Our Summer Essentials

Summer is going to look a LOT different this year. We are going to need to balance enjoying the long warm days with family and friends with the needs of our baby boy. As a couple who has loved camping, traveling, hiking, and beaching, we needed a lot of new items to do those activities responsibly with Grady. As a new mom, I needed to update a few of my summer staples to feel more mom-appropriate. Here are some of our summer essentials!

Grady

Wee Farers – Babies don’t just have sensitive skin, they have sensitive eyes. These polarized sunglasses are a tiny investment, but worth it for your tiny human! They range in sizes from 0-1yrs, 2-3 yrs, etc. The amount of compliments Grady gets when people pass us on the walking trail is totally worth it. I mean, look at him – how can you resist?!

Rash Guards – speaking of sensitivity, we learned pretty early on that Grady’s skin was extremely sensitive to the sun/heat. He got his first heat rash as soon as the temperature rose to 80 degrees, and another heat rash when it was only in the 70s, but very humid. As much as I’d love to see his tiny belly spill over some miniature swim trunks, I know a body suit is the best way to keep him comfortable. We stuck with a shark theme this summer, and his rash guards and sun hats are pictured!

Sun Tent – While we are stocking up on items to keep him safe when exposed to the sun, we also have this tent to keep him out of the sun to begin with. Honestly, the tent is bigger than I expected and kind of a pain to store. We keep it set up in our garage and it takes up a lot of room. However, we use it every week, so it is an easy grab. We keep him under the tent while we do yard work or sit with family. We plan on taking it on all of our beach trips, too!

Mosquito Netting – This is such a low-cost item, it’s a no-brainer! Baby skin isn’t just sensitive to temperature and sun, but it is also sensitive to bug bites. Keep them out with this mosquito netting that fits over the car seat and stroller. We even wrapped it around one of his miniature bassinets! Mark bought three of them so that we can keep one at home, one in the diaper bag, and have an extra. While we haven’t taken it camping yet, we have been warned to beware of ashes from the campfire!

Stroller Fan – This is the $12.99 fan I got Grady for our walks. I clip it right to the handle of his car seat and can bend it to directly blow on him. We even used it inside before installing our A.C.

Summer clothes – I linked some of my favorite summer outfits for him!

Krista

Beach Tote – When I go to the beach, I throw everything I need into one bag – towel, sunscreen, book, hat, snacks. This $30 beach tote is great because it is a lightweight canvas with plenty of room to fit everything. What takes it to that extra mom-level? There are three big pockets on the outside, meaning I can keep our go-to items organized. A pocket for my book and sunglasses, a pocket for Grady’s diapers, glasses, and sunscreen (speak to your doctor before packing this item, and a pocket for Mark’s book, headphones, and sunglasses.

Nursing Swimsuits – This was probably the biggest change in my summer needs. I used to be a high-waisted bikini kind of girl. As a mom, I feel myself taking on a little more of a modest style. But I can’t just rock any one-piece. I needed bathing suits that would be nursing-friendly. To me, that meant a deep v neck that I could easily pull out of the way for feedings. These two suits are the ones I got – and they’re super affordable! Both are under $30.

Nursing Tanks – I’m a nursing mama who doesn’t own a lot of nursing clothes. In my opinion, it is easier for me to pull down a stretchy tank top, or lift a loose-fitting t-shirt, than to use nursing specific clothes. It is also much more cost-effective as I don’t need to re-invest in a whole new wardrobe. This summer I was on the hunt for loose fitting tank tops that I could mix and match with all of my shorts and skirts. A great mom hack: size up one in these tanks. Why? Grady’s head fits underneath so he can nurse while being covered. No nursing cover necessary! These tanks are $10 or less!

High Quality Sunglasses – If you read my Father’s Day gift-guide, you know that Mark has gifted me some high quality sunglasses. I have found that high quality over high fashion makes a difference. I have my current pair linked!

I know I am lucky to be able to be home with Grady this summer, and I can’t wait. So many of these items we have already started regularly using – and summer vacation hasn’t even started! I hope you and your babes love these items as much as we do!

Mark’s First Father’s Day Gift Guide

This is a big Father’s Day for my family! Not only is it Mark’s first Father’s Day, but it is my Dad’s first Father’s Day as a Papa, and my brother’s first Father’s Day as an expecting dad. That means I have all the excuses to go shopping for gifts! If you need some inspiration for the father figures in your life, these gift guides encompass my personal shopping list. Enjoy!

Sunglasses – I used to buy an abundance of $10 pairs. I never had a “nice” pair of sunglasses until I met Mark. For our first Christmas he got me Michael Kors sunglasses, and this past Christmas he got me Costas. They are SO worth it. I haven’t bought a $10 pair since!

If the man in your life needs a good pair of sunglasses, the two brands Mark recommends are Maui Jims and Natives. He found a pair of Natives abandoned in a parking lot one day after a hike. Despite a clear haphazard fall from a car, the glasses weren’t scratched and have lasted Mark two years!

His favorite brand, however, is Maui Jims. The pair in the photo was his birthday present this year, though the link will bring you to a pair with red lens that he had before losing them in the Ocean. Maui Jims are designed in Hawaii. They are designed to make colors more vivid, clarify the world around you, and provide UV protection.

Clothes – Mark asked for clothes for first Father’s Day, so I had to include it in my gift guide! He wears a uniform for work, so any opportunity to leave the house on the weekend is an opportunity for him to dress up. He is also a creature of habit, so if he finds something he likes, he’ll wear it every weekend. Therefore, it is my job to make sure he has a wardrobe full of options so that my family doesn’t see him wearing the same thing all the time. Any other ladies with me?!

This year I shopped Old Navy and H&M, and my favorites are linked!

Mug/Coffee – Big time bloggers always promote the mugs with their babies’ faces on it. This year, I decided to take their lead and  gift my dad a “Grady’s Papa” mug for his first Father’s Day as a Papa.

Pro-tip when buying someone a mug: pay attention to the size! Some people are big mug people. Others, like my parents, get frustrated that they take up so much room in the cabinet. My parents are a fan of the classic café size mug, so I went with the 11oz.

