Baby / Lark / Motherhood

Motherhood Update: Lark at 1 month

March 22, 2017

We’re a little over one month in with Lark now, so I thought I’d put together an update on how she’s doing and how we’re adjusting to our newest family member. These updates will be a little different from the ones I post about Prim (because, yeah, there’s not a whole lot of huge developments to cover the first 6-8 months) so these posts will be a little bit about Lark and a little bit about what’s working for us two-kids-wise and how Prim is adjusting to being a big sister.

Sleeping: Don’t worry, we don’t have some magical unicorn child who is sleeping through the night at 5 weeks (don’t you kind of want to punch those parents? Just a little? I mean… good for them though.) Lark is exclusively breastfed and is on a pretty standard breastfed schedule (meaning: no schedule.) She eats on demand and we have been lucky that she generally sticks to 3 hours between feedings at night (sometimes she’ll do a 4 hour stretch, sometimes she’ll do a 2 hour stretch — it’s not an exact science). It’s tiring, but I’ve found that if you go into the first few months expecting to be up most of the night, it’s not so bad. And I’m very lucky that Lark is a champion breastfeeder and came out of the womb that way (such a difference from Prim!)

How we’re adjusting: I really prepared myself for the transition to two kids to be monstrous. I thought I would get zero sleep, be completely irritable, expected to have a baby who cried and cried and couldn’t be calmed, and thought Prim would have a really difficult time adjusting. Luckily my “worst case scenario” mentality worked out — none of those things have happened. I did get really thrown into the deep end when, after having help for the first couple weeks, KC went back into busy season where he would work until 10:30pm or later, meaning I was alone with both kids alllll day (and most of the night, really). Tackling Prim’s naptime and bedtime routine (including her bath) are the most challenging parts of the day, but I’ve been feeling pretty accomplished that we have been sticking to Prim’s schedule and I’ve managed to keep the house clean, laundry done, and even cook dinner most nights.

I’m definitely still in the process of figuring out what Lark likes these days. Unlike Prim, who loved to be swaddled, Lark is not a fan of being wrapped up burrito-style. Luckily she seems to sleep well with her arms free, so I’m currently in the process of trying to figure out a newborn sleep sack situation, since I didn’t put Prim into a sleep sack until she was 4 or 5 months. Lark also did not take to the Avent Soothie/Wubbanub pacifier the way Prim did. I finally found a pacifier that she likes, but she’s still not crazy for it like Prim was at this age.

Lifesavers: There’s no way I would be able to tackle two kids effectively without baby wearing. The Solly Wrap is such a lifesaver. I keep the Solly Wrap tied on me all day and pop Lark in and out as needed. It’s the quickest way to calm her down and get her to sleep if she’s tired (not to mention it’s basically the only way I can tackle Prim’s nap and bedtime routine without having a baby screaming in the next room). I’ve been pretty strict about Lark sleeping in her crib in our room at night, but during the day we’re still in the “whatever works” phase of getting her to nap. Newborn sleep is all over the place and they luckily aren’t forming strong habits at this age, so I’m not sweating the lack of daytime routine.

New sibling: Prim has adjusted phenomenally well to having a new sibling. From the moment we brought Lark home, Prim was smitten with her and this really hasn’t changed. She asks for “Baby Lark” as soon as she wakes up in the morning and loves giving her kisses, snuggles, and “pets.”

Sweetest things: Prim will cuddle up with Lark under the IKEA play gym and speak to her in her little gibberish language, which we’ve dubbed “Primglish.” Lark has started cooing back, which is simultaneously adorable and a little terrifying — Prim didn’t start cooing until around 6 weeks and now talks a mile a minute all day long, so I’ve already warned KC that it’s likely we’re going to have two little chatterboxes on our hands.

Favorite thing about this age: There is nothing sweeter than newborn snuggles. And the frog position they get into when they’re so sleepy after breastfeeding (feet up, arms bent with fists by the face) makes me want 100 more babies every time.

Baby / Favorite Things

Baby Registry Redux

March 14, 2017

You don’t generally get to have a registry and multiple baby showers for a child that isn’t your first. I know some people have a “sprinkle” the second (or third…) time around with a few close friends, especially if they’re having a baby that’s a different gender; but that’s usually more to get “fun” gifts like clothing and diapers –not the whole mess of gear and accessories you register for the first time around.

But really, building a registry would be so much easier if you could do it after having a kid. Because do you need a wipe warmer? Should you splurge on the stroller you really want or register for the more economical option?

