “Bad music is a form of murder to the true art of music in general.”  THAT is why I care so much about crap like Beyonce’s music being glorified the way it is.

corey taylor quote

Since I’m going for full disclosure here, let me be truly transparent.  As some of you may know, I am a big rock & roll fan.  And as you’re probably well aware there is plenty of sex in rock & roll.  After all the phrase “sex, drugs, & rock & roll” exists for a reason.  However, if you study the music scene today I think you’ll find that most modern rock bands are actually much tamer than the “glory days” of rock that spawned that phrase.  And as far as modern female rock stars go, ladies like Lzzy Hale of Halestorm & Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil have figured out how to be beautiful & sexy without letting that dominate their careers.  Yes, they both wear outfits that could be considered provocative at times, but that isn’t their only wardrobe.  Nor do they perform sexually explicit dances on stage.  While they both have a few songs that definitely reference sex, those songs are well written & far more mature than this crap Beyonce is “writing.”  I say “writing” because I seriously wonder how much she contributes to her own songs when she needs so many different songwriters to help her with the process . . .

lzzy hale

Lzzy Hale has certainly become a sex symbol in the rock community & one can easily see why. But that isn’t why she’s famous. She’s famous b/c she is an insanely talented singer & guitarist . . . who just happens to be pretty hot too. 

The point is most musicians become sex symbols in one way or another & that includes men as well as women.  Tim McGraw & Luke Bryan are certainly examples of this.  What bothers me is when a musician’s entire career becomes wrapped up in being a sex symbol.  I believe that is exactly what has happened to Beyonce, & worse yet the music for which she receives so much adoration is frankly stupid & trashy & only feeds into the overly sexualized image she has created for herself.  She’s not so much a singer as she is a product, a veritable piece of meat.  And isn’t that exactly what feminists hate to see women become?

women not pieces of meat

As far as I can see, Beyonce is just making herself into another piece of meat.

What it comes down to is this: I am by no means a prude.  I do not have a problem with music & sexuality being blended in some ways & at some times.  But I do have a problem with a woman who has become nothing more than a stereotypical sex symbol being regaled as not only some “amazing musician” but as a role model for young girls.  Sorry but no!  Beyonce isn’t a good role model for little girls any more than Britney Spears is (or should I say was because I’m not sure anyone cares about her anymore?).

So there you have it. Beyonce is overrated.  End of story.

And sorry, I’m not sorry.

I Am Not a Victim


Yesterday evening I came across a quote that resonated very strongly with me.  The quote is from an interview with former Guns & Roses & current Sixx A.M. guitarist DJ Ashba.  Ashba grew up with an extremely abusive father & when asked what advice he would give to kids growing up in difficult situations, he responded:

“No matter what you’ve been through in life, you must remind yourself that this is YOUR life. There’s nothing in life you can’t have if you want it bad enough. You just have to be willing to work as hard as it takes to get it.

You have two choices. You can sit around & feel sorry for yourself, or you can get up, dust yourself off, & never lose focus on your goals. Don’t ever let anyone discourage you & stand in your way. Use the negativity as motivation to fuel the fire inside you. Follow your heart, never doubt yourself, & always remember, the hardest part about reaching your dreams is never giving up.”  

(You can read more of that interview here.)dj-ashba

Now the rest of this post might be a little controversial but I’m going forward with it anyway because it’s something I’ve been needing to get off my chest lately.

Yes, I am a feminist in the sense that I absolutely support women having equal rights under the law & generally being treated as the capable human beings that we are.  As long as there are places in the world like Saudi Arabia where women are treated basically like cattle I absolutely believe that feminism is still a needed cause.alan-ball-quote

HOWEVER, I must go on record to say that there have been very few times in my life that I have ever felt that I have suffered or been mistreated because of my gender.  I read all the time  how girls suffer in American schools, particularly in the STEM fields, & how we women make less money than men, etc, etc.  I am not denying that there are some cases in which girls & women still face discrimination (particularly women who are also a racial/ethnic minority, which, to be clear, I am not).  However, I must say that from my own experience in school, all the way from kindergarten through high school, it was BOYS who I felt suffered.  I don’t know about the rest of y’all but when I was a kid it wasn’t exactly cool to be smart or get good grades.  But it was ok for girls.  To be clear, you weren’t going to win any popularity contests for being a nerdy girl but at the same time you could excel academically & not be sneered by most of your classmates.  On the other hand boys who excelled in the classroom, regardless of subject, were frequently subject to intense teasing & general disregard by other students, both male & female alike.  In my school there were very few males in any of the advanced learning programs.  I fail to believe this was because of a dearth of academically advanced boys.  Rather I think it was a symptom of the greater problem that being smart was considered especially uncool for boys so many male students chose to suppress their abilities in order to “save face.”victimhood-cartoon

I am not so naive as to think that my experience alone represents that of all women, even of my own age & demographic.  However, having spoken to many women of my generation from a great variety of areas throughout the US it seems to me that for the most part we have not faced a great deal of serious systematic discrimination, especially in the academic world.  Hell, women have been attending & graduating college at a greater rate than men for years now.  I’ve also read multiple times that women of my generation are, on average, actually making MORE money than our male counterparts.  In light of this, I think it’s time we dropped the victimhood game.

tammy-bruce-quote

Ironic, isn’t it?

