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.

My Birth Story


Baby Rachel is officially one week old today!  How is that possible?!  I hate to sound like the stereotypical new parent but it really is amazing how much she has changed in just one week.  Before I forget everything that happened one week ago, I want to share my birth story.  Hopefully it will be encouraging or at least interesting to other moms to be (or just folks in general).pregnancy-meme

My birth story started, in my mind anyway, on Thanksgiving night.  I worked that night & felt tired but decent.  However, once I got home from work in the morning (on Black Friday) I started vomiting & generally feeling terrible.  I just knew something wasn’t right.  I texted my doula asking for advice & she recommended I call the midwife on call.  I’m so glad I did because the midwife ended up asking me to come in to the hospital for a preeclampsia workup.  By the time we made it to the hospital I had been up for 16 hrs straight or something ridiculous like that, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I knew what was happening to my body.  As it turned out my BP was mildly elevated in the 130s/80s which isn’t too remarkable but higher than my baseline for the rest of the pregnancy.  (At that point I was 37 weeks 4 days.)  My labs also showed a slightly elevated protein to creatinine ratio but the midwife wasn’t acutely concerned.  However, she instructed me to rest & to call the office first thing Monday morning so I could be seen that day instead of later in the week as previously scheduled.  She also asked me to keep track of my BP over the weekend if possible.

dinosaur-rachel

Rachel ready to go home from the hospital

I felt reasonably well over the weekend but when I checked my BP at home it was consistently around 140/90.  Granted this was me doing a manual BP on myself but I felt pretty confident my numbers were accurate, so first thing Monday morning I called for an appointment.  When I went to the office a few hours later my BP was 142/88 & I had proteins in my urine, which was new for me.  The midwife was hesitant to call it true preeclampsia yet but she did write me a note saying I could no longer work (that was supposed to be my last week of work anyway) & instructed me to come back for my regularly scheduled visit on Wednesday & to call any time with any symptoms or concerns.rachel-cheering

The next morning, which marked exactly 38 weeks, I checked my BP at home & got 150/100.  Naturally that was when I really started getting concerned.  I decided to go to the grocery store & try one of the automatic BP machines at the pharmacy.  That gave me a reading of 130s/80s but I just had a feeling it wasn’t very accurate.  When I got home I spoke to the midwife on call, who turned out to be the same one I’d seen the day before, & she instructed me to recheck my BP in 4 hrs & then call back.  However, after about an hour or so, she called me back & told me that after discussing my case with the doctor they felt the best plan was for me to come in to the hospital to be induced at 1:00 p.m.  Part of me was scared but mostly I knew in my heart that this was the right plan.

I called my doula & she cautioned me that an induction at 38 weeks might be difficult & prolonged, but she also stated she would support me no matter what.  The whole pregnancy I had been very committed to a natural birth, but I knew that with an induction I would almost certainly end up on Pitocin & that alone would greatly increase my “risk” of getting an epidural.  But with her & my husband’s support I was determined to make the best of the situation.  She encouraged me that she had survived not one or two but FOUR labors with Pitocin without an epidural or any pains meds.  I also kept reminding myself that my mom survived an induction with Pitocin (due to hypertension) without an epidural or any pain meds.  If they could do it, I figured I could too.  Furthermore, I kept reminding myself that an induction due to preeclampsia, with a rather sudden onset no less, was not part of my original birth plan & that from everything I’d read the best way to have a satisfying birth experience is to keep an open mind & remain flexible while still staying true to your goals as much as possible.  With that mindset I felt ready to go.

rachel-tigers

I swear she has so much personality already.

