Monday, August 13, 2012

Same Fish, New Pond

I have exciting news! First, I want to say thank you for your readership and support of this blog. This will be the last post here, and most of the archives have moved as well. I've launched a new blog at to share all the excitement of our growing family. It will also offer advice and tips on topics relevant to young families. So follow me on Twitter, or at the new blog. With two under two it's sure to be an interesting story!

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Should we get some formula?" he asked.

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and a quick stomp around the internet will show you news about "Latch On NYC," a myriad of Mother's tales of breastfeeding woes, 100 ways breastfeeding is great, and (of course) nursing bra sales. I've shied away from blogging about the topic because my husband and I don't see eye-to-eye on the importance. As quick as he was to support cloth diapering because that's how he was raised, he's also holding onto his lingering support of formula because he "turned out fine." It's not my intention to share this to bad-mouth my husband, but rather to let other mothers who may encounter the same resistance know that they are not alone. If you'd rather read about David Beckham literally supporting VB while breastfeeding, I would encourage you to do that here. The story (and image) got me through many wee hours.

I imagine that my DH loves breasts just as much as the average man, but he cannot wrap his head around the value of their intended purpose. Unfortunately for my cause, the nurses at the hospital chose to immediately offer my daughter a bottle due to her early delivery. It's questionable whether this was necessary, and it is absolutely the route cause of many of my early difficulties with nursing and post-partum recovery. However, my husband relished the opportunity to feed our daughter her bottles in the early days since I was often hooked up to a breast pump. Who was I to take that bonding experience away from them? When we got home, my days were ruled by the cycle of nursing, pumping, feeding Hannah a bottle of formula, feeding Hannah expressed milk, and then the general newborn care. It was insanity and I can understand now why my husband pleaded with me to just give her the bottle time and again. Throughout the months I nursed, I spewed off La Leche League facts by the dozens and reminded him how quickly I lost the baby weight, but he countered all of them with support of the powdered alternative. The same man who glared at me each time I asked for a glass of water while stationed in my nursing chair, handwashed bottle after bottle so that I'd never be able to complain that I didn't have a clean set.

It took over a month to begin exclusively breastfeeding Hannah, and then several more months to find "our groove." Almost as quickly as I joined a support group and began to really enjoy nursing Hannah and feeling its benefits, I got pregnant again and everything changed. The physical demands of both babies resulted in me being constantly tired and hungry. It didn't help that Hannah wasn't sleeping through the night either. When I began to notice weight loss towards the end of my first trimester I started to wean her. Let me tell you, that pro-bottle husband of mine was the first person to run to the grocery store to buy formula, but the last person to hold our squirming, howling daughter as she fought the transition to a new meal. In general, weaning was awful. Although I did get my energy back, my breasts hurt to the point that I could barely lift Hannah for the first week after her last meal. On top of that, I felt guilty about weaning and I was no longer getting the reassuring oxytocin high from my body that I apparently really needed. Plus, Hannah didn't sleep through the night any easier in the long run. I finally understood PPD and learned that many Moms experience similar symptoms when they wean even if it didn't affect them post partum. Shortly after all this, the breastfeeding cover on the Times rocked the world and I immediately sided with the AP parents. Had I known earlier what I know now, I would have tried everything imaginable to continue nursing Hannah through this pregnancy and into the next years.

If you're lucky enough to have a husband that pampers you while nursing, offers continuous support through the nighttime feedings, and rubs your back to ease the pain in the early days, I salute you. But if you don't, you can still find success in nursing. Seek out a nursing mothers group or hang out at the Mother's Room in Toys R Us or Nordstrom until another woman arrives with her baby so you can talk to someone else. Just being in the presence of others who share their bodies with their babies can be a true comfort. Most importantly, as Mothers, we should never judge others for the way they choose to nourish their children. The people who breastfeed for 3 days deserve just as much respect as those who breastfeed for 3 years and everything in between. By supporting one another, we'll make a more welcoming environment for nursing.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who's Elmo?

By today's standards I'm guessing nearly any other kid would consider me a mean Mommy. I don't let my daughter watch TV. But, at 13 months, she hasn't asked and we've been really busy. Don't get me wrong- I love kid's TV shows more than the average adult, but I planned for a TV free year before she was born and we're going to keep it up for her little sister that's on the way.

