We Are the Face of Motherhood: a Series on Postpartum Depression

I have to admit that I have been putting this off for some time.  I first heard about this endeavor in late 2016 and wanted to share and be part of this movement. But, figuring how and what to share has been difficult.

I had another post written. I detailed those first few days and weeks after the birth of my first son and explained to all you beautiful, wonderful people how much I was going through. I expressed in my best words how it felt, why it was happening, and all the things that were working against me.

And then I stopped.

If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.

I stopped because I was justifying my feelings. I was trying to justify the fact that I struggled for months with undiagnosed postpartum depression. I explained everything that was going on because I didn’t want you to think I am weak.  I so want you to understand my deep struggle and the visceral heartache that still plagues me that I wrote a very meaningful piece that did nothing.  I think it would have been fine, or even good, to share all of those things for the simple fact that I know other moms feel the exact same way right now [and dare I say that moms well beyond those newborn days feel the same? Moms of toddlers, elementary school kids, preteens, teens, and beyond? Moms who have lost children, moms who never got to meet their babies, moms who adopt, moms who perhaps never got to have children at all?].  My post was true and deep and meaningful and difficult, but I do not believe it was the right post for this cause.

This cause is about ending the stigma of postpartum depression – PPD – and postpartum anxiety – PPA.  If we are going to end the stigma, we must begin by ending the thought process that our feelings need to be justified or validated by others.  It certainly feels good when we someone else understands the way we feel and why we feel it, but even if no one else ever understands the way you are feeling, you are still dealing with depression, and that’s okay.

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This is after we got to our recovery room. I had been awake for about 36 hours at this point and just had a C-section. 

I want you to know that it is okay to deal with depression even if you had a beautiful birth, just the way you wanted.  It is okay to deal with depression even if you have a beautiful baby that you cherish, love, and adore. It is okay if you have depression even though breastfeeding went well for you.  It is okay to have depression even if your baby sleeps through the night.  It is okay to deal with depression whether you prayed for your child for years or you had no idea motherhood was before you. It is okay.

Our first picture as a family of 3

There is no qualifying list, no one way depression manifests itself.  In the midst of postpartum hormones and sleep deprivation, depression can seem like it will take care of itself if you can just sleep, just relax, just get away, just have one minute to yourself.  And sometimes it does, but other times, in darker times, it sticks around.  It follows you like a lurking shadow.  No matter how bright the lights are, the shadow is still there, attached to your every move.  The shadow is not nimble, it is cumbersome, it is exhausting.  Your shadow is a physical weight that you carry on a daily basis, an emotional sink that you keep pouring into, but never fills up.  The shadow clouds your judgement, you ability to think and concentrate, your patience and ability to deal with your ever-changing emotions.

One of my favorite pictures, but one that I forced myself to take because I knew, someday, that I would want to see pictures of his little face.

There are signs of PPD/PPA, certainly, and I had many of them.  I felt disconnected and numb. I told myself I HAD to take pictures and I HAD to tell Vincent that I loved him everyday because I didn’t feel like doing either of those things. I wanted to get away from the baby, but as soon as I was away I dealt with anxiety that something terrible would happen while I was gone.  I was irritable and impatient with the baby, but as soon as I felt myself snap I would melt into a big ball of tears. But the fact of the matter is, you can hide these things if you really want to.  The shadow can continue to follow you if you let it, and many times, no one else realizes it’s there except for you.

We must act. We must speak out. We must advocate for each other. And in order for women to seek the help they need, we must end the stigma.

You can read more about my newborn experience here.  I won’t detail it in this post, but I will tell you that I was struggling and I didn’t know how to tell people I was struggling. How do you verbalize a change that happened so quickly you don’t have time to process it? It’s more than, “I’m having a hard time.” I wish I would have said something. I wish I would have had help. I wish I would have known how to do more than take the 2 minute survey at the doctor and be told my feelings were normal.  [and yes they are normal, but there was MORE going on and I wanted SOMEONE to see it and identify it FOR me, I just wasn’t able to do it myself]

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So what I want to share is this: it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to struggle. And it’s okay to ask for help, even if you don’t know what you need or what help looks like. If you start to ask for help you will find relief and reprieve, you will find healing. The road will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

I would also add that as a culture, WE MUST SLOW DOWN.  If you know a new mom, slow down enough to look her in the eye and say, “How are you doing, really?” And when she says, “Oh I’m fine, just tired,” look her in the eye again and repeat, “Really?” I fear that our culture has become so fast, so focused on posting the perfect Instagram picture, so busy, that we won’t slow down enough to see people who are hurting, struggling, and in need of a friend.  New moms especially fit into the category. Your ENTIRE world was just changed and now you have the responsibility of raising a tiny human. The pressure, the loss of independence, the sleepless nights, the physical recovery that has to happen all while caring for a newborn is more than anyone has ever dealt with before and it is okay to not be okay.