Camping – With summer coming, camping gear is a great option! Mark loves to camp, and camping is a past time for my family. Last year, we all went camping together.

This guide includes Mark’s must-have items. As a less experienced camper, most of them were new to me when we started dating, but have since become some of my biggest necessities after all of our camping trips together. They would be great gifts for the man who likes to camp, but needs to step up his game to meet your standards of comfort 😉

              Inflatable solar light – lighter and more reliable than a flashlight.

              Rocking campfire chair – because it’s that much nicer than your old fold up

              Camping grill – because who wouldn’t vote for burgers or steak after a day of cold                         cuts?

I hope you find the perfect gift for the father figure in your life, and if this is your first extra special father’s day, enjoy!!

Weekly Round Up 5/28/21

Happy Friday! If you’re new around here, you’re probably seeing lots of content on new motherhood. You may not realize that this blog and my IG account actually started as a fashion blog!

To showcase a little more of my fashionista nature, I am starting a new feature on the blog – a weekly round up of my family’s daily looks. This can include my ootd (outfit of the day), Grady’s ootd, or even a rare look at Mark’s ootd. I will share links to shop when I can, but won’t hesitate to share outfits created from my older pieces. After all, timeless fashion should be appreciated as much as the latest trends!

This was spur of the moment idea, so I don’t have every day documented this week. But without further ado, here is this week’s round up:

Friday:

Saturday:

Sunday: N/A

Monday: N/A

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

This summer onesie is part of a 3 pack short set!
 http://liketk.it/3g8Vn #liketkit @liketoknow.it #LTKbaby #LTKkids #LTKfamily

Thursday:

First Time Travel as a Mom

They said we were crazy, but we did it anyway. We went away for a long weekend and took our nine-week-old son along for the ride. And we would do it all over again!

Maintaining an intimate relationship with Mark is challenging with a newborn. While I’m home with Grady on maternity leave, Mark works a full day as a plumber. When he comes home, he takes over Grady duty and I try to keep up with house chores and, sometimes, manage to do something for me. Even when we have the chance to relax, we are usually on opposite ends of the couch where the recliners are. On weekends, we hustle to our families’ houses so that they can spend time with Grady and see how much he’s grown that week. Few hours are dedicated to simply hanging out as a family.

After seven weeks of being back at work with reduced sleep, Mark decided it was time to take some time off and we decided it was time to take a break from family and friends and enjoy uninterrupted time as a family. We booked a short trip to Newport, Rhode Island.

Aside from a food sensitivity snafu at the end of the trip, traveling with Grady went smoothly and we really enjoyed our time focusing on one another. Many people told us they couldn’t imagine traveling with a nine-week-old, so I’m here to share what we packed, review accommodations, and share some baby-friendly activities.

What to Pack

How many outfits to pack for a nine-week-old? How many diapers? I packed twice as many outfits and PJs as days we were there. For example, we spent two nights there, so we packed four pairs of pajamas and four swaddles. Luckily, Grady didn’t have any blow outs until the last morning, but babies are so unpredictable! In terms of diapers – the question wasn’t how many, it was how many is too many!?

Additionally, we packed three blankets, four burp clothes, an extra full pack of wipes, wash clothes, a few toys, emergency pacifiers, pumping equipment, a portable sound machine, and accessories like a hat, booties, and sunglasses. Some items I highly recommend are:

Travel Bassinet- More light weight and compact than a pack and play, this is a great option if you are travelling with a smaller infant. It fit in the middle of our king-size bed with plenty of room for me and Mark to sleep on either size. The inside of the bassinet is mesh-lined and breathable, and the mattress seemed comfy. Grady had no problem sleeping in it. It conveniently folds up for travel.

This bassinet is also great if you are looking for a safe bed-sharing option at home. We used it two nights after getting home when Grady was gassy and not sleeping well. I think it would be a great option for small space travel, like camping!

Diaper Caddy- This is one of my most used items at home and was an absolute must for travel! There are three large compartments for diapers and wipes. Depending on how often your baby wakes up in the night, it holds at least a week of overnight diapers. I filled the third compartment with spare PJs, burp clothes, and wipes. The pockets held diaper cream, hand sanitizer, thermometer, nose sucker, and still there were empty ones!

Click HERE to shop these essentials

Accommodations

Though I say we visited Newport, our inn and the majority of our activities were in Middletown. Middletown is just a 5-10-minute drive from downtown Newport, and only a 5 minute drive to the mansions. The main road of Middletown has restaurants, bars, ice-cream, and sidewalks that make it all walkable and stroller friendly. It also has a beach!

Sea Breeze Inn- click here for website

We absolutely recommend staying at the Sea Breeze Inn! This 16 room Inn was perfect for our first trip as a family because it was more affordable than the hotels in downtown Newport, but bigger than a home B&B where Grady could wake up the whole house when crying.

The Sea Breeze Inn is run by a Greek woman called “YiaYia”. She was there to serve breakfast in the morning and to serve us ice-cream in the evening. Renovated five years ago, the décor was modern and the room spacious. The cozy diner attached to the small lobby served breakfast, lunch, and ice-cream/dessert until 9pm. The menu had a complimentary breakfast for guests, a full menu that you could order for a charge, and a handful of Greek dishes, including an avocado and olive spread breakfast sandwich on pita and homemade Greek yogurt.

We can’t say enough about Yia Yia herself. As soon as she saw Grady, she looked to see if there was a bigger room available for us. She cooked our breakfast herself and even gave us some dessert for free. She loves her job because she loves getting to know her guests, so be open to chit chatting.

Wharf Southern Kitchen and Whiskey Bar- Click here for website

Mark summed it up perfectly when he said, “That’s what you get when you go for southern food in Rhode Island.”

We loved the ambiance of the restaurant and I totally recommend it for drinks and small eats. Mark and I both got craft beers and fried pickles in their outdoor dining area and loved the vibe. The fried pickles were sweet and spicy and unique from other restaurants.

