Some thoughts on motherhood.

12291840_1040558042673995_5846392439479838624_o“How much has your life changed?” is a question I’ve heard many times in the past five months. My husband and I were the first in our circle of friends to become parents. Most of our friends had the common exclamation of “Finally!” though a few had a sheer look of terror thinly masked by congratulations.

How much has my life changed? It has changed tremendously in some ways, but in many ways, not at all. I still spend too much money on Groupon. I still love eating popcorn and drinking sweet wine. I still procrastinate on laundry, paint my nails, buy flowers for my garden, see my friends, and cook dinner. I still blog (er, sometimes). I still go to conferences and have lunch and work my job. I still feel like for the most part that I’m very much Alyssa, the same old Alyssa I was 13 months ago before I made a human.

What has changed? My body. I creak, I jiggle, I sag, I ache. But even the changes in my physical self are minute, tiny and small compared to the most massive change of all, in my heart. I don’t mean there are changes to the vascular system of my body, but I mean symbolically, my heart will never be the same. My heart, my whole heart has changed, because now it is forever living outside of my body, shared with a delightful little girl whose smile is like glitter falling from the sky.

IMG_0844Having a baby is a lot like falling in love. The giddiness, the overwhelming desire to be with that person, to see them first thing in the morning and to miss them when they’re asleep, even if they’re right next to you, their tiny hand curled around yours, the sweetness of their breath gently kissing the same air you breathe. The way their lower lip trembles ever so slightly and then, a heart-bursting coo; the satisfied sigh of sleeping babies everywhere. It’s feeling love even when they’re screaming in fits, loud and abrasive, right in your ear, because who knows why; but you scurry around trying to fix it, to make everything right, because that’s just what you do.

I had a lot of anxiety about becoming a mom, as I think most new parents do. Will you be good enough for this tiny person, enough to make them happy and healthy, to thrive? Will you be mindful enough to accept that sometimes no matter what you do, how much of the world you give them, you can’t guarantee that they’ll be happy or healthy or thriving? But right as she was born and I exclaimed that she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, I knew that the best thing I could do for her was to just be there and be present. To be with them, to soothe their cries, to snuggle just a little bit longer even though you haven’t done laundry in three weeks and your hair is oily and there’s a stack of unpaid bills towering on your desk. Babies don’t last forever, but oh boy, chores sure do.

Beyond the fact that babies are adorable, I think what’s so magical about becoming a parent, whether it’s by biological birth or adoption or what, is that you get to see the world through brand new eyes. We forget a lot of the wonder of life, and really, every day is a miracle. The fact that we come out naked and helpless, unable to stand on two legs, is miraculous considering each and every day, new skills are growing. Every day Holly does something new, and that joy and intrigue behind the very simplest of things, like finding her feet, is too innocent not to adore. How special it is to shake off the dust of adulthood and remember that life is truly an adventure. Special moments are often hiding in the ordinary.

So what is hard about being a mother? Nothing is perfect, after all. There’s no break. Even if you manage to sneak away for a beautiful morning at a ritzy spa, free from iPhones or babies, you’re still a mom. You’re never not a mom, ever again, even if the unthinkable happens and you lose your child. You are a mom and will always be. You will never ever stop worrying or loving or wishing the world and the stars and every single planet for the child that has your heart. You will be tired. You will feel pulled in too many directions, like Gumby with more brittle limbs and a spongy tummy with overgrown roots. However, you’re not just a mom. You’re still you, complex like the solar system, individual and varied, rich in interests and hobbies. However, you need to work to remember that you’re still you and not just a mom. You’re a mom, and you’re your own person, you see?

How has my life changed by being a mom? My life has changed a lot. But it also hasn’t. I’m the same old Alyssa, just better. Happier, richer, renewed, more tired, content, achier, Alyssa.

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You’re Invited to a Cloe and Isabel Party

_Customer_Appreciation_Month_Consumer-1This year, I decided that I wasn’t going to make my usual trite new year’s resolution to lose weight. I had two “resolutions”, and I wanted them to reflect my goal of being easier on myself in my first year of motherhood. So what were they? They were to drink more water, and to wear more jewelry. Water is kind of self explanatory. I mean, duh, we all need to be drinking more water. But wear more jewelry is a bit more abstract, right?

I’ve always appreciated jewelry with fine gemstones and sterling silver, but I always wanted to be one of “those girls” who could accessorize with jewelry and rock a different look with her baubles each day of the week. In college, I started buying cheaper costume jewelry from the Lauren Conrad line at Kohl’s, and some real cheapies from Forever 21. I loved choosing odd and whimsical designs, like the real butterfly wing encased in glass that my husband got me, or the miniature working harmonica pendant. For my first fulltime job, I loved buying nicer pieces from the fine jewelry counter at TJ Maxx, playing with sterling silvers, druzies, and fun antiquey pieces. Jewelry has a real ability to jazz up your outfit and your face, and give you a little pep for your day.

Spring16_Whyc_iSo why make a resolution about it? Well, this busy mama works from home, and one of the luxuries of working from home is you don’t need to dress to impress. More often than not I’m in my comfy leggings and hoodie, or if I’m really frumpin’ it up, in my fuzzy gray robe covered with stars. However, I’ve learned that on the days I take the time to get showered, put on a little makeup, and some jewelry, I feel more like *me*, and feeling more like me means I’m generally more productive overall. That, and it’s not embarrassing to open the door to the FedEx man if I don’t look a hot mess.

My friend Monique sells Cloe and Isabel jewelry, and I’ll be totally honest that initially I dismissed the brand alltogether (sorry Mo!), thinking that the pieces were too big for my taste. I tend to like more delicate items or singular pendants, and CandI rocks the big, bold baubles, statement necklaces, and collars. However, when she posted about a semi annual sale, it sparked my interest and I made the plunge, with two pairs of stud earrings. They come packaged in an adorable pouch with a little paper bird, and I’ve been blown by the quality. The earring backs are super sturdy and made of metal and every piece of jewelry has a lifetime guarantee. Color me impressed. Now: nope, these pieces are not cheap. But, like makeup, wine, and chocolate, you get what you pay for (yeah, yeah, I know we all love a cheap two buck chuck, ELF, and Russel Stover now and then. But let’s be honest… you know all those things are worth the splurge). It’s the same with this jewelry. It’s quality.

I wanted to invite you to my virtual CandI party on Facebook. There’s no pressure to buy, but give the catalog a look, and see if you find something you like. You can also enter to win some free jewelry pieces by participating in our games. I hope you’ll give it a shot! The online party will end March 15. You’ll score free shipping on orders $100 and up, and if you splurge and spend $200, you’ll get $50 back (credit expires April 30). Happy shopping, and keep reading if you want to see my CandI Wish List.

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GeoVista Stud Earrings, $28

Medina Earrings, $26

Mo’orea Convertible Necklace (Wear all 3 or just one!)

Alpenglow Long Necklace, $68 (My girl AJ at ConfessionsOfAFatGirl.net needs this because she rocks a long necklace, and the colors are like our favorite animated movie… Frozen.)

NeoTop Formula Dispenser Review & Giveaway

Happy Monday, everyone!

My adventure with breastfeeding has been disappointing; despite numerous attempts at making more milk, this ol’ bess only makes up to five ounces per day (most women make around 30 ounces plus). This means, without the invention of formula, my cute little kidlet would be starving! (And a friendly PSA while we’re at it: I feel bad enough that I can’t fully breastfeed my child. Please don’t suggest tea, cookies, supplements, etc — I worked very closely with a lactation consultant and doctor, and even tried a prescription, but still wasn’t able to make more milk. I tried literally everything I could, but due to my PCOS, it’s just not in the cards for me.)

Holly uses Gerber Good Start, which has “comfort proteins”, some nice marketing jargon for smaller milk proteins and probiotics that make her less gassy. We tried several different formulas and ultimately ended up on Gerber, as research shows it helps decrease the chances of environmental allergies in babies who are predisposed thanks to an itchy mom or dad (sorry Holly, you got that one from me.) Other than my own guilt about not breastfeeding (which is fading because life goes on), I have no problem using formula. I think it’s a shame in general that so many moms are guilted about their choice in how to feed their babies. While breast is best, sometimes, things just don’t work out the way you have planned, and in that case, you do what you can when you can.

Formula is pretty simple now a days, you can buy the powdered kind, or even ready made liquid formula. We stick to powder here to control our serving sizes and temperature we make it at and all that. Most cans of formula come with a little scoop, and while it’s simple enough to measure out, it gets messy. Even worse, if your hand is a little bit wet and you make a bottle, the formula gets all over your hand and makes this weird clumpy film of milk powder, and it’s gross. Kind of like cheeto powder but with stinky milk instead. The kind people at NeoTop reached out to me and offered me a complementary Formula Dispenser in exchange for my review, and the best part is, one of you will get to try it, too!

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The NeoTop was developed by a neonatologist, and is designed to help prevent any germs or bacteria from entering your children’s formula. If you think about it, when you use the formula scoop, if you haven’t washed your hands, you basically are transferring a bunch of stuff into the container of your kid’s food. I’m all about having enough good bacteria and germs, but it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra safeguard, and that’s where the NeoTop comes in. This thing holds up to a whole canister of food, and basically, you tilt it upside down, twist the top, and voila, a perfectly portioned 2 ounce serving is in the top. Just open the lid and dump it in the bottle, and you’re in business.

I used this on the counter top over the weekend, but where I really liked it was when I threw it in my diaper bag and used it out in public. It was much easier than fussing with the other formula dispenser I have that I have to carefully try and funnel into the bottle top. Even moms who just supplement with formula should try one of these, as it’d be a great way to store formula long term for no risk of germs.

NeoTop can brag about these awesome features…

  • Dishwasher safe and BPA Free
  • 80% more effective at preventing germs than other formula storage dispensers
  • Designed and manufactured in the USA
  • Easy to use
  • $24.95 at NeoTop.com, with 10% off and free shipping with code 10OFF
  • $19.95 with free shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime member

So what do you think? Let’s give you a chance to try it out now! Please leave a comment for EACH action you take as each comment will count as one entry. You must at least do #1 to be entered in this giveaway, but if you did all 5, you’d have 5 chances to win! I will check that you did the action if you’re a winner, so no cheating, please! I’ll draw a winner on Monday, March 14. US only, 18+. Good luck!

  1. Leave a comment telling me what your kiddo’s name is who would benefit from using the NeoTop
  2. “Like” NeoTop on Facebook
  3. Follow NeoTop on Twitter
  4. Tweet a message including a link to this giveaway
  5. “Like” LaLaLyssa on Facebook

 

 

 

 

Avon Big & False Lash Volume Mascara Review

Hello there!

First and foremost let’s address the soft-skinned elephant in the room (soft because it uses Skin So Soft, obviously): I now sell Avon. I’m not really into MLM direct marketing sales type things, but I’ve been a long time user of Avon, and decided I buy enough that it’s time for a discount. I also figured, why not see if I can pull in some extra cash to buy Holly more clothes she doesn’t need? Exactly. So that’s the elephant in the room – I now sell Avon! I can send you a free catalog anywhere in the U.S., or you can shop online 24/7 at YourAvon.com/Alyssa.

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Part of me selling stuff or reviewing it is telling you when it rocks, and when it sucks. I tried two Avon mascaras this month, and one was a total winner while the one was a flop. Let’s start with the winner, Avon Big & False Lash Volume, because winning is awesome. I’ve historically had pretty good luck with Avon Mascara, especially their cult-status Wash-off Waterproof. I’m a tough sell on mascara, because I have very sensitive eyes due to allergies, and I wear contact lenses. This means that I need a mascara that doesn’t smear, flake, or run.

I have what I call Swedish Ghost eyelashes, meaning they’re very delicate and blonde. I used to do eyelash extensions but now that I’m a mom, well…

Here are three pictures of me in various stages of eyelashing:

I was really impressed that this mascara didn’t clump, had a great thickness in just two coats, and didn’t smear all day. I’m hard on my eyes because I use an RX allergy eye drop twice a day, and despite my attempts, I end up scratching my eyes a lot. (Flowers suck this time of year.) When it came time to remove, I mostly got it off in the shower with no cleanser, and got leftover residue off with a typical remover. This mascara gets two thumbs up.

Now which mascara is a dud? This one. Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 10.30.52 PM

There’s so much about it that I wanted to like: the weird, flexible brush with an arching handle. The fact that it has an overall four star rating. But in general, this mascara didn’t go on without clumping, was flaky, and did nothing substantial for my lashes. Thumbs down, for sure.

If you want to give the Big and False Lash Mascara a try, it’s currently $9.00, and then you can pick any other mascara for .99. I’d go for Big and False and the classic Water-proof Washable.

What other Avon products would you like to see me review? I have some old favorites (Bubble bath, eyeliners, and lip balm), but I’d be happy to purchase something to review here in the name of science. Or blogging. Whatever. 😉

Have a good day!

 

 

February Pop Sugar Must Have Box Review

I’ve been a fan of subscription boxes since they came out. I love getting mail and when I started to get more bills than fun mail, I decided to try out subscription boxes. I started with BirchBox, which sends beauty samples, and then moved on to Julep when I rediscovered my high school love of nail polish. I stayed with Julep ($20 monthly) for two years, and then moved on to Ipsy ($10 monthly), though ultimately I left Ipsy rather quickly because I wasn’t thrilled with the samples I’d been getting. I had coveted the PopSugar MustHave Box from afar, but felt that $40 was too much a month per subscription box. I mean, that’s my whole gym budget! When I scored a generous Visa giftcard for Christmas, I decided instead of buying diapers or groceries that I would actually treat myself.

Lo and behold, a three month PopSugar must have subscription was mine. I started in December and have received my last subscription for February, but I will renew because it is AWESOME. Let’s take a look at what I got for February, shall we?

Here's the box all pristine and lovely.

Here’s the box all pristine and lovely.

Coconut Body Lotion, Athletic Socks, and $20 Giftcard = $43 value

Coconut Body Lotion, Athletic Socks, and $20 Giftcard = $43 value

FoodStirs Sugar Cookie Mix with Sprinkles and Cookie Cutter: $12 value

FoodStirs Sugar Cookie Mix with Sprinkles and Cookie Cutter: $12 value

$29 Sparkly Pave Endless Arrow Heart Ring

$29 Sparkly Pave Endless Arrow Heart Ring

CleanseBalm

Beauty Counter Cleansing Balm with Cloth and Spatula, $50

Tray

Hello Beautiful Trinket Tray, $14

Tilo 100% Modal Scarf, $125

Tilo 100% Modal Scarf, $125

So if you were counting, the value of this box is $273. Whaaaaaat?! Awesome. I love everything that came in this month’s box except for the coconut body lotion, but that’s just a personal preference because I’m not much of a lotion girl. My favorite thing is the scarf because it’s so soft and the print is adorable year ’round. The trinket tray is also handy, and who’s not going to like a glitzy ring?

I think what I like about this box is that it sums up the experience of going treasure hunting at my favorite store, TJ Maxx. It’s packed with things you don’t really *need*, but the kinds of things that make you smile and swoon just a little bit. While I don’t know if I can justify staying a member of this box forever when I have things like diapers to buy, I plan to stay on a bit longer. I’ve so far loved all three boxes I have received, and the occasional item that I don’t love, I pass on to a friend who will. Win win.

Want to know more? Look at the boxes I received in December and January, thanks to the people at My Subscription Addiction. If you decide you want to subscribe, use my referral link, because I’ll earn points and you’ll earn good karma. Happy Tuesday! <3

My personal experience with mental illness: when panic attacks

Mental illness. Two simple words so loaded with meaning. “She’s mental,” we said in high school, to describe someone who’s crazy. And illness, of course, meaning a sickness that takes over the body. When I think of mental illness, I think of the white jacketed men with butterfly nets and strait-jackets, of overblown images of someone in the throes of unmanaged schizophrenia. In reality, mental illness has a much more normal looking presence in many people’s lives, including my own.  In the past few years, mental illness has been showing up more and more in the media. When Robin Williams took his life, the nightmare of depression made headlines, having successfully stolen America’s favorite funny man. Now, his wife claims it wasn’t depression that took Robin Williams, but Parkinson’s. No matter the reason Robin Williams took his life, his death, for a moment, caused a glimmer of hope in a hurricane of sadness. In his passing, Robin held up a candle for everybody suffering with mental illness.

I have a personal history with mental illness, and though it’s big and scary to write something like this on the Internet, I’m quite open about it in person, so it’s time to share my story here. I have an anxiety disorder. Nowadays, people jokingly say they had a panic attack, meaning they got really worried when their boss called them into a meeting, or they lost their keys. Their fleeting few moments of stress is what pop-culture calls a panic attack, when in reality, a panic attack is a terrifying misfiring of the neurons and stress hormones in your brain. Have you ever had a real panic attack? If you have, I’m quite certain you don’t use that term for a mildly stressful situation. I was always a worried teen, fretting about getting in trouble or crashing the car. I had to be forced to learn how to drive because I had no interest in operating a giant machine capable of death, thank you very much. I felt stressed out a lot in high school but figured it was just my own pressure on myself to get good grades and be a “good kid”. Add a heaping dose of perfectionism and adolescent angst and you’ve got a recipe for panic.

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When I moved to Southern California for college, I rode my bike to class one day. I made it to class a few minutes late and rushed to the back of the room where there was only one seat left. I ran into the seat, embarrassed I was late, and sat down. Suddenly, I started to feel warm and dizzy, and began to lose my breath. The room started to spin and I felt like I was going to pass out. Every time I took a breath, I felt like a fish out of water gasping for air. I had an overwhelming urge to get out of the room, so I quickly fled. I sat in the bathroom for 15 minutes, sure that I was dying, embarrassed for having made a big show. I eventually pulled myself together and went back into class, where I apologized to the teacher afterwards, saying I thought I was going to throw up. I honestly thought I had maybe overheated on my bike ride or that my allergies were just acting up. It wasn’t until a few years later with repeated episodes like this that I finally read about symptoms of a panic attack and went “That’s ME! That’s what’s happening to me!”.  How did I know it was panic? Because every single attack was hallmarked by the uncontrollable urge to escape the situation I was in; a classic “fight or flight” reaction.

 

In 2013, I realized I was sick of my panic attacks interfering with my life. They’d hit me fast and hard, sometimes out of nowhere. I’d be in a meeting at work and have the familiar “can’t breathe” sensation, so I’d chug water or furiously scribble notes, trying to distract myself from thinking I’d soon pass out. I even had a panic attack one time while I was getting a massage. It was at this point that I decided I needed help. I went to a therapist, and found that I was indeed suffering from panic attacks, mixed in with a nice dose of generalized anxiety, which is categorized as irrational fear or worry about everyday situations. I worry about big, traumatic things like people I love dying, and less about stuff like “Does this person like me?”, but sometimes, I can’t get my brain to stop swirling with overwhelming scenarios.  Flash forward three years, and while I still get the occasional panic attack, I know how to manage them, and because of this, they show up less frequently. I have treated myself both with medication and without, have read countless books, and have all kinds of strategies for soothing an oncoming attack or a barrage of yucky “What if?” questions.

For years, I hid this diagnosis from my family and friends, ashamed that I couldn’t just pull myself together or get over it, convinced I was weak and crazy. Well-meaning but uneducated people would tell me to just “relax”, as if smelling a sprig of Lavender would magically unbundle the tense knots of adrenaline in my brain . Guess what? If you have anxiety, and I mean REAL ANXIETY, essential oils are not going to snap you out of it. Just like they can’t cure cancer.

Why am I talking about this today? Because a three-star Michelin chef took his life. Because at my post-partum checkup last month, my OB never thought to ask how I was feeling, even though I’m high risk for postpartum depression or anxiety because I have a preexisting mental health condition. (I feel great, thankfully, but I’m angry that I wasn’t even asked, when science has now proven that PPD is strongly linked to dramatic hormonal shifts.) Because three of my closest female friends struggle with depression and are ashamed to seek help because they’re embarrassed. Because I just read that two high school girls in Plano, Texas killed themselves an hour apart, each of them secretly struggling with depression and anxiety. People who knew them quoted that they didn’t “seem depressed” at all. A few times when I have confided in people about my panic disorder, they tell me I seem “so calm”. I’m fortunate that I’m able to manage my disorder enough to live a normal life, but we never know what somebody is going through until we walk a mile in their shoes. We all know somebody who took their life because they couldn’t or didn’t seek help. It’s time to change that.

I’m sharing this because when I was first diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone else who had panic attacks. The more I opened up, the more I found how many people experienced the same things I did. In addition, it was bloggers who made me feel less ashamed about getting treatment. In the spirit of passing it on, if sharing my story encourages just one person to get help for something they’re struggling with, then it’s worth it.

We need to talk about mental health the way we talk about physical health. I am not broken. My body is not broken. It’s just different, a little overcharged, and that’s okay. The important thing is that I keep trying, that I continually work on my mental health the way we work on our physical health by going to the gym or eating well. I go to therapy twice a month, even if I feel great, because I know that my brain is just like any other muscle in my body, and it too needs to be worked. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and even though it feels like I’m screaming to the world that I’m “screwed up”, what I’m really doing is joining the ranks of millions of men and women who suffer silently with an anxiety disorder, depression, or some other mental illness that affects them in many, many ways.

Please, please, please — if you are struggling with your mental health, get help. It’s hard to admit to yourself that you need some support, but it’s worth it. You are not broken. You are not crazy. You are worth the time and effort to feel better, and one day, you will.

Alyssa’s Top 5 New Mom Baby Registry Must Haves – Part 2

NewMomMustHaves

Hi everyone! I got some good feedback on Part 1 of this post, so I wanted to continue on with some valuable things that have gotten us through month two. Pass this on to your pregger friends, or keep it in mind for when you’re combing through somebody’s baby registry. Some of it isn’t cute but it is necessary!

  1. Rock N’ Play

Magical, this is. Magical! It’s like a baby sized hammock with a soft pillow and it vibrates. You can rock it with your foot, or if you’re industrious and want to shower, you can pull it into the bathroom. Holly naps like gangbusters in this thing, and it’s lightweight enough that you can move it around the house easily. It’s also been our travel item of choice, because once you arrive at your destination, it’s a great mini crib for the kiddo. I’ll definitely be buying this for friends that register for it!

2. Mustela Shampoo

Holly was blessed with my sensitive skin, (note my sarcasm) so we’ve been through many baby washes trying to find out that doesn’t dry out her velvety epidermis. We received a sample of this in our hospital goodie bag, and while it’s pricey ($16 for a big bottle), it’s worth it. It has a strong scent that I personally like, but one Amazon reviewer said it smells like a “grandmother’s perfume”. This shampoo and skin care line is made for babies prone to excezema, with dry skin, or cradle cap. Works great for us!

3. Chicco KeyFit 30

When I was registering, I was panicked about what kind of car seat to get. All of the reviews I read just made my decision more confusing, so I turned to my mommy friend Lindsay, who suggested the Chicco KeyFit 30. This thing is incredibly easy to install and literally clicks in with two loud snaps. It’s secure, snug, and comes in cute prints. It’s also the number one rated car seat in America, and it earned even more points after a friend and I met for a mommy date and she wanted to re-install the base. We were able to figure out via just the diagram on the seat. Easy to assemble and protects your most precious cargo? Boom. Sold.

4) Burt’s Bees Bibs

We have lots and lots of bibs, because we have a baby who spills lots and lots of milk out of her mouth when she takes a bottle. These bibs are easy to put over the baby’s head, made of super snuggly, absorbent cotton, and have a terry backing. I always reach for these when I’m looking for a bib. Hint: I found a pack at TJ Maxx for $7.99, so you can find them reduced in discount stores.

5) Little Remedies Gripe Water

This isn’t cute, but heavens to bitsy is it useful. You know how sometimes you’re just in a bad mood? And you’re a big fat grump? Well, babies get like that too. Gripe water is like a holistic feel better serum, made with ginger and fennel, that soothes colic, crying, and hiccups. Whenever Holly gets the grumpalumpies, we give her a dose of Gripe Water, and usually, whatever ails her is soothed a few minutes later. Miracle stuff!

That’s all have this time around. What am I missing? Share your new baby or parent must haves!

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Holly’s Birth Story

Hi y’all! I wrote this a week after I gave birth and while it’s deeply personal, I’ve shared it with close friends. They have encouraged me to blog it and after some deliberation I decided I wanted to share it here with you. As a warning, if descriptions of pain, female bodily functions, or the F word offend you, move along, pardner. Enjoy!

On Sunday, November 8, I was in a rotten mood. People kept calling me and texting me and Facebook messaging me to check in, and while I know intentions are always good, when you’re 39+3 days pregnant, you just want to be like “LEAVE ME ALONE, NO, THE BABY IS NOT HERE YET, YOU WILL KNOW WHEN SHE IS.” Also not helpful? People’s “advice” on how to get the baby to come. Guess what? She’ll arrive when she wants to. I slept in until 11 am that day, and then after I had breakfast, I was so exhausted I napped from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Matt and I putzed around the house, and then because I was feeling stir-crazy, I asked if he’d take me to Nordstrom Rack because there was an additional 25% off clearance sale and we had gift cards from Christmas last year. We went to Nordstrom Rack where I bought some random stuff I didn’t really need; a headband, some hair ties, and some new Haviana flip flops. We got home and I was feeling crummy so I headed to bed around 10:30 p.m.  I woke up at 12 a.m. and felt worse, so I wondered if I was hungry and ate three pineapple spears. Pineapple induces labor, you know! I guess in my case I can say it worked.

I was up more than usual to pee that night because the pressure on my bladder was insane. I think I woke up like four times to pee, and I felt restless, unable to sleep well because I was antsy. Little did I know my time was quickly approaching! At 6:00 a.m. I was awakened by strong cramping. I lazily stayed in bed another 15 minutes until I had another painful cramp. I decided to get up to use the bathroom and once I sat up I immediately felt a gush, then another one, then another one. I cautiously debated – was this pee or did my water break? Pregnant women don’t always have the best bladder control. I shifted in bed a bit and decided this was not pee, and softly said to my sleeping husband, “Guess what Matthew? We’re having a baby.”

I headed into the bathroom where I confirmed it was definitely not pee, and then I got into the shower. I shaved my legs (and noted that one of my legs was shaking uncontrollably), took a nice time exfoliating my face, and let the hot water massage my back. When I got out of the shower I decided on wearing my hair in pigtail braids, and I remember asking Matt if I had time to remove my nail polish (I wasn’t happy with the manicure I had given myself a few days earlier. Ha!). He said probably not and I went to get dressed. I had my “last meal” of Special K Red Berries (my fav cereal!)and a protein drink (you can’t eat during labor just in case you need an emergency C-Section). About an hour after my water started to break, we got into the car and headed to the hospital. We had a garbage bag and old towel set down in the seat. Matt dropped me off in front and I stood and waited at the check in desk, feeling remarkably calm and excited. Even the volunteers were like “You’re so calm!”  Matt brought in the suitcases and we headed up to Labor and Delivery.

I got into my ugly green gown and got into bed. The nurse, Michelle, was a lovely woman from Pittsburgh. They took my blood pressures and no big surprise, they were running high (148/90). Because I was Group B Strep Positive, I knew I would need two four hour sets of antibiotics intravenously before delivery, so my IV was set up and the fluids started going. I don’t really mind needles, so getting the IV placed was honestly no big deal. The worst part was having to shepherd the damn IV stand to the bathroom each time I needed to pee. I asked the nurse when I’d get checked for progress, and she said because my water had broken, they try and refrain from checking because bacteria can be introduced to the womb. My doctor instructed that they start me on Pitocin to help me dilate.  Matt made the calls to the family to let them know to be on their way because hook or by crook, Holly was coming!

The first four hours of Pitocin were a breeze. I was having contractions about 10 minutes apart, and while they weren’t comfortable, I could breathe through them. Michelle told me that I’d know when true labor begun because the contractions would become much more uncomfortable. All of a sudden my contractions felt like they went from bearable to “Holy fuck what the fuck is that pain in my body?!”, and I was asking Matt to squeeze my hand to help me count through them.  I remember our nurse coming in, seeing Matt and I together and saying, “Oh yes, labor has begun.” I swigged one more small cranberry juice (Matt was leery but consented to me doing it), and I asked if he’d let me cheat and eat something (he said no). At this point I asked for the epidural and they turned off the Pitocin until it was placed. My birth plan all along had basically been one word: drugs. I’m an advocate of better living through chemistry, and while I respect those who choose to have an un-medicated birth, that was not my desire at all. The anesthesiologist came in about 20 minutes later and I remember them asking Matt to come sit in front of me, because several husbands had recently passed out from seeing the needle placed in the spine. I sat on the edge of the bed, had numbing agent put in my spine, felt gentle pressure and fiddling, and that was it. I think I was so relieved the Pitocin was turned off that a snake could have sunk its fangs into my cheek and I would have been like, “Ok, cool, that doesn’t hurt.”

The epidural took about 15 minutes to kick in, and while initially I had some anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs, I was quite delighted when a warm, toasty sensation spread through my lower body. I could still very much wiggle my toes and feet. They placed a catheter in me, which again, was not enjoyable, but fine, and then they turned the Pitocin back on and left the room so Matt and I could relax. We dimmed the lights and turned on the Smoke Fairies, some very calming folk music. I remember saying several times that an epidural was a joyous thing.  I honestly had the relaxed sensation of sitting by a fireplace loving the cozy feelings in my lower body. I tried to sleep but couldn’t with all of the hospital noises, so I just vegged out in my bed, chatting with Matt and the nurses. I had no desire at all to be on my cell phone or social media and was quite enjoying my little cocoon of solitude.

Cozy and toasty and drugged up in the hospital bed.

Cozy and toasty and drugged up in the hospital bed.

At about 3:00 p.m. they checked my progress (I was shocked how fast the day was going), and my cervix had dilated to a 5.  They pumped up the Pitocin, and I remember pressing my “quick hit” of pain relief on the epidural a few more times as the contractions grew closer and closer together. The weird thing about contractions on the epidural is at this point they were more pressure than pain. I had some nausea, so I was given Zofran, which is an anti-emetic that they give to chemotherapy patients.

Around 7:00 p.m., my parents arrived. I remember asking them to get me a baked potato when they came back later in the night to meet Holly, because at this point after 14 hours of labor with no food or drink, I was damn hungry, and some carbs with butter sounded AMAZING! The good doctor came in, juiced up my epidural again, and five minutes later; I felt intense nausea and threw up three times all over myself and my hospital gown. I remember feeling instant relief and then thinking, wow, this must be some bad nausea since I’m on prescription anti-nausea med and still upchucked! Now I remember that nausea means labor is very close, since that’s the transitional phase of labor. My parents decided to head out at this point and they went back to our house, where my Dad apparently slept on our couch and my mom anxiously tried to watch TV.

At 8:00 I was fully dilated and it was time to push! I got lucky because my night nurse was Jami, an awesome chick I had met at one of my non-stress tests and really liked. Jami showed me how to count through the contractions – one deep breath in, then hold it for a count of 10, and do that three times.  I remember at that point I was feeling really tired and hungry, and pissed that I had to essentially do the most physical thing I’d ever done with no fuel in my body (even harder than walking 60 miles in one weekend!). I begged Matt to sneak me some sips of his Coke in-between pushing and the nurse leaving the room, and he did, bless his heart.  After about an hour of pushing, I was in a lot of pain again, and they asked the anesthesiologist to come back and juice up my epidural again. I had started to feel a sharp sensation in my left butt cheek and lower leg, so I was paranoid it was wearing off – which apparently cannot happen, just labor pain becomes more severe so you need a higher dose of drugs.

I pushed for another hour and at this point the fatigue was really starting to wear me down. According to Matt, I was very calm through out my labor, and only let out a good “Fuck!” once. I remember feeling very lazy and wanting to cut down the number of pushes per contraction to two instead of three, and almost proposed it to the nurse, but I knew that might delay my progress. The nurse brought over a mirror so I could see Holly’s head, and that was really cool to know she was right there!

After two hours of pushing, the doctor was called in, and they started bringing in a table with tools on it. I knew I had to be getting close. At this point it was 11 p.m., and I was starting to get really grumpy and irritated that my 6:00 a.m. start of labor was still not over. The contractions were about every minute now, and while the Doctor chatted with the nurse about Dancing with the Stars, I kept breathing through the contractions and pushing. I remember feeling slightly annoyed that, HELLO, I WAS TRYING TO HAVE A BABY, and you’re talking about normal life stuff?! Of course now this just goes to show how delivering a baby is just another day’s work for doctors, because they’re chillin’ while women are squeezing watermelons out of lemons in their faces. It was around two hours and 30 minutes of pushing that I told the doctor I wanted a C-Section because I couldn’t do it anymore. Her response? “You’re the only one who can do it, because I can’t push the baby back up inside of you!” I accepted this fate and wearily continued pushing.

I knew at this point that it was do or die (no, not literally) and I needed to muster up every ounce of strength I had in my exhausted body to get this baby out. My forehead was covered in sweat, and I could feel my legs trembling with each push. I would bear down and the last three seconds of a push, I tried to imagine my legs pushing the stirrups off the bed as hard as I could. I was groaning pretty heavily at this point and had reached an ultimate focus and concentration. Finally, I felt the baby’s head push through me, lower, and as the doctor, Jami and Matt cheered me on and encouraged me, I heard the doctor say excitedly “That’s it! That’s it! That’s it! KEEP GOING!”

I pushed with all my might, quite sure that I would push off the lower half of my body, and in one beautiful, miraculous instant, I felt Holly slide out. “Look down!”, the doctor excitedly shouted, and then I saw my wrinkled, cheesy, tiny baby being held up towards me – a miracle of an infant that listened to my heart beat for nine long months.

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They pulled my gown down, placed her on my chest, and I burst into tears, exclaiming that she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. People had told me there would be no feeling like seeing and meeting your baby for the first time, and they were right. Even though I had never seen her, I felt like I knew her. Holly suckled at my breast for a few moments and then as the nurse listened to her heart, they whisked her away to the warmer. The pediatrician and NICU staff on call rushed in, and all of a sudden, she had an oxygen mask on, and a tube placed down her lungs to clear her throat. I was being stitched internally and suddenly I had no interest in anything going on with me – I only wanted to make sure my baby was ok. After about ten agonizing minutes, Holly’s heartbeat stabilized and she was breathing normally, back to her rosy pink color. The doctors think the long labor, epidural, and three hours of pushing shell-shocked her in the womb, and when she came out to bright lights and noises, she essentially passed out.

I had also requested to see my placenta, and as expected, I was horrified at how big and nasty it was, but also impressed that my body grew that thing that grew my baby. (We have a picture of it for the curious souls. I left it out of here as a courtesy. You’re welcome.)

After all this, Matt and I got to spend a blissful hour with our new baby, holding her, loving her, and being amazed that two people created such an innocent, miraculous, beautiful little being. Happy birthday, Holly!

 

Alyssa’s 5 New Mom Must Haves For First Weeks With Baby

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Photo by LynnetteJoyPhotography.com

Having a baby is super fun, because not only are you obviously excited about the joy of having your little one earthside, you get to stroll the aisles of stores with impossibly itty bitty versions of human clothes, like little socks that make you turn into a giggling, cooing, baby-like version of yourself. We were incredibly blessed to have several baby showers, and we received TONS of stuff that has made our arrival into parenthood just a bit easier. However! As massive life changes are, you can never be 100% prepared, and we found our Amazon account burgeoning with frantic middle of the night purchases (thank you, same day shipping.) As I have several friends due to deliver in the next few months, I wanted to share some things that got us through the first few weeks and are still going strong after month one. This could be helpful as well if you’re picking out baby shower gifts, etc. In full disclosure these are affiliate links, so if you happen to click or buy something, I’ll make a few pennies and go buy myself a Porsche. Or not. 😉

  1.  The Breast Friend Nursing Pillow

Breastfeeding has been tough. I naively didn’t do much research on the subject, assuming once baby arrived she’d open her mouth and milk would flow freely. Not so much, especially when you have a few hormonal disorders that make milk production challenging. This pillow was recommended to me by my friend who’s also a new mom, and it is WORTH EVERY PENNY. It clips around your waist, essentially providing a table top for baby to rest on that’s perfectly aligned with your chestal region. We even use it when bottle-feeding, and Dad likes to use it too. It comes in all kinds of cute colors and designs and has a machine washable cover because babies and boobies are messy.

2. Motherlove More Milk Special Blend

As I mentioned, my PCOS and thyroid conditions mean the dairy fairy isn’t visiting as often as I would like. I am meeting regularly with a lactation consultant, and she started me on this herbal blend to help make more milk. It works! It tastes yucky, so dilute it with a shot glass of cranberry juice (fun to shoot in front of unsuspecting visitors who look on horrified, wondering if new motherhood really IS going as well as you say), or you can order the pill version. There’s all kinds of things you can try to help you make more milk like Mother’s Milk Tea or Lactation Cookies, but this stuff does a pretty good job and is quick n’ easy.

3. Aden and Anais Muslin Swaddle Blankets

Before I was initiated into the cult of motherhood, I scoffed at the price tag on these. Sure, I thought, they’re soft and trendy and have cute prints, but what’s the big deal? Well, here’s the big deal. They honestly get softer with every wash, and once you’ve mastered the art of the swaddle, you’ll learn that it’s an ancient magical technique that turns your wriggling, screaming baby into a marshmallow of soft contentedness. We have eight of these and they’re in constant rotation of use in our house, as the material stretches enough to not squeeze baby like a boa constrictor, but it keeps them wrapped up like cooing little mummies. LOVE them – 1,400 awesome Amazon reviews don’t lie.

4) Bath Sponge

We had several bathing contraptions for the bambina, ranging from a fancy sling with multiple upright positions to a miniature bath tub, to a spongy ring with a built in pillow and straps. Well, every single one of those has been ixnayed in favor of a plain old sponge, baby sized. For a mere $7, you can stick this thing in the sink or bring it into the bath tub with you and baby. It’s just cushy enough to hold up their little bums, but light enough for you to float them gently down the river of your bathtub in your hands like a raft.  You can get these at any baby store (ours is actually whale shaped and was $6 from Buy Buy Baby). I’m sure we’ll use the fancy bathing contraptions when she’s bigger, but for now, the sponge is the way to go.

5) Gowns

I have learned in the short month I’ve been a parent that onesies with snaps are the devil when it’s 3:00 a.m. and you’re trying to dress a screaming baby. It’s all about zippers down one leg, or even better, the baby gown. We had two of these on hand and in the first week of Holly’s life, ordered four more. These are super easy to put baby in, and to just pull up to change diapers. They also have the rollover cuff so if you have a baby scissorhands, they can’t scratch their darling little face (we have a baby scissorhands.) Worth it. Get a few! Also, who doesn’t look darling in a miniature night gown?

So that’s that! Honorable mentions go to Gas Drops and Gripe Water for fussiness, the Munchkin Latch bottle (doesn’t leak nearly as much as others and helps our girl switch easily between bottle and breast),  connecting rings for baby hands to grasp, the Baby Bjorn WE Carrier (she’s in it and nuzzled against me as I type!), and the Simple Wishes L-Plus Hands Free Pumping Bra.

Looking for other recommendations and insight? These two bloggers helped me out a lot on my pregnancy journey: KJPugs and What I Run Into. Every baby and parent is different, but I hope this helps some of you out as my fellow bloggers helped me!

Till next time — got any must haves to share with me? Let me know in the comments!

 

She’s here! A bundle of joy

Hello everyone!

I am back and overjoyed to announce the arrival of our daughter Holly on 11/9/15 at 11:45 p.m. Holly weighed 7 pounds, 5 ounces and was 19.5 inches tall. It was a long 17-hour labor but there were no complications and both Holly, me, and her daddy are happy and healthy!

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I plan to take it easy on the blogging front for my maternity leave through January but I may pop in here and there with some random ideas (for instance, some of my friends have requested a top 5 things you need in the first few weeks with baby. That sounds fun!).

I hope you all have a holly jolly holiday season <3