Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Previews: Our Maternity Photo Session & Cloth Diapers

Our Maternity Photo Session

Professional photographers are amazing.  They take the most beautiful pictures and do all the editing for you.  BUT (there's always a BUT when you watch your budget, right?) I have found that simple pictures can do the job just fine.  One of the reasons we live debt-free right now is because we evaluate every. single. purchase. before we make it.  Case in point:  photography.  I wanted professional pictures at first, and I had a few incredible photographers in mind.  But then I remembered how awkward I am and how well our engagement pictures that my sister took turned out, so I decided the hundreds of dollars weren't worth it.  Then I debated getting a high-quality camera (currently we have a Canon PowerShot SD 1400IS...nice, but a few years old and could be a lot better).  After asking around for recommendations from photography-happy friends, I realized there was a wide variety of preferences, and not all high-quality cameras guarantee great photos (oh, and then there's my lack of patience with technology...guess that explains the pay-as-you-go phone I still use from Wal Mart).  I decided to just stick with what we have, practice some editing myself, and be glad for the invention of photography at all!

I am extremely happy with how our pictures turned out!  The day was REALLY sunny, so I had to do lots of editing and sometimes was unable to remove glares and shadows, but they turned out OK.  We took some of the pictures at our house and some at a small state park about 15 miles down the road.  Nothing fancy, just a few images to capture our first pregnancy.  Here are a few of my favorites:

I'm not going to post all of them, but I made the album public on my Facebook page so if you want to see the rest just click here.  Fall is my favorite time of year, and we had a blast taking these pictures on a beautiful October afternoon.  So glad my sister could deal with my awkward-ness when it comes to picture taking :-)

Cloth Diapers

Right now I'm not going to do a detailed post on cloth diapers for one simple reason:  I am inexperienced!!  I will just do a recap on what I've done so far, and then after a month or two of using them I will do a thorough post on how I chose the diapers I did (and if I'm happy with their performance), how I keep them clean, my storage set-up in the nursery (although you'll get a preview of that when I do my nursery post this week!), how I make traveling with cloth diapers less of a pain (providing I figure that out!!), and tips for cloth diapering in general.  

I already explained that we chose to use cloth diapers because it is better for your baby (less chance of diaper rash, potty train easier, and safer on their sensitive skin), the environment (saves SO MUCH waste), and your pocketbook (studies have estimated that it costs about $2,000 to diaper a baby with disposables...birth through potty training...compared to $900 with cloth diapers, plus you save money by using the same diapers with multiple kids!).  If you can't imagine cloth diapering your baby, you are not a bad mom.  It's a personal choice and just as I would never think twice about someone who uses disposables, I hope others return the favor and don't insult me for choosing cloth.  

I was referred to a mom who runs a cloth diaper business out of her home by my brother-in-law's cousin, and I am so thankful to her!  The company is Pinstripes and PolkaDots, I linked to their website in hopes you check it out!  The owner is amazing, so quick to get back to you and not pushy at all!  I attended a (free) diaper class with my sister a few months back, which was WONDERFUL for learning the basics.  I then did several hours of research at home on her website (which includes photos of the diapers, laundry instructions, suggestions...everything you can think of!) before setting up my diaper registry.  After my shower it was easy to just complete my order (which came with a 10% discount!).  Her prices are competitive with Amazon, and personally I'd rather spend a little more and have someone there to answer questions for me when it comes to something I don't know much about as opposed to ordering off a huge retailer.  Yes, I watch my budget...but I do that so I can splurge when needs be!  

I received almost all the items in one order (just waiting on some back ordered hemp inserts and a diaper pail).  I must say I was overwhelmed at first!  Some diapers require 3 washes before their absorbency is ready to go.  Luckily I ordered diapers that only needed to be washed once.  However, I still did non-stop laundry for 2 days before they were all fluffy and clean!  Today I assembled all the diapers, snapped them down to newborn size, and practiced them on my old Cabbage Patch doll (hey, better to learn now than on a squirmy, crying baby).  I am pleased with how easy everything was, it's a huge relief that I'm not in over my head!  Then I did some organizing in the nursery and put them all away.  Like I mentioned in my hospital bag post, I do plan to just go with disposables in the hospital to relieve some stress.  Then when we come home, all those soft, fluffy pretty cloth diapers are ready to do their job!

