Monday, March 02, 2015

A Day in the Life of Silas' Socks...

“Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.”
-Berenice Abbott 

I've wanted to learn to effectively use the manual settings on our dSLR camera since we first purchased it (only 5.5 years ago!). But, no matter how many tutorials I read, I couldn't keep it all straight in my head: shutter speeds, apertures, and f-stops, oh my!

Knowing how much I want to capture some great photos of Silas' early days, Rob gifted me with an online photography class for Valentine's Day. The timing of the next Photo 101 class at Nicole's Classes [website | blog | facebook] coincided perfectly with my maternity leave, giving me plenty of daylight hours at home to practice over the next couple of weeks.

I started last week, and I already consider it a success as I was forced to pull out my camera manual and learn what each of the dials and buttons control. I still have to think really hard about the theory in order to predict what the adjustments will do, but with time and lots of practice, I know it will come.

For the final exercise of last week's assignment, I chose to document "A Day in the Life of Silas' Socks." While I realize not every photo is spot-on in terms of exposure, I'm super proud that I captured the whole series with manual settings!!! Couldn't have done that a week ago!

12:26 pm

1:10 pm

3:25 pm

3:35 pm

4:04 pm

4:46 pm

4:46 pm

Mama Says: Hospital Packing List

Many times throughout the last ten months, I wondered how mothers managed to get through pregnancy before the internet. Every new sensation or curiosity sent me scurrying to ask the advice of the all-knowing Google.

Usually I was met with search results galore, from WebMD to the BabyCenter forums, from individual blog posts to checklists pinned to Pinterest. However, in some instances my searches didn't locate the exact resource that I needed... especially from the perspective that I was looking for.

Over the next couple of weeks in a series that I'm calling "Mama Says...," I hope to write a few of the posts that I wish I had been able to find during my own pregnancy journey... in hopes that someone like me runs across them in their own web searches and finds them to be exactly what they need.

See other "Mama Says" posts here.


Giving birth was my first time to stay in the hospital (besides a quick stay when I was a baby), and I was almost as nervous about that experience as I was about the birth itself.

For some reason, I was really intimidated by packing a bag for the hospital... how could I possibly know what I would want/need?? I searched online for packing lists written by experienced and wiser mothers, but I struggled to find a perspective that felt similar my own. Luckily my sister who gave birth six months earlier also shared her list with me, which gave me a good starting place.

So while another hospital packing list may be the last thing the internet needs, I'm going to add my voice to the mix, so you can see what I packed, as well as what we used, didn't use, and what we wished we had brought (some surprised me!).

Unfortunately I don't have a fancy, styled photo of all the things we packed, or even a photo of our bags waiting by the door. I considered it a success just to have them ready to go before we needed them. [As a consolation prize though, enjoy a few photos from our hospital stay.] 


In the list below, a strike-through means we didn't use it. Things we wished we'd brought are typed in green. Tips and personal notes are noted with asterisks (*). 

In car
  • Infant carseat installed*
  • Garbage sack and old towels**

*Should have installed it in the middle seat for safety reasons, but also so that I could lean the passenger seat back all the way on the way to the hospital!

**My water had not yet broken when we left home, so we didn't even think to put these down in the car. And, luckily it held off until we made it into Labor & Delivery. However, we probably should have laid these on the car seat just in case!

Labor outfit (Ready to change into before leaving for the hospital)
  • Gray knit maternity skirt*
  • Cute, warm socks*
  • Granny panties
  • Hot pink maternity tank top**
  • Black zip-up maternity athletic jacket**
  • Gray polka dot nursing sports bra***
  • Gray Bondi headband***
  • Slip-on tennis shoes

*This surprised me the most... once in labor at the house, I didn't want anything tight around my belly, including the stretchy band of a knit maternity skirt. My ankles were also pretty swollen, so there was no way my cute socks were going to fit comfortably. Instead I ended up looking "super cute" in a pair of Rob's drawstring pajama pants and a pair of his thick ankle socks.

**During hard labor at the house, I alternated regularly between hot and cold. I wrapped up in a blanket when I was shivering and threw it off when I was sweating. I wore the jacket as planned while we drove to the hospital.