We both thought the bbq biscuit sounded good. However, the meal was very spicy – not great for breastfeeding. The brisket also seemed overcooked. We weren’t too impressed, but the restaurant was busy, so other dishes could be better. 

Aside from the spicy food, the facility wasn’t baby-friendly. The main restaurant is up a set of stairs, so we sat on the patio with the stroller. I also didn’t see a changing table in the tiny bathrooms. However, those restrooms couldn’t have been handicap friendly, so I’m wondering if the changing table was in the handicap room.

Flo’s Clam Shack- Click here for website

Casual dining at it’s finest. This restaurant reminded me of Cape Cod in both ambiance and menu. The restaurant is order-at-the-window style. There is outside seating, or you can order and dine on the first floor. Trek up to the second floor for a bar and raw bar and an unobstructed view of the ocean. After ordering lobster rolls, Mark and I carried the stroller to sit upstairs for the raw bar. The raw bar was simple – oysters, little necks, etc.  Simple and delicious.

In terms of baby-friendly accommodations, you can easily eat outdoors or roll the stroller into the first floor. I didn’t use the restrooms to see if they had a place to change diapers.

Newport Activities for Mom, Dad, AND Baby

We went into the weekend with only one scheduled activity – lunch reservations at the Newport Vineyards. However, we like spending time outdoors and being active, so I knew the Cliff Walk was a must. I wanted to keep the weekend as flexible as possible so that we could react to Grady’s mood and unpredictable nap schedule.

My biggest tip for success is to stick to one activity per day and to make sure you stay fed.

Cliff WalkThe Cliff walk is a well-known (and free) attraction in Newport and one of the best ways to get a view of the Newport mansions. It is a great activity for parents who like to be active and babies who like to be in their strollers. The entire walk is over three miles, but pay attention to the map to see what sections are family friendly.

Looking at the map, about half of the Cliff-Walk is color coded green as “smooth terrain” (this took us from the South entrance to the Ruggle Street check point for reference). This section was stroller friendly. There were a few small sets of stairs that Mark and I tag-teamed carrying the stroller up and down, but nothing too bad. There were also benches along the way where you can stop and feed if your babe gets hungry!

Newport Vineyards

The Newport winery, while technically in Middletown, is a must for good food and drink. Mark and I made a reservation for outdoors, and when I noted that we had an infant, we were seated on a covered patio to stay out of the sun. Don’t worry if you’re not a wine-o, they have a beer menu as well. Their food offerings include appetizers, entrees, and sharable plates. I highly recommend the bacon burnt ends!

They also allow you to take a drink in a plastic cup with you as you walk around the vineyard.  The path is stroller friendly, though make sure you have coverage for your babe since the vines are in direct sunlight.

Bird Sanctuary –

This was a hidden gem that our innkeeper told us about. Just three minutes from Second Beach (which we briefly walked on, but I have no review on), the bird sanctuary is perfect for a nature walk. For a small entry fee, you can spend a few hours exploring the different terrains- shrubbery, wetlands, forest, ponds, quarries, fields, etc. In terms of the birds – we saw a few, but you probably need binoculars and patience to see a lot.

I recommend a wearable carrier if you bring your babes. We had a regular stroller, and though we were able to get through the “Shrubbery” paths, which are wheelchair accessible, it was bumpy. A jogger or off-roading stroller would even be a better option to our regular Graco.

At the end of the weekend, Mark and I felt refreshed, closer to one another, and closer to Grady. We recommend Newport, RI for a quick vacation with an infant!

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

As this is my first Mother’s Day as a mom, I find it only makes sense to share some Mother’s Day Gift Guides!

I used my three biggest hobbies as inspiration for these gift guides: Cooking/Baking, Gardening, and Self-Care. Everything on the guide are items I personally want, personally have, or are shared favorites of both me and my mom.

I hope these inspire you to treat your mom to something special!

The Home Chef

Most people love either cooking OR baking – one requires following more rules than the other. I personally love both, and this gift guide has some of my favorites:

  1. 5qt Enamel Covered Dutch Oven – I like enamel covered Dutch ovens because they are affordable, dishwasher safe, and get the job done. They are also so versatile! You can stew soup, make tomato sauce, boil eggs, and even bake bread. I just got this Dutch oven for my birthday!
  2. Half Baked Harvest Cookbooks – If you love to cook and don’t follow Half Baked Harvest on Instagram, you need to now! Her recipes are wholesome, creative, and while they look quite fancy, they’re doable. I made two Thanksgiving appetizers and Thanksgiving dessert off her blog, and all were crowd favorites. I just got her cookbook and made three meals to freeze. Though they seemed intimidating, both were SO easy! Many of the ingredients are spices which give the dishes a rich flavor profile. Not convinced her recipes are amateur friendly? I included her “simple” cookbook as well!
  3. Sally’s Baking Addiction – this is the oldest cookbook in my collection (excluding hand me downs). I’ve had this book for six years and have almost cooked through the whole thing. This book has the best muffins! Mark loves a good cookie, so I got Sally’s Cookie Addiction for my birthday. I made the crispy edged chocolate chip cookies last night and they are mouth- watering.

The Home Gardener

Most of my gardening takes place outside. However, I live in New England, and Spring can sometimes get off to a late start. I usually start all of my seedling indoors, and this year am taking it a step further with my aero garden.

This AeroGarden not only lets you start seedlings indoors (currently I have cherry tomatoes sprouting), but it also lets you garden all year round. My future mother-in-law has grown lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, and even edible flowers in her Aero Garden. I personally am looking forward to starting an herb garden after transferring my cherry tomato plants to the garden bed outdoors.

In addition to the AeroGarden and seeds, this gift guide links the accessories. The spacers are used for plants that need to be spaced out – i.e you put tomato pods in every other hole, therefore need to seal up the open holes so that the water doesn’t evaporate or spray out when watering. The basic pod sets also allow gardeners to use their own seeds to start whatever plants they want indoors.

The Mom Who Misses the Spa

I didn’t go to the spa too often pre-covid, but you can bet I’ve created my own at-home spa during this pandemic. I’ve been interested in skincare for a few years now, but really invested in my routine while at home. The following items are some of my go-to products, old favorites me and my mom share, as well as what I’m excited to try.