I give you permission to not be okay.

So, mama, I give you permission to struggle and need help. I want you to know that people see you and hear you.  We know the heartache and we are here for you. We want you to feel free to share what is going on so that we can better help you.  We are here, and we are here to stay.  It’s okay to not be okay.

{Think you or someone you know may be struggling with postpartum depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder? Please contact your health provider including your OBGYN or family doctor. Need more information? Visit Postpartum Support International for great information on maternal mental health disorders and more. If you fear you or someone you love may be contemplating suicide or facing a mental health emergency, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline and get to your nearest emergency room.}

 

Successfully Pumping At Work

What is in my Pump Bag

that makes being half naked at work slightly easier.

A friend recently asked me what she needs to bring to work to successfully pump. Just a pump and a bottle right? Oh, friend, if only it were that simple. Instead, I have compiled a bag full of stuff that makes the experience a little bit easier.  Because, let’s be honest, it’s super uncomfortable to be half naked at work no matter how prepared you are.

I will say that it has been easier the second time around. My milk lets down easier and I have learned to advocate for myself, so I make sure that I am regularly pumping every 2.5 to 3 hours.  I also just stopped caring if my pumping makes people uncomfortable. I was very fortunate the first time around that my manager was a working mom who did the baby thing. She was extremely supportive and I was able to be open about what I needed. I am thankful for that because I now report to a male, who is still very supportive, but can’t relate. So, it would be easier to try and tip toe around what I am doing, but it’s not worth my time. My first piece of advice is just own it. Own what you are doing because it is an incredible gift to your child and it’s not worth your mental energy to try and figure out how to say “I need to pump” in a not awkward way.  If it makes someone feel awkward, that’s their thing, they can deal. Do what you need to do to be comfortable (both physically comfortable and mentally/emotionally comfortable) with your pumping journey.

What is actually in my bag? Here is a comprehensive list of items that has grown and changed with my year + of experience.

Pump – Obviously.  I have been using the Medela Freestyle Pump with babe #2 and I really like it.  I love that I don’t need to be next to an outlet, tied to a wall. The rechargeable battery has great life and the suction is actually pretty impressive! It works well for me and I especially like it because it means I can pump in the car if needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pumping Bra – Let’s be honest, no one wants to spend more time than necessary stripped down to their skivvies in the office. (Or, if you do, then you live a very different life than I) The pumping bra is essential for double pumping and wrapping up this whole weird ordeal. I bought this one off Amazon for about $30 and it has worked for both boys so far. I know you can also cut holes in a sports bra, but this just didn’t work for me. I prefer this bra, but either way, this needs to be in the bag.ALL YOUR PUMP PARTS, there is nothing more frustrating than forgetting one little pump part and your whole pump is useless. I always pack my pieces the night before so I am not trying to do it in a rush in the morning. I also keep a spare set of parts at the office at all times.  I started doing this after I forgot my parts one day and was MISERABLE.  They aren’t expensive, so do yourself a favor and just buy a second set to keep in your desk drawer.

Burp Cloth – So it really stinks when you are all done, you are removing the breast shields, and you spill extra milk all over your dry-clean-only work pants. Instead, make sure you grab a burp rag and drape it over your lap while pumping. It comes in super useful when cleaning up before getting dressed and protecting clothes from tiny milk drops.

Gallon sized zip lock bag – This is to stick all the pieces in between pumping sessions. It saves so much time rather than having to clean each piece 3+ times per day. Sometimes it only takes me 12 minutes to walk, set up, pump, and be done. That’s huge for your busy work day!

Cloth bag to put the zip lock bag in – This isn’t essential, but it makes me feel better about the walk from the communal fridge back to my pumping room. It’s actually a bag I received when we were in the NICU and it has come in very handy! I just put the Ziplock inside and then throw that in the fridge and walk to my room with it. I like having a little privacy and I like that people aren’t staring at my pumping bottles when they are looking for a mid day snack.

Cooler and Freezer Pack – I stick some food in this on my way to work and carry milk in it on the way home. I just keep the whole cooler in the fridge during the day. The ice pack then stays cool for my drive home. While it isn’t a huge deal during the winter months, I would hate for my car to break down in the summer and not be able to get the milk home in time.  The freezer pack gives me an added sense of security that my milk isn’t going to get too warm before I am able to freeze it once I am home for the day.

2 bottles and milk bags – I always pump into bottles and then transfer into milk bags so I can freeze them. I think pumping into bottles is way less stressful than trying to pump directly into bags. I also keep a spare box of milk bags in my pumping bag at all times. As soon as I use one up I put a second box in. Again, there is nothing worse than pumping and realizing you don’t have anywhere to put the milk so you can pump again later. Then you have to go to the store and it’s a whole big thing. Just keep extras in your bag, your working mama self will be thankful.

