Confessions of a New Mom

confessions of a new momFor new moms, especially moms transitioning into being stay-at-home moms, there are huge mental hurdles that have to be conquered when it comes to self-worth. I spent my pregnancy building my blog readership, learning all I could about babies and motherhood, and preparing myself for the transition, both physically and mentally- but what I didn’t anticipate was how drastic the change would be on a spiritual/emotional level Of course, having a newborn is a huge change- but for me at least, the changes in my heart have been substantial. Where I find my worth, how I define myself and my success and my day is all new.

Follow me! I’m sharing my ‘confessions’ from my first month of motherhood today over at Whole Family Strong. Click here to read!

The Ugly Truth About Postpartum Exercise

The Ugly Truth About Postpartum Exercise
Image courtesy of hyena reality / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before I got pregnant, I was training for a half marathon. Running was never something I particularly enjoyed, but suddenly I found myself looking forward to my morning runs in the crisp air- I was pushing myself, and making myself stronger. In addition to practicing yoga three times a week at a local studio and eating a healthy diet, I was in the best shape of my life.

In what seemed like the first hours after finding out that I was pregnant, I could barely think about my running shoes without throwing up. I was so sick for those first three months that it was difficult for me to leave the house some days. Needless to say, my ideal of staying active and strong during my pregnancy went right out the window.

As my pregnancy progressed, I did become more active- nothing more than long walks, but better than being on the couch. The mild weather of fall had me unexpectedly yearning for a nice run though, but at 30+ weeks pregnant, it definitely wasn’t in the cards- but oh, how I looked forward to the day when I could finally lace up my shoes and run again!

Fast forward to this past week- my sweet daughter is 6 weeks old and I am finally feeling comfortable enough to leave her with her daddy for 45 minutes while I go for a jog. I think I had trouble keeping a smile on my face as I headed out the door! And then….I started jogging.

Nobody warned me what this would be like. So, I’m going to tell you what I wish everyone had told me:

Your body is not the same.

If I could have a nickel for every time I wished that my boobs were bigger growing up, I’d be a rich lady. Well, thanks to breastfeeding, I now have those bigger breasts. Yeah. Not the party I thought it would be. I thought I was going to bruise myself, or leak through my shirt, or any number of hilariously embarrassing things that could’ve resulted. I felt disproportionate- like I was top-heavy or my balance was off. Oye. Maybe boobs won’t be the thing that’s different for you, but something will be- so, keep that in mind.

You aren’t as strong/fast/flexible as you once were.

It took me the same time to jog/walk 2 miles that it used to take me to run 3 on an easy day. You may feel healthy, look good, even be back down to normal weight, but that doesn’t mean you’ve retained athletic prowess you had before. Go lightly and have grace with yourself. You had to work to get there once, and you’ll work to get there again, but that’s the important part- you’ll get there.

You’ll probably pee yourself a little.

Or, maybe, a lot. This was maybe the most unexpected thing for me (all of my college friends are laughing because of my reputation for peeing when I laugh- ok guys, you win). I literally tinkled a little bit with every step of my jog. It sort of felt like my insides were going to fall out. So now that I’ve been the guinea pig for all of us, do yourself a favor and wear a pantiliner. You’re welcome.

It’s all worth it.

Sure, it’s frustrating to have to get back into shape or wear a little extra gear on a run. But, hello! I come home to a beautiful little girl who wants to snuggle into those (bigger) boobs and whose beautiful birth gave me a little temporary incontinence. I’d never trade her for the best body in the world!

As you begin your postpartum recovery, remember what’s important- your family and your health. Have grace with yourself and know that you’re right where you are supposed to be!

What was your postpartum recovery like? Any funny stories to share? What surprised you? Tell me in the comments!

8 Items You MUST Get For Your Newborn

8 MUST HAVE ITEMS for your first week with your newborn!

Sure, every baby is different- but these are practical and so useful to us the first week or so that we had Hallelujah home! Hope this is helpful to you, too..

Fisher-Price Newborn Rock n’ Play Sleeper, My Little Snugabunny– This newer addition to the newborn accessory lineup came highly recommended to me, and the good words won’t stop with me, either. The Rock and Play Sleeper allows the newborn to feel cocooned, as the did in the womb, but also sleep on an incline. We swaddle her and then put her in- she loves it! She hasn’t slept a decent length of time anywhere else (besides my arms)- it’s like she needs that closeness. Also, it has a vibrate feature that is awesome for helping baby to sleep!

myBaby Soundspa– This genius little machine plays several different white noises, plus lullabies and heartbeat sounds, while also projecting rotating shapes onto the ceiling. We use the projection as a nightlight of sorts, but the white noise is the key- not only does it calm Halle, but it keeps us from hearing (and analyzing) her every breath, so we sleep better, too.

Aden and Anais Swaddle Blankets– Again, another item that came highly recommended that I absolutely love. These blankets are adorable, soft, and HUGE- perfect for swaddling, using as a nursing cover, or even a burp cloth.

Oils Diffuser– Also a hero during my labor, we diffuse a sleep/stress away blend called ‘Serenity’ during the night and it keeps us all relaxed. I don’t know that it necessarily makes the baby sleep better, but I know it helps me! We also diffuse an immunity and cleansing blend called OnGuard during the day, particularly when we have guests over.

Glass Water Bottle– I drink water like I can’t get enough these days- nursing makes me so thirsty! It’s important to stay hydrated, even throughout the night- and I’ve never had a harder time keeping my intake up than I do now. I keep my glass water bottle full beside me, and it comes with me wherever I go.

Medela Breast Shells– Breastfeeding is hard. Harder than you think, even if you think it will be hard. These shells go inside your bra and hold the clothing away from your nipples, allowing them to heal when they are likely to be sensitive. They can also help correct nipples that are flatter and harder for the baby to latch onto (I had one of those). These shells literally saved me nursing- they let my sore nipples heal and made them easy for Halle to grasp. Lifesavers- everyone should get these.

Button Down Nightgown– I got 2 (similar to these) at Target while I was pregnant and I absolutely love them. I just unbutton a button or two and whip out my boob, while the rest of me stays nice and warm. Super comfy and easy!

iPad and Hbogo/Netflix- There’s only so much that can be done with a baby on your boob. Hence, I have watched a decent amount of TV since the baby was born last week. We don’t have cable so I rely on apps on the iPad to get me by- HBO for The Newsroom, PBS for Downton Abbey, and Netflix for everything else.

Hallelujah’s Birth Story

Our Birth Story- a Natural, Birth Center Waterbirth (with a twist!)

Around 4AM on Saturday, January 11, I woke up to contractions around 10-12 minutes apart. They were painful, almost like a bad period- but not unbearable. I got up and took a shower, then came back to bed and laid back down to try and get some rest. Around 8, Matt woke up, and I told him I thought today might be the day! We were excited but also knew that it could be a while, as early labor can last quite a while. We also text my family to tell them to be ready!

Matt’s family had come into town a few days beforehand, so we met his parents for breakfast at a local restaurant, Baugher’s. We told his parents that I was having contractions (not that they needed telling, I was visibly uncomfortable every few minutes) and that we were going to head to the mall after breakfast to do some walking. We all made a pact to keep it quiet about labor starting- I didn’t want phone calls all day or Facebook spam or whatnot. Even people we ran into didn’t have a clue!

Contractions stayed consistent all day- around 10 minutes apart- so we also went out to dinner with Matt’s family. After dinner that night, we headed to Target to do some last minute shopping, then parted ways with our parents with a “see you some time tonight”, assuming that labor would intensify with the night hours and that our little girl would be born tomorrow. We went to bed that night with packed bags and anxious hearts!

By around 5AM on January 12th, my contractions had intensified to about 1 minute long, 6 minutes apart, and stayed that way for about three hours. They were incredibly painful- I was nauseous and couldn’t eat or drink anything. Between each contraction I would fall back to sleep- we were waiting for them to get just a bit closer together before we called the birth center and got on our way- but we alerted our family that the time was near. And then- out of nowhere- the contractions spaced out. A LOT. Suddenly it would be fifteen minutes between, then ten, then half an hour- still painful, just spaced apart. We didn’t know what to think. So we slept as much as we could and waited for things to progress.

This irregularity continued well into the afternoon. Meanwhile, I felt terrible, had awful diarrhea (a typical early labor sign) and couldn’t eat anything. Around 4 or 5, at the encouragement of Matt and my mom, I called the birth center and explained how things had gone throughout the morning, only to be told that it was just ‘false labor’ and that I should try to lay down, eat, etc to get the contractions to stop. Not only was this really frustrating (all I’d been doing all day was laying around, and I was to nauseous to eat) but it just didn’t feel right.

I followed the midwife’s advice and choked down half a sandwich and tried to relax. Pretty soon, things started to change- suddenly I was having contractions every 2-3 minutes, but they were only lasting 30 or 45 seconds. I had Matt call the midwife, who told me to get into the bathtub and stay in for an hour, to hopefully even out my contractions. She said that it sounded like my uterus was tired- who can blame it, it had already been working for 36 hours!

My time in the bathtub was not fun. At all. Contractions spaced to 5min apart, and started lasting longer. They would make me feel like I needed to go to the bathroom, so I painfully got in and out of the tub several times, soaking everything in my path. I would shake uncontrollably when I would get out. Finally, Matt called the midwife and she told us to come in. It was time to get the show on the road!

Matt’s parents packed up our car while he helped me get dressed and dry. He lined the front seat of our car with trash bags (my water still hadn’t broken) and we were on our way. We made what usually is an hour’s drive in about 40 minutes- and boy, was it a rough drive. Contractions every 3-4 minutes in the front seat of a car? I don’t recommend it.

We arrived at the birth center around 10:30 pm to find Linda, a midwife whom I had only met two days before. She took a urine sample and concluded that I was severely dehydrated and undernourished- my body was basically breaking down muscle for calories. She left to get a bag of fluids and I immediately started throwing up. I pretty much puked for the next 5 hours- through 3 bags of fluids and two different anti nausea medications.

Those hours were absolutely horrible. Because of my dehydration, the pain of the contractions was magnified, and I was throwing up between almost every one. Matt alternated between holding a trash can for me and rubbing oils into my back to help with the pain. The cycle was unrelenting and I began to doubt my ability to continue.

Finally, around 3:30 am, Linda suggested taking a low-dose sedative that would allow me to sleep for an hour or so and regain some strength to finish labor. At this point, she checked me and told me that I was about 4.5cm dilated, and that I would likely stay that was while I slept. I didn’t even care- I knew I needed the rest. While I did still feel my contractions and had to get up several times to get sick, I was able to rest for a while, and so was Matt. I am so thankful that this was an option- it honestly saved our labor.

I woke up around 5:30 and got myself to the bathroom, only to have a very strong contraction. I knew immediately- I needed to push. I yelled for Matt to get the midwife (now Susannah, as there had been a shift change while we were resting)- both of whom looked at me like I was crazy- I shouldn’t have progressed during that time at all! But I knew- when your body tells you to push, you can’t do anything else. Sure enough, when Susannah checked me, I was fully dilated.

There was just one problem- there was no nurse in the building at the time. Knowing how close to delivering I was, and that she would need an extra set of trained hands, Susannah told me that I was only 9 cm dilated and that I couldn’t push yet- while she frantically changed into scrubs and called for a nurse to come in. Cue the most miserable 45 minutes of the night- trying not to push when that’s what your body is doing. It’s nearly impossible. It’s painful and frustrating and feels so wrong. I pretty much sobbed into Matt’s shoulder during each contraction. Finally, when I knew I couldn’t continue like that anymore, Matt and Susannah went and filled the jacuzzi tub. It was time!

It took a few contractions to figure out a good rhythm, but eventually I sat myself sideways, with my back on one side of the tub and my feet propped up against the other side, knees up towards my hips. Matt knelt on the other side of the tub, and with each contraction, he held my hands as I pulled against him, almost like a tug-of-war, which allowed me to bear down more on the baby with each push. I honestly didn’t mind pushing- it wasn’t comfortable, but at least it was a task, with an end goal, and I had something to DO besides just try to get through it- like the rest of labor! I started pushing around 6:30, and my water FINALLY broke, in the tub, at about 6:50. At 7, the nurse finally arrived- just in time!

It was an amazing feeling of relief when Matt told me that her head was out- what he didn’t tell me was that it was purple! Susannah checked for the umbilical cord but couldn’t feel it, and on the next push, we assumed that her body would be born. But it wasn’t. Something wasn’t right!

Susannah quickly realized what the problem was- Halle’s shoulders didn’t fully rotate and they were stuck in my pelvis, and pinching the umbilical cord. This left Halle without oxygen, so we needed to get her out quickly! Without explaining this all to me (there was no time) she and Matt pulled me up in the tub and had me push once standing, which didn’t work either. Finally, they yelled that we needed to get on the bed. I was half carried/half drug to the next room- with Halle’s head hanging out of me- sopping wet and thrown on the bed and told to give as hard of a push as I could. I’ll never know what she did, but somehow Susannah maneuvered her shoulders down and Halle was born- 7:10 am, 51 hours after my first contraction.

She was immediately placed on my belly but was dark purple and unresponsive. Susannah and the nurse quickly began rubbing her with warm towels and gave her some quick oxygen, and very shortly she let out a great cry. I heard her make noise fairly quickly, so it wasn’t until after her birth was explained to me that I really understood the gravity of the situation. If it wasn’t for the quick work of the staff of the birth center, we might have lost our girl. I am so grateful for their knowledge and assertiveness.

Meanwhile, Halle stayed on my belly, but because of the damage done to the umbilical cord, we needed to birth the placenta immediately. I was given a shot of pitocin in the leg and it came soon after. Matt cut the cord and Halle was free! She latched on within the first ten minutes and has been feeding well ever since.

Honestly, the moments after her birth are a huge blur- between the drama of the birth itself, then the hurry to birth the placenta, and how extremely exhausted I was, I had trouble keeping myself awake and really comprehending what was happening for the first 15 minutes or so. Slowly, as I rested in the bed, I was able to fully appreciate the moment- she was here! In my arms, and so perfect.

Our Birth Story

We headed home from the birth center just a few short hours later and have been loving life ever since! We are so blessed by our little girl and so privileged to be her parents.

Looking back on our birth, nothing went as planned. The labor pattern was so irregular that we didn’t know what to expect. I got very sick because of being in labor for so long. I basically slept through what is traditionally though of as ‘active labor’. We had wanted Matt to catch Halle, but clearly that couldn’t have happened- same with delaying cord clamping and having a peaceful, gentle water birth. But just because things didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean they didn’t go as they should’ve. We have no regrets about our birthing experience and we are so thankful for the education we received that prepared us to handle the unexpected!

You’re Gonna Eat Your WHAT? The Virtues of Placenta Consumption

PLEASE NOTE: This post does contain an image of my placenta.  If you’d rather not see that, please skip this post! Thanks 🙂Why I Consumed My Placenta- and You Should, Too! That’s right. We’re gonna go there.

I had never heard of placenta consumption until I was added into a lovely group of crunchy mamas in the Baltimore area via Facebook. Thought I have met very few of them, I have learned so much from these women!

One of the topics that is routinely discussed is the benefits of the placenta consumption- whether via encapsulation, cooking in some way, used as a tincture, broth, or raw in smoothies.

The concept is this: humans are virtually the only mammals that don’t routinely eat their placentas after birth. During pregnancy, the placenta is responsible for manufacturing all of the hormones in the body that sustain the pregnancy and prepare the mother’s body to, well, be a mother. After birth, once the placenta is delivered, it’s the body’s job to take over making those hormones again. The problem is that it often takes the body a few weeks to realize that it needs to make these hormones, which can cause significant hormonal problems for the mother- sometimes a mild ‘baby blues’, or as serious as postpartum depression and anxiety.

actual placenta

So what’s the natural solution? We consume the placenta! Yes, it sounds completely crazy, but humans are actually one of only a slim few species of mammals that DON’T routinely consume the placenta- the others being marine mammals whose placentas often drift away in the tides after birth. In fact, in some parts of the world, placenta consumption is completely routine, such as in many parts of Asia. But what are the real benefits?

After birth, the placenta still contains high levels of those great hormones it’s been producing for months. When we consume small portions of the placenta, we are supplementing our body’s plummeting hormone levels during those weeks that it takes to ‘remember’ to produce them again. This aids in milk production, supports good energy levels, balances the emotions, and is a great force in warding off postpartum depression.

So how exactly do you consume the placenta? Well, there are several options, each with it’s own benefits. Depending on who will be preparing the placenta for you (or, if you’re doing it yourself), you may have a few of these options, or just one or two.

Encapsulation via Traditional Chinese Method– In this method, the placenta is steamed along with traditional ‘warming’ herbs, such as ginger and cayenne, which also have a preservative effect. It is then dehydrated and ground into a powder, then put into capsules to take as directed.

Encapsulation via Raw Preparation/ Dehydration– In this method, the placenta is simply cleaned and dehydrated, ground, and placed into capsules. Because it is dehydrated, the pills will last indefinitely. Encapsulation methods are definitely the most common.

Raw/Frozen Consumption– This method involves cleaning/rinsing the placenta, cutting it into small chunks, and freezing them. The typical use for them is then to put them in a smoothie to mask the taste.

Cooked Consumption– Probably the least common, this involves some type of creative recipe like ‘plasagna’ or cooking the placenta like you would a pot roast, or perhaps liver and onions, and consuming it over the week following the birth. If you can stomach it, more power to you.

Tincture– Usually prepared in conjunction with encapsulation, a piece of dehydrated placenta is placed in a container of alcohol and allowed to steep, which releases the medicinal benefits of the placenta. In the long term, taking small amounts of this tincture in water can continue to boost the hormones when mom feels she needs a ‘pick me up’.

Broth– Typically prepared after the Traditional Chinese Method, this involves taking the steaming water from the placenta and freezing it into ice cubes. Over the few weeks following the birth, the nutrient-rich cubes can be placed in drinks (such as iced teas) and consumed for additional benefits.

broth

In my experience in the past few weeks, this is one of the most worthwhile investments a mom can make for her postpartum health. We chose to incapsulate via the Traditional Chinese Method, as well as making a broth (which sadly I never used) and a tincture. My milk came in within 3 hours of taking my first dose of pills. My energy level has been through the roof (I can’t wait to start exercising again!), my mood has been great, and every day I get comments about how great I seem to be doing with my recovery.

I actually didn’t take the pills for two days because I came down with a cold, and you are supposed to discontinue the pills until you are well (they can strengthen the sickness). Those two days were the worst of my postpartum recovery so far- I was exhausted and irritable. Even my husband commented that I seemed different after I explained that I hadn’t taken the pills in two days- the difference was really noticeable!

If you’re considering placenta encapsulation, I would encourage you to check out placentabenefits.info and find a certified placenta encapsulationist in your area. If you’re local, check out my friend Lauren at  www.agrowingbelly.com!