Oh, and I should mention...I saved the laundry instructions from the diaper class and added some notes on them specific to our washer and dryer.  I highlighted the key parts and put the sheet in a page protector on the washer so Mark can do the laundry until I'm up and around.  Every step I take to be prepared now will allow me more cuddle time with Stella in the future!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

35 Weeks and my hospital bags are packed!

I debated even doing a post on this because I am a first time mom and I have NO idea what I will need in the hospital.   Before I explain why I decided to write this up anyway, I must say that I am extremely fortunate and blessed to be able to stay at home after Stella is born.  I have been even more blessed because I haven't been working since May.  After giving up my teaching job (2nd grade) when we moved, I subbed for a year (well, half the year by the time my fingerprints went through) in schools around our new home.  My plan was to sub until Stella arrived, but (big surprise!) teaching certificates changed and I was required to re-register my certificate (long story short).  I decided it wasn't worth the money and time for just a few months of subbing before my due date, so I have had several months off.  I decided to make the most of it, and I've found a million things to do that have kept me busy.  The biggest of those is preparing for Stella!  I have been able to do so much research, reading, and organizing that just wouldn't have been possible if I was working.  I remember (all too well) how frazzled I was as a full-time teacher, so it is my hope that sharing the finished product of much research can help other time crunched moms out there...and also those who just don't want to do the planning (which is FINE!  we all have our strengths).  So after all that rambling...here's to hoping this list helps you pack your hospital bag when the time comes (because lots of the lists I found were very impersonal and generic!)

 First up:  Clothes!

  •  All items packed in Thirty-One Bag!
  • 3 pairs of underwear (Hanes from Wal-Mart...nothing fancy these days!)
  • 2 nursing bras (less than $10 each at Burlington Coat Factory...at the risk of sounding like the commercial, please do yourself a favor and do all your maternity shopping there!)
  • 3 pairs of socks 
  • 1 fuzzy pair of socks to serve as slippers (with grips on the bottom to avoid sliding around the hospital hallways)
  • PJ's (that consist of pants, a nursing tank, and a long sleeve cover-up...thanks Emily!)
  • A robe to throw on over my hospital gown if needs be (the red one...wanted something cute!)
  • Flip-flops and a big beach towel for the shower (sure am hoping I'm up for taking one)
  • Going home outfit...I picked black leggings (and also threw in black yoga pants if the leggings aren't cutting it...although they are maternity leggings), a simple black top, tall black boots and cute socks (boots are set out...I will throw those on when we leave so I don't have to pack them), and a scarf, hat & gloves in an attempt to dress up my casual outfit.  Comfort is key with this girl!
  • I also threw in clean undies, socks, and a T-shirt for my husband...because we know he won't pack anything!! 
Next up:  Toiletries & Misc. Items!

