Thursday, January 7, 2016

Top Up or Top Down: Clothes for Breastfeeding

Maternity wear is not nearly as complicated to figure out as nursing wear is. Maternity wear = find what fits and wear it (as long as it's something that does not complicate your need to urinate 83 times a day). For the past almost five months, I have scoured ye ol' Google and Pinterest for DIY nursing tops (ain't nobody got time for that) or advice from other breastfeeding moms. No one seems to care about telling me how I should clothe myself now that I have become a human smorgasbord, so I went on a bleary-eyed, milk-stained quest of my own. I have spent countless hours poring over the following websites in search of the holy boobie grail: Amazon, LOFT, thredUP, H&M, Old Navy, Gap, Target, Zulily, and Pinkblush Maternity. (I am sure many other sites belong on this list, but we do not have all day here.) I tried to reuse a lot of my pre-pregnancy (and even maternity) wardrobe, but I didn't have as much nursing-friendly clothing as I had hoped.

Anyway, if you are losing sleep to a flesh-covered bundle of love and want someone else to do the work for you, here I am. Or, if you are wise and thinking about this journey before you embark on it, again, here I am. Allow me to share with you what I have learned. It might not work for you, but at least I tried?

Question One: Are you a top-up or top-down breastfeeder (not a word, but here I go making it one)? 
* Top Down: It took me awhile to learn that I loathe trying to bundle up a bunch of fabric at my neck by awkwardly pulling up my shirt to feed Vincenza. Thus, I am a top-down breastfeeder. I would prefer to pull down my top to access the ladies than juggle the bottom of my shirt in a fit of total and complete discombobulation.
* Top Up: My mom, however, preferred breastfeeding my brother and me by pulling up her top. I don't know why, but that was what she preferred. I know a lot of women who can do this well. I bow down to them and their awesomeness because I can't make it work.
* Why it matters: You will hate t-shirts if you are a top-down breastfeeder because most t-shirts do not have enough elasticity to pull down and snap back into place nicely after you've nursed the babe. I have watched plenty of women perform this task effortlessly, but I am not one of those women. Everything about me is awkward.

Question Two: What kind of clothes should you look for when you're shopping?
* Nursing nightgowns: I bought these while I was pregnant, and I LOVED them while I was pregnant and when Vincenza was an insatiable newborn. They had a little bit of padding, so if someone came to visit, I didn't have to put on a bra. Since I had a c-section, they were also great for my healing incision. Also, when I went through two days of engorgement (possibly worse than labor), these nursing nightgowns were all that did not hurt. I bought these at Motherhood Maternity during a promotion.

* Looser tops: They are forgiving to your healing body. I am almost five months out and currently typing this post while wearing maternity leggings. I have zero shame. They in no way have to do with nursing, but they sure are comfortable. Ultimately, you want to be comfortable. Also, you want to wear fabrics that aren't itchy for you or the baby.

* Padded nursing bras (NO UNDERWIRE): I get mine at Target because I have to pull them down so much that I don't think it's useful to spend a lot of money on something that gets milk-stained and takes a serious beating (sometimes quite literally these days with a baby who must grab all the things). I make sure mine are padded so that they take care of any "leakage." You don't want to look like you're wearing a wet bikini under your t-shirt. Be careful with underwire because I've read that it can lead to plugged ducts/mastitis because of the pressure it creates. (I know multiple women who have had mastitis, and it sounds horrific.)

This is the Target nursing tank. I have it in gray, black, white, and stripes. 
Buy it here for $19.99. 
Find the nursing bra here for $18.99.

* Henleys: If you do not know what a henley is, it is essentially a button up that buttons only partway down the shirt. If you choose to get a henley (or five), then make sure the buttons go below the bottom of your boobs. Otherwise, you're going to struggle to access them when you have a screaming baby in your arms. No bueno.

 This henley is J.Crew from thredUP.

* Button-up/button-down shirts: These are probably the best shirts for nursing. They are also great during pregnancy because once your belly gets too big to button them, you just leave them unbuttoned over a t-shirt/tank. WIN. Thus, if you find yourself pregnant again while you're still nursing another child, button ups will surely become your friends.