Pen or marker to record dates and ounces on your bags – this is especially important if you plan to freeze the milk you are pumping. You will want to keep it organized and it is really helpful to your care taker to know how much is in each bag.

Nursing cover – this is another optional item, but I just stuck it in the bag in case I ever felt uncomfortable in the office or I needed to pump in the car. It’s just nice to know I have the security of the cover if I need it. I haven’t actually used it yet, but it’s my security blanket for pumping.

This cover is from MilkSnob.com – I LOVE THEIR COVERS they are Jersey cotton so they are super light weight and soft. They completely cover you and baby can still breathe. I definitely recommend them!

Some other optional items that I know have helped other mamas:

  • Something that smells like your little. I haven’t had a problem with let down this time, but grabbing your baby’s PJ’s from the night before (ya know, as long as there isn’t spit up or pee on them) can help your milk come in.  A picture of your little can also help.
  • Calming music or scenery.  If you work a super stressful job or you have to operate on high octane all the time, allowing yourself to calm down is key.  Having calm music playing or looking at calming pictures like waterfalls (and imagining your milk is like a waterfall) can help your milk come in.
  • Having a mantra that you repeat to yourself. This helped a lot with my first. I had a really hard time relaxing enough for my milk to come in. I was also super anxious that I wouldn’t be able to pump enough to provide for his needs.  Let me tell you, being anxious about not producing enough is a sure fire way to not produce enough milk. Instead, I started having really positive self talk about how wonderful it was that I was working this hard for him and that any amount of milk was important.  Whenever I would start to relax and give myself grace, sure enough, my milk with let down.
  • Snack and water.  Often, I get going too fast to eat or drink.  Pumping is a great opportunity to take a second for yourself and have a snack and drink lots of water. This will help you keep your energy up, allow you to continue to pump later in the day, and also allow you to feel like there is something in it for you instead of just doing all this for the baby.
  • Wipes. Medela sells wipes for your pump for the between times when you can’t wash. It’s a good option for wiping up quickly during your work day.
  • Sterilization bags. Medela makes these, too. You just stick all your pieces in the bag with water and then put it in the microwave. I can’t speak to the safety of these bags as far as the high heat goes, but again, it’s easy for the office.

These are all the things that have helped me. Mamas – what other items did you have in your pumping bag that helped you pump successfully?

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Pumping Hacks

Ahh the breast pump, the best and worst thing to happen to breastfeeding moms. I am so thankful for my breast pump, it allows me to work and leave the baby and still provide the best nutrition. But also, it’s the worst. All the pieces, trying to get the pumping bra on right, adjusting the settings, realizing you forgot one pivotal piece at home…. it can definitely be a drag. Now, I am no breastfeeding expert or lactation consultant, but I have read a lot on the subject and made enough mistakes to know a thing or two. I want to share a few hacks with you to make pumping easier and hopefully, get you closer to your breastfeeding goal.

Hack #1: The Plastic Bag

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Ladies, this is FOR REAL the best hack I have ever used. I read it in Parenting Magazine with my first, thankfully before I went back to work. After you pump, simply put all the pieces in a sealed plastic bag and place in the fridge! According to the Mayo Clinic, expressed breast milk can be stored in the fridge for up to five days (it is optimal to freeze it within 3 days, you can read more here). So, I simply put all my pumping parts in a bag in the fridge and keep it in the back away from the door. I then clean it once per day instead of after every time I pump. Also, I don’t have time to clean all those pieces with an almost two year old running around so this is a necessity in life.

Hack #2: Start an extra pump session in the morning

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You always have the most milk in the morning. I notice, too, that often my baby will only eat on one side at night so there always seems to be excess in the AM. Just start a routine of pumping about 45 minutes to one hour after your baby first eats in the morning. Usually, I feed baby first. Get him changed, make my coffee, get some water, let the dogs out, and then get set up to pump. As long as this is part of a normal routine and done daily you will build up a nice extra supply. I am so thankful for my back up supply. I know that I will have plenty when I go back to work, or if something terrible should happen, I know that I will have a month or so of milk before having to switch to formula.

Hack #3: Use your shield as a funnel

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So I honestly don’t remember where or when I saw this, but when I did it was like the heavens opened. I was always so nervous about spilling milk all over the place! Especially at work because that’s just where something as terrible as spilled breast milk would happen. Simply put your breast shield into the freezer bag and then pour your milk through the shield. Seriously – life saver!

Hack #4: Freeze your milk flat for better storage

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#flatlay (hahaha bfing humor)

Again, you guys probably figured this one out on your own….but I am not that bright. If you freeze your milk laying flat it is much easier to store upright and you can fit a lot more in your deep freeze. This also helps with organizing so that you can easily see dates and how much is in the bag without digging through the deep dark crevices of your freezer. Which brings me to my next hack….