Are there ways in which our society could improve to further help women?  Certainly.  Greater maternity leave would be a great one.  But so would greater paternity leave.  On that subject, fathers in this country have been systematically demeaned for decades now, & it’s obvious to me that we are now suffering the consequences.  Do a quick Google search & you will quickly find that children, regardless of gender, who grow up without a father are much more likely to suffer from pretty much every bad outcome (more likely to become teen parents, drop out of school, have behavioral issues, end up in jail or using drugs, etc).  fathers

All you have to do is turn on the TV to see that our society does not value fathers.  Fathers are consistently depicted, both in TV shows/movies & commercials, as bumbling idiots who are basically oversized children.  Maybe this is true for some men . . . But then one wonders if some men are like that because that’s the image that’s been shown to them for so many years now.  Don’t feminists often argue that women typically pursue more traditionally feminine careers such as nursing & teaching because those are the kinds of roles in which they see women depicted?  Feminists have argued for years that we need more female doctors, lawyers, politicians, engineers, etc so that little girls will see that they can become anything they want.  In theory I completely agree with this statement.  However, I find it interesting that no one seems to be arguing that we need more male teachers & nurses & other such traditionally feminine roles.  It’s my opinion that all fields could benefit from a more balanced gender ratio.  But it’s intriguing to me that it’s so easy to find scholarships for women seeking to enter traditionally masculine fields whereas you are hard pressed to find scholarships for men seeking to enter traditionally feminine fields, even if they face similar challenges in so doing.male-nurses

At the same time, I understand that there may never be as many female lawyers, politicians, or CEOs because most women simply don’t want to do that kind of work.  Or at least they don’t want to deal with the long hours & high demands of such careers, especially if they are also moms.  And I for one don’t see anything wrong with that.  Just as I don’t see anything wrong with the fact that we will probably never see as many stay at home dads as we see stay at home moms.

Call me insensitive, brainwashed, or stupid, but I for one think all of the recent focus on women’s rights in the US would be better spent focusing on parts of the world where women truly do not have basic human rights.  And just to be clear, having the government pay for your birth control is NOT a basic human right.  After all if we women are as strong & independent as men, why do we need the government to take care of us?  And if we’re truly such equals, why aren’t we eligible for the draft?  Funny how most feminists love to dodge that subject!  [To be clear, I’m not saying men are superior to women.  But I’m also not ignoring basic biology that makes it obvious that women are less suited to combat & thus shouldn’t be eligible for the draft (& probably shouldn’t be involved in combat at all, in my opinion).]  There are parts of the world where female babies are routinely aborted for being the “wrong” gender.  There are parts of the world where female rape victims are stoned or otherwise killed because of what a man forced on them.  And yet modern American feminists are bitching about men sitting on the subway with their legs spread too widely?  Get a damn life, y’all!
feminism-birthcontrol

I wrote all that to say this: yes, there have been a few times in my life when I wished I were male because I knew it would have made my life easier.  But those times have been few & far between.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky.  But my instinct tells me that most women, of my generation & in the US anyway, have had similar experiences.  At the end of the day I do not feel like a victim because I’m a woman.  I simply do not see myself that way, nor do I view my fellow females as such.  And I for one will not be raising my daughter to view herself as a victim.  I will be raising her to pursue her dreams, just as DJ Ashba encouraged us to do in the quote that started this post.

To end this post I’d like to share some quotes that I believe are relevant to this vicious cycle of victimhood that modern feminism seeks to perpetrate.victim-quote

“The rest of us have never embraced your victim mentality; we are not victims. We are people, the same way that men are. We are equal, yet different. We, unlike you, realize that is not mutually exclusive.”  ~ Lori Ziganto

“Stop bitching about everybody else & what they’ve done to you & start cleaning up your own shit yourself.  The only person who can make you a victim is you.”  ~ Max Patrick

“You cannot be happy if your primary identity is that of a victim, even if you really are one.”  ~ Dennis Prager

“Women’s liberation fought for the right of women to leave the home & become involved in the public sphere; feminists now want to convert this realm into a series of safe spaces & censored zones. If you don’t like what someone says to you on the street, say something back, put your headphones on, or just laugh – it’s really not that bad.”  ~ Ella Whelan

Can I get an AMEN?!

The Best Baby Gear You Actually Need


Despite developing preeclampsia at 38 weeks, overall I was blessed to experience a relatively easy pregnancy, physically anyway.  Mentally it was a bit more difficult at times but I survived.  In any case, one of the more stressful/annoying things about pregnancy for me was trying to figure out what baby gear to buy.  I don’t know about y’all but the sheer amount of options for every thing known to man was just overwhelming to me.  Who knew there could be dozens of different options for something as (seemingly) simple as a bottle?  Or a pacifier?  Not to mention the more complex items like strollers & carseats!  I’m so thankful that my husband helped me narrow down our options with those bigger purchases because if it had been left totally to me I’m not sure we’d have ever gotten them.  Just kidding; I’d have eventually made a decision of course.  However, since baby gear was something about which I had zero previous knowledge my normally decisive self was left floundering a bit.  Thus having his support was very helpful.baby-gift-regsitry

Anyhow, I thought it might be useful/fun to share my picks for the best baby gear that you actually NEED & might want to put on your registry.  I also want to give a huge thank you to one of my dearest friends who helped me set up my registries.  I’d have been lost without her suggestions!

