Leveling Up: My first week solo with two kids

This is going to be a barely-coherent stream of thought because for the first time in a week both my kids are asleep and I am awake! It’s my first full week as a stay-at-home mom of two (hallelujah for 3 weeks of paternity leave!) and I feel like I just leveled up at a video game I had only begun to master.

The difficulty has increased, I’m constantly juggling, and I can feel the background music speeding up to match the frenetic pace of this new arrangement. (The background music is Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” FYI.) To make sense of my days, I have found myself mapping out on a post-it note approximately how I’m going to spend each hour (mostly so I don’t surrender to my anxiety at 8 a.m. and let The Toddler watch 8 straight hours of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie).

Many of those hours are spent building “flatbed trucks” out of Mega Blocks with one hand while I nurse The Baby. Because he requires holding so much, I actually am finding myself more attentive to The Toddler during these times because it’s not like I can do the dishes or fold laundry while I nurse. I can build a carwash and collaborate on an elaborate plot involving two flatbed trucks driving through over and over again, though.

This assuages my guilt very slightly when I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to get The Baby to nap in his bassinet in my bedroom only to notice it’s very quiet, and when I go out to the kitchen find The Toddler buckled into his chair at the kitchen table in front of a mountain of raisins, which he has managed to procure from the pantry and serve himself like a two-year-old Kevin McAllister who is just trying to make the best of his abandonment. (<—longest run-on-sentence in the history of the world, but there’s no turning back! There’s just no time for editing!!!)

I’ve been really lucky this past couple of weeks to have the support of my local MOMS club–these women have taken turns bringing hot meals every other day for the past week and a half! Many of these meals contain desserts! And they’ve been my sole source of vegetables!

I’m blown away by their generosity and consideration, especially because they all have their own wild broods to deal with. I can’t wait to pay it forward, because it’s been so very helpful (and because I am so very uncomfortable asking for or accepting help, and I’ll feel less like a freeloader if I can feed some future new moms.)

Let’s see… what else can I say about this first week and change? I can’t tell if this baby is more laid back than his older brother was, or if I’m just less prone to anxiety and more accustomed to what I can expect from a baby this time around, but this time definitely feels easier. It’s way harder to handle a two-year-old than a newborn, in my experience so far.

I can’t think of anything else to say by way of updates (other than The Baby is four weeks old today and holy shit that went fast.) Instead, here’s a list of the “birth affirmations” I made up for The Husband to repeat back to me that really helped me get through the hard parts. I knew I wasn’t going to have the time or inclination to decorate my labor space or keep my eyes open to read any pretty decorated signs, so instead I wrote them out on index cards and had him yell them to me over my loud moaning. (I even put helpful tips for what situations/stages of labor they’d work best for on the back.)

Pinterest and the Internet at large are rife with birth affirmations (and I think Hynpobirthing is a big source of these?) But for my particular makeup, some of these were eye-roll inducingly hokey, or put thoughts in my head I didn’t really want to invite.

(You know that thing where if you say, “Don’t think about a polar bear,” all you can imagine is a polar bear? I submit that if you repeat back to yourself, “I am not afraid,” or “My baby will fit,” you might just trigger thoughts like, “Yes I fucking am afraid,” or “Holy shit maybe my baby won’t fit?”)

Anyway, here’s a list of birth affirmations designed for your birth partner/doula/etc. to read back to you. Some are taken straight from Pinterest, some are helpful reminders from books I read, and a couple, honestly, are cheesy mantras from high school cross country. (See if you can guess). My labor was so fast he didn’t get through the whole pile, but I starred the ones I did hear that I found particularly comforting/motivating.

Maybe in 25 years when I have time to myself again I’ll make them into lovely printables free for download.

relax your jaw

  • Each surge brings the baby closer.
  • You are a badass.
  • Surrender.
  • This is a wave. You can ride it out.
  • The pride lasts longer than the pain.
  • You’ve got this.
  • You are prepared. You are strong. You are capable.
  • Women all over the world are birthing with you right now.
  • *You have done this before. You can do this again. I believe in you.
  • Your body knows what it’s doing.
  • Why don’t we wait through this contraction and see how you feel? (Repeat as necessary – in case I start talking epidural).
  • *Melt around the pain.
  • Our baby is doing this work with you. Work together.
  • I’m here. You’re not alone.
  • *Relax your jaw. (This should just be my general life mantra. I may get this tattooed on my wrist.)
  • When you feel like you can’t do it, it means you’re close. You can do it.
  • Don’t rush pushing. Let your body stretch.
  • *You’re not hitting the wall. You’re crashing through it, and our baby is on the other side.
  • Don’t forget: There’s a baby at the end of all this.
  • *Your contractions are strong because you are strong.
  • *Stay low. (If I’m screaming/starting to lose control – remind me to put that energy into laboring and stick to deep/low noises if I need to make noise.)
  • Your contractions can’t be stronger than you because they are you.
  • Don’t fight against this. Let your body open.
  • Breathe in for strength. Breathe out and let go.
  • You can do anything for a minute.

All right, I’m going to take the remaining moments I have of this rare double-naptime (which, might I add, I got only because I took the boys on a meandering hourlong drive that coincidentally took us past our nearest prison) and maybe go brush my teeth for the first time today.

Leveling Up: My first week solo with two kids

And Baby Makes Four: A Birth Story

No more whining about about still being pregnant, Internet–Baby 2 has arrived!

I’m going to dive right into the birth story. Here goes:

We spent Tuesday trying to keep busy (and warm), knowing The Husband would have to return to work the next day if baby still hadn’t come.

The Toddler had been understandably descending into cabin fever (it’s been sooooo cold here in Northeast Ohio), so we decided to take him to a nearby indoor playground to burn off some energy. The Husband and I took turns crawling through tubes and chasing behind him as he did his best to outrun us among the approximately 3,000 other manic children whose parents sought refuge with us. (Yes, I hoped that my bumbling around on playground equipment might help move things along.) I also scheduled a last-minute haircut during The Toddler’s nap.

The Husband handled bedtime, and since he had been so diligently handling the care and feeding of our goats and chickens every morning and night through the past several increasingly frigid weeks, I decided to suit up and do the night chores. I hauled warm water out to the barn, refilled the hay feeder, gave each goat a good back scratch and locked up for the night. Then took out our kitchen trash and dragged the cans out to the street for garbage day.

The full moon shone across our snowy yard during all of this, and reminded me that Baby 1 had been born during a full moon.

We went to bed a little after 9:00. I was just drifting off to the sound of The Husband’s light snores a half hour later when I felt a gush of fluid.

No way, I thought to myself as I rushed to the bathroom. My water hadn’t broken until just before I pushed with Baby 1, and I hadn’t felt so much as a tickle of a contraction tonight. But the clear puddle collecting on the bathroom floor confirmed it: It was go time.

The first thing I did as I waited for contractions to begin was rush to the basement and move a load of wet clothes to the dryer so they wouldn’t stew while we were in the hospital. About 15 minutes later, after maybe one light contraction, I stirred The Husband from sleep and let him know I was calling the midwife, but to try to go back to sleep until I was further along.

As I expected, she told me to call back when my contractions were five minutes apart, or in 12 hours, whichever came first.

I called my mom to give her a heads-up that she should be ready to come over the next time I called, then hopped in the shower. By the time I was dressed again (and again… I soaked through a pair of Depends and my sweatpants), contractions were three minutes apart and picking up in intensity. So I roused The Husband and told him to get ready, called my mom back and got back on the phone with the midwife to tell her we were on our way.

We roused The Toddler for one last potty break and gave him a hug in his sleep, and then we were off. It was 11:10 p.m., 0 degrees outside, and I was sitting on an old towel as The Husband drove us to the hospital.

We checked in at the ER and stood waiting in the lobby (with a towel wadded between my legs) for a nurse to retrieve us. I had a few contractions on the walk to the maternity ward, and the nurse said she’d skip over triage and take us right to the Holistic Birthing Center. (Incidentally, we lucked out getting there when we did, as three other laboring moms arrived right around the same time.) Before I was allowed in the labor tub, I had to be monitored on the bed for 20 minutes. Which was rough.

As soon as I was allowed, I stripped down to a nursing bra and hopped in the labor tub, which was about two feet deep and big enough to stretch my legs out. It was just as nice as I’d hoped. Contractions were still painful, but the water made me buoyant and made shifting positions far easier. I ended up mostly kneeling with my head resting on my arms on the side of the tub while The Husband leaned in and talked me through some of the affirmations I printed out for him.

Things picked up really quickly from there. I got in the tub probably around 12:25 and was told I should take breaks every hour so I didn’t get overheated.

Because there were so many women simultaneously giving birth, the nurse and midwife weren’t around much during this time. The nurse came in periodically to monitor the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler, but aside from that, The Husband and I were alone.

I got out after about 40 minutes to pee, then got back in, but felt like I had to go again soon after and was having a hard time catching enough of a break to maneuver out of the tub and get to the bathroom before another contraction hit. There were two spans of contractions after my first bathroom break that peaked four times each without a break. I was well into primal mode, moaning loud and low through each contraction. When I finally managed to get back out of the tub to pee again, I knew I wasn’t getting back in (the birthing center doesn’t allow pushing/delivery in the tub.)

The Husband paged the nurse and let her know he thought I was getting close to pushing (based on what he remembered from the first time around.) I tried to get in the shower for a minute, but knew I needed to hunker down in a stable position and felt panicky and out of control standing up any longer. I hung my arms around The Husband’s neck and endured a few upright contractions before hustling over to the bed.

I kneeled on the bed with my head and arms draped over the raised top. Looking back, this was definitely transition. I had been doing a pretty good job of relaxing all my muscles through each contraction up until this point, but no amount of moaning or “melting around the pain” was doing it for me anymore. All my concentration was going into not panicking.

This was also the point The Husband endured a little abuse from me. He kept repeating, “stay low” (one of my mantras to help me remember to not scream). I first mumbled “Don’t tell me what to do” into his shoulder. When he repeated it again, I said, “Shut up shut up shut up!!!”