Avoiding the tube works for us because Hannah is a spirited baby with loads of opinions. We keep a pretty tight schedule each day because she blows the whistle to ensure I stay on track. I'm pretty sure that if she got in the habit of watching a half hour of Disney Jr. in the morning, a trip to the grocery store would be out of the question until the show's over.

Being 9 1/2 months pregnant and cutting back to one nap a day has made turning on the TV very enticing. Luckily I cancelled Netflix and our cable isn't due to arrive until the baby's due date, so I haven't given in to the "Babysitter." When I do need a break, I sit down in Hannah's room while she entertains herself with her toys. Unfortunately, if I lay on the floor I become a jungle gym, so I'm really glad we asked for the splurge glider since I spend HOURS in it.

Now that Hannah is listening and learning, it's really fun to help her explore her toys in new ways. She's got a neat set of boxes with color coordinated toys inside. As she opens them, I narrate her actions and ask her questions. She is best at answering "Ba(ll)"! The other day, we sang a song about Bears, so I let her stuffed Bear raid all the boxes in search of food. She laughed and laughed as he turned his nose up at the balls and crayons and then "devoured" the foods. When she finished playing, I sang the clean up song, picked up her toys, and commended her for making an attempt to put something away. We had a great time!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

13 Months Old

The past few months have literally flown by. It seems like every day Hannah learned something new. She's still waiting to take her first unassisted steps, but that doesn't keep her from getting into anything and everything. She can crawl or cruise on the furniture and climb stairs. The first time she found a set to conquer she pulled herself right to the top and said, "up!" As we play, she frequently climbs up my arms to give me a hug and babbles "yay yo yu," to repeat my, "I love you." Her Dad has taught her the funniest hissing and chortling noises, which she makes whenever he's nearby or approaching. Now she's starting to add kisses into her repertoire of raspberries and gurgles.  Does this little girl love to laugh and smile? Yes, she is a regular comedian! Nearly any repetitive action will enthrall her and she easily remembers the special ways each person she sees makes her happy.

A few days ago she did a great job singing and signing through Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with me and I'd love to get it on video, but she's way too interested in the camera to pay attention to the song.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The End of the Madness

Things have been crazy around here to put it mildly. I'm naively hopeful that this is the end of an era of madness, but something tells me that I will look back at this time nostalgically as the beginning of an era of chaos. Over the last few months my husband and I found and bought a foreclosed home with a VA loan and financed through Wells Fargo. We quickly discovered that this is the Bermuda Triangle of home purchases, which is why my little blog has taken the back burner for the time being. I know you've all missed the Hannah updates- and it has been absolutely delightful watching her grow and reach age one, but if you're interested in hearing the back story behind our wonderfully terrible decisions it's about to begin.

We scoured the market for a deal and finally found our diamond in the rough "rough in the diamonds." With aspirations as high as the ceilings at Lowes we planned our renovation budget and made our offers. At that point Audrey's due date was a solid four months out and it seemed completely reasonable that we could refresh our beautiful home-to-be and get settled before her arrival. We spent the next months dodging bullets of every size attempting to secure our loan and finally purchase our house.

If you're not familiar with the VA Loan program, it's a fantastic benefit for Veterans to be able to purchase a home with many special caveats. Most notably, you can put no money down without paying for PMI, so you end up saving about $100 each month. There are lots of other great aspects the VA covers in your purchase, but you have to do your research, secure your own documentation, and stay on top of the bank. For example, veterans that receive monthly disability compensation do not have to pay a mortgage funding fee and there is a new energy efficiency loan that can be added into your mortgage to help cover the cost of an updated HVAC or similar item. The best resource for any of this information is the VA itself. There are regional offices that you can contact in order to get details on your options. That being said, the VA does have restrictions on the property condition and it is nearly impossible to purchase a foreclosed home because of this. However, if you're willing to fight with every person involved in your loan, you may be able to set up an escrow account to cover the cost of repairs so that you can do them after you take possession of the property.

Our experience with Wells Fargo has been severely negative. I'm going to forgo the bad-mouthing on this blog and simply say that I don't recommend them for anything banking related. Unfortunately the "convenience" of online banking has made it so that swapping banks would be an utter fiasco if I even tried, so we're stuck. However, in the end (only three weeks past our intended settlement date), we did end up with the paperwork for a mortgage! You don't even get keys at a closing when you buy a foreclosure so it ends up being a very anticlimactic finale to a long, stressful run.

Now we have been homeowners for two weeks and my husband has battled numerous house wars with the help of family and friends. The light at the end of the tunnel is that we have a brand new beauty of a kitchen and I haven't gone into labor yet. Audrey is itching to get out while I desperately try to keep her nestled in the womb for several more weeks. So we're attempting to balance bed rest with care for a one-year-old and all the delights of moving. Never a dull moment in our house, but it still feels good to call it our own.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

10 Months Old

Hannah's 10 Month Day came and went on the 12th. I realized at that point I was 6 months behind in filling out her baby book (eek!) So I took the time I would normally dedicate to blogging and filled that in instead. Whew, glad I had the blog to reference.

Monday, March 12, 2012

9 Months Old!

It's amazing how much Hannah has grown in the last month. She's on the verge of crawling and is getting so mobile. Now that she rolls with ease and transfers from sitting to laying down she can get to anything. She shows her excitement by clapping, smiling, giggling, and even talking. Her favorite word is "Heyyy!" She can also say, "up" and "mama." It's clear that she understands a lot of the words I use regularly, too. Since she hears "all gone" at the end of each meal, she beams with pride and sometimes even claps.

Hannah was a little trooper for the longest drive we've taken yet. We traveled 17 hours down the coast with many stops over the course of a few days. Now that we're enjoying some fun in the sun and nice weather we can spend more time outside. The place where I notice how much she's growing is always the playground. Each time we go she develops an interest in a new activity. First she liked to swing, now she's interacting with other kids and balancing while I hold her on the climbing toys. It's only a matter of time before she swings along the monkey bars!

For now, there is so much for her to discover and explore, but it's all happening so quickly. It seems like every day she rolls a little further or pulls herself up a little higher. I can't wait to share in her excitement and enthusiasm for learning about the world around her as she continues to grow into a sweet little girl.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Maternity Shopping Tip Recap

A few months ago I wrote a post on my maternity shopping suggestions as I was stashing away the last of my maternity clothes. I'm in week 14 of this pregnancy and I'm expanding quickly! To be honest, I got out all my maternity clothes a few weeks ago. It's common knowledge that second pregnancies show much quicker because your abs have lost the original elasticity that held them in the first time around. Sad to say, even 5 weeks of Lindsay Brin's postnatal bootcamp were not enough to tighten and tone my abs and prevent this. However, I am happy that I tracked my belly growth with a Mommy Measure the first time around! This little tool is an adorable keepsake for your baby book and a reassuring device. No, I'm not actually as big as I was in the third trimester yet even though I feel that way.

I recommend that you read the full post on Maternity Shopping for the best details, but the keys to success are planning and organization! Since it's hard to guess exactly what size you will be at a certain time, stick with basics or items with elasticity. Most maternity stores design clothes to fit through several trimesters, so don't be tricked into buying a size up. If it doesn't fit now- there's a chance it won't fit later either depending on how you grow.

You'll want to organize your closet with only items that you can actually wear and frequently pull out those that you outgrow. If you don't have space to stash those clothes, at least separate all the items to one side so that you can easily find something to wear. Don't forget that you'll need maternity clothes post-partem as well.

Happy shopping :) Did you take advantage of any post-Holiday sales?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hannah's Birth Story: Part 3

Hannah arrived in Part 2 of this series, so we're done- right? Not even close!

A disappointing misconception within the general population is that the birth process ends when the baby arrives. Both neonatal care and maternal care would benefit from a huge overhaul within the hospital system. The main reason I've already decided that any future births for this family will take place with a midwife was the poor care we received directly after the birth and the non-existent follow-up care after leaving the hospital. Granted, this is not a decision I could have been confident about for my first birth because of nerves and a family history of c-sections. However, it's one I will gladly make in the future. It's because I'm selfish and I would like to have attentive, personalized care for both me and my baby. Call me crazy.

(Editor's Note: Jeannette has the utmost respect for individuals in the health care profession. Many of the people she encountered during her stay were wonderful and professional. Her criticism is of the system that prevents personal attention. In general, I try to keep the messages on this blog light and positive. Unfortunately, this post will not have the same tone. I encourage you to read anyway because the more people are aware of this issue, the better chance there will be for change. After all, Maternal and Infant patients make up 38% of the healthcare industry's yearly visitors. Don't we deserve better?)

To be honest, it only hit me about 4 months ago that my maternity care was below par. I suppose I was living in "maternal bliss" and thinking about how wonderful it was to HAVE a baby! Who cared if I got off to a rough start with breast feeding? Did it matter that my recovery seemed to drag on longer than it should have? Would it really have helped to have a follow-up in-home visit to make sure I wasn't at risk for some of the most painful nursing problems one can experience? Not in my mind! As long as I had a healthy baby, that was all that mattered. Looking back, I can't help but feel mistreated and I found out I'm not alone. The CDC is pressing for improvements within the system. There's even a group to establish the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2011. Everyone comes into this world the same way, so this affects us all. It is more important than any other political act- but we have yet to hear about it in the presidential debates.

I'm not going to claim to be an expert on this subject, or submit a 932 page proposal to congress for a complete overhaul of the system. It just seems that in a country that touts superiority in the world, we should be much higher on the patient satisfaction scale for this type of care and we're not. Why am I dissatisfied? My visits from the nurses were few and far between. They were rushed, forgetful, and disorganized (presumably because there were too few nurses for the number of patients.) It was more difficult to get regular Tylenol because it wasn't on a list of standard drugs that new mothers could receive. I didn't receive any topical treatments for my "bottom" until the second day, because it wasn't clear that this was something I could ask for. When the only positive things I can say regarding the maternity ward are about the hospital food, you have to wonder if this was really a decent situation.

Enough about me, let's talk about Hannah's care. We were at a "rooming-in" hospital that promotes closeness of the mother and baby by encouraging you to have your baby in the room as much as possible. I can't imagine what it's like at other hospitals, because I barely got to spend more than 2 hours at a time with Hannah. It was really difficult because I had to attempt to nurse her for 20 minutes, then pump for 15 minutes, then feed her a bottle for about 20 minutes. By the time we changed a diaper and got her re-swaddled (another 20 minutes #newparenthood), it was practically time to get her back to the nursery and then start all over. Not only was the feeding process difficult and time consuming, but the assistance came in quick bursts of an overwhelming amount of information.

In my county, there are 5 hospitals. Only 2 still offer Lactation Consultant services (one is part time.) During my stay, I didn't see a consultant until nearly 12 hours after Hannah's birth. I also saw three different consultants, each with different suggestions. I was given hurried details about using a pump to stimulate production and a shield to better fit my nipple to Hannah's mouth. It's no wonder we weren't able to get a proper latch without those items- they only spent 1/2 hour with me at a given time. There is also no follow up care available to nursing mothers through the hospital. If you need support (which we did), you must see a lactation consultant at the rate of $150 for one hour. Starting next year, this service will be mandatory for health care to cover. It's good to know that issues like this are being addressed and improved for the future.

Thankfully I had the support of my husband through it all. He fed Hannah many times and immediately developed a wonderful bond with her. He is totally onboard for taking a more natural approach to our next birth. In fact, because of his general loss of confidence in the political system and his love of the outdoors he's hopeful that Armegeddon is around the corner, and I think he would happily deliver our baby on his own.

I have to hope that better care is out there. If you had a great experience and you shared it on a blog, please post a link in the comments. I'm not discouraged from having another baby, and I still regard this as one of the best experiences of my life, but I think that Mothers should be treated less like surgery patients and given the option to blissfully bring new life into this world with positive care practices.

What Healthcare Reform Means to Me

I loved having an unmedicated birth for Hannah and I plan to do it again. It took about a month for me to realize that I was dissatisfied with the care I received in the hospital because they're really not equipped or experienced with that type of labor. (Read Birth Story Part #3.) I decided to look into a Midwife practice since they are the experts in helping healthy women through a healthy labor.