  • Carseat: Obviously you need a carseat.  You can’t even legally leave the hospital without one!  We chose the Chicco Keyfit 30 & have been very pleased with it.  My husband did the installation in our cars & he said it was very easy & straightforward.  Rachel apparently loves this carseat because she always falls asleep every time she’s in it for more than about 10 minutes.chicco-keyfit-30
  • Stroller: For our stroller we chose the Chicco Activ3 Jogging Stroller & again have been very pleased with it.  The Chicco Keyfit 30 carseat fits into it perfectly which is a huge plus.  This stroller has great suspension & can definitely be taken “off road.”  Again, I think Rachel must like it because she always falls asleep in it on our walks around the neighborhood.chicco-stroller
  • Burp rags: Doesn’t really matter what brand/style you buy; just be sure you have at least 4 or 5 of them.  I’ve found that keeping one in every major room of the house (nursery, master bedroom, & living room) & in the diaper bag is a huge help.  That way there is always one handy whenever I need it.
  • Baby carrier: At the recommendation of the aforementioned friend, I chose the Lille Baby 360 6-position carrier.  I’ll admit I didn’t use it much in the first few weeks because Rachel was a little small for it.  However, since she was about 3 weeks old this thing has been a lifesaver.  When she’s having a fussy spell, quite often strapping her in this thing is an almost instant fix.  (And because my hands are free I can move around & cook or do laundry or type a blog post or just about anything I need/want to do!)  This carrier adjusts easily to fit both me & my husband, & it has great lumbar support which will be even more important as Rachel gets bigger & bigger.  I’ve been using it to take her on walks around the neighborhood with Chaucer (our corgi).  She always falls asleep on our walks & it’s good exercise for me too.

    lillebaby

    Rachel is in there, I promise.

  • Bouncer: My mom bought me ours & it’s something that Rachel is starting to really enjoy now that she’s moving her arms around a lot & starting to explore the world a bit more.  I think she’s going to love it even more as she gets older.  The vibration feature is soothing also.  This isn’t the exact print we have but it’s the same seat.
  • Rock & Play: I am so incredibly grateful that just a few days before Rachel was born my mom told me that a coworker of hers swore by the Fisher Price Deluxe Rock & Play for helping her baby to sleep.  It has been a total lifesaver since Rachel has been not so fond of her Pack & Play for sleeping.  Plus with her reflux issues the rock & play is perfect for keeping her head elevated a bit.  I love that it’s portable so it can easily be carried from room to room throughout the day.  I’ve found that if I keep her in it right beside the bed, I can lie on my side & gently rock her to sleep.rock-and-play
  • Pacifiers: I never bought one before Rachel was born because I had this big idea that I wasn’t going to use one.  As it turns out Rachel was one of those babies who was basically born with her thumb in her mouth.  In fact she has her fingers in her mouth in the very first picture I have of me holding her not long after birth!  At first I was afraid to try one because of the whole “nipple confusion” issue, but once my lactation consultant told me she felt Rachel (& I) would benefit from one, I decided to go for it.  She recommended the Soothie brand.  I had mixed results with that one so I ended up buying a bunch of different brands at WalMart & experimenting until I found one that she really seems to like.  I can’t wait to get the MAM brand which I ordered on Amazon at the recommendation of several friends.  (The stores around here kept being sold out of those which is perhaps a sign that they really are good.)

    me-and-rachel

    This was the first picture taken of me & Rachel after birth.  If you look closely, you can see she already had her fingers in her mouth.

  • Diapers: While I was pregnant I had a vague idea that I might try cloth diapers for the sake of being more environmentally friendly.  I knew it was unlikely that I’d follow through with it but it was still something I hoped I’d do.  Once Rachel arrived & the reality of caring for a newborn set in, I realized this idea was nothing more than that, an idea.  I’ve found that I really like the Pampers diapers with the line that changes color when they’re wet.  Eventually I’d like to try to switch to biodegradable diapers but for right now I’m definitely going to use up all the Pampers & other ones we’ve been given.  As a new parent I’m learning you have to give yourself a lot of grace because you just can’t do everything, & this is definitely one of those things.pampers
  • Wipes: Following right along from the previous subject, obviously you will need plenty of wipes.  We’ve found that the giant packs of wipes that Sam’s Club sells are a good deal & work plenty well.  We don’t have a wipe warmer & while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having one I also think it’s far from a necessity.  If someone gives you one or you aren’t working on a limited budget, go for it.  Otherwise I think it’s something you can safely skip.
  • Boppy: If you’re even just THINKING about breastfeeding, be sure to get a Boppy pillow.  These things are so genius.  I love mine so much that I ended up buying a second one (the first one was a gift) so I could have one for the nursery & one for the living room (or to take on trips out of the house).  Even if you don’t end up breastfeeding, the Boppy is still a great tool for tummy time & helping your baby learn to sit up.boppy
  • Diaper bag: I actually ended up with 2 diaper bags because I bought one myself & then received one as a gift.  I purchased this Skip Hop backpack diaper bag because I liked that it was a backpack & also pretty gender neutral.  It’s a little small but so far has been perfect.  If/when I need more room I’ll use the larger one my sister in law gave me.
  • Halo sleepsack: I’m so grateful that my aforementioned friend recommended these to me because they have been a lifesaver.  In the hospital Rachel was already a little ninja, breaking out of her swaddle constantly.  With this zip-up version of the sleepsack, you have the option to swaddle with arms in or arms out.  I’ve found that Rachel really likes to sleep with one arm in & one arm out.  No wonder she was breaking out of her swaddle in the hospital; she wanted to have one arm up!

    sleeping-rachel

    See?  She really does like to sleep with one arm in & one arm out.

  • Clothes: All I need to say about this subject is that you will almost certainly end up with way more baby clothes than you’ll ever need.  I know everyone says not to buy too many newborn outfits because babies outgrow them so fast, but I would recommend getting at least 3 or 4 newborn outfits (unless maybe your doctor/midwife has already told you to expect a very large baby) for the first few weeks/month.  I think I only bought one newborn outfit before Rachel was born & because she ended up being on the smaller side (6 lbs 12 oz & 18.5″ long) everything else was way too big for her, so we ended up using the same outfit over & over until we could get to WalMart to buy some new ones.rachel-penguins
  • Sound machine: I have always slept with a fan for as long as I can remember so when I was in the hospital I was thrilled to find that they had sound machines which made up for not having my fan for white noise.  I fell in love with the ocean waves option & was thrilled when a friend of mine from work bought me a sound machine with an ocean waves option.  I’ve found that sleeping with that & the fan makes for excellent white noise that both Rachel & I find soothing.  You can get perfectly adequate but inexpensive sound machines at WalMart but if you don’t feel like buying one there are plenty of free white noise apps you can download on your phone (try White Noise Baby).
  • Washcloths/hooded towels: As with burp rags it doesn’t really matter what kind you get.  Just be sure to have several of each.  duck-towel-rachel
  • Thermometer & bulb suction: Again, the brand/type doesn’t really matter for these items, as far as I’m concerned but they’re definitely items you’ll want to have around if/when your baby inevitably gets sick.
  • Breast pump: When it came to buying a breast pump, I was totally clueless so I did what any new millennial mom does & queried my Facebook friends asking for recommendations.  By far the most popular choice was the Medela In Style so I went with that one.  I ended up having to buy larger flanges because the standard size provided with the pump were a little small for me (thanks to my awesome lactation consultant from Emerald Doulas for recommending the larger flanges) but otherwise the pump has proved to be an excellent choice.  It’s easy to use & clean & very portable.  The bag is awesome too because you can carry it around without it being obvious what it is.medela-pump
  • Changing table/pad: I don’t have a link to the exact changing pad/table we have because I bought ours off of Craig’s List so I’m not sure of the exact brand/style. In any case I love that it’s basically a chest of drawers also because it has tons of storage space underneath the changing table part.  I’ve been able to store all of our diapers, baby bathing supplies, lots of blankets, etc in the cabinet areas.  Also considering how much time we spend changing diapers it’s nice to have a table that’s at an ergonomic height that is good for our backs.
  • Diaper genie: If you’re on a strict budget this is one you can definitely skip, but I was blessed to receive one as a gift & it’s certainly a nice thing to have.  Of course if you’re exclusively breastfeeding baby poop doesn’t even really stink (as I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover).  It’s still very useful though & I’m sure we’ll appreciate it even more once Rachel starts eating solid foods & having more stinky poops.

    newborn-19

    Photo credit: Megan Cash Photography

I’m sure I’ve skipped a few things, but if you’re a first time mom reading this I hope you’ve found this list helpful.  Happy baby shopping!

… I just realized that sounds like you’re shopping to buy a baby.  Let me rephrase that: happy baby gear shopping!

Reflections of a New Mother


Six weeks ago today baby Rachel entered this world!  So much has happened in those six weeks, so in a way it seems like a long time, yet in another way it seems like no time at all.  I know all new parents say this but it really is hard to imagine my life without Rachel now that she is here.

The last two days have been pretty rough (although the past two nights have been great), so I thought it would be therapeutic to share some of my reflections on motherhood thus far.me-and-rachel-penguin