***Once I arrived in the L&D triage area, I changed into a hospital gown, but kept on my bra, headband, and socks. I gave birth just over an hour later, so there was no need for a super versatile labor outfit.

For labor (We carried this bag in as we arrived. Although because I didn't labor long at the hospital, some of the things were not used until after delivery.)

  • Purse (driver's license, insurance card, and most importantly, directions from our hospital tour reminding us on what floor to check in!)
  • Plastic envelope (copies of birth plan, blank cards for extra baby footprints, place to store hospital paperwork)
  • Birth Boot Camp workbook
  • Bamboo socks
  • iPhone playlist*
  • iPhone charger (didn't use until after delivery)
  • Tennis balls for massage*
  • Rice and lavender hot pack*
  • Bathing suit for dad*
  • dSLR camera/charger
  • Chapstick
  • Headband/hairties/barrettes (I was already wearing a headband, so I didn't use these until after delivery)
  • Snack bag**
  • Cookies for nurses/staff***

*I had a "push playlist" created and ready to go. But, in the moment I didn't even think to turn it on. Same with the other comfort measures I had ready, like the massager and hot pack. And, although I definitely used the shower while laboring at home, I didn't need Rob in the water with me, so we never needed his swimsuit.

**I packed a snack bag full of junky treats that I had denied myself during pregnancy, including Pringles, candied pecans, goldfish crackers, and Coca-Cola. These were, of course, saved for afterwards. However, Rob dug into the stash (beef jerky, LifeSaver mints, and bottles of SmartWater) right after delivery as we were waiting for our room assignment.

***Funny story... per my sister's recommendation, a few weeks before my due date, I mixed up and froze some cookie dough (using this recipe for blue and white swirled sugar cookies), so that I could bake cookies to pass the time during early labor. However, once in real labor, Rob asked me if it was time to bake the cookies; I looked at him like he was crazy, responding, "Hell no. I couldn't care less about the cookies!" We did, however, bake the cookies after we came home from the hospital and delivered them to the hospital a few days later.

Suitcase (Carried up after we were settled on the mother/baby ward. Included both mom and dad's stuff.)
  • Dad's toiletries
  • Dad's change of clothes
  • Dad's change of shoes... he had forgotten a pair of sneakers
  • Toiletries (toothbrush/toothpaste, shower supplies, deodorant, lotion)
  • Hairbrushes
  • Makeup
  • Shower shoes
  • Hair towel
  • Nursing bras
  • Nipple cream
  • Nursing pads
  • Granny panties*
  • Always incontinence pads* 
  • Witch hazel pads/hemorrhoid treatment
  • Robe
  • Several pairs of socks
  • Maternity tank top**
  • T-shirt 
  • Yoga pants***
  • Long-sleeve henley shirt***
  • Going home outfit: maxi skirt, long-sleeve shirt, leggings, and infinity scarf***

*I wore the glorified mesh panties for the first day/night, but they were really too big for me and seemed to shift a lot, so by Morning #2, I was ready for my own underwear. The hospital also provided a large stash of giant pads, which I used exclusively in the hospital and even brought home. But once those ran out, I used the incontinence pads from Always that seemed to be more absorbent than regular pads.

**This maternity tank top was the single-most important item that I brought with me to the hospital!! In the middle of the second night, I stuffed Silas inside this stretchy shirt for some skin-to-skin time (his head sticking out of the collar). Not only was it the most memorable bonding moment we had in the hospital, but because he was contained in the shirt, I didn't worry about dozing while holding him.

***Again, to hell with the cute clothes that I thought would be comfortable. I spent the first day and night in the hospital gown, mesh panties, and nursing bra. In the morning of the second day, I was ready to feel somewhat like a normal person again, so I opted for cropped yoga pants and the long-sleeve shirt. When we were discharged later that afternoon, I was anxious to get home and decided not to waste time changing into my planned "going home outfit."

****I opted not to bring the Boppy nursing pillow (or maybe we just left it in the car?) as well as a pillow for myself. Less things to carry. Didn't really miss them.