I’m firmly planted in the “less is more” camp when it comes to baby gear, but even “minimalist” babies need quite a bit of stuff. Now that I’ve got two kiddos, I’ve revised the list of what I would register for if I could do it all over again. Here are my thoughts for all of the major categories to cover in your baby registry.

(There are tons of awesome options for each of the categories below, my recommendations are just based on items I’ve used or seen and really like.)

Bathtime

I like to keep the products I use on Prim as natural and basic as possible, but she’s developed a bit of eczema which tends to flare up in the colder months, so just anything won’t do for bath time. I use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (there’s also an app) to see which items are low-hazard and will work for her sensitive skin.

Diapering and Health/Safety

I used cloth diapers on Prim until we moved to Amsterdam and absolutely loved them. Unfortunately, cloth diapering in the Netherlands is a bit trickier (I still can’t find cotton prefolds here) and there’s no service available like there is in California to come pick up your soiled diapers, so I would have to do all the washing myself if I were to continue using them. Given that our washer/dryer fits like a single shirt at a time and takes approximately 1,000 years to do one load, I’ve made the switch over to disposables (but honestly, I would switch back to cloth in an instant if it weren’t such a giant hassle!)

If you deliver at a hospital they should provide you with a standard rectal thermometer, which is why i would recommend registering for an ear thermometer if you decide to put one on your registry.

When looking at diaper pails make sure to note whether you have to buy special bin liners for the one you want (looking at you, Diaper Dekor). We registered for the Ubbi even though it was more expensive because you can use regular garbage bags in it, which actually makes it cheaper in the long run, especially if you are planning on having more than one kid.

*The Keekaroo changing pad doesn’t require a cover, so you could avoid buying covers and liners if you register for that option.

Eating

I ended up going with the Kiinde bottle warmer after doing a bunch of research and finding out that it’s the best bottle warmer for use with breastmilk because it uses water rather than steam to warm the bottle. It takes a little longer than other bottle warmers because of this, but I like knowing that it’s maintaining as much of the nutrients in the breastmilk as possible since it’s not heating too quickly or getting too hot. If you’re going to be heating up formula, I’d recommend a different bottle warmer (one that’s cheaper and faster) because formula isn’t as easily compromised by heat as breastmilk is.

The nursing pillow was really helpful with Prim, but I have to admit I haven’t used it once since having Lark, so if you can borrow a friend’s that might be a better option than adding it to your registry.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the size of your registry, feel free to cut out things related to feeding baby solid food. Babies don’t start solids until 4-6 months, which means you’ll have plenty of time to buy baby food-related items yourself during the first few months. I do recommend putting a high chair on your registry though — you get a completion discount on remaining items not purchased from your registry, so given that it’s a higher-priced item it’s nice to have the discount!

Play

We try to stick to toys that are made from natural materials like wood, natural rubber or food-grade silicone, since we know that most (or all) end up going in the kids’ mouths at one point or another. We ended up buying the IKEA play gym on a whim shortly after Prim was born, as I wasn’t really into the crazy neon play mats/play gyms I saw everywhere else, but also didn’t want to spend $150 on a beautiful wood one. The IKEA one ended up being an awesome purchase (it’s only $30!) — Prim still plays with it, and I love that it’s not a hot-pink eyesore in the middle of the living room.

Out and About

I think there are plenty of strollers out there that are awesome, and what works for you is really personal. You should research strollers based on what you like to do and your family’s living situation. Someone who hikes frequently or runs outdoors is obviously going to have different needs from someone who needs a stroller for a tight, urban environment (hello, Amsterdam). We wanted a general, all-purpose stroller that was both compact and easy to maneuver. We ended up choosing ours because I have severe restrictions on how much weight I can lift due to my bad back, and our stroller was the lightest all-terrain, urban stroller we could find. However, now that we have two kids under two, if I had to do it over again I would register for a stroller than can convert from a single to a double (like the Uppababy Vista or City Select). If you plan to have more than one kid but think you’ll space them out a bit, a single stroller with a ride-on board is a good option. (If Prim were a year older, I’d hang onto our current stroller and add this.)

I’ve already posted about baby wraps here. As for structured carriers, we initially got the Ergo 360 carrier, but I couldn’t put the freaking thing on by myself (which, uh, is kind of a deal-breaker), so we returned it and tried on a bunch of other carriers. I liked the Baby Bjorn, but we ultimately chose the Beco Gemini because it fit KC better. The Beco is really comfy and easy to use, and it’s awesome that it has the option of four different positions (front facing in, front facing out, side carry, and back carry).

Bedtime

I registered for two mattress protectors and three crib sheets when I was pregnant with Prim, which, I will admit, at the time felt a little bit greedy. Now that I’ve been through a night with a puking child, I know that this is the absolute MINIMUM amount of bedding you want to register for. Just trust me on this one.

Also, I felt like the bedding we registered for (aside from the crib) was somewhat pricey, but now that I’m almost two years into parenting, I totally see the value in spending money on your kid’s sleeping situation. They spend so much time sleeping on those sheets and mattress that you really see your return on investment on those items. So if you’ve got your eye on some pricey, well-made sheets for baby’s crib — I say go ahead and go for it.

You’ll notice that I didn’t include any baby clothing on my registry, because whether or not you have clothing on your registry people will buy it for you. If you’re really committed to a certain outfit or aesthetic, you can obviously add those to your registry, but I don’t really think adding clothing to your registry is necessary.

After the jump is the full registry list with links sans comments in case you want to print it out or copy/paste it into a Word doc as a checklist. The items in bold I think are not strictly necessary — they’re either “nice to have” or could be purchased after baby is born.

Happy registering!  read more

Baby / Favorite Things / Pregnancy

Pregnancy Post: 5 favorite things for the second and third trimesters

March 3, 2017

^^ end of pregnancy style: a t-shirt that barely fits and “I can’t be bothered” hair ^^

My second pregnancy was a bit different from my first (and not just because my first took place in the US and the second took place in the Netherlands). The second pregnancy I was chasing a toddler around and didn’t have as much free time to really revel in being pregnant. Not that I didn’t enjoy it — I actually really enjoy being pregnant (aside from those first weeks when I was puking every second of the day); but with your first pregnancy there’s a lot more preparation to be done. I read a bunch of pregnancy books while pregnant with Prim and did all sorts of research on what gear to purchase and who made crib mattresses that weren’t filled with toxic chemicals.

The second time around I read part of a book that was pregnancy-related — not even the whole thing. I think I used belly butter to prevent stretch marks like five times total. And I hate to admit that I was less than diligent about keeping up with my prenatal vitamins (I mean, I remembered to take them most of the time…)

Here are the five things I actually did use during my second pregnancy that I would recommend:

  1. Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom Salt Bath Soak: I’ve said it before and I will say it again — there is nothing like a bath when you’re pregnant. Towards the end of my pregnancy I would fill up the tub and toss in some of these bath salts (which are so affordable by the way, you can even get two huge bags for $17!) I would chill out and listen to a podcast, feeling little Lark kick and roll around in my belly. Total bliss.
  2. Breathe Right Nasal Strips: A weird and not-so-fun fact about pregnancy — many women suffer from swollen sinuses, which makes it hard to breathe at night (it’s like having a sinus infection ALL THE TIME). These strips work wonders so you can breathe at night without resorting to probably-not-safe-for-pregnancy medications or the ever so attractive sleeping with your mouth wide open.
  3. H&M Mama Maternity Wear: You guys already know about my love for H&M maternity jeans, but I have to say that I wore H&M maternity wear almost exclusively during my second and third trimester this pregnancy. Their maternity wear is inexpensive and on-trend; and while I won’t say that it will definitely hold up through multiple pregnancies, the price point makes it worthwhile in my opinion (because you never know if you’re going to be pregnant in exactly the same season next time!) And yes, I’m totally tempted to purchase these even though I’m no longer pregnant. (KC’s nightmare — my baby fever + overalls. Wedded bliss!)
  4. Hypnobirthing, Fourth Edition: The Mongan Method: I have to admit that I did wayyy less birth prep this time than I did when I was pregnant with Prim. I didn’t even read this whole book, but I did read through the breathing techniques and found them really helpful during labor. If you’re looking for a book to read to prepare for a natural birth, I would definitely recommend this one.
  5. Wireless Bluetooth Speaker: We didn’t purchase this speaker because I was pregnant, but I loved using this speaker during both of my labors. As I mentioned in both Prim’s and Lark’s birth stories, we played music throughout both of my labors which really helped me chill out and relax. We have gotten so much use out of this little speaker (outside of the delivery room also!) that I can’t not mention it. I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase it again.

If you’re expecting or trying to get pregnant, I hope this list is at least a little helpful. And since I’ve gone from one kiddo to two, I’ll try to do a baby-gear recap on what I would recommend if you’re planning a registry and hoping to have more than one child (because I would definitely get a different stroller if I could do it over!)

Baby / Pregnancy

On Natural Birth

February 27, 2017

I am by no means an expert on giving birth, but since I have now had medicated and un-medicated deliveries, I thought I would share my thoughts on what helped me through the labor and delivery process with each. And if you’re planning a natural birth, here’s what worked for me.

I went into both births with the intention of delivering without drugs, but gave myself permission to go with what I felt was best in the moment.

First, with both of my deliveries, I tried to give myself over to the process. Being induced and on Pitocin was certainly not part of my birth plan with Prim, but with my preeclampsia diagnosis there was really no way around it. Ultimately, I had the mindset of “whatever is going to be best for my baby” and tried to go with the flow to the extent possible. My induction was started with a Foley catheter and Pitocin around 11am on Friday, and by the time I hit 6.5cm at 6:30am on Saturday, the following morning, I was done. I was exhausted, hadn’t eaten or slept in almost 24 hours, and had been dealing with Pitocin-induced contractions for well over 20 hours. Having gone through labor with and without Pitocin, let me tell you this — Pitocin-induced contractions are a whole different ball game. There was no break between my contractions for hours on end and it got to the point where I couldn’t breathe at all while they were happening and could barely speak in between because I was in so much pain. Ultimately, I felt like getting the epidural during Prim’s birth was the right decision. I was able to rest before pushing, which made the pushing process short and very easy. Having the epidural also made me feel very present for the pushing process and able to really soak up the moments with Prim immediately following her birth.

Lark’s natural birth was amazing. If I could plan a birth, this would be it. Recovery was significantly easier after Lark’s birth, which I attribute to the lack of medical intervention. My body was able to progress and deliver naturally, which I think makes a big difference in the aftermath of giving birth. That being said, I should note that my labor with Lark was significantly shorter and easier than with Prim. I went into labor naturally and the whole thing lasted just barely over five hours from my first contraction to when I delivered. (Just for reference, 5 hours of labor vs. 24+ hours is VERY different.) Labor with second babies tends to be shorter and easier than with first babies, and the fact that this was my second delivery in under two years also means my body was somewhat primed to give birth already.

Because I had planned a natural birth with Prim, KC and I had attended a birthing class which covered breathing techniques and coping mechanisms for labor. Ultimately, I didn’t really use any of this information, but if you’re someone who thrives in the classroom setting, taking a birth class certainly can’t hurt you in preparation for birth.

The things that helped me most through labor were:

  1. Walking/moving during active labor. After timing the first hour of contractions while laying in bed at 4am, I got up at 5am and never really sat down again until I got into the bath around 7:45am when transition was starting. Walking felt more comfortable than sitting or lying down and I think also helped speed up my labor.
  2. The HypnoBirthing breathing techniques. To be honest I didn’t even read the whole book — I really just covered the breathing and read through some of the visualizations.
  3. Dimming the lights. I like a calm atmosphere for labor, so I dimmed the lights and kept things super-mellow for both of my births.
  4. Listening to music. I listened to the Hozier Pandora station while in labor with Prim. For Lark’s birth I listened to a mellow playlist I created on Spotify.
  5. WATER. Honestly there was nothing that compared to being in the tub for transition during labor with Lark. I had used the shower while in labor with Prim, which was really helpful, but a tub is even better, in my opinion.

During contractions I focused on taking deep breaths and tried to relax my whole body starting with my jaw and shoulders and working my way down. For both labors I tried to just focus on my body as labor was happening. I lost track of time and focused only on staying relaxed and breathing. This worked up to a point during labor with Prim, but being in the bath for transition with Lark was especially helpful because I could just float and let my body relax through contractions while I focused on breathing. KC also helped a lot by talking to me through transition. In between contractions he would tell me I was doing a great job and I think may have been reading me Yahoo headlines (ha! I really don’t remember what he talked about), but having the distraction of conversation really helped take my mind off the intense contractions at the end of labor.

Pushing without drugs is a whole other ballgame. Your body sort of takes over and it’s terrifying and painful (I mean, let’s be honest here), so really the only advice I can give you is to get yourself a good doctor, midwife or labor coach who can support you through the pushing process. It definitely requires someone who can pull your focus away from the pain and get you to breathe and focus in between contractions. My midwife was right in my face for pushing, telling me how to breathe and what to do during the next contraction, but other than that, the only real advice I can give you is try not to freak out too much and just do your best to get through it.

(Oh, and if you want to be a “good pusher” my recommendation is to do Bar Method and to tuck your hips during the pushing process. I don’t think I could have identified where my abs were without having done Bar Method, and as my American OB said — “We love Bar Method students. They’re good pushers.” Both of my babies were out in less than 4 pushes, so I think she might just be right!)

Baby / Life Abroad / Pregnancy

Reflections on Giving Birth Abroad

February 26, 2017

If you’ve been following along for awhile now, you already know that there are a lot of differences between how the Dutch and American systems handle pregnancy and birth (if you’d like to get caught up, see parts 1, 2, and 3 here). I’ve also written about Prim’s very “American-style” birth (read: induction, Pitocin, epidural, being forced to wait to push) and Lark’s decidedly Dutch entrance into the world (no drugs whatsoever, born in the water, home less than 3 hours after delivery).

So given the choice, which model would I opt for next time?

The Dutch approach, hands-down. As I’ve mentioned before, I do think the Dutch approach has its drawbacks. I think it’s a tougher model for first-time moms in some ways. If you are struggling with breastfeeding (like I did with Prim), being sent home from the hospital mere hours after delivering could add additional stress to an already stressful and emotional situation. Also, if you’re someone who has a lot of anxiety with pregnancy, the American approach will likely give you more peace of mind than the the sort of “free-range” Dutch model. And if you’re someone who is dead-set on having an epidural for delivery, the American model is going to be your best bet. (Remember that 60% of American births are accompanied by an epidural, whereas only 10% of Dutch births use one.)

The Dutch model is very much based on the natural progression of pregnancy and childbirth; so if you’re into the natural pregnancy/birth thing (which I am), the Dutch model is amazing, in my opinion. I love that there’s not a lot of unnecessary medical intervention in the Dutch model, and that they really focus a lot on your wishes for labor and delivery ahead of time. Not to mention that the model of having your midwife present for the majority of your labor I think helps support the natural birth model, as they can provide valuable support and insight during the labor process.

I loved that my midwives were deeply invested in my birth plan long before I went into labor. I felt very supported in my wish to have a natural birth and labor in the water. Additionally, one of the things that really struck me after giving birth was how much my midwives wanted to discuss my labor and delivery after it was over. I have seen or talked to four of the five midwives in my practice since delivering, and all four have brought up Lark’s birth, saying that they had heard about my delivery (“Delivered in the water — how wonderful!”) and asked me how I felt it went.

In the US, no one asked me about my birth. Even after my postpartum hemorrhage, where I literally almost bled to death, no one — not even my regular OB — asked me about my delivery or its aftermath and how I felt about it.

If you’ve given birth, you know that it’s a huge, life-changing moment. It’s something that you want and need to discuss afterwards. The Dutch seem to recognize this, but the American system does not. Overall, the Dutch seem to recognize that in order to have a “successful” pregnancy and birth, you support the mother personally first and medically second. The American model seems much more based on risk-aversion and doing what the doctor feels is best, even if it’s not what the mother wants.

I love that the Dutch seem to still regard pregnancy and birth as a miracle created by a woman’s body. There is a lot of respect for the woman throughout pregnancy and birthing process, and a lot of weight given to her own wishes and feelings throughout the nine months. A good example of this was after my delivery my midwife and kraamzorg were talking to me about Lark’s birth and I mentioned that the timing was especially fortuitous because my mom happened to be visiting Amsterdam for a mere three days and I had managed to deliver during those three days. Without missing a beat, the kraamzorg said, “Your body knew,” and my midwife immediately said, “Yes. Women’s bodies — they know.”

Isn’t that wonderful? I know it’s a little crunchy-granola sounding, but I think a lot of the respect for the female body has been lost in the American system. So much of the US system is focused on the fetus, rather than the mother. While I agree that the fetus is precious, you don’t get the baby without the mother. Creating and birthing a life is a huge, wonderful thing that should be celebrated. If you’ve been or are pregnant, you know the awesome sacrifice of carrying a life, and I’m here to tell you that what you’re doing — it’s not easy, but it’s amazing.

If you’re considering a birth abroad, or moving to the Netherlands and considering expanding your family, I can’t recommend the Dutch approach enough. As I told my midwife after delivery, I don’t know how I’m going to go back to the American system after this, as I feel like Lark’s birth was about as ideal as it gets.