I’ve seen it so often. Women find out their pregnant, start feeling the effects of it, and quit coming to the gym or their classes. When I see them again postpartum, they feel huge and out of shape.

 

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not throwing rocks. I know how debilitating some of pregnancy’s “side effects” are. As one who has experienced hyperemesis through two pregnancies myself, it can be extremely difficult to lift your head to do a daily task (other than hang out with the toilet) let alone get yourself dressed for a workout.

 

I’m also going to say that working out is the¬†only thing that saved me from 1) losing my lunch (and my mind) completely and 2) turning into a couch potato. Even though by eight weeks I could no longer do my usual workouts due to the severity of my nausea, practicing and teaching Yoga and Pilates really, really helped me maintain a healthy weight, keep down the nausea, maintain strength and flexibility and a strong core (essential for delivering babies), and mental clarity.

 

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Pregnancy is a wonderful new adventure, and the perfect time to clean up your routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean starting something new or increasing your goals. It means making small, healthy changes that benefit you and the baby and your household. Gentle, consistent exercise is the main way to keep pregnancy side effects at bay. It helps maintain muscle tone and bone strength, increases adherence to healthy behaviors and therefore a healthy weight, increases circulation and oxygen to the body (and baby), increases positive mindset and mood while decreasing anxiety and depression, and also reduces all the side effects of pregnancy such as swelling, excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes, insomnia and exhaustion.

 

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This sounds wonderful (and is!) but I always provide a word of caution. Whenever pregnant, make sure you consult your physician and/or OB about your routine. Each pregnancy is unique and needs to be well attended by both you and your doctor. Complications and contraindications can occur at any time, in which case you must curtail or change your regimen to meet doctor’s orders. Never go against them (seek a second opinion if you don’t agree with the decision) for your own sake and that of the baby.

 

Most of all, enjoy the journey. Be gentle with yourself. You are venturing down a new path–yes, even those of us who have multiple children, it’s still new because there’s another one coming ūüėČ Take care of the important things, learn to let the little things go, and laugh a lot. Children are precious and fun…and I bet you’ll feel better when you do!

I’ve been documenting my cloth diapering experience here because I think it’s important for moms to realize that it’s doable. And more than doable, it’s easy. With water usage becoming more of an issue, it is also environmentally friendly because cloth diapers use less water when washed than companies do when making their disposables.

Yes, there is an initial cost involved when considering cloth diapering your child, but that investment goes a long way toward subsequent children. For instance, for my first child I paid about $700 for my cloth stash (over the majority of my pregnancy, so $50-100 a month); add laundry detergent for a year and I’m probably looking at about $800 for the first year of diapering one child. That’s really not that bad for someone who wants to test all the diapers!

For my second, I probably spent around $500 for an initial stash, and a good bit of that went toward newborn and Size 1 diapers because I didn’t want to have to change her as often at night. (That was a rough learning experience with my first.) The great thing is that now that my first is getting closer to potty training and is using fewer diapers throughout the day, I have more that I can use between the two of them as my second grows into the originals I purchased for my first.

So, to calculate my expenses: for two in the first 20 months of cloth diapering, I’ve probably spent $1400 (this includes laundry detergent, bum butter, sprays, Snappis, reusable liners, and of course diapers). Not bad considering that the average costs for using disposables on one child in their diaper-wearing years is $1500-$2500. And, honestly, I think I’ll be spending less with each year to come!

There is some talk among cloth diapering mamas about stashes. Should you have a stash for each or share. My call: go by your budget. When it comes down to it, you really don’t need a stash for each. It’s just nice to know that you’ve got enough for each in case you run low.

The only thing I’ve noticed a change with two in cloth is how often I have to do the laundry. Once every two days. Honestly, though, it’s not that bad. My loads are smaller than they were and they’re getting cleaner since they don’t sit 3+ days anymore. Plus, hubby made me a clothes drying rack so I can take advantage of all the sunshine we get in the desert! It’s been superb to have sun-bleached diapers instead of stains. They are stiff when I take them in, but a quick tumble in the dryer helps with softening them up.

Other than that, I’ve not had any more stress when it comes to cloth diapering two under two. It’s rather amusing sometimes, actually. My first often makes yuck noises when I’m changing her sister! But thank goodness she knows when diapers are dirty. It means she’s getting closer to potty training–and that will be a fun experience of its own.

Last week slipped away from me as follows:¬†WE FINALLY GOT OUR TAX REFUND, SO NOW I CAN BUY CLOTH DIAPERS AND NURSING TANKS–AND, OH, IT’S GETTING HOT, HOT, HOT OUTSIDE AND MY DAUGHTER DOESN’T HAVE ANY SUMMER CLOTHES FOR HER SIZE, SO WE NEED SOME OF THOSE TOO! Needless to say, with my head swimming with baby and toddler needs, I didn’t get this post out, but as I’ve had several pregnant women in my classes come up to me asking about my experience with natural childbirth and any advice I can give them, I thought I’d pass along the information here.

Please note: I’m not a medical practitioner. All of the advice that follows merely comes from my own experience. Seek a qualified medical practitioner to answer any and all your questions with regards to your health care options.

Almost all mothers, particularly first-time mothers, have fears. Many of these are related to the pain, or perceived pain, that you’ll encounter while giving birth. Make no mistakes–I’m not going to lie–giving birth to a child¬†hurts.¬†A lot. Underline that at least three times.

With that said, here are the four main points I tell mothers interested in going a natural route for childbirth:

  • Trust your body: it knows what it’s doing. The key is to keep¬†your head when the going starts getting rough.
  • It’s a mind game: in order to achieve that natural birth plan, you’ve got to be mentally prepared to override your impulses for pain-relief. You’ve got to be tougher mentally than the contractions that can–and do–make you cry.
  • Breathe: practicing yoga breathing (slow, steady breaths) is one of the best ways to help your body relax as you’re going through contractions. You can also look to see if there are birthing classes in your area for breathing tips and techniques. Relaxation is key to a successful natural birth.
  • Go with the flow: stuff happens. All our perfectly laid-out plans don’t always go accordingly, and sometimes we’re totally thrown off by the sudden need for medical intervention. Don’t beat yourself up because your drug-free plans went awry. It’s better than you and baby are safe (via a c-section, etc.) than risk further complications and your lives.

One final thought I’ll touch upon before I wrap up. Make sure that you’ve got a good “team” or support person with you while you go through the birthing process. My husband was fantastic. He jumped right in, did what the nurses and midwife instructed him to do without batting an eyelash. They were even cracking jokes!

Not all men are like that. We know families whose guys were squeamish, and that just creates more stress than a mother in the middle of childbirth needs. Seek someone else (a parent or friend) or hire a doula (birthing coach) to help you if your significant other can’t or won’t be there for you physically, emotionally, etc.

Most importantly, make sure that you are completely comfortable with how your doctor will be delivering your child(ren). If you aren’t, I suggest finding someone you’ll like well, or even love. Even with all our amazing technological advances in medicine today, childbirth is still a risky business as well as being a very personal experience. The fewer worries you have going into the birthing process, the more you’ll be able to put your game face on, concentrate on having baby, and celebrating the life that’s coming to rest in your arms.

I’m a part of a few Facebook mom groups, and sometimes I come across posts that I find rather humorous. Not because I think the mom posing the question lacks common sense or a knowledge base. Rather, I smile because I had the same thoughts as these things happened to me for the first time.

I’ll start by saying that you can (most often) blame your hormones for the random things that happen to you after you have your baby. Just as everything gets wacky while you’re pregnant, things go a little crazy again as your body returns to it’s pre-pregnancy self. As levels of estrogen and progesterone readjust to a (perhaps, new) baseline, you start pondering what the heck is happening to your body. Here are some postpartum (PP) phenomena, my own thoughts when I went through them, and how to handle any/all hurtles.

Breastfeeding: for mamas who are going to breastfeed, the first 2-4 weeks (sometimes longer) are a real roller coaster ride. Your breasts swell. You hurt in ways you’ve never hurt before. You’re tired from round-the-clock feedings. You’re wondering if baby ever gets enough. You’re wondering if you can really tolerate baby latching one more time.

The good news is that it gets easier. The not-so-good news is that it takes some time. You and baby have got to work as a team to figure out how best to breastfeed. You may really need some outside help too. Never hesitate to contact your family doctor/pediatrician and/or lactation consultant (LC), and consider joining your local La Leche League, International, chapter. Most often, you’ll find a ton of support through these channels, which will give you a morale boost and the courage you need to continue.

