Thursday, December 15, 2011

Life with my growing baby

Month one has passed, and November's 2nd month birthday is just 2 days away. Every day I feel like she is a whole new baby, getting bigger and bigger, learning and changing more and more, while my love for her gets stronger and stronger. The other day I was playing with November in front of a mirror. After a few minutes of playing 'Who's that beautiful baby?' in an overly excited high-pitched voice, I caught an unexpected glimpse of myself. I looked maniacally giddy and so full of love. I've never seen a more genuine smile on my face.
This baby is bringing unprecedented volumes of joy in my life with her amazing smiles that grow bigger and wider and more frequent by the day, her cute little gurgles, coos, and outbursts of first laughter, and her astonishing strength as she tries to roll, scoot, and stretch her way to her first crawl and steps. It's so much fun to watch her learn and grow! I am amazed every day that she stands a little longer and stronger as I support her arms. This baby is ready to run!
She is still a very needy baby, and prefers to be cuddled, carried, danced with, and bounced, but she is also learning to enjoy periods of time in her swing, under her activity gym, or propped up on the boppy. Still, she prefers that her parents are never far, no matter where she is. And I'm getting used to it, and actually learning to enjoy her high level of need and appreciating the close bond it is creating between us.
Breastfeeding FINALLY got easier! While we still may encounter a few sore moments after an improper latch, most of our feedings are easy as pie! It took weeks longer than expected, but we are finally pros! I've also started pumping expressed breastmilk so she can continue to be exclusively breastfed when we are apart. The pump was intimidating at first, and kind of hard to use with her always in my arms, but I finally got the hang of it and figured out how to pump the other breast WHILE feeding her on the other! It also took awhile to find a bottle/nipple combo she could suck; it turns out most bottle nipples are too big for her and she can't latch on, causing half of the milk to spill out the side of her mouth! We finally settled on the small Medela (the brand of my pump) bottles and nipples, and have had great success so far.
We've become comfortable with outings! We've taken many the Target or grocery run, went out to eat a couple times, and even went to a party with her and hung out with friends! I do have to take feeding breaks, either in the (parked) car, store bathroom, or any old place covered in the nursing shawl, but it's not too bad! November prefers to be carried and entertained when she's awake, so if she fusses when out, we take her out of the stroller or carseat and carry her!
I've even experienced time away from my sweet little one! Last weekend, Spencer and I attended a friends wedding while Spencer's sister watched her for a few hours. It was a nice date night and Laura and November had a great time together! And yesterday was my first day back at work. I'm starting small, with a few short shifts at first, and only working two days a week this month, adding a third next month, and eventually trying to find the hours and schedule that works best. So far, November doesn't sleep soundly for a long stretch of time until after midnight, so I can't work the early shift that I used to work quite yet. I'm so grateful my work is letting me take my time to slowly build up my schedule and let me work with what hours I can! Anyhow, my first day of work was actually enjoyable, and Spencer did great with November! Next week November gets to stay with her grandma!
And now about a couple things I love that have really made life with a baby better:

First, baby carriers! Since November likes to be carried pretty much all day, it was hard at first to figure out how I was ever going to walk the dog, do laundry, or anything else without another set of arms to help. But, luckily, she loves being snug in the Moby wrap or Balboa baby sling as much as she likes being carried. I prefer the Moby when I want extra security and need my hands free, because it really does keep baby secure against my body. But the baby sling is great when she is still awake, or I just need something for a short time to support while I throw in the laundry. It isn't quite as secure or hands-free, but it is easier to put on than the Moby, and can be put on without having to put her down. With these carriers I can walk Kitsune, do laundry, and clean up around the house! Also handy when out and about when she starts to fuss in the stroller.

Next, cloth diapers! I never had any desire to use cloth diapers until my grandma got us some as a gift. Afterward, I researched them a bit, and found out how easy they could be and how much money they could save, especially since ours were a gift. Once she gained a couple pounds, we started using them, and I have loved them ever since. We primarily use GroVia all-in-two system. We have 13 outer shells (in super cute pink and purple colors) which is more than enough. Since the outer shell rarely becomes soiled, we only go through 1-3 a day. We also have 24 snap in inserts and 10 booster pads. The inserts do a great job at containing the mess, only sometimes soiling the shell if she has a very large poo. The booster pads are great for night time, and help her feel dryer longer. In addition to GroVia, we have 5 Fuzzibunz one size pocket diapers. They work well also, but I think the GroVia velcro tabs and rise snaps (for sizing) are much easier to use than FB snap closures and button sizing. I also like the fact that part of the GV system is reusable (the shell) throughout the day, where with FB, you wash both the pocket diaper AND the soaker inserts each time.

And how bad is the laundry? Not bad at all! With our 29 total diapers, we only wash a load every other day. Since we use community coin laundry at our apartments, I choose to hang dry, which means we only spend about $3 or $4 a week! Compare that to the $24 we spent a week during the first weeks of her life, and you can see how much we save! And they aren't hard to use at all, not even when out and about! We just store the soiled diaper in a 'wet bag' or ziplock and dump it in the laundry when we get home. And what about poo? Not too bad! Newborn poo in so wet that it washes out completely in the washer without any special treatment. And stains? None! Especially if you leave the discolored ones to dry in front of a bright window. It doesn't even have to be sunny (I am writing this on a gloomy December day); the sun somehow penetrates and bleaches them naturally, no exaggeration! I thought cloth diapers would be difficult, but I can't recommend them enough, especially GroVia. They are cheaper, cuter, and environmentally friendly.