Hack #5: Use boxes to organize your milk

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One thing that I did not do well the first time around was organize my supply. I ended up throwing a lot away because I didn’t use it in time and that is JUST THE WORST. So do yourself a favor and organize your milk so it can  be easily identified and used. My mom had the idea of using shoe boxes, but then we found that cutting our warehouse milk boxes in half was the perfect size for the freezer bags. So I just stick them all in there and then put them in the deep freeze, insta-organize!

Hack #6: Don’t stress

So this isn’t really a hack, but it is really important to remember when you are trying to pump. Being stressed or anxious about how much you are getting or if it will be enough is a sure fire way to limit your pumping. Lots of people recommend looking at pictures of your baby or having something on hand that smells like baby. This never worked for me, but what did work is taking deep breaths and repeating this mantra:

         Whatever I can give my baby will be enough; no matter how much I pump I am helping him               grow; Every single ounce is a blessing

Taking deep breaths and just being thankful for any amount that I was able to pump is how I made it through those sessions at work – which, by the way , is the worst place to try to pump because you have the stress of the job, the stress of someone seeing something you don’t want them to see, the stress of not getting enough milk, etc, etc. Just remember, the important part is that you are trying and that you want to provide ANY amount of breast milk!

These are some of the top things that have made pumping less painful and go more smoothly, what have other mamas done to help with pumping? What is your number one hack for continuing to breastfeed after going back to work?

Motherhood Unedited

 

Things no one ever tells you about being Mamma

Entering motherhood is this mix of mystery, wonder, excitement and fear. You’ve had this thing growing in you for nine months and [if you are anything like me] you are ready to just get that baby out. You know intellectually that it will be difficult, but you’ve read the books and blogs, you’ve talked to other moms, you have done hard things before so you can do this, too. This was my mantra before baby arrived – I have survived life so far, millions of women have done this before me, so I can do this too. I asked advice of my mom friends – and got the advice of plenty of strangers. Many people asked, “Are you ready?” Umm, no I am not ready! Who is ever ready for a complete life change and being responsible for someone else’s life? But I was as prepared as I could be, or so I thought. Once the baby came I realized that there was a lot to motherhood that no one shares with you before the baby arrives. Maybe they don’t want to be a downer or they don’t want to scare this fresh new mom who is just excited to meet her child, but either way I wish someone would have shared more of these truths with me. I am realistic and straightforward. I know not everyone feels the way I do, but were all really difficult parts of motherhood for me.  I hope that talking about these realities will help someone else know they aren’t the only one feeling this way. Here are three things that no one tells you about motherhood:

Motherhood is Lonely

No matter how many of your friends are simultaneously having children at the same time as you, mom groups you join, or how much time your spouse gets off from work, motherhood is ultimately the loneliest I have ever felt.  You are stuck at home a lot figuring out how to be a mom, how to breastfeed, trying desperately to get a nap in while the baby sleeps. When your spouse is home you dump the baby off on them so you can do something normal – like shower because you seriously don’t remember the last time soap touched your body – and you don’t get to connect with them the way you used to. If you are breastfeeding, even social events can mean being by yourself so you can find a quiet spot to try and get your baby to settle into their normal nursing position.  You are the one that hears the cries at night (or those fake cries when they don’t really wake up, just make noise, but you wake up and then listen for 30 minutes to make sure they aren’t REALLY awake, and then once you are done listening and determine that they are still asleep, baby actually wakes up to eat, joj mene [pronounced yoy menna, something my Croatian grandma says when frustrated]) and you are typically the one to get up at 3am to feed your baby while your spouse blissfully sleeps. If all your friends are having kids it is helpful to know you aren’t the only one that is going through the emotions and the feels that come with being a new mom.  Mom groups can help bring people together, too, but here’s the common thread through all these events and isolation – no matter how many wonderful people are around you, no matter how many people volunteer to help, no one can lift the weight of responsibility from a mom’s shoulders. You are suddenly responsible for a human life, and not just protecting it, but also sustaining it. I think the weight of responsibility makes new moms feel lonely – at least this is what I realized I was feeling. I felt isolated because I knew no one could do this job but me. Even when you get a break, your baby is in the back of your mind… when will he need to eat next? Will she just cry the whole time? Should I pump now, or wait because he might need to eat as soon as I get back?  It’s never ending responsibility and it will continue for forever. So it’s okay if you feel lonely, but don’t go it alone. Share your feelings with your spouse, make sure you are plugged into a mom’s group or have friends that you can share your feelings with. Ask for help when you need it. But just know that none of these things will take away the feeling (sometimes the burden) of being a mom and that huge responsibility.

Motherhood is Tedious

Change diaper. Nurse. Burp. Hold baby. Put down for a nap. Repeat.

I hate changing diapers, it is probably my least favorite mom thing to do. Turns out babies – especially newborns – need diaper changes ALL. THE. TIME. It didn’t take long for me to realize that most of being a mom the first 8 weeks is just the same thing over and over again – lots of sitting and nursing and then getting up to change a diaper. And if you are lucky, you also get to change your shirt because the baby spit up on it… and then change their clothes because they leaked out of their diaper.

Being a manager of customer service representatives, I am used to being busy and thinking on my feet. I am used to problem solving and utilizing my skills and brain on a daily basis. Shifting to the mundane tasks of nursing and diaper changing was really difficult for me. I like routine, but I don’t like boredom. I like getting things done, crossing things off a list and I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything being a mom. I was just doing the same things over and over without actually moving forward. Eventually I was able to shift my thinking to make my “to do” list things that I could accomplish through the monotony of motherhood. I had things like: – nap, – snuggle baby, and – put clothes in dryer on my “to do” list. I literally made a list and then crossed things off. It gave me the sense of accomplishment through my daily responsibilities and made things that I used to see as time wasters meaningful to my day. It didn’t change the fact that these things were still tedious, but it was at least balanced with the feeling of accomplishment so I felt more positive and could stay motivated to keep going.

Motherhood is Exhausting

Okay, so people tell you this. They joke about not getting sleep and being tired, and it’s true – I have never been so tired as when we brought our first baby home. Those first 8 weeks were the worst, I was like a walking zombie. But the exhaustion of motherhood is more than just a few nights of little sleep. I am talking about complete physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion. Even if your little one sleeps, you are still pouring everything you have into this new human, or multiple little humans if if you have older children. More than just being sleepy – you have a child attached to you in one way or another all day long. You no longer get to be alone. Even if your child or children are napping you are on alert, waiting for one child to cry or need you in some way. I knew I would be tired and I figured I could deal with fatigue, but I didn’t realize what complete exhaustion was like. It extends into your other relationships. Even though I felt totally alone (See loneliness above) I was so tired that I couldn’t find the energy to connect with anyone. Also, I didn’t want to be touched – like at all. Bryan would be holding the baby and the dogs would want some attention and I just did NOT want to pet them. I had to remind myself to hug Bryan and hold his hand or sit next to him on the couch. I just didn’t want to be touched because I had another human attached to me all day long.

That is the best way I can explain the exhaustion of motherhood. I think that nothing else is quite like it. And on those days when you are feeling completely spent and useless because you are so exhausted, just know that it will pass. One night you will get 4 or 5 hours of sleep and you will feel like a new person! Or your new baby will FINALLY take a 2 hour nap ON HIS OWN and it will be amazing. Until those days come, it’s okay to feel completely exhausted.

I think the overarching theme of this post is that you can’t do it by yourself. I know single moms who have survived these early weeks and years of parenting and I am just so in awe of what they do. You need a tribe, you need support, you need community, you need help. So ask for it! Surround yourself with people who love and support you. If you live far away from family, find a community through church or another organization. Find a mom group so you have others that are dealing with the same things you are. Join a mom group on Facebook! It’s just another way to get connected.

Moms, what surprised you about parenthood? How did you survive those early days and weeks of motherhood?

Hospital Bag: Take 2

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Ahhh, the joy of having a baby – this is minutes after Teddy was delivered – look at me, happy, glowing, excited for this new life.  The first moments are so precious and its amazing and all that – but here’s what they don’t tell you. You have to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hrs after you deliver. Here’s another thing they don’t tell you – hospitals are noisy, there are constantly people barging into your room, and there are always lights flashing somewhere in your room.  I, personally, hated staying in the hospital post baby arrival. I know some people like it and appreciate all the support they get from nurses and stuff. I am not that person. I need sleep and I had a really hard time sleeping or napping in the hospital. But there are a few things you can bring with you to help your post baby hospital stay. So if you are a first time mom or heading back, here is what I packed in my second time hospital bag…

lip-conditioner

First, lip balm. Seriously, no matter what else you pack don’t forget this item. Hospitals are SO DRY. I drank so much water and felt like I was putting on lip conditioner every 3 minutes. My personal favorite for lip conditioner is Beautycounter’s Peppermint. It works so well, has just enough peppermint (which helps with nausea – did I mention that you can still get nauseated after your baby comes? super fun), and is safe for you and your brand spanking new baby. You don’t want to be kissing that perfect little head with questionable or harmful chemicals in your lip balm! Beautycounter is a great way to make sure all the products you use are safe for your new baby and for yourself.  Amy’s Beautycounter link to order!

ipodThen your iPod or make sure you bring ear buds for your phone. I listened to my iPod when I was trying to sleep; it helped block out some of the noise of the hospital. I love listening to audio books, so I made sure my iPod was loaded with books and fully charged. It was so relaxing to just listen to the book. I could focus on the story and block out the noise and stress of the hospital. Also MAKE SURE YOU PACK YOUR CHARGERS! this means phone, iPod, tablet, whatever else you bring to the hospital.  There’s nothing worse than wanting to listen to your iPod and its dead.

kangaroo-tank-topNext – this kangaroo Care tank top from Milk and Baby. I loved having this with me for skin to skin time in the hospital.  Skin to skin is hugely beneficial for both you and your baby. It helps your milk come in faster and also helps support your milk supply throughout your nursing days.  Your baby will benefit from hearing your heartbeat, temperature control, and lower stress levels. In case you didn’t realize this, going from a warm, loud, very small, and dark environment to the hospital with lights, cold air blasting and your arms and legs flailing about is highly stressful for babies. Being cuddled up with you is so comforting for your little one. And this shirt allows you to have skin to skin without feeling like you are on display. You may have already felt this way throughout your delivery (I definitely did with my first) but after the baby comes its nice to feel like you can cover up and wear some sort of normal clothing. So this is a must in my books. Here’s the link to order: Kangaroo Kare Tank ** I would suggest ordering a size up, I thought it ran small.

snacks

SNACKS

Pack snacks for days.  I wouldn’t necessarily pack a whole cart full, but definitely bring enough for your hospital stay which can be up to 96 hours if you have a C section. Fluctuating hormones and an irregular sleep schedule left me starving at the weirdest times.  Also, when I get hungry and I am hungry NOW so I don’t want to wait on the hospital to bring me something.  Snacks are simply a necessity in the hospital. Some maternity wards have a few snacks available, but since I am GF the only thing they had for me was fruit and let’s be honest, sometimes you need some salt and crunch in your life.

31r2ws7alzl-_sy445_Nice Maternity pajamas. My mom bought me this three piece set off of Amazon from Bearsland Maternity (Link to Amazon here).  These were great because they looked so nice – I got lots of compliments on how cute they were! – and because its a nursing tank it’s easy to strip down and nurse or cover up with your robe.  Honestly, every time you are trying to nurse someone will be coming into your room to check on you so it’s nice to have options for covering up a little. Plus these jammies are super comfy. I wore them all throughout nursing Vincent and plan to keep wearing them with Teddy! They describe the fabric as “Rich cotton” and I would have to agree! The fabric is really nice.  It breathes and has stretch to it. They get the thumbs up from me!

So these are the items that get pictures – but there are other items that I packed that you might want to consider:

  • Granny panties – because you need someone to wear that will support the ginormous pads that they give you
  • Sweatshirt – because your hospital room might be a balmy 75 or a freezing 20 degrees so you need layering options
  • Slippers – you will want to walk around the halls because you need to escape your room and it’s good for recovery
  • Toiletries – shampoo, face wash, lotion, toothbrush, DEODORANT (hormones made me super smelly) etc. I would also suggest bringing some make up, especially if you are going to have pictures done in the hospital.  I think being able to put on some make up helps you feel like a human and less like a zombie who has no idea what is going on.
  • One going home outfit for baby – the hospital will provide clothes for your baby while they are staying. Let them do the laundry and only put on your clothes when you are ready to take baby home.

I think that’s it! What else did you mammas pack in your hospital bags? What am I missing?

5 Things That Made My 2nd Pregnancy Suck Less

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If you know me at all you know that I am not a huge fan of pregnancy. It’s okay and I guess its cool to feel the baby move, but really I don’t care for it.  Being nauseated, an alien being flipping around in your stomach, the aches and pains of your body relaxing to accommodate this big thing growing in you.  I could really do without all that. But thankfully I found some products that helped me cope better the second time around and I wanted to share them here!

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Beautycounter Balancing Face Oil

The first thing that I am so thankful for is Beautycounter’s products, especially the balancing face oil.  My skin in my first pregnancy was TERRIBLE.  On top of feeling disgusting because I was pregnant, I also felt terrible because I wasn’t confident with my skin.  Everyone kept saying, “oh your skin will just glow!” – well this was not the case for me.  This time around, though, I am using Beautycounter products and they have made such a HUGE difference!  I think that the balancing face oil is the one product that I can’t give up, but there are a few others that I would also recommend for pregnancy and post-pregnancy skin.  If you struggle with skin issues (whether you are pregnant or not!) I would be happy to talk about options with Beautycounter for you!

Here is my website if you want to browse (specific link to face oil in the caption): http://www.beautycounter.com/amypietch

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Leachco Back n’Belly Contoured Body Pillow

Okay – this is by far the best purchase that I made for this pregnancy. I wouldn’t say that I sleep as peacefully as the lady above (is she even pregnant???) But it does make me much more comfortable! I really like that there are pillows on both sides, this has really helped my back and hips.  It also means that when I turn over I don’t have to rearrange all the pillows to try and get comfortable again.  I actually flip it the other way so that the open end is at my head, then I can use my own pillows for my head.  There is a downside – this pillow is HUGE. We have a queen bed and Bryan gets maybe a third of the bed these days. I think if you have a King bed it would be fine, but it’s tight in the queen. Thankfully, my husband knows how important sleep is for me so he puts up with the pillow, but I’m pretty sure he is counting down the days until it’s gone.

