Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Preparing for postpartum months round 2

There's an amount of certainty that comes with labor and delivery that is comforting - you'll deliver and it will end.  Based on my first experience however, it's those postpartum weeks and months that bring so much uncertainty that I've found myself preparing far more for recovery and the months following the birth than the actual delivery experience itself.

I won't rehash my first postpartum experience.  I talk about it here, here, and here.  But since I've lived it once before, I thought I'd share what I'm keeping in my toolbox to get through the following months.

Get all the goods for recovery.  New Mama Bottom Spray, Witch Hazel Pads, Lansinoh Cream, Thermal Gel Pads.  These are the few things that brought a little relief while recovering.  I will have them stocked in my cabinet ready and waiting.

Ask for and accept help.  Even though I think my experience would have been drastically different if we had some help in the immediate days following Ella's arrival, it's easy to want to hide away at home and decline help.  My mother-in-law offered to come out for a week after our little guy arrives and I'm incredibly thankful she did.  Having Ella around changes everything, and I'm sure we will run into many surprises and difficulties we didn't face the first time around.  Knowing that we'll have an extra set of hands and support has given us both huge relief.

Plan to treat yourself.  When we bring our littles home, we're totally and completely focused on them - getting them adjusted, learning their personality, their needs, feeding time, sleeping time, etc. And that's good.  It's what we as moms do.  But it's vital to not forget about ourselves especially during those first weeks.  I'm planning on doing something for myself whether that's a mani/pedi (when I feel good enough to go out), or buying me a little something I've been eyeing, or getting a massage or all freaking 3, I'll be undoubtedly etching some time out of my new mom of two life for myself.

Stay attuned to feelings.  During my first weeks home with Ella, I cried a lot.  I dreaded feeding her.  I became frustrated with Tim that he didn't know how to be there for me even though I didn't know what I needed for myself.  I eventually got to a point where I neared a panic attack every time I found myself alone with her.  Somehow, I ignored all the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety.  I thought everything I was experiencing was due to hormones, and since I didn't talk to my doctor about it right away, it was left untreated and ultimately became crippling.  This time?  I'm aware, I'm going in knowing what to look for.  If I feel anything negative, I'll tell my doctor right away.

Take steps ahead of time.  I've already talked to my doctor about my fear of dealing with ppd and anxiety.  Now I have a support group at the ready if need be.  I'm aware of the lactation support at the hospital but am aware that my baby will do perfectly fine on formula if we decide to go that route.

Take the weather into consideration.  I had Ella in April in San Diego - sunshine city.  Even though I was feeling down, I could go out and get some sun and attempt to feel a bit better.  The Winter months in the Pacific Northwest are very different.  It's darker longer, it's cold, and it's rainy.  And as much I'm excited for the Winter months, I'm aware those months can add to those blue feelings.  So I'm equipping myself with what I can.  I'll have vitamins D, B12, and Fish Oil in my cupboard at the ready.  I'm making the house as cozy as I can for the holidays.  Decorating for Christmas and everything I'm sure will make the darker months brighter.

Plan things to look forward to.  The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays alone will be exciting to plan for, but we're planning on going to Zoo lights and I'm so freaking excited about it.

Remember you'll feel like yourself again.  I often got discouraged in the midst of dealing with healing both emotionally and physically.  I felt like I had lost myself when I gave birth, and I wouldn't ever feel like myself again.  Now, I know I'll eventually find my groove in being a mom of 2, I'll eventually lose the baby weight, and I'll eventually feel like myself again.

And at the end of every day, remember: you've got this.

Monday, September 28, 2015

From the weekend

What a lovely and simple weekend.  It started off on Friday when a friend from Michigan who I hadn't seen in a few years came down from Seattle.  He spent the afternoon over at our place, we chatted, ate pizza, and caught up.  In the evening we headed over to my in-laws for a relaxing Friday evening.  We ate seasonal treats and enjoyed warm cappuccinos.  The little ones played and played - a scene that continues to make my heart happy.  Saturday was errand and chill day.  Sunday was for Mass and family.  Family came over for an afternoon of football and queso.  The games were seriously lacking in entertainment but the good company made the afternoon a joy.

Being out of California, I missed froyo season.  There aren't nearly as many yogurt shops around here, but after a day of errand-running we decided to make a run to the local one and get our fill.

 We were greeted by beautiful Fall colors as we left Sunday morning Mass.

Sunday morning coffee date.  I was just elated I could wear that warm scarf and not sweat through my shirt.  Welcome, cool temps!

We of course closed out the weekend by catching a shot of the blood moon.  My husband snapped this photo.

I'm a little sad to bid farewell to such a perfectly balanced weekend, but October 1st is this week and I have a Skype date with my bffs.  So here's to a great week ahead.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gluten-Free Baked Pumpkin Donuts with Cream Cheese Glaze

I so went there.

Fall is among us and I feel like a little kid who is seeing leaves change color for the first time.  I really don't think I could be any more excited to experience Autumn in all its glory, so naturally I'm going a little nuts-o with the Fall decorating and baking this year.

I recently took to my kitchen once again in attempts to make a good, baked (GF) pumpkin doughnut, but I wanted something a little different than a frosting or cinnamon sugar topping, and the next logical step after frosting and sugar was of course cream cheese.

I ended up making a variety of doughnuts -- a few with a chocolate and cinnamon sugar topping, but the verdict was the cream cheese glazed took the cake.

Here's the recipe:

What you'll need:

For the donuts:

2 cups Bobs (1 to 1) All Purpose Baking Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs
1/4 almond milk
1 tbsp cinnamon

1)  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 2 doughnut pans with nonstick spray.

2)  In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Set aside.

3)  In a separate bowl, mix together brown and granulated sugar, melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract and pumpkin puree.

4) Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix them adding the milk.  (You may need a little more if batter is too thick.)

5)  Fill piping bag (or gallon size storage bag and cut corner) with half of the batter and fill doughnut tins 3/4 of the way.

6)  Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through.

For the glaze: 

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1 - 2 tbsp cream cheese, softened

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Splash of almond milk

Add all ingredients and mix well.

When doughnuts are cool, dunk 'em in the glaze and let sit.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

What going gluten-free taught me

During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I dealt with the whole "am I really allergic to gluten?" thing.  I had been experiencing some symptoms that we'll just sum up as it felt impossible to function.  I got a few simple tests done, got a call, and was told "I'd lay off the gluten".  Now I wasn't diagnosed with Celiacs and I didn't immediately vomit if I had a brownie, so this (in my mind) left leeway to cheat. And if your pastry tooth resembles mine in the slightest, you know that meant cheating was inevitable. But based on what I had just gone through, I knew if I kept eating processed and gluten-ful foods, it'd build back up in my system and result in another cycle of sickness and tests.
So I began that long and daunting process that is now familiar to so many others, that process of finding out just what the hell gluten was, what I could eat, where I could eat, and how I could do it all on a college budget.  The timing was convenient.  The whole gluten-free thing was on top of the trends list in the world of food which was great because that meant options (and was not so great because people rarely took it seriously.)

Controlling and limiting the food you eat is damn hard.  There was a Starbucks across from my apartment in college, and as a college kid I often frequented the place for dates, outings with friends, and long study sessions.  And that chocolate chip coffee cake was my jam.  While going through the process of changing my diet, I remember looking at the case and thinking, I could get that and it could kill me later or I could not.  Sometimes I opted for the first, but slowly, over time I always opted for the latter.  And the discipline paid off in more ways than one.

The physical results kind of go without saying.  I lost 25 pounds, went down three ring sizes, and a half a shoe size.  My body quite literally shook off all that...crap.  I felt better.  My stomach wasn't in a perpetual state of agony and my energy levels increased.  But the physical benefits were only a part of it.  I learned self-control and moderation.  When you have to look nearly every food you love in the eye and say, "no thanks" you learn a great deal of self-control.  The desserts that were incorporated into my diet thereafter were usually smaller and a little healthier.  I was able to have only one cookie (except with Oreos) or a few pieces of a chocolate bar.  I grew an appreciation for good, healthy food and a passion for being aware of what I'm consuming that's fueling my body.

And I became more appreciative.  If you have food allergies or sensitivities, you know going to any function where food is provided that you'll probably have to carry a granola bar or something in your purse.  There may not be food you're able to eat, and as that does suck, it's just a crappy card you've been handed that you gotta deal with.  But on those occasions, when someone thought to include a GF option or went out of their way to accommodate your situation, it should be seen as a big deal because they didn't need to do so.  Anytime that's happened to me, I've felt grateful, appreciative, and have taken note to pay their kindness forward.

Am I saying you need to go GF to learn self-control?  Of course not.  Actually, I hope you never encounter these pesky food things, 'cause paying 7 bucks for bread that only tastes good when toasted truly gets old after a while.  But I will say learning how to eat well and healthy is bigger than your meal plan.  Those habits bleed over into many parts of life and soon you'll find yourself saying, "I don't really need that pair of shoes" or you'll opt to get outside for some exercise instead of binging on *Netflix.

Yes.  There is a time and place for binging.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

From the weekend

Food.  Football (Sorry, Seahawks).  Emmy's (Go John, Viola, and Tracy).  Nesting.  Our weekend in a nutshell.

Leftover homemade Mongolian Beef for a day of football (in my sweats!) made for the perfect Sunday afternoon.

We ate Chipotle twice this weekend.  Oops.  It was a bit of an eating-out budgeting fail, but we were errand-running crazies this weekend.

Lately, my meal-planning has hit a wall due to a lack of new dinner ideas, so when I found this healthy (and easy) chili recipe, my wallet and spirit rejoiced.  It's a Paleo Chicken and Sweet Potato Chili dish.  The recipe can be found here.  Ella loved it, so I'll be saving this one for the recipe books. (Thanks, Bridget!)

Happy Monday!  I'm off to do 85 loads of laundry.

Friday, September 18, 2015

First steps

This week was a week of first steps.  (Funny enough, these steps had nothing to do with the little toddler in the house.)

The more adult I become, the more I realize just how easy it is for life to happen to me instead of me making life happen.  As youngn's, we consistently have the future on our minds - how to get into college, how to get a good job, etc., etc., etc.  But when we finally reach adulthood, we may realize we want to make a career change, we may realize we want to stay at home with our kids, we may get fired or quit and not know where to step next, or we may get into a relationship that we realize isn't the best for us but we stay 'cause we're comfortable.  Adulthood brings a thousand and three scenarios that could lead us into a giant rut that we have a hard time navigating.  It becomes easy to put off starting a passion project (due to a lack of time or let's be honest, energy), it becomes easy to set aside goals and it becomes even easier to rely on our comfort zones.

I still haven't tested to get my driver's license here in Washington.  Since I have to take all the testing again, I initially waited due to a budgeting issue, then 'cause of an anxiety issue, and then I just sort of forgot about it.  I also haven't taken any steps to get further established in our new city by joining a group or class in attempts to meet some new people and make some friends.  Neither of these scenarios are dire, but I'd become a better version of my self if I took the steps in achieving these two, little goals.  I've been taking a back seat in letting days pass by without taking control of what I need to do in order to inch toward my best self.

So this week I acknowledged that.  I whipped out that Washington Driver's Manual out of the (very back of the) mail holder and started reading.  I found practice tests and took them.  I found a driver's school to test at, and planned to take my written test.

I also defied all of my what-if-nerves and anxieties and contacted a mom's group, because why not?

I have yet to hit the road nor do I have an abundance of friend circles, but I'm one step closer than I was last week thanks to my recent one-foot-in-front-of-the-other mindset.  The big steps of achieving goals are a big deal, but it's those tiny, often times fumbling first ones that get us there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Finding joy in the quiet

When I was 17, I had a mentor who I still hold near and dear.  We were having a conversation that ultimately brought to light my need to be constantly "running around".  I worked, I did school, and used all my time in between to be out with friends.  Though it was a particularly difficult time, some of my best memories are from those infamous teenage years.  I remember him telling me that one day, I will get to a point where I will enjoy my own company; I won't need to go out to feel particularly fulfilled or at peace, that I will find joy in the quiet by myself.

I've thought about that a time or two over the years, but it's come to mind especially lately.  I tend to be fueled by being out with people and among friends, but I have come to a point where my alone time is greatly cherished.

Every now and then, when dinner is put away, the kitchen is cleaned, and my little girl is tucked in bed, my house is dimly lit, the twinkle lights go on, I find comfort by my couch and favorite throw. Sometimes, I'm accompanied by my husband and good conversation, other times, it's just me - me and my thoughts and maybe a good beverage (if I weren't pregnant, it'd be wine).  Nothing brings me peace and a certain joy that this setting brings.  And I've been surprised by it.  I remember when he told me that, I couldn't fathom getting to a place where I would be perfectly content alone on my couch.  But I am.

I love a good jammed-packed weekend full of outings and friends and a whole lot of chatter, but the joy that comes from being in solitude and soaking in the quiet hits me on a whole other level - one of great peace and gratitude.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

30 week update

Well, I've reached the point where I have to sit down to put my shoes on, I gotta do this pivot-and-hoist move to get out of the car, and I only want to wear leggings.  This is also the point where I feel this little one moving almost constantly, which has been fun and a little tiring.

Little dude is the size of a cucumber (a very weird vegetable choice to compare his size). He has some strong limbs and likes to move while I'm up and moving (a big difference from Ella). The 30 week mark tends to bring some reactions and comments from people that leave you a little...uncertain.  This week I was told by a complete stranger that I need to keep having babies, which I suppose is nice sentiment.  But when you're feeling quite large and only had 9 months or so between pregnancies, it's basically the last thing you want to hear.

I'm getting really excited to see how he and Ella will interact with each other.  I knew I wanted to have my first two kids close in age, but when I initially found out I was pregnant with my little guy I couldn't help but feel the it's-too-soon thing.  As these months have passed though and I've gotten more pregnant, Ella's grown so much that I can't wait for her to have a little brother to play with!  I'm also excited to get some good sleep.  Getting good sleep is becoming harder to come by as the weeks go on.  I remember when I had Ella, everyone told me I wouldn't get good sleep for months.  But it turned out, I got better sleep with a newborn than I did the last few months of pregnancy.  Let's hope our little guy takes after his big sister!

As for cravings and aversions and all that?  I'm basically following a food pyramid consisting of Cherry Coke, M&Ms, and Oreos.  I should really get a FitBit.

Monday, September 14, 2015

From the weekend

What did we do this weekend?  Consumed Cherry Coke and M&Ms and I spent three hours in the kitchen making donuts (recipe coming soon).  This post should really be called, "a very pregnant weekend".  We closed out our evenings with an episode of one of our favorite shows, The West Wing and ate Mexican food twice.

Beautiful evenings.

Walking out of Mass I couldn't help but to snap a picture of these colors.  We couldn't be more excited to welcome Fall.

After Sunday morning Mass, we checked out a new coffee place, Black Rock Coffee Bar.  It had some cool vibes.

This candle is to thank for making our home smell heavenly.  It's a warm scent but it's not a particular Fall scent, so it's perfect for September.

About those M&Ms...

"Ready for Halloween, guys!"

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Prepping for labor and delivery round 2

It's true, what they say, about labor and delivery.  You can plan and plan and plan, read, and read, and read, but that baby is going to come into the world how he or she wants to.  It might take 45 minutes, it might take 32 hours.  Based on my first experience, I'm going in a little better equipped and with a few mental tools to help me through this second delivery.  I'm also taking measures before hand to help with a smooth delivery.

I have to say, I was overall very happy with my labor and delivery experience last time.  It was a lot more relaxed than I had anticipated, the hospital staff was excellent, my doctor was great, and I didn't want anything except ice chips so it'll all worked out.  Here are a few lessons learned from the first time around and what I'm taking with me going into round two.

(For the final weeks) Keep moving.  With Ella, I was in labor for almost 25 hours from my first contraction 'til the final push.  Fifteen of those hours I spent laboring at home and 23 of those hours I had back labor.  I have nothing scientific to support this, but I think I had back labor because I wasn't very active during the final weeks of pregnancy, so this time I'm set on staying active and doing light exercise 'til my due date. (Thank God I have a toddler to chase!)

Ride the pain.  When I labored at home, I walked around when I could, made use of breathing techniques, and made sure to keep eating to keep up my strength.  But by the time I got to the hospital, the contractions were getting closer together and rising in intensity.  I remember lying in bed and surrendering to the pain.  It sounds a little dramatic, but with feeling the contractions at the small of my back, I couldn't move, I couldn't talk.  Every time one hit, I closed my eyes, retreated into my own head and road it like a wave.  It helped my mental strength tremendously.

Read the situation.  When prepping for my last delivery, I went in being open to an epidural.  I  had done my research, I had spoken to my doctor, and I had watched all those documentaries.  What I had decided was I wasn't going to request one right when I got there, but I wasn't going to reject it.  If I needed rest to get some strength back, I'd get it.  And since my 24 hour period was 3AM to 3AM, I was pretty tired toward the end.  I ended up getting an epidural around 11:30 or midnight, quickly realized epidurals don't take away the pressure of back labor, but was ultimately thankful that it worked wonders for the pushing stage.  This time, I'm going in with the same mindset.

Have a conversation with my husband and doctor beforehand.  We didn't take birthing classes, and personally, I'm happy with that decision.  But something we both weren't prepared for was the back labor.  Since Ella was positioned in a way that she was pushing against my spine, every contraction put a great deal of pressure on my lower back.  The nurse instructed Tim to push on my back with a tennis ball to put some counter pressure on my lower back.  But since I couldn't talk through the contractions and I had an oxygen mask on, we had a hard time communicating which led to frustration.  This time, to be prepared for the possibility of back labor, we'll talk about what we need to do and what will best help us to communicate.  And we'll talk with my doctor about what best to do in that situation should it happen again.

Pack to pamper.  I think it's safe to say giving birth will probably be one of the most uncomfortable times of your lady life, so why not come equipped to feel as good as you can?  Buy a new robe or some extra comfy maternity pajamas.  Pack makeup.  Yes, yes, some people think it's absolutely absurd to wear makeup while giving birth, and I have no idea why.  I feel ready to conquer anything when I have some makeup on, so damn straight I'll have my eyebrows on for the grand entrance of my little dude.  Bring fun (and healthy) snacks.  Last time, I just packed healthy snacks.  This time, I'm packin' myself a treat.  Include some things in your hospital bag that will bring you peace and make you feel good.

Maybe I'll go into labor before my hospital bag is packed, maybe I'll give birth on the side of the road and be on the news (dear God, I hope not).  If I've learned anything it's to go in with ideals and flexibility.  But if all goes accordingly, I'll have my trustee mental list with me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

From the weekend

Fall has arrived!  Well, sort of.  It rained and has been pretty cool in the mornings and Tim had his first sip of the oh-so-infamous (and a little dreaded) pumpkin spice latte.  So we're basically there. And we took full advantage.  We were out for a good chunk of the weekend prepping for the colder months ahead.  Living in SoCal for the past 6 Falls or so, we needed some good colder weather gear (meaning something a little heavier than light jackets and flip-flops).  Ella got boots, I got maternity tights and started the search for boots myself.

It was a productive, enjoyable, and full of anticipation for the months to come.  I can't wait 'til pumpkin picking, apple picking, and all things Halloween are a part of our schedule.

A little snap from a Barns and Noble trip.  This kid was in book and stuffed animal heaven ,  This is her I-kissed-the-stuffed-animal-now-it's-your-turn-to-give-him-a-kiss face.

A cozy evening in called for some breakfast for dinner.  My favorite pancake recipe was on the menu.  These are my favorite (GF) pancakes ever.

Ready to shop, guys!  (But not really, I just want to push the stroller.)

Pre-dinner trip to the park!

Closed out the perfect Labor Day Weekend with an easy pasta dish - spaghetti carbonara,  Mmmm.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Soaking in gratitude

I decided to document my pregnancy journey for two reasons.  One - in hopes to help fellow pregnant ladies who stop by and read and two - to have it for years to come.  But if I'm being completely honest, I don't do well while pregnant.  With my mood often against me, I find myself struggling and working to feel like myself and give my best self to my husband and daughter.  So as these final months have approached, I've been more and more hesitant to document my journey because I haven't wanted to give off all those hormonal, negative vibes.  But that's been my reality as of late - mood swings and pain I'm trying to grin through.

Something that's kept my spirits high and my attitude positive though is the weather.  Now I feel like my dad talking about the weather, but I forgot how much of an impact weather can have on your mood and well-being.  Living in California for the past six years, I forgot what that Fall crisp really feels like, the smells of an ending Summer and blossoming Autumn, the rain pelting on my window giving a certain radiance to my twinkle lights on the patio.  I go outside and breathe easy, calmly. These little things I took for granted, barely even took notice to, growing up in the Midwest. But now I cherish every one of them.

And this, of course, has only given me a deep sense of gratitude for the opportunity of living in Washington.  I can't wait to go to World Market and Homegoods and Target to get some Fall accents for our new place and some Fall attire for our wardrobes.  That's what's on our agenda this weekend.

I hope you've had a great week.  I'll be back on Monday with (hopefully) a mini-haul and a regular blogging schedule.

Highlight of my week and always: her sweetness.  (Pardon my shoe.)