This is a flannel from Old Navy. It's a few years old.

This button-up is a bit "fancier" (would be great for work) and from The Limited several years ago.
I paired it with one of my black nursing tanks from Target.
I have no idea why she's making that face, but it makes me laugh.

I am actually several months pregnant in this picture; this top is a maternity top from Stitchfix. It has buttons halfway down the shirt, so it has been perfect for nursing. It's also work appropriate! 
I wore this shirt (from The Limited) before, during, and now after pregnancy. I can wear it over a nursing tank (or not). This one is sleeveless, so I am not wearing it much now that it's cold outside. It'll be great for spring/summer, however.

* Zipper up sweatshirts: Since I am a top-down breastfeeder, sweatshirts that do not zipper are utterly (udderly? BAHA) useless to me.  This sweatshirt is THE BEST. It buttons just far enough down and has the perfect amount of stretch to make nursing really easy (as easy as it can be). It holds its shape well because it has spandex in it. Always opt for a bit of elasticity in your shirts if you can.

* Heavier cardigans: I wear these in place of regular sweaters because, as I said, I hate lifting my top to nurse. Regular sweaters require lifting my top. If you do wear a regular sweater or are a top up breastfeeder, make sure to wear a nursing tank under it so that you are not catching a mighty big draft on your midriff.

I paired this zipper up sweater with a light pink nursing tank from Motherhood Maternity. (They have a great color selection, and the prices aren't terrible, about $24-$26 per tank.) 

* Crossover or wrap tops/sweaters: These will work well for you when you are nursing or when you are not nursing. They make for easy access. Just make sure the shirt is stretchy or it won't snap back to its original shape very well.

This wrap sweater is from Motherhood Maternity (no link), but Nordstrom has one that's very similar. I have heard great things about it and want one for myself! 
Find the Nordstrom one here for $39.90.

* Crossover or wrap dresses: Unless you want to pull your entire dress over your head, you might want to make it easy on yourself in the dress department by wearing a dress with a stretchy top that crosses over. Like this one:

This dress came in a grab bag from White Plum.

This maxi dress has the same idea.
(From StitchFix)

* Final Notes:
-Spandex helps garments hold their shape. If you're pulling your top down over and over again, you likely don't want to have a case of the saggies.
-If you are a top up breastfeeder and want to wear t-shirts, try to get ones that aren't too fitted so that you are not struggling to pull up a fitted t-shirt and feeling a bit like a sausage link stuck in its casing.
-Determine whether or not you want (or need) to drop dough on a nice nursing bra. My chest isn't large enough to worry about a ton of support.
-Try to reuse maternity stuff and rethink your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. I've learned that you really don't have to sacrifice your sense of style for nursing-friendly clothes.

Question Three: Where do you look for nursing tops without spending your child's college tuition on a top that's really the onesie version (for the love of SNAPS) of a nursing top?
* Target: I like their nursing tanks and padded nursing bras (inexpensive compared to other options). Their maternity tanks do a nice job of pulling down and snapping back into place without getting all saggy.

* Old Navy: Their nursing tanks were not meant for my chest, and they were poorly made compared to Target's version (and not much different in price). Old Navy has great, affordable button downs, which are PERFECT for nursing. I pair them with a Target nursing tank. I wouldn't even bother with their nursing section. Almost nothing receives a good review, and you can find other, better, non-nursing stuff that is actually nursing friendly. Find their nursing tops here.

* Gap: They sell nursing tops, but they are often backordered (guess that means they're good?). The selection isn't large, but they always have sales going on, so I am sure you could try out a few of the essentials from them. Find their nursing tops here.

* ThredUP: This is tricky because you need the search feature to maintain your sanity. I search for "henley" (make sure the buttons on a henley go down to the bottom of your bra so that you can actually get to your boob without going all HULK SMASH on your shirt, leaving yourself naked and afraid.) I also search for button-ups/button-downs, whatever the proper terminology for those shirts happens to be.

* Motherhood Maternity: They specialize in this sort of thing, and they have decent prices. I especially love this striped top.