On one side note, there still are a lot of doctors out there who recommend, or even push, supplementation when you come in with questions and/or for checkups. Virtually all women make enough milk to sustain their children (I think it’s less than 2% don’t and/or cannot produce enough breast milk). This, however, doesn’t mean that your supply can’t dwindle or dry up sooner than later–another reason to get into contact with good LC’s, who can recommend safe foods for boosting milk supply. If your doctor recommends supplementation right off the bat, consider seeking a second opinion before making a final decision. I know I didn’t have any issues with milk supply; I also know that one of my girlfriend’s did about four months PP, and needed to supplement her baby’s diet so he’d gain weight. In the end, you’re mom. You know what’s best for your baby. Go with your gut.

The jiggle: one of the most common posts I see come from women ready to reclaim their pre-pregnancy body. They’ve got baby pudge and, six weeks PP, they want it gone! Now!

Let me start off by stating that it took almost 10 months for you to grow a baby. It’s going to take you at least that much time to have your body go back to it’s pre-pregnancy self. (It may never go back totally, but more on that in a second.) That doesn’t mean don’t start back up with your exercise and/or diet routines after your six-week PP checkup. It does mean take it easy, gradually ease into your routines again, seeking advice on diet if you’re breastfeeding so your supply doesn’t diminish, and on exercise if you’re still feeling aches and pangs in certain areas of your body. Note what makes you feel discomfort, and pay particular attention to anatomical alignment and how to perform the exercise properly.¬†I know that when I moved into side plank a certain way, I’d feel a terrible pain in my pelvis, so I made sure that I didn’t transition into that particular exercise in that particular way again for at least six months.

Let me reiterate: take your time. You’ll thank yourself later.

Diastasis recti: some women experience a separation in their abdominal muscles (the¬†rectus) after having a baby. If you do experience this,, seek guidance from your healthcare provider before returning to your exercise regimen. As nice as it’d be to crunch your way to a flat belly, that may actually make the separation worse rather than better.

Symphysis pubic dysfunction (SPD): the same advice applies to SPD. Because the hormone relaxin works so nicely to make your ligaments stretch so you can push baby through the birth canal, sometimes it takes a long while for things to line up properly again. Sometimes, you need to go through physical therapy. Seek medical advice if you find yourself having discomfort or pain in your pelvic/pubic region, even if you’ve had your six-week PP checkup.

The pants dance: yep. It happens. As much as we jump, dance, squirm, kick our legs, lie back on the bed, our pants might not fit. Ever again. You might have to go shopping (gasp!) for new ones. It might also just take more time for your hips to realign to their PP positions (or close to them). A lot of women’s hips change shape after they have babies. It’s natural, and will making having subsequent children much easier. Don’t fret about it. Embrace your new curves and celebrate the life you’re now holding in your arms!

Holy hairballs: around 3 months, all that luscious hair you grew while pregnant will start falling out by the handful, particularly around your temples. It will eventually stop (in time for your little one to start pulling it out by the fistful), but I still remember feeling aghast at how much I lost.

I’m sure there are more things I’ve overlooked. Each woman experiences pregnancy and postpartum life differently. When in doubt, talk with your doctor, pediatrician, LC, or another professional. Mom blogs can be great and make us feel good (or bad), but it’s always wise to get advice from all sides of the spectrum in order to make the best-informed decisions for ourselves and our children.

I’ve been keeping track of my cloth diapering (CD) process throughout this past year (a list of my other posts will be provided at the bottom of this post). Last time, I covered a multitude of varieties of diapers. This time, I’m going to talk about CD while your little ones transition into solid foods. (Reader beware: we’re talking about poop, here!)

 

I remember when my husband and I were discussing CD’s. He was totally for it in all except one aspect. Yes, that’s right. Like all parents, we were wondering what we were supposed to do with the poop.

 

Now, when you’re breastfeeding, handling infant poo is easy. You simply toss the diaper into the laundry pail without a second thought because it’s water soluble. I believe, though I have no real experience with it, that you should clean out the diapers if you formula feed. The same applies to solid food poo. You¬†must wash out the diapers before they go into the laundry pail, or at the very least provide yourself with an easy way of getting it into the toilet.

 

How does one do this, you might ask? There are a few options out there, some of which I prefer over others.

 

1.¬†The diaper sprayer. This is the way hubby and I decided to go. We wanted a way of getting the tough, sticky poos out of the diaper without having to do the dunk-n-swish method (also an option when you’re in a pinch, but requires intestinal fortitude as you’ll actually touch feces). I was so glad I purchased this before our daughter was born, even though it waited six months to get hooked onto the toilet. It’s fairly costly, ranging around $50-$60 per sprayer, but it saves you the headache of getting up close and personal with poop. (For those looking to reduce any spray given off while spraying out CD’s, you might also check out a companion piece called a SprayPal. We do not see the need to own one, however.) The trick to minimizing spray, however, is to ease the sprayer on rather than just blasting away.

 

2. CD liners. These are also another method we’ve taken to using, mostly because many of our nighttime solution diapers are made with natural fibers and we need to wick away moisture from our daughter’s sensitive skin. We use reusable fleece liners, which are laid on the inside of the CD before putting it on. Many times, when we have to empty out any poo, it drops right in without us having to reach for the sprayer! Not into reusable liners, though, and want something a little easier? There are also disposable liners. Again, just lay them on the inside of the CD before use–these are really great travel options for those choosing to CD while traveling long distances. The whole mess goes in the toilet and they’re environmentally friendly.

 

3.¬†Spatula. Some moms prefer to just scrape the mess out with a spatula. They find it just as quick and easy as squirting water on their diapers, and often wash their loads more frequently (every day or two) than those who spray out their CDs (often three or more days). This is not my personal favorite way of ridding a diaper of poo, but it’s useful if you can’t afford a sprayer or are in need of a little extra help every once in a while when you run out of liners.

 

If you choose to enter into the fabulous world of CD’s–and they really are the most adorable things out there for your baby’s bottom–you’ll have to deal with poo. Just remember that if you get some on your hand, use plenty of soap and hot water. And breathe! It’s just a little poo, after all.

 

Speaking of CD while traveling, hubby and I took our second cross-country trip of our daughter’s life and used CD the whole time. For those who are considering making a journey, here are a few tips to think of while planning:

 

  • Make sure the place you’re staying has a laundry facility, or that you can access one at any given notice.
  • Bring your own CD-safe laundry detergent, water softener (Calgon is the most recognized brand), diaper liners, wet/dry bags (you’ll need more than one–one for storage at your place, and one for outings, at the very least), and plenty of change.
  • Be prepared to wash your CD’s more frequently than you ¬†might at home, as your wet bag probably won’t hold all of them.
  • Realize that packing CD’s increases the bulk of your luggage. If traveling via airplane, take this into consideration while packing.

 

CD at any time doesn’t have to be difficult. It merely requires a little forethought when making your plans. I’ve found that using cloth is both very easy and very convenient. I hope that once you figure out your own routine, it will be that way for you, too.

 

One final note on CD’s. At the six month review I mentioned that I was really excited to try out wool. Sadly, that hasn’t gone according to plan for a few reasons. First, we live in a very hot climate–the sun bakes us the majority of the year, and hubby just didn’t think it was financially responsible to make wool purchases (which are pricey) when they wouldn’t be used all the the time. (He did add that, were we living in a cooler climate that got more cold weather, he wouldn’t have as many issues with such purchases.) Second, wool requires a little more care than the typical CD, and when I learned I was pregnant again, I found myself out of energy and laid up on the couch. Last, with another on the way, our money needs to be put toward buying–among a few other things–more CD’s!

 

For my other posts on cloth diapers, please see the following:

 

Cloth Diapers 101

Book Review: Changing Diapers by Kelly Wels

Cloth Diapering 102: Joys and Trials

Crunchy Mama

 

Please note: I am not an affiliate with Kelly’s Closet. It’s merely the place I shop for my CD’s and supplies. There are many other stores out there, but I highly recommend looking for a place that sources CD’s with sustainable and ethical manufacturers.

Several months ago, I wrote a post about pregnancy (here) explaining my experience (thus far) and encouraging women that it was okay not to be the chipper, happy-go-lucky preggo lady society things we need to be. Frankly, pregnancy is hard, and harder on some than others. If you had an easy pregnancy, I envy you but am happy you didn’t have to experience mine. I vomited most of then 9+ months.

 

Last Tuesday, October 1, at 0834 our baby girl, Natalia Elizabeth, finally arrived! I labored for about 13 hours, pushing about one total, under the supervision of a very skilled, hilarious midwife and naval captain. The birthing team on deck that day was fabulous; in fact, everyone in Labor & Delivery (and the Multi-service Ward thereafter, where we stayed until discharged) were top notch. I feel very blessed to have delivered in a baby-friendly facility (and highly recommend finding one, if possible).

 

 

With regards to the labor and delivery, and subsequent stay thereafter, several rather amusing but eye-opening thoughts did pass through my head. I thought I’d share them with you. (Note: this may be too much information for some, but as I spent hours combing Google and baby forums for anything that would help me determine what the heck was going on, it might also be valuable.)

 

  • First and foremost, figuring out whether or not you’re in labor is confusing. There are so many indicators that may not indicate anything. Vaginal mucus discharge is one. It can be so thick and viscous, you aren’t sure whether or not you’ve lost your plug. (Note: heavy bleeding that soaks more than one pad an hour, or a discharge that is tan or green (or some other worrisome color), contact your doctor immediately.) I never quite figured out if I lost my plug. I merely kept waiting for labor to begin because, as I thought at the time, worrying about this kind of thing doesn’t help your body to relax in preparation for the approaching work.
  • You just might explode. Quite literally. I experienced a strong, somewhat painful popping sensation as the husband and I were driving back into town. I liken it to a fist suddenly punching through a latex balloon. A gush of fluid came next…and it turned out that it wasn’t my water breaking.
  • Husbands do panic, even combat veterans. Mine stepped on the accelerator the moment he realized I might have started going into labor. I had to calm him down in order to take some lead out of his food (and keep us from getting a ticket). Therefore, also remember that keeping your head despite whatever might happen is good for the both of you.
  • While 14 hours from start to finish is the average for labor, it can go faster than that. It can also go slower. And you might end up having to go to the hospital more than once. I did; twice, in fact, within five hours’ time. The second time, thankfully, they didn’t send me home though I wasn’t dilated enough (initially). As there was another labor in progress when I arrived, they forgot about me for a bit. By the time they checked on me again, I was halfway there!
  • Know what you want going into the birth. If you want to do it naturally, you MUST go into it with the mindset that you’ll see it through to the end, regardless of the pain (oh, the pain!), unless you and/or the baby are in distress. (Don’t be hardheaded if something does happen. It’s not your fault that you might need emergency care, and it will safe one or both lives.)
  • Somewhere in the middle of labor, you will reconsider having all those children.
  • Somewhere in the transitional phase of labor, you’ll realize that you’re almost there.
  • You know when you’re ready to push because your body will start doing it for you. Don’t hesitate. Get the nurse, doctor, midwife, whomever and go for it.
  • You will believe that the baby will never come out.
  • You will believe that the baby will get stuck permanently as it crowns.
  • You will believe that you sound like a dying cow, or worse.
  • Your husband may crack jokes with the hospital staff while you’re pushing. Try not to kill them. Laughter still is the best medicine for the soul, even if you’re not the one doing it. And God knows they need to laugh after the stress of watching you go through intense labor pains.
  • Your midwife or doctor may tell you afterwards that you push “like a gorilla.” (I’ll take that as a compliment, thanks.)
  • It is highly uncomfortable to wait for them to cut the cord. Their pressing on your belly feels even worse.
  • However, no matter how it looks when it arrives, the alien that had inhabited your body for nine-plus months will no longer gross you out (unlike in the birthing videos). You’ll be more than happy to hold him/her skin-to-skin, still slimy and all.
  • No matter how uncool it is, your husband may consider skipping around the room for joy. He may also take charge and do sponge baths, change poop diapers, and generally try to hold the baby as much as he possibly can, all the while wearing a cross between the goofiest teenage grin you’ve ever seen and a look of tenderness that melts the heart.
  • You will be known as “the Boob,” according to baby. Best get used to it.
  • You’ll have never realized that, as happy as you were before the baby was born, you could be many times happier until the moment your baby arrives. Smile and immerse yourself in the joy.
  • Take advantage of the wisdom of those who have gone before you, including fun lactation consultants who are considering dressing up as the Milk Fairy for Halloween.
  • Remember: pregnancy was preparation; birth is the beginning of an amazing, blessed journey.

 

And when they finally release you from the hospital? You can hardly believe they’re letting you take this precious bundle of joy home. You’re a bit fearful of driving away. One of you will end up in the back seat, just to watch…in case. Their little heads bob around. They make faces, cry, or fall asleep. And then they sleep a lot…and eat a lot…and make messy diapers…and then do it all again, around the clock.

 

And you’ll still find your love for them growing…

Natalia on her first day in daddy's hands

Natalia on her first day in daddy’s hands