In my first meeting with the midwife, I came prepared with a million questions. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about midwifery. It's not an antiquated practice. She monitors your health through routine prenatal visits similar to those with an OB. She is able to order blood tests, ultrasounds, administer rhogam injections for those with O- blood type, and has the training to recognize risk factors that might lead a woman to deliver in the hospital instead. After the baby is born, she will offer the same general infant care that a hospital and pediatrician would perform for the first few days of life. She even provides the routine injections that babies receive at the parent's discretion. On top of all this, she'll teach me how to have a natural birth and offer coaching throughout labor. Hopefully this will result in a less-smashed nose on Baby #2 upon exit!

Knowing all this, it should have been an easy decision. However, I got sticker shock. All in, the cost nears $4000 and insurance companies rarely cover any of this. I knew that the services were worth this price, but it's a daunting number to swallow with a second baby on the way in a one-income household. We brainstormed ways to make it work, but ultimately it seemed like the easiest way to move forward would be with the same practice and same hospital I used for Hannah.

Enter Obamacare.

I booked my first prenatal visit and entered a counseling session for billing details. Thanks to a change in my husband's insurance, we were looking at a grand total of $5000+ to deliver in the hospital. Even last year, with the best insurance Cigna offered, we still paid more than $2000 for the birth. The billing rep let me know that these changes have only come about in the last 2 years. In the past, births routinely cost insured families $200 to $500 total. Although Cigna appears to be the worst, nearly every insurance company has changed the plans offered to non-government employees to defray the majority of the costs back to the families, to the tune of 10 times the cost.

A light at the end of the tunnel.

After digesting the scary numbers, we've decided to move forward with a home birth under the supervision of a midwife. I'm happy that we are going this route because I truly believe that this is the best birth plan for our family. When I spoke with the billing rep from my OB's practice to let her know I was switching providers she told me that she expects to see this happening more and more frequently. That's the main reason I'm sharing this information. From personal experience, I can say that I believe a non-medicated birth is the best way for a healthy mother to deliver a healthy baby. I recommend that all parents-to-be take the time to learn about natural birth. Even if you don't choose this route, you are sure to learn ways to improve your health and your labor.

My motivation for a birth without medical intervention.

33 Weeks Old!

I've spent a lot of time the past month sleeping and/or in a sleep-deprived, zombie state. Thankfully, Hannah continues to nap regularly through the day (knock on wood!) so I am able to catch up on some extra sleep that way as Baby #2 drains my energy. I am eagerly looking forward to the second trimester! Hannah has been a wonderful sport and it's so inspiring to see her grow. She's learning quickly now. One of the exciting new developments is her emerging personality. She's finding more and more humor in the games we play and stories we read. Plus, she can now show that she is proud of herself with a beaming smile!

I noticed early in the week that she was enjoying tickles more than ever. Then she laughed and laughed as I stretched and bent her little limbs. She's been such a good little eater that I've been able to regularly say, "All gone" at the end of her meals. She figured out what that meant quickly and now she responds with a proud smile! Hannah is mostly only mobile by rolling and stretching, but she can get around that way. I was surprised to watch her grasp and pull at toys that seemed out of her reach.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

32 Weeks Old!

Last week we battled the sniffles and several sleepless nights. Just before that, we were making some real progress on the sleeping-through-the-night front, so it was a shame to have the setback. I don't like to talk about Hannah's good sleeps because I'm positive it's a jinx, so I'll just say her nose is starting to clear up and things are looking up in general. In my "walking zombie" state I managed to completely forget that we had a dehumidifier set up for her. Consider this a PSA for new Moms to turn them on!

We also got Hannah an Exersaucer-type activity gym. She really likes it, but I'm finding that it overstimulates her. Even though it seems like a great toy, it's sometimes easier to set her in the high chair with one toy if I need two hands because it keeps her happier after playtime. Her favorite thing about standing in the toy is that she can see her puppy!

Last week I started reading a book about raising kids the Montessori way. I was inspired to look into this by my friend at Mama May I. Jessica's blog and shop showcase some of the fantastic ways she is fostering a love for learning in her little girls. I'm hopeful that we will be able to incorporate some of what I've learned into Hannah's day-to-day routine. It's a good thing I looked into this early because there are so many recommended tools and toys for kids! I can start collecting jars and safe household treasures now so that Hannah (and ultimately Baby #2) will have plenty to explore and discover.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Different Kind of Pregnancy. A Different Kind of Baby?

I'm only 11 weeks into this pregnancy, but I can say definitively that this one is different. My entire lifestyle has changed since last year, so there are a myriad of factors that could be affecting the way I feel. Plus, I learned enough through trial and error the first time around to avoid some of my sickness-inducing habits. I'm happy for some of the changes, namely that I do not have to praise the porcelain Gods every day. On the other hand, I'm noticing that my motherly instincts towards this baby have changed. All these differences have me wondering... is this baby a boy?

Maybe it's not that easy to tell, but it would be funny if that works out to be the case. My husband noticed it the other night, too. I fumbled through offering him an explanation for my feelings, but I couldn't find the right words. Obviously I'm excited and I love that our family is growing. I may have just been naive the first time around and fallen in love at the sight of two pink lines. It's easy to do that when you're longing for a baby to fill your arms and your heart.

Sometimes it's strange enough to make me think that I'm not even pregnant. After all, I only feel tired- and can't that be attributed to the little one waking up a few times through the night? I think my motherly instinct hasn't fully set in with this one yet because it's working overtime on Hannah. I'm sure that as soon as I start to feel the kicks and flutters of this baby, I'll snap into it. Until then, I may just meander through these early days stunned that it's all happening again so quickly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

31 Weeks Old!

This week is my birthday and I've asked Hannah for a very special gift. I'm hoping that she says "Mama!" It has to be coming soon because she already wails, "Ahhmmmomomomom" while she cries. She's showing recognition of sounds and she loves reading books with me. Most of the time she puts the books right into her mouth, but that's common for babies at this age. Luckily the rhymes are easy to memorize so I can generally continue reading even if she takes a break to gnaw. Sometimes I'll offer her a toy or other book to hold so that I can get through the story. I'm finding that she even enjoys laying on a blanket with her toys while I read to her. It's exciting to watch her begin to learn and understand about reading!

She's also exploring more and more with her hands and it seems like she realized this week that we both have hands. She looked at both sides of her hand, then felt her hand with the other, and then examined mine along with the pair. It's also getting easier for her to sit and play with her toys. She has a new stack of rings that she plays with from every different direction.

I am certainly thankful for her naps during the day now that I'm 11 weeks pregnant. I remember wondering during my first trimester with Hannah how anyone could possibly cope with pregnancy and another child. Well, my nightmare has come true and it's hard but manageable. I literally sleep whenever she sleeps. Luckily, I'm not dealing with morning sickness anywhere near the level I had with Hannah. Women often wonder which is worse- nausea or actual vomitting. I can tell you with 100% authority that it is worse to heave.

So, we'll continue on this trend of napping as often as possible and hopefully sometime soon Hannah will sleep through the night. She's getting so close I almost feel rested some mornings when I wake up! I can't wait to get to the glorious second trimester so that I can go back to being a non zombiemom. I'm also going to need to start working on getting back some brownie points as a good wife before the third trimester. Whew! I'm already imagining what a challenge it will be to pick up a baby with a baby belly.

Any Moms of back-to-back babies have advice to offer?

Friday, January 6, 2012

30 Weeks Old

It's been a happy and noisy house ever since the holidays. Hannah babbles all the time and blows noisy bubbles, too. She's been gurgling for quite a while, but has recently become a total chatterbox. Most frequently, she "oohs" "ahhs" and squeals. There are a few prominent consonants in there every once in a while, and she has said, "Hello" to greet me twice this week. I'm so excited that she's taking the first steps toward singing and talking!

Now that Hannah is nearly 7 months old, she is learning to recognize familiar faces and she is developing her opinions. Object permanence is really coming into play. If she drops a toy, she'll look for it and quickly let me know she'd like it back. She also likes to have a toy available while I prepare breakfast and she'll ask about it if it's not there.

Hannah adores our puppy and loves to watch him. She'll sit on the floor with me while we teach him to fetch or look for him from her high chair. I can tell he likes her, too since he always rests outside her door when he has the chance. It's sweet to see a happy relationship forming between the two kids.