  1. Peach and Lily – Peach and Lily is my number on skincare brand that is in my medicine cabinet. I love this Korean beauty brand. The products are gentle enough for all skin types and have truly transformed my skin. The Glass Skin serum is my ride or die product – the first product I tried from them, and the one I’ve re-bought upwards of 5 times. The Matcha Pudding is full of antioxidants. Both these products are anti-aging!
  2. Philosophy – My mom has been buying me and my sister philosophy since we were young teenagers. Amazing Grace is our favorite scent, and all four of us have a collection of perfume. For Christmas my mom also got me the big bottle of the emulsion lotion. You definitely don’t need to wear perfume when you use this!

3. Beekman 1802 – This is a brand I just discovered and can’t wait to collect! They use clean ingredients and their signature ingredient is goat milk. I personally have been using the bakuchiol oil and am loving it. Bakuchiol is a trendy ingredient though, so I linked up a few mom-friendly options, including their bar soap, body lotion, and signature moisturizer.

These gifts are all great options to spoil the first lady who loved you!

xoxo

Grady’s Birth Story

Our sweet baby boy made his arrival into the world three weeks early on Sunday, February 28th at 10:01am. He was a bundled 5lb 12oz of love. It took 34 hours of labor and 30 minutes of pushing.

When asked how labor went, my instinct says “smooth”. After all, the doctor’s goal was to get him here as safely as possible, and they succeeded. However, 34 hours is a long labor, and there were ups and downs. This is his birth story!

On Friday, Feb 26th I had an impromptu BPP. As part of my care plan to monitor Grady’s IUGR (see my blog post here), I was getting one BPP a week. While I had a BPP with MFM that Monday, I saw my OBGYN on Tuesday and she told me to schedule another with her office on Friday. Why not, right?

Biophysical Profiles check 8 indicators of good health, including heart rate, movement of the diaphragm, etc. It also includes a Doppler of blood flow in the umbilical cord. That Friday, the Doppler showed an elevated blood flow. The doctor described to me, “The placenta is working too hard for the baby. It’s time.”

It was my last day of week 36, and I was already one centimeter dilated and having light contractions.

My last ultrasound, 36 weeks and 7 days

I called Mark and instructed him to take a shower and grab the last few things for our hospital bag. The hospital said to come in at 9pm to be induced at midnight on the dot- once I officially hit 37 weeks/full term. I was calmly excited. My doctors had done a good job preparing me for an impromptu delivery.

We took our time getting comfortable in the hospital room. I did my skincare routine, changed into a robe, brushed my hair, put my jewelry away, sipped my gatorade, and asked for all the pillows.

Two things to note during this time: first, we got to know the overnight charge nurse. I asked her to tell me all about the epidural. While everyone has different opinions on the epidural, the piece of advice I clung to was: Get the epidural before they break your water. Second, she thought I was a bit dehydrated when looking for veins to prep for an IV.

At midnight on the dot, the on-call doctor came to start the first round of cervical ripening. Because Grady was small, he was higher risk for not tolerating labor. It was important to use methods of cervical ripening that we could remove at any sign of distress. That eliminated the commonly used miso pill (which is the quickest method they described to me).

They used what they described as the “tampon” method. They insert the medicine into my cervix and a string hangs down like a tampon. The goal was to soften my cervix and potentially dilate. It would stay in for up to 12 hours to do its job. If at any time Grady showed he was under distress, they could pull the string and remove it.

Grady tolerated this method perfectly.

But I had a complication.

A little after one a.m., just as we started to doze off, I started feeling anxious. It felt like my heart rate was increasing, like I wanted to vomit, and like I wanted to panic. I waited a minute to see if the feeling would go away. After all, I really hadn’t been anxious about going into labor. I honestly didn’t believe the feeling was real.

Then spots popped up in my vision. That was when I woke up Mark and said something wasn’t right and to call the nurse because I felt like I was going to pass out. That’s the last thing I remember saying to him. I heard the nurse come in and he relayed my message. Then I fell into a sort of sleep.

I felt my bed be lowered and when I heard the nurse say my name I replied, “yeah?”. I heard her yell that my blood pressure was 70/30. All of a sudden, I felt a cold and refreshing sensation in my left arm.

When I opened my eyes, I saw multiple nurses and the on-call doctor surrounding me. I was hooked up to an IV, the blood pressure monitor, and the heart rate monitor. I was immediately concerned for the baby, but they assured me that the baby’s heart rate was strong.

The medical term for what happened is, “Vasovagal”. The doctor didn’t think that it was the cervical ripening that caused this. She thought that I would have reacted much sooner. The nurse assumed that the reality of going into labor hit me suddenly, caused immense anxiety, and my body’s reaction was to pass out. I’m not so sure- I don’t remember even thinking about labor when it happened. I remember thinking how unfortunate it was that Mark fell asleep with the remote and I was stuck watching a re-run of the Bruins game. Remember when I said I was a little dehydrated? That could have been a contributing factor. My friend who is a nurse said that pressure on your rectum can also cause a Vasovagal (hello baby dropping!). Many options, but ultimately no answer.

Mark says this was the scariest part of the labor. I became unresponsive to him. Remember how I heard the nurse say my name? According to Mark, she yelled it. Before he knew it a team of nurses rushed in and he got pushed aside. When they yelled out my blood pressure, all he knew was that was too low. He said he almost passed out himself. I recovered from the incident much faster than he did. Within minutes of re-gaining consciousness and getting a full bag of fluids, I felt great.

The next ten hours were inconvenient and uneventful. I had a full bag of IV pumped into me and was told I needed to be hooked up to one for the rest of labor. This meant I needed to pee CONSTANTLY. What’s more inconvenient than needing to pee every forty five minutes in the middle of the night when you’re trying to rest for labor and delivery? Being instructed to call the nurse every time to and from the bathroom.

Come morning, I was allowed to take myself to the bathroom – though Mark helped almost every time since I had to bring the IV. I was able to enjoy breakfast and some mid-morning snacks before the next on-call doctor came in to check on my progress. My cervix had softened, but I was still just one centimeter dilated.