I also can't live without things that move! Since November loves movement, her cradle swing, bouncy chair, my gliding rocking chair, and yoga ball have all become invaluable. It took her awhile to warm up to the swing, and even now she only likes it for short periods of time, but any time at all with my hands free is great! She also loves when I hold her and bounce and rock on the yoga ball, or soothe her in the rocking chair.

I've found fussiness relief with gripe water! Sometimes November gets bloated, gassy, and fussy causing frequent waking and frazzled parents. We've used both 'Mommy's Bliss' and 'Colic Calm,' both of which work wonders on soothing her fussiness caused my tummy upsets and helps her sleep better. She doesn't need it frequently, but when she does, it's a lifesaver.

The books I've loved are the Sears Baby Book and What to expect: the first year. I love reading and searching for answers, and both have provided much useful info. The Dr. Sears book has especially helpful info on the attachment style parenting (which suits November's needs perfectly) and has great info supporting 'sleep sharing' for parents who need or want their child to sleep in their bed.

And lastly, I must mention the Boppy nursing pillow. Not only does it provide arm support when nursing, but it also makes a comfy cushion when November feels like 'sitting' semi-propped up.

So there ends a post that took me forever to type with one finger, while my little baby sleeps, nurses, and cuddles in my other arm. And most of this time spent bouncing on the yoga ball simultaneously.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baby Love, Baby Blues

November is two weeks old as of yesterday- my birthday. Having a Halloween birthday has always been a great excuse to go all-out; dress up, drink up, and party. This year I stayed home eating Thai takeout while holding my new baby and watching How I Met Your Mother. It was relaxing and wonderful, even though the sight of dressed-up kids and twenty-somethings roaming the streets made me nostalgic. I just need to remember how much fun our future Halloweens will be when we take November trick-or-treating! And I got a wonderful gift this year; my little daughter!
Life has been full of ups and downs these past two weeks. It's been amazing getting to know this new little life and learning how to be parents and feeling my love for her grow every day. I expected all this; the joy, excitement, love, confusion. I even expected the sleeplessness. What I didn't expect was the emotional toll known as the 'baby blues.'
You read it in all the books, but I really feel like it's understated. And no one ever talks about it. Either the baby blues are rare, or most people would rather gloss over the experience, especially after things get easier and the blues take a back seat. Well, I would like to share my experience as it is.

These early weeks are wonderful, of course. But they are also very challenging. It starts with the lack of sleep. Especially with nursing on-demand, and around the clock, there's not a lot of time for sleep, much less solid, quality sleep. Add to that the fact that this baby dislikes her bassinet and will awaken within minutes of putting her down and will only sleep in our bed cuddled close to mommy, plus her desire to sometimes nurse nonstop, resting only ten or twenty minutes between feedings, and you've got an overwhelmed and over-tired new mommy. Now, it's not always that bad; sometimes she sleeps in 4 hour chunks through the night, which is wonderful in comparison. But those times when I'm awake from 2am to 6am without a wink of sleep are so draining and frustrating that it brings me to delirious tears. I can't help but wonder if I'm doing something wrong when she nurses for almost 12 hours straight, aside from a couple 2 hour naps here and there. And the pain! My poor bruised and abused nipples! I miss my old, non-swollen, non-painful boobs!
But I also need to remember what they say: baby knows what she needs in those early weeks, and sometimes baby needs more food! Another frustrating adjustment is my lack of freedom. As I type, I am laboriously using only one hand. Since November prefers being held constantly, it's rare that I have both hands free. I actually MISS doing the dishes and laundry! But this is another thing that I'm sure will get easier. I'm already adapting to one-handed tasks, and soon I'm sure she will warm up to her swing and bouncy chair, giving mommy some freedom. And someday outings will get easier! It is quite the production to get out the door, even just to go to the store! November needs to be fed and not fussy, I like to shower at some point, Kitsune needs to be walked...

All these frustrating things are a taxing adjustment, and sometimes I just need to cry. But I know it will get easier. My boobs won't hurt forever. November will someday require less frequent feedings. Someday she will sleep through the night. Someday she will nap in her crib for a couple hours instead of a couple minutes. Outings will become second nature. I'll have time to clean and do laundry. And before I know it the newborn phase will be over and I'll actually miss the warmth of her tiny body snuggling on my chest.
This morning I awoke after a terrible night of (lack of) sleep and near-constant nursing. I opened my eyes and November was looking right at me with her big curious eyes, and smiling. I know they say newborn smiles are the result of nothing but the passing of gas, but that doesn't make them any less beautiful or heartwarming. Because when I awoke to that cute little smile, I suddenly didn't care that I was still tired. It didn't matter that I had been up for hours and crying in frustration. All that mattered was getting up and starting my day with my baby. I know there will be a lot more tears, sleepless nights, painful and nonstop feedings, but there will also be more smiles.