  • All items packed in Thirty-One Bag!
  • On the left are my breastfeeding items:  Medela pump, nursing cover-up (on top of pump), a few samples of Lanolin, and a few disposable nursing pads (don't need too many since your milk doesn't come in for a few days).  As I've mentioned before, I am all about "clean" foods and products that aren't full of chemicals...BUT...I also like to balance that with convenience!  I bought some organic washable nursing pads as well as a pure nipple cream by Earth Mama Angel Baby to use at home.  However, when packing my bag, I chose sample & travel products when possible...it won't hurt anything to make things easier on yourself during times of travel and stress.  Balance and moderation are key!
  • I included a few booklets from the hospital with all the vital labor & post-labor information I could ever need!  We weren't able to take any labor classes due to switching hospitals (got caught in the middle...old hospital wouldn't let us go to theirs and new hospital's classes were over by the time we found out we were going there), but I did tons of reading and research on my own.  I decided against a formal "birthing plan"  because let's face it...I have no idea how it will go!  I did arm myself with lots of information on what to expect, how to relax (should be easier since I'm a big yoga fan), and different pain relief options.  I really prefer to learn on my own anyways :-)
  • I also packed some blank thank-yous and a pen & paper, should I wish to thank anyone at the hospital.  The sticky note on the thank-you box has a list of questions I prepared for the hospital.
  • Diffuser (blow dryer will be thrown in last minute...no other hair tools needed)
  • Hair brush
  • Lint roller (because I'm sure to take much of my German Shepherd with me)
  • Always Infinity Pads (there we go getting personal again...sorry but the shame must go out the window before you even go in for delivery!)
  • A bag full of healthy snacks (a variety of granola bars, nuts, & trail mix) and some gum
  • Make-up.  Nothing wrong with wanting to feel human!  I just hope I have enough ambition to put some on.  I packed sample sized foundation, BB cream, highlighter and powder (from Sephora orders...a great way to wear high-end make-up for free & without toting around several bottles), concealer, a small blush, my beauty blender, 1 eye shadow and brush (that can double for brows), mascara, and sample Arbonne lip glosses.  Simple and fits into a tiny black bag.
  • A travel mirror to do said make-up from bed.
  • A small cosmetics bag full of toiletries:  face wash & wipes (if I'm unable to wash my face); travel sizes of body wash, loofah, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush (for me & Mark!) & toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, q-tips, deodorant, and lotion; chapstick; hair paste & salt spray (for a simple messy hair look before we head home); a few headbands, bobby pins & hair ties for getting my hair off my face during labor; and finally some tums & a few days worth of prenatal vitamins!
 Last but not Least:  Stella's Diaper Bag!

  • All items packed in blue & brown diaper bag (yes, I know I'm having a girl.  yes, the bag was available in pink.  no, I'm not much of a "pink" girl.  yes, blue is versatile for girls & boys so I can use it with all our babies...which I will do since I splurged on this bag.  yes, it is OK if you ARE a "pink" girl and think I'm silly.)
  • 2 warm blankets (probably necessary since it's October now and we've already had snow!)
  • Going-home little bear outfit (couldn't resist, she will be so adorable & snugly)
  • Receiving blanket
  • 2 pairs of PJ's (one bag style and one hoppies...not sure which will be better)
  • White hoppies & adorable knit hat from my friend
  • 1 pink outfit with headband and booties from Uncle Jake (to wear home under little bear outfit)
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 2 pairs of mittens
  • 3 burp clothes (not pictured because I ordered them and haven't gotten them yet)
*Note:   I decided against packing cloth diapers, wipes, and my organic diaper cream.  As mentioned above, I believe in these things and plan to use them when we get home, but I chose convenience during what is sure to be an overwhelming time.  I do not wish to bring home a bag of dirty laundry from the hospital, there will be plenty of that later!  Maybe I'll bring them for the next baby after I figure out what I'm doing, but for now it's all about that balance!!

Items to throw in last minute:
  • I jotted these items on a sticky note and put it on top of the bag.  I give myself 15 minutes to throw these items in, shut off everything in the house and leave Kaiser (our dog) some water before heading out the door.  All this planning makes me less anxious about going into labor because I know exactly what to do and grab!
  • camera & charger
  • phone
  • wallet...make sure insurance card is in here!  I already called my insurance company and pre-registered so I don't have to do anything from the hospital.  All we have to do is add Stella to our policy via Mark's work within 31 days of birth...although the sooner the better, otherwise they might get claims before she's added, which will then be denied.  Yes, that can be reversed, but why make more work for yourself than necessary?  I wrote a note to have Mark add her ASAP when we get home from the hospital.  SIDE NOTE:  We have BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois and they are fabulous!  They sent me the Mayo Clinic Guide to Pregnancy book and offer free advice from a nurse at any time over the phone.  Call your insurance as soon as you're pregnant (or even before) and find out what is available to you during pregnancy...I called before I got pregnant to go over benefits and make sure everything was up to par should we need to make any changes before I got pregnant!
  • hair dryer
  • baby books (What to Expect When You're Expecting & The Pregnancy Journal).  I will bring these for questions, reading material, and the journal has a section in the back to jot down information from the hospital stay, which will make it easier to fill in her baby book when I'm up to it.  The section is guided so I don't have to rack my tired brain wondering what information I should record!
I think that covers everything!  I plan to bring my list to the hospital to cross off items I didn't use and jot down any I forgot while it's still fresh on my mind.  That should make packing easier next go-around!  I feel so much better having everything packed and ready to go.  Now, just have to finish the nursery and a few odds & ends around the house.  Should go well since I feel great and am in major nesting mode!!

UPDATE:  My daughter is here! 

While in the hospital I took a few minutes to jot down the items I didn't use and those I should have brought.  Read on to find out what was unnecessary and what would have made the stay a whole lot easier.  Happy packing!

The things I was way too busy to care about: 
  • Underwear.  I had to wear the lovely mesh hospital ones after my C-section (and honestly they were my best friend for days to come), but even without a C-section you just might not care enough to dig your own out.  Personal preference.
  • Socks.  Flip flops that you can toss after your stay are good enough to wear around your room or for the walk down the hall.  Just don't forget 1 pair of socks to wear home if it's cold out!
  • Robe.  You'll probably only leave your room to venture to the nursery, which I only did because Stella was confined there for a day.  Otherwise the nurses bring your baby to you.  If you have a C-section that trip will be made via wheelchair.  My hospital gown covered enough for that jaunt.
  • Towel.  I was too sore to even dry off after a shower.  A big item that's just unnecessary unless you're a huge germ-a-phobe. 
  • Pads.  The hospital supplies them.  Yes they're as big as a diaper...but guess what?  You're gonna need them that big!
  • Lanolin cream and nursing pads.  Provided.
  • Breast pump.  Another big item that's unnecessary.  Use the hospital's if you need one.  I did because my daughter was confined to an oxygen hood for the first 28 hours so I couldn't breastfeed.  I pumped once or twice to get the milk going.  They have new cups and you take those home.  Get your money's worth people!
  • Vitamins/tums/any meds.  I was so pumped full of meds there's no way I would have taken any of my own.  They can wait a few days, the hospital will supply whatever you need.
  • Baby clothes, socks and mittens.  This is totally personal preference.  Let me start by saying I love dressing my daughter up as much as the next mom.  But those first few days, it's all about comfort and ease for you and your baby.  She lived in a diaper and the hospital supplied t-shirt and hat during our stay.  The nurses bathe the baby and dress/swaddle them after, so why mess with it?  Stella was cute as a button in that gear.  One adorable outfit for the trip home and baby pictures is all you need!  (Bonus tip:  You might want to bring 2 outfits to be safe, 1 sized newborn and 1 sized 0-3 months.  This way you're prepared for whatever size baby comes out.  I took a 0-3 months and it was HUGE on my 7 lb 8 oz girl.)
  • Baby blankets.  They have TONS at the hospital.  Just bring a warm one for the ride home if it's cold out.
  • Burp cloths.  Provided.
  • Thank-you cards.  I was way too doped up on pain meds to write a decent thank-you note.  If you want to bring 1 or 2 just in case, fine.  I just remembered to send one to the doctor's office and one to the hospital when I sent them out for baby gifts.  If there's a special nurse you'd like to thank, just jot their name down (something I forgot to do for my favorite 2 nurses!)
Despite being SUPER organized, I still didn't think of these things:
  • Ipad charger.  Mark's brother picked us one up at Wal-Mart, but they are so expensive (so we returned it after...shhh).
  • My glasses.  I am blind as a bat and there's a lot of paperwork and TV watching to be done.
  • More PJs for mommy.  I brought one comfortable, breast-feeding friendly pair but needed more!  I was in the hospital 4 days.  The first 2 I spent in a hospital gown...I was in labor for one full day and the second day I couldn't even move so I didn't shower or change.  I'd suggest 2 or 3 pairs!
  • Make-up.  I did pack some, but I packed travel sizes.  This is a great idea...if they're travel/sample sizes of products you are used to.  Mine weren't, so I wasn't able to do my make-up as I normally do.  By the 4th day of feeling super-gross I was desperate to look decent (and those pictures last forever!) and I would have prefered to have the make-up I trust and love.
  • A bag for your husband, if he doesn't pack his own.  I mentioned above that I packed a few items for Mark.  With the longer than anticipated stay and my inability to move, he couldn't run home (our hospital is 45 minutes from our home).  He ran to Wal Mart for some essential hygiene items, but I recommend the following items at minimum:  3 pairs of underwear and socks, 3 shirts, razor & shaving gel, toothbrush, hair gel or hat.  
  • The last item isn't something I forgot to pack to go to the hospital, it's something I forgot to pack to come home.  They sent EVERYTHING with us that we didn't use...baby lotion, wipes, diapers, breastfeeding cups, pads, you name it!  Let's be honest, you ARE paying for that stuff in your lump sum.  Take it all and ask for more!  I was given gel nipple pads to soothe the pain of nursing.  I asked for an extra set to take home and they said "Sure!  No problem!"  I later found out they cost about $15 to buy!  So don't be afraid to ask.  I forgot to ask for more underwear (I told you they were my best friend).  After a C-section, the incision is right where regular underwear sit.  Hospital undies go up to your boobs, right where you want them to!  My sister-in-law said she loaded up before she left, and even washed and re-used them until they fell apart!  I didn't take any extra and threw them out after I wore them.  Big mistake, I ended up in Depends and tent underwear for about 6 weeks because they were the only things that didn't dig at my stitches and medical tape.  So ask for more.  And if you forget, don't be too proud to wear Depends.  Happens to the best of us!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

