Friday, August 31, 2012

A Few of My Favorite (Nursery) Things

I was sitting in Lincoln's room the other day, rocking him while he looked at, or rather, chewed on a book, and I was thinking to myself all of the small details of his room that I loved so much. 

We decided to do the room in a Nautical theme. No idea exactly why other than the fact that I have had an ongoing love affair with stripes and anchors and all things nautical-y for a while now. Three walls of the room are a warm buttery yellow and the accent wall is navy blue. 
This is Lincoln's rocking/reading nook. I love reading him stories sitting here, and he loves looking at his sailboat mobile while he sits in my lap.  See the lighthouse and sailboat on the top shelf!?!

His nautical blocks sit on a shelf above his bed.

 I framed the invitation to one of his baby showers because it matched the theme and was SO cute! It also sits on the shelf.

This whale sticker came off of a Baby Gap gift given to me by a wonderful family friend.  She babysat me from the time I was 3 weeks old and I babysat her kids when I was in Jr. High and High School.  I thought it was so cute that I stuck it in a frame. 

This monogram came from Lincoln's Aunt Kelly.  It's done in navy blue with a neutral matting. Love it so much!

This was the first thing we ever bought for Lincoln. It's a monogram of his initials (LJC) that sits above his shelf.

This anchor hangs on the wall above his changing table.  It's actually pretty huge, like 2.5 or 3 feet tall!

And finally, this needlepoint picture was done by Lincoln's Great Aunt Anne! Thinking about doing his bathroom to match...

I love my little boy so much and glad he has a room that we can be proud of.  Daddy did a lot of work on the paint and built a window seat in the bay window, and mommy collected decor for months. I know once he gets bigger, it will get messy and things will not look this way, so I had to document it now!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

HONESTly Awesome

After my post about all of the horrible stuff that is found in some baby products, I did some research to find some companies that offered safe, gentle products for baby and piece of mind for mommy, and as a bonus, all three of these companies I am about to discuss gives back as well!  One of the companies I found was the Yes to Carrots brand.  They provide products for adults and babies which are free of parabens, petroleum, SLS, and phathalates, and the fruits and veggies they use to make the products are also organic.  They are also 95% recyclable, and not tested on animals!!! Finally, their charity 'Yes to Seeds' helps kids connect to nature and lead a healthy lifestyle, and their other program, 'Yes to Hope' aims to supplement 10,000 children's lunches across Africa. They plant gardens at schools, teach the children how to take care of the plants and then the produce is put in their lunches. How kick ass is that??? I cannot say enough good things about this company.  They can be found at almost any grocery store and at Walgreen's. 

The second company is a smaller scale, Tom's of Maine makes dental care products, deodorant, and soap.  Their products contain no animal ingredients, and are not tested on animals.  They share every ingredient in their products on their website, they use sustainable methods in their production, their packaging is mostly recyclable and they devote 5% of their employee's time to volunteering and 10% of their profits to humanitarian and environmental efforts. They can be found at Whole Foods, regular grocery stores and drugstores. 

Finally, I looked into Jessica Alba's company, The Honest Company. This one might be my favorite.  They offer diapers, home and baby care products all shipped directly to you.  When I ordered my trial (you can get a free sample of diapers, wipes and their 'essential sample kit' (pictured below)) I used their customer service and they were so helpful and friendly.  Their diapers are made with non-toxic, chlorine-free, sustainable and plant based materials.  They also donate diapers to children in poverty with every purchase! Their other products has a list of things they do not contain that is way too long to type but I'll hit the high points.  There is no formaldehyde, no parabens, phosphates, chlorine or dioxane. What a breath of fresh air.  The diapers are a bit expensive but the other products are on par with other similar products.  I cannot wait to try all the products from the trial and will review them as I do. I hope this post inspires all of you to try some of the products from these great companies.  The more we encourage responsible business, hopefully the more other businesses will follow suit.

Sleepless Nights/Crying it Out

This week has been a rough one. Little man is not sleeping through the night, not even close.  He is under a week away from 5 months, and all of my sources indicate that he should be sleeping 8-10 hours straight every night at this point.  No such luck.  I was up with him FOUR times last night.  He has always rolled around a ton during the night, but now that he is getting stronger, it is getting worse.  We have been having some issues with separation anxiety lately, the wonderful ladies at the YMCA have had to call me to come get him numerous times in the last couple weeks. So, I think the combination of his wild nocturnal movements which wake him up, coupled with his need for mommy to comfort and settle him down have turned into sleepless nights for me.  I feel that the best thing for everyone involved is to let him learn how to settle himself down at night. 

After I put him down the fourth time, he was still slightly awake. As soon as he hit the mattress, he woke himself back up and started crying.  I knew he was dry, fed, and unhurt, so I closed his door and went back to sleep. I think he fussed maybe 5 minutes or so and went back to sleep. Today, I have been determined to keep developing his self soothing skills. I have put him in his bed when he started to show signs of sleepiness, rocked him for a few minutes and then put him down.  The first time, he cried 2-3 minutes.  The second time was longer, maybe 10 minutes. It is painful for me to hear him be so upset but I strongly feel that learning these skills is going to be best for us all in the long run. 

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No Watchdogs, Only Big Bad Wolves

Like many political  and social welfare issues, we are not aware of them until they fall in our lap. Though I have spent many years reading about the benefits of low and zero animal protein diets, and what went IN my body, I had not spent much time thinking about what went ON my body. Since I am a vegetarian initially for moral, animal loving reasons, I have always used cosmetics that are 'cruelty free' meaning, no testing on animals or animal products are included in the product. However, you must read carefully. Some products are completely cruelty free and some say 'finished product not tested on animals' meaning that they can test any individual potentially caustic chemical on animals. As a side note, the way most products are tested is by putting the chemicals DIRECTLY into the animal, usually bunny's, eyes. Let's use our brain, people. As comedian and animal lover Ricky Gervais said the other day "Dear intelligent people of the world, don't get shampoo in your eyes.  It really stings. There. Done. Now f-ing stop torturing animals!" 

Off the soap box and on to the soap talks. Usually, products that are cruelty free are also environmentally conscious and free of other nasty chemicals. But not always. I cannot stress enough: Read Read Read.  It is amazing how much companies are able to get away with when it comes to the chemicals in their products. Recently, mega-conglomerate Johnson & Johnson, who own Neutrogena, Clean & Clear and Aveeno, to name a few, announced that it would be removing all of the harmful chemicals in their products by 2013.  The Economic times reported "Johnson & Johnson, which makes a range of personal care products like baby shampoo, acne cream and anti wrinkle lotion-announced plans last week to remove a host of potentially harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde, from its line of consumer products by the end of 2015, becoming the first major consumer products company to make such a widespread commitment. By 2015, consumer products will be reformulated. Johnson & Johnson already vowed to remove certain chemicals from baby products, like its shampoo, by 2013 reports The New York Times." We're talking about some nasty stuff, such as formaldehyde and dioxane, which has been linked to cancer in ANIMAL STUDIES.  I say, 2013 isn't soon enough. Why were they ever allowed to use formaldehyde in anything we put on our skin? The United States National Toxicology program describes formaldehyde as "known to be a human carcinogen" in 2010.  2010. Three years previous to J&J planning to remove it from baby products, and 5 years previous to planning to remove it from all products.  Additionally, it's not like this is new information here. Formaldehyde is used as embalming fluid, biocide and in the production of automobiles to name a few. Why was it ever used in products we put on the most sensitive skin of newborns?

I am guilty of using these products myself. They were given to me with shower gifts, and I blindly used them because they were there, and because J&J marketing team is really good at making sweet, warm fuzzy commercials that melt our hearts. Has anyone seen the You're Doing Ok Mom commercial? Tears every time. And I don't mean to just pick on J&J. They just happened to be in the news lately and at least they are trying to amend their practices.  Vegan diet book, 'Skinny Bitch' says, "The Skin is the body's largest organ.. Every day, we slop all sorts of potions and lotions and makeup on ourselves, and rub them into our skin.  Ever read the ingredients of these products? Ever consider that you are putting chemicals directly onto your largest organ? Ever think about the pores all over your body that you're putting inside them? Hopefully, you will now.  Buy natural beauty products.  What you put on your body is just as important as what you put in your body."

So, since many companies out there do not care about you, the consumer, or your baby, and what goes on your skin or in your bodies, we have to take charge and inform ourselves.  One great site is The Organic Consumers Association which gives the names of 'green' companies, as well as political action you can take in your state to advocate on a larger level for safe products and farming practices.  Pretty empowering, huh? PETA, while a bit radical in some of their stunts, even for me, does have a great way of searching for cruelty free products Cruelty Free Cosmetics, get the Be Nice To Bunnies app in your iPhone, and you can always look for the cruelty free bunny logo on products. Also the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a good resource to find out what is in the products you are using.  And finally, Consumer Reports has a pretty comprehensive list of all things baby, including safety and recall information. Do a little reading, you'll feel more empowered as a consumer, and for the long term effects that some of these chemicals may have, it will be worth it!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bouncing Back - My Journey Up and Down the Scale

When I found out I was pregnant, I solemnly vowed to myself that I would exercise every day, only gain the minimal amount of weight and lose it quickly afterward. Right. However, I had good reason to believe that this was possible. I was a very toned 125 lbs, doing Pilates and cardio almost every single day. I had gained 8-10 lbs of 'new boyfriend' weight when my husband and I started dating, but was still in very good shape at 135 lbs when I got pregnant.

I started out strong, walking most days, and doing some smaller weights. I even pursued my Pilates certification at 2 months pregnant and began teaching at a Lifetime Fitness. However, all of that came screeching to a halt when I found out that I had Placenta Previa. I had a partial previa, meaning the pancake shaped organ that gives nutrients to the baby and is vital for survival, was partially blocking my cervix, the baby's escape route, making a Cesarean likely. However, my doctor thought that it would move up where it was supposed to be on it's own. As a precaution, she put me on modified bed rest for 8 weeks. This was not easy for a busy body, workout fiend like me. I recall numerous heated discussions with my husband over me trying to do too much.

Additionally, something happened to my self control. I had worked so hard and watched what I ate for so long that being pregnant was like being on weeks and weeks of vacation. I made little allowance after little allowance and wasn't allowed to exercise. In the end, I delivered a beautiful, healthy 6lb 8oz baby boy at 170lbs.  I gained the maximum 'healthy' amount of weight of 35lbs. I walked out of the hospital having only lost about 10lbs (6.5lb baby + placenta, etc. + water weight).

170lbs, 8+ Months
At about 2 weeks postpartum, I began walking. It was still cool enough in mid-April to do some walking outdoors so I began taking Lincoln for walks every day. I waited for the 6 week checkup from my doctor to start doing my normal weights and workouts. Due to a generous gift from my aunt, we have a year's membership to the YMCA down the street, and I began trying to go 5 days a week. I did not feel like going at first, and still have days when I don't. However, I go because I feel better afterwards. The Y offers childcare at 6+ weeks, which is awesome, so I get an hour a day of grown up time, me time. I just wish they offered manicures and haircuts as well. 

At about 3.5 months postpartum, I was 137, almost back to my starting weight. My goal is 130lbs, and at the time, that could not seem further away, even considering how far I had come. It seemed like no matter what I did, my weight wouldn't budge anymore. Then, a couple of weeks ago, my husband suggested a 30 day vegan challenge. Having been a vegetarian for many years, I readily accepted the challenge. At the suggestion of a good family friend, we ordered the book The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn.  It is a great guide to kick-start a vegan challenge or a vegan lifestyle. My husband lost 20lbs in 3.5 weeks, and I lost about 3 (137 to 134). After a bit of adjustment, I really like the food, feel great and  plan on continuing this lifestyle as much as I can, knowing that occasionally some evil fatty cheese will probably pass my lips at some point.

160lbs, 3 days postpartum
 As for where I stand now, I'm pretty convinced at this point that I have lost as much weight as I can while still breastfeeding, and that my body 'wants' me to carry some fat to fuel milk production. As a goal-oriented person it is hard for me to accept falling a little short. However, I feel that being able to breastfeed my baby and give him the best start I can is well worth a little compromise on my part and a little extra (temporary) junk in my trunk.

134lbs, 4.5 months postpartum

Monday, August 20, 2012

15 Things That Have Changed Since Becoming a Mom

1. My vocabulary - I now say things like 'wubbanub' and 'bumbo' and some words have acquired a 'y' duck to ducky, fish to fishy.

2. My eye for danger - I drive slower, notice sharp corners, hard floors, and that the door to the nursery at the YMCA is way too close to the door to the exit for the building and someone could easily walk out with a child.

3. My social life - I no longer care that much about 'happy hours' and any drinking I do involves the couch, my husband and doesn't occur until after the baby is in bed.

4. My sleep cycle - I can safely say that I have been up at ever single hour in the night.  3:00 am is no longer a time I stay up until, it is the slap in the face that comes just after I have settled down after getting up 3 hours previous.

5. My freedom - I can't just pick up and go somewhere when I want to, but the bonus is I have the most adorable little guy to take with me wherever I go. I just have to wait until he's had a nap and eats.

6. My patience - I used to be the queen of instant gratification and when something needed to get done, I would usually knock it out quickly. Now, I am on Lincoln's schedule and have to squeeze in household chores and errands, and workouts when he's ready.

7. My confidence - together, my husband and I created life, it just doesn't get much more amazing than that.
8. My 'ick' factor - I spend a fair amount of time these days covered in spit up, drool, and elbow deep in poop and pee, I don't even gag anymore.

9. My protectiveness - I have much less patience with people who previously I would tolerate a lot more from. I have distanced myself from people who create drama, are codependent and who look at me like I am crazy when I tell them that I want to put my son to bed every night.

10. My marriage - Sure, we don't have as much time to spend just the two of us, but that time is extra special. Sometimes I find myself looking at him with our child and thinking what a miracle we made together and seeing him make endless goofy faces to make Lincoln laugh makes me love him even more.

11. My shopping habits - I would rather buy stuff for Lincoln than for myself.

12. My body - I expected the change in the look of my body, but I didn't expect the newfound respect I have for what it is capable of. I'm a walking buffet. An even though the occasional leak here and there is a minor annoyance, the fact that I am producing the most perfect nutrition for my baby never ceases to amaze me.

13. My priorities - My dog is no longer my baby, and Lincoln getting in a good nap is more important than being on time. To anything. Ever.

14. My fashion - Like I told my doctor the other day, I pretty much dress like a gym rat/hobo every day because I pretty much got spit up on 3 times a day for a while there. However, I do try to at least do my hair and put on some makeup, and get dressed up every once in a while, which always makes me feel better.

15. My spirituality - It's pretty hard to look into your baby's eyes and not believe there is a God.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda - Hospital/Labor/Delivery

As a first time mom, I was nervous, anxious and excited about having my first child.  I had talked to numerous of my friends who had already had children about their experience and on the whole, I felt confident that everything would be ok, and my beautiful baby boy was the light at the end of whatever tunnel I had to go through to get to him.  I was, of course, hoping to not have any complications or end up having a Cesarean. I hadn't considered the thought that my complications could be due to incompetence or lack of compassion and work ethic on the part of my labor and delivery nurse.

I had been having contractions for a couple of days, and they had started to get closer and closer together and I was growing more and more uncomfortable. We decided to go ahead and go to the hospital late in the evening even though I knew it wasn't quite 'time' yet. However, I thought that I could at least get my epidural started and I would be able to sleep so that I could be rested for the birth.

We arrived, were put in a room, and the night nurse got my I.V. started. She didn't do a very good job because my hand hurt for the next two days and was sore for a week after. She also gave me some kind of drug to make me relax. It not only made me relax, but made me hallucinate. I was seeing cartoons in my head and cracking up laughing trying to tell my husband the hilarity that was going on in my mind. Finally, I got the epidural and thought I would be able to sleep. No such luck.  The blood pressure cuff that was around my arm kept going off every 20 minutes, even though my blood pressure stayed around 108/60 the WHOLE TIME. Then, the batteries in my epidural pump were dying, and kept beeping like a dying smoke detector. I told at least 3 hospital personnel who promptly forgot and so I didn't sleep at all between the beeping, my aching hand and the blood pressure cuff.

The next morning, the nursing shift changed and I met the woman who would be with me throughout the delivery. She changed the batteries immediately in the pump and I thought I had found my guardian angel. However, the moment my doctor came in for rounds in the morning, the nurse started an argument with her, and it was downhill from there. She upped the pitocin because I was not dilating fast enough. Meanwhile, my epidural had run out but since the nurse was waging war with my doctor, she never came in to check on me.  My contractions were off the charts, back to back, no break in between, I was shaking like a leaf on a tree from head to toe and my nurse was nowhere to be found. My husband was coaching me, talking me through each contraction and getting me through.  My mom finally went and found another nurse to try to get me some help, and I finally got some relief when the anesthesiologist upped my dosage and refilled my pump.

Finally, it was time to start pushing. I could see the end.  I got to the point where my son was crowning, and they called my doctor.  The nurse took this moment to again bash my doctor for not being close by and go on and on about how she should be there and shouldn't have gone back to her office. I'm laying in the bed about to cry wondering why my doctor had abandoned me, to hear the nurse tell it, and then random people start coming in my room, like it's social hour. Talking about things that have nothing to do with me, while I'm spread eagle on this hospital bed trying to have a baby. I have heard that when you give birth that all dignity goes out the window, but I ask, why is that acceptable? I am a very modest person, and I expected the doctor, and nurse, and was even ok with the giant 'scrub tech' GUY, but I didn't expect Admin ladies coming in and talking about their lunch plans.

At long last, my doctor arrived and it was time to finally meet my son, just in time, my epidural ran out again. I felt EVERYTHING. Later, my nurse told me that she knew it was running out but didn't get it refilled. Even women who go the 'natual' route have the option of having a local anesthetic for the crowning. Nope, not me. My nurse let me suffer the crowning, tearing and stitches because she had some issue with my doctor. She even told me, as she was wheeling me down to recovery, that she was taking an extra amount of time with me because she didn't want to deal with her next patient because she was being a 'diva'.

I talked to my doctor about what had transpired at my follow up appointment. She was very sympathetic and urged me to file a complaint, which I did a couple of weeks later.  It made me feel better to have my grievances heard, but I was still bitter. I couldn't watch delivery shows on TV, and didn't want to hear about other women's positive experiences because it made me want to cry. I had envisioned this amazing experience, and don't get me wrong, once Lincoln was placed on my chest, not much else mattered, but I suffered more than I had to and I will always look back on that experience as stressful and unnecessarily hard.  I did not know my rights as a patient. I did not know if we could request a different nurse. I was scared to cause a problem and so I kept quiet. I know that next time, I will make sure that I have a nurse that is attentive and that I feel comfortable with. We (and our partners)have to be our own advocates to get the care that we deserve.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Intro - 4 Months of Blur

Finally I am able to start on this project I have been meaning to do for a long time. Being a new mom has left my head spinning, my 'me' time all but nonexistant and the universe has conspired against me to truly show me that I do not control everything.

I started my journey into mommyhood as most planners do, with the best of intentions, armed with books, magazines, gadgets and gizmos to educate myself and satisfy my son's every need, help establish his schedule and have some predictability. However, I quickly realized that there is such a thing as too much research and too much rigidity. I started out trying to get him on the Babywise schedule. This proved to be too stressful for both of us. I was waking him up out of naps to force him into this predictable 3 hour schedule. In theory it sounded great, I would supposedly always know what to expect of him, be able to plan grocery store trips, gym runs, and dinner with my husband all according to this schedule, plus three is my favorite number so I thought that Babywise and I were going to get along great.

I soon realized that babies have their own personalities, own needs and own schedules. I realized that it was way more important for him to sleep as much as he needed rather than me trying to force the book/my schedule upon him. During the most frustrating moments when I would refer back to the book, especially the chapter about 'When your baby cries', and wish one of these 'experts' come spend a day with me and tell me what to do when I was supposed to be letting him 'cry it out' and he stubbornly would keep it up for 20+ minutes, escalating in volume and pitch every minute. It is still a work in progress, but now, after 4 and a half months, I feel like I am finally settling down and letting Lincoln take the reins.

Back to the Universe. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine from college texted me and asked how I have been doing, with a smirk, I thought, "Do I tell her, or reply a glib 'fine, just busy'"? I decided to let her have it, since she asked, and I will do the same now. Here it goes.  In the past year, we're talking since January, it is now August, I have planned a wedding, got married, had a baby, had surgery on my nose, had our townhome flooded by the neighbor's hot water heater, ruining our floors, had an air conditioner leak in our home, ruining the ceiling and walls, had $10,000 worth of work done, which still isn't finished, had multiple attempts to get my tooth fixed that I cracked while I was pregnant, and worst of all, my nephew that was born 6 weeks after my son was injured, spend 3 weeks in infant ICU, then a week in Hospice and passed away. 

I do not know what I would have done without my wonderful husband and beautiful son, who are the loves of my life.  I cannot wait to share our story, and document my journey as a reformed control freak.