    Diaper bag (supplies for baby)
    • Notebook for recording birth and breastfeeding notes*
    • Pen
    • Going home outfits: gown, hat, leggings, bunting, socks
    • Receiving blanket**
    • Baby no-scratch mittens
    • Baby nail clippers***
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Baggu reusable shopping bags for dirty clothes

    *In the middle of the night at Silas' first feeding I opted to download an iPhone app (Baby Tracker) to document feedings/diapers, rather than the pen/paper version.

    **Should have brought several blankets with us. Because of a rash on Silas' face, the pediatrician recommended that we use our own blankets to wrap him in. A close call with spit-up meant it would have been nice to have another blanket on hand.

    ***Silas arrived with claws. We tried to used the no-scratch mittens, but they were really too big for his newborn hands. Clipping his nails was the first thing on our agenda once we arrived home.

    ****The hospital provided diapers, wipes, and first bath supplies... enough to take home with us. I was glad that I didn't waste space in the diaper bag with these.

    Disclaimer: This is what worked for us (and a few things that didn't). It is not guaranteed to be the end-all, be-all packing list. Although I hope that it inspires you as you write your own list.

    Sunday, March 01, 2015

    Nursing in the Night...

    "...a little child, born yesterday,
    A thing on mother's milk and kisses fed..."
    -"Hymn to Mercury," translated from ancient Greek by Percy Bysshe Shelley

    The light from my phone shines through your ugly duckling hair, recording the minutes and tracking the data.
    Your daddy dozes nearby, waiting to carry you back to your crib.
    Your little body wraps around mine, staying warm and close.
    My forearm cradles your head, holding you to my breast.
    My right hand grasps your little fingers, keeping them out of the way.
    My left hand rests on your back, gently rocking you back and forth to remind you what you're doing.
    My thumb rubs your shoulder, and my fingers tickle your chin, waking you from your doze.
    Your lips suckle to my breast, nourishing your little body.
    My other breast aches and leaks, waiting its turn.
    A cloth rests on my shoulder, waiting for your burps.
    Even in the dark, our eyes lock onto each other's, until yours drift closed once again.
    Our hearts connect in this moment, wishing you would stay little like this forever, yet wondering who you will grow up to be.

    Friday, February 13, 2015

    Mama Says... Birth Boot Camp (online natural childbirth education) Review

    “When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.”
    -Marie Mongan

    Many times throughout the last ten months, I wondered how mothers managed to get through pregnancy before the internet. Every new sensation or curiosity sent me scurrying to ask the advice of the all-knowing Google.

    Usually I was met with search results galore, from WebMD to the BabyCenter forums, from individual blog posts to checklists pinned to Pinterest. However, in some instances my searches didn't locate the exact resource that I needed... especially from the perspective that I was looking for.

    Over the next couple of weeks in a series that I'm calling "Mama Says...," I hope to write a few of the posts that I wish I had been able to find during my own pregnancy journey... in hopes that someone like me runs across them in their own web searches and finds them to be exactly what they need.

    See other "Mama Says" posts here


    Since I was a little girl I have always wanted to be a mother. I have soaked up mommy blogs and birth stories for years, hoping to have quite an arsenal of ideas and advice by the time we were ready to grow our own family. Reading about other mothers' natural births, I wondered if I, too, could be strong enough, brave enough, bold enough to give birth without medications.

    The thought of an epidural has always scared me, and friends' stories about failed epidurals or awful after-effects of epidurals scared me even more. I wanted to feel empowered by my birth experience, but more importantly I also wanted to recover and bounce back as quickly as possible. I hated to miss any of my baby's earliest moments.

    I was nervous about my pain tolerance (I've luckily never been really sick or hurt to test my threshold), but my sister's unmedicated birth experience last summer (informed by Bradley Method classes) really inspired (and to be honest, even challenged) me to really consider a similar goal. When we started researching natural birth classes in our area, we found a few local classes. But, even with the options available, my husband's unpredictable work schedule and commute was going to make it very difficult to commit to a weekday evening class.

    When I found Birth Boot Camp, a 10-class online childbirth education program focused on natural birth, I knew that it would be a perfect option for us. Although you can read about the details on their website, here's a quick synopsis of what's provided:
    • 3 months of unlimited access to online videos, exercises & resources
    • 10 lessons providing complete preparation for labor, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding and the newborn period (list of topics found here) based on up-to-date medical information
    • Includes a full-color workbook, links to additional online resources, relaxation audio files, and breastfeeding dvd to supplement the online videos
    The price of $300 seemed steep at first (preparing for a baby is expensive!), but very much comparable to other comprehensive childbirth classes. And, now looking back from the other side, my husband and I are both very glad that we didn't let the price deter us.