* H&M: Look at their maternity stuff; you'll find nursing tops in that section of their website. Their prices are great, and they have a pretty decent selection.

* ASOS: Not the most cost-friendly option, but they have a lot of options that are very pretty. If you plan on having multiple kids for whom you must whip out a boob, then maybe invest in a piece from ASOS. They have free shipping both ways, so that's a perk. Find their nursing stuff here. I love this floral dress and this polka dot dress.

* LOFT: They have so many pretty button up tops and also have a bunch of henley tops. I waited for one of their 60% off sales and scored several awesome tops, all of which I have test run and receive the awkward nursing mother stamp of approval. LOFT is great if you are going back to work and want some tops that double for work and for nursing. Search for "henley." I just got several tops from them and LOVE THEM ALL.
* Wal Mart: I know, right? WAL MART. Find some here. I like this one.

* Pinkblush Maternity: They have some gorgeous dresses that would be great for family pictures. Their dresses are a bit less expensive than ASOS. Find their nursing options here.

Zulily: They don't always have nursing stuff, but sometimes they do. This is not my first stop to look for anything, but they frequently have nursing tanks. A lot of women swear by Bun Maternity nursing tanks, which are frequently on Zulily for less, but I am not even willing to pay the Zulily price for them. When summer comes, I might be singing a different tune, however.

* Amazon: I look for henleys here. If you type in "nursing tops," you get a lot of clothes to wear if you were a nurse. Yep. This brand has a lot of cute stuff, but I have not tried any of them yet. This sweater is cute but could be cumbersome. I bought and love these. They are such a good price! (They also have short-sleeved ones.)

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I am SURE I forgot a whole host of things. However, as many of you moms know, we're working on borrowed time here. I squeeze in as much as I can wherever I can. Also, this post in no way is judgmental of moms who do not or cannot breastfeed. (I feel stupid even typing that disclaimer because we all do the best we can and what works for US, but contemporary society is so hellbent on fueling the mommy wars that I feel compelled to include it.) Anyway, I hope you found this post somewhat useful.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Male Planning, not Meal Planning

Even now that I am staying home, my husband fixes a lot of meals because he enjoys cooking, and the baby always wants to eat and eat and eat just when dinner should be fixed. Since she sort of needs to be attached to me to eat, it complicates that whole being over a stove and using sharp objects thing. I, however, am left in charge of meal planning and food buying. With a three-month-old and intense graduate work, this task is a bit more challenging. With a picky husband, this task used to be difficult.

Here are some of my food shopping tricks:
1. Use Amazon Pantry (just bulk stuff, or things not offered on Peapod)--when baby naps, I try to accomplish grad work, not go grocery shopping. I do not fear grocery shopping with an infant; it's just annoying and cumbersome. Plus, I hate food shopping anyway. Food shopping online while posting in online discussion forums for grad class works out pretty well. It all comes in one big box, so it's probably better to use this method for bulk items.

2. Use Peapod (food delivery service through Giant)--delivery fees aren't too steep; they actually do a great job (at least in our area) of choosing good produce; they frequently send promo coupons in the mail.

3. Feed the baby. While she naps, take a quick trip to the grocery store for meat/specialty items. If the baby is cluster feeding at this time, I just wait until the weekends and make my husband go, or we go as a family. (Now that she's three-months-old, her time between each feeding has grown a bit.)

Here is my new meal planning method:
 1. List items in pantry. Our family cannot be the only one that has a ton of stuff in the pantry that goes unused for months at a time. So, I made a list of items in our pantry, fridge, and freezer.

2. Once I had a list of what actually existed in our cabinets/fridge/freezer, I came up with a list of meals that could be made with just these things and possibly a few additions. I did not write down recipes. I just wrote down ingredients. My husband chooses his own adventure while cooking anyway, so recipes are nearly useless with him in front of the stove.

3. Once I had a list of 7 meals (at least one in a crockpot), I made a trip to the store or ordered food through Peapod. We make the meals with the ingredients that will spoil the quickest.

How is this method different?
Not forcing ourselves to fix a particular meal on a particular day gives us the flexibility we need as a family.

