Blogpost of a Working/Nursing/Pumping Mom

I’ve been back at work for about two months now and I have to say I think that I am a better mom because of it. I’m not saying every day is a perfect work/life balance because that’s certainly not true (and I’m not convinced you can have a perfect work/life balance), but I do think that I am more present as a mom during the time I have with Connor.

A3136E67-E8DB-4E42-8271-8EF257D2DF7E

But let me back up to the first couple weeks back at work. In my last post I talked about how Nate’s mom was going to do “Cissy Byrd Daycare” while I worked from home my first week back. For me, this was the perfect way to transition back to work. I was able to somewhat figure out how much milk he would need while at daycare and visit him for a few minutes when I needed to see him. I went into work a couple times that week mainly to see everyone again, but also to pump once before having to commit to it full time while at work.

Another thing that made the transition a lot easier than expected was the full support that I received from my workplace. Everyone from my direct supervisor all the way up to the c-suite level made sure that I was comfortable and made it known that if I needed anything to help with making it easier to be back at work to let them know. In addition, my workplace has a great mother’s room where new moms can pump. The room has a mini-fridge to store pumped milk (and in my case pump parts), a divider for privacy, a white noise maker, and a comfy glider next to a table where a pump or two can be stashed. Any company with 50 or more full time employees is required to have a room where new moms can pump, but I’ve found out quickly through nursing/pumping moms groups that I joined on Facebook that these rooms are not necessarily the nice set up that I have at my work. In fact, I’ve read everything from a tiny closet to the room being across the building. For moms who only get 15/20 min breaks, that’s not a reasonable setup. I’m lucky in that I have a very supportive company and can pump three times while at work. I also have flexibility because I can answer emails and work while pumping ha do-free. What annoys me about the terrible conditions that some moms face is that this should not be the case. If you are a new mom returning to work, it is already hard enough being away from your baby much less having to stress about getting enough pumping time in to provide milk for daycare bottles. I truly believe if we had a more supportive healthcare system, new moms would not be as stressed out, would be able to take care of themselves and their babies, and would be able to demonstrate that moms can be effective in the workplace. I’ll get off my soapbox now, but as you can probably tell I am pretty passionate about how awful the US healthcare system is for maternity leave and for new moms in general.

With Cissy providing full-time daycare for Connor my first week back, I quickly learned that he would eat approximately 3 times while I was working. To put it another way, he would nurse before work, need a bottle 3 times in a 12 hour period, and nurse before bedtime. Connor pretty much put himself on a schedule and would nurse/feed at 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, and 7pm with a middle of the night (MOTN) feeding thrown in there. Typically, babies take 1-1.5oz per hour so I gauged that he probably ate between 4 and 5oz each feeding (25-30oz). During three pumps I average between 15 and 20oz. I figured if I could pump enough to make three 5oz bottles for daycare, we would be set. Spoiler alert, this worked for us, but may not work for other moms and their babies.

B3E7D7EA-AA4B-45B2-927D-5E9503BCA25E

Friday was an experimental half day at daycare. I also did dropoff with Grandma and the daycare teachers quickly let me know that I could call anytime that afternoon for an update. Of course I took them up on this; I made it a couple hours before calling in and they reassured me that Connor was doing well. The next week, we practiced dropping off in the mornings and Cissy would pick him up for in-home care in the afternoons. He would be exhausted having not had napped (or had very short naps) in the morning and would pretty much nap away the afternoon! His first full day of daycare was on Thursday and the plan was for Nate to take him in and I would pick up. Unfortunately, Nate caught a terrible stomach bug that week and was out of commission! So, Thursday did not go as planned. I had to do drop off, which for all you new moms out there I DO NOT recommend. I was fine dropping him off, but as soon as I started driving away I called Nate in tears and told him that he needed to tell me Connor would be OK at daycare. I definitely should have worked from home that day, as I was a mess going in to work and then felt sick to my stomach (like I was getting the bug), but it was from nerves. Connor was a champ and did amazing for his first full day at daycare. The transition is truly harder on the mom than the baby.

The pictures above are all from the daycare. We usually get daily updates complete with photos of how the day is going.

For me, the first couple weeks back to work were the toughest. I had to figure out a way to not only show that I was dedicated to coming back to work, but also be a dedicated mom to Connor. For me, I believe that I have become a better worker because I focus completely on work when I’m there and I’m also a better mother because I turn off work when I’m with him and am fully present as a mom. Of course there are always some days where I need to work in the evenings or some on the weekend, but I try to do that when he is asleep for the night or napping. I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom and I am in awe of those that can. I honestly can say that by being able to work full time has made me a better mom in that I am fully present during the time I do have with Connor.

The photos above are from Connor’s 4 and 5month photos.

My day-to-day looks something like this: wake up around 6:30/7am, if I wake up on the earlier end I try to squeeze in a workout and quick shower, prepare an instant drink for breakfast and nurse Connor around 7am, finish getting ready for work including packing a lunch, help get Connor dressed for daycare if Nate is running behind, Nate does drop off, work from about 8-4:30 (30 min pumps at 8:30, 12:30, and 4), pick up Connor by 5, playtime and walk before dinner, cook/eat dinner, then our nightly ritual of getting Connor ready for bed in his sleeper, read a book, and nurse, bedtime for Connor is around 715/730, I usually watch a show/blog/work if needed, then bedtime for me is usually by 9pm. Connor has pretty much dropped his MOTN feeding but every so often he will wake up around 3/4am and need to nurse.

Being a working mom has been tough especially since I am nursing and pumping. I would really love to be able to give Connor breastmilk up to one year. Right now is tough because we’ve not only gone from learning how to nurse as a team but now to nursing and pumping for daycare bottles. Throw in starting solids and it’s a whole new ball game! Just when you think you have it all figured out life throws you a curve ball. I have learned how to enjoy every minute that I have with Connor and to trust my gut. My instincts have not failed me yet!

