All that being said, with the delivery of baby number three looming closer and closer in the future, I decided to compile a list of things that I'm choosing to do differently this time around, things that have helped me a lot in the past and I want to continue with our newest addition, and things that I thought would never work but really surprised me. Starting with...
1. Birthing at a hospital.
If you've read my previous posts on natural childbirth, and Tony and Alessandra's birth stories, you'll know that I'm very passionate about natural childbirth (or, as my fellow crunchy moms say, I'm a natural childbirth junkie). I had Alessandra at a free-standing birth center run by midwives, a water/caul birth, etc, and it was an absolutely amazing experience with what I consider to be the easiest recovery on the planet. When we moved to Colorado, I initially considered a homebirth. There is a plethora of homebirth midwives in the area, I've been blessed with low-risk pregnancies, I had a FAST delivery with Alessandra, we have a large bathtub in our master bedroom so I could certainly have another water birth if I wanted, etc. However, while I am still firmly in "camp midwife" and have been seeing two CNMs for prenatal care (and I freaking love both of them...these women are amazing!), I decided against a homebirth this time around.
First and foremost, we're too far away from a hospital for my own personal comfort. Evans Hospital at Fort Carson is quite close to us, but they don't accept homebirth transfers. The next semi-decent hospital is a good 25-minute drive away. A lot can happen in 25 minutes, and while I don't anticipate any problems during my labor and delivery, that's simply not a risk I'm willing to take.
Two, my back issues have steadily grown worse during this pregnancy (and believe me, I'm dreading the first appointment I'll have with my neurosurgeon after I give birth. It ain't gonna be pretty), and if something were to go wrong during labor and delivery that WASN'T related to pregnancy, I want to know that I'm in a facility that has healthcare providers who can immediately come to my assistance.
So! All that being said, I've written up my birth plan (if anyone wants to see a sample, leave me a comment and I'll post it), washed the infant car seat and set it aside to assemble in Will's car, and sloooooowly began the process of packing my hospital bag. Here's what I have thus far:
(The beagle will not be joining us at the hospital).
From left to right: Labor socks and Pretty Pushers L&D gown (I hate hospital gowns with the fire of a thousand suns), cheap Target underwear and fuzzy socks, and a bag of toiletries. For baby: wet bag with a couple of prefolds, a cover and a snappi, pink and blue going home outfits (oh, my heart!!), and one of my favorite swaddling blankets. Not pictured: Going home outfit for me, tankini/sports bra top for when I will most certainly want to get in the tub, change of clothes for Will, hairbrush, comb, makeup, etc. Plus snacks and drinks for labor, iPod with speakers (for those who are curious, I prefer to listen to Gregorian chant during labor), rosary, Ipad, phone, and chargers. Those are pretty much in the "throw 'em in the bag as we're running out the door to the hospital" category. Another necessity that will be joining us in the delivery room:
Moving on to Other Things That Worked Amazingly Well for Our Family...
I didn't really do a whole lot of babywearing with Tony. One, he loved his stroller and was perfectly content to walk around in it for long periods of time, so I really had the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. I did purchase a Baby Bjorn from a consignment store when I was pregnant, and the few times I wore Tony in it, he and I were both miserable. He seemed horribly uncomfortable, and would only tolerate it for ten minutes or less. That stupid thing absolutely killed my back, and for the life of me, I couldn't understand how other parents could wear their baby in it for long periods of time. First chance I got, I sold it back to another consignment store. Good riddance. If THAT was babywearing, I wanted nothing to do with it.
As I fortunately discovered, the so-called "crotch danglers" were definitely not the only form (and certainly not the preferred form) of babywearing. During my pregnancy with Alessandra, I was introduced to a local babywearing group, and I was stunned-and admittedly, overwhelmed-by all the different wraps and carriers out there. The Moby! The Ergo! The ring sling! The Mei Tei! The stretchy and woven wraps! What's more, all these babies really seemed to enjoy being worn in these colorful, occasionally unpronounceable contraptions. I decided to start out slowly, and I purchased the Moby wrap and the Ergo carrier. All I can say is...wow. Thank goodness I did. Alessandra was NOT a baby who enjoyed, or even tolerated the stroller. She wanted to be held and nursed at all times, and I can truly say that babywearing saved my life (and my achin' back). I also began to quickly discover that babies like certain wraps or carriers at different stages. When Alessandra was a newborn and an infant, she adored the Moby. I could wear her for hours in it, and after nursing, she would fall asleep on my chest. The weight was evenly distributed, and it never hurt my back. When she began to get a little older and a little heavier, she preferred something a little more supportive than a stretchy wrap. For whatever reason, she didn't really enjoy being in the Ergo around the house, but whenever we were outside, she was perfectly content to fall asleep against my chest in the buckle carrier. A college friend/sorority sister of mine sent me her ring sling, and I also purchased the Mei Tei, as Alessandra preferred the soft-structured carriers when I wore her around the house. I was amazed at the difference in her temperment, my ability to, you know, actually get things done around the house, and just how much of a difference babywearing made my day-to-day life easier. Admittedly, I became hooked, and my stash has grown over the past two years.
Pictured (from the bottom up): woven wrap, purchased from PaxBaby, Mei Tei, Maya ring sling, EllaRoo ring sling, the Moby wrap, and off to the left, my Ergo with the infant insert. Not pictured: standard Tula in Dynasty.
Fortunately here in Colorado, we have a thriving crunchy community, with babywearing groups and meetups galore. If I ever feel like I'm in over my head, help is a mere Facebook message away.
And now, for something completely different...
3. The high-powered, high-tech breastpump.
With Tony and Alessandra, I had an almost identical experience with breastfeeding. Over-supply in the beginning, and two babies who took to nursing with minimal issues. It had always been my plan to exclusively breastfeed, and I was thrilled that I was able to do so. However, when Tony was six months old, I noticed something wasn't quite right. My once extraordinarily chubby baby was quickly losing his rolls, and he ALWAYS seemed to be hungry. I didn't feel as though I was producing enough milk, and this was confirmed by Tony's pediatrician when we went in for his six-month checkup. She suggested I start taking fenugreek to boost my supply, and since Tony was so interested in solids at that point, I should start giving him Stonybrook YoBaby yogurt, to help him put the pounds back on. I was so discouraged, and this feeling only intensified when I had to have emergency surgery three months later. I was in the hospital for a week, and I was on such heavy medication I couldn't breastfeed. Much to Tony's dismay, he was giving formula by Will during my stay in the hospital, but I was hoping against hope I would somehow be able to re-establish our breastfeeding relationship. And fortunately, I was, for a few more months. Once I returned home from the hospital, I began taking the fenugreek again with a vengeance, and slowly began re-introducing our daily breastfeeding routine with Tony. He weaned himself right around his first birthday, and I vowed to be better prepared next time in case, God forbid, we were in another similar situation in which I couldn't breastfeed.
When Alessandra was born, she didn't do a whole heck of a lot of sleeping, so she made up for it by nursing around the clock. During those rare times when she would sleep, I would pump and immediately put the expressed breastmilk in the freezer. I was afraid that once she started sleeping more during the night (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA), I would once again have a drop in my supply. Well, that did end up happening, although not until she was eight months old, and this time I was prepared. With the approval and support of our pediatrician, I enlisted the help of a certificed lacatation consultant, who came to our house one day in December. She watched me nurse Alessandra, weighed her, asked me a bunch of questions about my diet and Alessandra's routine, and determined that yes, I am one of the rare (and incredibly unlucky) women who simply does not produce enough milk after my babies begin to sleep for longer periods at night. She recommended a bunch of supplements to me, gave me a few tips on foods that boost lactation, and she praised my impressive freezer stash of frozen breastmilk. At least this time, while I was trying to build MY supply back up again, I didn't have to worry about my baby girl not gaining enough weight. The LC suggested that I continue to nurse her during our normal times, and if she still seemed hungry afterward, Will should give her a bottle of breastmilk. What a relief; her advice worked. After taking loads of supplements and herbs and adjusting my diet (including but not limited to GoLacta, MoreMilkPlus, fenugreek, leafy greens, oatmeal, blueberries, lactation cookies, and drinking what felt like my weight in water everyday), I noticed an increase in my supply, and I continued breastfeeding Alessandra until she was about 17 months.
Now that our insurance company finally decided to join the 21st century and cover breastpumps and accessories, I took full advantage. My old breastpump had definitely seen better days, and I wasn't looking to drop a few hundred on a fancy schmancy new pump. However, since everything from the pump, to bottles, to accessories (such as tubing and membranes) was going to be covered 100%, it seemed foolish to not take advantage. I got the necessary prescription from my midwife, and immediately jumped on Pinterest to read review after review from pumping mamas on the best breastpump out there. I eventually decided on the Medela Freestyle pump, and snagged the very last one at Target. Can I get an AMEN??
4. Appropriate postpartum recovery
I read an article not too long ago about how harsh American is on new mothers. You name it, it's there: the expectation that you'll jump right back into your normal routine after giving birth, including but not limited to Julia Child-approved meals, a spotless house, older children who are perfectly groomed and well-behaved, boundless energy, a bikini-ready body...you name it. It's ridiculous, it's unhealthy, and the simple fact of the matter is that no woman on the planet can pull that kind of routine off without the help of a full-time housekeeper, nanny, personal trainer, personal chef...you get the picture. I will be the first to admit I was very guilty of falling into this trap after I gave birth to Tony. Despite having a long and difficult labor and delivery, and not feeling well at all once we returned home, I was bound and determined to put Super Nanny and Martha Stewart to shame. A few hours after coming home from the hospital, I nursed Tony, gave him to Will for snuggles on the couch, and immediately set off to Babies 'R Us and the grocery store. Why? I still don't know. Granted, we needed groceries, but there was no reason I couldn't have taken Will up on his offer to go food shopping for me. I remember standing in the produce aisle, swaying back and forth, and trying to focus on the broccoli so I wouldn't pass out. It was way too much, way too soon, and I paid dearly for it later.
When Alessandra was born, I was *slightly* better about taking care of myself, but I still felt guilty that my mom and Will were basically running the house. To be clear, all of this pressure, all of these expectations were mine and mine only. No one ever made me feel like I should be "pulling my weight," or doing anything besides recovering, nursing, and bonding with the new baby. I fell into the trap of trying to be Super Mom, and as a result, my mental and physical health suffered. I have zero plans this time around to do anything except stay in bed for a few days, take postpartum herbal baths in our glorious tub, snuggle and nurse our new baby, read books and comfy with Tony and Alessandra, and eat good, healthy food (that won't be prepared by me). I owe it to myself and our new baby to recover properly, and not overdo it and go five steps backwards.
When we were attending Mass in Shreveport, I remember a homily given by a visiting priest. He was speaking about the sisters Mary and Martha, and how their roles defined them. I've always seen myself as more of a Martha; bound and determined to make sure the house is running smoothly, our guests are entertained and comfortable, good food is always prepared and ready, and everyone around me is well taken care of. I'll never forget, though, that this priest emphasized the importance of BOTH roles; there is a time to be Martha and make sure everything gets done, but there's also a time to be Mary. It's just as important to sit and listen, to spend time with your family and guests, and not hop up every two minutes asking if you can get anyone anything. There's wisdom and value to be had in the roles of both women, and one isn't better than the other.
I definitely plan on embracing my "Mary" role for a while after the new baby arrives. :)