With this method, I always have at least one "easy" meal on hand (ex: Applegate hot dogs, broccoli, and mac and cheese), one crockpot meal, and enough leftovers to make lunch the next day. (I can't make a new lunch for myself because there is not enough time between naps to make myself something new and tend to other household chores/graduate work.)

Also, I created my own meal plan template based on my needs. Here's what a completed meal plan looks like:

By the way, we have been using this method for the past month, and it has been the only method that has worked for an extended period of time!

If you want access to the PDF file, then go here.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stitch Fix Redeemed Themselves

After I had Vincenza, my style had to shift. First of all, I wore a lot of fitted tees before she was born, but nursing her and general discomfort mean that I really want nothing to do with shirts that cling to me. Second of all, I won't be going into the classroom every day, so my style has to go a little more casual. It seems silly to wear wedges and work pants while I try to do the laundry, try to eat breakfast, or take a long walk while wearing her in the Ergo. I am nothing if not sensible. 

I think everyone is pretty much familiar with Stitch Fix, but if you're not, here's the low down: a stylist (mine have never been the same for the past 8) chooses 5 items for you based on the style profile that you fill out. You pay a non-refundable $20 styling fee, but if you choose to keep something, that $20 goes toward that item. They send you a pre-labeled bag to return anything you do not wish to keep; this part is not an extra fee for you. Once you mail back the bag of items (must be within three days!), complete the checkout process, where you provide feedback on each item. Schedule a "fix" as often as you want. Be mindful that most items are not under $50, so if you don't want to pay $44 for a t-shirt, request not to receive them in any fixes. If you want to give your girl here some kickback and you haven't signed up yet, use my referral link here (or not). 

When I explained this style shift to Stitch Fix, they sent me two boxes filled with so many things I hated/couldn't nurse in/felt too dressy for my current lifestyle. The only "dressy" thing they gave me in this fix was an actual dress that miraculously works for nursing, and the stylist gave me a great idea for styling it casually. Good job, Melissa. Melissa saved you, Stitch Fix, because I was really going to stop receiving them completely. (Now, I'll just get them every now and again since I have to start tutoring to earn some extra cash.) 

If you are completely dissatisfied with Stitch Fix's performance, TELL THEM. They really listened to me when I sent them an e-mail that told them they did not look at my Pinterest board (clearly), read all of the reviews of the items they send to me (those dang things take precious time when you have a kid), or listen to my feedback at all. They really listened this time. 

Also, like the e-mail response said to me, most of their stuff is at least $50. Therefore, I specified in my stylist note that I did NOT want t-shirts because I would never spend $48 on a t-shirt. I asked for things I knew would be worth extra money (a good bag, a good coat, and sweaters). I feel that telling them what I did NOT want ended up being just as important as telling them what I DID want.

Anyway, on to the review of the pieces:

Item One: Livi Dress by Papermoon ($58)
Thoughts: The stylist suggested pairing it with a vest and boots. I loved how that turned out. The colors are navy and off-white, which means it will go with a plethora of other colors. It's long enough, and it will work well with tights in the winter. It actually pulls down enough for me to nurse the babe. It looks way better belted. It looks sort of like a sack when it's not belted. 
Here it is styled another way. I might wear this to my internship. (I am not returning to teaching right now, but I am finishing my graduate degree in Educational Technology, which means I go into a school at least once a month.)

 Item Two: Anchorage Solid Canvas Tote by Street Level ($58)
Thoughts: My laptop fits in the middle zipper pouch, which I think is just amazing because it still has two large side compartments. It would work really well as a smaller diaper bag, which is what I asked the stylist to give me. I also specified that I wanted a neutral bag. This one is exactly what I have been looking for for months and months.

Item Three: Chaplin Lined Hooded Anorak Jacket by Market & Spruce ($94)
Thoughts: I have been hunting for this jacket in a fall thickness for at least a year. With the 25% off for keeping all of the items, I felt that the jacket was a reasonable price, especially since I loved the length, the red zipper, the hood (key component for me), and the general fit. I wear my winter version a LOT, so I think this one will be a great transition coat. I told my stylist I did not want a pea coat (have enough of those and too dressy for where I'm taking my overall style these days). 
(Also, these black flats are Simply Vera from Kohl's--I LOVE THEM.)