    We started the class around the 25th week of my pregnancy, and we planned to watch the videos as our weekly date nights. Although my husband was really supportive of my choice to pursue a natural birth, at first he didn't really understand why I would put my body through that. But even after the first week of class, he was fully on board, comparing it to his own training for endurance athletic events.

    Date night with Birth Boot Camp classes

    Each Friday night we welcomed Donna and Sarah into our home. We loved their unscripted dialogue; it felt like we were really sitting in a class with them. But we also appreciated that we were not surrounded by a group of other people; we could add our own commentary, discuss our own opinions, and even joke around to relieve the tension around topics that we weren't comfortable talking about at first (in fact Rob even covered his eyes through the first few birth videos).

    Photo via Birth Boot Camp website

    We followed along in the workbook as we watched the video lessons, taking notes, answering the question prompts, and bookmarking pages to return to. The workbook itself can almost stand alone... while it complements the videos, it often provides a much more detailed explanation. The website also provides links to additional online resources to explore further. To get the complete picture about the topics, you would want to review all of these resources.

    Before signing up for the program, I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly what we were investing in. I tried to read online reviews, but found few that answered my most important questions/concerns directly. Now that we've been through the program, I'd love to address these for anyone else that might be curious:
    1. As first time parents (and following a miscarriage), we felt more comfortable seeing an OB as our primary caregiver and giving birth in the hospital. Would BBC look down upon hospital births? The website does mentions that it will help you "plan to birth at home, birth center, or hospital," but would it really? We were relieved to find that the classes did indeed provide support for births in any environment. Although they shared many examples of home births and birth center births (often assisted by midwives and doulas), they never put down hospital births and even gave us questions to ask our doctors and advice to help avoid routine hospital interventions. We were very pleased with our hospital experience for this birth... but, if there is another birth experience in our future, knowing what we know now, I think that we will strongly consider a birth center and/or midwife-assisted delivery.
    2. Knowing that even the best laid plans may spiral out of control, I wanted to remain flexible enough to accept whatever birth experience was most healthy for my baby and myself. Would BBC shame mothers who ended up with an "unnatural" birth? We found that while the class certainly advocated for an unmedicated birth with few interventions, they also provided advice about how to deal with the unexpected, including questions to ask before giving consent, explaining why certain interventions might be called for, and even providing tips about how recover from a c-section.

    How Birth Boot Camp inspired us:
    • Although at first Rob didn't understand why I would choose to subject myself to (the media portrayal of) childbirth pain, he became a strong advocate for natural birth, even engaging his coworkers in discussions about it.
    • The birth videos included in each class increased our tolerance for and comfort level with the sights and sounds of the birth experience. (The first few weeks Rob hid his head under a blanket during the birth videos, but by the end of the series he could watch them all the way through!)
    • In each class a physical trainer modeled PT exercises to stay flexible and stretch muscles.
    • BBC's focus on Kegel exercises motivated me to regularly strengthen these muscles (my husband also reminded me regularly after learning about the importance of these exercises). I don't think it's a coincidence that I didn't suffer from the embarrassing incontinence that some of my friends experienced during pregnancy.
    • Even though I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from labor, the knowledge we gained about the process (vocabulary, labor stages, fetal positions, etc.) gave me the confidence that I could manage it.
    • The workbook provided a sample birth plan, and BBC discussed many of the options that we might choose when writing our own birth plan to discuss with our doctors.
    • BBC encouraged us to avoid any unnecessary ultrasounds or vaginal exams... many of our friends seemed surprised when in the last weeks of pregnancy we didn't have an estimate of baby's size and didn't know how much I had dilated, but we knew that such measurements (which are often inaccurate) can lead to unrealized expectations and/or unnecessary intervention. 
    • After hearing stories of labor stalling after arriving at the hospital, I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. When I got to the hospital I measured "8 cm with a bulging bag"... while it rattled the triage nurses a little bit, it was exactly the scenario I wanted.
    • BBC suggested that mom not answer any questions about pain level, a strategy I definitely relied on during our hospital admission process.
    • BBC advocates for lots of skin-to-skin contact with baby. Skin-to-skin time has become one of Rob's and my favorite memories/rituals of the newborn days.
    • Class 6 "Supporting Arms: Mom's Most Important Ally" was the most important for us, teaching us how to recognize and work through contractions. It gave Rob the confidence he needed to act as my ally and gave me the ability to trust that he would be the best ally I could possibly have during labor.  