You can get it on amazon prime here: https://www.amazon.com/Leachco-Belly-Contoured-Pillow-Ivory/dp/B0002E7DIQ/ref=sr_1_14?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1471785251&sr=1-14&keywords=body%2Bpillow

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Bai Bubbles Drinks

Okay so if you are TOTALLY cutting out caffeine, then this one isn’t for you. There is a small amount of caffeine in these drinks (about 25 mg), but for me this is the perfect amount!  I loved having these mid way through my day as a little treat and pick-me-up.  The flavors are incredible (Pink Grapefruit is my favorite, but all the flavors are great) and they were something different from just plain water all the time. It was nice to have a sparkling fun drink option. You can purchase directly from the website here: http://www.drinkbai.com/voyager-pack or at Costco (which is where we get ours)!

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Vegan Smart Nutritional Shake

 

 

 

 

Next is this meal replacement shake by Vegan Smart.  Especially in my first trimester I was very nauseated every morning. It was terrible. I didn’t want to eat ANYTHING but knew I needed to get nutrients in my body.  This was a great option for me!  I could make this shake in the morning and shake with ice cubes so it was super cold (which was the only way I could stomach anything) and I knew that I was getting some good nutrients every morning.  I had tried other shakes, but many are soy based which my body does not do well with.  This shake is soy and gluten free but packs 20g of non GMO protein.  I still drink these daily, as soon as I wake up, to make sure that I am getting some good nutrients in the morning.  It blends pretty well (sometimes I get clumps, but if I use a blender bottle its usually pretty smooth) and the taste is actually quite good. I have only tried the chocolate, but it’s not super chalky which was another requirement of my first trimester stomach. This was a life saver for me with second baby!

Again, available on amazon Prime here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FYD5MVA/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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Guys – I cannot explain what a difference good, supportive shoes make.  My feet hurt SO BADLY with Vincent and never fully recovered after the pregnancy.  The only shoes that really made my feet feel okay were sneakers and I can’t wear those to work and they are too hot for summer so this pregnancy I was on the hunt for something better. Thankfully I discovered Born sandals! I picked these up at DSW and they are FABULOUS!  I don’t know exactly what is wrong with my feet – high arches, overpronation, or something along those lines – but these shoes are super supportive (they come all the way up the arch of my foot) and cute! And sandals! So many good things.

So these are 5 things that really helped me feel better in my second pregnancy – what else has helped you guys feel your best while being pregnant?

So, what helped?

After my last blog post When you [don’t] love your baby I was asked a question by a friend (who gave me permission to use this question):

     “What specifically helped you through this time with Vincent – spiritually, emotional, mentally?            What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?”

I thought these were great questions – but I really had to think about them.  How did I actually do this? What did help me during this time? I have been reflecting on these questions all week and I have had some thoughts that I wanted to share. There are 3 things that I think helped me through those first 8 weeks.

The first thing that helped me through this time is my relationship with Jesus Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I cried out to God in silent prayer, wrote in my journal, or just asked for comfort.  I honestly do not know how parents do the whole parenting thing without believing in a higher power. I feel like I need God’s help, peace, and guidance every single day.  That being said, I would like to add that Jesus did not magically make the process easier. I would ask God, “why can’t I just set this baby down?!?!? Please Lord, just let him sleep for 30 minutes by himself!” or something of the like. I can tell you that at those moments Vincent did not automatically fall into a peaceful dream state and then I immediately calmed down and then had a perfect day after. Why? Because newborns act the way they do for a reason – they are learning how to function in this new world and it’s overwhelming. I think that my relationship with God gave me a solid foundation to stand on, I stood on my rock and this kept me grounded even on the hardest days. God DID send me comforts – Bryan would get home from class early so I could take a nap, a friend from church would text or bring over dinner, another new mom would stop by with her baby and I would have company, my parents would call with encouraging words.  It might not have been the 8+ hours of sleep that I was hoping for, but God bore me up in different ways so I could keep going.