November Tigerlily Heller

Our beautiful baby girl, November Tigerlily Heller, was born on Monday, October 17th at 10:35 am. She didn't wait a day past 37 weeks to be born! This baby was ready. I guess my intuition about taking leave when I did was spot on!
My water broke on Sunday, October 16th at about 11pm. Spencer and I had just retired to bed after a busy- and I mean BUSY day! We had finished so much on our 'to-do-before-baby-is-born' list: we purchased some last minute necessities, packed our 'hospital' bag, bought food for during and after labor, installed the car seat adapter in my car, bought nursing bras, organized our house a little, and even bought Spencer his own car! I hadn't the slightest clue I would be going into labor that night, despite my slight intuition that she'd at least be born somewhat early, so it's amazing that so much was accomplished! Anyhow, after this busy and highly productive day, we lay down, and I get a funny feeling contraction. Non painful, just somehow different. And I thought I felt something down there release- maybe a trickle, maybe nothing, maybe...
I stood up just to be sure nothing was 'going on' down there and WHOOSH! Tons of water pours out. It was one of the most shocking and unexpected sensations I have ever experienced. I started laughing nervously, saying 'uh-oh, either my water broke or I peed all over myself!' Spencer and I were so confused. We just looked at each other, wondering what to do next. 'I'm not ready!' I said. We both started shaking as I laughed and smiled in an uncontrollable, anxious, delirious way. I could not believe what was happening.
We called the midwives and told them my water had broken, and they told us to start timing my contractions, and wait until they start to intensify. For the first hour, my contractions felt the same as ever, painless yet frequent. Then the pressure slowly started building and I had to breathe slow and deep when they washed over me. Once they were indeed painful, we stopped in at the birth center, where they checked my dilation- just 2 centimeters. So then we drove to my mom's house in Issaquah, since her house is closer to the birth center in Kirkland. There we waited and coped as my labor progressed. My contractions started getting stronger and stronger. I tried to remember what I had learned from the natural childbirth books I had been reading; I breathed deep and slow, and then began humming a deep, long, low note while keeping my jaw slack when they got even more intense (this helped me remain mellow, as well as zone out while listening to the calming, vibrating sound...also I had read it would help my cervix progress easier than if I were using a high-pitched sound or screaming), I tried different positions when I felt a rush, and I held on to Spencer for dear life.
Around 5am, we headed to the birth center. The rest seems like such a dream. I continued to hum my low note, labored on the labor ball, then moved to the bed where my contractions intensified even more. I would drift of to sleep for a few seconds at a time, and then a rush would wash over me. I started feeling like I wanted to push, but I had to wait. They couldn't do too many internal checks, since my water had broken, increasing the risk of infections. But at some point they checked me again, and I was 8 centimeters. I was so happy. I had been willing my cervix to open, imagining it opening during each rush. I was then allowed to labor in the water (the warm water can actually reverse the progression of labor if used too soon). It was still incredibly painful, but there was something about being in the water that calmed me. I felt like I was in a trance-like state at this point, just feeling the rushes, humming, and then breathing away the urge to push. But then I just knew I NEEDED to push. 'Listen to your body,' one of the midwives said. And I did...
I started with small, short pushes, and then moved on to full-out pushes. It was a relief to push, yet still painful. I pushed on my side, and then the other, which felt terrible, yet really seemed to get things going. And then I was on my back again. And here's the answer to so many of my friends' questions: yes, there was a little bit of poop. Don't act like you weren't wondering! While I was pushing my baby down, I felt the same pressure...back there. Well, as I read in Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, you can't open your cervix and vagina without opening the butthole too. It just happens. And guess what- I didn't care. Not at all. The midwives took care of it, and assured me it was normal. So there you have it- yes, women may poop during labor, even in water birth. But it wasn't even that much, and it was the least of my worries. I just wanted that baby out! Anyhow, enough of the yucky, back to baby...
Somewhere in the timeless place I was in, I was told my pushes were bringing baby down. And after another timeless phase, they could see the head. I reached down and briefly touched the squishy top of her head. 'She has hair!' a midwife said. I knew I was so close. I pushed. It felt like I was pushing out the biggest turd of my life...out of my vagina. Finally her head was out. 'One more push!' and then her significantly less-painful, slimy body rushed out, and in no time she was on my chest, all pink and blue and tiny. It took her a few seconds to start breathing, and when I heard her first cry, I was so relieved and happy, and started coming out of my trance. I was told I only pushed an hour. My mom swears I only pushed four times in that hour. It felt timeless to me.
Spencer held our baby while I delivered the placenta. Then we got in the bed and snuggled with our new little creature. It felt so unreal. We tried breastfeeding, which was slow-going, but she was sort of figuring it out. We finally allowed in visitors (Spencer's mom and sister, my step-dad Chad) while we waited for my slight fever to come down. Spencer fed me mac n cheese and everyone forced me to drink a ton of gatorade and emergen-c for the electrolytes. About 6 hours after November was born, we were allowed to go home. What a day!
We brought home our baby girl, November Tigerlily Heller. 6lbs, 15oz of amazing adorable-ness. I can't believe we made her! Such a little miracle.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Last Minute Change

This might sound crazy, but I've had a last minute change of mind about my birth plan! I'm just about 36 weeks pregnant and about to embark upon a new phase of my pregnancy. It feels like a phase of confidence in my mothering, intuition, and my ability to chose what is right for me. I am leaving my passive phase of fear and the feeling that I want someone else to choose for me and tell me what is right to a phase of taking charge and putting myself right in the middle of this birthing experience.

I'm leaving my OB and original plans to have a hospital birth at Overlake, and am instead switching to midwifery care and having a birth (anticipating a water birth) at a birth center!

Now let me start off by saying I liked my OB and had no problems with Overlake as a potential place to give birth. I looked forward to every one of my prenatal appointments, appreciated the quick responses to all of my worries and calls, and felt well-taken care of in terms of getting all the testing and screening I needed, getting answers to medical questions, and addressing potential issues. My tour of Overlake's Birth Center was impressive. Compared to traditional creepy hospital settings, Overlake presented a much more comfortable environment in terms of hospital birth. It wasn't exactly warm and cuddly, but the lighting was dim, the rooms streamlined and modern, and the scary-looking equipment was either hidden behind sleek doors or easy to overlook. Of course, there was a slightly cold and 'sterile' feeling to the place, which I'm sure is impossible to avoid in a hospital.