  1. Being a mom is incredibly hard.  I always knew it would be; I was never naive enough to think this would be a walk in the park or all fun & joy.  Of course not.  But you just can’t understand how truly difficult it is until you do it.
  2. Motherhood is full of extreme emotions.  On any given day I cycle between extreme love, joy, devotion, fear, anxiety, frustration, & a whole gamut of other emotions.  This is all totally normal of course but it is exhausting at times to feel like an emotional yo-yo.
  3. That being said, the extreme joy & love truly do make up for all the more “negative” emotions.  I always worried that moms said that just because they felt they had to but it really is true.  Trust me, I’ve had moments when I’ve wondered if I made a mistake in becoming a mom.  And I’m sure I’ll have more of those moments for the rest of my life.  But the point is those are just moments.  They don’t last forever.  me-and-rachel-fire
  4. Taking care of yourself is absolutely imperative to surviving motherhood.  This is just one of many reasons that being a single mom (or dad) is clearly not how parenthood was designed.  I’ve quickly learned that it’s essential that I eat a reasonably healthy diet, drink plenty of water, spend some time outside, listen to music, take a shower, read a little here & there, & generally do all the things that help keep me sane.  My mantra these days is “You cannot pour from an empty cup.”  In other words, Rachel needs a healthy, sane mommy & that means I need to take care of myself every bit as much as I’m taking care of her.  Which feeds right into my next point.
  5. Being able to take care of myself is largely dependent on my husband’s support.  I know every mom says this but once again it is so true: I’ve never loved my husband more than when I see him with our daughter.  When he changes her diapers, pushes her stroller, wears her in the baby carrier on his chest, & cuddles & kisses her my heart truly melts.  Furthermore, when he does the dishes or the laundry or cooks me dinner I want to kiss his feet.  Parenthood is definitely meant to be a two person job.  I never doubted that but now that I’m living it I can attest that it is 100% true.daughter quote
  6. Moms are the most giving people in the world.  I can’t say thank you enough to all the wonderful ladies who have reached out to me for encouragement & support over the past six weeks.  Y’all know who you are & you’re all amazing.  I hope someday I can encourage other new moms the way so many of you have done for me.  Seriously, THANK YOU!
  7. Breastfeeding is hard.  Like woahhhh.  To be honest, it’s actually not been physically painful the way I feared it would be.  However, it is still very demanding, both mentally & physically.  While I was pregnant I set two breastfeeding goals.  My ultimate goal was/is to make it a full year, but I will be perfectly satisfied if I make it to six months.  My minimum goal was to make it to six weeks, & I’m happy to say that as of today I’ve fulfilled that goal.  Woohoo!  I haven’t made it this far without a TON of support & encouragement though.  It’s truly been a team effort in so many ways!  There have been so many days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel & I’m sure there will be more of them, but knowing I’ve already made it this far will hopefully continue to encourage me on the difficult days.breastfeeding-cartoon
  8. Being a mom with anxiety & OCD tendencies is hard.  Thank goodness for a fantastic husband, a great mom, some dear friends, a wonderful therapist, & Zoloft.  And music.  (I switched from Prozac to Zoloft about 3 weeks ago at the suggestion of Rachel’s pediatrician because Zoloft is considered better for breastfeeding.)  Even if you don’t have a history of anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue, don’t be afraid to seek help as a new mom.  I think EVERYONE could benefit from a few sessions with a good therapist & no one more so than us frazzled, sleep-deprived new mommies.
  9. As much as I love Rachel now & am enjoying many things about the newborn/baby stage, I still very much look forward to her being a little older.  I know most moms say they miss the baby stage & often yearn for those days, but I seriously doubt that will ever be me (at least not often).  I’ve always said I prefer older kids & teens, & I still think that is true for me.  Trust me, I am not rushing anything.  I am enjoying (most) of where we are right now.  But there is a part of me that still can’t wait for the day when I can have real conversations with her, even about the hard stuff like death, sex, war, etc.  Yes, I’m crazy, I know, but I really do look forward to that day.  I also can’t wait to take her on hikes & to concerts & share the joy of all of those things with her.  It might make me weird, but I don’t think it makes me a bad mom to say that I will probably love being a mom even more as she gets older.motherhood-quote
  10. There is absolutely no room for comparison in motherhood.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: motherhood is not a competition.  Some moms breastfeed, some use formula, some do both.  Some moms make beautiful baby books, some don’t.  Some moms decorate a perfect nursery, some don’t.  Some moms co-sleep, some don’t.  Some moms wear their babies, some don’t.  And some babies will sleep through the night or learn to walk/talk faster than others.  The point is none of these things makes one mom better than another.  We are not competing against anyone.  Some moms seem like they have it all together while others of us are just happy we took a shower & did a load of laundry today.  As for me, I’m never going to be the mom who pretends she has it all figured out.  I think the world could benefit from more candidness.  The truth is my house is frequently a little messy (& it was like that long before I became a mom; I just have a better excuse now), I’ve shaved my legs a grand total of twice since I gave birth, & sometimes I hate breastfeeding.  I’m not “perfect” but I’m doing the best I can, & that’s all any of us can do.  At the end of the day if mom & baby are healthy & happy that’s all that matters.  Everything else is just details.
  11. Being a mom really is the best thing I’ve ever done.  End of story.  🙂

I’m not sure this song totally fits with the post but I discovered it last week & I’m in love with everything about it so I’m going to share it anyway.  (Yes, I’m still listening to “heavy” music.  Thankfully Rachel seems to like it!)  Check out the lyrics below:

I’ve always been a fan of the night life
‘Cause it’s the only life I had
Expressing my mind with paper & a pen playing my guitar
‘Till my fingers bled on the carpet
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
It wasn’t easy being rejected by the thing I wanted so bad
To be accepted, to be wanted
To wake up & say this is gonna be a good day
Maybe I wasn’t like all the normal kids
I was born just a little bit different
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
More than your word
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born just a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
I was born a little bit different
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You say I’m just a loser in the background
I can never seem to get it right
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
You told me I would back out, I would break down
I’m not even putting up a fight
But I’m learning my worth is more than your word
I got sick of it
I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it
I tried to fit in, I got sick of it

Best Albums of 2016


Ah, yes, it’s the end of the year so it’s time for my annual best albums post which I always thoroughly enjoy writing.  As you will notice almost all of these are rock/metal albums but since that’s my favorite style of music that shouldn’t be too surprising.

Aside from the first two, these are in no particular order.

**Edit as of Jan 18, 2017: I had to come back & add to this post because I’ve discovered 2 more albums (technically 3) which I would be greatly remiss if I left off of this list.