The second thing that got me through is my self talk. I have always had a strong inner dialogue with myself.  For majority of my life this was third person.  I don’t know if you have ever thought about how you speak to yourself, but typically when I speak to myself in the third person it is negative, “Why did you do that?!” “How could you make that mistake!” etc.  Thankfully, one thing that I began before Vincent came was talking to myself in the first person and asserting truths when things were difficult.  When I was feeling like the worst mom in the world because I didn’t want to hold my child anymore, I would speak to myself truthfully and logically (sometimes out loud) “You are tired, and that’s okay, but Vincent needs to be held right now and you can do that.  Holding Vincent helps his brain develop, I am helping him feel protected and cared for.  I am a good mom because I am doing exactly what Vincent needs right now.”  I would also assert Biblical truths over myself and Vincent.  You see, Satan (who is very real) plays tricks on our minds often. Unfortunately, he just has to plant a little seed of doubt, discouragement, question, or deception for our brains to latch on and let them grow out of control. He would slip in with thoughts of “You aren’t good at this” “You can’t keep going” “You shouldn’t have had a kid” and on and on. What I have learned is that we have extraordinary power over ourselves simply based off of what we think and what we listen to. When these thoughts would slip in, I would speak a truth to combat the lie.

Lie: “You aren’t good enough”

Truth: “Jesus died on a cross and said that I am worth the price, I am his daughter, I am good enough for Jesus and I need nothing else”

Lie: “You shouldn’t have had kids”

Truth: “God knit this child together in my womb. He created this life and chose me to be his mom. This was divinely appointed, not by chance. I am supposed to be Vincent’s mom”

Lie: “You can’t keep going”

Truth: “God will lift me up on eagle’s wings.  He will support and sustain me.  He is Jehovah Jireh – God who provides. I cannot do it on my own, but God will help me”

We have such power in what we say to ourselves and what God says about us. It’s amazing how quickly things turn around when we start focusing on God’s truth and do not let the lies enter into our thoughts.  If you don’t have a relationship with God (or even if you do), I would encourage you to ask God a question, “What are lies I am currently telling myself?” and then if you discover any, “God, what do you say about these things?” I think it would be an interesting experiment. Even if you don’t feel like that would work, or you are opposed to a higher power, I would encourage you to start practicing positive self talk. No matter what, I think you will see a difference in the way you hold yourself, act, and respond when negativity comes your way.

Third, I am extremely stubborn and hate failure. And this really helped me persevere.  Being stubborn and having a fear of failure is definitely something that I am not always proud of, but in this circumstance it worked to my advantage. You want to know why I was able to breastfeed for a year? Because I am stubborn and I set a goal – I was going to achieve it NO. MATTER. WHAT. I didn’t want to fail. You want to know why I woke up every two hours to feed Vincent for those first 8 weeks? Because I am stubborn, I wanted to continue to breastfeed, and I knew I had to keep going in order to be successful. When I felt void of emotions and that I wanted to shirk away from responsibility – I couldn’t because I am too stubborn to admit that I couldn’t do it so I just kept going. This is called perseverance and the experience of living through the newborn stage helped me realize how important perseverance is in life overall.  They say the best things aren’t easy, and I would say motherhood and the newborn phase definitely fall into that category. I learned a lot about humility and asking for help with Vincent, which was good growth for me. But ultimately the will and drive to not give up and just keep going did help me get through a really hard time and continue to breast feed through it all.

The second part of the question, “What did dealing with lack of feeling look like for you as you struggled through the process?” this part is more difficult. Apparently, to outsiders it looked like I was fine. After I wrote the original piece my husband said, “I had no idea you were feeling that way.” In my head I thought,how could you NOT know that I was feeling that way?! I was a wreck and I looked like a disaster!  But at the time, I didn’t express much of the lack of feeling because everything was SO OVERWHELMING. While I didn’t feel like I loved Vincent and felt void of many emotions, I was equally overwhelmed with the amount of change that occurred. I have been able to process these feelings in the year that has followed and I have been able to sort through the difficulties. At the time, I couldn’t express these feelings because I didn’t really fully grasp what was going on. I simply existed and got through the day.  AND WE HAD GOOD DAYS! Here is proof

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See! I am actually happy, that’s not a fake smile. I don’t mean to sound like everything was doom and gloom, it was just hard. I do remember happy times in those early days, too.

As I reflected on this time I realized that social media also played with my head. I had several friends that also had babies around the same time I did. They were posting pictures of these precious little bundles with captions like, “My everything!” “I love him/her so much!” “We are so in love with our little one!” etc. I would see these pictures and think, “I don’t feel that way!” but then immediately feel the need to post a picture with some sort of heartwarming caption because other people were doing it. Here’s the thing – I STILL don’t post pictures with captions like that. My captions are literal, sarcastic, sometimes (I think) funny, etc. The closest I got to “heartwarming” was when we were in the hospital and snapped this pic with the caption “Be still my heart” –

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but looking back it is interesting that I felt I needed to SHOW and PROVE my love for my child via pics and captions on social media. Just because I don’t post things that way, does it mean I love my child any less? No, it means that type of characterization is not genuine to who I am as an individual. And that’s okay. I don’t have to be sappy just because I am a mom. So this time around I know that social media does not define my affections for my child and I don’t need to worry about how much or how little I post about him.

So those are my thoughts and responses. Mamas – what got you through the newborn phase??