At noon on Feb 27th, they inserted a foley balloon to continue cervical ripening. Again, this was a method that could be removed immediately should the baby show signs of distress. They expected this to dilate me to 3-4 cm and put me in active labor. They said to expect strong contractions in the beginning. If needed, they could give me a sedative.

For your sake, I REALLY hope you never need one of these. I found it incredibly uncomfortable and painful to be inserted (picture a water balloon being inserted on either side of your cervix and filled up with water…that’s how they described it to me). This was another 12-hour procedure.

Immediately my contractions strengthened. I tried walking around the room, “dancing” with Mark, and bouncing on a ball, but as the contractions got stronger I just wanted was to be in bed. I found that sitting, whether trying to pee or on the ball, was extremely painful in my back. I simply wanted to be in the fetal position holding onto the bed railing. After about two hours my contractions were very strong and only a minute or two apart. Knowing this 12-hour method would only bring me to 3-4 cm, I knew if I continued going on no sleep I would exhaust myself. I asked about the sedative and the nurse encouraged it. I was able to sleep for four hours, and by the time I woke up the pain had subsided.

He was worth the pain ❤

At 10:30pm they came in and removed the balloons (not painful at all). I was just about 4cm dilated and effaced enough. The cervical ripening was over and they were going to start the Pitocin and break my water later on.

Remember how my nurse recommended I get my epidural before they break my water? I immediately told my doctor I wanted the epidural and…she basically said no. She said I didn’t need it because of how “comfortable” I was. That I wouldn’t need it until AFTER they broke my water. I was furious.

As soon as the charge nurse got back on duty (midnight) in I immediately told her what the doctor said and that I wanted the epidural regardless. I could see that, despite her holding her composure, she was also displeased with the doctor’s reaction, and said she would go talk with the doctor.

It pays to have the charge nurse on your side! At around 3am on Feb 28th, the anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural (despite me still being quite comfortable). This was the part I was most nervous for.

I was to tell them if I felt numbness or a ringing in my ear. “Well”, I said, “I don’t hear a ringing, but everyone is starting to sound like a robot.” Sure enough the charge nurse announced that my heart rate was elevating and he was able to stop what he was doing just before I felt like I was going to pass out for the second time.

He replaced the catheter and they administered the medicine. I was told to push a button to administer more medicine when needed (or every twenty minutes per the button turning green). Considering it being 3:30am, I didn’t push the button and fell asleep for about three hours.

I woke up at six thirty to hear that I was still 4cm dialated, but this time a “good” 4cm, and they were going to break my water.

And this, ladies, is why you have to advocate for your own health in the hospital. Had I listened to that doctor, I would have never been able to get the epidural because…

Immediately my contractions got PAINFUL. I started pushing that green button as often as I could, but it didn’t help. I was unable to sit still during the contractions (hence why I wouldn’t have been able to get a needle inserted into my spine). The nurse had the anesthesiologist come “top me off”, but I felt no relief. The nurse was sure something had gone wrong with the epidural and the anesthesiologist came back to re-do my catheter. He “topped me off again” and I was able to relax…for about twenty minutes. The contractions were a minute apart, and every single one caused my body to uncontrollably convulse/quiver. The epidural wasn’t working. The nurse said that she only saw as extreme of physical reaction in women who give birth without any pain medication.

The next time they checked me I was 7cm dilated. But what felt like minutes later I was telling Mark to call the nurse because it was time to push. At this point I had my eyes closed, but the doctor must have come in the room at some point because I heard her say she didn’t think I would be ready to push – it was too soon.

Again, women NEED to advocate for themselves when in labor. You know your body better than the doctors. I insisted Mark get a nurse or doctor to check my dilation. The doctor came back and, sure enough, told the nurses to prep the room for delivery. At 9:30 a.m it was time to push.

the best support Mark gave was letting me call the shots for my own body and supporting my decisions

Though I won’t give you the gory details of delivery, the benefit of not having an effective epidural was that I was in tune to when I needed to push. For the first fifteen minutes, the nurse had her hand on my belly to feel the contractions and instruct me on when to start pushing. Her instructions didn’t align with when I felt the sensation to push, and finally I started telling HER when I was going to start pushing.

At 10:01 am, Grady Kenneth arrived 😊

After 34 hours of labor, we stayed in the hospital for another 58 hours (Grady was jaundice so we had to stay longer than the 48 hour stay for extra testing). Our hospital’s COVID protocol was that we couldn’t leave the room. Mark was antsy to leave a full day before me – after all, I was the patient receiving care. But even I was dying to stretch my legs and get some fresh air by the end.

What astonishes me is, after the delivery, there was no follow up discussion on the medical concerns for why I was induced. Grady came with ten fingers, ten toes, crying, and that seemed to be enough. Similarly, no doctors followed up on any conversations regarding the IUGR. At our first pediatrician appointment I asked if he was aware of the IUGR, and he said yes, “What about it?”

As a patient I still would have appreciated some reassurance from the doctors or some clearer idea of what caused the IUGR.

That sums up Grady’s birth story. It was a LONG 34 hours, but in the end he arrived safely and healthy, and that’s all any mom can ask for.

Third Trimester Mama Drama

In general, I lucked out with my pregnancy. Morning sickness was brief, I had minimal food aversions, managed my sciatica, and avoided health conditions like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. The worst part was the toll on my body from gaining 40: pelvic/pubic pain, hip pain and lower back pain.

My third trimester was a little different than the rest. In bringing closure to my pregnancy journey, I hope that my story resonates with and supports another mom out there.

At the start of my third trimester my belly finally popped and Mark popped the question

By my third trimester, I really thought that I had done everything “right”. I was eating healthy and lightly exercising most days. My weight gain was consistent month after month. Most importantly, baby’s heartrate was strong at every appointment.

My doctor mentioned a few times during the second trimester that the baby was on the smaller side. At my 19-week anatomy scan, the baby looked to be 5 days smaller than the gestational age. At a 23 week ultrasound, it remained a few days small. Nothing of major concern, to my understanding.