To make a long story short, the first afternoon/night in the hospital wasn’t very exciting.  In the end that was probably for the best because it allowed me to get some decent rest to prepare for the big day that was to come.  (My poor husband didn’t sleep a wink that night so I am eternally grateful to him for still managing to be the best labor support person ever despite his own exhaustion.)  On arrival to the hospital my BP was 150s/90s.  That was when I knew for sure we’d made the right decision in going forward with the induction.  Unfortunately it took three tries for the nurses to get an IV in me, but I couldn’t be upset about that because I could look at my own hands & see how swollen they were.  They also told me I had tough skin which I know from experience makes IV insertion much more challenging.  Once they got the IV in place, they sent off labs & the midwife came in to check my cervix.  To our great surprise I was already dilated 2 cm & 80% effaced.  This was encouraging because it increased my chances of a successful induction.  The midwife started me on Cytotec around 3:30 pm.  We ended up doing another dose around 7:30 p.m. & a third dose around 11:30 p.m.  (Cytotec helps “ripen” the cervix” & thus potentially start labor.)

rachel-penguins

After her sponge bath this morning

By 3:30 the next morning I was only dilated 3 cm & my contractions were not much stronger or more frequent, not enough to put me in true active labor anyway.  The upside to that was I was comfortable enough to get some decent rest overnight, especially with the amazing sound machine (provided by the hospital) set to ocean waves.  Around 4 am the midwife decided to try a fluid bolus to see if that would kick-start my labor.  Unfortunately after 1L of IV fluids I still hadn’t really progressed.  Yes, the dreaded P word was coming.  I was “stuck” & needed Pitocin.  But I was so ready to meet our baby girl that I said “screw it, throw it at me.”  However, the nurse was kind enough to offer me a 1 hour break off the monitors to take a shower & eat a good breakfast.  I’ll be eternally grateful to her for that because that made such a difference in how I felt once “real” labor began.

Just before 7 am the nurse came in to turn on the Pitocin.  I was as ready as I was ever going to be.  I’d kept the doula updated overnight & let her know that with the dreaded P on board I’d probably need her soon.  Somewhere around 8 am my husband called her & told her we were ready for her support.  That should be an indication that the pain had started to increase beyond mild cramps to something more intense.  Over the next few hours things escalated pretty quickly.  At first I was amazed at how much deep breathing helped relieve or at least distract me from the pain.  However, eventually I started hitting a brick wall, so to speak.  A lot of that time is a blur to me but Jared & the doula both have told me that between 10:00 & 11:00 were the roughest times.  Believe it or not at that point the Pitocin was actually off because they were having so much trouble getting the monitors to read properly & I guess they figured they’d see how I did without it.  To manage the painful contractions I tried multiple different positions/locations, including the birthing ball & the rocking chair & the tub, but none of them worked for too long.  However, anything was better than just lying in bed.  Plus I knew that the more I moved around the faster labor would progress.  Somewhere around this time the midwife (a different one now) checked my cervix & I was dilated to 7 cm.  That was really encouraging & helped me push through the next few painful hours.  me-and-rachel-again

Eventually around 12:30 maybe I reached a point of utter exhaustion.  I felt like I had used up all of my coping resources including deep groans, back massages, & position changes.  I started crying & begging for an epidural or some kind of pain medicine.  I even used my code word which my husband & I had set up with the doula ahead of time to indicate that I really truly wanted medicinal pain relief.  The nurse & midwife were concerned I was too close to the pushing stage to safely receive either an epidural or narcotics but they needed to check my cervix to be sure.  As it turned out I was dilated to 9.5 cm at that point & it was indeed too late.  Part of me was massively disappointed while another part of me was like “Screw it, I’m almost there, I can do it!”  Everyone kept telling me the urge to push would be undeniable but to be honest it really wasn’t at first.  But it wasn’t long before the midwife told me my cervix was fully dilated & effaced & it was pushing time.  My doula kept reminding me to bear down during the pushing to help relieve the pain & make my pushes more effective.  As physically challenging as pushing was, it was actually not as painful as the previous few hours of contractions.  Unfortunately after an hour or so of pushing my body was simply wearing out & my uterus wasn’t contracting hard enough to match my pushes.  The midwife wanted to turn the Pitocin back on because we could see the baby’s head but I just couldn’t seem to progress (thank goodness for the big mirror because it really encouraged me to see how close she was when I was so ready to admit defeat).  I was scared to death to get the Pitocin back but I also knew that anything that brought me closer to the finish line faster was worth it so I said yes.  It was at that point that I realized my IV appeared to be coming out of my wrist.  I thought I was going to die when I saw that.  Thank goodness the nurses were able to save it & restart the Pitocin, & within a few minutes baby Rachel made her grand entrance at 2:35 p.m.

baby-burrito

I totally understand the term baby burrito now.

I’m not going to lie, in those first few moments I wasn’t as overwhelmed with that immediate love spell as I had hoped I would be.  As they placed her on my chest I was mainly just thankful that labor was over.  My mind was mostly focused on being grateful for an end to the pain & exhaustion.  I had read that this is fairly common so I knew not to judge myself too harshly & that soon enough the overwhelming feelings of love would wash over me.  As it turned out my placenta took a while to deliver.  The midwife kept the Pitocin on because once again my contractions just weren’t strong enough on their own to push it out.  Once the placenta finally delivered, the midwife & the nurses were astonished to discover that it had an extra lobe.  They told me this was extremely rare & asked to take pictures of it.  Being a nurse of course I said yes, as I was equally fascinated by this odd turn of events.

me-and-rachel

This was about 1.5 hrs post delivery.  Pretty sure this child came out sucking her thumb.

While we waited for the placenta to deliver, my husband cut the cord (we opted for delayed clamping of about 3-5 minutes which is actually standard practice with my group of midwives).  Next my husband held her on his bare chest for skin to skin care which was when I realized how much I truly love this man.  Then the charge nurse & another nurse took Rachel to the bassinet across the room to do her Vitamin K injection & newborn assessments.  The nursery nurse soon came & thankfully recognized that Rachel was acting a bit more jittery than average & thought to check her blood sugar.  When she announced it was 34, I almost yelled “Holy shit, get the D50!”  Thankfully as the nurse explained a newborn’s blood sugar only needs to be about 40 to be normal so it wasn’t actually that low (whereas a blood sugar of 34 in an adult is definitely a medical emergency).  At that point the nurse handed Rachel back to me, & the doula started helping me try to breastfeed.  Unfortunately Rachel was too jittery to really concentrate & I was too exhausted both mentally & physically to have a clue what to do.  The nursery nurse ended up giving her a small bottle of formula to raise her blood sugar & thankfully that was successful.  baby-burrito-2

Sometime while all of this was happening, the placenta actually delivered & the midwife assessed me for the need for stitches.  As it turned out I was very blessed & only had a very small internal laceration requiring just two or three stitches.  By that point the oxytocin love bath had begun so I seriously didn’t even feel the lidocaine injection they gave me to numb me before the stitches.

To make a long story short, over the next 12 hrs or so the nurses had to check Rachel’s blood sugar every few hours.  Unfortunately it did drop once & she had to receive another small dose of formula around 8 pm to stabilize her.  After that her blood sugar was never a problem again.  However, her bilirubin became an issue but was consistently just below the borderline of needing treatment.  We were discharged on Friday with an appointment to follow up with our pediatrician the very next morning.  My parents left Friday morning & that night at home was very rough.  I was breastfeeding Rachel every one to two hours but she was so lethargic that I could never be sure she was actually getting anything out of of it.  She also went from having tons of dirty/wet diapers in the hospital to having very few at home.  At some points she was inconsolably crying & in my heart I just knew something was wrong.  If we hadn’t had the appointment at 10 am on Saturday I probably would have taken her back to the hospital.linus project.jpg

When we went to the appointment on Saturday the doctor was extremely friendly & knowledgeable but she didn’t dance around the truth.  She told us Rachel was definitely jaundiced & had a high risk of needing bili light therapy to reduce her bilirubin.  She taught me how to use my breast pump (there’s a reason I chose a pediatrician who is also a lactation consultant . . . & whose office is 3 minutes from our house) & instructed me to feed Rachel at least 30 mL every 2 hrs & to supplement with formula (which she gave me) if needed in order to achieve that goal.  As soon as we left the office we headed across town to have her bilirubin rechecked.  Because it was a weekend they couldn’t do it in the office & get fast results but one of the local hospitals could.  The doctor promised to call us within a few hours with the result.  As it turned out we had just made it home from the hospital lab & I was pumping when the doctor called Jared to say Rachel’s bilirubin was too high & we needed to take her to yet another hospital for one to two nights of bili light therapy.

bili-light

My husband feeding Rachel under the bili light

Immediately I dissolved into tears.  Part of me was so thankful to know that my “mama instinct” was right & that Rachel’s behavior wasn’t normal, but of course the other part of me was scared to death.  We ran around getting our bags repacked, managed to forget one of them, & raced off to the hospital, which happened to be the one hospital in Raleigh that I had never actually laid eyes on in the four years we’ve lived here.  When we arrived at the hospital, I was pleased to see that they were expecting us at patient registration & got us up to a very nice room within about 30 minutes.  Not long after that the bili light was started.  My parents came back that night after I called my mom in tears & told her I needed her.  I will forever be grateful for their unwavering support during such a difficult time.  Overnight my milk came in, & this, coupled with the bili light, was exactly what Rachel needed to get better quickly.  We ended up staying just that one night & were discharged the next day, which happened to be my 28th birthday, less than 24 hrs after our admission.  Seeing our baby girl doing so much better was the best birthday gift ever. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it now.

milk-drunk

Now this is what you call a milk drunk baby.

First thing Monday morning my husband called the pediatrician to see when she wanted us to follow up with her.  Based on the information she received from the hospital she said we could wait until the next morning.  During our visit yesterday the pediatrician gave us a great report & was very pleasantly surprised to see that Rachel had gained 8 oz just since Saturday.  She said I no longer needed to worry about knowing exactly how many mL Rachel was consuming with each feeding, so she spent a great deal of time helping me breastfeed effectively.  Not long after we got home from that appointment, the lactation consultant from our doula group came over for a consultation.  Let me just say that was the best $150 ever spent.  By the time she left our house I felt super confident in my ability to breastfeed Rachel & no longer felt reliant on the pump.  It’s been over 24 hs now & I haven’t needed to pump at all other than to relieve some mild engorgement.  My milk might have been a little slow to arrive but now that it’s here I have an abundance!  Being able to breastfeed effectively has greatly increased my mommy confidence.  Additionally Rachel & I both slept so much better last night because she has had far less gas issues & hiccups now that she’s off the bottle.  Amazing!

rachel-penguins

This might be my favorite picture ever, so I’ll share it again.

Well, that is my long, somewhat complicated but also very fulfilling birth story.  We definitely hit a few speed bumps along the way but nonetheless I truly feel like I had the most fulfilling birth for which I could have hoped.  The best part of the process of course was the ultimate outcome of our beautiful baby girl.  But the second best part is the amazing confidence boost I’ve gained from surviving an unmedicated induction.  Part of the reason I was so determined to have an unmedicated birth was because I knew that for the rest of my life I’d be able to tell myself “I survived that so whatever else life throws at me, I’ve got this.”  Thankfully that prediction came true & I am feeling more confident than ever.  Not to mention in love with the cutest baby ever!

In my next post I’ll be sharing my tips for why I believe my pregnancy, birth, & initial postpartum period went/have gone so smoothly.  This first week of motherhood has been a wild & crazy ride, but it’s without a doubt my favorite journey ever.

Final Pregnancy Update


Well, here I am at 38 weeks & I’m officially out of work until after delivery.  This was supposed to be my last week of work, but this past Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) I ended up in the hospital being checked for preeclampsia.  After working all night I came home feeling less than stellar, then ended up vomiting & generally feeling horrible & unable to sleep.  My doula encouraged me to speak to the midwife on call so I did.  The midwife asked me to come to the hospital to have my BP checked & lab work done.  As it turned out, my BP was borderline high & some of my labs were a little off but nothing too serious so they sent me home.  However, the midwife instructed me to follow up with the office on Monday rather than waiting till my normally scheduled visit on Wednesday.  She also asked me to keep track of my BP over the weekend which I did.  Granted I was checking it myself, which is actually not so difficult with a little practice, but I consistently got 140/90 ish readings all weekend, so yesterday morning I called the office as soon as they opened to make an appointment to be seen ASAP.  Thankfully I was able to get an appointment for mid morning.  pregnancy-meme

Unfortunately at the office my BP was 142/88 & I had proteinuria, both of which are new for me.  Up until Friday I have medically had a picture perfect pregnancy.  My BPs had been stellar, my blood work was all normal, my urine tests were fine, & my ultrasounds displayed a perfectly healthy baby.  I’ve been working out a bit less the past month or so as I’ve gotten bigger & more uncomfortable, but overall I’ve still continued to be active & made it to the gym or at least taken a good walk around the neighborhood 3-5 days a week.  My anxiety has been another story . . . but medically at least I was doing really well. pregnancy cartoon

The plan for now is for me to see one of the midwives again on Wednesday to have my BP & urine rechecked & possibly a non-stress test & to stop working until after delivery.  (Like I said this was going to be my last week anyway.)  They aren’t considering induction yet but if my BP gets worse, they very well may.  It’s just a waiting game at this point.  I’ve been so committed to a low intervention birth so the idea of an induction doesn’t thrill me because I know it carries its own risks.  However, if my BP remains elevated &/or my labs are abnormal I’ll obviously agree to it because I know it would be the best choice for me & the baby.  I’m just hoping that being out of work will help my BP to normalize.

peeing-pregnancy

Story of my life these days!!

In one way it’s a relief to know that I’m done with work because 12 hr night shifts have become a serious challenge of late.  But of course I’m not thrilled that I’m showing signs of possible preeclampsia.  And I do feel a bit guilty for “bailing” on my colleagues, but obviously I have to do what’s best for my own & the baby’s health at this point.  I know it must sound incredibly stupid, but it’s so hard for me to give myself permission to just relax & pamper myself a bit.  I’ve always been such a hardworking perfectionist that it’s difficult to accept that my only “job” right now is to simply relax & take care of myself & the baby.  There is also a part of me that is disappointed that despite trying to take such good care of myself I’m still having complications with this pregnancy.  But I’m trying to remind myself that this is largely beyond my control, & as my therapist has told me a millions times, it’s not worth stressing about things I can’t control.

waiting-on-baby

Amen!  For a planner like me, this is a bit rough.

I should probably be sleeping but I felt like I needed to write a bit before my mind would fully relax.  So here’s hoping for a good night’s rest now that I’ve vented a bit.  And laughed at funny pregnancy memes.  (You’re welcome.)

I’m sure this song was written in a very different context, but the lyrics feel perfect for me right now.  Being a soft acoustic piece it showcases a very different side of Upon a Burning Body.  It also just so happens that the lead singer’s wife is currently pregnant & due a week after me.  In fact we’ve been following each other’s Instagram accounts throughout our pregnancies which has been rather fun.  In any case, it’s how I’m going to end this post since I’m otherwise a bit at a loss for words right now.

waddling

Accurate!!

See me staring back in the mirror
You don’t have to try so hard
Suddenly life is much clearer
You don’t have to change a thingI’m not perfect & that’s okay with me
I’m not perfect & that’s okay

And I don’t care what they think of me
Cause I’m not ashamed
Of the person I am today
I want you to see the happiest that I’ll ever be
Is just being myself

Because I’m not perfect & that’s okay with me
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (And that’s okay)

Over and over, I pay the cost of playing this game
What can I do to escape?
I will never be the man I want to be
If I can’t learn from my mistakes

I’m not perfect & that’s okay with me
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (And that’s okay)
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (I’m not perfect!)
I’m not perfect & that’s okay (I’m not perfect!)

Rock Star of the Week: Zoltan Bathory


I’m finally getting back to this series.  Maybe I should entitle it Rock Star of the Month at the rate I’m going but Rock Star of the Week just sounds better so I’ll stick with that.

In any case, this week I’ve decided to honor rhythm guitarist & founding member of Five Finger Death Punch (FFDP) Zoltan Bathory.  In light of all the turmoil after the election, it seems appropriate to feature a man who so perfectly embodies the American dream.  Here is a man who grew up in Communist Hungary, built his first guitar partly out of a coffee table, moved to the US when he was 20 (not speaking more than a few words of English at the time), & eventually founded what has become arguably the most successful modern rock/metal band in the world today.  If anyone knows what it’s like to chase a seemingly impossible dream & to overcome what appear to be insurmountable obstacles, it’s this guy.  If his life isn’t the embodiment of the American dream, whose is?ffdp-zoltan-bathory

It’s not too uncommon for the lead guitarist to be one of the designated leaders or spokespersons for a band (think Ben Bruce from Asking Alexandria), but it’s less common to see the rhythm guitarist take that role. However, it has been obvious since the band’s breakthrough in 2007 that Zoltan has always been the biggest driving force behind FFDP, the man who holds it all together so to speak.  This is probably largely due to the alcoholism that frontman Ivan Moody has struggled with over the years as well as the past drug use & alcoholism of drummer Jeremy Spencer.  Now that Jeremy has been sober for several years & Ivan has started to recover as well, this is probably a bit less of an issue, but if you read Spencer’s autobiography he acknowledges more than once that Zoltan has often played the role of “dad” to the other band members when they allowed drinking, drugs, women, or other such temptations to distract them from the greater goal of the band.

On a more superficial note, how can you not love a guy with amazing dreadlocks like Zoltan’s?  I’ll be the first to admit that white people can rarely pull off great dreads, but Zoltan is definitely the exception to that rule.zoltan-hair

Outside of music Zoltan has many hobbies including martial arts, Monster trucks, cars, & yes, guns.  In fact he is one of the only civilians who is a trained weapons instructor with the US military.  In light of that, it’s probably not surprising to find that he is also an NRA member.  Regarding gun rights, Zoltan has stated: “The second amendment makes all the other ones possible. But let’s extend this; it’s not just about the rights that are given to you by a piece of paper.  When your life is in actual danger, you don’t care about any paper; you will just defend your life no matter what it takes.  It’s about defending yourself & your family. You should be able to do that.  Some people say that owning a gun is uncivilized & brute, but we can look at that issue from a completely different perspective; maybe gun ownership actually made us more civilized, since guns act as equalizers.  All of a sudden a physically superior person cannot simply abuse a weaker one, since the gun will act as a deterrent.”  You can read more about Zoltan’s thoughts on gun rights here.zoltan-gun-and-car

Of late, Zoltan has caught a bit of flack with the media for being one of the only major rock stars or celebrities to publicly endorse Donald Trump.  While I don’t exactly agree with that endorsement, I can’t help but admire a guy who has the guts to say whatever he really thinks even when he knows his opinion isn’t a popular one.

Regarding unpopular opinions, Zoltan has never shied away from defending the value of hard work.  As he has stated, “I became an American citizen.  I work my ass off.  I still work 12 hours a day.  Here, the possibilities are presented.  You can still get stuff done, but maybe you have to get off the couch.  Put down the pizza & beer.  But people don’t want to hear that.”  zoltan-bathory

Zoltan has often spoken of how his work with martial arts has influenced his work ethic in regards to the band & life in general.  “And martial arts, which I started soon thereafter, has helped me with guitar, because in martial arts there is this saying, ‘Don’t accept the position.’  In other words, you fail when you accept a position that would be unfortunate for you.  That’s when you see things go sideways.  The music industry is an extremely difficult place.  It’s one in a million who makes it here.  Martial arts gave me the education of, ‘Don’t take a step back, keep going,’ which I applied to my music career.  I was 20 years old when I came to America with a guitar on my back & a bag of clothes, not yet able to speak English.  But I never gave up.  (You can read more from that interview here.)zoltan-bathory-630x420

As I mentioned earlier, Zoltan’s first guitar was one he helped build himself.  “At age 13, I acquired a beat-up, secondhand guitar.  I removed the basically unplayable bolt-on neck & replaced it with one I made from a coffee table.  I painted it military green because we lived on an army base.  Eventually, I acquired a playable guitar, & once communism started collapsing I came to America.”  Regarding growing up in Communist Hungary, Zoltan has stated “When I lived in Hungary, I was always reminded that I could never become what I wanted to be.  Metal was, first of all, a sign of rebellion.  I remember I had to run from the police because I had long hair, so it was my way of showing society the middle finger.  It’s surreal because I’m doing now what they told me then that I couldn’t do.”  (Read more here.)  Furthermore he has said “I would say that since I was a tiny kid, I never had a doubt about what I wanted to do in my life.  I never had a doubt ever for a second that it was gonna happen.  The key to success really is you do have to have the unbending strength that you won’t accept defeat.  You just don’t accept no.  You don’t accept words like ‘impossible’ & you can’t connect to phrases like ‘can’t do.’  Failure is not acceptable.  Right?”  (Read more here.)
zoltan

With a history of such hard work & determination from such a young age, one can’t help but feel his espousal of the power of a good work ethic carries considerable weight.  When asked what advice he would give to someone trying to start a metal band, Zoltan said “Don’t give up.  Never give up.  There is an old saying that I read in a boxing club.  It said, ‘You become a champion by fighting one more round,’ & it’s a wise saying.  If you want to succeed, you have to keep going.”  (Read more here.)  When speaking of the FFDP video for My Nemesis Zoltan stated “In life everyone has a nemesis… it can be anything… a self defeating thinking pattern, a bad habit, an addiction, an adversary… something or someone that puts you in an impossible scenario, where you are presented with a fork in the road.  Sometimes there is no other choice but making a hard choice.  You can give up & just suffer the situation, or you can use your pain to overcome it, as pain is truly the wind in the sails of change.  We wanted to present a story about moving on, a story that probes & questions compassion & loyalty.  Those are beautiful notions, but remember you have to be loyal & fair to yourself as well, so will you sacrifice yourself for another or will you live with the guilt that you didn’t.”  (Read more from that interview here.)  zoltan-truck

Zoltan as well as his bandmates have garnered quite a reputation for supporting the military.  As Zoltan has stated, “. . . it’s about the individual soldier , what it takes to do what they do.  When they are called upon, they can’t run away, their job is to go there & handle the situation.  It takes a lot of balls to do what these people do, so we always connected to them, the individuals.  For us it was never about the political agenda, we’ve never advocated war itself.”  (You can read more from that interview here.)  Not only has FFDP played countless shows for the military over the years, including in war zones like Iraq, but the band also employs many veterans as part of their security & crew.  Furthermore, they have participated in several campaigns to highlight the plight of veterans once they return from war or active duty.  Specifically the video for The Wrong Side of Heaven shines a light on the homelessness, mental illness, & high suicide rate that plague American veterans.  (You can read more about that here.)ffdp-militaryIn summary, Zoltan Bathory is an all around badass.  There’s just no better way to put it.  You might disagree with his political opinions or his views on guns, but I don’t see how anyone could not admire his insane work ethic & ability to overcome the odds.

If you’re not familiar with his band’s music check out some of my favorites: