Are We Allowed to be Vulnerable?

     I am a very private person. Call me introverted, call me guarded, whatever. Some might say I have RBF (Resting Bitch Face) but anyone who knows me knows I only WISH I could be a bitch but have never been very successful. I am not one to shout to the world that I'm having a hard time or ask for prayers on Facebook (not saying there's anything wrong with that, it's just not my thing). But in a moment of vulnerability, I recently posted on our Instagram page that I was having a rough week. Work has been INSANE, Matthew is in a three month long class that is three days a week in addition to his regular 24 hour shift every third day, Maddy isn't sleeping well and now has bilateral ear infections, we're potty training Charley and she is exceptionally sassy these days, we're trying to run a business, doing construction on the house, blah blah blah. The purpose of my post was that sometimes I just need to stop and put things in perspective. This time is so fleeting that I will look back and miss these crazy days of sleep deprivation and spit up, and toddler poop on my deck. 

     Not even five minutes after I posted, someone commented "You have two children and jobs to afford home renovations, doesn't sound like such a rough week. All about perspective." Well hold on. Was I complaining about my life? No. It was a moment of venting where I was reminding myself and others what is important. These other miscellaneous stressors don't really matter. The purpose of the post was that it is all about perspective! I was disheartened by this judgment. Are we as mothers not allowed to be vulnerable for one minute? Are we able to have a bad day or week and just own it? I was trying to portray my reality, my truth, and this negativity was brought into it like I somehow don't appreciate my life.

    I do realize maybe I'm emotionally reacting to this as a result of my aforementioned "tough week." I need thicker skin, but I'm hoping this person realizes their comment was unwarranted and potentially hurtful. Once again, I am saddened by women tearing other women down and mom judgment. We're not all perfect, despite what may be depicted on social media. I would rather be authentic any day of the week than to portray some unrealistic avatar. I love my life and wouldn't change a single thing. I am very grateful for my family, our health, and our blessings. I am always hesitant to even use the word "blessed" because in my mind that implies that people who don't have these things aren't blessed. I'm pretty sure even Kate Middleton occasionally has a bad day though, and I certainly wouldn't judge her for admitting it. 

What's In My Hospital Bag

    I'm coming up on 35 weeks so I decided it was a good time to pack up my hospital bag. Second time around, I have a pretty good idea of what I actually need while in the hospital. To me, less is more. I have patients move in with three suitcases for a two day stay. Whatever works for you and makes you feel more comfortable for the labor process! This is just what works for me and why. 

  • Nursing bras and/or shirts. I am bringing one bra and two nursing shirts. I am also bringing a few nursing pads for when my milk comes in which I will probably just use on my day of discharge from the hospital. 
  • PJs and Bathrobe. I plan on being as comfortable as possible during my stay. After labor, and getting up for the first time to pee, I'll swap out the hospital gown for my PJs and robe.
  • Sound machine. This is both for me and baby. I sleep with a fan at home and babies find too much quiet disconcerting.
  • Toiletries. Just the basics.
  • Flip flops for when I want to ditch the hospital socks and not walk on bare hospital floor. 
  • Light blankets and swaddles, and a Woombie swaddler. My first daughter was a ninja from the beginning getting out of her swaddles so I quickly found the ones that velcro or zip are the best, fool-proof option.
  • Clothes for baby. Nothing crazy, just a few cozy outfits that are easy to get off and on for lots of skin to skin. I have one pair of mittens since their fingernails tend to be long and sharp from the beginning.
  • Boppy Pillow for nursing.
  • My own pillow from home with a colorful pillowcase so I don't forget it.
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Outfit for going home (me). 
  • Miscellaneous items like a phone charger, camera, iPad and carseat I'll wait to pack up later, but I have this list of what to grab on the fridge just incase. 

 

Things you do not see on my list that you may have thought I forgot are underwear, pads, lots of diapers. The hospital supplies all of these items and I will be wearing the lovely hospital granny panties for at least a week after delivery. They will supply all the pads I need until I leave the hospital. For diapers, I actually prefer the Pampers Swaddlers (hospital supplied) for the first few days because they have the wetness indicator for when you are trying to keep track of baby's wet and dirty diapers. Then I'll switch to my Honest Diapers once I know her weight loss is okay and my milk is in.

 

Let the countdown begin!! #onemonthleft

Shame on You: Shaming Moms for Getting Epidurals

     Recently on Mother’s Day, there was a viral survey on Facebook where mothers would post their birth stories. I found this adorable and almost even participated, but was disheartened as the fifth question asked ‘Pain Control.’ How on earth is whether or not a mother received pain relief during labor in the top ten most relevant pieces of one’s birth story? Does this make one less of a mother or woman? Absolutely not. I am quite frankly getting sick of this mentality that mothers should be shamed for making their labor experience more bearable. I see it frequently at work and in my moms’ forums that I participate in. Do you shame someone for taking pain medication for a migraine or broken bone? How has it become acceptable to make mothers feel guilty for this choice?

     Don’t get me wrong, it is quite an accomplishment when a mom can get through labor without any pain control. It is a personal choice and women choose that path for many reasons. It can be a very beautiful experience. We can all do it, if needed. I have worked at a tiny rural hospital and our anesthesiologist was tied up in surgery for several hours and my patient unwittingly delivered “naturally”, though she would not have desired that route if given the option again. I have had several patients arrive on the Labor & Delivery unit and deliver within minutes, unable to receive any kind of relief. If you didn't have access to pain medication and epidurals, you could absolutely do it. But should you be shamed for choosing not to? No. It is ridiculous that in this day and age women should be made to feel guilty for experiencing the most painful experience they will most likely ever go through. Plus when my patients have visitors volunteer that they delivered all their babies naturally while my patient is either experiencing horrible pain or is quite comfortable with their epidural, it makes me want to punch them in the face. 

    So let’s try to change this mentality and support each other regardless of pain management preferences. Better yet, let’s remove it from our “top ten” most relevant piece of our birth stories. It does not make your kid smarter or your love any deeper if you go all natural, but it is quite annoying if it becomes a bragging chip, aiming to shame moms who choose a different route. Then again, maybe we could start making moms who have to have C-Sections feel guilty for receiving anesthesia for their surgery. After all, Kepner did it on Grey’s, and she turned out alright.

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Not-so Me-Ternity Leave

     As moms across the country unite in outrage against the ridiculous Meghann Foye New York Post article suggesting that women (and men) should be able to have the "perks" of maternity leave without having kids, I have to weigh in with my two cents. It is an absolutely absurd notion to suggest that maternity leave is a time to reflect on one's life and find themselves. This author responds quite well with what these so-called "perks" would look like, sans kids. Maternity leave is NOT a 3 month vacation. Although it was the best time of my life getting to meet and bond with my daughter, it was also the most challenging time physically, emotionally, and financially.

     Sure, everyone is aware of the cliche challenges of having a newborn... Sleepless nights, sore nipples, inability to function like a normal human being. But we really lack the education and preparation for the physical aftermath of giving birth. Even as an OB Nurse, I was completely unprepared for the recovery period. First of all, I had been lying to my patients saying that breastfeeding shouldn't hurt if the latch is correct. Well, even if your latch is beautiful and you are doing everything right, there is going to be pain maybe even for the first two weeks until your nipples adjust to the almost constant feedings. And engorgement is no joke either. I quickly realized I needed to sleep on a bed of towels lest there be milk everywhere seeping into my mattress. To venture down south of the breasts, there is pretty significant cramping as the uterus contracts back down, not to mention the period-like bleeding for up to six weeks (or more). If one is extra lucky, they might be completely incontinent of urine for a week or two, like me. There's a high chance of perineal tears which are quite painful depending on the location and degree, coupled with the mental anguish of knowing your hoo-ha has been permanently disfigured. Then hemorrhoids? 'Nuff said. Then if you get a free moment to take a gander in the mirror, you realize that the cute little baby bump has deflated into a squishy fupa and you can't even exercise yet to help get rid of it. Throw in a concoction of postpartum hormones and you've really got yourself a party. I don't have personal experience with C-section recovery but I know it has its own set of "perks" being that it is major abdominal surgery. 

     Nothing bonds a husband and wife more than having a baby together, but it can also be quite excruciating on a marriage. You have at least a six week span where sex is downright not allowed, longer if sex weirded you out toward the end of your pregnancy, and even longer if you can't wrap your mind around something going in where that eight and a half pound watermelon came out. Sex really wasn't even a thought for me as my time was completely consumed caring for and falling in love with this tiny angel. But of course that makes for an unhealthy situation, frustration, and resentment. Add to that the fact that your husband knows he is no longer the center of your universe and sadly can sometimes become an afterthought. It creates quite a marital predicament, one that I hope to avoid this second time around. 

    Lastly, maternity leave can be quite stressful financially. Unfortunately our country is one of the worst as far as maternity and paternity leave benefits and while you may be guaranteed 12 weeks off through FMLA (if you meet the criteria), these are not required to be paid. Some companies offer paid time off, but many do not. I expended my six week 70% disability leave because I was out of work prior to delivering so there was a huge chunk of my leave where we were struggling to survive off of one income which we had not prepared ahead of time to do. Subsequently, the financial burden became too much that I ended up going back to work a week early. 

    So no Meghann, Maternity Leave is NOT a 3 month vacation or time to find yourself, unless your vacations consist of significant physical pain, emotional stress, and counting every penny. While it is an incredible period that I cherished and greatly look forward to this time, I would be lying if I said it was going to be easy. This time the financial strain may not be there, but I will be chasing a two year old while recovering so it will be anything but a cakewalk. Now that I've sufficiently scared anyone considering having babies, I'll chalk this "Me-Ternity Leave" concept up to ignorance and the warped feminism that has taken over our country.

5 Common Labor Misconceptions Debunked

     Being in the nursing field of Labor, Delivery and Postpartum as well as running a business aimed at expectant and new moms, I hear a lot of misconceptions when it comes to pregnancy and labor itself. It's worth clarifying certain things, as we all know knowledge is power.

"I'm Ten Months Pregnant"

     I have even made this common error before. A normal pregnancy is 40 weeks, a month has 4 weeks, ergo: pregnancy is ten months, right? Well, not exactly. While we typically think of a month as 4 weeks for convenience, most months have more like four and a half weeks. Plus, we get the extra credit of two weeks before we even conceive. So basically if you knew you were pregnant the very moment you conceived, you would already be two weeks pregnant. So sorry ladies: pregnancy truly is just nine months.

"I had an emergency C-section"

     I have heard all too commonly, "I pushed for three hours and ended up with an emergency c-section," or something along those lines. Upon further inquiry, well no it wasn't exactly emergency, but just unscheduled. There is a big difference between an emergency c-section, an urgent c-section, and an unscheduled c-section. I don't want to get too technical, but if you are laboring and you are suddenly rushed to the O.R. in an extremely urgent manner, that is an emergency. If labor does not go as planned, you do not progress as you should or if baby is simply not coming down and you decide with the doctor that a c-section is best, that is an unscheduled c-section. I am not diminishing any of these avenues, but women who truly have emergency c-sections can attest to the difference and how terrifying it can be for all parties involved.

"I had to get a c-section because I got an epidural"

     In over three years of being in this field, I have never once had a patient have to get a c-section because they got an epidural. While it can drop a patient's blood pressure which could in turn cause fetal distress, we have easy methods to counteract this if needed. It also does not "stop labor". If one is truly in labor, it may slow things down but studies suggest only by about an hour or so. In fact in my experience, it often speeds things up as it allows the mother to finally relax. 

"Epidurals are bad for the baby"

     I've definitely talked about this before but it is worth mentioning again because I still hear it all the time. Epidurals are not bad for your baby. The medication goes into the mother's epidural space (near the spinal space), not directly into her bloodstream. Conversely, the medications that are given for pain control during labor through the IV do in fact go directly into the mother's bloodstream thus going almost directly to the baby. They are safe but they do have side effects such as respiratory depression at birth. Epidurals do not have that side effect. If you are choosing to go all natural for the sake of your baby, then I would encourage you to avoid pain medication through the IV as that would defeat the whole purpose. 

"The doctor only comes at the last minute"

     I admit, before becoming a nurse, I totally thought this was the case after witnessing my niece and nephew's births. It is true in some cases you may not see the doctor from the time you arrive at the hospital until the baby is crowning and they come in at the last minute to deliver. What you are not seeing is that doctor running from their office in the middle of seeing a full day's worth of patients, possibly having been on call and not having slept the whole night before. So yes, as nurses we might be working our asses off for 12+ hours straight and you see us much more than you see them, but they might be on their 48th hour of being on call, not having seen or had time to speak to their own families.

Love for a First Child

     Being pregnant for the first time brings a world of magical firsts. The first ultrasound, the first kick, the first belly stretch mark, the first birth. Each passing day is a new adventure, be it good or bad, as one watches her body transform into this primal incubator for the first time. It is awe-inspiring and sometimes terrifying, and often quite literally breathtaking. Holding her precious newborn for the first time influxes a mother's lifetime of anticipation, nine months of hormones and an indescribable love unmatched by any other. The first baby has 100% attention from the very start. Each smile, new outfit and milestone carefully documented and savored. 

     When the second child comes along, the first has paved the way. Their parents will naturally be a little more at ease with the newborn phase. The real things to worry about have been clarified. Subsequent children will also naturally get less undivided attention from their parents, BUT the added attention of their siblings.

     Fourth child here so I am not saying first children are the best, but as I sit pregnant with #2 it is hard to fathom loving another little person as much as I love Charley. From the moment she was born, I felt like my heart was exploding and I had never truly felt that kind of happiness and peace before her. My purpose was finally realized. Of course there have been challenges along the way but I can honestly say that it has only gotten better and better each day. The jury is still out whether we just got really lucky and she is just the best baby ever (not biased or anything) or if we are just awesome parents but I guess we will soon find out with her baby sister. If I had a dime for every time someone said, "She's so good; Your second one will surely be a terror!" I would be set for life. I won't buy into that mentality just yet, though. Just like the "Terrible Twos", if you believe something will be a certain way then you will begin acting in a way that favors those beliefs. I don't believe in the "Terrible Twos" so I won't treat Charley as such. Similarly, I don't believe my second daughter will be a terror so I refuse to accept that mentality. 

     I know these feelings are natural and I am ecstatic about meeting my new daughter come July. I feel her more than I felt Charley being the second baby and the position of my placenta so she continually reminds me she is here and well even when I'm toddler chasing and momentarily forget I'm even pregnant. Charley is starting to get it, although she will still point to her own belly and say "baby" but we're making progress. I will cherish these last few months of her as an only child and continue to shower her with individualized attention when sister arrives. I never want her to feel of lesser priority or that I don't have the time or patience to meet her needs. Charley will always be my first, my baby who made me a mother. Of all the accomplishments of my life, I am most proud of her and the person she is becoming. I am positive my love for my second daughter will be just as strong and I will be ranting on about her in future blog posts. But for now, I will soak up every ounce of my first baby and continue to thank God each day for blessing us so.

Boo caught me sleepin

Boo caught me sleepin

Can't wait for newborn snuggles

Can't wait for newborn snuggles

5 More Things I Said I Would Never Do

     In case you missed the previous post on this topic, check it out here. These are some more things I said or thought I would never do, until the reality of parenthood set in...

1. Refer to my child's age in months

     We are all aware it is an ongoing joke. "Little Timmy is 49 months old." It is ridiculous after the age of 3 to refer to a child's age in months. However, before that time I'm voting it's okay. There are huge developmental milestones between 12 months and 24 months so you can't just say "she's one" if she's really 15 months. So while I always laughed at people who did this, I now proudly say my daughter is 19 months old.

2. Leave my child in the car

     I'm cringing as I'm writing this thinking of the potential hate mail and ACK Wrap boycotters that may be in my future but just hear me out. Picture you have a sleeping toddler in the back who has up until this moment screamed her head off because she hates being in the car so much. But you HAVE to run into the post office (not to wait in line) but just to drop off some pre-labeled packages for a total of 33 seconds. Do you wake her up? HELL NO! I have a keyless car so I am able to leave it running and lock it while I run in and the car is always in my view. So while I used to wake my precious newborn for every quick jaunt into the post office, I have to admit I gladly leave her behind now in effort to keep the peace.

3. Get really excited about the dumbest stuff

     "They have Diaper Genie refills at Costco!" was an actual text I once sent to my husband. Yes, I actually took the time to type that in my phone, most likely fighting the Auto-Correct and topping it off with an exclamation point.

4. Become a hermit because of my kid

     I'm a homebody as it is, but having a child has exponentially made it worse. My husband and I atypical schedules so it is rare to both have a day/night off totally free of obligation all together as a family. It is important for us to spend that time together and while I miss my friends and my social life, my daughter is pretty much the most fun person to hang out with I know.

5. Buy only stuff for my child and not myself

    I am one of those people that gets a big time dopamine release from shopping. While I don't consider myself particularly materialistic, I have to admit a new pair of shoes or outfit makes me very happy. I was told my shopping addiction for myself would transfer into buying stuff for my babies, but didn't really believe it. Sadly, as I recently checked out at Nordstrom with a pile of adorable baby girl clothes and nothing for myself, I realized I had once again fallen victim to a shopping-hijacking situation with no one to blame but myself. Admittedly, it has gotten worse now knowing I'm having another girl... The clothes will be used twice the amount so it's a good investment, right?

    

Has Becoming a Mom Made Me a Bitch?

     While I was pregnant with Charley I had my yearly evaluation with my manager at work. While discussing strengths and weaknesses, I stated that assertiveness was a weakness of mine that I constantly struggle with. She said to me that motherhood would naturally bring that out in me. Two years later, I realize how true those words are. Before becoming a mother, I was about as easygoing as could be, to a fault. I wasn't super opinionated about a whole lot and rolled with the punches, so to speak. I never wanted to ruffle any feathers and made nice with everyone.

    Since becoming a mother, I really don't think twice about expressing a difference of opinion. I have stronger beliefs because it is necessary to in order to raise a child. Am I a bitch? Of course not. I would never want to set an example that treating others poorly is okay. But I have surprised myself a few times saying things that I know previously I would never have said, typically in situations where I feel the need to stand up for myself. I want my daughters to know it is important to always treat others kindly but it is necessary as a woman to be assertive and strong.

     So what has changed? Well, to be honest I just don't care to be that "people pleaser" anymore. It was not selfless in any way, but rather an outlet of vulnerability. I care a whole lot less about what other people think about me. I now have another human (and a half) that I am responsible for and I can't afford to be vulnerable for them. I am their advocate, their voice, their protector, their role model, and their teacher and that is the most important role of my whole life. This is it; I get ONE chance to raise these girls into decent people and I don't want to mess it up. I will show strength and conviction for my daughters. Sure, there will be times they will see me vulnerable and that is only natural. But I aim to show them that being vulnerable is okay too as long as it is utilized to become stronger in the end.

Daily Thoughts of a Second Pregnancy

     I have to apologize for the lull in posts, but I do have a good excuse: I'm pregnant again! We couldn't be more excited to give Charley a little sister come July. We did the early genetic testing to determine the gender because we just couldn't wait this time. Charley, now 18 months, doesn't truly grasp what is happening but she does point to my belly (which is pretty much just a large muffin top at this point) and say "baby." Last night, she bent down to (presumably) kiss my belly which actually turned into her biting my belly. She thought it was hilarious. Me, not so much.

     So far this pregnancy has been drastically different from the first. I was sure I was having a boy for that reason so I was shocked to find out it was another girl. Circumstances this time are very different, though, so that certainly has something to do with it. For one, I am not working full time night shift which I was the first time. I currently work part time day shift (2 days a week) which is just perfect for me. Many people ask me if I'll stop working eventually but I have no desire to do so. I love my job and know my baby is well taken care of at home with her dad or grandmother. But I digress. Another major difference this time around is that I have an extremely active toddler to chase around. While it sounds terrible when all you want to do is curl up in a bed and watch Netflix all day and eat saltines and ginger ale, I find that she forces me to get up and be active which actually contributed to me feeling better in the first trimester. I must say it has been quite hard to balance her, the pregnancy, work, and ACK Wrap, so sadly ACK Wrap has been on the back burner as we prepare for some major life changes this year. 

     One very big change this time around that causes me a lot of guilt is missing my non-pregnant life. With Charley, I was SO excited to be pregnant and while I was miserable the first trimester, I loved being pregnant for the most part. I never felt like I was missing out on anything. This time, while it wasn't a complete shock to learn I was pregnant, I hadn't mentally prepared myself for the pregnancy yet. Don't get me wrong, I am beyond excited and I think the timing is actually perfect for us. But I sure am missing my wine. Last week, we went with some friends to Aspen for a few days and it really hit me how limited I was. I couldn't ski or snowboard, couldn't drink, couldn't even go in the hot tub or sauna. We had an absolute blast regardless, but it felt almost sinful to be in Aspen and not be able to hit the slopes. Even as I write this, I realize I sound like I'm whining and I have a lot of guilt for feeling this way, but I am just being honest. 

     For now, I am a couple weeks into the magical second trimester and enjoying having some energy back finally. For the most part, I am over the nausea and vomiting, although it wasn't nearly as bad this time around. I am falling deeper and deeper in love with Charley everyday and watching her blossom into this seriously awesome little person. I am also wondering if it is possible to love another child so much, though I know this is a natural feeling that will fade when I see my new baby girl for the first time. I am excited for our big life changes coming in the next few months (more to come on that soon). For right now, my focus is on my babies and my family. Stay tuned!

The 5 People You Don't Want in Your Labor Room

     Deciding who you want to have in your labor and delivery room can be anxiety-inducing and problematic among family members. As I've emphasized in previous posts, it is important to remember that it is your birth and you should try not let your concern about others dictate your experience. The amount of people in your labor room directly correlates with how long your labor will be. I have also seen countless times when patients with high blood pressure simply have their family (or namely their mothers) leave the room, their blood pressure miraculously drops to a normal range. I have had many patients tell me in private they do not want certain people in the room but they are too afraid to tell them. I am happy to be the bad guy and get anyone out of the room that my patient doesn't want as I am my patient's advocate and want her to have the birth she envisions sans family drama. I have recently had a barrage of crazy family members which prompted me to write this post. As you decide who you want in the room, remember that this is one of the times in your life it is absolutely OKAY to be a little bit selfish.

People to Leave at Home...

1. The Non-Supporter

     Unless you are the person having contractions and squeezing a melon out of your hoo-ha, no opinions on pain management from the peanut gallery. I do not tolerate a mother, boyfriend or husband telling me "She doesn't want an epidural." I am very capable of talking directly to my patient, as she is very much capable of speaking directly to me. If said mother or significant other shows up several hours into my patient's labor and disappointingly or angrily says, "I thought we weren't going to get an epidural," they will find themselves a one way ticket out to the waiting room. Trust me, this stuff really happens. I'm not making it up!

2. The Story-Teller

     This is a difficult one because everyone wants to share their experience. When I first went back to work after maternity leave, I caught myself several times telling stories of my own birth to my patients and worked really hard to reel that in. I've had patient's mothers, sisters, and friends talk the entire time, comparing each and every event with their own birth experience. Sometimes it is the sister who just gave birth two months prior in that very hospital room. Sometimes it is the friend who had four kids at home in a bath tub. Sometimes it is the mother who relates everything her daughter is going through to her own birth. It may sound sweet, but it can really retract from the moment at hand which is THIS birth. Things are going to be different with every single labor, delivery, and postpartum period so it is important not to get too caught up in comparisons.

3. The Skeptic (AKA the Googler)

     Some people just have a little too much Facebook time on their hands and have read one too many un-sourced articles. They are distrustful of nurses, doctors, and hospitals and in turn plant little seeds in the patient's mind which in turn causes her to distrust the experience. These are the type of people that question every single thing I do from the saline flush in the IV to setting up the newborn warmer in preparation for delivery. I'm all about asking questions and am always happy to answer, but there is a difference between asking for the patient's benefit and asking to try and prove something or somehow catch me in my evil nursing ways. Leave these people at home.

4. The Arguer

     This person is a close relative and often the same person as The Non-Supporter. This person will have overall hostile tone toward other people in the room, including but not limited to nurses and doctors. This is often the guest that the patient is afraid to tell she doesn't want in the room. They are often outspoken and rude and cannot put aside their own ego for two minutes to realize that this is not about them. I have had this person argue with me at the labor room door while the patient (her daughter) was literally pushing and she would not leave. Meanwhile the patient was simultaneously crying because she didn't want her mom in the room and knew that subsequently her mother wouldn't speak to her after as a result. If you do bring these troublemakers (or sometimes they just show up), don't be surprised if a Code Grey is called on them!

5. The Close But Not-That-Close Relative

     For everyone's comfort level, leave your brother and your dad in the waiting room. It's just weird. They don't want to see that. You don't want them to see that. Just trust me.

 

     I hope this helps as you decide who to have in your L&D room. Just remember, as stressful as it may seem and you may worry about the repercussions for hurting someone's feelings, all that will pass very quickly and seem utterly trivial once you are holding your precious baby in your arms for the first time. As always, good luck and happy pushing!

 

 

5 Things I Said I Would Never Do Before Becoming a Parent

     It's easy to say "I'll never be like that" before becoming a parent. We learn by observation so it is only natural to view other parenting techniques and pick and choose what works best for your family. Having said that, there are a few things that I now eat my words for having said "I will NEVER do that when I'm a mom!"

1. Let the baby's schedule dictate everything.

     I always chuckle internally when my patients (first-time parents) say their baby is just going to fit into their lives and they don't plan on really changing many aspects. Hmm... maybe you should've started with a hamster because having a baby is pretty much the most drastic life change there is. However, before I became a mom, I said I would never be one of those annoying people with a super rigid schedule. Sure, I wanted to have her on somewhat of a schedule, but I wouldn't let it rule our lives. Realistically, her schedule pretty much dictates everything. Once the realization hits that NOT having a schedule makes life a living hell (i.e. cranky baby, poor sleep habits, etc.) you understand that the schedule is pretty key to a happy baby.

2. Have a thousand toys... everywhere.

     I always thought it was so ridiculous for a child to have so many toys. Do they really need all that to be entertained? Well, in short, yes. When you try to entertain a single toddler for hours on end day after day, you quickly accumulate an assortment fit for a large daycare center. What's even more fun is not having a designated "play room" which just means there are toys everywhere.

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3. Use annoying mom lingo.

     I recently caught myself saying "Good choice!"... Enough said.

4. Use the TV to get a break.

     There is a lot of mixed research on the detriments of "screen time" so it freaks a lot of people out. I always said I would never be one of those parents who plopped their kid in front of the TV. Okay, I haven't become 'that' parent but I do admit to the occasional Baby Einstein or nursery rhyme You Tube channel just to get a few minutes to clean or make dinner. It's educational, right?

5. Post primarily pictures of my baby.

     Okay, I never outwardly said I would never do this, but it is kind of annoying before you have babies of your own when people post a million pictures of their kids. I just always assumed I wouldn't follow suit. But alas, with each insanely cute, brilliant, or hilarious moment, it only seems right to share with your 900 closest friends and family, right?

Home At Last

     This week I returned home from my 13 week travel nursing assignment in Nantucket. During this time, I saw my husband three times, and he saw our daughter twice. I worked about 530 hours, 75% night shift. My daughter transformed from a wobbly newish walker to a running, jumping, climbing, talking toddler. I watched the island transform from a buzzing summery tourist trap to a quiet, brisk and beautiful fall town. As the real world seemed to keep turning around me, it was as if I was in my own little bubble with my daughter and my parents (who watched her while I worked) and I hit pause on just about all my relationships.

     I came back to a perfectly cleaned home and fresh beautiful flowers. It took a couple of days to get over the feeling of being a stranger in my own home. Matthew had this "bachelor pad" (kidding; he mostly worked overtime while I was gone), all to himself for three months so naturally I felt like I was encroaching on his space when I got back. I knew it would be an adjustment. Would we go back to our old routines? Would this be a refreshing restart with a honeymoon period? Would he miss having things just his way? I couldn't help but think of all of the military families that have separations much longer than ours half a world apart. If Matthew were still in the Marines and we had to endure more deployments, I'm not sure how I would handle it. It is really hard on a marriage to be separated in any capacity. When kids are thrown in the mix, it is actually heartbreaking for one parent to miss out on so much.

     For now as I ease back into the swing of things in my home, I reflect on these last three months. Do I regret it? Absolutely not. I learned a lot and met some incredible people. I did not get to enjoy Nantucket as I envisioned since I nearly doubled my regular working hours and had to sleep most days due to night shift, and I can count on both hands the "free days" I had while I was there. Nonetheless, I feel very proud for taking on and completing the challenge. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done but without challenge comes no reward. I now am reminded to savor every moment with my little family and I can thoroughly appreciate only working part time hours. I am elated to be home and focus on my daughter, my husband, my business, and my job. Until the next ACKventure...

Educate and Empower Yourself (for Labor)

     I went into Labor & Delivery Nursing with the plan to someday become a midwife. I wanted to gain experience in the hospital and ultimately have my own practice delivering babies in the most 'natural' way. I am a closet hippie, former vegan, seven years vegetarian, worm composting, recycling, placenta-encapsulating, babywearing mama. I preface this post with this because I don't want to come across judgmental in any way with what I am about to say. At my heart, I am holistic in my care and not a "tainted hospital nurse".

      I vividly remember one of my first days as a nurse on the L&D floor at the big city hospital discussing my hopes for my own hypothetical future birth. "I've always pictured myself giving birth at home," I naively said. Immediately, I was nearly torn apart with statistics of home births gone bad by my fellow coworkers. In the subsequent months and years from that conversation, I would care for several patients transferred from home or birthing centers with complications. I also would come to care for patients whose babies probably would not have survived if they had not been in the hospital. As my love of my career grew with each delivery, my former aspiration of having a home birth quickly dissolved.

     I have attended conferences, seen documentaries, and read stories of women who were "victimized" by their hospital experience. They use terms like "out of my control" and the nurse or doctor "did this to me." We have patients who refuse certain interventions for no reason except that they may have read something on some Facebook post with no credible source. The Business of Being Born, a documentary produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, is a prime example of one source that has really created a distrust of the hospital birthing system.

     I am not going to sit here and tell you there aren't some aspects of hospital birthing that are business-like. You will have certain doctors that follow the old stereotype of wanting to get to their 5:00 golf game. However, it is YOUR job to educate yourself on which doctor to choose. You have nine months of pregnancy (hopefully) to determine how you envision your birth and what doctor is in line with that view. Anything that is "done to you" in the hospital is your decision, so I don't buy the victim mentality. If you think Pitocin is the devil (it's not), then you have the right to tell your doctor you don't want it. If you don't want them to break your water, then speak up and tell them. My doctor will attest that I pretty much laid out how I wanted my labor to go, best case scenario, and she was all on board. And not just because I am an L&D nurse, but because my requests were justified, safe and reasonable. I just implore you to educate yourself on these decisions and not just request them because your mother-in-law's cousin or best acquaintance on Facebook told you so. Most doctors are receptive to educated, reasonable requests. If you are unsure if your doctor is receptive, that is why you have nine months of prenatal visits to decide who to see. I work with wonderful doctors who accommodate just about anything for their patients within reason. They genuinely want to see their patients have the birth they want.

     Sadly, the healthcare system is becoming more and more about patient satisfaction and less about patient care, so it is in the hospital's BEST INTEREST to ensure you are happy with your birthing experience. My ultimate point is to educate and empower yourself in all aspects of motherhood, but especially about labor. Be an advocate not only for yourself but for your baby. The hospital is not this horrible place that upon entering, you will end up with an emergency c-section and your baby will be whisked away to the nursery and given formula against your wishes. On the contrary, doctors and hospitals have better ratings the fewer primary (first time) c-sections they do so it is objectively their goal to have you deliver vaginally when safe and possible. Where I work, we strive keep moms and babies together at least 23 hours a day unless absolutely necessary to separate them. We want to support you in your breastfeeding as we are aware of the incredible benefits both to you and baby so it actually pisses me off when I see Pinterest posts of onesies like this...

We are in this field because we LOVE what we do and are passionate about it, not to secretly conspire ways to make your labor fail and sneak your baby formula.

     You will notice I don't mention any hospital specifically here. I am not trying to advertise or gain publicity for my work. I truly want to inform you, from the L&D nurse's perspective, that your birthing experience is in your control. Whether you choose to get an epidural, opt for a VBAC, whatever it may be, it IS in your control. Things don't always go according to plan, and you also need to count on that, but you are and should be a part of every decision that is made. Do your research with credible sources, and happy pushing.

My Baby Registry Must-Haves

     I'm getting to that age where it seems like all my friends are starting to have babies. Being that I am one of the first in my group to have one already, I am asked a lot about what to put on the registry. Now, I was a very involved aunt to my baby niece and had nannied for a decade before I had a baby of my own so I was overconfident I knew exactly what I needed. I didn't do much research at all and just winged my registry. Hence, some of what is on this list is stuff that I never actually on my registry but had to buy after the fact and/or will have next time around. So here goes, and not necessarily in order of priority...

1. Swing/vibrating seat. I had an Ingenuity ConvertMe that easily folded up to transport. I even took this on our cross-country road trip when Charley was two months old and it is what she slept in at the hotels. She napped in it a lot, too. It could be either a vibrating seat, a swing, or both and plays music. This is what allowed me to shower for the first several months. I have friends that swear by the Mammaroo so I may consider one of these next time around, although they are not as easily portable as this swing.

2. Pack N Play with Newborn Sleeper attachment. Charley slept in this thing until her feet were literally hanging off the edge. She loved it. I also liked that I could pull it up right next to my bed almost like a co-sleeper. I think a Fisher Price Rock N Play would be comparable to this and easier to move around, so I would consider getting one next time around.

3. Wubbanub . Charley found her thumb at about 2.5 months but we loved the Wubbanub up until then because it kept the paci in her mouth during stroller rides, car rides, etc. Love these things!

4. Play mat. I used this thing from the time she was a few weeks old. People would make fun of me that she was too young for it but she liked looking at things without getting overstimulated. It is also great for tummy time. When she got older, I would put her in the Bumbo on it so she could touch the toys.

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5. Boppy Pillow. Not only did I use this for breastfeeding, I used it to prop her up and as a seat for me to relieve the tremendous pain of my tailbone after labor (which lasted 3 months). Loved it.

6. Aden and Anais swaddle blankets. These couldn't keep my giant baby swaddled, but they were nice for the Texas heat. Next time around I will opt for the Dream Blankets.

7. Summer Infant SwaddleMe (Sorry about the crazy picture; it was the only one I could find!). I discovered these when Charley was about five weeks old. Prior to that, the longest stretch of sleep I could get was when someone was holding her or when she was on my chest. These kept her swaddled with velcro and allowed her to sleep securely for longer stretches. A true miracle worker! When she was old enough to roll over, I started using the Halo SleepSack and we still use these every night. Not only are they safe than a blanket, they prevent her legs from getting caught in the crib slats.

8. Noise Maker. I have two, one for traveling and one that stays in her nursery. I love the HoMedics SoundSpa Lullaby because it also projects images on the ceiling that keep her entertained for middle of the night diaper changed with just enough light.

9. A Good Jogger! This is one of those items that I didn't splurge for that I wished I had. I had a decent jogger (Graco) that came with my Click Connect Carseat. I never had an issue with it until I tried my friend's BOB stroller out one day and realized a huge difference! The BOB was so much easier to navigate and smoother to push. I will definitely be getting a double BOB next time around. These seem to be plentiful on Craigslist and for-sale forums.

10. Honest Company Products. We recently switched to all Honest Company Products and I really wish I had done this from the beginning. I decided to make the switch recently for several reasons including environmental (the diapers are biodegradable) and health (no harsh chemicals). I have come to love all of the care products. I was initially turned off at the price but it is actually not bad when you do Bundle and Save with the monthly plan. I found that I only needed a shipment every 6 weeks, not monthly. I had high hopes of cloth diapering in the beginning so this is the compromise I have made instead.

11. Breast Pump. I had two but my favorite was the Medela Pump In Style. We had a love hate relationship because I pumped for so long that I actually celebrated the day I put it away for good. It was very efficient though and much stronger than my Ameda.

12. Bottles. This is one of those that I'm unsure if I will stick with the next time around. I used Dr. Brown's Bottles which have two extra parts to clean. This doesn't seem like a big deal until you realize that you have to clean them very thoroughly or mold will develop in the crevices. I never had an issue with them and I think they really helped reduce gas but they are annoying to clean. I also loathed my Dr. Brown's Bottle Warmer as it was impossible to clean and therefore smelled like rotten milk. Next time around, I will consider Tommee Tippee bottles as I have heard lots of good things. I will probably just use my Keurig to warm my bottles and not bother with a bottle warmer at all. 

13. Video Monitor. I did not have one of these and I wished I did. We put our ADT security camera in the nursery and we had an audio monitor, but I really wished I had opted for the video monitor. This Withings Smart Baby Monitor seems pretty awesome as you can watch from your phone from any distance and it monitors the temperature in the room.

14. Diaper Pail. This one seems like an obvious one but I have people ask me if it is really necessary. YES. Once you introduce solids, the sweet buttery popcorn smell of breastmilk poo turns pretty rank. Also, I have had to live without my Diaper Genie for the last two months in Nantucket and it has been pretty shi**y, literally. We pretty much have to take the trash out every day or the whole kitchen smells like urine and poo. I can't wait to get home to my own bed, and my Diaper Genie.

15. *Shameless Plug* Lastly, DUH, an ACK Wrap. I didn't make the original ACK until Charley was about a month old so I missed an optimal month of newborn babywearing. Next time around, I will be prepared from day one! It will be even more vital for me with baby #2 as I will have a toddler running around and will need to carry and hold my [hypothetical future] baby hands-free.

15. *Shameless Plug* Lastly, DUH, an ACK Wrap. I didn't make the original ACK until Charley was about a month old so I missed an optimal month of newborn babywearing. Next time around, I will be prepared from day one! It will be even more vital for me with baby #2 as I will have a toddler running around and will need to carry and hold my [hypothetical future] baby hands-free.

 

 

I hope this helps a little bit if you are deciding what to register for. These are the basic, major necessities that I couldn't live without. I didn't receive any kind of compensation for this post; just true personal opinions of all these items! More to come with infant and toddler must-haves.

One Year Reflection and Thank You!

    It was exactly one year ago after watching yet another recorded episode of Shark Tank that my husband Matthew pulled out a notepad and pen and said, “Okay, how can we make this baby wrap business happen.” Wherever I went with Charley, I carried her in my handmade wrap and was stopped without fail by people asking where they could find one. Now as you may know, I’m a Registered Nurse… My husband is a firefighter. We have absolutely no business experience. We didn’t know what we were doing. We just knew we wanted to spread the good word of baby wearing to a broader audience and hopefully make a little money to support me staying at home with my baby more often. I knew I always wanted to work in Labor & Delivery at least part time.

    One year later as I look at my daunting to-do list for ACK Wrap and feel a surge of overwhelming angst, I also have to look back at what we’ve accomplished so far. I am pretty proud of the niche product and company we've created from scratch. As much as we want to create a baby wrap empire, I always want to maintain a personal connection with my customers. Anybody who knows me well knows I have a hard time charging people, as silly as that sounds. But at the same time we are a business that needs to sustain itself so it is a necessity. We are by no means money hungry business people; we genuinely want to see moms, dads, and caregivers LOVE their ACK Wrap. My co-workers can attest that I am so excited when I bring my donations in for the NICU. I love seeing pictures and hearing feedback how much people love their wraps more than anything else in this whole crazy endeavor. 

    So while we try not to brag too much, know that your purchases really are going to a great cause. We have gotten great feedback from our NICU families. We have donated to WIC of Austin and are in the process of donating to WIC of Jackson, TN for breastfeeding support. We are so appreciative of your continued support and can't thank you enough for helping us spread the good word. We are very open to feedback (in fact we greatly encourage it!), good or bad. Keep sending us your pictures, your critiques, your ideas; we want to see and hear it all! Thank YOU, and Happy Babywearing. 

She ROCKS!

    One thing that I am confident any mom can agree is that there is just not enough time in the day. We work, we cook, we change diapers, we entertain, we clean, we feed, and if we can squeeze in a workout then it is a good day. This is a constant struggle for me as I try to balance everything while still being present for my daughter. I have found that if I don't make this time for myself to at least sweat a little, I lose my patience easily and I just feel worse overall which I know trickles into my interaction as a mother. Lately, I've been doing workouts whenever and however I can, often using Charley as my 25 pound barbell. She's not always eager to be used as my exercise prop, unfortunately.

     Luckily, I have found the perfect solution: combining a play date with a workout with Stroller Boot Camp!! I wish I had come up with this myself. Enter Kathleen Uhran: a Fitness and Lifestyle Coach who recently moved from Texas to Nantucket. Obviously there was an instant connection when we crossed paths a couple of months ago at the first stroller boot camp I attended. An hour flew by as we lunged, jogged, and crunched all while chatting and playing with our babies overlooking Children's Beach and Nantucket Harbor. There really couldn't be a better scenario. Both to my surprise and delight, I was sore for days! It was a really good workout and a great time. I went again several times and was NOT disappointed. I hope to go every Saturday I can while I'm here. Kathleen is the picture of health so she is a great motivator.

     I have come to appreciate the emphasis on moms being active while engaging their babies, such as stroller boot camp. There are lots of YouTube videos of postpartum workouts that incorporate the baby into the exercises which is awesome. One of our affiliates in California, Baby Bump Ballet, has Babywearing Barre classes!! I am dying to try this and I know my daughter would get a kick out of it.

     In short, moms in Nantucket should make their way down to Children's Beach Saturdays at 9:00! Check out Kathleen's Website for more information on her brand and business at SheRocksFitnesstx.com. I would also love to hear more ideas of how to engage our little ones in our own efforts to stay active and healthy. In turn, I believe we can be better moms while setting a good and healthy example.

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Why I Left My Home and Husband for 3 Months

       When I tell people I picked up and left home for thirteen weeks to do a travel nursing assignment in Nantucket, they usually think it's pretty cool. Then I tell them I also brought along my thirteen month old daughter and am here without my husband and they look at me a little differently. There must be trouble in paradise... Surely I'm on the verge of a divorce. Why else would I leave for so long?

     Well, truth be told, my husband was a major driving force in my decision to leave, but not for the reasons you may be thinking. A couple months back as we sat in the JetBlue Terminal of JFK while on a layover coming home from Nantucket, we discussed dreams for our future. A hypothetical conversation quickly turned real as my husband encouraged me to apply for a travel job on the island. "If not now, then you'll probably never do it," he said. Knowing my love for this special place after coming for nearly half my life, he knew I might regret passing on such a unique opportunity. Other reasons included being able to spend some invaluable time with my parents, including my father with newly diagnosed leukemia. We also knew that as Charley got older, it would be harder for her to be separated from her daddy and if a sibling was thrown in the mix, forget about it.

    So I applied for a travel L&D RN job the next day and had a job offer the day after that. It all happened so quickly, I hardly had time to process what I was even considering. I thought about it over an emotion-filled weekend and decided if my manager would allow me to keep my job in Austin, then I would do it. To my pleasant surprise, he agreed. I accepted the job literally four days after manifesting the idea.

     I had no delusions that it would be easy. I would be working lots of night shifts, nearly doubling my work hours, and be away from my other half and stability of home. But with the challenge would come an immense reward of giving my daughter a piece of a place so close to my heart. While it was scary stepping out of my comfortable bubble, lots of support from my husband and prayer told me it was the right decision for my family.

    I know that this scenario unconventional; a lot of people think I'm crazy for doing it. But my husband has instilled in me the mantra: "Get busy living or get busy dying." Instead of just talking about ideas and dreams, he has pushed me to make them happen. He was the driving force behind ACK Wrap's conception. I hope to instill this in my daughter and show her that we can make our ideas, no matter how crazy they seem, a reality. Although she may not necessarily remember these precious days in Nantucket, she will grow up hearing the stories of our ACKventures and create her own destiny knowing it is okay to be a little unconventional.

We get by with daily FaceTime chats.

We get by with daily FaceTime chats.

Their reunion after 3.5 weeks

Their reunion after 3.5 weeks

Savoring every moment together during dad's visit

Savoring every moment together during dad's visit

Mom to Mom... Stop the Catty BS

     Man, I'm a little taken aback right now and feel inclined to write. Recently, in a mom's blog that I follow and am closely connected with, a mom blogger opened up about making the decision to go back to work leaving her twin babies and toddler in day care. The article was honest and open on a pretty personal topic. While many moms applauded her, the comments turned nasty and quickly turned to shaming her. At one point she was called selfish. "Too bad for the kids," someone else wrote.

     While reading these posts, I had tears in my eyes for this mother. Here she is with a toddler and now pregnant... with TWINS no less. Twins are incredible, but I would be terrified! I doubt that the decision for her not to be a stay at home mom was not just determined on a whim. It is a difficult decision for any parent to have to make and she is doing what she and her husband believe is best for their family.

     What I can't figure out is how it got to be socially acceptable to be so outright judgmental and nasty to each other. As women, we should be building each other up and supporting one another. I understand we are in the age of cyber-socialization. Cyber bullying (as much as I hate using that term) is very real and it's easy to say whatever comes to mind sitting in front of a computer screen. The middle school cattiness truly never goes away for some women and that gives females a bad rap. Shaming one another for having different parenting styles and choices is horrible. We should be positive and supportive, as MOTHERS, setting an example for the little people we are each raising. 

    As I am writing this, I don't want to come across as if I'm on my own high horse. I have judged and had differing opinions than other mothers. I have said the words, "Why have kids if they are going to be in day care all day every day?" I am ashamed to admit this because who am I to judge another mother?  Just because that is not right for ME and my family personally, I would never attack another mother for making that difficult choice. We should be applauding one another's strengths, different as they may be from our own. How fortunate for us as women that we are in the day and age to be able to have a career AND be a great mom.

     At the end of the day, focus on your own life and family. To the moms writing the nasty, derogatory comments to other moms on any online forum, maybe you need to look internally and question why you feel the need to put someone else down. Too much free time? Hopefully you're writing these comments while your own kiddos are sleeping. Why not try to find something positive out of a difference of opinion. If not, remember what they told you when you were five: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."