So if things were going so well, why change now?

When our first little 'surprise' came about and I began to accept that we were having a baby, I was scared and passive. I hadn't done a lick of research about pregnancy, labor, or delivery. I had no idea what to expect, what was routine, what was best. I just wanted someone to tell me what I should do, where I should go, what tests I should take, where and how I should give birth. Of course, being the bookworm and organized planner that I am, I quickly started reading and learning about what I was about to embark on. I slowly became more and more comfortable about what was ahead for me, yet I remained passive. I've had the tendency to do this in the past- freeze up in fear and ask someone else to tell me what the right decision is. In fact, I do this when choosing ice cream or when buying a new jacket. Or picking out the best cracker for a certain cheese. Just ask anyone I know...seriously!

If you've read my last post, you'll remember I mentioned having to take charge and choose a day to take maternity leave on my own. This is when I was the most afraid and uncertain, yet it led me to become empowered.

It began with the rib pain, sluggishness and 'run down' feeling that began as I approached my 7th month. I was starting to feel like it was time to take it easy, work less, and really prepare for the upcoming change. I remembered the 7th month was about the same time that two other women from my work had quit working and took leave, so I felt like my feelings were spot on. When I came to my OB and asked her when I should take leave due to my difficulties at work, she had no answer for me. She couldn't gauge my physical pain, she could only see if my pregnancy had complications or was causing harm to the baby. Not having a plan stressed me out. I wanted her to give me an estimate, a suggestion. I ended up talking to one of the women from my work who had her baby last year. She encouraged me to choose for myself. It was a mother's decision; my OB was only there to back me up. Her midwife had been more than supportive of her decision to take leave when the time had come. And I remembered the other woman from my work saying the same thing of her midwife.

So October 7th I chose. I toughed it out to my last month. I was almost in tears from my rib pain many days, but I held out as long as I could, iced my rib, thought positive thoughts, and (almost) made it to my anticipated day. I had told my OB a couple weeks before this that I had chosen a day to take leave, and she made no comment opposing it. Around this time, my OB measured me and found that I had measured a little on the big side. She sent me in for an ultrasound to check baby's growth, and the next day I was told to go to the Overlake birth center for a non-stress test. Of course, upon hearing I needed a NST, I became stressed! No one told us why we needed one, only that the baby had measured large. During the test, the baby's heart rate and movement looked great. But they discovered I was contracting!

It was just a day or two before when I first started noticing the difference between baby's movement and my braxton hick's contractions. I wasn't paying much attention to which I was feeling during the test, so I was a bit surprised to learn I had been contracting regularly, about every 10 minutes. I thought that since they didn't hurt, and I was having no other labor signs, that the contractions were fine. But the nurse told me my OB wanted me given a shot of Terbutaline to stop them. I was so overwhelmed, I didn't ask why or what would happen if I said no, or what we could try instead. I took the shot, felt like I was incredibly high on caffeine after a night of binge drinking, was told my contractions had stopped, and then sent home. I was so confused. No precautions? No rest? Nothing? I was good to go home and back to my everyday life without any change? If I needed a shot to stop contractions, shouldn't I be taking precautions so I don't get them again? And if not, then obviously it wasn't a big enough deal to warrant the shot in the first place! And I was still contracting later that day, and the next!

I was so stressed and confused I had my OB call me on her day off to clarify what was going on. It turns out the NST was ordered because the ultrasound didn't provide solid results and she wanted to make sure the baby was fine. The contractions were just a coincidence, not the reason they sent me in. The shot was given more for peace of mind than for real necessity. She had no reason to believe I was in danger of preterm labor, and didn't exactly need to STOP me from having contractions, just needed to make sure they weren't real labor contractions. I was deemed fine. I felt a lot less stressed and worried after that, but I realized my OB and I didn't really see eye-to-eye about a few things. I didn't agree that I didn't need to be careful after this. I had a feeling that my body needed rest. Also, I didn't know what my stand on drugs during labor was until after that shot. I hated it. I hated the side effects. I hated feeling loopy and shaky. I was sort of depressed afterward. I felt slightly betrayed, for some reason. I realized then that I wanted a natural birth for sure.

So this long detour brings me back to the week before October 7th. I called my OB requesting the doctor's note I would need to officially go on leave, and met another conflict of opinion. She didn't see any reason why I should take leave. She said there would need to be complications with my pregnancy in order to recommend such a thing. This is not the way I operate! I would much rather take preventative steps according to what I feel is right for my body, then to wait until some harm to the baby became apparent! I did, however, realize I probably needed to be more clear about how my rib pain (among other daily complications) was negatively effecting my job, and explain WHY I felt like I needed to take leave. So my OB offered to check me at my next appointment and see if there was something she could find to write a note about. This made me feel criminal! I wasn't trying to fight the system. I wasn't trying to con her into doing something inappropriate. I felt so bad about myself. Was I just being weak?

While I still felt like my OB could help me effectively after some better communication from me, and Overlake could still be a wonderful place for a natural birth, I started researching midwives and birth centers. I was drawn to Puget Sound Midwives and Birth Center. The website provided a lot of info about their philosophy with beautiful pictures of their birthing suites. And they allowed water birth! I had been really interested in a water birth until I found out Overlake didn't allow it. They allow and promote many natural pain coping techniques, including laboring in the Jacuzzi tub, just not birthing in it. After a consultation at the Birth Center a couple days later, I was sold. I immediately felt at peace. I told the midwife my story and I felt like she really listened, understood, and cared. She couldn't believe I was having so much trouble getting a note from my OB to take leave! I have my first offical appointment tomorrow, where she will more than happily write me a note supporting me taking leave.

