Unexpected Emotions

When Robert and I decided to start a family it was always our intention to be a family of three. Our goal was one pregnancy, one baby. We struggled to get there, but after two years we were finally pregnant. I was happy, he was happy. I enjoyed my pregnancy – even if I had some stress and anxiety throughout. It was a relatively easy pregnancy all things considered. I was able to stay active during it and it wasn’t until my final week that I really starting feeling uncomfortable and was ready to not be pregnant anymore. I loved my belly, I loved feeling the baby move and I just generally loved being pregnant.

During all of this we continued to maintain that this would be our only child. Even as the OB asked me during my 39th week if we planned to have another and struggled to hide his shock when we both immediately responded “no”.

Once the baby was born, I was thrilled. Finally, here she was! The child we’d longed for and struggled so hard to conceive. But what I didn’t expect was the sadness that I experienced when I looked back at the pictures from my pregnancy in those first weeks after the baby was born. I was overcome with emotion over the fact that, in all liklihood, I would never be pregnant again. I would never have a bump again, or feel the excitement of a small human growing inside of me, or sit in the shower in the morning rubbing my belly and talking to my unborn child.

Where were these feelings coming from?! Was it simply postpartum hormones? I mean, really, I had always been on board the one and done train. I told everyone who asked that this was likely it for us. My age, Robert’s age, our fertility struggles – it was all so hard. We had no intention of walking down that path again. We had a perfectly healthy little girl to love and adore, and that was good enough.

Or was it?

Suddenly I wasn’t sure. My head and my heart were at odds with each other and it was very confusing. Correction. It is very confusing. Because I am still unsure. There is very much a part of me that still thinks we are done and our little family of three is complete. But there is a voice in my heart that continues to ask me to reconsider and really think this through while I still have the time. And so here I am, still experiencing these unexpected emotions. Five months postpartum and no closer to answering any of the questions that I now have; no longer confident that one and done is the right decision for us. 

I am amazed at how one tiny person who can’t communicate in words can speak so strongly to your heart. I wish I had the ability to peek into the future and see my life in ten years. To know if I was making the right decisions. But I don’t. Which means that I am going to be doing some serious soul searching during the next few months and hoping that at the end I find some clarity. To know I’m making a decision with both my head and my heart that I am comfortable with, because I don’t want to look bak at this moment in ten years and regret that I didn’t listen when my heart spoke.


Non-Stress Tests

Somewhere around my 33rd week of pregnancy, when I went in for my routine appointment, my fundal height was suddenly measuring two weeks ahead of schedule. This represented a change from my usual “right on track” measurements that I’d been receiving from the time they started measuring my fundal height. Because of this I was sent back to the MFM to have a growth scan done and see what was going on inside my uterus and check to make sure there was nothing alarming for the baby.

As it turns out, the baby was measuring 36-37 weeks. Which meant at that point she was big. Everything else looked just fine, she was just measuing larger than expected. Given her size, the fact that I was “advanced maternal age” and my autoimmune problems, it was recommended that I start weekly monitoring at 35 weeks. This included a Non-Stress Test and a Biometric Profile.

What are these tests? Well, they are just fancy terms for having an extended doppler reading and a weekly ultrasound.

The Non-Stress Test

This test was exceedingly simple. Basically we went into the office, sat in a comfy chair and my belly was hooked up to sensors that would monitor the baby’s heartbeat, movement and my contractions. I was also given a clicker so that I could click anytime I felt a movement. You sat in the chair, hooked up to the machine, for about 20 minutes. I usually read or surfed the internet on my phone. It wasn’t bad at all! And I rather enjoyed listening to the baby’s heart chug away every week.

The Biometric Profile

This test was also fairly simple, at least my part of it. It was an ultrasoud where the tech worked through a checklist of things each week to make sure that there were no red flags. She would look at the four chambers of the heart, watch the baby breathe, look for fetal movement, look at the brain activity and measure my amniotic fluid. I’m sure there was more on the checklist, but I believe those were the big things. The ultrasound took roughly 20 minutes, and it was fun getting to see Kerrigan each week.

While I know some may have considered it a pain to have to have two seperate doctor’s appointments every week – the one with the MFM and the one with my OB – I really didn’t mind. I was so anxious throughout my pregnancy that I welcomed the extra care. I was more than happy to make the time for the  weekly tests, and it actually gave me a sense of calm to know that I had the weekly checks on the baby.

In the end, we did a final growth scan on Kerrigan, and she measured very large at an estimated 9 pounds 15 ounces. The MFM did tell us that the larger the baby, the less accurate the readings are from the ultrasound and she would guess the baby would be somewhere between 9 and 9.5 pounds. She told us we were right on the cusp of where she’d recommend a c-section, but I had a large frame and might be fine with a vaginal birth.

If you’ve read my birth story, you know that we opted for a scheduled c-section after Kerrigan didn’t arrive on her due date. She ended up being 9 pounds, 13 ounces and my OB indicated after seeing her that I wouldn’t have been able to birth her shoulders because of how broad they were. When all was said and done, I was happy that I was sent for that first growth scan. I was happy to have the extra weekly monitoring and I was happy that we did that final growth scan at 39 weeks. And, really, who doesn’t want to listen to their baby and watch them grow for an hour a week?

Can I Breastfeed? Should I?

Look, I’m going to tell you the truth here. Which also happens to be the only thing that matters. Only you can answer the questsions above. And, frankly, it’s no one else’s business how you choose to feed your child. The truth is that breastfeeding is hard. And it’s a very personal decision that no one else should make on your behalf.

Yes, there are benefits for both you and the baby if you breastfeed. Yes, you will be inundated with inforamtion on all of those benefits throughout your pregnancy. Yes, you will feel pressured to breastfeed your baby and you will be made to feel like you are failing if you don’t. But the fact is that as long is your baby is happy, healthy and well fed, it doesn’t matter how you are feeding them. They won’t remember if they were bottle fed or breastfed. They will only remember your love for them and that they had a full belly!

Going into my pregnancy I wasn’t sure if I was going to breastfeed. In fact, given my PCOS, I wasn’t sure that I would physically be able to breastfeed. I was seriously considering just starting with formula. After all, I was a formula fed baby and I was fine. But after talking to my mom about it and hearing her say that she wished she’d been able to breastfeed me, I decided that I’d give it a try. I knew it might be hard. I knew it might have challenges. But I did a lot of research going into it, and made sure to set myself up for success.

I took classes, read books, requested lactation consultants, meet with lactation consultants and refused to keep a single can of formula in the house. All those freebies that were sent in the mail were donated. I told myself that I wouldn’t be upset if it didn’t work out. That I had a lot of things working against me – my age, PCOS, a c-section. I reminded myself that it was my choice how to feed my baby. And if breastfeeding didn’t work out, it wasn’t a reflection of me as a mother.

As it turns out, I ended up be very passionate about breastfeeding Kerrigan. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I had some struggles (which I’ll discuss in another post). But it was important to me that I keep at it. I actually like breastfeeding. The closeness, the bond, the time it allows me with my baby. But it wasn’t “natrual” and it sure as hell wasn’t “easy” in those early days. In fact, at times it was exceptionally stressful and reduced me to tears.

I don’t regret toughing those early days out, and I don’t regret that I fought hard to continue to breastfeed. It ended up being something I eventually really enjoyed and am still enjoying. We are five months in and still going strong. And while I’m excited to get to start solids with Kerrigan in just a few weeks, I also recognize that she won’t breastfeed forever and that it’s important to enjoy this moment. 

But I think I might have felt differently if I hadn’t come to the decision to breastfeed on my terms. So if I have just one piece of advice to offer when making the decision to breastfeed, it would be to make sure it’s your decision.

The Momentous Task of Finding Childcare

Childcare. The bane of the working mother. I wish I didn’t have to be a working mother, I miss my girl so much when I’m at work. But it’s simply not an option to stay at home – and if I’m being 100% honest, I like and need the adult interaction and stimulation that work provides. I like my job and I love my kiddo. It’s a hard balance and I’m not entirely sure that I’ve gotten it right.

However, because I have chosen to go back to work, I also had to chose who would take care of Kerrigan while I’m there. And it was a really hard choice. Ultimately we decided that three months was too young to put her into daycare, so my in-laws are helping us out until the end of the year so she can stay at home until she’s a little older. But that didn’t mean we didn’t have to start thinking about it. Because the reality is that there are wait lists. Wait lists that people get on as soon as they find out they are pregnant, before they’ve even announced it to their families. It’s pretty insane!

Since we knew that we had a little extra time, we didn’t make a selection until late November 2014 – and even at that time, the wait lists were full through August 2015! It was not an easy decision and we had to weigh out a lot of factors, including: cost, location, pick up and drop off, center or at home care.

If we start with the first factor, cost, we had a few big decisions to make. There was recently this article about the high cost of childcare in the US, and Washington is one of the most expensive states. The article is really interesting and talks about how that cost is forcing a lot of women out of the work force, and I’d like to explore that more, but not today.

When it came to cost, we were fairly liberal in what our ceiling was for the expense. But we also had to be realistic. For us, we wanted a quality program but also didn’t want to feel so stretched financially that we were miserable and having to pinch every penny to squeeze by. That ruled out a few of the highest end infant rooms. And that was okay. We knew we were going to use somewhere we didn’t trust just because it was less expensive. We just also weren’t going to pay the highest price under the assumption that it was the best. Our goal was to find a program we were comfortable with at a cost that we were also comfortable with. It was a long search, but we did succeed.

Next we really had to decide if we wanted to utilize a day care or a nanny. This wasn’t a very long discussion for us, partly because we had some friends who had a really bad experience with a nanny which resulted in an injured baby. But mostly because with the high liklihood that Kerrigan would be an only child, we felt that socialization was important for her and she wasn’t going to get that with a nanny. As such, very early on in our discussions we’d decided that we wanted to send her to day care/pre-school.

Once that decision was made, we had to choose if we want to use a center or in home daycare. I wasn’t opposed to in home daycare IF we would find the right person. And that’s hard without any references. And as new parents without a lot of baby friends, we didn’t have references. There was one that I was seriously considering that I found online, but ultimately we opted to go with a center. We liked the accountability of having multiple people responsible for the well being of our child.

Being in a large metropolitan area we had a lot to choose from, in varying locations. And we had to select what we thought would work best for us. Part of this discussion included deciding who would handle drop off and pick up. We looked at centers that were close to where Robert works, meaning he would handle both. Centers close to where I work, where I would handle both. And centers that were somewhere in between us so we could split drop off and pick up.

Ultimately we decided to go with the later option. Simply because it would shorten the amount of time Kerrigan would be in daycare. Robert can drop her off later and I can pick her up earlier. We picked a smaller center that is slightly out of the way for both of us, but not so much so that it will be cumbersome. We also liked that it was not in the city and out by the mountains, where her outdoor play would not be in a concrete jungle, but in a play yard with grass and trees and nature. We are undecided if we will opt to move her to a more comprehensive preschool program when she’s a little older – but this school also offers a very good program.

So how did we find the daycare we chose? Through lots of research, reading lots of reviews and taking tours of all of the facilities that we were considering. Ultimately what sold me on the center we chose is that there were reviews from parents who attended the school themselves as children who loved it there and sent their kids. The other huge factor for me was the tenure of the staff. While there were a few newer staff members, the majority of the staff had been teaching there over 7 years. With some having been there for 16 and 20 years. That’s a long time. It also speaks to how they treat their employees, and in my opinion a happy employee is much more likely to be better for my kid than one who is disgruntled. I also think that level of consistency is important as well.

As such, after our tours and interviews we went ahead and paid our (hefty) deposit to hold our spot and got Kerrigan registered to start in January. I feel fortunate that we are financially able to send her to a good facility, but bittersweet about what I’ll miss while I’m at work. I know that this is the best decision for us as a family, as well as me as an individual, but it’s still difficult. I can only hope that we made the best decision for Kerrigan’s care and that she will thrive as a result of our efforts.

Making a Baby Registry – aka Do I REALLY One?

You just got the news that you are pregnant with your first child, you are excited! You have been waiting for this for a long time. And you have a need to turn your adult oriented house into one suitable for a baby. Which means shopping! Yay! Except others will want to shop for you too and share in your excitement. And so you will need to create a baby registry. Yes, you should make one. A lot of people will start this as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Some will wait until they know the sex of the baby. Or, if you are me, you will be afraid of jinxing things and wait until well after your first trimester.

Regardless of when you make it, you will be asked if you have one, and unless you want the ire of your relatives and friends, your answer should be “of course!”. But let me share a few things that I learned about registries to try and help your sanity a little bit.

  1. Treat it like a check list for yourself, so you remember what you want to buy. Because the truth is that it is likely that 50% of the people purchasing things for your little one will look at your registry and then decide to buy you something else. In fact, I am very recently guilty of doing this very thing for my cousin’s wife who is expecting her first!  You will save yourself a lot of sanity by just creating it as “my shopping list” in your mind, and anything you receive from it is just a bonus. Plus, you will get your completion discount after your shower for when you enevitably purchase the remaining 75% of the items on your list!
  2. Do not put clothes on it. I mean, you can, since it’s YOUR shopping list. But people will want to go out and buy the clothes they think are cute. Everyone loves shopping for baby clothes! You will be showered in all kinds of clothes! The same with blankets. No need to add blankets, you will receive plenty of flannel receiving blankets along the way.All of that being said – you should still go shopping for baby clothes yourself. Because it’s an amazing experience, and you are entitled to have it!
  3. Managing multiple registries is hard. If you opt to register at more than one place, I recommend not duplicating items. We chose to register only at Amazon, figuring that people could access that registry and buy locally if they didn’t want to shop online. Amazon also has a few great features! It gives the option for someone to indicate they purchased the item elsewhere, so you don’t get a duplicate. It also keeps a “thank you” list for you – showing who purchased what and providing their address to mail a thank you card.  The other perk to Amazon is Prime. When we did our registry completion (and they do have a discount), all my shipping was free!
  4. Make a seperate, private registry for personalized or monogramed items that you might want. I did this a Pottery Barn Kids and I didn’t share it with anyone and didn’t make the registry public.   I used this to buy anything I wanted with Kerrigan’s name on it.
  5. Put your big pieces, like cribs, dressers and changing tables on your registry. While it’s not as likely you will receive these items as gifts – or that you will want to wait for your shower to have them, you can get a registry discount for them. We bought ours at Pottery Barn Kids, and had them on our private registry. When we purchased them, we got a completion discount on them, which saved us quite a bit given the total bill off all of the items. On the topic of baby furniture, I strongly recommend going to the store and picking it out. You will want to FEEL it and SHAKE it and make sure you are comfortable with the quality of the items. This is not an area to cut corners – they will be expensive, and that is okay.
  6. Test out car seats and strollers! And do your research. There are a lot of sets that may be sold as “pairs”, but there are also lots of better items out there and many strollers sell adapters for car seats. Just pick one that is compatable (the car seat lady has a great list!). And don’t limit yourself to Babies R Us – they actually don’t have a really great selection and are laking a lot of the really great higher end brands. Buy Buy Baby has a huge selection of both strollers and car seats, and oddly, Nordstrom’s does as well. Also be on the look out for 20% off coupons that you can use at Buy Buy Baby – they accept their own AND Bed Bath and Beyond coupons, since they are a subsidiary company.
  7. Do not put bottles on your registry! (Wait, what?) You do not know what kind your kid will like! And it would really suck to have 15 bottles that your baby won’t use and have to go buy more. Buy a single (or two pack) of a few different brands of bottles if you intend to bottle feed to see what the baby favors and then buy enough for every day use. And on the topic of bottles – if you plan to breastfeed, you will still want some bottles! Especially if you will be returning to work. I will talk about this more in another post – but if you want to long term breastfeed and your baby will need bottles, we love the Dr. Brown’s with the preemie nipple. We are STILL using the preemie nipple – Kerrigan has to WORK to get her milk from the bottle and still prefers the breast because she’s not getting milk super easily from the bottle. This was a tip from our lactation consultant, and I am ever so grateful that we received it.
  8. Those weird “Lawn” drying racks? They are amazing. Put some on your registy along with a few of the components like the flower and the twigs!
  9. Check to see if your insurance covers a breastpump, and what kind of pump is covered, before adding one to your registry!
  10. It’s okay to buy things off of your own registry for yourself. I did this. Every paycheck I had a certain amount that was earmarked for “baby” – and I started with the most expensive items that were the least likely to be gifted to me, and worked my way down. This worked out really well for us, and allowed us to spread out buying more expensive things over a six month window, while still leaving plenty on the registry for others.
  11. There will inevitibly be things you thought you wanted, bought or were gifted, that your baby hates or doesn’t use as much as you’d have thought. It’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up over it – every baby has a different personality and each will like different things.
  12. Ignore the “you don’t need these” or “you must have this item” lists. I have found things on the “don’t need” list that I bought to be invaluable and things on the “must have” lists to be a waste of money. Just buy what you want. I will say that I found CONVERSATIONS with other moms on what to buy helpful, and did take their opinions into consideration.
  13. Lastly, there will ALWAYS be something you wish you’d had or thought to buy and didn’t. I’m pretty sure our UPS guy is at our house at least three times a week with deliveries. And that’s okay! There is no way to know ahead of time every last thing that you will want.

Just remember, your registry is about you and your family. Make it what you want and where you want. Have fun with it and don’t hesitate to put “dream” items on it! Remember that you will likely be the person purchasing a majority of the items on your registy, so it’s okay to add every last thing you can think of to it!

Shopping for Maternity Clothes as a Full Figured Woman

In the world of plus sizes, I’m not really that plus sized. I’m currently on the cusp of the higher end non-plus size clothing and the lowest end of the plus sizes. Neither really seem to fit me right, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today!  I wanted to share my adventures on shopping for maternity clothes as a full figured pregnant woman.

While lots of places have super cute maternity clothes, a lot of them don’t take into account that full figured women also get pregnant and want to wear clothes that accentuate their bump as well, not walk around in mumus for nine months. I know I certainly did. I was happy to be pregnant and excited to show off my bump and the baby growing inside of me. And so I went on a search for clothes that did just that.

I ultimately purchased clothes from three places: Motherhood Maternity, JC Penny and Bravado Designs.

I loved the clothes from Motherhood, and they were what I wore throughout my entire pregnancy. I purchased everything in their 1x size, and in hindsight, I bet I could have worn their largest non-plus size, but the plus clothes fit me very well and I was happy with everything that I purchased. I loved the way the pants fit, and the variety of clothes that were available. I even bought a maxidress that I ended up being able to pair up with one of my suit jackets to dress it up for client meetings. I was able to find a local store to try the clothes on, most importantly the pants! But I also purchased items online throughout my pregnancy. The only complaint that I had was that I apparently wasn’t as busty as many women, because I didn’t fill out some of the tops as well as I’d have liked.

I did need some nicer clothes for work, and while I was able to find some at Motherhood, I actually found that JC Penny had a good selection of dress clothes appropriate for work that worked out well for me. They were not quite as nice quality as the clothes from Motherhood, but they were still nice clothes! They were less expensive, and often on sale, which was nice. I definitely liked the Motherhood clothing better, but a few of the items I bought at JC Penny did become favorites in my maternity wardrobe.

About the end of my first Trimester, I grew out of my bras. When looking for new bras, I wanted something less structured (i.e. without an underwire) for comfort, but that still provided support. I also was getting chaffed nipples (solved with applying lanolin after my shower every morning and wearing a softer bra), so I wanted something softer and cotton. I went to the mom and baby center at the hospital to be fitted for some nursing bras – even though they recommend waiting for your milk to come in before purchasing very many. I found some fantastic Bravado Designs bras, the Body Silk Seamless Bra, that were fantastic. They were soft, comfortable and stretchy so that they grew with me. Additionally, I could still use them after the baby was born. I purchased them in the XL size, and I have three of them that I still use today.

Speaking of Bravado Designs, and somewhat not related, their nursing tanks are FABULOUS! I wore them the entire three months of my maternity leave, and they are still part of my “weekend uniform”. I cannot recommend them enough. They are absolutely worth the money.

On the topic of undergarments, I never did find any “maternity” underwear that I liked. I bought some from Motherhood in two different styles, but I hated them. Several ladies suggested trying some Belevation panties, but I simply couldn’t justify the cost (maybe I should have, I might have loved them!). I ended up just buying a larger size of some Hanes granny panties that were super soft and comfortable and worked through the end of my pregnancy without problem.

I also just used my regular yoga pants and a pair of sweatpants that were a little large on me for working out and lounging around the house. Towards the end of my pregnancy they started to feel a little more snug, but never to the point they were uncomfortable to wear. I found that my regular t-shirts worked fine as loungewear early in my pregnancy, but were woefully short by my third trimester.

All in all, the maternity clothes I purchased were fairly expensive relative to the short period of time that you wear them, and you could probably find some cheaper if you looked, but after trying so hard to get pregnant I spoiled myself and I don’t have a single regret about it. I didn’t have any problems finding things to fit me, you just had to shop around to find what you wanted.