 Item Four: Cobar Fleece Lined Jacket by California Moonrise ($78)
Thoughts: I did NOT love the price. It made me choke a bit, but it was more cost effective to keep everything than keep just the bag and coat (my original "yes" pieces). It's so soft. I am actually lounging in it right now. Like my mom said, Vincenza will love cuddling into it. I wish the fleece lining was inside the sleeves, but it's still really warm. They call it a jacket, which I don't think it is. The stylist suggested pairing it with a dress, which I have not tried, but that's a good idea. Forgive my swinging, disappearing arm.

Item FiveKillian Cowl Neck Sweater by RD Style ($68)
Thoughts: This sweater is SO soft. I love the neutral color. (I would loooove it in white, too.) It is actually long enough to wear with leggings because it completely covers the bum. I told my stylist that I wanted sweaters but to avoid wool (allergic). 

I paired the sweater and the coat. I have to say that I am a big fan of how it turned out. Husband, take me on a hayride. I look perfect for the occasion. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Orange, Black, and Headless

No, this post is not a Halloween tale. However, after a two-month hiatus, I am sure my presence is a tad scary. Babies have this innate ability to soak up every spare moment (and not-so-spare moment) you have, so all of my actual spare moments in the past almost-three months have involved reading for graduate class. Of course, I should be reading for graduate class right now, but momma needs a break...even if our professor did assign us 100 pages of reading this week. 

Plus, my words might actually make sense today since Vincenza slept for her longest stretch yet, 9.5 hours, and she's been out for another three so far this morning. It feels like a gust of fresh air because girlfriend fought all but two hours of sleep yesterday and slept for four hours the night before. (In case you were wondering, I cannot just slip an almost-three-month old some coffee when she does not sleep. In fact, when I drank caffeinated tea a week after she was born, she pinged off the walls for all of forever.)

Anyway, I do actually get dressed most days. Sometimes, I eat breakfast. Sometimes, I brush my teeth. Sometimes, I take a shower. Sometimes, I miraculously do all of these things. So far, today, I have eaten breakfast, ordered an external hard drive for backing up my thousands of pictures, canceled an Amazon order of size 1 diapers (someone blew out of her size 1 diapers and right into size 2 this morning), and let the dogs outside to forage for squirrels (unsuccessful venture). Some day, I will give you some of my tips for dressing as a new mom, particularly one who is nursing a messy eater. For now, I will show you my headless outfit, which unintentionally, belatedly celebrates Halloween.

As it turns out, Vincenza's room is perfect for taking pictures. Since she does not yet sleep in there, I might as well make good use of the pretty accent wall and superb lighting.

The Outfit:
Shirt: Old Navy (recent, super clearance--exact for $8)
Pants: Old Navy (recent, super clearance--exact, more size options in black)
Flats: Aerosoles (last year--possibly the same ones here)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Old Navy Review & Redefining My Style

Dressing my postpartum body for the past three weeks has left me feeling puzzled. First of all, I donned "teacher" wear for nine years, so what does everyday relaxed wear even look like? Second of all, my chest--and I think my ribs?--has grown, so the fitted tees I used to wear in XS feel odd and make nursing a pain. Third of all, having a c-section complicates the wardrobe situation. I am a few pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight (avert your nasty glares elsewhere, please), so I can "technically" wear my pre-pregnancy jeans; however, anything with buttons presses against my incision, which is still not a fan of being touched. Therefore, I can't really wear my pre-pregnancy pants. What does that mean? I am still wearing all of my maternity bottoms, which is weird but necessary. That was not something people really warned me about at the end of my pregnancy.

Now that I will be staying home with Vincenza, I want a wardrobe that:
* Looks pulled together but relaxed.
* Makes nursing my hungry little hippo (who's not hippo-sized) a little easier. Fitted tees, one of my previous closet staples, do not fall into this least not for me.  
* Still fits my overall "style" preferences (which I decided would work best by incorporating some of my favorite colors)
* Is kind to my healing incision

I decided to look for specific types of clothes:
* Looser shirts (good for nursing and healing incision)
* Longer shirts (good for making leggings appropriate because leggings are meant only to show legs, NOT your butt)
* Thicker leggings (even if my butt is covered, I need leggings that are opaque, not sheer)
* Easy-to-wash fabrics (nothing that requires much maintenance)

Old Navy was running a great sale, so I decided they would likely carry exactly what I needed for a good price. Thanks for not disappointing me, Old Navy.

Item 1: Swing Tee in Icelandic Mineral (Size XS Tall)
I decided to go for size tall since they finally sell multiple items in XS tall. Perfect. I love this length, this blush color, and the softness of the material. I almost immediately pulled off the tags and threw it in the laundry basket to go into the wash. I am thinking about getting it in other colors. Find it here.

Item 2: Jersey Leggings in Navy (size small)  
Loved them so much (so thick!) that I just ordered them in maroon too. Best leggings I've ever tried, quite honestly. Great length, thickness, and fit.

Good length and color but I didn't like where the sleeves hit, the itchiness of the fabric, and the way the fabric fell in the front. I returned it. I thought I'd still show it to you so that you received a full review. 

 Item 4: Boyfriend Plaid Pullover (Size XS Tall)
Little looser than some people might like, but it works so well for nursing, I like the length, and it'll shrink when I wash it. Plus, it goes perfectly with the navy leggings I bought.

 Item 5: Terry Fleece Bomber Jacket (Size Small)
Love everything about it. It will be perfect this fall. Great with jeans or this maxi skirt or even over a dress. I think a small was a good choice because the sleeves actually fit.

Item 6: Kimono-Sleeve Oversized Top (size XS Tall)
I liked this one so much that I just ordered it in red, too. It won't work with leggings (not long enough), but it will go well with jeans, pants (these are maternity), and even maxi skirts. I love the sleeves; they add something special to an otherwise ordinary top.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vincenza's Birth Story

Our sweet baby girl is currently bathing in the sunlight flooding into our living room so that the last traces of her jaundice disappear sleeping in her swing. Since I cannot climb the stairs too often (doctor's orders), I find myself trapped on the upper level of our house. I might as well try to write her birth story until she needs to eat again. (I am on day three of working on this post, so who knows where we'll be when I finally finish it.)

Vincenza was due on August 27, 2015. So many people kept telling me, "Oh, I went two weeks late. Oh, women usually go late with their first child." I had a hard time believing all of these people. I just knew she would not wait until her due date to meet us, and I guess my mother's intuition started early because my water broke at 9:30pm on August 13th.

As Jeff dozed off on the couch, I heard and felt this popping sound that I confused with a gas bubble. After all, I had eaten a bit too much salsa earlier that day. Then I thought I peed myself (dignity be gone), so I hurried to the bathroom where I just started repeating, "uh oh. UH OH." Jeff rushed over to the bathroom, and I said, "It's like I'm peeing, but I'm not peeing. I think my water is breaking!" You see, we both hoped my water would break because it would be a surefire sign to both of us that it was go time. However, we learned in the birthing class that only 10% of women's water breaks, so we figured our chances were slim. Leave it to me to be a part of the 10%. We both maintain that my water broke because we made fun of the terminology from the birthing class. They continued to refer to it as a "bag of waters," which we found hysterical. I think I understand why they call it waters. It's not just a little water that makes its way out. It just keeps going and going and going until you actually have the baby. Water water everywhere.

Anyway, we called the midwives. The midwife on call said she wanted us in the hospital no later than midnight because water breaking requires almost immediate action to avoid any bacteria from harming the baby. By 11:30, we arrived at the hospital. First, we had to part the sea of sickies in the emergency waiting room. One man who may have escaped the mental ward kept inching closer and closer to me as he waved enthusiastically at the pregnant lady in labor. We scurried as quickly through the door as possible, took the elevator to the second floor, and checked into Labor & Delivery. When the midwife first checked me, I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced. Definitely labor. Definitely not fake this time around.

I tried to labor for as long as possible without an epidural, but my body just wasn't having it. I swayed, I rocked on a ball, I breathed through it. Jeff was a champion, my champion. He helped me go to the bathroom, he helped me breathe through contractions, he continued to get me water as I needed it, and he rubbed my back to ease the pressure. The contractions were on top of each other at one-two minutes apart, so I didn't really have a reprieve like the movies and even the birthing class suggested. Of course, I had to be hooked up to an IV and receive an entire bag of fluids before they could administer the epidural. Every time a contraction slammed me, I scowled at the IV bag and cursed it for not moving quicker.  Finally, the anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural; it felt like a kick to the back, but pain was relative at this point in the game. The epidural quelled my pain, but it brought with it an almost-as-annoying symptom: the shakes. I shivered and shook for hours on end. (This symptom really worried my mom because it gave her flashbacks to an illness I suffered in high school. I shook so violently that three football players couldn't hold me down.) When Jeff wasn't tending to me, my mom was scratching my head or trying to soothe me. I am glad they stayed with me for the duration.

The midwife checked me again. 5cm and 100% effaced. Good, progress.

Almost three hours later, I was still only 5cm dilated. Not good. Not progress. I continued to focus on Vincenza's heartbeat, which wasn't sounding as promising as it had before. Worry and anxiety washed over my already-shivering body. The midwife had me get on my hands and knees, a very difficult feat when an epidural has almost completely numbed your lower half, so that I could wiggle Vincenza into the proper position and help her drop. Still no progress after thirty minutes of this effort.

When the midwife delivered the "I suggest a c-section" news, she felt so awful about it. Honestly, like I said in the very beginning of this journey, keep the kid healthy and I can deal with the rest. When Vincenza's heartrate dropped to 90bpm at one point, all I wanted was for someone to get her out safely. The midwife said that Vincenza wasn't a big baby, but my pelvis was not accommodating her, especially since the circumference of her head was larger because she had it turned to the side. She said I could keep laboring, but she felt that I was not "anatomically designed" to birth Vincenza naturally. I felt no sadness, only relief. Relief that someone was getting my baby out and into my arms. I wanted her out healthy far more than I wanted to avoid another surgery.

Somewhere around 8 in the morning on August 14th, they had me in the OR, prepping me for surgery. One of our neighbors from our previous neighborhood actually works in Labor and Delivery at our hospital, and she was in the OR with us for Vincenza's birth. It was so comforting to see a familiar face; she even took a lot of pictures with my mom's camera since my mom couldn't come into the OR with us. My favorite picture is this one:

C-sections are weird. I was awake. Both of my arms were extended at my sides (as if I were trying to fly). I could not feel the pain of surgery, but I could feel the doctors pulling and pushing all of my organs around. Jeff felt a little freaked out by seeing me flop around on the table as the doctors all but put their feet up on the table to rearrange my insides. I, on the other hand, will never forget the initial smell. Aloud, I said, "Ummm...that smells terrible." Within thirty seconds, I internally realized that I smelled terrible. That smell was the smell of burning flesh. My burning flesh. They were cauterizing my wound, and I smelled awful. Jeff maintains that I smelled like steak. I worry about his diving into cannibalism during an apocalypse now that he knows my burning flesh smells like steak. I still think it smells like stink.

After they pulled out Vincenza, I worriedly asked, "Is it normal to feel like someone smashed me in the shoulder with a baseball bat? It really hurts." Apparently, this pain is called referred pain. Since my uterus could not feel the pain it was obviously experiencing, the pain shot into my shoulder. At first, I refused pain meds. Five minutes later? I had to accept them. I wanted to enjoy my daughter, not focus on the searing shoulder pain. (Unfortunately, those pain meds made me dizzy and queasy for the rest of the day.)

Now, aside from Vincenza's health, I wanted one more thing. I wanted to be the first to hold her. My dad was the first to hold me (I was also born via c-section), but I wanted to hold Vincenza before Jeff did. Originally, they planned to place her on my chest for five minutes. She ended up doing so well that they left her on my chest for about thirty minutes, thirty glorious minutes. Before Vincenza was born, people continued to tell me how much love I would feel, but no one could have truly prepared me for the moment I first saw her and heard her lungs burst with healthy, loud cries. At that moment, Jeff was holding my hand and sitting next to me. We both saw her and sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed. She was finally here. Our tiny, sweet human was finally on the outside, and she was all ours. I wish I could bottle those intense emotions for all eternity because they would surely heal all wounds.

We are eleven days out, and I am on the mend thanks to my little healer. She is eating and farting like a grown man. I am showering at least every two or three days. My mom is spending the next week with me since Jeff cannot take off at his new job. We have entertained several visitors who do not mind my unsightly appearance because who can focus on anything other than this adorable baby?

I still can't drive for another week, and I have a lot of other restrictions for a month after that. However, I have a tiny, adorable, lovable daughter. I feel nothing more than gratitude. Even better? I now share my birthday with Vincenza. We were born within an hour of each other on the same day (not of the same year, of course).  

I probably forgot a lot. Blame mom brain. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Mother Daughter Style at 38 Weeks

Soon, we will have another girl to join our pictures. Since we have no idea when Vincenza will actually make her appearance, I decided I wanted some pictures with Mom before she went home yesterday. Plus, I love this first picture so much that it might have to be framed and placed in Vincenza's room. Jeff took it with the new camera he got for me. Fancy in our pants over here.

Mom's Outfit:
 Dress: Boscov's
Necklace/earrings: A La Mode Boutique
Cardigan: Kohl's (she thinks)

My Outfit:  
Cardigan: NY & Co.
Dress (not maternity): Old Navy
Elephant Necklace (from mom!): Bass & Co.

How far along? 38 weeks as of yesterday, and I will turn 31 years young tomorrow. Wow.

Size? I've gained about 25 pounds, and she is somewhere around 6 pounds (they guess.)

Nursery? Finished (except for whatever else we end up hanging on the walls after she arrives). Feel free to check out a tour of her nursery here. So far, both my mom and I have fallen asleep in that nursery chair, so it was a good choice.

Maternity Clothes? The only thing I can wear with any sort of comfort is a dress, especially a maxi dress. See my tips for shopping and styling in the third trimester here.

Stretch Marks? Not yet, but I am really waiting for my body to surprise me with this one.

Sleep? I try to keep myself from napping so that I sleep more soundly at night, and this strategy has worked relatively well for two weeks. I still use my pregnancy wedge and pillow to make it through the night despite the fact that I have to fight with these things when I rouse sleepily three times minimum to use the bathroom. See what's helped me survive here.

Contractions? I have pretty strong Braxton Hicks contractions, and Vincenza does not appear to like them. She wiggles around when they happen. Contractions + Wiggling Baby = Lots of discomfort for Momma.
Celebrations? We have reached "term" as of 37 weeks, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I just need to see her sweet face and hear her healthy screams so that I can breathe the last, biggest sigh of relief. All we need to celebrate is her health. I have remained so hyper-focused on her well being that everything else pales in comparison to my prayers for her health.

Cravings? For four days, I have wanted a cupcake. I don't know why. I have yet to eat one. However, tomorrow is my birthday, and I intend to eat a cupcake for my birthday. Cupcake and crabs.

Symptoms? Mainly growing pains. My body is struggling to support the both of us, but I'm powering through pretty well. I even forced myself to go on a walk with Jeff yesterday.

Movement? Despite her lack of space, this kid loves to move. She moves frequently throughout the day, but her movements are relatively relaxed. As soon as Daddy comes home around 2-3, her witching hour starts. I say witching "hour," but she gears up until at least 8 at night. However, once I settle into bed, not to be confused with the couch, she's good about calming down again. I tell her to move even if it hurts me because her movements let me know she is thriving in there.

Anticipating? Obviously, we are all anticipating her arrival. I am also really looking forward to my mom staying with us for like two weeks because Jeff cannot take off after having recently started a new job. The consistent support from someone who makes me feel relaxed and better eases a lot of my pre-motherhood anxiety.