I'm really excited about this. I'm actually EXCITED to go into labor and give birth! It helps that I'm reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, full of inspiring stories about the hardships and rewards of natural childbirth. Of course, I am still fully aware and accepting that something could occur, and I could have need of a hospital birth, and maybe even medical interventions. There's always a chance. But I feel like I'm in good hands. I feel like I'm a participant in this birth, not just a passive vessel. I feel empowered to make decisions, and I feel supported in following my intuition and my body's signals.

I also feel huge and like I can't possibly get bigger or carry this weight on my squished bladder much longer. But at least I'm at home resting where I know I belong!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thrid Trimester!

So far I feel like this trimester has flown by! And I feel like I grow bigger and bigger every day, so fast I don't think I can even keep up with picture evidence! The above picture was taken over a month ago. I'm currently 35 weeks pregnant! The picture below was taken a week or two ago, but I feel like I've already grown since then!
So what are my new developments this trimester?

As the second trimester turned into the third, I slowly started noticing more fatigue, low energy, and more frequent days feeling 'run down.' I finally was able to quit my cleaning job and go back to Trader Joe's full time. However, I don't think I've been able to complete a single full week because there's always been something popping up- feeling unwell here and there and needing to come in late or go home early or stay home all day, coming in late for upset stomach, dizziness, or even because of restlessness the night before, leaving early for appointments, or (most frequently, irritatingly, and painfully) leaving early due to intense back pain.

I started feeling lower and middle back pain pretty early on in my pregnancy and corrected it by adding extra pillows here and there at night. But a couple months ago, I started getting this pain in the middle of my back to the right of my spine. The best way to correct it was to lie down with my growing belly propped up with a small pillow, or with a small portion of my Boppy pregnancy body pillow. But this pain didn't only occur at night. It started happening more and more frequently and growing more intense. I started noticing the many things that triggered the pain- lifting, bending, carrying anything (especially in my right hand), walking my dog, standing or sitting too long, writing (and doing any artwork at work, especially since I usually bend forward when creating signs) and driving. I finally went to a physical therapist who discovered it was actually my rib! This boosted my confidence in my intuition, because I had initially thought it could be my rib!

It turns out the rib just under my breast was loose, and putting pressure on the back of the rib. He explained how the hormones meant to relax a pregnant mother's joints and ligaments in order to loosen up for birth were causing my rib to easily pop out of alignment, especially as I grow bigger. He was able to put the rib back in place, and sent me home with some cautionary measures- I have to ice my rib once a day when the pain acts up, I have to wear a stretchy belt around my ribs, just under my breasts (especially at work) to help keep them properly in place, I have to be careful about lifting or carrying anything, especially when using my right arm, I have to walk my dog with my left arm, I have to squat instead of bend to pick things up, and I have to get up and walk around or lie on my side if I start hurting after sitting too long. Despite these precautions, I still have had the rib come loose, and have had to re-visit him a couple of times. He also says the farther along I go, the harder it will be to keep that rib in place!

This has been a real struggle while at work! Everything I do is with my right arm! I quickly discontinued work at the register (no standing too long or lifting those heavy milk gallons!), started asking for help when I drop something, need to reach something, lift something, or assist a customer in a way that requires lifting or moving heavy boxes. I took up my fellow sign artist Sharon's offer to push my cart and load my groceries into my car after work when I need to buy some things, which was a real life saver! But even so, I still can't avoid irritating my rib completely, especially since I use my right arm to make signs at my desk, which is all I have left to my abilities, and even that hurts after too long!

I started to realize I needed to set a date for my last day, sooner rather than later. I was happy that I had managed to stay as long as I had, and since my OB wasn't giving me any recommendations on when to take leave, I decided upon October 7th...well, that's today! It's just about a month before my due date, and the next two days I'll be at a childbirth education class, so it seemed like the perfect time to take leave. Unfortunately, I wasn't even able to make it to my last day of work! This morning, while I was walking my dog, I suddenly got this sharp pain in the left middle of my back, which grew more intense upon inhalation. It was hard to make it back home, and continued to be painful during inhalation, even after lying on my side for awhile. I remember a similar occurrence just before my right side back pain started acting up, so I wonder if that was the feeling of the rib on the other side coming loose, and my lungs pushing it out and causing the pain! After going back to bed for a couple hours, and then taking it easy throughout today, my back pain has subsided. The pain with breathing has subsided as well, although it lasted quite a bit longer than it did when this occurred on my right side. Strange!

So enough about my rib and pains, what else is new?

Well, I have retried my 'fort' oddly enough (if you remember from this post) and am now sleeping on a folded up comforter on top of the mattress with just my boppy body pillow that I take with me as I roll from one side to the other throughout the night (my hips still hurt regularly each night) and my memory foam pillow under my head, propped up by a small pillow. The 'fort' was the only thing making me comfortable during my second trimester, but as I've gotten bigger over the past couple months, it's become more difficult to get in and out of bed when surrounded by a mountain of pillows. This new set up is also easier on my rib when I get in and out of bed, and when I roll over.

I got my first stretch marks this trimester! Can you see them in the picture below?
More and more appear every day, I swear! And my tattoo on the other side of my stomach looks really funny now, too! It'll be interesting to see how it will look after I give birth and start to deflate. Luckily I'm not too fond of my stomach tattoo, so if it gets damaged, I'll just think of an awesome new tattoo to cover it with!

And speaking of growing and stretching, I find that I fit into less and less of my clothing every day. Oddly enough, I still fit into a few larger non-pregnancy shirts, stretch pants, and pajamas, but have had to retire two of my three maternity jeans! In the warmer weather, it was easy to wear flowy dresses. But now that it's fall and getting quite chilly, my clothing of choice is stretchy jammies while I'm at home, or stretchy pull-on (non-maternity) jeggings, t-shirt, and sweater on the rare occasion that I go out somewhere. I have to admit, as an over-heated pregnant lady, I'm really happy to see fall! I usually despise cold weather, but I'm running much warmer than ever before, and the idea of bundling up all snug sounds wonderful!

I've become a lot more emotional this trimester. I don't think I did much crying during the first two. I had dips in my mood, and felt bummed out or just low on emotional energy, but this trimester I've had full-on crying spells! I was so stressed out and in pain one day when I first started getting that rib pain. It was the day after my OB told me physical pain was no means for her to recommend me a day in the future to take leave, and I came in to work and was inconsolable after only an hour! I called it an emotional breakdown, and went home for the day to relax, breathe, meditate, journal, and work out my fears, anxieties, and angers. That was when I made my decision to select a day to take leave myself. I felt a lot better about work after this, and much more in control of my situation. However, since then I've been easily upset and cry when I'm under a lot of stress or start feeling anxious. But I guess that's normal! I'm a pregnant, hormonal lady, I guess I shouldn't expect much else!

Baby is still just as squirmy as ever! She's no longer doing flips and somersaults, but she still squirms, kicks, and even hiccups! The bigger she gets, the crazier her movements feel! She gets hiccups about 4 times a day, and must not like them because that is when she squirms around the most! I can always feel the weight of her little body just under my skin, and can even feel her tiny foot kick out (and yes, into my ribs on occasion!). Good news: according to our last ultrasound about a week ago, she is head-down and in position for birth!

And I've recently started feeling Braxton Hicks contractions. They were hard for me to notice at first, because I just thought it was the baby moving. But as they've grown stronger (and after a recent non-stress test confirmed that I am indeed having contractions) I've been able to tell the difference. They feel like a sudden weight and pressure growing stronger and stronger in my lower uterus, and then the rest of my belly gets really hard. They don't happen too regularly, except for when I'm in the car. For some reason being in the car makes me contract about every 10 minutes! My OB assured me that's ok, since my non-stress test had very healthy results, and the contractions don't hurt and do eventually stop.

I do feel much better about them now that I'm actually on leave! Now if I am worried about contracting too much, or if they seem to be getting too strong, I can lie on my side whenever I need to. And if that horrible rib pain acts up, I can lie down for that as well! I have a lot I want to get done during my month of leave before baby arrives- lots of books to read, lots of 'nesting' to do (I've already been participating in quite a bit of nesting already!), and lots of preparing and relaxing. It's hard to believe that in just 2 more weeks, baby will be full term! And in just over 4 weeks, we will be at her due date!

Exciting!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baby Shower!!!

This post is LONG overdue, but I have to admit, it is a little difficult to get myself to blog frequently. When I do feel like I have free time (I'm still working at Trader Joe's! No longer at the cleaning job though, thank goodness) I'm most likely kicking my feet up and relaxing, lying on my side and relaxing, or reading a book and relaxing. Yes, a lot of relaxing, and I NEED it! I'm well into my 3rd trimester right now with only 6 weeks left until baby's due date! Also, I have a loose rib which causes really uncomfortable back pain if I do ANYTHING for too long, including sitting/typing at the computer. So I'll try to make this quick yet thorough!

On August 21st, we had our big baby shower! It turned out wonderfully! Much thanks goes out to my mom, who is an event coordinator/dj, and once her creative juices got flowing, she couldn't be stopped! She found this amazing venue in Olalla, WA called Storybook Cottages. It looked like a life sized smurf village on a beautiful property full of tons of cute, whimsical, storybook touches such as a wishing well and 'shrek island'- a life size, walk in tree house on a mini island! Since I'm a huge fantasy nerd, the venue suited my tastes perfectly. It was a little far (near gig harbor), but many of our friends and family members easily made the drive!
We made it a 'costume optional' theme, since Halloween (my favorite Holiday AND birthday) falls too close to my due date for me to make any fun plans. A few people dressed up! I was the goddess of fertility (my fabulous hair done by my friend Mackenzie)! And boy, did I look fertile...
My mom, dressed as a cute little fairy, dj-ed and hosted the event, playing disney music, followed by some Beatles, and later dance music. The venue provided food including a chocolate fountain (YUM!) and a gourmet buffet! They also provided adorable hand-made centerpieces: real logs decorated with little trees and woodland creatures! Mark Williams from Images with Imagination took photos...check out my mom's blog for a slideshow of all the awesome pictures at the Amore Events website. We played a few fun games. Not the traditional baby shower games, but a photo scavenger hunt, etc. Robert Stevens put on a hilarious magic show! All the while, Robin Hood (my mom's husband, Chad) served wine, beer, and a few tasty non-alcoholic drinks. It was classy yet fun, even for the boys who made it out! My mom provided my all-time favorite dessert, petit fours, while my friend Robin made Owl Pops!
Then we opened gifts, which was so much fun. We got so many adorable gifts! I wish I had the time and patience to take pictures of everything we got, but I just don't! Check out our list of thank you's on our baby website if you would like to read what we were generously gifted with!
What a day! It was long and tiring toward the end, but oh so memorable. I was also spoiled with a work-girls-only baby shower, for a little more of a traditional, girly feel. It was so much fun as well! Hosted by my friends and co-workers Sharon and Abi at Abi's apartment, we ate yummy hand-made treats (courtesy of Sharon!) and played fun games, like guessing the flavors of baby food, and digging through melted chocolate bars on diapers (a nasty sight!) in order to identify which kind of bar it is! And we received yet again, more adorable presents. This baby is so spoiled, let me tell you! I can't wait for her to be born and meet all of these people who already love her!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Paper Projects!


It all started with the desire to create a pregnancy/baby memory book. We looked at a lot of pre-made books on the market, but none were perfect. Some didn't provide enough space or allow enough creativity in answering some of the typical questions. Others had pages that we would have to leave blank (for example, one book had a page to post a picture of every week's baby bump...well, we didn't take pictures that frequently!) Others were either not our style, or were just plain ugly. So, while I knew it would cost a little more to start up, we ended up deciding on creating a scrapbook.


I'd never tried scrapbooking, so I was a little overwhelmed, not only by the idea of embarking upon such an unknown craft, but also by the multitude of supplies I imagined I would have to accumulate. But I figured I'd give it a try, and stick within a budget. I first found the perfect scrapbook. It was a little pricier (about $30) than I had originally wanted, but the cover was impossible to pass up, especially since it had owls on it (one of our decor themes for our anticipated nursery, in addition cherry blossoms and the colors pink and lime green!)I then looked for a large pack of background paper ($20), and settled on one that I liked; muted pinks, greens, blues, and yellows in fun yet classy patterns and prints, including some 'nursery' type characters, like rabbits and Alice in wonderland. It also included some pearly solids and 'fuzzy' textured sheets. I bought some enhancements, like extra solid pastel sheets, ribbon for borders, stick on letters, and rhinestones. Aside from that, I used calligraphy pens and a high quality fine point pen and did much of the lettering by hand. So far, I've only finished two pages, since we still need to print out some pictures on photo paper before I can continue with our other ones. But here's what I've started....

First Trimester:


Our Name Choices:

It was so much fun and turned out even better than I had thought!

This past week I've been working on my second paper project: baby shower invitations! I hand printed a template for the invitation text, and got help from my friend, Sharon, and her superb photoshop skills in perfecting the format before printing them out on colored pastel paper. I then cut them out with textured scissors and assembled them to patterned paper with a ribbon--all using my leftover scrapbooking supplies! So while my scrapbooking setup may have cost me about $60, if not more, I ended up finding all of my supplies very useful! I had a lot of fun with these too, even though they were a little time consuming to assemble. I especially like the fact that each invitation is unique. Too bad the receiver can't see how unique their invitation is! Oh well, I can at least share them here...




I've been trying to find more and more creative ways to make paper projects, especially in the form of cards and invitations. Here is a gift card holder I made for a friend's baby shower:


I've been really wanting to start a little side-business making handmade/hand assembled event invitations and hand addressing invitation envelopes. I just love working with paper and hand-print. Making my own baby shower invites has been good practice! And I'll be addressing a friend's wedding invite envelopes in the next few days for even more practice!

In other news, we bought our baby her very first girly outfit. How could we not? This thing is adorable! You probably can't tell by the photo, but the hoodie is super soft and furry, with ears and a pink bow. And the onsie set has a sparrow pattern! So painfully cute!

And to wrap up this post, I've created a baby website, to help organize things, especially our RSVP's to our shower. Here our guests can go to one place, read all the info they need about the baby shower, and RSVP! It is TessAndSpencersBaby.ourbabychannel.com

I'm really getting more and more excited about our baby every day! While I do appreciate the quiet and the calm and enjoy the feeling of my baby cuddling and squirming safely in my womb, I am really looking forward to welcoming this baby into the world and experiencing this thing called motherhood for all its good, bad, and poopy. Goodnight!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Second Trimester


My Belly has been growing and growing! The above picture was from around week 20. Here is what I look like now, around week 24...


I can't believe that I ever thought I was big before! And I still have so much growing to do!


So how has my 2nd trimester been? Well, I can't say that I've felt 'amazing,' 'full of energy' or like I could 'take on the world' or even 'super horny' that I was told by others I would experience during this time. I DO, however, feel much better than when I was in my first trimester; the nausea is gone, I usually have more energy, I don't need naps as severely. This trimester seems to be speeding by, and is full of change, excitement, and, yes, pain.

Let's start with the negative:

Gaining (more) weight! I feel HUGE and I know I'm not even close to being so yet! But I can definitely feel the pressure of the extra weight I'm carrying around, especially when I stand, bend over, or work on my feet for long periods of time, like during my housecleaning job. I wear mostly maternity clothes, except for a few large, flowy shirts and sundresses. And thank god my bosses ordered me maternity shirts at Trader Joe's! I felt like I was going to pop out of my shirt before the stretchy, cozy, low-cut shirts arrived!

Need more (and better) sleep! While I may tend to have more energy, I still get tired easily and can't handle as much physical or standing work as before. I often feel drained after work, especially at my cleaning job (which is in the process of finding my replacement, pronto!) and sometimes need a nap. However, I noticed on days when I took a nap, I would be restless when it finally came time for me to go to bed for the night! I would toss and turn until finally falling asleep hours later. Before I was pregnant, I could get away with taking a nap and sleeping less at night because the combined hours made up for a full night of sleep. But now it seems I need a full night of sleep, regardless of an earlier nap, or else I feel like crap the next day. And I never can seem to go to bed early enough. I feel best-rested after at least 8 hours of sleep, but my average is between 6 and 7. I have been trying to make improvements, though, to help me sleep better. First of all, I've cut out naps unless I absolutely need them. Secondly, I turn on a small fan next to my bed. The white noise helps me fall asleep faster! Lastly, I sleep on what Spencer and I call a fort...

Sleeping on a fort! I slowly started feeling more and more aches and pains during sleep as my 2nd trimester went on. It started out with neck and lower back pain. I put a pillow between my knees. No help. Used a thicker pillow for my neck. No help. I finally fished out an old memory foam pillow that usually HURT my neck, pre-pregnancy. But it turned out to be just what I needed. The curved neck support and comforting memory foam must have been what I needed to help align my neck, spine, and lower back. But after about a week, the pain started up again. My neck finally seemed fine, but my spine and lower back seemed in need of support. So little by little, I began building a fort, adding more and more pillows when my body would 'get used' to my present set up. I had my special neck pillow, a pillow between my knees, and a pillow to hug, so I wouldn't roll forward on my belly and my spine would stay aligned. Then I added a body pillow behind my back, so I wouldn't roll backward. Then I propped up my neck pillow with another pillow. Then I added cushioning beneath my side/lower back.

But then the worst pain yet started: pain and slight numbness in my hips/butt. From what I've read, it's either sciatica or my loosening joints and ligaments causing my hip/butt joints to pop out of alignment when I sleep. So I began adding even more. I now sleep entirely ON TOP OF pillows (I don't touch the mattress at all) as well as being surrounded by them, my neck supported by 3 pillows total, and by body hugging a special 'pregnancy pillow.' I still toss and turn a bit and get that horrible hip pain every now and then, but at least it's manageable!

Itchy! My stretching skin can get so itchy! Especially my boobs and belly. While I don't lube up every day like I should, I do rub my entire body down with pure coconut butter every other day or so, and it seems to help a little.

Sweaty! I have never been a heavy sweater, not one bit. And when I do sweat, I still smell great...that is, until I got pregnant! I've read a few things here and there that this can happen, so I guess I'm normal. I've been trying to switch to all natural deodorant, but they honestly just don't work under normal circumstances. And under pregnant circumstances, not even chemical deodorant works! And it's not even that I'm sweating a lot...it's that I'm sweating up a stink! Sometimes I swear I smell like a taco bell! But for the past week or so I've tried the natural deodorant from my work, based on a co-workers high opinion. And despite my skepticism, it seems to be the best yet! And while it doesn't exactly STOP me from sweating, it sure has been keeping that taco bell funk at bay! Phew!

And what's so good about the second trimester?

My Belly! While gaining weight sucks, I love this big, round belly I've got growing. It's such an amazing little miracle to witness happening inside my very own body! I am so surprised every time I look at my reflection. I feel like my belly gets bigger every day!

Feeling the baby move! This is my favorite by far! It felt like I was never going to start feeling baby move! Around my 17th week, I started wondering if what I was feeling was baby moving, or just gas. Being skeptical, I discounted everything as being 'just gas' until just after my 18th week; movement could not be passed of as my imagination much longer! The first BIG baby movements happened just before my 20th week; Spencer and I were sitting on the couch, and Spencer was playing guitar. Baby started bumping like crazy! I could even slightly feel it from the outside of my belly! The movements grew stronger and stronger, and now Spencer can feel them too, if he is patient (baby likes to hide once you put a hand over her!) Sometimes baby moves so much, you can see my clothing bounce!

Starting the nursery! We've started moving our office, art, and music stuff out of our second bedroom and putting our things elsewhere (while still trying to maintain a clutter-free and stylish look to the rest of our apartment) and preparing for our future nursery. We haven't gotten anything in the way of large baby furniture, but we have gotten quite a lot of early gifts from baby's Great Grandma Donna, and we've also received a few wonderful hand-me-downs from Spencer's boss, so it's nice to have the room to put it all in. We already have a nursery theme in mind: pink, lime green, cherry blossom, and owls! Grandma Donna sent us beautiful crib bedding and nursery accessories in a cute pink and lime green cherry blossom pattern! I'm so excited to start decorating!

Getting Excited Despite any discomfort, I get more and more excited every day. We are going to love the crap out of this baby, and I can't wait to bring her into this world!

It's a...GIRL?!?!


So while our 15 week ultrasound showed what seemed to be the early forming of possible boy genitalia, our 20 week ultrasound found no boy parts! At first, baby's legs were crossed tight, but she's quite the squirmer (I feel baby rolling around in here quite often now!)so it was only a matter of time before we got a good look. The radiologist was quite flustered after we told her what the first lady had said, since she could find no evidence to support that early guess. She looked and looked from many different angles and views (I mean it, she's a squirmer!)and there were no boy parts. There was, however, the tell-tale '3 lines' signifying girl parts and she pointed them out to us quite a few times.

So it's safe to say we are probably having a girl. I say 'probably' because I have read and heard so many stories about couples thinking they were having a girl based on ultrasound evidence, only to give birth to a sweet baby boy (or, rarely but still an occurrence, vice versa.) I have a lot more fun assuming the gender of our baby; it makes shopping funner, picking out colors, nursery themes, and registry items funner. So for now I will call baby a 'she.' However, I won't get my heart set on this, and I'll accept the fact that we very well could end up with a little surprise and quite a bit of merchandise to exchange. But that could be fun too, right?

Here's a look at baby's other ultrasound pics. How about this skeletal face!...


Or these adorable feet! We got to see every lil one of baby's finger's and toes!...



I just love this baby already!