aa the black

  • The Black by Asking Alexandria: I already wrote a whole post about this album because it floored me so much when it debuted.  I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, so you can read that post here.  However, I should add that since the time this album was released Denis Stoff has exited the band & original lead singer Danny Worsnop has rejoined the band.  I never knew AA’s music before this album & what I have listened to since then I haven’t liked as much, so I have to say I was quite disappointed to learn that Denis had abandoned the group, especially after creating such a great album.  I’ve since come to appreciate Danny a bit more, but even so it pains me to think that the magic of this album will never be furthered.  If you can’t be bothered to read my full post about this album, at least check out the following songs: I Won’t Give InThe Black, & The Lost Souls.BSC Kentucky
  • Kentucky by Black Stone CherryOnce again I already wrote a blog post about this album when it debuted because I was so impressed with the music.  You can read that post here.  Since that time I’d like to add that I had the privilege of seeing BSC perform here in Raleigh & they were even more amazing live.  It’s so obvious that every single one of these guys is extremely talented so when you put them together they have a truly unmatched synergy.  Once again if you can’t be bothered to read this post, at least check out these songs: Cheaper to Drink AloneShakin’ My Cage, & The Rambler.uabb-sftb
  • Straight From the Barrio by Upon a Burning Body: With artwork that looks like graffiti & a title that honors the band’s upbringing in the barrios of San Antonio, this is a diverse & fun album that you do not want to miss.  Check out Till the Break of Dawn & Already Broken which include some fantastic Spanish inspired music as well as some Spanish lyrics.  Lyrically my favorite song is the inspiring piece The Outcast.  Also be sure not to miss the ending ballad My Distorted Reflection which presents a whole new side to this normally very “tough” sounding band.  who-you-selling-for
  • Who You Selling For by The Pretty Reckless: This right here is an album that absolutely begs to be played as an actual album, that is from top to bottom without skipping a single song.  With strong blues influences this disc shows great maturity both musically & lyrically.  I truly believe you can’t appreciate this album for its true genius without listening to it in its entirety, but some stand-out tracks include Hangman with its very dark Alice in Chains vibe, the catchy Take Me Down, & the funky Mad Love.i-prevail-lifelines-cover
  • Lifelines by I Prevail: This Michigan band made a huge splash two years ago when they covered Taylor Swift’s Blank Space, & this year marked the debut of their first full length album.  Don’t miss the catchy & snarky Stuck in Your Head & the equally fun Come and Get It.  The other single Scars is also one not to miss.joanne-lady-gag
  • Joanne by Lady Gaga: Ah, here’s the lone non-rock/metal album on the list!  But as some of you may already know, I’ve long been a Lady Gaga fan.  Regardless of what you think of her outfits & some of her more bizarre antics, you’d have to be crazy to deny the beauty of her powerful voice.  On this album Gaga displays her best songwriting to date while also showcasing a variety of different musical styles.  I have read some reviews that criticized the album for sounding so different throughout the various pieces but I think that’s exactly what makes it so fantastic.  Be sure to check out the title track, a gorgeous ballad written in honor of Gaga’s aunt who died at a young age.  Anyone who has ever experienced the loss of a loved one will relate to this song.  Other stand-out tracks include current single Million ReasonsJohn Wayne, & Angel Down.the-last-hero-ab
  • The Last Hero by Alter Bridge: Back in high school Alter Bridge was one of the first rock bands I ever appreciated & I’ve been a fan ever since.  Alter Bridge have always appealed to me because of their intelligent, well written lyrics as well as their combination of heavy riffs & soaring melodies.  These qualities are in great display on tracks such as lead single Show Me a Leader, the uplifting My Champion, & my personal favorite Poison in Your Veins.bad_vibrations
  • Bad Vibrations by A Day to Remember: I’d head of ADTR prior to this album but I wasn’t familiar with any of their music.  However, somehow I stumbled across several of the songs from this album & immediately fell in love.  I swiftly bought the album & became enamored with the entire thing.  Some of my favorite tracks include ParanoiaBullfightJustifiedTurn Off the Radio, & Naivety.  never-alone-stitched-up-heart
  • Never Alone by Stitched Up Heart: I came across Stitched Up Heart on YouTube one day a few months ago, probably while listening to In This Moment as the bands do have similarities.  This album is the band’s first full length compilation & it displays great maturity for a debut album.  Tracks like Monster definitely bring to mind In This Moment but even so the band has plenty of their own unique sound.  Also be sure to check out Finally Free & my favorite Bleeding Out.shotgunalbumfeb
  • All This Could Be Yours by Shotgun Revolution: I discovered this remarkable Danish band when Black Stone Cherry posted a link to one of their songs on their Facebook page.  I figured if BSC liked their music I would too, & right I was.  Why these guys aren’t more famous is beyond me because their music is both lyrically & sonically exceptional.  They definitely have a true classic rock sound but with just enough modern flair to not sound like a throwback band.  Be sure to check out City of Fire which starts out sounding a bit like a redneck throwdown but quickly morphs into a true rock song.  Also don’t miss Rise to Power (especially the guitar solo that starts around 2:27) & Suzie.  I feel so strongly about this album that I’m even going to include a link where you can order the album.  (The website says “preorder” but you can actually order it now . . . P.S. 12 Euros = about $12.50.)undeniable
  • Unden!able by Hellyeah: Hellyeah is a band that seems to be getting better with every new release.  This latest album makes a great workout disc (& one that is definitely not for the faint of heart) with hard-hitting tracks like Scratch a LieX, & Start a Riot.  Also check out the somewhat softer but equally interesting Human.getaway
  • Getaway by Adelitas Way: Adelitas Way left their record label & self-released this album which includes some of their best work to date.  My personal favorite is Low.  Other tracks not to miss include I Get AroundBad Reputation, & Sometimes You’re Meant to Get Used.aggressive-beartooth
  • Aggressive by Beartooth: I wasn’t familiar with Beartooth until a few weeks ago when I came across the title track from this album on YouTube.  Immediately I knew I’d found an album I had to purchase.  Lead singer Caleb Shomo is only 24 years old but you’d never know it by the amount of material he has already produced in his short life.  Other stand-out tracks on this album include Hated & Loser.  Also don’t miss King of Anythingsixx-am
  • Prayers for the Damned (Vol 1) & Prayers for the Blessed (Vol 2) by Sixx AM: I first discovered this double album when I came across We Will Not Go Quietly from Vol 2 on YouTube a few weeks ago.  I quickly delved into both albums & have been thoroughly impressed with the musicianship & lyrics throughout both albums.  Guitarist DJ Ashba (formerly of Guns & Roses) particularly stands out on both albums.  Other favorites from these albums are Barbarians (Prayers for the Blessed)Maybe It’s Time, & Prayers for the Damned.  I’ve never owned a Sixx AM album before but this double album makes me want to go back & listen to all of their older material.

That’s all, folks!  I hope you’ll take the time to listen to at least a few of these songs & maybe even purchase an album or two off of this list.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  Happy 2017, everyone!

New Mom’s Guide to an Easy (uh, Easier) Labor & Delivery/Recovery


Because I feel like I had such a terrific labor & delivery experience as well as a remarkably easy recovery period (thus far anyway), today I’d like to share my tips for how other women can also achieve a satisfying & easy (ok, easier- it’s never going to be easy) labor & delivery & postpartum phase.  While I am a nurse I am certainly no expert on labor & delivery or postpartum care.  I am just a regular first time mom trying to survive each new day.  Interestingly enough I went into nursing thinking I wanted to do L&D because I had volunteered on an L&D unit as a teenager & thought it sounded fun & exciting.  However, once I got to OB clinical I realized I just wasn’t that interested in this area of nursing.  I found I liked old people better.  Who’d have guessed?  Anyway, as with most things in life I truly believe the key to having a satisfying birth & postpartum experience is setting yourself up for success . . . aka being as prepared as possible.  Here are my tips for how to make that happen.emerald-doulas

  1. Hire a doula: I remember learning about doulas in nursing school & thinking they sounded a bit “hocus pocus.”  I couldn’t fathom why I’d need/want to pay someone other than my husband or best friend to be my labor support person.  However, as my own pregnancy progressed & I started to realize how difficult labor might be, particularly with my goal of avoiding pain meds or an epidural, the thought of a doula suddenly sounded brilliant.  I remembered seeing a card for Emerald Doulas in the waiting room of my midwifery office, so I started Googling them.  Within minutes I knew I’d found the perfect group for me.  I was 34 weeks when I contacted the group & was thrilled to find they still had openings.  At 35 weeks my husband & I met with two of the doulas (Melanie & Chelsea) & reviewed our goals for our childbirth experience.  Immediately I knew we were in the perfect hands.  At 37 weeks they came to our house to further review our goals for birth.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about my husband & how he handled my L&D experience, especially toward the end when I was getting pretty hysterical & difficult to console.  He was absolutely perfect & my love for him has grown exponentially because of how wonderful he was during this experience.  However, I truly believe part of why he handled everything so well was having the doula there to provide support for him as well.  If he needed to step out for a drink/snack/bathroom break, he didn’t have to feel guilty that he was leaving me alone.  Nor did I have to worry about him becoming overwhelmed because I knew he had a support person too.  I’m so incredibly glad I took the advice of a friend & hired a doula.  Both my husband & I swear I wouldn’t have survived a natural, unmedicated birth without her (Chelsea turned out to be the doula on call that day).  Remember, no matter how much your mom/sister/best friend loves you they are not (normally) versed in coaching a woman through childbirth, so having an objective labor support expert is often a better choice because they are more likely to remain coherent & logical when you’re not so coherent & logical.  Also remember labor can be a long process so having a backup person to help your partner is worth its weight in gold.lactation-consultant
  2. Hire/find a lactation consultant: The nurses in the hospital were great but they simply didn’t have enough time to devote to each patient for really detailed breastfeeding teaching.  As a nurse myself, I totally understand this so I made plans in advance to meet with a lactation consultant (Victoria) from our doula group.  I ended up having to put this off a few days when Rachel was readmitted for bili light therapy, but I am so, so glad I didn’t cancel it altogether.  At the beginning of Victoria’s visit I told her I was mainly interested in pumping because I liked knowing exactly how many mL Rachel was getting with each feeding.  But I also told her that our pediatrician (who is also a lactation consultant!!) told us we no longer really needed to worry about that because we could tell by her weight, labs, & output (# of dirty/wet diapers) that she was getting enough milk.  Victoria encouraged me to focus more on actually feeding at the breast, at least for a few days, before relying mostly/solely on the pump.  With her help, we had the best breastfeeding session up till that time.  Victoria gave me a list of personalized suggestions & tips including buying a larger nipple shield & larger flanges for the pump.  The former of these turned out to be the perfect solution for us.  I‘ve now exclusively fed at the breast for three days & I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going.  Rachel has far less gas & hiccup issues & sleeps better between feedings (for the most part; cluster feedings ARE real but that’s true whether you’re pumping or not).  A few more helpful hints for breastfeeding are listed below:
    1. Target has great nursing bras, & they’re half the price of the ones at the mall.  The Gilligan O’Malley brand makes great ones.
    2. Get a Boppy pillow.  You will not regret it.  It makes nursing so much easier, especially since it frees up your hands.  Plus it has multiple uses outside of breastfeeding as the baby grows.
    3. Invest in some lanolin.

      7-months-pregnant-gym

      Here I was at the gym at 7 months pregnant.

  3. Stay in shape . . . Better yet, be in good shape before you’re even pregnant!  Seriously, I do not think I could have pushed through a natural labor (literally pushed!) if I weren’t in as good of shape as I am.  Trust me, I’m no supermodel, marathon runner, or Olympian, but no matter how hard it got I kept up some type of exercise throughout the entire pregnancy.  Honestly the hardest time to do that was the first trimester when the fatigue & nausea were overwhelming at times.  The last few weeks were pretty rough too, but I still forced myself to take the stairs as often as possible & to sneak in short workouts at the gym, even if all they consisted of was 10-15 minutes of free weights/machines & 5-10 minutes on the elliptical.  If nothing else, I tried to walk Chaucer (our corgi) around the community at least a few days a week.  I never counted that as exercise before I was pregnant but by the end of the pregnancy I definitely did.  There is so much research that shows that women who are in good physical shape before & during pregnancy have shorter, easier labors with fewer complications.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better reason to get my butt moving!ionized-water-pregnancy
  4. Drink lots of water, including during labor: This is one I definitely struggled with at times.  I was never a big water drinker before I was pregnant but I knew how important it was so I did my best to make it a priority.  During labor, if you can’t tolerate anything else, at least suck on some ice chips.  Whether or not you’re getting IV fluids your body needs as much hydration as it can get.  Plus your mouth will definitely be dry & a few ice chips or sips of water here & there can make a huge difference.

    nestle-popsicle

    The strawberry ones & the lime ones are especially delicious.

  5. Bring popsicles & other clear liquid (or solid) snacks to the hospital: My midwives are pretty relaxed so I didn’t have many restrictions on eating during labor.  However, once I was on the Pitocin I was only allowed clear liquids, which is pretty standard.  Prior to that I was eating saltines & Kind granola bars every few hours to keep up my energy.  Once the Pitocin was initiated I was so grateful that I had thought to bring popsicles with me.  Every hospital is different but many places won’t deny you snacks but won’t necessarily provide them either.  This is where bringing your own comes in handy.  Toward the end of pushing I was so exhausted & I’m so glad I had my husband & doula there spoon feeding me little bites of popsicle between pushes.ambulation-labor

6. Walk often, both during labor & afterward: I knew from the childbirth class I had taken as well as my own research that staying mobile during labor is a great way to both manage pain & help labor progress.  As it turned out whether I wanted to ambulate frequently or not I had to because I had to pee every 30 minutes to an hour!  As the contractions increased in intensity & frequency I found that lying in bed was the worst possible position.  Yes, I was tired so I wanted to lie down but it was actually the most uncomfortable position.  Plus I knew the more I was up the more likely labor would progress faster.  I was out of bed within two hours postpartum (to use the bathroom) & taking walks in the hall as soon as the next day.  Some of the nurses seemed surprised to see me up & moving around so much (I’ll admit I saw almost no other moms in the hall despite the unit being very full), but I knew the worst thing I could do for stiffness & pain was to lie in bed all day. senokot7. Take the stool softeners the hospital offers you: Ah, the dreaded first postpartum poop!  I had read so much about how horrible this experience would be.  At the risk of TMI, let me just say that if you drink plenty of water, get out of bed frequently, & take the stool softeners the hospital offers you, your chances of surviving this experience with minimal to no “trauma” are excellent.  I will say that only having required 2-3 stitches probably made this experience much easier for me than it is for some others.  Just remember, the longer you put if off, the worse it will be.ibuprofen8. Take ibuprofen regularly postpartum, even if your pain is only mild: One of the greatest things that has shocked me about the postpartum phase is how little pain I’ve had.  Considering the intense pain of labor, I was expecting MUCH worse.  Again I’m sure this is partly due to having a small(er) baby (6 lbs 12 oz) & only requiring a few stitches.  But I also think that taking the ibuprofen regularly, even when I didn’t really feel like I needed it, has helped immensely.  Remember, ibuprofen is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) so it will help with the swelling which will in turn help with the pain. mirror9. Ask for/bring a mirror to help you during pushing: When you tour the birth center, make sure to inquire whether they provide mirrors.  If not, bring your own.  Our hospital provided a nice large mirror & I can’t tell you how helpful that was during pushing time.  I was so close to admitting defeat, but every time I looked down & saw Rachel’s little head I knew how close she was & that gave me the strength to keep going.childbirth-class10. Take a childbirth class: And don’t be afraid to take it early in the pregnancy.  The sooner you have a birth plan in mind the better.  If at all possible, make sure your partner accompanies you because you’ll be amazed at the things they might remember when you’re in the throes of labor & can’t remember anything at all.  If you’re in the RDU area, I highly recommend Birthing With Confidence by Anne Brand.  My husband & I were both extremely impressed with this class.  It will be particularly useful if you’re trying for an unmedicated birth because she focuses a lot on the psychological aspect of labor.breastfeeding-baby11. Take a breastfeeding class: Even if you’re planning to hire a lactation consultant, I still recommend taking a breastfeeding class if possible.  I took the one offered at the hospital where we delivered.  This definitely can’t replace one-on-one time with a lactation consultant but it’s still a great way to learn the basics before you’re faced with the real thing.flexible-quote12. Keep an open mind & remain flexible: This might be the most important one on this list.  From everything I read during pregnancy the biggest theme I found in regards to having a satisfying birth experience was to remain flexible no matter what happens.  So much of the time things do not go according to plan, & if we want to be able to move forward with a positive attitude we need to adapt accordingly.  I definitely wasn’t planning on having an induction at 38 weeks.  In fact throughout the entire pregnancy I said over & over again that I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible because I feared it would be so painful that I’d have to give up on my dream of an unmedicated birth.  But of course I wasn’t planning on developing preeclampsia either!  So I rolled with the punches & when it came time for the Pitocin I kept an open mind.  As it turned out with the amazing support of my husband & doula I survived even the dreaded Pitocin without an epidural or any pain meds.  So I still got my wish of an unmedicated birth despite hitting a few speed bumps along the way.  The point is that I adjusted my expectations to fit the reality I was given & made the best of it.  Remember, there is no need to compare your L&D experience to anyone else’s.  Childbirth is not a competition.  Neither is motherhood.  Focus on your own situation & make the best of it.