Tuesday, February 15, 2022

our first few weeks: mama's postpartum favorites

In my last baby-related post, I talked about our baby registry necessities for baby. After posting, I realized I didn't say much about what I needed as a brand new mom. For some reason, I didn't prepare much for postpartum. Leading up to birth, I watched all the YouTube videos and read all the articles about labor and delivery - from breathing strategies to packing my hospital bag, I felt good to go for labor. As it turns out, the postpartum period is a lot longer than labor and delivery (ha! who knew?), and while baby may not need a lot of stuff in those initial weeks, I felt like I did. Thank god for good friends, family, Amazon, and Target drive-up orders!

Here's what I used the most in those early weeks:

Hakaa, or some form of milk catcher - As my milk supply came in, I leaked so much. A friend sent me the Hakaa a few weeks before I went into labor, and I had no idea what it was at the time. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but it was a game changer! While Claire was feeding from one breast, I'd catch a whole ounce of milk from the other breast after nearly every session. Definitely recommend to help build up a freezer stash.

High-waisted underwear - I tried two different brands, and the one I linked is my absolute favorite. They are so soft and, oddly enough, wearing them with a nursing bra and a robe made me feeling a little more "put together" when walking around the house in a sleep-deprived haze. Maybe it's because they often matched my bras, or made me feel a little more compressed and secure. They were also great for pads!

Sitz bath spray & Epsom bath salt- oooooof, GET THESE. Recovery is no joke, and you want all the relief you can get. I know taking a bath might sound like a luxury with a newborn around, but try and sneak one in if you can. I preferred the bath spray to Tucks pads, as the pads sometimes got bunched up while walking around.

These nursing bras - I tried a random brand on Amazon and hated them. The Auden line at Target is the best! I have four of these bras, plus their nursing camis. So soft and easy to clip and unclip with one hand. These were my favorite for overnights, too. Stock up on nursing bras...between leaking and spit up, you'll go through them reeeal quick.

Breast therapy packs - I put these in the freezer and then would put them in my bra whenever I got a chance to sleep for a bit of relief. Breastfeeding in the beginning is a big adjustment, and you want all the comfort you can get.

Lactation cookies - you may not need these in the initial weeks, as your milk supply is still regulating, but I was eating a pack of these daily when trying to up my supply. They're expensive, but so good, and I was simply not in a position to attempt making my own lactation cookies.

Other things that were really helpful...

Coffee pickups! I had a friend (shout out to Carly!) who brought over coffee two mornings in a row when Claire was about 6 weeks old. Help in the first few days is great, but new parents are still struggling in those later weeks. It was great because 1) I'd get a little social interaction, 2) I could have her keep Claire occupied for a few minutes while I changed clothes or brushed my teeth (ha!), and 3) I'd be caffeinated. Win-win-win!

Meal deliveries and gift cards - we had so many friends really come together and rally for us in those early weeks. From homecooked meals to takeout delivered to our door and Uber Eats gift cards, meal planning was not something we had to worry about, and it was such a relief.

Help with laundry and cleaning - if someone offers to help with any of the above, let them do it! 

I'm only a few months into parenthood, but I already feel loads more capable and confident than I initially felt when we brought Claire home from the hospital. Do as I say and not as I do: be prepared ahead of time, but when in doubt, drive-up orders to the rescue!


Monday, February 14, 2022

happy valentine's day!

Happy Valentine's Day! I did a little creeping on my old blog posts, and came across this one from our Valentine's Day back in 2016. What a lifetime ago! At the end of the first paragraph, I referred to my journey with Ryan as "just the beginning." I guess I was on to something.

This one was another favorite, where I wrote about how love looks different for everyone. Around this time of year, my social media timelines and feeds are brimming with pictures of flowers and fancy gifts and dinners out. Those are all fun and wonderful things, but love in simpler forms like unexpected hugs, a completed chore, or a pooch snuggle feel just as warm in this season.

Today marks our first Valentine's Day with Claire, and despite the lack of sleep that came from the start of her 4-month sleep regression (or teething? or just gas?! who knows, truly), I am constantly overwhelmed by just how much I love that little bundle of chunk with each passing day. 

Ryan, Claire, and I had an impromptu family outing on Saturday, which involved visiting a big, annual market featuring hundreds of local St. Pete vendors and going to a yummy new place for lunch. We didn't plan much for Valentine's Day this year, so we went ahead and called that our "date day." Maybe next year we'll plan something to do together as a couple, but I also like the idea of celebrating love as a family. My dad always bought me my own box of Godiva chocolates each year for Valentine's Day, and I hope that Ryan will continue something similar for Claire as the years pass.

Just a reminder to love your loved ones and yourself a little extra today. Pick up a holiday treat on the way home, cook yourself a fancy dinner or give yourself a break and pickup takeout, make a mocktail or grab a glass of wine and watch something comforting (we watched a few episodes of Schitt's Creek this weekend, and the opening/closing credit melody always warms my heart, lol!). Enjoy the last of the winter holidays, as spring is just around the corner!

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

our first weeks: favorite baby registry items

The first few weeks of parenthood will throw you for an absolute loop! We've all functioned on little to no sleep in our college days, but I think true sleep deprivation due to being a new parent is something else entirely. While newborns don't need nearly half of what you received from your registry, here's what got us through those first few weeks (and what I wish I had sooner...):

(note: some of these are affiliate links, which means I might get a tiny commission if you choose to purchase through this post)

the Ollie swaddle - we were convinced that Claire didn't like to be swaddled because she was comforted by her hands. After watching all of about 20 minutes of the Taking Cara Babies program, we quickly learned that, as a newborn, she wasn't knowingly using her hands for comfort...they just so happened to be there as she was flailing around. We didn't get this swaddle right away, but I wish we had! It's a little pricy, but we still use it now even without her arms.

Snuggle Me Organic lounger - this product is not "safe for sleep," but it is literally the only thing Claire would sleep in (besides on us) for those first few weeks. Ryan and I would take overnight shifts, accompanied by lots of Netflix, so that we could supervise her sleep in this! She absolutely loved it. Now that she's 3 months old, we don't use it often for naps, but it's nice to be able to lay her down on it for a few minutes at a time while we do a quick task.

the Solly baby wrap - I've gone through a lot of trial and error with baby wraps and carriers, but when they're really little, I think a lot of the structured ones are just too much. I ended up buying a Solly wrap from Facebook marketplace, but I would've definitely paid full price for it. And there are so many gorgeous colors! We still use this now and will likely continue until she's too big for it.

Hatch Rest+ - I know literally everyone recommends this, but there's a reason for it. We got the Hatch Rest+ because you can use it without being plugged in, which has been really convenient while she's still in the stage where she doesn't always nap in the same place (sometimes we try her crib, sometimes we have her in the bassinet in our bedroom, the bassinet in our living room, etc.).

swaddle blankets - I received so many swaddle blankets from my shower, and to be honest, I initially thought it was too much. How many blankets could we really need? A LOT. I feel like we've increased how often we do laundry, and I'm still looking around for the nearest blanket. We use them to wrap her up while carrying her around, over her legs during car rides, draped over the car seat for naps, bundled into the stroller bassinet during walks, cleaning up spit up, laying her down for impromptu tummy name it, we've done it. The one I've linked is my absolute favorite one we have. It's SO soft!

diaper caddy - this is something I almost took off our registry, but I'm so happy we had it. In the early days, we had zero desire to get up to go to the changing table for every single diaper change. We used this caddy to hold diapers, wipes, creams, rubber hair brushes (for cradle cap), an extra outfit, and hair ties. Even now, we keep this bedside in case we have an overnight diaper change, and we also brought it along for a weekend away at my in-laws' house. We have this changing pad rolled up inside of it, and it's a game changer.

bedside bassinet - I initially bought a beautiful Crate & Barrel bassinet on FB Marketplace, but it didn't work out for us. I realized pretty quickly that I wanted something that could open up right to the bed, like a version of co-sleeping. After lots of browsing, I found this bassinet and we've absolutely loved it! It's a great size and folds up well for transport, too.

lots of cozy zip-up sleepers - baby clothes are SO CUTE, but some of them are simply impractical. I'm not sure if every baby is like this, but Claire hated getting dressed and having her diaper changed in the early days. Zip-up pajamas made things way easier. We have a lot from Old Navy and Carter's, but our Kyte one is so soft. I want to try Little Sleepies, too!

Even though I spent countless hours looking over my baby registry, editing items, adding things, researching, etc. I still felt like I had zero clue what would actually work for us until Claire was actually here. An additional note: save your completion codes to use after you deliver! We definitely would have saved ourselves some $$$. I plan to have another list of items we've loved beyond the fourth trimester in the coming months!


Monday, January 3, 2022

Claire's Birth Story

Claire Elisabeth Fredericks was born on Monday, October 25th, 2021 at 1:51 p.m., weighing 7 pounds and 4 ounces at 19 inches long.

Signs of Labor

On Sunday morning, around 4:30 a.m., I woke up for the fourth time that night before finally wondering, "okay, what is keeping me awake right now?" I assumed something was causing me pain, so I began tracking my contractions for about an hour. They were about 1-2 minutes long, and 8-10 minutes apart. For those who have never been pregnant, the rule of thumb varies when it comes to labor. From what I'd read, you wanted to be having contractions that were 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour. I knew I might be close, but wasn't worried yet.

I managed to fall back asleep, and continued having intermittent pain throughout the day after I woke up later that morning. My friend Leigh came over with sushi for lunch, and we sat on the couch and talked for a few hours before she went home. At that point, my contractions were still just every so often and not overly painful. Since I hardly moved that day, Ryan and I decided to take a walk around the block before dinner -- stuffed bell peppers from Costco. Thankfully, I'd opted for two instead of just one, because that was the last meal I had for awhile! We ate on the couch with our TV trays, watched the season finale of The Morning Show, and went about our usual Sunday evening routine of mourning the end of the weekend, even though it was supposed to be my last week anyway. 

To wind down, I took an epsom salt bath in our future little girl's bathroom, rubbing my belly and wondering to myself, "soon?"

We went to get into bed a bit earlier than usual, around 9:30, when I started feeling contractions again. This time, they were consistently 6 minutes apart before slowing to 9 minutes apart. I texted my friend Brianna, who was just a few weeks behind me in her pregnancy, and she replied, "I think this might be it!" but I still felt in denial. No way. This early? I thought for certain we would have a November baby. My only premonition had been October 22nd, which had come and gone, so my guess was as good as anyone's. 

Still, I called the hospital, and they said that based on how far along I was in the pregnancy to just come into triage and see what was going on. 

Ryan later told me that he was certain we were going to be turned away. Ha!

In a semi-calm panic, we confused the hell out of the dogs by packing up the last of our hospital bags and leaving around 11:40 p.m. It was raining for the first time in weeks, and the roads were nearly empty. It was then that I realized I totally forgot to shower, eat, and "pre-labor" as much as I could within the comfort of our own home. Whoops. Who needs sleep anyway? Or food? Who wouldn't want to spend as much time in the hospital as possible...?

Hospital Time

I checked into triage right at about midnight, and we had our first nurse of the week, Mariah. She did a cervical check right as we got there and I was just 3 cm dilated (for reference, they usual admit you to labor and delivery when you're 4 cm). She decided to wait for an hour to see how I would continue. The next nurse we encountered was not as sweet and accommodating...more like awkward and borderline rude. She attempted to place the IV in my right hand, then my left, before finally recruiting another nurse to do it. She also knocked over my water bottle (clearly not on purpose), which was the cherry on top of a weird experience.

By 1:30 a.m., I was 4 cm dilated and having body chills all over. We were officially admitted to the hospital with our next nurse - Rimma - a wonderful, older European woman who was such a calming force, especially as I went against my own birth plan and allowed a student to administer my epidural, which was definitely less "pressure" and more "pain." To be fair, I knew I didn't want a student to assist in delivery of the baby, but it never occurred to me that a student would be giving me my epidural. If you're pregnant and want some advice: don't be the guinea pig. They can learn on someone else!

In addition to feeling more pain than pressure, they also didn't give me a bolus, which allows you to give yourself more doses of the epidural with the push of a button every 10 minutes. Thus, the ease I did feel from the epidural was short-lived, but I was still able to rest a bit, as was Ryan. Rimma placed a birthing ball between my legs and turned me on my side with a heating pad, making sure I was as comfortable as I could be throughout the process. She really was one of the best nurses we had, and while we had a good experience with our next nurse, I wish she'd been the one to assist in delivery! A couple hours after the epidural, I still hadn't progressed beyond 4 cm, so they put me on Pitocin to induce active labor.

At shift change, we said goodbye to Rimma and Mariah, and hello to our next and final L&D nurse. We also found out that we'd be delivering with a different doctor (my OB/GYN office operates on a rotation of providers). I wasn't initially thrilled, but what choice did we have?

As it turns out, however, this doctor was delivering a baby via c-section at another hospital 20 minutes away. So they told me that they'd be taking me off of Pitocin at 9 cm dilated to "labor down" on my own for nearly three hours. Unamused, impatient, and frustrated is what I was feeling, but I tried to keep my shit together. Ryan stayed by my side, voicing his own frustration, and feeling helpless. 

Finally, just after 1:00, 12 hours after being admitted, it was go-time! 

My nurse suggested I stop self-administering the epidural so I could feel my contractions and know when to push. My suggestion to any future laboring moms: yeah, don't do that. Ended up completely defeating the purpose of the epidural!

"Breathe in deep, hold for 8-10 seconds, and push like you're pooping. Short breath out, repeat."

Completely different breath work than I'd read about and watched on YouTube, but okay, let's do this.

After being 9 cm dilated for so long, I was certain that I wouldn't be pushing for a long time. Surely, just a few rounds and done, right? Imagine my surprise when, about 20 minutes in, I asked if we'd made progress. My doctor replied, "we have about three more hours to try [before c-section]."

"THREE HOURS?!" Absolutely not, I thought.


Pushing was literally the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Not even painful, but simply exhausting! I could feel myself falling asleep between pushes because I was just so damn tired. I started doing more pushes, four instead of three. I was desperate to meet our girl, and to be done with labor.

45 minutes later, I felt something close to the "ring of fire" (because remember, I was told to stop giving myself the medication...LOL, joke's on me!). I finally heard, 

"Sam, are you ready to meet your baby?"

I saw her beautiful face, all covered in blood and gunk, completely thrown by what had just happened, in awe that it was all finally over, and we had a daughter!

They placed her on my stomach, and I instinctively pulled her to my chest for skin to skin...and that's when I felt it. The umbilical cord snapped, and blood went everywhere. Things went from joyous to scary, as the doctor went to clamp her cord far sooner than I'd planned. I wanted her to have an extra minute or two on her cord, isn't that what's supposed to happen? Insert opportunity for mom guilt, #1.

She was taken from me, and we were told she had excessive fluid in her lungs. In a state of shock, I'm not even sure what I was feeling at the time. It never occurred to me that she would go to the NICU. Everything during pregnancy had been so uncomplicated, so why was it that birth had to be?

While delivering the placenta and getting stitches, I watched the doctor look back and forth between me and baby on the warming table, surrounded by a team of nurses. She remained calm throughout the chaos, which made me feel a bit better. 

Just under an hour later, the nurses brought her to me in her little clear box, all clean and cozy. But instead of getting to hold her to my chest, I only got to hold her finger. I wouldn't hold her to my chest for nearly 24 hours longer. Insert opportunity for mom guilt, #2.

"You're my mama," one of the nurses narrated for me as I held her little fingers.

Sure am, baby girl.

Since the nurse had advised that I go off the boluses so I could feel my contractions, I also felt a whole lot of everything else, including some of the stitching and numbing. In a sense, I felt like I had a half natural birth, as I felt more pain than pressure during those final pushes. So not what I planned. Didn't plan on having a baby in the NICU, either. Wild how little of the things in your hospital bag are necessary when your little one has been taken away from you until further notice.

Our Hospital Stay 

The next few days felt like a blur. My parents brought us subs from Jersey Mikes. Ryan and I visited her separately in the NICU that first night. I had to use a peribottle to pee, add witch hazel pads to my disposable underwear. Everything hurt, and my whole body felt like I'd been hit by a bus, but somehow, time continued to pass. Looking back, I wonder if we could have visited her more often that first night, for longer, even overnight (insert opportunity for mom guilt, #3), but I think I was just trying to process everything. Even now, it's a strange concept to me that other people got to keep their babies in their hospital room with them. I start to tear up thinking about how we didn't get to have that special time with her, how I wasn't there for her every time she cried, how she didn't get to latch to me within those first few moments of her life. Instead, I had to ask a nurse to wheel me down several hallways and up an elevator to meet another nurse to escort me from NICU checkin to her room. Overall, our hospital stay was a blur of going back and forth to the NICU, ordering food, and for me, just feeling down. 

(The first picture we took of her in the NICU, a few hours after delivery)


We had the best nurses at the NICU: Melody, Sarah, and Amanda. They made us feel like the most important family in the NICU, even though our little babe likely had the least complications out of majority of the babies there. We were discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, with Claire's pending departure for Thursday or Friday. They'd found an increase in her white blood cell count and had her on antibiotics, which meant they had to keep her for three days minimum. 

Ryan and I drove home Wednesday night, ordered dinner, and came home without our baby. Everyone told us, "at least you can enjoy one more night of rest!" In reality, it isn't easy to rest knowing that your two-day old baby isn't safe at home with you. Instead of waking to a crying, hungry baby, I set an alarm to wake myself up to pump...something I wasn't even planning on doing for at least another four weeks.

Thursday morning, we woke up excited! We got to the hospital around 8:30 a.m., feeling confident that she would be able to come home with us...until they told us she'd lost 10% of her body weight. Even though babies generally lose 7-10% of their body weight within those first few days, it was apparently reason enough for her to stay there one more night. We felt completely deflated. They offered us to "room in" at the NICU, which basically means to stay with her in a small suite overnight with a nurse on call to assist, if needed. I stayed at the hospital with her while Ryan went home to gather our things, round two. I spent all day with her, attempting to get her to latch (with the help of an amazing lactation consultant). Despite getting to finally spend time with our brand new daughter, being cooped up in a stuffy NICU room as opposed to our home was not the way I wanted to spend these first few days.

Around 6:30 p.m. that night, we went to a room with the most uncomfortable pullout couch, linens, and pillows, and had the hardest night of our lives. It's one thing to be at home with your crying, fussy newborn, but it's a completely different can of worms to take care of a baby who is still a patient in the NICU. She was hooked up to so many wires, and every time she cried, her heart rate set off tons of anxiety-inducing beeps, which likely caused her even more frustration and fear, which then stressed us out even more. Changing her diapers amongst all of those wires was terrifying. We had the least personable nurse of our stay come in and check on us more frequently than we would have liked because Claire kept kicking off her oxygen monitor, causing the machines to beep even more ferociously. My poor baby, having such a harsh entry into the world. I didn't go into the hospital with a detailed birth plan, but this was absolutely not a part of our plan.

I cried the whole night. Ryan and I had no idea what to do, and hardly knew how to help. We pieced together a whopping two hours of sleep, and by 6:45 the next morning, we were chomping at the bit to get out of that room and back to our regular NICU room with the friendly nurses. I watched Claire get yet another blood test (her right foot had 4+ tiny marks from getting poked and prodded). We received news later, after another near hiccup (the blood test revealed that her thyroid levels were potentially abnormal...?!), that we would be able to take her home that afternoon. Finally, after spending Monday-Friday in the hospital, away from her mama, scared and confused. 

Final thoughts

My heart still breaks for her and our family, but it breaks even harder for those families who have to endure it longer for more complicated circumstances. I know that, at the end of the day, we are extremely lucky that sweet baby Claire was overall very healthy, and five days in the NICU is nothing compared to what other families experience. That said, our feelings are still valid, as our experience is our own. I know it was just a few days, and not everyone has a dream birth experience, but it was simply not what we expected. While it was complicated and scary and totally not what we'd planned, our experience brought us our Claire, who is the healthiest little chunk now. We are so looking forward to watching her grow up, and feel so lucky that we get to be her parents.

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