I can’t remember if my 27-week ultrasound was routine, or scheduled specifically to check its size. Regardless, it was then that my doctor had a more serious conversation with me – it still looked small, specifically the abdomen, and I was going to need to return in another month for a growth scan.

30 weeks pregnant

My 31-week appointment: unlike every other appointment, I saw my doctor before the ultrasound. As a result, I received the results of the growth scan via a phone call from a nurse whom I had never met. In what seemed like a foreign language, she said I was being referred to maternal fetal medicine (MFM) for inter-uterine growth restriction (IUGR).

I didn’t know anything about MFM other than I needed to go to the hospital to see them. Then nurse was clearly not very familiar with IUGR. The only helpful tid-bit she relayed was that “maybe” the notes said “something” about the 5th percentile.

At 32 weeks I went to see an MFM for the first time. From then on, my pregnancy stopped being routine.

IUGR is when a fetus in the less than 10th percentile for its gestational. The baby can show asymmetrical or symmetrical growth restriction. Asymmetrical growth restriction, which was my case, is when one of those measurements is disproportionate to the rest, most commonly the abdomen.

IUGR is usually caused by one of three things: Infection, Down Syndrome (or chromosomal abnormality), or an unhealthy placenta. A small abdomen suggests that the placenta is not providing the baby enough adequate nutrients, therefore the fetus allocates the nutrients to the vital organs like the brain and heart and neglects the stomach. It is also possible that the mom simply grows small babies.

Small babies are at higher risk for pregnancy or birth complications. Specifically, babies in the 3rd percentile are at higher risk of still birth. Because of this, patients with IUGR get referred to MFM.

At 32 weeks my baby’s growth had been slowing and the total weight measured in the 3.5% percentile. The measurement that was skewing the total was the abdomen, which was in the <1%. I was determined to be a high-risk pregnancy and told that I would not be carrying to term.

IUGR patients are induced between 37 and 39 weeks. In my case, the MFM doctor didn’t advise carrying beyond 37 weeks. Rather, I was to have a growth scan at 34-weeks to make sure the baby was continuing to grow.  If the baby didn’t show enough progress I would be induced then. The rationale was that the environment in the NICU would be more conducive to growth than the womb.

With this knowledge, it was time to take action. The first thing the doctor’s recommended was to eliminate some “causes” of the IUGR. I got blood work done and was able to rule out infection. Mark and I opted out of genetic testing – we were largely influenced by the doctors assuring us there were no other physical markers of a disorder. Lastly, there is no way to “test” the health of the placenta.

The second thing the doctors did was establish a new protocol for how I would be monitored. In addition to bi-weekly growth scans (34 weeks and 36 weeks to be done with the MFM doctors), I was to have weekly NSTs and BPPs. Any abnormalities in these tests could result in an early delivery.

NSTs (non-stress tests) are common for a range of “complications”. You sit reclined in a comfy chair with a monitor around your belly for 20 minutes. The monitor tracks the baby’s movement and heart rate. The doctor looks for three movements/accelerations and for it to regulate itself afterwards. BPPs (bio-physical profiles) are ultra-sounds that monitor eight characteristics of baby’s health, such as fluid level, heart rate, a doppler reading of the blood flow in the umbilical cord, and movements of the diaphragm (hiccups or the baby practicing breathing). You get scored 8/8 if everything checks out perfectly.

I was given all of this information in a15-20-minute conversation with the high risk doctor. It was too much to process. Mark came home early from work that day and we spent the day on the couch with lots of cookies.

Yet it was hard to panic. Up until that day we were told everything looked great. All of the organs were growing and functioning as they should. The baby was moving a LOT, which both MFM and my OBGYN said was the most promising sign. The heart rate was strong. It was almost impossible to wrap our heads around something being wrong.

Many people would have been frustrated, anxious, or overwhelmed by the lack of control. I surprised myself when I realized this made me more calm. I knew I had done everything “right”, therefore I believed that if my child did have a disorder or needed to be induced pre-maturely, I was chosen to be his or her mother for a reason.

There were two nights those first two weeks that I prayed to my abuela. My version of prayer is to internally talk to her after I lie down to go to bed. I asked that she take care of my baby. Whether the baby was small, had a health condition, or the placenta was unhealthy, I believed Abuela would make sure the baby came into this world safely.

Sure enough, at my 34-week growth scan, the baby had gained a full pound. While the abdomen was still in the <1%, the total size increased from the 3rd percentile to the 9th. The MFM recommendation changed from inducing me at 37 weeks (March 2nd as discussed with my OBGYN) to 38 weeks. I now believe my baby has a guardian angel in Abuela.

Despite this good news, my next NST didn’t go as smoothly. The baby was incredibly active – kicking and rolling back and forth. The baby was so active that the baseline of the heart rate was consistently close to 180 beats per minute (vs. my typical 150-160). The heart rate hit 190 a lot. The doctor kept me hooked up for a full hour vs. 20 minutes, and the baby’s heart rate never normalized. I was sent to labor and delivery at the hospital.

They checked me in as if I was having the baby. Not knowing what to expect, I looked for cues from the doctors and nurses to gauge if Mark needed to leave work and come to the hospital. They hooked me up to the monitors and I waited. Luckily, the baby’s heart rate had normalized, and I was able to go home after another hour of monitoring.

35 Weeks – Baby Shower
35 weeks pregnant – Valentine’s Day

The Monday of week 36 I went back to MFM for a growth scan and their final recommendation for delivery. This time the news seemed even better. The baby had gained over another pound. The abdomen had increased from the <1% to the 6th percentile. The total weight of the baby increased to the 17th percentile. For the most part, we were out of the woods.

The fact that the abdomen was still asymmetrically small and within the 10th percentile warranted an early delivery. The MFM doctor gave a final recommendation of delivering at 39 weeks. I asked what the difference was between 39 weeks and carrying to term, but she still felt that the risks associated with delivering a baby with a small abdomen outweighed the benefits of going into labor naturally. I was to continue weekly NSTs and BPPs and, like before, if anything looked less than perfect, would be sent to labor and delivery. My last growth scan would be set for a few days before my induction date.

The Tuesday of week 36 I went to my OB/GYN for an NST. My OB/GYN was thrilled with the growth and we scheduled my induction for March 15th. We also scheduled a BPP for that Friday. Technically I got my weekly BPP at MFM that Monday, but my doctor suggested that I go at the end of the week as to not go too long between scans.

The Friday of week 36 I logged off of work early and went to my BPP. At first the ultrasound tech said that the baby’s diaphragm wasn’t moving. According to her, this isn’t atypical. While babies get the hiccups and practice breathing in the womb, it doesn’t happen 24/7. However, that brought my BPP score to a 7/8 and I would need to have an NST. After about 10 minutes of monitoring, the nurse practitioner came in with some news I wasn’t expecting.

It was time.

The way she described it was that doppler of the umbilical cord indicated that the placenta was working too hard to flow blood to the baby. That brought my BPP score to a 6/8. The lower score in consideration with the reactive NST at 34 weeks and the small abdomen brought the doctors to determine I should be induced that night – midnight on the dot so that I would officially be 37 weeks.

And just like that, my third trimester and entire pregnancy came to an end! Two days later our sweet, healthy, baby boy Grady was born, and our lives are forever changed.

Though we are assuming an unhealthy placenta caused the IUGR, the cause of Grady’s small size was never diagnosed. In fact, none of the doctors or nurses mentioned the IUGR after he arrived safely. For something that caused so much stress and called for so much attention for so many weeks, it shocks me that it warrants almost no conversation after the fact. I am already wondering how they are going to treat my next pregnancy. If I have another small baby, will they put me through the extra testing? Will it be accepted that I simply grow small babies? Luckily we don’t have to worry about it for another few years.

For the most part, I was able to stay positive during my third trimester. Rather than look at all of my extra appointments as an inconvenience, I told myself I was lucky to hear my baby’s heartbeat every week and see it in an ultrasound every week – most women only get that a few times during their pregnancy.

How did I cope with all the uncertainty? I focused on controlling the controllable. I packed our hospital bag at 33 weeks in case I had to be induced. I packed the hospital bag as if we were going to stay 4-5 days for a c-section (which was more likely with a small baby). I hustled to finish prepping my frozen meals by week 34 as well. When I had my baby shower at 35 weeks, I had my family help set everything up immediately afterwards, not knowing what would come of my 36 week ultra sound.

And ultimately, I trusted the doctors and my Abuela.

Stay tuned for my next post that shares all about my experience being induced.

xoxo

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Meal Prepping for Baby Y’s Arrival

Third trimester exhaustion is setting in. I need extra time on the couch after cleaning, cooking, or running errands. I also take full advantage of early bedtimes while I can (because once midnight sets in, baby has me peeing every few hours!). Because of this, I’m very thankful that I took care of my meal prep for baby’s arrival during the second to third trimester transition.

I had a few people reach out and say they were impressed by how “ahead of the game” I was with my meal prep. The reality is, I’m a huge planner, so I had this in the works for weeks. I also love to cook, so spending weekends cooking wasn’t a burden. Most importantly: I love to eat. Mark is good at ordering takeout, but I’m going to be trying to lose weight, not increase my junk food intake!

Meal prepping in bulk definitely requires planning. I prepped 12 meals in four weekends, and hope that they’ll last between 8-12 weeks (with some of Mark’s takeout and meals from our moms in between 😊). I collected recipes, made lists of ingredients, and budgeted time and cooking equipment.

Below is a list of all the recipes I made, whether recalled from memory, pictured from my books, or linked to a website. There are few foods I don’t like, so I think this list has a variety of options for different tastes. While this could be a great guide for pregnant mamas out there, I also hope it inspires non-pregnant women to cook up some meals to keep on hand.

Disclaimer: any recipes titled “My” are dinners I whipped up without a recipe. Quantities of ingredients aren’t included because it really depends on how much you’re cooking and your taste buds.

The Pasta

Mark is from an Italian family and grew up eating a lot of pasta. I grew up in a Latin household and grew up eating a lot of meat and rice. While we lived apart, I stuck mostly to my own repertoire in the kitchen. Since moving in together, we’ve decided to continue his Grams’ tradition of pasta on Wednesdays. It would be cruel of me to not include any pasta in our frozen meals!

That, and pasta dishes are by far the quickest and easiest to whip up in big batches.

  1. My Chicken Parm: I use chicken tenderloins for my chicken parm and do a double dredge, fry, bake technique. Mark, who grew up with family recipes of chicken parm, approves the way I do it!

Ingredients: Chicken tenderloins, salt, pepper, garlic powder, eggs, flour, panko/bread crumbs, vegetable oil, tomato sauce, cheese

Directions: PREP: Pre Heat oven to 350. Pour a quarter of an inch to half inch of vegetable oil in a frying pan and heat on medium. Scramble the eggs in one bowl, pour flour in one bowl, and the breadcrumbs/panko in another. Dry the tenderloins (you always want to dredge and fry dry meat) and season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

DREDGE: Dunk the chicken in the egg, then coat in flour. Dunk the chicken back in the egg, then coat in the breadcrumb/panko mixture.

FRY: Fry the chicken tenders until they are golden brown all around. Put on a baking sheet when done.

BAKE: Spoon tomato sauce on chicken and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

PASTA: Cook your choice of pasta and sauce and rest the cooked chicken on top.

I cook my eggplant parm the same way, and Mark LOVES it!

2. My Naked Chicken Broccoli and Ziti:

Ingredients: be generous since this will flavor your pasta, too: olive oil, chopped yellow onion, minced garlic cloves, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, broccoli, chicken tenderloins

DIRECTIONS: In a large skillet on medium heat, heat olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until aromatic (before the garlic browns). Add broccoli and chicken tenderloin and cook through. Add more olive oil if needed. Optional: add some lemon juice.

PASTA: Cook the pasta and coat in melted butter or olive oil. Toss in the seasoned broccoli and chicken to spread the flavor.

3. Mac n’ Cheese: I read mixed reviews on whether Mac n’ Cheese is good to freeze or not. I decided to try it (worse comes to worst we always have boxed mac n’ cheese on hand as a backup).

Recipe here

The Meats

4. BBQ pulled pork: Recipe Here

I didn’t have onion powder, so substituted with Adobo (Goya) and it was delish.

5. Salsa Pork: I just started using my crock pot this winter, and this is by far the easiest recipe I found. I froze some tortillas along with this pork. All we’ll need when it’s time to eat is shredded cheese (which we almost always have) and a bag of shredded cabbage/pre-mixed salad.

The Soups

6. Hamburger Soup: This has become one of my favorite dinners to whip up on a weeknight. I even paired it with some homemade bread one night when hosting dinner for Mark’s parents.

7. Chili: Recipe Here

The Fun Stuff

8. Pizza Pockets: This has “Easy” in the title but working with the dough was a bit challenging. Once they were baked it was SO difficult not to eat them on the spot (Mark and I ended up making homemade pizza for dinner that night), but it was messy!

Recipe Here

9. Chicken Teriyaki Casserole: Recipe Here

10. My Breakfast Casserole:

Ingredients: 1 bag of shredded potato hash browns, thawed. 12 eggs, scrambled, 6 pieces of bacon cooked and chopped (or more if you loooove bacon), shredded cheddar cheese and green onion on top.

Directions:

PREP: Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

ASSEMBLE: Spread the potatoes on the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer the bacon on top. Pour the eggs over the dish. Sprinkle cheese and onions on top.

BAKE: I think I ended up baking this for an hour. Bake until the center isn’t jiggly anymore. If there is a slight jiggle, turn the oven off and let the eggs finish cooking themselves. If the top is browning before the dish is cooking, cover loosely with tin foil.

11. My Chicken, Cheese, Pepper and Onion Quesadillas: I bought pre-cooked fajita seasoned chicken and sliced up the peppers and onions. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could cook the peppers and onions on the stove before fixing the quesadillas.

12.Shrimp and Quinoa: beware of the lemon. If I were to make this again, I would use less than the recipe calls for.

Recipe Here

Valentine’s Date Night In

Flowers Mark got me for our first Valentine’s Day

I think there are two types of women in the world: those who love the glitz and glam of Valentine’s Day, and those who prefer to dim the lights at home and snuggle up in some cozy pajamas with some wine. I am the second type of woman, and I know it is us who will be thriving this COVID Valentine’s Day.

While some women still have plans to get dressed up and venture out for a socially distant night, many women will trade their high heels for slippers and try to make a night at home a little more special than the groundhog day we’ve been experiencing.

As an experienced Valentine’s Date Night at home kind of gal, I wanted to share a few ideas to make a night at home a little extra special. Some of these are from Valentine’s Days past and some are just Mark’s and my favorite ways to spend time together at home.

Set the Mood The best part about dimming the lights, lighting some candles, and playing music softly in the background at home rather than a restaurant is that you don’t have any waiter squeezing by your table or strangers talking too loudly. You also don’t have to worry about being rushed.

The most important part of setting the mood, which is also most difficult, is putting your phone away. It’s much easier to tuck a phone away in a purse or jacket slung on the back of the chair than to put it away at home. It is something that Mark and I don’t do every night, but for Valentine’s Day and other special occasions spent at home, I leave my phone in another room.

Bake a Favorite Treat Even people who “aren’t dessert people” have their favorite dessert that hits the spot. (For the record Mark is NOT one of those people. Dessert is our favorite meal).

Mark is a chocolate lover like I’ve never known before and his favorite dessert is brownies. In my years of home-baking, brownies has been one of the toughest recipes to master. I get the texture wrong, don’t bake them enough, or end up with scrambled eggs inside. But I finally found a recipe that produces amazing results.

My keys to success: Ghirardelli baking chocolate, only letting the chocolate and butter mixture cool for 7 minutes, whisk the sugar in REALLY good, and trade a cup of chocolate chips for a cup, plus some, of chopped Reese’s.

Order Favorite Takeout Mark and I are big pizza eaters, but when it comes to special occasions Chinese is our go-to. After all, why not splurge for the more expensive, less healthy option??

If you and your significant other usually eat in, this is a great way to support a local business during the pandemic. If you normally eat out, this is a good opportunity to try something new! And if you truly love that pizza place around the corner, it’s a perfect excuse to order it again 🙂

Play a Favorite Board Game I’ve learned that there are people who grew up in board-game families and people who did not. As a member of a board-game family, I have a few tips that help keep all players happy (because non-board game family adults are usually not competitive!)

1. Keep it classic – Checkers may seem like one of the less extravagant games, but it is filled with nostalgia 2. Keep it simple – so that your companion can get the hang of it after one full game and you can spend most of the night playing vs. learning. A fun, simple choice is Sequence. 3. Keep it timely – games that can be played in a timely manner are fun because they allow for re-matches or “best two out of three” competitions. Games with timers keep the pace. Scategories is a favorite of ours for two-out-of-three competition.

Make Your Own Valentine’s Day Card: I am lucky that Mark goes along with all of my cheesy ideas. If your significant other is open to cheesy romance in the privacy of your own home, then this activity may be fun for you!

Last year on Valentine’s Day, I took a trip to the craft store and bought a handful of materials to make our own extravagant cards: poster board, stickers, foam letters, pipe cleaners, glitter, pom-poms, etc. Then we wrote our own personal note to each other.

Was it cheesy? Heck yes. Did we have anywhere practical to put our giant cards? Nope! But we kept them for almost a year! I was sad to throw them out (de-cluttering for baby!), but the memory of making them still makes me happy: we spread out on the living room floor, played some music, and slowly got messier and messier in glue and confetti.

Give Massages Buy some oil, turn down the lights, play some music or turn on a favorite movie, set a timer for twenty minutes…enough said 🙂

Already have plans for your own Valentine’s Day date night at home? Comment what you plan on doing below! Or let me know which of these ideas you’ll be trying yourself!

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