    What Birth Boot Camp could do better:
    • We think that the chiropractic and massage sections should be provided as separate videos... while interesting, I was already somewhat familiar with these techniques, and they seemed to drag out the lessons for classes 3 and 4.
    • On the other hand, we would have preferred the birth videos to be integrated seamlessly into the class videos... clicking back and forth was kind of a hassle, especially because our streaming setup didn't save where we paused the first video.
    • We wished more time was spent discussing the different labor and pushing positions (pictures and descriptions are shown in the workbook, but the video lessons kind of brushed over them). The only disappointment from our birth experience was that by following the doctor's and nurses' lead, I ended up pushing from the supine position and stirrups (resulting in a 3rd degree tear). Perhaps we should have made ourselves more familiar with the techniques by actually practicing them, but it would have been nice for Donna and Sarah to review them with us. 

    How Birth Boot Camp could take it one step further:
    • A moderated online forum for conversations... I found myself following the Natural Unmedicated Birth forum on BabyCenter for inspiration from other mothers and my daily questions of "is this normal?", but often wished that I could filter the responses from those with similar BBC experience or even having professionals weigh in.
    • A postpartum/baby care basics supplement... Because we invested so much time and money into the BBC class, we opted not to take an additional class about baby basics at our hospital. I now wish I felt as confident about taking care of baby as I did about birthing him. Because we already trusted Donna and Sarah, we would have been more than willing to listen to their advice on how to give a bath, change a diaper, put baby to sleep, etc.
    • An iPhone app for recording Chow Chart/Daily Log information... Although I was inspired by the nutrition information presented in Class 2, I was already in the habit of tracking my food intake in the MyFitnessPal calorie counter app. However if there has been a similar BBC app to record nutrition and self-care from a pregnancy perspective, I would have happily used it.

    Just moments after birth

    As I mentioned a few days ago in the abridged version of my birth story, the moments after our son's birth were filled with joy and pride. (I have to admit there were high fives and fist bumps!) We had hoped for and worked for a natural, unmedicated birth, and we had achieved it!

    Thank you, Donna and Sarah for inspiring and encouraging us throughout this journey! We will be singing your praises and recommending your program to anyone interested in the natural birth experience.

    Disclaimer: A natural, unmedicated birth was the right choice for us for this pregnancy. We understand that for a variety of reasons, many mothers choose other options for their birth experience. Regardless of the birth details (or whether the birth goes as planned), the result is the birth of a precious baby and the beginning of a motherhood journey. We wholeheartedly support each and every mother as she makes hard decisions like these based on what is best for herself and her family.

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Hello, my name is Daddy...

    “The nature of impending fatherhood is that you are doing something that you’re unqualified to do, and then you become qualified while doing it.”
    -John Green

    Ever since finding out that a new baby would be joining our family last summer, I have been eager to see Rob take on the role of father. This guy who for years has avoided any unnecessary contact with babies (think awkward side hugs!) has been head over heels for our little guy for months.

    More than once as my belly grew, Rob expressed his amazement, "How can I love him so much without ever having met him!"

    And, since he arrived, Rob has been totally smitten. Several times throughout the last week, I've heard him exclaim, "This little guy has totally rocked our world... but I wouldn't have it any other way."

    Silas and I are so blessed that Daddy has been able to take a few weeks off of work to hang out with us and savor these newborn moments. Rob has changed countless numbers of dirty diapers, given baths, carried baby from crib to bed in the middle of the night for nursing, and perfected the art of swaddling. Both Rob and Silas look forward to their skin-to-skin bonding time every morning while I shower and get ready for the day.

    I can't wait to watch their relationship grow...

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