Advertisements

The Third Month (A Continuation of Thoughts on Being a New Mom)

I cannot believe my little boy is going to be starting daycare! Yes…that mean it has been almost 12 weeks since I gave birth to Connor. I cannot emphasize this enough, but the newborn baby stage goes by SO fast. This blog post will be about some thoughts around the third month of being a new mom. I’m considering this month to be from 9 to 12 weeks old.

At a little over nine weeks (it’s so funny how we measure time…because Connor was two months old Jan. 2nd, but was almost 9 weeks old at the time) I took Connor for his two month appointment at the pediatrician’s office. Everything checked out fine – he’s still small for his age, 4th percentile in weight (up from the 2nd!) and 2nd percentile in height. But the kicker is that he is in the 59th percentile for head circumference. I like to think that he has a lot of brains! Percentiles are a funny thing, but I’ve learned that as long as they are on their own trajectory (i.e. staying around the 2nd percentile) then they are developing just fine. Honestly, I’m happy just knowing that he was almost 10 pounds! That means by two months he had almost doubled his weight – by four days old he had dropped down to 5lb 8oz, which is the baseline from which the doctor determines if the baby is growing well at subsequent visits. The shots were no fun…I think they were more painful for me to watch than they were for him to receive them. I made sure that he would be hungry so that I was able to nurse him immediately after the shots. He was quite cranky and fussy for the next few days and did not sleep well during the day. Next time, I think I will give him infant Tylenol beforehand to help mediate the pain management ahead of the vaccinations. I’ve heard that you can spread out the shots over several days, but I think I’d much rather get them all over with at once. Poor guy – getting jabbed three times in the thighs could not have been easy, but he was a champ and calmed down when I was able to nurse him.

The next day, we went to the pediatric orthopedic doctor at UNC for a follow-up on Connor’s hips. During this appointment, the specialist checked his hip and leg movement and did not find anything concerning. In a couple weeks (the Friday after I begin work) we go back for what will (hopefully) be his last check-up for hip dysplasia. During this appointment we have to go back to the UNC hospital, but at least I know where I’m going now, right?, for an ultrasound and then directly over to the specialist who will read the results and determine if anything needs to be done. During the appointment I learned that many babies likely have hip sockets that are less than 60 degrees, but not every baby is checked by ultrasound for hip dysplasia. Connor was checked because he was breech my whole pregnancy and there is a higher risk for hip dysplasia to occur. Based on what the specialist told me, because his hip sockets were 58 degrees, they have to follow-up simply because 60 is the “arbitrary” cutoff point. In all likelihood, his hip sockets (like most babies) are just immature and he will grow out of it. We’ll know more at the end of January, but I am feeling a lot more secure in knowing that his chances are low that he has hip dysplasia. If he ends up having hip dysplasia, the specialist said that a harness will need to be worn for about 12 hours a day and to do that at night.

Again, like the second month, so much changes with a newborn. He focuses a lot more on various objects, people, etc. and is a lot more vocal. He makes cooing noises that if you copy, he will continue doing like we are having a conversation. He repeats himself a lot and I think he is learning how to make the same noise over and over again like we do in conversation. Connor loves music and “dancing” (i.e. kicking his legs out and back and moving his arms). His movements are still quite jerky. When he follows something or wants to look left and right, you can tell he is still learning how to make it a smooth movement. He’s also noticed his feet and hands. Especially that he can put his hands in his mouth and suck. It’s nice because he can sort of self soothe with that, but not all the time. When he is on his playmat he will kick the rattles that hang with his feet, but I’m not sure it’s a conscious effort as much as random kicking will sometimes lead to rattling noises. Connor is a very happy baby and loves to smile at Nate and I and sometimes at new visitors if he’s in a good mood! Mornings are his jam and he always wake up in a very good mood. He is also getting better at tummy time and has even figured out how to roll from his front to his back!

Connor has gotten a lot better at sleeping at night and for that I am incredibly grateful. Towards the beginning of January he started doing a long stretch of sleep (anywhere from 5 to 7 hours!) starting from his last feeding. That used to be around 6pm but we’ve sort of moved it to at least 7:30pm. Then he has been waking up once around 2 or 3am to eat, immediately falls asleep, and wakes up for the day around 6 or 7am. There are some nights where he needs a little more coaxing to fall back asleep, but I enjoy the extra snuggles especially since I’ll be starting work very soon.

I have to say that I am impressed that he is able to sleep so long and I hope this continues even when he starts daycare. I try to be as consistent as possible (as much as you can when you have errands to run, neighbors visiting, etc.) with his sleep. When it seems like he is getting sleepy (i.e. yawning, rubbing his eyes, or his eyes start to look red) I know it’s time to wind him down and get him ready for a nap. In the morning, this happens about 1.5 to 2 hours after waking up. This seems like a long time for an 11 week old, but he also seems to be more active and playing at this time. If you try to get him to nap too early then it’s a fight and not worth it! Lately, the morning nap has been a lot longer and he will sleep anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. During that time I usually eat a second breakfast (nursing makes you hungry ALL the time!), shower, and do a load of laundry or some cleaning around the house. If I have extra time, I’ll even try to squeeze in a short nap. The rest of the day is a little bit more difficult in terms of getting good naps in, but he usually gets at least 30-45 minutes around 1 pm and again around 4 or 5 pm. The last nap is where it gets tricky. It’s hard for newborns to stay up for long periods of time, so if he wakes up around 5pm, it will be more difficult (i.e. he gets very cranky) to keep him up until 7:30pm. I usually end up walking him around or trying to distract him with toys. If it gets to be too much or I think he’s too upset, I’ll go ahead and nurse him and put him down to sleep. Nate and I usually go for a walk when he gets home from work and that always leads to a nice catnap for Connor closer to 5:30/6pm.

With daycare starting I worry about his sleep, but also know that he is in good hands with the caretakers. I tell myself that if he can continue to do his long stretches at night, I can handle most things during the day. I used to really need to nap during his naptimes (and I still do sometimes), but I know that I could theoretically get enough sleep at night now. Of course, that being said, I am a mom and I swear I hear phantom cries through the baby monitor in the middle of the night and come to find out it’s all in my head. I should also say that we ended up moving Connor to his room right around eight weeks because his grunting and groaning would keep me up all the time. Nate can sleep right through it, but I am such a light sleeper that any movement would wake me up or keep me up. I know this is not ideal for every new parent, but for us it works. I have a baby monitor set up so that when he cries, I hear it immediately and can go get him. Now, that being said, Connor has also been known to cry once and fall back asleep. Usually, he wakes up and coos a little bit then starts to cry if he’s hungry so I can go in and nurse him then go back to sleep.

Connor has to be able to nap in a crib at daycare and we have been using the Rock ‘n Play (RnP) for sleeping. While it’s not approved for sleeping by the American Academy of Pediatrics it is what saved us from many sleepless nights in the beginning. That being said, it’s a risk for SIDS and he has to be able to sleep in the crib for daytime naps at daycare. We (mainly me if we are being perfectly honest) decided to have Connor sleep in his crib before he started daycare. About a week and a half before starting I began putting him in his Halo sleepsack (to help reduce his startle reflex) and having him take naps in the crib. The first day was rough. There were a lot of tears on both sides and I admit that by the end of the day I resorted back to the RnP so he could at least get some sleep. However, for his first nap he made it 2 hours (waking up about 3 times) and his second nap was 1.5 hours (waking up about 5 times). The second day, I had Nate as a backup partner for nap time and we were able to get him down for almost 3 hours for his first nap (again waking up 3 times, but longer stretches in between). His second nap was in the car seat because we were out at lunch and running a few errands. His last nap was almost an hour and he only woke up once! They say it takes about 7 days to break a bad habit and I’m hoping that we can beat those odds.

IMG_2658.jpg

I am thankful that I have been able to pump extra breastmilk every day to build a stash in our freezer. I added a pumping session after his morning feeding (usually around 8am) and have been getting at least enough for a bottle (4+ oz) every day. It didn’t start out that way though. You are basically telling your body that every day around 8am it needs to be making more milk. I froze milk in 4oz partitions and have enough for two weeks of daycare if something horrible happens at work and I’m unable to pump enough for bottles. I am assuming that he will need four 4oz bottles, but honestly have no idea how much he will eat. Connor typically eats three times during the work day (I’ll nurse him before work/daycare) then he eats around 10/11am, 1/2pm, and 3/4pm. I’ve read that breastfed babies do not need more than 4oz per feeding, but I plan to split the last 4oz bottle into two 2oz just in case he needs a top off.

Nate’s mom, Cissy, has offered to watch Connor the first week that I am at work and I could not be happier about that! I am working from home the first week back to get my bearings and caught up with my clients and training. This makes me feel a lot more secure knowing that I’ll have a better idea of how much he needs during the day when he isn’t nursing. The current plan is to use part of the freezer stash (four bags) for Monday’s bottles and then pump three times at work for the next day’s bottles. I know many moms who have made this work and am grateful for their advice and wisdom!

This may be my last post for a few months depending on how much time I have (haha) after beginning work. But, I would like to write a few more to describe my transition as a working mom goes in the hopes that it will be helpful to other new moms who wish to return to work.

IMG_2633.jpg

The Second Month (A Continuation of Thoughts on Being a New Mom)

Everyone says to enjoy every minute of your newborn because it goes by so fast. I can definitely second that sentiment – the first couple weeks were a blur and the first couple of months went by incredibly quick. Connor is almost two months old and I can’t believe how fast he’s growing. And I don’t mean just physically, because he has certainly gotten bigger in both his weight and height, but his mental development is skyrocketing.

For me, I felt like the first month of Connor’s life was devoted to survival. Learning how to take care of a tiny human being who depends on absolutely everything from you (food, diaper changes, burping, etc.) takes some getting used to! We had to learn how to nurse as a team and I began learning what his different cries meant – from happy squeals to hunger cries. The second month has been more enjoyable and I feel like I’ve been able to reflect more on this time with Connor.

During the second month (from about 5 weeks to 8 weeks) Connor shifted from only sleeping and eating all day to being more awake and aware of his surroundings between feedings. It is an amazing time to see how he reacts to his environment.

 

We still aren’t on a true schedule as much as my project management brain wants us to be. And that seems to work for us. That being said, we have a general schedule where we wake up around 6 to 7am to eat, play, then nap even if it’s only for a short while. This nap is an incredibly important one I’ve found. If he doesn’t get a good nap in the morning our whole day is thrown off and my usually happy-go-lucky baby is cranky the whole day. Then, he goes 2.5 to 3 hours between feedings throughout the day (sleep, feed, play) with a longish nap midday and another one in the afternoon. Then around 6 or 7pm he will eat and play for a short while then hopefully go down for a longer nap (like 4 or 5 hours!) where I’ll theoretically go to sleep from about 9pm to 12am. Then, we feed again and he goes until about 3 or 4am. And we start the day over again at 6/7am! If I have help or Nate is off for a few days someone can feed Connor a bottle around 12 or 1am and I can sleep for almost 6 hours if I time everything right and Connor cooperates. He still isn’t great at falling asleep without a lot of coaxing on our part – he falls asleep on one of our chests and we transfer him to the napper. That’s one of the more frustrating parts, at least for me when I’m sleep deprived, and just want to get a good three hour nap in. But, I know he won’t be this little for much longer and he likely will not want to snuggle either so I try to keep that in mind when I’m just desperate for sleep.

547FD156-2503-45D1-8B32-4D780692F815

This “schedule” seemed to start around 6 weeks and I noticed it more so when we were in Spartanburg to celebrate Christmas with the Byrds. If you have the opportunity to have extra sets of hands to help out take advantage of that! Grandma (Nate’s mom) was amazing and would give Connor a bottle around 12/1am and I got a few nights of extra sleep from about 10pm to 4am. I always pumped about 20-30 min after my last nursing session to remind my body it still needed to produce even though I was “skipping” a feeding. The only downside – and I really shouldn’t complain because sleep is SO nice – was that my boobs would be uncomfortably full and it’s harder for Connor to latch when that’s the case. I have learned how to hand express for that exact reason.

 

The mental development of babies is incredible. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for a newborn to comprehend his surroundings. Now, with Connor having more awake time during the day, there is a lot more mental stimulation going on. His eyes track contrasts and lights and the distance he can see seems to have extended past the original 8 inches to a couple feet. Connor loves to stare at lights in particular and on one occasion Nate came home to find us staring at the Christmas tree lights. I think he thought I was going crazy when in reality that was the only thing that was keeping Connor from fussing.

Nate gets home around 5:30pm most evenings and I’m always relieved to have an extra set of hands. I try not to hand Connor off right away, but it’s hard when I’ve been home all day with little to no adult interaction. He’s a full time job. I spend at least 35 hours literally just feeding him, which doesn’t include the time I spend changing, burping, and playing or consoling Connor. There are no true breaks and I’m always on duty. I think one of the worst questions you can ask a mom who stays at home (when they are so young) is what did you do all day? Sigh..I kept our child alive. What did you do? Maybe instead ask how the baby’s development is going or if you think he’s learned something new. When Dad is off work for a few days that’s when he realizes just how much work it is to be a stay at home parent. The laundry or dishes may not be done, but we survived another day. And the amazing thing is that he is growing and learning so much!

I’m not going to lie, there are days that I am jealous of Nate going to work. The lack of mental stimulation and adult intervention certainly takes its toll on me. I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom and am very impressed by those who are. While I am looking forward to going back to work, I know the transition will be hard for me especially since I will have been with him every day for 12 weeks. I wish I wasn’t such a light sleeper too…there are times that I’m lying in bed and we have Nate snoring away on one side (I have to push him to get him to sleep on his side a lot) and Connor grunting and moving around on the other side. I know that Connor would cry if he really needed me (i.e for nursing) but I’m usually on alert and have a hard time sleeping through his noises. I’m sure that will get better once he’s in his own room, but for now I need him in the same room as us especially since he is eating at least every three hours.

Outings are difficult for us. For example, I had to take Connor to the UNC hospital for a hip ultrasound when he was six weeks old to look for hip dysplasia. It was a terrible experience – not the ultrasound itself, but parking and physically getting to the hospital was awful. First off, if you don’t know me I need to tell you that I’m terrible at finding parking at new places. If I don’t know where I’m going I expect someone to give me detailed directions not only to the place but also regarding parking if it’s not super obvious. I called the ultrasound department on three separate occasions prior to his appointment for directions and never received a call back. THREE times I called. Ugh. On this particular day I got to the hospital and was driving around in a circle looking for the women’s health center, which I found relatively  quickly. But there’s no parking immediately obvious to me. So, I think I’ve found parking and it turns out to be a lot for handicapped people. Great. Luckily, a very nice man said he was driving past the parking for the hospital and I could follow him. Thank goodness for nice people. I had to park across the street in a parking deck on the fourth floor and cross a sky bridge to get to the hospital. I didn’t know this so I only had Connor’s car seat. No stroller and no Boba wrap. I had to lug the car seat around. Thank goodness he’s still really small, but it was terrible and my mood kept getting worse. My arms were dying by the time I got to the lobby. So, I get to the lobby and can’t figure our where to register. There are patients everywhere and not much staff that I can see. And the information center, where I ended up asking for help, doesn’t actually know where you can register. Helpful. I finally found where we needed to go and we had to take the elevator to the ground floor and walk through the adult ultrasound suite past very sick people (masks on, etc) and the whole time I’m cringing on the inside because I’m carrying a newborn around in this hallway that to me was very dingy and dirty for a hospital. Thankfully, the technician was on time and the appointment was only 20 or 25 minutes where she took a bunch of pictures of his hips. Getting out was relatively easier than coming in since I had an idea of where we were going. We then had to wait for our pediatrician to call with the results. I thought we were in the clear when we hadn’t heard from him in a few days, but we got a call on Wednesday saying Connor has slight hip dysplasia at 58 degrees. Hips need to be at 60 degrees or above. So now we have to go to a pediatric orthopedic specialist at two months of age. And of course now I’m paranoid that he has hip dysplasia and will need to wear a harness. This is because he was breech. I’ll write an update on this in my next post since it’ll be after his two month check up.

Other excursions haven’t been nearly as painful – I try to feed him before we go anywhere and wear the Boba wrap as an easier way to carry Connor around. He likes car rides and if we are lucky he will take a nap. I usually have a couple of hours to run errands and am hoping to do more of that now that I’m more comfortable taking care of Connor on my own. It will feel like taking back some control of my life being able to be out in the real world. Nate and I had two successful outings going out to dinner at Chili’s and Red Lobster where Connor slept for most of the meal and when he woke up was content to look around the restaurant until we finished eating. It’s very liberating to know we can go out to dinner. The worst that can happen is that we have a meltdown and need to get our food to go or eat separately while we take turns walking him. We will have to take advantage of this time because I’m sure when he gets older it won’t be nearly as easy.

 

All in all, I am so thankful to have a healthy and happy baby. It’s a lot of work but very rewarding. Development of babies is crazy fast and it seems like if you blink you will miss it. My advice would be to write things down so you can look back and remember the newborn days. Snuggle as much as possible and realize that this phase is very short lived.

Thoughts on Being a New Mom

Being a new mom is hard. I won’t sugar coat it. I had an easy pregnancy with just a few bumps along the way (no pun intended) and definitely had a more idealized view of what motherhood would be like. I talked to friends who are moms and read as many blogs and books as I possibly could while waiting for Connor’s arrival. But none of that prepared me for being a new mom. Not even close.

I found out that I was pregnant on Nate’s birthday…talk about a great gift! And as soon as I found out I worried about every little thing. Early on it was things like – Did that twinge mean it was ectopic? Or does that spotting mean it’s a miscarriage? And later on worries like – Did he move enough today? Or what if he has a defect of some sort? I’m an anxious person and a worrier (thanks Dad!) so I read a lot and Googled everything. Trust me on this, do not Google. It’s not worth the stress!

We also had a lot going on this year. I started a new job in January, found out we were pregnant, bought and renovated our new house, and sold the old house. Talk about possibly overdoing it for 2017! I not only had to navigate telling my new job that I was expecting (which they have been awesome about), I also had to deal with working on having the new house renovated and the fun (huge sarcasm here) of working with a contractor to ensure it would be done by early November. It still isn’t finished – close, but there are still a few punch list items that need to be completed. Thankfully, the major items had been completed by the time Connor arrived.

We welcomed our baby boy, Connor Robert Byrd, on November 2nd 2017. He weighed 6lb 3oz and was 19in long. I’m biased but he’s a pretty perfect baby.

Because Connor was breech my whole pregnancy…well at least from 30 weeks on…I had a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks. I also had low amniotic fluid which limited options in trying to turn the baby using the inversion method. And that was hard. As a woman you are judged all the time. I fully intended on having a natural delivery (with an epidural because I do not handle pain well) so being told he was breech and I would likely have to have a c-section took me down a notch. Again with the worries – Was it something I did? Will he be OK? I don’t want to have surgery! Once I came to grips that a c-section would be my reality I was fine for the most part. Although you could talk to my mom and she will tell you about how I called her the day before the due date convinced I was going to die on the surgery table. Again…please don’t Google anything! My doctor was amazing and had delivered over 3500 babies by the time we came along so I knew that I was in great hands. But there’s a lot of judgment from women who can’t believe you would get a c-section. And at 39 weeks? You should wait longer so he will be bigger…he will flip for sure…ha. If you saw me when I was pregnant you would realize there was literally no room for him to move and flip much less grow much more. Everyone has their reasons for the type of birth they have and as long as it’s not detrimental to the health of the baby you do what you need/want to.

So while the c-section was not what I had initially wanted, it ended up being fine and I actually kind of liked the fact that we knew when he was coming. I’m a Project Manager so having things on a schedule works well for me. We were able to tell the grandparents when they could come and plan the next month or so of visits based on the November 2nd birth date. I could have everything scheduled for my maternity leave for work because we knew his birth date

I won’t go into the details of the recovery suffice to say that it is a major surgery and I am so thankful Nate could be there the entire time we were in the hospital since I could barely get out of bed to go to the bathroom much less pick up a newborn. I had a good recovery too – I was moving around and back to pretty much normal (I.e no drugs by one week and able to drive by two). This was much faster than anticipated based on what my friends and colleagues had told me based on their experiences. I’m now six weeks out and got approval from my doctor to begin light exercise and I’m able to take baths again.

Seeing your baby for the first time elicits a rush of emotions. For me, it was love at first sight and tears of joy, an overwhelming sensation of oh my gosh he is so small and we have to take care of him. And then you take him home and the emotions are all over the place. You come home from the hospital where the nurses help you out all day to just the three of us as a family and no clue where to begin.

2EB29617-716D-4BA8-9DD0-E6569B308C56

I am not ashamed to admit that the first two weeks were incredibly rough. They don’t call it the “baby blues” for nothing. I broke down more than a few times based on how overwhelmed I felt about the entire situation. I wasn’t able to get him to latch very well to nurse because he has a very recessed jaw (as most babies do) and I was incredibly engorged so that did not help matters. Some advice if you are planning on your first child and want to nurse, get to know your breasts. That way when your milk comes in you know what it feels like for them to be empty. The best advice that I got was to pump enough for a bottle so that someone (husband, grandma) could take one night feeding and I could get a stretch of 3 or 4 hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation does some crazy things to you and that was the worst part about the first two weeks for me.

During our first pediatrician visit we learned that he had lost 11% of his weight and I was stressed out. Thankfully, a lactation consultant was recommended and she helped me get Connor to latch with a nipple shield and explain how to work with him to nurse better. A nipple shield is a misnomer because it doesn’t shield your nipples but rather makes your boob into kind of a bottle for the baby to latch onto.  That helped, but I was still overwhelmed. Feelings of unworthiness and anxiousness came to the surface and I cried a lot. How can I be nursing if I have to use a shield to get him to latch? Feedings were taking at least an hour and because he had lost weight I was told to feed him at least every three hours. So I would feed at say 12PM, burp, change his diaper, get him settled by 1:30PM and have maybe an hour if I was lucky to lay down or eat before the cycle started all over again. No one tells you how much the first two weeks suck. You don’t sleep and if nursing isn’t going well you are stressed out when you are awakwI thought I was failing. When it’s all on you to feed the baby (if you decide to nurse) there’s a lot of pressure to be successful and not complain. It’s natural right? How can your baby not breastfeed? It should be just like the movies where they latch right away with no issues. What no one tells you is that every mom goes through their own issues with a newborn. For me it was getting him to latch and just how much time it took for him to feed. For others they have to exclusively pump because their baby won’t latch no matter what. And for others they give their baby formula. All are great options. A fed baby gains weight and is happy which makes a mom happy and that’s all that matters in the end. I attend a weekly new parents support group that has helped me tremendously. You realize that you are not alone and that each baby has their own issues moms are working through.

FDC24610-56EC-449B-B798-377B039DC538

It was hard. I wanted to give up breastfeeding so many times. I told myself just get through this week and if it’s still terrible we can give him formula and he’ll survive. And then I would go another week. I didn’t give up on breastfeeding and now six weeks later he is able to latch without a nipple shield and feeds between 30 and 45 minutes. It’s still a long time but I know he will continue to be more efficient. And that makes me happy. There are days where I get frustrated but I remind myself of how far we have come on this journey.

Then there is all the advice for new moms. All from well meaning people – friends, family, your doctor, lactation consultant. You should be feeding your baby every three hours or don’t ever wake a sleeping baby. Who is right? No one really…you figure out what works for you and your baby. In the beginning I did feed him every three hours even if he wasn’t awake. Until he got back to his birth weight that made sense to me. I guess they can sleep through hunger signals. He gained weight back by his two week appointment and we moved from having to wake him to feeding on demand. That was hard for me. It’s so ingrained in my brain to be on a schedule that not relying on every three hours drove me crazy. But, for me, he feeds better (as in more awake and actively eating) if he tells me when he’s ready versus me waking him up. Now he goes anywhere from two to four hours (we had a five hour stint once in the middle of the night where I woke up in a panic) and that’s ok! He obviously needed the sleep. He gained over a pound in two weeks and this week weighed in at 8lb5oz and I’m thrilled. I still feel overwhelmed by how much time it takes him to eat and the fact that I’m the only one who can nurse him. I have to remind myself that we as a team are making great progress.

And I should also say he’s a very good baby. Newborns can only cry to tell you what they need – hunger, diaper change, cuddles, burping. And for the most part that will make Connor happy if all of the above have been seen to. I can’t imagine how I would be feeling if he was colicky or had reflux or was just a fussy baby. Then there are the times that he just can’t be consoled in the evenings. And while I felt terrible…it doesn’t make me a bad mom. That’s normal for babies. The pictures below are from Thanksgiving (left) and his one month photo shoot (right). What this picture doesn’t show is how the Friday after thanksgiving he had a complete meltdown and cried all day, so much so that we took him to the pediatrician to make sure nothing was wrong. He was fine, likely overtired and overstimulated from thanksgiving.

While being a new mom has wonderful moments – when he smiles or coos at you – it’s incredibly difficult because you’ve never done it before and you take care of a tiny human being under severe sleep deprivation. I’m happy to say it’s getting better, but I take it day by day. It also took me about a week to write this post because there’s so little “down time” to do anything and my priorities have to be to take care of myself first (I.e. eating and resting) so that I can take care of Connor.

Those are just a few thoughts on being a new mom. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. And if anyone wants to talk I’m here in support of all the new moms out there.

 

 

 

Stuffed Peppers

This is the year I finally got bell peppers to grow in the garden! They may be small compared to what you buy at the store, but they are full of flavor. Here’s a look at the final menu:

File_002 (4)

I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com, but tweaked it with what I had at hand. The peppers are stuffed with white rice, turkey burger, and Mexican corn.

File_007 (4)

To 1/2 cup white rice, add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmering and allow the rice to cook for ~20 min (or until done). During this time, brown 1 lb of turkey burger using a skillet.

Slice the tops of the peppers off and remove the seeds and insides. Because the bottoms of the peppers were not flat, I also sliced the bottoms so that they would stand upright.

Once the turkey burger was cooked, I added the boiled rice, 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of Mexican corn, 1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir well to mix and add the mixture inside the peppers. I had way too much mixture because I did not have enough bell peppers, so we ended up eating the mixture inside tortilla shells as well. I had some leftover cherry tomatoes and I sliced up the tops from the peppers and added that to the mixture for the tortillas.

I covered the dish with foil and baked at 350F for 30-45 min or until the peppers were soft and cooked through. The recipe says an hour, but I think by covering with foil this speeds up the cooking time.

I topped with some shredded cheddar cheese. As another pepper dish, I made stuffed Jalepeno poppers (see my previous post here: Jalapeno Poppers). I apologize for the missing photos in that post, I did some spring cleaning on my computer and need to re-add the photos when I have some time.

Simply delicious!

Online Recipe

Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Shut The Front Door!

Choosing a front door color is a tricky business. It’s one of the first things that a guest will see when they come to visit and can have huge curb appeal. I have been wanting to paint our front door for a while now. Our front door was, you guessed it, white. Boring! I had actually picked out the paint that I wanted to change it to a long time ago, it’s probably been several months now. It’s called “La Fonda Antique Red.”

Here are the obligatory before photos (inside, and two outside shots):

A dark red color called to me. With a light gray siding, black shutters, and brick for the outdoor decor of the house – red seemed to be a good choice. I really do like red accents – and the La Fonda Antique Red seemed just perfect.

Painting the front door was a relatively easy process, but it did take a full day to do. First, I removed all the hardware off of the door – door handle, door bolt and chain, and the knocker.

Once I removed the hardware, I took the door down. No easy feat for one person to do. The front door is heavy! I moved it downstairs on top of a drop cloth so that I could clean and sand it. Because I decided to remove the door knocker, I had to fill in the holes with wood filler and sand that down too. I gently sanded the door and wiped the entire door clean prior to painting.

I decided to paint both the inside and outside of the front door. This seems to be a pretty unorthodox decision – most recommend keeping the inside of the door a neutral color matching the trim. Since our home has a lot of red accents (think blankets on sofas, rugs, kitchen dish towels, placemats, etc.) I actually think that having red on the inside will bring the decor together.

I needed to tape off the windows at the top of the doorway, and then I started painting. The type of paint is an exterior paint made by Valspar – exterior paint is a must for front doors. I must admit that it was a big change with the first set of brush strokes!

File_003

Here are the first and second coats on the inside of the door (photos below). In the photos the paint is still wet, but once dried the paint turned darker and evened out.

I needed to enlist help from Nate’s youngest brother, Mike, to put the door back on its hinges. With Nate being out of commission until his knee is better, Mike has been a huge help with lifting heavy objects.

I am in love with the finished product! I think the red on the interior goes well with the rest of the house.

Another DIY project is successfully in the books!

Front Door Websites:

Paint Colors for Front Doors

Suggested Paint Colors

 

 

Kitchen Renovation

Well we did it. It may have taken several months, but our kitchen has been remodeled! We used a company called Builder’s of Hope, so we can’t take credit for the actual remodel but I’d like to think we had the vision for the project.

If you’ve ever been in an older home that was built in the late 60s/early 70s you will see what we had. Small kitchen, awkward space, little storage. I took tons of before photos so that you would get the full effect of the after photos! While we didn’t have anything moved around – that would have been a nightmare involving plumbing, what did have done completely transformed this level of the house.

To start, the photos below show what our house looked like before the renovation. When you walk through the front door you would see the bottom left photo. Up a few stairs there is a tiny doorway into the kitchen and the green wall is a false wall (bottom right photo) that effectively blocks the person from seeing straight into the kitchen when the go through the front door.

And don’t even get me started on the faux parquet linoleum flooring. Can we say outdated? It made the house feel even older than it actually is.

Then, when you go into the kitchen, the island was too close to the refrigerator so that when you opened the door, no one could get by you. There was also an outdated wine rack hanging in the middle of the ceiling and awkward shelves down the side of the wall. It’s hard to explain now because the renovation makes the kitchen look and feel so much bigger.

The first day, our contractor shortened the island by about 18 inches, removed the wine rack and shelves. You can see in the photos below where the 18 inches of the island were removed. This had to be patched before the new flooring could be put down. He also removed the linoleum flooring. Already we could see a huge improvement!

We had a little bit of a hiccup at this point where the flooring we wanted had not come in yet, so we had to live with the base floors for a while. Probably about a month or so. It wasn’t ideal, but livable.

Once the flooring was on its way, the doorways were opened up and the false wall removed. Below you will see the before photos of the false wall (top three photos) and the after photos with the wall removed (bottom two photos). My very own pantry is going to where the false wall was located!!!

Next up, opening the doorways. This probably made the next biggest impact to the flow of the room, right after removing the outdated wine rack/shelves and shortening the island. The drywall was removed first to determine that the studs were located in good areas as well as to allow the contractor to reinforce the overhead load bearing wall. The photos below show how far out the doorways ended up being.

The next series of photos show the doorways being opened up, drywall repair and spackling, as well as the initial impact of the opened up doorways.

We also had the parquet linoleum in the foyer area removed. Guess what was underneath? HARDWOOD FLOORS! Why in the world anyone would want to cover up hardwood floors is beyond me. We still need to work on refinishing them a little bit, but the removal of the linoleum was a huge change.

Repair to the floor where the doorway was opened up also had to be done. The right hand doorway had the most repair done. The contractor did a really nice job matching the hardwood and staining as best he could. If you don’t know that it’s been patched you would be hard pressed to find it just looking around. The repair section was similar to the left hand photo below (I must have forgotten to take that picture). The top right hand photo is the first coat of stain and the bottom right hand photo is several coats later.

The new vinyl flooring was a perfect fit to bring the kitchen together.

Have I mentioned yet about the lack of storage space in our kitchen? One of the best things about this renovation was that I got my pantry! The one I’ve wanted for years. Literally. Best addition to the house ever! And so pretty.

So now, instead of having the false wall that “hides” the kitchen from the front door, we now have a pantry! I purposely put the lowest shelf relatively high in the bottom cabinet to allow for storage of my pots and pans. I found a really nice storage rack specifically designed to hold pots, pans, and lids at Lowe’s. I had to finagle it a little bit to fit all of my pots and pans, but this was a great investment. When you have little storage space, you learn what works to increase the storage you have to work with.

Nate’s Dad, being the handy woodworker that he is, made shelves that fit the newly shortened island.

We are totally in love with our new kitchen. The extended doorways, shortened island with additional shelving, new pantry, and new floor makes this floor very appealing.

The photos below show the left hand side of the floor as you walk into the house (top left and right photos), and then as you go into the kitchen (bottom two photos).

The photos below show the other side of the floor looking in (left photo) and a view from the kitchen side (right photo).

Before, During, and After:

Happy times in the kitchen!

Bread and Butter Pickles

Not only did I make the best bread and butter pickles known to man, but I also successfully canned for the first time ever!

These pickles are also really pretty when canned. Spoiler alert – I plan to give these out as Christmas gifts. One of the great things about canning is that when properly prepared, the pickles, sauces, fruits, etc. are good for years!

I have to give credit where credit is due. This recipe came from a work colleague’s girlfriend, Ann. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I bought the jars with lids, pickling lime, pickling spice, and canning utensils (funnel, jar holder, etc.) from Walmart.

I think these pickles turned out so well because the cucumbers came fresh from the garden. Five pounds may seem like a lot, but my cucumber plant (and I only have the one!) has been producing like crazy. Seriously. I think I have cucumbers coming out of my ears over here! I used six cucumbers to make 9 jars worth of pickles.

I scrubbed the cucumbers to remove the spines prior to cutting them. After slicing the cucumbers to the shape/size of pickle that I wanted, I placed them into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. To the sliced cucumbers, I added 1/2 cup of pickling lime and coated the cucumber slices by flipping the bag over several times.

Once coated with pickling lime, the cucumbers were placed in a large bowl and covered with cold water. To keep the cucumbers from floating, I placed a lid on top of the cucumbers. This sits overnight. The pickling lime makes the cucumbers crispy to give the pickles a nice crunch.

File_002

 

The next morning, I prepared the jars for canning and made the pickling syrup. To sterilize jars, heat the oven to 225F and place the jars, lids, and screw tops on a cookie sheet (or two if needed). Make sure to spread everything out so that the heat can get around each of the items. Heat the jars, etc. for at least 10 min.

File_001 (3)

Rinse the cucumbers in cold water several times to remove excess pickling lime. During the 10 min heating time, I prepared the pickle syrup. Add 7 cups of granulated sugar to 5 cups of apple cider vinegar in a large pot. Add 1 oz (about half of the spice container) of pickling spice and stir. Heat and add the sliced cucumbers. Cook cucumbers until they turn clear.

File_009

Then, using the funnel scoop cooked cucumbers into each of the sterilized jars. At this point, try not get to too much of the syrup in with the cucumbers. I highly recommend the funnel – this ensures you do not scald yourself with hot cucumbers or hot syrup.

Boil the pickle syrup for 5 min. Remove from heat and add syrup to the jars containing the pickles. I filled the jars to the first line where the top screws. Be careful! The syrup is very hot. I ended up leaving the spices in with the pickles – I think it makes the jars look really pretty. But, you could remove the spices by using a strainer. Just be careful if you do this – the syrup is really hot. I cannot emphasize this enough!

Once filled, use the jar holder to keep the jar still while you place the lid and screw the top onto each jar. While the jars are dropping to room temperature, you will hear the jars popping as they seal. The pops were music to my ears. As long as the lids cannot be pressed down, you have successfully sealed the jars. And, voila! You are finished! Just wait until the jars reach room temperature before trying out the pickles. Delish.

 

Sunflowers – A Summertime Flower

I love sunflowers. They are so bright and cheery and remind me so much of summertime. We had them in the wedding bouquets. Luckily, (or maybe I planned it?) sunflowers are still in season in September, which is when we got married.

Wedding Dress with Bouquet

My mom decided to try her hand at starting miniature sunflowers from seed. The package that she received calls the flowers “Dwarf” and they are expected to get to 1-2 feet in height.

She followed the directions on the back of the package and was expecting the seeds to germinate within 7-10 days. However, the first batch of seeds did not germinate so she ordered another batch. Sure enough, the first set germinated late (~ 21 days) as soon as she got the second batch in the soil to germinate 🙂

Since they had so many seedlings when my Dad came through to visit he dropped off a bunch for me!

File_009

I planted each sprout into a pot or container with new pot soil. For some of them, I planted several together which was probably not the best idea since they need about six inches of space between. The closest ones for me are probably in the 4 inch range.

I then generously watered them and put the pots around the deck and one in the front yard. And then the waiting game started! Every so often I would go check on their growth to see if they were close to blooming. Mom did the same at her house in NJ.

As the name implies, sunflowers grow best in full sun. They are hardy flowers and can do well in most soils as long as it has good drainage. The seed, stem, and leaf emit inhibitory growth substances and should not be planted with other garden plants such as beans or potatoes.

If you’ve ever had a bird feeder and filled it with seeds that include sunflower seeds, the hulls that pile up below will eventually kill the grass underneath due to the toxins in the hulls. The toxin is harmless to animals or people and eventually biodegrades in the soil.

Now that the sunflowers were planted, I anxiously awaited the arrival of the flowers!

Mine started blooming a couple of weeks ago and they are gorgeous! I love that they are small so they do not require any sort of tie to keep them growing upwards.

So beautiful! And here are some photos of Mom’s sunflowers.

The ones in NJ look taller and definitely have bigger flowers, probably because hers are spaced appropriately so the plant is getting plenty of nutrients!

The bag for this particular type of sunflower does not indicate that it will produce sunflower seeds for eating, but maybe they will?! The blooms will be beautiful in any bouquet if I decide to cut them for that purpose.

Happy planting!

Sunflowers 

Sage-Infused Recipes

It has been a long time since my last blog post. For one, I’ve been really busy with house projects and traveling so I haven’t had the time. But, the good news is now that I’m back I have plenty to blog about!

I recently (probably a month or so ago now) replanted our herb gardens that hang on the deck and decided to add sage to my plant list this year. I do not know a whole lot about sage other than you usually use it in pork sausage, but I figured that I would be able to find some recipes online.

There are several types of sage and you can find plenty of information about each online. Some websites that I browsed through are included at the end of the post. The variety that I have is doing incredibly well in the hanging herb garden. So well in fact that it’s taking over!

File_002

When I searched for sage recipes there were several with butternut squash and with pork. I thought to myself, why not try out both?!

I have never cooked with butternut squash before so this was a new experience for me. I found several recipes online and decided on a couple from allrecipes.com. Because the butternut squash takes a while to cook, I started baking the squash and preparing the pork chops in between the baking and squash smashing step.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Preparing and baking the squash ended up being a lot easier than I had originally thought it would.  First, I peeled the skin from the squash and cut it lengthwise. Then, I scooped out the seeds and innards from the inside of the squash. Next, place 1 Tablespoon of butter to each hollowed out portion. Sprinkle both halves with salt and pepper.Place each half cut-side up in a pan and cover with foil. Bake for one hour at 450F.

Once softened (should be easily pierced with a fork), scoop out cooked squash and mash in a bowl.

In a separate small bowl mix together 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon allspice, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese. Add this spice mixture to the mashed squash and mix well.

Now onto the fun part! Preparing the raviolis! To make clean-up easier, I laid out who to  wrappers on a sheet of parchment paper. Side note: wonton wrappers can be found at any grocery store near the produce section where the pre-made salads are stored in the refrigerated area. Brush each side with egg white. I added about a tablespoon worth of the squash mixture to the center of the wrapper. Lay another wrapper on top and fold down to make the ravioli. The egg white helps to keep the wrappers sticking together.

Add prepared raviolis to boiling water and boil for 5-8 min depending upon how many you add at a time. I did two batches and had to cook for closer to 8 min. While the raviolis were boiling, I prepared the butter-sage sauce. I used my handy-dandy spice scissors and cut ~ 1/4 cup worth of fresh sage and added that to 1/4 cup butter and browned for a few minutes.

Once finished, I added the butter-sage sauce and some extra Parmesan cheese to the tops of the raviolis. Yum!

Sage Pork Chops

As I mentioned earlier in the post, I also prepared pork chops with the ravioli. Since the butternut squash takes about an hour to bake, I prepared the pork chops during that time and let it simmer for ~ 45 min in the broth.

First, you rub seasoning onto both sides of the pork chops. Mix together 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon fresh sage in a small bowl. I don’t have dry sage and the fresh sage is much tastier. Rub generously on both sides of the pork chops.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a saucepan (I have a cast iron skillet that I like to use for cooking meat) and brown each side for about 5 min. Once browned, add 1 cup of beef bouillon (I did 1 cup + 2 packs of bouillon for extra flavor) and cover the pan. Simmer for ~45 min. You can see in the photos that I had two thick chops. If you were to have thinner pork chops, you do not need to simmer for as long or else the meat will be really dry.

This part of the meal was really easy to prepare, whereas making the raviolis took more time. Both were absolutely delicious!

File_000

Websites:

Four Types of Sage

Varieties of Sage

Six Types of Sage

Sage Pork Chops Recipe

Butternut Squash Recipe