34 Weeks and I no longer sleep...

I have been doing terrible at keeping up with this blog...but I came up with a game plan today...going to try to start posting twice a week, and hopefully increasing that number after baby Stella arrives!  I'm sad to say it's been over a month and a half since I posted, but no use crying over spilled milk so let's get caught up!

Physically:  I have gained 44 pounds so far!  I know, it's outrageous.  My doctor yells at me every time I go in.  Too bad!  I eat healthy (for the most part) and get a little exercise most days.  I stay away from caffeine, and I haven't had any complications during my pregnancy.  So I say again...too bad!  I am 5'3", so of course I look enormous.  But I'm healthy and so is Stella (so far, God willing it continues).  In the beginning I was so afraid of the weight gain, terrified of putting on too much (as most first-time moms are, I'm sure).  But now I'm confident and comfortable with my new body, so as long as I'm staying healthy and reasonable I'm OK with the pounds!  (sorry doc).  My heartburn has decreased, a much welcomed relief!  However, I now have a terrible rash all over my neck and chest that looks like acne.  My dermatologist said it's just a pregnancy rash, nothing to worry about.  Oh, other than it looking awful!  All worth it for my baby girl!  Stella is still moving often, though not as strongly as before due to decreased room in there.  I am getting quite uncomfortable...car riding is a nightmare and I don't sleep much at night (thanks to a trip to the toilet every 1-2 hours and maneuvering this bowling ball in my belly every time I roll over...not to mention having to take my body pillow with me with each turn in my sleep!).  My maternity clothes are getting too small and NONE of my bras fit anymore...yes, now we're getting personal.  I think tomorrow I'm going to buy a mu mu and the most comfortable (and ugliest I'm sure) bra I can find and live in them until I give birth.  Seriously.  I also had some Braxton Hicks contractions while driving home from Peoria last week.  It was like a nightmare...driving behind a truck doing 48mph, in a dead zone where my phone wouldn't work, and when it did work Mark couldn't answer his phone.  That was fun!  Those were some painful false contractions, can't wait to experience the real thing!  But I must conclude this section by saying overall, I feel pretty dang good!  I am healthy and happy, and Stella is right on track.  Being pregnant is amazing, and I'm not quite ready for it to be over.  I thank God every day for my daughter and I haven't even met her yet!  I'm also thankful fall is here and that miserably hot, humid weather (that carried into October!) is finally gone.  Life is good.