The midwife came in to check me. She first thought I was at a 9 with a lip and offered to stretch it out over the baby’s head. I flatly refused this and told her I’d wait. Things were happening quick enough and I didn’t see a need to speed it up. She checked a second time, but then on further review decided I was actually closer to a 7 and rushed back out to deliver another baby. The nurse stayed with me and hooked me back up to the fetal monitor. They were a little concerned about the baby’s heart rate (it was pushing into the 170s, apparently a bit high.)

Very soon after, I started to feel an involuntary urge to push. I grunted, “Pushing!” into the husband’s shoulder and the nurse paged the midwife back. I was still on all fours on the bed. I could feel my uterus involuntarily convulsing. I don’t remember this feeling from the first time around, but it was just as I’ve heard other people describe, like “throwing up, but down.” The midwife asked me if I could move to my side for pushing and I whimpered, “I can’t, I can’t move.” She told me the baby’s head was going to tear me if I didn’t shift. With great difficulty, I leaned over to kneel on my right side. I clamped onto The Husband’s shoulders and the nurse held my left leg. I remember seeing my belly writhing and contorting into the strangest shapes as the baby made its way out.

I pushed through maybe four contractions – about 10 minutes. The baby was out quick, and screaming on the first breath. The midwife told us to look down and see for ourselves what we had. I was too contorted to sneak a peek, but The Husband announced it was another boy. As quickly as I could, I maneuvered to my back and pulled him up onto my chest.


Because he’d had such a quick passage through the birth canal, Baby 2 had a lot of mucus stuck in his lungs and was working to cry it out. The pediatric nurse ended up having to take him to the warming table to suction him out. I felt one last urge to push and the placenta came out. The midwife showed it to me (I hadn’t gotten to see it last time and was curious.) I started to shiver involuntarily. The Husband helped me out of my wet nursing bra and into a dry hospital gown while the nurse cleaned me up.

Finally, after some suctioning, Baby 2 calmed down enough to nurse. We spent about an hour at that before he fell asleep. We wrapped him up and put him in the bassinet, and not long after, The Husband and I fell asleep, too.

So that’s the quick and barely edited version of my birth story. Baby 2 was born after five hours of intense labor at 40 weeks, 3 days. He was 8 lbs, 3 oz and 20 inches long. As expected, he had a full head of hair. Right now he’s snoozing next to me while The Toddler continues to descend into Winter Madness. We’re all exhausted, and we’re all happy.

And Baby Makes Four: A Birth Story

Pregnancy Week 38: Maybe, Baby? (Spoiler: Nope.)

There’s nothing I like more than putting undue, arbitrary pressure on myself.

During my pregnancy with Baby #1, I set the pointless goal of having a baby before I turned 30. I was 38 1/2 weeks pregnant when my 30th birthday came and went without so much as a twinge of a contraction, and I spent the whole day sulking. Five days later, having been run through ringer of childbirth and sitting stunned and bleeding on the other side, I wondered what my rush had been.

(Yes, of course, I was over the moon to have my baby in my arms, but really, there was no hurry. I literally had/have the rest of my life to be a mother.)

This time around, especially as we serendipitously conceived on the exact same day as the last time, my goal for having the baby was no later than exactly the same as last time: Christmas Day. That means I have three more days.

What’s that, you say? Every pregnancy is different? Every baby arrives at his or her own time?

No one asked you.

Of course, my labors will be identical, down to the timing.

It’s been really difficult not to compare the two pregnancies. Even though I know dilation means zilch in the labor-prediction game, I’ve had a few checks and am, by my accounts, running behind where I was with Baby 1. Even though I feel like a fois gras goose choking down six mega-sized medjool dates every day.

Instead of acknowledging that A: I’m not overdue, B: Every pregnancy truly is different, C: I know what’s on the other side of labor, and it’s not going to be easier than pregnancy, and D: I’m mourning the one-on-one time with The Toddler even as I itch to be in labor, I am finding ways to blame myself for not having had the baby yet, as though I have any control over it whatsoever.

Even as I typed the last phrase of that endless sentence, here’s the internal monologue that piped in: “Of course you have control over it. You’re not getting nearly as much exercise as you did the first time around. Eat some [insert old wives’ tale food here–spicy food, pineapple cores, whatever…]”

I know this is irrational. I know that the timing of a birth is not even remotely a reflection on one’s personal fortitude, punctuality or virtue. I know this.

And yet. On Tuesday morning I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling crampy. I was having lots of not painful, but consistent, contractions, and for the first time decided to start timing them. An hour later, after six or so contractions, I woke up The Husband to inform him we may be heading toward baby time. Things remained steady through the morning, so we went to my scheduled midwife appointment, having to ask my mom to stay home from work to watch The Toddler. Everyone was excited in spite of themselves. I had my doubts, but was looking forward to some indication that labor might be on its way.

The midwife, whom I hadn’t met with before, was dismissive and vague. The nurse had me undress for a cervical check when I described my symptoms, and the midwife came in seemingly baffled that I’d asked to be checked (It wasn’t my idea, lady!) She didn’t even acknowledge the question of whether I was in labor, more than to tell me to come back in a week.

I’m sure it didn’t help that I was exhausted from being up all night, but she made me feel stupid (especially as a second-timer) for thinking I might be in early labor. I felt bad inconveniencing my mom and The Husband, getting everyone’s hopes up, and have been questioning my ability to tell what’s happening with my body ever since. I’ve also had stress dreams every night about the baby being “sunny side up” as the midwife suggested it may be, and if I’m not upright or leaning forward on an exercise ball, I feel like I’m sabotaging my chances of a good labor.

Sorry, this post has devolved into the paranoid ramblings of a very tired, very hormonal and very pregnant woman. I know I should be patient. I know I have no reason to be in any hurry. My toddler reminded me of this when he fell asleep in my arms for his nap today, both hot palms pressed against my cheeks as we sang, “You Are My Sunshine” to each other. It was heavenly, and I know I will be torn in two missing it while I’m holding a new baby, just as loved, whenever he or she decides to arrive.

And yet, there was still that mean thought whispering in the back of my head as I relished this fleeting time: You’re leaning back too far in the chair. The baby is going to be facing the wrong way. Get up and get on the exercise ball. Do. Not. Be. Present. In. The. Moment.


Pregnancy Week 38: Maybe, Baby? (Spoiler: Nope.)

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

The first day of my 35th week of pregnancy, I was sitting on The Toddler’s floor bed rubbing his back and trying to get him down for a nap when, suddenly, I felt it: the unmistakable pleasure of being able to take a deep breath. To make certain, I took another one. Yes! The baby had dropped!

I hadn’t even realized just how hard it had been to breathe until it got easy(ish) again. (Well, I sort of did, because The Husband asked me if I was all right every day because most of my exhales sounded like exasperated sighs.) Suddenly it was also the tiniest bit easier to move around, as my center of gravity was lower and my belly even felt a little smaller.

Of course, there is a tradeoff for easier breathing and improved balance when the baby drops. Here’s a few of my Google searches from this week to give you an idea of what that tradeoff might be:

  • 35 weeks can you feel dilation happening
  • cervical pressure 35 weeks
  • late third trimester cramping

Basically, it feels like the baby is getting some work done on the getting-ready-to-come-out front. I’m trying not to convince myself I’ll go into labor any earlier than I did with Baby 1 (39 weeks, 1 day), because I know it will only make me crazy to surpass any arbitrary deadlines I set. Despite this, baby-day is looming close enough that I am finally getting some of the major to-dos checked off my list. One of those is packing my hospital bags. I still have a few odds and ends to add, but if I were to go into labor today, I would not be caught completely empty-handed.

With our first baby, we packed everything imaginable. As most first-timers will tell you, almost none of those items got any use. My temptation this time around is to drastically underpack, both out of sheer laziness and because I’m hoping to not spend much time at the hospital either in labor or recovery afterward.

Again, setting myself up for potential disappointment, but second labors are usually shorter than first, and my first labor was only 12 hours last time, only three of which were at the hospital. Additionally, because we’re working with midwives, there are a lot of extras–like an exercise ball–I won’t have to bring in because they’re well equipped to support intervention-free birth. And finally, I don’t want to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary afterward. I hated our hospital stay last time and just wanted to go home.

However, because we’re dealing with a 40-minute drive to the hospital instead of five minutes, and because I’m not worried about getting pressured into interventions, we’ll be heading to the hospital sooner than we did last time. (Plus, again, it’s possible this labor will be shorter. I’m not interested in having a highway baby.) So I did add some things to the list that I might appreciate earlier on in labor.

Without further ado, here’s my pared-down hospital bag list this time around:

In case the hospital drive gets messy

  • A towel (if I don’t need it on the ride up, it might be nice to have a big towel for the post-birth shower, in case the hospital towels are tiny and scratchy again)
  • A few absorbent underpads to protect the car seats in case my water breaks

Labor essentials

  • Wooden back massager
  • Charged Bluetooth shower speaker (I can suction it straight to the birthing tub and not worry about getting it wet)
  • Headphones
  • Camera with charged batteries and a cleared SD card
  • Mini LED battery-powered Christmas lights (Since childhood, my “happy place” has always been sticking my head under the Christmas tree and staring up at the lights. Considering how much I withdrew into myself during my first labor, I expect this will be a soothing, easy focal point.)

Post-birth essentials

  • Change of clothes for myself and The Husband (just pajamas. I will probably hang out in a hospital gown in the immediate aftermath, and I don’t have a particular desire to get fully dressed for the drive home.)
  • Baby clothes (one set of newborn and one set of 0-3 month clothes in case this baby is bigger than the last one), plus a hat, booties, and a swaddler
  • Mini toiletries (I’m delivering at a different hospital than last time, but the toiletries at the county hospital were, I am assuming, jail grade. I’m not a soap snob, but my first post-birth shower was pretty unpleasant.)
  • Slippers and flip-flops (the latter for the shower)
  • Sleep mask to give me even the remotest shot of catching a nap


  • A few copies of my birth plan
  • Pre-registration paperwork and insurance information, plus a copy of the informed consent paperwork I signed for the Holistic Birthing Center
  • Quick guides (from The Birth Partner and doula/podcaster Adriana Lozada’s “The Birth Partner’s Ultimate Labor Support Toolkit”) for The Husband
  • Birth affirmations on index cards (maybe laminated, if I’m feeling really ambitious). I spent most of my previous labor with my eyes shut, so I’m not planning to post them up anywhere. Instead, the intention is to equip The Husband with things I actually want to hear.

Digital prep

  • I temporarily upgraded to Spotify premium so I could make and download a few playlists to my phone. So far I have a “fun” playlist (for earlier labor, probably), a “serious” playlist for when the going gets a little tougher, and a “zen” playlist in case I just want instrumental music.
  • An app that has a contraction timer. I also plan on changing the settings on my phone when labor hits so it stays unlocked and is easy to access.
  • Important phone numbers programmed into both mine and my husband’s phones (midwives, hospital, etc.)

Things I’m on the fence about

  • The midwife I saw most recently recommended I bring a Boppy pillow. It just takes up a ton of space and I don’t really feel like hauling it around.
  • Same goes with a regular bed pillow. Maybe it would help me feel more “at home” to sleep, but I’m not sure the slightly enhanced comfort is worth the extra baggage.

That’s it for my hospital bag(s), I think. Second+ time moms, what did you add to your hospital bags? What did you ditch from the first time around?

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

Pregnancy Week 26: Looking ahead to delivery day

Today closes out week 26 of my pregnancy with Baby 2, and also wraps up the nesting frenzy that started last week.

First, a quick stats and symptoms rundown:

Baby weighs in at about 2 pounds and measures 14 inches from head to foot, or the size of a butternut squash, a slow loris, a bowling pin or an adult human skull???

Me? Oh, I’m good, thanks. Just rushing through this post on my way to nap-town because I was awake for hours last night with insane heartburn, which was 100% deserved because I celebrated my (presumed) passing of my glucose test by eating the following yesterday:

Breakfast: Homemade apple pie (my husband is amazing) and most of an everything bagel (split with The Toddler) and Neufchatel cheese

Lunch: Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream, also half a mango

Afternoon snack: Vanilla ice cream

Dinner: French fries

I am contrite. This college freshman diet will not happen again during this pregnancy–if not for the sake of my unborn child’s health, then for my own sake.

Speaking of my husband is amazing, we plowed through a ton of to-dos over the week he took off work, despite the unrelenting heat wave. Rather than rewrite the list, I’ll direct you to my Instagram post listing off all the stuff he made possible.

Shoutout to @immortaldavis for kicking ass on his weeklong staycation, which was mapped out hour-by-every-waking-hour so we could tackle some long neglected projects, some farm-related and others in preparation for Baby #2. Here he's catching his breath from digging up a grounding rod that got stuck in three feet of drought-hardened clay after we moved the goats. Other things we accomplished this past week: garage clean out, barn clean out, freezing gallons of apples, setting up an office in the basement to make room for the new nursery, rearranging all our closets, and finally tackling a few episodes of Fargo Season 2 after the kid went to sleep on nights we still had any energy left. He also baked me an apple pie last night, and spent lots of quality time with our son, and made sure I got to put my feet up when I got too worn out. I don't say it enough: I'm lucky AF. I couldn't have dreamed of a better partner. ❤️❤️❤️ #farmlife #famgoals #parenting #partnersforlife #luckyme

A post shared by Reanna (@arkayokay) on

What I really want to talk about this post is what’s been weighing on my mind this week aside from prepping our physical space for another baby: Impending labor, and how I hope to approach it this time around.

My first childbirth experience went pretty much how I hoped it would. While we were bound by insurance to deliver in a county hospital with 90 percent+ epidural rates and limited accommodations for anyone pursuing an unmedicated birth, I managed to get through L&D *without an epidural and felt like a goddamned rock star. (Here’s my birth story if you’re interested.)

.*I super don’t care how you gave birth or plan to give birth–alone in the woods, with an epidural in place beginning at 36 weeks, or a scheduled C-section and tummy tuck, so please don’t take my satisfaction at my birth going how I wanted it as judgment about your birth plans or experience.

That said, there were parts of my experience that I hope to improve upon this time around, and now that I’m approaching the third trimester, I’m starting to consider these goals in more concrete terms. I’ll probably tackle this topic from a few directions in the coming weeks, but I thought I’d start with a general list of worries and hopes, and go from there:

  1. I hope my labor is shorter than last time, but not alarmingly so. With Baby 1, it was 12 hours start to finish. I waited as long as The Husband could stand it before we left for the hospital, but back then it was a (very difficult) 10-minute drive. This time, we’re looking at a 40-minute commute, so I’m hoping to balance getting labor off the ground at home and not pushing our luck on the road.
  2. I’m worried my more sedentary second pregnancy is going to make this labor harder. I wasn’t insanely in shape the first time, but I was walking 3-4 miles almost every day, and that’s just not in the cards this time around. I’m trying to work exercise into my days when I can, but I don’t know if it will be enough to give me the strength, stamina and flexibility I had last time
  3. I want pushing to go better this time around. I talked to one of the midwives at my appointment this week about how the directed pushing (the counting, the nurses and doctor telling me when to push and how long) just didn’t feel right, and how it resulted in some moderate (and painful) tearing, along with a lot of popped blood vessels in my face and eyes. She told me she doesn’t ascribe to this method, and generally advises moms to let their bodies tell them when and how to push, so I’m hoping with enough preparation on my end and a more supportive environment at the birthing center will mean a better time of pushing, and less damage control in the aftermath.
  4. I hope my husband feels equipped to help me with birth, without a doula, this time. This birth is costing us more, so we’re not hiring a doula, and while The Husband was a great labor partner last time around, it was also really nice to have a doula to support us both. He’s got some studying up/refreshing to do (hoping to get a hold of this book soon), and I also need to do my own work to figure out what types of affirmations, massage, positions, etc. I remember being helpful last time or that I think I’d like this time so he can be ready to help me get what I need when the time comes.
  5. As I think is extremely common with second-time moms, I’m anxious about how we’ll make sure The Toddler feels included in welcoming his new sibling, how our relationship will evolve, and (of course) how the heck I’m going to survive on 3 hours of sleep a night for a few weeks while also being responsible for a 2-year-old.

Speaking of The Toddler, looks like he’s not going to be napping for awhile, so neither am I. Better wrap this up.

Pregnancy Week 26: Looking ahead to delivery day

Guest post: Erin, mom of two (among other things), shares her story

Hi friends!

It’s been a heck of a week already (more on that later), so I am *super* glad I reached out to an old friend from high school, who just launched her own blog to help people coping with eating disorders (and, oh yeah, NBD, had her second baby) to help me out with a guest post, Q&A style. As the reality of being a mom of two sets in, I am grateful to have her share some wisdom on motherhood.

Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Erin.

Erin and her family
Erin, her husband and her two little ones, under the Gateway Arch in their current hometown of St. Louis

Erin’s bio:

My family and I recently moved to St. Louis from Georgia for my husband’s job when I was about halfway through my second pregnancy. The Second Kid, a baby boy, is now 4 months old and The First Kid, a girl, turned 2 years old at the end of May.

In Georgia, I owned a private practice as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and related issues. Right now, I’m staying home with the kids until we’re ready for me to go back to work part-time. Until then, I’ve been enjoying writing my blog at RecoveringWithGod.com.

How were your two pregnancies different? In general, do you like being pregnant or is more of a necessary but miserable means to an end?

I thought I liked being pregnant until The Second Kid! I had more nausea, fatigue, and discomfort with the second pregnancy. I think moving out of state and chasing around a toddler made the experience much different.

What were some things you learned in your first pregnancy, childbirth experience or early parenting days that you wanted to be sure you did differently the second time around? What were some important consistencies you wanted to maintain between the two?

This is a BIG question. The short answer is: get less tests and be choosy about health care professionals. The explanation is long and intense, but worth sharing with you and other parents.

We almost lost my first child based on a diagnosis that was made in utero. We were told by a specialist doctor that our baby would likely not survive to term and if she did there was a 0% chance that we’d have a healthy, normal baby. The doctor insinuated that terminating the pregnancy was the way to go based on a growth he spotted on the back of the baby’s head at 11 weeks. He said that it was an encepholocele, a type of neural tube defect in which brain matter protrudes through an opening of the skull. He left us with very little hope, no follow-up appointments, and no recommendations for other consultations or specialists.

It was the absolute worst day of my life. But our friends and family prayed. After I made the initial call to the abortion clinic (please no judgments), I felt God nudging me to get a second opinion. More prayers.

The second-opinion-doctor made us feel like we were in this together and gave us options. We waited. With every visit thereafter, the growth miraculously shrunk or stayed the same size. By the third trimester, the malformation was no longer detectable and the issue was considered resolved.

Against the odds, our baby was born as healthy as can be.

SOOOOO, how did all this change the second pregnancy? Well, the reason we went in for that 11-week ultrasound with The First Kid was because we were going to test for a genetic disorder that runs in my family that has the potential to be fatal. With The Second Kid, we decided NOT to get that test. We learned that (1) test results don’t always predict outcomes, (2) the test results wouldn’t change our actions during pregnancy—we wouldn’t terminate, and (3) God can heal.

I’m not really sure how to segue from that, but there are plenty of other things I did differently as well. I chose a birthing center instead of the typical hospital setting to give birth. Reasons include the following experiences that I had at the hospital with The First Kid: (1) getting my membranes stripped without consent, (2) my birthing plan was not followed or even saved in my chart to refer to, (3) I had to wait for the doctor to arrive before I could push, even though my body was screaming at me to PUSH! (4) Oh yea, I had to go through the transition stage of labor in the crowded waiting room, like WITH THE FAMILIES (who were staring at me because I was apparently making scary noises). In contrast, I loved the birthing center. Their practices were in line with everything I wanted, so I didn’t have to constantly worry or double check what they were doing. They listened. They didn’t rush. Gosh, I loved them so much. If you don’t like your healthcare team, look for someone else. I say that as a healthcare professional and I would say it to my clients too.

How were your two labor experiences?

I was told the second labor is typically half the length of time as the first. This made me quite nervous because I barely made it to the delivery room with The First Kid, but it was true! I was in labor from about 6pm-midnight for The First Kid and 9pm-midnight for The Second Kid. (To the women who have long labors, I am sorry and you are all amazing warriors).

There were no false alarms with The First Kid—once contractions started, they were regular and the real deal. With The Second Kid, I experienced contractions that didn’t turn into labor, which drove my anticipatory anxiety out the roof!

I labored at home longer for The First Kid because I was only 1 cm earlier that afternoon. With my second labor, the midwives never checked dilation at any appointments, but I knew I had to leave ASAP once contractions were at regular intervals.

Both babies arrived the day after their due date.

Both labors were medication-free. I used some Hypnobabies concepts with both labors even though I personally think it’s a bit cheesy. I really enjoyed the practices in Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke and highly recommend that book. It’s more evidence-based, less judgmental, and the skills can be used throughout the parenting experience. I need to go back and reread some sections!

I keep being reminded to expect my two children to be very different from each other, though it’s hard to imagine my second baby beyond what I know from my first. How are your two babies different so far?

The First Kid came out small and dainty and always falling asleep. The Second Kid came out sturdy and big and eager to eat. The First Kid was laid-back and The Second Kid is usually tense, but both happy. The First Kid was very observant and could entertain herself easily, interested in the smallest of details. The Second Kid (at least in this stage) seems to need a lot more stimulation. Thankfully, he loves watching his older sister as she runs around, dances, and gives him toys.

How did you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second? How has she adjusted to being a big sister? Are there any specific books/philosophies/etc. you relied on to help guide you through getting her prepared?

We talked about baby brother while I was pregnant and read the book “I Am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church, which I highly recommend. I’m not sure how much she understood, but she does mimic the girl in the book by helping. I also instituted “special time” with her while I was pregnant. We sing a song about special time, set a timer, and I spend 10 devoted and undivided minutes with her. Quality (attentive time) is over quantity (distracted time).

She’s loved and adored her baby brother since she met him. It was an adjustment (aka Tantrum City), of course, but she took her frustrations out on her dad and me for not giving her enough attention. She never acted resentful toward her baby brother. I’d say it took about 3 months for her to adjust. Now that she’s adjusted, she can truly be a big help to me at times even though she’s only two.

Talk about the first few days/weeks of being a mom of two, in general. What was the hardest part? Was there anything that went easier than expected?

The hardest part was definitely not having the ability to be there for my little girl. There are moments when you have to choose which child to attend to first, and the crying baby usually takes priority. Thankfully, The First Kid encourages me to go help The Second Kid when he cries, but she forgets that means she can’t get what she wants right away!

Taking care of a baby in general has been easier this time because I knew what to expect. I’m no longer trying to follow every rule or sift through all the conflicting baby advice on the internet…there’s no time for that!

I had a really rough time getting started with breastfeeding the first time around. If you nursed both times (and are willing to share), what was it like starting again?

It was a cinch! I had some insecurities the first time around, which I think most women do, and a naturally petite baby, which our first pediatrician freaked me out. However, a year’s worth of practice with the first child makes a huge difference for the second. Now the real challenge is breastfeeding while doing other tasks, such as reading a book with The First Kid in my lap, pouring a glass of milk, or putting on a shoe!

How did you and your husband adjust to having two? 

In general, my husband watches the The First Kid and I’m in charge of The Second Kid, especially in the beginning when I was nursing non-stop. We had visitors the first several weeks who we could hand either kid off to, which was loads of help! Then we were forced to figure out how to handle both at the same time when my husband returned to work and I had occasional appointments I needed to attend. We’re still figuring it out!

In general, what advice that I may not have covered that you’d offer to parents expecting their second child?

Go easy on yourself. You won’t be able to do it perfectly, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to plop your toddler down in front of the TV to attend to the baby, or *gasp* get a moment to yourself. (My husband is constantly reminding me of this). Are they smelling a little ripe because you haven’t bathed them in awhile? They won’t remember! Did you just yell at your toddler for a stupid reason? Genuinely tell him you’re sorry and that you feel sad/mad right now, and hey it turns into a teaching moment! Even if you don’t muster up the apology, life goes on and you are a good mom. Some mood swings and bending the rules won’t change that.

Do what’s easiest. Opt for grocery delivery, Amazon Prime, carryout meals, a cleaning service, and any other convenience you can find. If you’re thrifty like me, tell yourself it’s just for this season. You’re in survival mode the first couple months, so only expend energy on the priorities.

And finally, picking your nutritionist/disordered eating expert brain, I wondered if you had any wisdom regarding self acceptance/body positivity for new moms and/or setting a good example of this for your kids.

It’s important for postpartum women to give themselves space to grieve their old bodies. We have constant messages thrown at us to “lose the baby weight fast”, and then we’re also told to “appreciate our stretch marks and mommy tummy” because it’s “so worth it.” We feel guilty if we can’t get back to our pre-baby bodies AND we also feel guilty if we aren’t “positive” about this new body.

It’s okay to feel sad about your body sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re vain or shallow. It doesn’t mean that you lack gratitude. Avoiding feelings and pretending you’re fine never ends well. Journal or talk to a trusted fellow mom. Give yourself grace—your body just went through a traumatic experience, you’re healing, your hormones are crazy, you’re tired. Look the way you look and feel the way you feel.

Try to accept both your body and your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up if acceptance is a tough concept right now.

As for setting a good example for your kids, be nice to yourself. Even when we think they may not be looking, kids notice those under-the-breath remarks in the fitting room or self-deprecating comments over second helpings of ice cream. Then they mimic us. Give yourself the love and respect that you give to your kids.

There you have it! Aren’t I lucky to know her? She shared such an incredible story  — I’m stunned at her strength through the terrifying diagnosis in her first pregnancy and utterly appalled at her hospital experience with her first childbirth!!! — and so many good ideas — the “Special Time” idea is getting implemented STAT in our house, and I’ve got some new reading to tackle. (As usual, nothing on this site is sponsored, so the Amazon links are just for your convenience.)

I really needed some encouragement today and was so happy to find Erin’s words in my inbox. I hope you enjoyed it, too.

While her blog is a faith-based resource for people struggling with disordered eating, and not a mom blog, I know that there certainly is overlap between those two groups of people. In addition to selfishly picking Erin’s brain to prepare myself for parenting two, I also hoped that connecting with her would help connect any of my readers who might be struggling. If you are (or know someone who is) dealing with an eating disorder, visit RecoveringwithGod.com for words of encouragement. (And, as Erin points out in her bio, you should also seek treatment with a health care professional.) Take care of yourself, Mama.

P.S. I can’t figure out how to get someone a draft for review on WordPress without it going live, so sorry if you got a blank/password protected email post!

Guest post: Erin, mom of two (among other things), shares her story

Pregnancy Week 16: Hello, Heartburn

Happy Week 16, me!

Baby stats:

Baby is the size of a… dill pickle, avocado, small gerbil, action figure.

Baby is now covered in lanugo, its heart is pumping 25 quarts of blood a day, and it is kicking with growing frequency.

Speaking of lanugo, it’s seeming likely I’m well on my way to having another baby with a head full of hair, and it’s not just an old wives’ tale.

Because once again, it’s heartburn time.

I’ve been dreading its inevitable arrival this pregnancy, and there’s no denying it: Week 16 has been the official debut of full-fledged heartburn.

Pregnancy Week 16-

When I was pregnant with The Toddler, it started off as a light burning sensation in the back of my throat after some meals that I tamped back down with a handful of Tums, and gradually it evolved into a perpetual feeling my back teeth were dissolving and the shocking wake from a dead sleep a few times a week because I was suddenly choking on acid.

My OB ended up prescribing me some legit heartburn medication (I think it was Prilosec?) that I felt reallllly nervous about taking because it was a Class C drug and I hadn’t so much as used scented laundry detergent up until that point because I was paranoid about causing a loss or birth defect or irredeemable personality flaw in my unborn baby. But after a week or so of not being able to eat, I caved, and never looked back. (So far, any of The Toddler’s personality flaws are still redeemable and connect quite clearly back to his progenitors.)

I don’t know how else to make heartburn sound entertaining, so let’s move along.

I had an appointment with my midwife on Monday this week. I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler, which was nice because at the last appointment they weren’t able to find it and ended up doing a “quick ultrasound just to double-check” that sent me into a brief but genuine tailspin of worry.

I discussed with her our decision to forego a doula this time around, which she supported. If you read my first birth story, you’ll know I strongly encourage everyone to bring a doula on board your birth team for a myriad of reasons, but considering the very different environment of a birth center, the speed with which my first birth progressed, the added expense of this birth (plus the fact I’m working EXTREMELY part-time now), we’ve decided to save the money and commit to some serious husband-wife bonding to prepare for this birth.

So far on my list are: Buy paper fan for fanning me, make laminated flashcard deck with supportive phrases other than, “Good job. You are doing a good job,” which became The Husband’s mantra during The Toddler’s birth and eventually made me want to rip his throat out (I love you), and…that’s it. We have plenty of time to figure out the rest.

I ordered some new maternity T-shirts and tanks because my belly really just looks like a gut if I’m in regular clothes, and almost all my maternity shirts from last time around are long-sleeved. Because I wasn’t this big this early last time around. I’ve been trying to keep up with some degree of exercise despite the 85+ heat this week, and every time I try to eat a fudgesicle the Toddler steals it from me, so my plan for sensible weight gain this time around is going great.

So that’s it for Week 16: Heartburn, being sweaty, and having a blessedly uneventful midwife appointment. I’ll take it!


Pregnancy Week 16: Hello, Heartburn