Emotionally:  Overwhelmed.  That is the word that best describes me right now.  Since I am really big and carrying low, I have a hunch I'll have Stella a little early.  My goal is to be ready by 36 weeks.  That is less than 2 weeks away.  True to form, I made a game plan for the next 2 weeks to keep myself on track.  That helped me relax, so I'm doing better now!  Other than that I'm just a little tired, a little nervous, and a lot excited!

What's Been Going On: 

A lot, since I stink at updating my blog!  If I were to put everything in this blog post it would go on forever...and my back won't cooperate sitting in front of the computer that long!  So some upcoming posts to watch for:  my (beautiful) baby shower, the (finished!) nursery, a glance into my hospital bag (that I will pack this weekend), a view of our maternity pictures (that my amazing sister took), and an update on the cloth diapers (after I receive, wash, and practice using them). 

So for now I'll just fill you in on the other things that have been keeping me away from my computer.  At the beginning of September I finished researching cloth diapers and completed that registry.  Then my sister, nephew, and I registered for my shower at Babies-R-Us (after much research on the baby items I need,  and those I can live without!).  Mid-September my sister-in-law Jenny sent out my baby shower invites, and we spent the next month planning and preparing for my shower.  Mark and I also spent a weekend in Galena on a work trip that also served as our babymoon.  On Friday of that weekend the ladies went to the spa and shopped while the guys golfed.  We then enjoyed a steak dinner at the amazing house that was rented and sipped several adult drinks (Shirley Temples for me).  Saturday we could golf or go horseback riding after lunch at the clubhouse, but I could do neither being so prego, so Mark and I spend the day downtown by ourselves.  We toured Ulysses S. Grant's house and the oldest house in Galena, did some shopping (picking up some homemade treats for Kaiser of course), and enjoyed a few drinks in the brewery (root beer on tap for me!).  That night we had tacos back at the house and called it an early night.  Sunday we headed home after breakfast, stopping at Poopy's (a biker bar with delicious food) for lunch on the way home. 

I've spent more time in the hospital too...nothing that wasn't routine, thankfully.  I had my 30 week Ultrasound to check my low-lying placenta.  Everything looked good there, which was a sigh of relief.  Mark wasn't able to go to that appointment.  I sure enjoyed seeing Stella again, hard to believe the next time will be in person!  I didn't get any good pictures worth sharing this time though.  We also found out that we will definitely be delivering in Spring Valley.  Mark and I decided to plan the route and tour the hospital at the end of September.  It only took us 40 minutes to drive there, so not too bad.  They told me all my paperwork transferred (hahaha...we'll see), but they did give us a tour.  It's a nice hospital, but Princeton offers a more home-like setting with double beds in their birthing center while SV does not.  I still get to see my doctor in the Princeton office, which is nice, but I am disappointed to switch hospitals this late in the game.  But what you gonna do?

Finally, I did get 2 vaccinations at CVS:  T-dap and the flu shot.  While I am all for natural cures and minimal vaccinations, I did opt to have these two done.  I talked with my doctor, 2 pharmacists, and consulted several books on the matter before getting the shots, and they were all for getting them.  Chemicals are everywhere, and this is one place where I wasn't going to put Stella at risk because of my fear of them. 

Belly Picture Time: