Andy’s Journey

I have been holding onto this story for a while – guarding it with my Mama Bear paws. This innate desire to protect my child is not unique to me. However, through this parenthood journey I have found that my most vulnerable moments have lead to my most powerful connections. I have decided to lean into this discomfort and embrace what comes out of it.

Today is International Children’s Growth Awareness Day which feels like just the push I needed.

I have been struggling with what and how much to share since this not entirely my story – it’s really Andy’s story. And she’s not of an age yet to voice her opinions about what she is comfortable with sharing publicly.

I’ve discussed this hesitation with my husband who shrugged it off and made a very valid point: This is not something we want Andy to ever be embarrassed of. It is who she is.

So, I share with you today: the story of our family.

Enjoying our local public library, August 2018 (Andy at 7-months-old).

Jeremy and I were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed as we went into our 12-week gestational appointment. This was the appointment where we’d be able to opt into genetic testing – testing that would reveal to us the gender of our growing baby.

I had tossed the idea of keeping the gender a surprise (opting out of the genetic testing), but Jeremy quickly objected and we agreed that finding out was best for both of our personalities. 🙂

Our giddiness deflated pretty fast as the Nurse Practitioner who performed the ultrasound explained to us that the amount of fluid at the back of our baby’s neck was just at the minimum measurement for concern (i.e. it may be nothing, but it could be something).

My world started spinning.

As my mind raced through what this may mean, I looked over at my husband and saw the joy disappear from his eyes. He was no longer listening. He, too, was spiraling.

I don’t remember much of what was said after that point, but I remember trying really hard to be strong for our little family – there were three of us depending on that right now.

It’s been so long I barely remember how the moments after this played out, but I know I cried hysterically by myself at some point. And I know Jeremy definitely had his own intense moments of processing the news.

A few days later I got a call. I stepped out of my office and started walking the block around our building. The same thoughtful Nurse Practitioner who had performed the ultrasound was making this fateful call to me.

She handed me the news gently like the unknown gift it was: Our daughter (it was a girl!) had Turner syndrome.

Immediately I felt dumbfounded – what on Earth was this?! I’d never heard of it (which is no surprise: it is pretty rare – affecting about 1 in every 2,500 girls – source: Kids Health).

My only response was “What’s the quality of life for a girl with Turner syndrome?”

She let out the faintest hint of a chuckle and exclaimed “it’s usually good! They can live completely normal lives.” She described complications our baby may have or issues she may face (that would be lifelong), but all-in-all, this diagnosis was fine – we would be fine.

Andy at 1.5-months-old {Fun fact: I made this hooded towel from a towel wrap I never used}

So, what is Turner syndrome?

Generally speaking, females have two complete X chromosomes in each cell. Females with Turner syndrome are missing a complete or partial X chromosome.

The most consistent features of TS are short stature and lack of ovarian development, however, there are other symptoms and characteristics that can appear in varying degrees, depending on each person’s unique genetic makeup. – source: Turner Syndrome Society

While Turner syndrome is a genetic condition, it is not inherited (despite the fact that I am also very short 😉 ).

I am oversimplifying my description of Turner syndrome because (frankly): I’m no expert. There are amazing resources out there if you are interested in learning more about it: The Turner Syndrome Society & the Turner Syndrome Foundation are two personal favorites.

  • THIS is a really good video about what it’s like for youth living with TS.

Andy at almost 3-months-old {yep, asleep in the yard}

I have said it a few times and I know it is very blunt, but this is the best worst-case-scenario after an appointment like that. My heart breaks for the families who go through such an experience only to receive devastating news. I may not know your struggle, but I know the fear you felt. I know the decisions you faced. My husband and I stared them in the face. It was a dark place to find yourself during one of the “happiest times of your lives.”

A few weeks later we met with a Genetic Counselor. She was amazing. Not only did she explain Turner syndrome to us in a very-technical-but-easy-to-understand way, but she was so warm and understanding.

She also explained the lab results in more detail: At this point, the chances of Andy actually having Turner syndrome was closer to 50% – really a flip of the coin. The only way to know for sure was amniocentesis (testing the amniotic fluid during pregnancy) or waiting until Andy was born (to test her blood).

Because of the risks associated with amniocentesis (which are still very low, btw) and the fact that the results wouldn’t change our decision to continue with the pregnancy or impact the path of care we were/would be receiving, we decided to wait until Andy was born to have her cord blood tested for TS.

Andy at almost 4-months-old.

The Genetic Counselor and her group followed my pregnancy until we were released around the beginning of the third trimester. Their ultrasound technician was the happiest person I think I have ever met and every time she found Andy’s heartbeat and confirmed her organs were functioning as they should she cheered.

Her contagious, uncontrolled excitement could have been because she knew the statistics.

My sister and Jeremy had found them too. They ran across the stats when we first found out.

Approximately 98% of fetuses conceived that have Turner syndrome will spontaneously miscarry early in pregnancy. – source: Turner Syndrome Society

During pregnancy, I refused to google anything. I wanted to put my head down and do.the.work. I knew we were fine – I was going to do all that I could to ensure a healthy pregnancy for both souls sharing my body.

Plus, as a researcher by trade, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that was a real statistic, but apparently it is (I’m not going to go into the research I finally did after Andy was born, but it’s a real stat).

Andy’s first 4th of July {almost 6-months-old}

The potential of losing Andy held me back emotionally. Subconsciously knowing the odds were stacked against her forced me to retreat into myself. My therapist once told me that I do a pretty good job of putting myself in a protective bubble when I need to. I definitely did this during pregnancy.

BUT…

Andy arrived.

Safe and healthy.

And a post-birth echocardiogram confirmed what the ultrasounds had indicated: she did not have any cardiac issues (this is at the top of the list of concerns for TS babies).

However, it would be a few days before we would hear the results from testing Andy’s cord blood for TS.

Andy around 7-months-old {Her great-Aunt & great-Grandma sent this dress from England. I made the bow!}

As anyone’s first few days with a newborn are, they were a fog. One evening, my friend (and Andy’s pediatrician) called. It was a little late for office hours so I wasn’t sure she was calling with the results. But she was.

She told us that Andy did, in fact, have Turner syndrome, but she has what is called “mosaicism.” Only about 50% of her cells are affected.

Mosaicism is when some cells in the body have two complete copies of the X chromosome. Other cells have only one copy of the X chromosome. – source: Mayo Clinic

At this point, we had done enough research to have an idea of what living with Turner syndrome might be like. We knew Andy would have lots of doctor’s appointments (yep) and she may be low on her growth curve (yep, but as her pediatrician says “she’s following the curve which is all we ask” and “Jordan, you’re short. She was always going to be small.”).

Andy at 7-months-old {also, mama-made bow}

So, what now?

Right now, Andy is doing amazing. She is 8-months-old and following her milestones. She’s small, but so am I. I know how to function in a world built for tall people. I will teach her all of my tricks (like having her Dad reach everything) and buy her own folding step stool so she can carry it around the house like I have to 😉 (…and hem all of her pants).

We feel so incredibly lucky to not only have Andy here, but to have her diagnosis so early. We didn’t have to wait until she had a handful of issues pointing to TS. Andy is being followed by a wonderful medical team. We have the luxury of prevention and early intervention. We are so grateful for this.

Andy at 7-months-old.

Life is so incredible.

One of my coworkers has a daughter who lost her hearing as a baby. She has cochlear implants and is doing amazing. Whenever we discuss the girls she always tells me “God gives us our special babies for a reason.”

Andy was always meant to be ours. This was always supposed to be our journey. Life was always going to play out like this for us. We are not in control. The universe has a plan for us and we are trusting in that – because so far we have not been let down.

Andy at 6.5-months-old.

Finding our community

The desire to share this story more widely has been pulling on my heart. Close friends and family were following our journey all along. They prayed for us, held our hands, and didn’t question us relentlessly about it but gave us the space to share what we wanted to when we wanted to (to all of you: you mean more to our family than you will ever know).

When we first found out Andy had TS, someone said to me “I know you have tons of support, but you need to find your community. We will support you in any way you need, but none of us will know what you are going through. You need to find other parents with daughters who have TS. They will be able to relate to you.”

For the past few months I have been on a journey to find that community.

In the spring, I ran across information for the Turner Syndrome National Conference. I told my husband about it as a “tuck this in our back pocket as something we can take Andy to one day,” but in true Jeremy fashion he immediately insisted that I go. He knows I hate to trust the internet with medical concerns and I want to hear about TS straight from the doctors, physicians, researchers, and women living with TS. We weren’t quite ready to travel with Andy so he suggested I take my sister for a girls weekend.

I told my sister and before we could even make plans, she had already emailed the conference hosts for information about sessions. {She is literally the most amazing person on the planet. I wish everyone could have a Katie.}

In July, my sister and I attended the conference. The best part was seeing all the women and girls – of all ages – living and thriving with Turner syndrome. They were (& are!) amazing. They embraced each other in the most heart-warming ways. We met other families and connected with parents of daughters with TS that I am still in contact with.

While I am absolutely thrilled about the connections we made, I have been struggling to find and connect with families of girls with TS around Andy’s age (she’s 8 months old now!) in or around our area (South Carolina). As someone who is absolutely relentless in my pursuits of just about anything, if I am having a hard time finding this community, I KNOW there are others out there having the same struggle.

Our lives are much messier now, but so very fulfilled. {Andy at 7.5-months-old}

If you know someone affected by Turner syndrome, please share this post with them. If you are that person, reach out! Let’s connect – you can find all my information here.

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9 Favorite Children’s Books

Whether you have a little one (or twelve) of your own and are wondering what books you haven’t discovered yet, are expecting your first child and wondering what on Earth you’ll do to entertain them, or have friends/family with little ones you might want to get a gift for at some point, this list is for YOU!

Andy has always loved “reading” (yes, we realize our #BabyGenius cannot actually read yet). The Hubs and I genuinely love reading to her. Children’s stories are so fun – I love the rhyming and excuse to get really animated while reading (#Nerd). We started reading to her in the beginning because, honestly, what else are you going to do with a newborn? Plus, we knew how beneficial talking to her is for her language development and it’s kind of hard to come up with your own stories when the listener can’t respond yet…so books are great! 😉

Before Andy was born, my sister (who is not only a Reading Coach, but also a true love of books!) stocked our nursery with more books than we ever thought we’d read (wrong…we’ve read almost all of them. Most of them over & over). If you don’t have a book-loving sister willing to dump stacks of baby reading material on you, check out your local Facebook sales groups (Moms love to hang out in these places & they sell some pretty amazing “used” things) or browse your local thrift stores (great place to find classics!).

The books below are in no particular order – we love them all equally!

 1. Cloudette

This book is about a cloud that’s smaller than all the others (as a short gal raising a fellow tiny gal, I truly appreciated this perspective!). While she acknowledges the advantages of being small, she struggles with the limitations. In the end, she shows that with hard work she was able to make the impact on the world she wanted to.

Perfect for: the vertically challenged tots on your list 😉

Buy Cloudette here.

2. Bear Says Thanks

Bear wants to throw a feast but his cupboards are empty. One-by-one his friends show up with something to contribute to the gathering. I like this book because it shows how special time together with loved ones can be (even if you have nothing to contribute but stories – like Bear).

The first time we read this book together, it was before we were heading to gather with family for a potluck lunch. It was very appropriate!

Perfect for: Because of the theme of gratefulness and the gathering of friends (with food!), it would be a great book to read at Thanksgiving. It could also be a good book to read when learning about manners (Bear thanks each of his friends as they bring food for the gathering).

Buy Bear Says Thanks here.

 3. Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

This is a great story about embracing what makes you unique. Molly Lou encounters a bully at her new school. Because of the confidence her grandmother has instilled in her, she knows how to handle the bully and ultimately (no surprise 🙂 ) they become friends.

Perfect for: This would be a great story for a child who is moving and/or starting a new school where they will be making new friends. Also a great story for children dealing with bullying.

Buy Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon here.

 4. Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

A few books from the Olivia series arrived on our doorstep unexpectedly one day. Andy’s Aunt Olivia had sent them to her!

While I try to be cautious about Princess-y books (and clothes and nicknames…), this story is a good one! Olivia is fed up with everyone wanting to be Princesses – honestly, I really like the way her fierce personality shines through as she rants about this.

#SpoilerAlert: I do wish that in the end she decided to be something other than a Queen (sorry for giving away the ending!). Nonetheless, this is still great inspiration for being unafraid of standing out.

Perfect for: Encouraging little ones to follow their heart – there are no wrong choices on the path to discovering who they are. While the title and cover (and most of the images) are very gendered, I think this is still a good story for both girls and boys. It’s also a great book for newborns because a lot of the interior images feature red, black and white – good contrast for little ones who can’t yet see all colors.

Buy Olivia and the Fairy Princesses here.

 5. Lily the Unicorn

The author of this story also illustrated the book which I found really impressive (having the imagination to create a meaningful story + the ability to illustrate such beautiful pictures is quite an impressive pair of skills!).

The story is [obviously] about Lily the Unicorn. She loves making new friends, but her newest friend doesn’t feel quite the same way. She works hard to find ways they can connect and shows him all the fun possibilities that await him.

Perfect for: While the cover print may make you think this is a “girly” book, I assure you: it’s one for all children! The high contrast of the drawn images inside (notice the thick black lines around the images and letters on the cover) are great for newborns. This is a great book for a wide range of ages – the pages contain short sentences/few words, but are scattered with accompanying images with smaller text…a great option to incorporate more discussion/lengthen reading time as the child gets older. The story is perfect for children who are entering a phase where they will be making news friends (i.e. starting daycare or school).

Buy Lily the Unicorn here.

6. LMNO Peas

This is the Hub’s favorite book! He reads it to Andy every morning and then sings the ABC’s to her (he is literally the best, right?!). I was hesitant to read it at first because some of the ABC books are quite boring, but this one is really creative! I love how the peas are all sorts of things (as the Hubs pointed out when he was trying to convince me to read it, there’s a quilter and a weaver!).

Perfect for: Not only learning the ABCs, but also learning about all of the cool occupations and hobbies that exist!

Buy LMNO Peas here.

7. She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

No surprise that this book is an absolute favorite. It was one of the first books I read to Andy. The nonfiction stories within the book are truly inspiring.

There’s another version of the book, She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History – it’s on our wish list!

Perfect for: Any kid! But because of the strong message of female empowerment: especially girls.

Buy She Persisted here.

8. Lily Wool

I found this book when the Hubs and I took a day trip to Greenville a few weeks before Andy was born and stopped into M.Judson Booksellers.

I love the story of Lily Wool! She is an endlessly creative sheep who doesn’t fit in. She learns to use her creativity to contribute to her herd in a positive way and becomes a creative entrepreneur!

Perfect for: Inspiring young ones to follow their passions and find ways to use their creativity for good. Also a great book for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Buy Lily Wool here.

 9. Beautiful

This book is so cleverly illustrated! My sister got it for Andy. I love that the statements in the book are sayings that we hear about girls all the time, but the illustrations show a spin on the saying by flipping it to show basically the opposite of the stereotype. It’s really a neat book!

Perfect for: Any and every girl! The content paired with the illustrations is really powerful, but not in a hard-to-understand kind of way. It’d be a great gift to a girl in your life to show her that beauty is defined in so many ways.

Buy Beautiful here.

*Disclaimer: For convenience, I’ve included links to the books so you can buy them online, but I highly encourage you to try to find used copies OR (better yet!) visit your local library and rent them! #SaveThePlanetOneUsedBookAtATime. Also, I don’t understand affiliate links and I’m certainly not popular enough to be bribed into a good review so you can rest-assured the statements in this post are totally unbiased.

PS: I’ve posted about several of these books on Instagram. If I did, I’ve linked the picture to the original post so you can read more there and see what others shared in the comments. Just click on the pictures and they’ll take you there!

My new Parkside Shorts and thoughts about the postpartum body

As you all know from Andy’s Birth Story (and other musings), I’m still trying to “get to know” my postpartum body. I can’t sew as fast as I’d like, but I’m working to build a wardrobe that makes me feel good…and I’m excited to say I finally finished making my first piece of clothing post-baby!

My first postpartum handmade wardrobe staple: A pair of Parkside Shorts in Essex Linen

Due to the fact that I live in a climate that is ridiculously humid and HOT in the summer (our city is nicknamed “Famously Hot”) + my sweet, squishy baby has caused all of the shorts I enjoyed last summer (and the summers prior) to no longer fit (at least not comfortably), shorts were at the top of my sewing priority list.

Pattern

Before discovering Sew Caroline’s Parkside Shorts {read about my 1st pair here}, I thought I wasn’t a “shorts person.” Turns out – I just hadn’t found shorts that fit right. Knowing this now, I knew it would be worth the effort to construct a pair of Parkside Shorts based on my new measurements so I could comfortably get through summer.

PLUS POCKETS! I love the pockets in these shorts – they are in a comfortable position so you can rest your hands there and they’re large enough to actually hold stuff.

As you know, I had a cesarean birth which means not only do I have a pretty wicked scar, but my stomach is also still numb and tender in certain areas. That said, regular waistbands and fitted pants are not comfortable (I’m okay with that considering I don’t really wear pants all that often and loose-fitting clothes are what I gravitate to). The thick elastic waistband & the slightly higher rise of these shorts make them super postpartum friendly (I read somewhere that elastic shorts with a drawstring are a good postpartum investment so that they can continue to be worn as you “shrink” so adding the optional drawstring may have been a good idea, but I really didn’t want any negative body-talk/desires-of-bodies-past going into these shorts 😉 ).

Fabric

I’ve been very slowly working on a pair of Harrington Shorts for the Hubs using some of the Essex Linen I got from Trailer Stash Fabrics many moons ago. I had enough of the green left over to cut out a pair of Parkside Shorts for myself! {SO.. one day the Hubs & I will have matching shorts #Nerds. Maybe I’ll even make Andy a pair of matching bloomers #FamilyOfNerds}.

The material is really breathable and felt great when I wore them last weekend. Being that they are my only currently-fitting shorts, I’m pretty sure I’ll be shamelessly wearing them every weekend (thank goodness I chose a neutral fabric!).

Process

Over the past few weeks I’ve been stealing a few minutes here and there to work on the shorts. I could’ve rushed through the shorts, but I took my time to over-stitch all of the interior edges to prevent fraying and so that it would look a lot neater 😉 With sewing time being a little more sparse, I tried to relish every step when I got a window of time to sit down to sew.

More than ever sewing has truly become my outlet for self-care. The quiet time with my machine is such a gift. Utilizing my skills to construct clothing that makes me feel good in my body is such a blessing. When I have the time and the energy, those moments of sewing serve me in such an enormous way.

Andy watching me work on my Parkside Shorts.

On the weekends, we spend a lot of time in our lower-level (kind of a “basement”) where my sewing space is. While I sew, Andy plays on her baby gym or takes a nap in her seat. I love having her near me while I’m sewing. As time goes on, I hope she continues to enjoy our quiet, recuperation time – maybe one day she’ll have her own creative project to work on alongside me 😉

Andy enjoying a slumber while I finished my Parkside Shorts.

As soon as I finished the shorts, I tried them on and I could have melted. They fit perfect which felt incredible. It’s been a very long time since I have put on clothes that were made for me and fit in the way I wanted them to. It’s tough when your body changes (especially if it’s in the larger direction 😉 ). When you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes, it’s hard to feel comfortable in your skin.

My thoughts on the postpartum body

As we’ve passed the magical “4th trimester” and are approaching 5 months with Andy being earth-side, I’m being bombarded with “How to lose the baby weight” emails and diet marketing.

As someone with a degree in Public Health (including a graduate level nutrition course) and a strong attachment to my local YMCA, I understand the importance of physical fitness and nutrition. HOWEVER, I have zero tolerance for society’s pressure to “get my body back.”

Newsflash: My body never left. It may look a little different, but it’s here. And it has served me and my family pretty damn well.

In the beginning/shortly after Andy was born, I had some low points where I felt uncomfortable with the extra “fluff” my body had retained. Some of that weight has sloughed off, but some hasn’t…and I’m okay with that. When I talk about it with friends/family/coworkers, their reaction is usually: “Don’t worry, you’ll get your body back!” I know they are well-intentioned with this reaction, but the truth is: I do not desire my “old body.” Not to say I’d be sad if I woke up tomorrow and all of my old clothes suddenly fit perfectly again, but it’s not a priority of mine right now nor is it a concern.

For the better part of a year, I shared my body with another soul. My body nourished her until she was ready to thrive in her own body. That’s incredible! The extra padding in my midriff was the cushion that kept her safe. I can’t help but admire what what my body has been through. It has served me so very well. I continue to work my hardest to serve it well too (but Fridays are pizza night and I’m not willing to give that up 😉 ).

I refuse to cave into feeling sorry for myself and/or obsessing over what I’m eating or spending hours at the gym.

I am active every day. I try to eat real food as often as possible. I don’t judge myself when I want a treat, and I don’t judge myself when my old clothes don’t fit. I knew they wouldn’t. Maybe one day they will. Maybe they never will again. Maybe one day Andy can wear them. Maybe she won’t. Maybe they’ll be eaten by moths before then. Maybe not. Honestly, who cares. They’re replaceable possessions.

What I really need are clothes that fit and make me feel good when I wear them. I don’t need for clothing to be a reminder of the weight I’m still carrying.

Recently I read an article written by a personal shopper/stylist about how [before having her own baby] she was surprised at how many of her clients were new moms. One thing she said really stood our for me…

You can’t derive your self-worth from the contents of your closet.

What you might get though, is a little confidence in yourself. Confidence that you look like you which translates into feeling like you.

THIS. This is why I make my own clothes. THIS was the reminder I needed.

I think we need to stop pressuring new moms to get in shape. We need to stop complacently allowing big-box-shops to create clothing for one body type (aka: definitely not the new-mom-bod). We need more postpartum-friendly [affordable] clothing available. We need friends to share their closets with us. We need other moms to tell us that it’s okay to abandon your old body. We need our husbands to tell us they don’t give a $h!t whether our ass shrinks because that baby it made is pretty darn cute. And all those pregnancy/new-baby newsletters we signed up for in hopes of cracking the how-to-be-a-great-mom code have no right to repeatedly send emails titled “How to get your body back.” BECAUSE LADIES: Your body never left. You look amazing. Your baby is wonderful. And life is good.

5 ways I balance creativity, self-care and motherhood

I feel like the title of this post may be a bit misleading – I don’t have the answer for balancing it all, BUT I have done a few things that have really helped carve out space in this “new life” so that I can maintain my creativity and the self-care that I need.

While my experience is tunneled through my own rose-colored, FEMALE glasses, self-care is incredibly important for Dads too. My husband has sacrificed a lot already for our little family. I make an extra effort to encourage him to maintain his hobbies – if he misses hockey one week, I encourage him to take his bike for a trail ride that weekend. He needs this. Without fail, he always returns re-energized and ready to entertain Andy while I sew 🙂 It’s a win-win.

 1. I’ve made caring for myself a priority

Shortly after Andy was born I realized those familiar feelings of depression and anxiety were sneaking back in. I was overwhelmed. I was having a tough time adjusting to having a tiny human fully dependent on me for survival.

There are many influential turns I took on my path to motherhood so it’s hard to credit just one thing, but I will say that by prioritizing my needs was what needed to shift so that I could be the best parent possible. When I made that shift, suddenly Andy was a happier baby, my husband was happier, and so was I!

How I do this

Just before Andy was born, I took the opportunity to change my work schedule so that I arrived half an hour earlier and left half an hour earlier. That said, now I start my workday shortly after Andy wakes up for the day.

If I were to go straight to work from home, I would likely have about 15 minutes with Andy before I would need to leave. Instead, I go to the gym in the morning before work like I did before Andy was born. This allows me to go to the yoga class I love, catch up with the friends I’ve made at the gym over the years, and/or jump on the treadmill and listen to a podcast without sacrificing a large chunk of “quality time” with Andy.

And…I don’t feel guilty that I am using my morning time to work out rather than to get Andy ready for daycare. WHY? Because this time is also important for my husband and Andy’s relationship. They need time together without me. My husband has a routine he has constructed for the two of them that kicks off their day on a positive note before they are off to work and daycare.

 2. I make time for myself

How I do this

Some days I take my lunch to work and eat at my desk. I continue to work while I eat so that I can use my lunch break to do something even more nourishing. Sometimes that is going home to sew a few stitches on whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes it’s running errands or folding laundry so that I can check those off my to-do list without sacrificing my time with Andy in the afternoon. One day it was going to Target, treating myself to a matcha latte and a new bathing suit because that was what I needed that day 😉

 3. My husband & I negotiate “free time”

As I said before, I try to encourage my husband’s time for self-care too (he might not call it self-care, but still 😉 ). We do this as a balancing act. We take turns being Andy’s primary care provider during the weekend so that each of us gets the time we need.

How I do this

As the weekend approaches, the Hubs and I touch base about our plans. If there’s something that he wants to do one morning, I agree to entertain Andy during that time so long as he agrees to entertain her that afternoon so I can do something.

My husband did a really great job of implementing this in the beginning. When I was on maternity leave in the early weeks of feeling like a new-mom-zombie, the Hubs made me pick somewhere to go (outside of the house) one afternoon every weekend. He wanted me to have time by myself and to get used to being away from the baby before I went back to work. Honestly, it was an incredibly thoughtful gesture and one that really helped with my transition back to work and now our balance of remembering to prioritize “me” time.

 4. We protect our “family time”

My husband and I are on this parenting journey together. That being said, we prioritize our relationship (as a family unit) as much as we can.

Sometimes that means saying “No” to something else.

 

How I do this

Both my husband and I work away from the home during the week. Weekends are the primary time we get for our hobbies and to spend time with Andy.

While we take time during the weekend for ourselves individually, we also set aside time for the three of us. We make sure that we have several hours of uninterrupted time together. So, if family or friends want to get together, we protect this as time we are not available.

With a newborn, family and friends often want to come visit. Sometimes this is a much-needed break so that someone else can hold or entertain the baby while I use my hands for something else (like laundry…it never ends!). And it’s nice to see family and friends forming a bond with Andy too. But sometimes it can be draining (I’m an introvert!)

We love spending time with friends and family and we do so almost every weekend. However, we understand the importance of our time together (especially with Andy) so we do not feel guilty if we don’t have time to spend with others that weekend (there’s always the next weekend 😉 ).

 5. I outsource what I can

I highly recommend that if you have the opportunity, outsource as many tasks and duties as you are comfortable with emotionally and/or financially. If you can shift your spending to afford a service you have been wanting, do it! The best way to save money is to cut a recurring expense (example: cancel your cable in lieu of an antenna for local channels & time outside).

OR find someone willing to “trade” their skill set. You could offer a service or task that you enjoy in exchange for them taking on something for you.

How I do this

I am someone who needs a clean house to keep my stress level down. I know this about myself. Trying to keep the level of “clean” I desired through pregnancy had gotten tough even with my husband taking on a lot of the cleaning. Andy arrived and I realized I couldn’t do it all…nor did I want to! Instead, I wanted the time to care for and bond with Andy. I didn’t want to spend what little bit of free time I could get cleaning or stressing about how badly I needed to clean.

So I hired a house-cleaner. I’d been debating this for years, but hadn’t because I felt like that was something only “rich people” did and I didn’t want anyone to pass judgement on me… UNTIL my therapist recommended doing this before I returned to work (apparently she saw how valuable this would be for me 😉 ).

I’m so happy that I did. And I think you’d be surprised at how much more affordable this service is than you think! (Take the time to search around until you find someone you trust in your house and can afford!)

*Disclaimer: I realize that the fact that I can construct this list and share the experiences I have with you is a luxury in-and-of-itself. Not all of my “tips” are going to be adoptable for everyone. I realize that. However, I hope that by sharing some of the things I’ve done, it sparks an idea of something you can do for yourself – or encourage for someone else who may need it.

Andy’s Birth Story

I hesitated to share this story until I told the Hubs and he said “It’s as much your story as it is hers” (he’s so great).

Plus:

  1. it’s Cesarean Awareness Month.
  2. I always love reading other people’s birth stories {so I guess sharing mine only seems fair 😉 }.
  3. Andy is now 3 months old {where has the time gone?!}.

So…without further adieu, here’s Andy’s birth story!

Andy Magnolia, 9 days old.

When I went in for my 39-week appointment my doctor said “I can’t believe you haven’t had this baby yet!” We couldn’t either! At my appointment the week prior I was dilating 2-almost-3 centimeters. We spent the weekend walking our usual long route around town in hopes it would help encourage Andy to make her way into the world. No such luck.

A few days earlier (Tuesday night) I sat straight up in bed not long after getting settled for the night. Suddenly I was so uncomfortable! I couldn’t decide if it was a contraction because it didn’t feel quite right and it lasted way longer than a contraction was supposed to. I couldn’t speak. My husband popped up and asked if I was okay and I mumbled something, trying to tell him to go back to sleep.

I’m not sure how much time passed but I woke up a few hours later realizing I had fallen asleep (so obviously…not a contraction!). I felt a ton better though! I went on with life-as-usual (the pregnant version 😉 ).

At my appointment that Thursday morning my doctor asked if we’d like to have my membranes stripped to help speed up labor. “Sure!”

I noticed that during this exam she didn’t seem quite as excited as last time (when she announced I was starting to dilate), but the anticipation of Andy’s birth nearing kept my mind from giving her reaction (or lack of) too much thought.

After the exam she asked if we were curious as to how much Andy weighed. “Yeah, I guess!” My husband was a big baby (10 pounds) and I was fairly big for being a month early (8 pounds) so we were curious, but we also knew how inaccurate the ultrasound weight predictions could be. Nonetheless, we went for an ultrasound.

Almost immediately the technician said “Yep, she’s breech.”

That was the last thing I had expected to hear. Andy had been head-down and ready for delivery for the duration of pregnancy.

I had already drafted my birth plan (and redrafted, edited, obsessed over…) and reviewed it with my doctor. I hadn’t given a C-section much thought (though I did read a few articles just in case, but surely that wouldn’t be me…right? Wrong).

I knew that with breech babies there were options for attempting to flip the baby. Yet, in that moment, I knew those choices weren’t going to be part of my path. I had attended the same yoga class I was part of for the 6 years prior (including that very morning!). My teacher revamped our class when I announced I was pregnant and began working in poses to make our class more prenatal-friendly. We had done all the cat-cow poses and squats you could imagine to try to prepare my body for delivery. If Andy were going to be head-down for birth, she would’ve stayed there. But she didn’t. And I just knew attempting a flip wasn’t going to be a good idea.

Once we left the ultrasound, my doctor met with us again. She said she recommended the ultrasound because she knew something had changed. She was able to feel Andy’s head the week before and this week she couldn’t. She said Andy likely flipped sometime that week (I’m pretty sure that’s what I felt that Tuesday). She explained that (from the ultrasound) Andy’s head was a little large which typically leads to an unsuccessful attempt to flip so she recommended that we not try. I didn’t hesitate to agree with her.

Because I was already dilating and she had stripped my membranes in hopes to bring on labor, she gave us the option to schedule a c-section for the next day (Friday) or wait over the weekend. If we waited, we ran the risk of going into labor naturally. I was already a ball of nerves since my “plan” had gone off-script at this point. We opted to schedule the c-section for the next morning.

The doctor on-call for the next morning who would perform the surgery met with us before we left the office. She gave a quick run-down of the process so we would know what to expect. I was so overwhelmed, but so grateful for the chance to know what’s going on.

We left the appointment and the Hubs and I met back downtown for breakfast at one of our favorite spots. Afterward we headed back to work (because literally all our preparation was done so going home meant we’d be sitting, waiting, and becoming more anxious). It was nice to be able to set up everything at my office now that I knew when I would be going out for maternity leave.

When I got home, I was able to go back through my hospital bag and get the car packed. I reminded myself that this was a luxury that not many get to have. I was able to take my time and I even got to call and text family and friends about what was going on.

I think I got a total of 2 hours of sleep that night! I was so nervous. I had never had major surgery before and didn’t know what to expect. I was particularly worried about recovery. I was eager to return to walking and yoga and was scared about how long I may be immobile. I tried to remind myself that I had taken care of my body in preparation for bringing this child into our world in whatever way that may be. I was not the first woman to go through this nor would I be the last. I would be fine.

We arrived at the hospital early the next morning. Our surgery was delayed because of an emergency c-section. While I was nervous and the time passing just made me more nervous, I was so grateful that I was not in an emergency situation. How incredibly lucky was I that my doctor’s intuition saved me from being rushed to the Operating Room after labor had begun?!

Finally it was “our turn” and I was wheeled into the OR. It was cold and sterile. I was shaking like a leaf from fear. They got me a warm blanket which helped a little.

I met the staff who would be helping bring Andy into the world. My doctor stood in front of me while I waited for the anesthesiologist to administer the spinal. She talked to me about the hospital construction that was underway – it was nice to have her guide a conversation so I didn’t have to think much (and it distracted me at least a little 🙂 ).

I counted my breath the way I’d learned in a Yoga for Anxiety class a few years earlier in an attempt to keep my anxiety from getting worse.

When the anesthesiologist got ready, my doctor wrapped me in the warmest bear-hug and held me there until it was over. Placement was quick and easy and suddenly I couldn’t feel a thing from just below my bra line. My anxiety started to fade.

My husband appeared by my head and I felt so grateful to have him there.

As they were operating, the team was discussing another woman who was having contractions against her previous c-section scar. They needed to get her in the OR immediately after me. I would’ve gladly let her go first…Again I thought about how grateful I was that I was not in that situation. I was safe and so was my baby.

As Andy emerged, I heard the doctor say, “Oh look, her umbilical cord was around her neck” so nonchalant. I’m sure she’s used to seeing that, but I will never forget hearing her say that and AGAIN thinking how grateful I am for the path we took.

Andy Magnolia, 2 days old.

The Nurse Anesthetist who was standing by my head was amazing. She made sure my hair was comfortably tucked under the surgical cap and talked me through everything that was going on with the operation which was comforting. She was so attentive to my needs. When they handed Andy over to us, she asked if we wanted a picture. Neither Jeremy nor I are great at stopping to capture moments like this on camera so we hadn’t given it much thought. However, we both felt the weight of this moment and immediately said “yes!” She captured photos we will treasure forever. I am so incredibly grateful for her offer. It may have been a simple offer during another average day-on-the-job for her, but it was the moment that changed our lives forever. To have that captured is so special.

Honestly, the procedure itself was not as bad as I had feared. For weeks I described it as a “pleasant” experience when people would ask (I would still use that term!).

The same is true for recovery. It was no walk in the park, but it was not how I feared it would be. Sitting up from bed in the days after Andy was born was difficult. My doctor ordered a wrap for my stomach that really helped a lot. I was able to walk around the hospital halls the day after surgery. In the weeks following, I started taking Andy for daily walks in our neighborhood (which we still do – it has become part of her evening routine. We usually meet our neighbor whose daughter is a month younger than Andy. It’s so nice to share this experience with them – we both enjoy having a friend who can relate 🙂 ). Seven weeks later I returned to my favorite yoga class.

Andy Magnolia, 5 weeks old. On a blanket knit for her by a lady in my yoga class 🙂

So here we are 14 weeks later and I’m starting feel like my old self. It took some time (I’ll save that for another post), but I am enjoying motherhood more than I ever thought I would.

My tummy maintains the squishy remnants of having carried a baby and nothing in my wardrobe seems to fit the way I wish it would, but I’m coming to a place of content. I’m continuing to walk daily and am back to going to yoga a few times a week. It took nine months for my body to construct another human being. That in itself is amazing. I can forgive it for not bouncing back to the starting point yet.

I’m grateful for the chance to be in this body, in this moment, and to have the energy and ability to be mobile and active. And every time I see Andy smile I feel so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be her Mom. She is truly amazing.

Andy Magnolia, 13 weeks old.

My wardrobe needs changed overnight – my old clothes are too small and my maternity clothes accentuate areas I no longer want accentuated – so I’m trying to catch up. I can’t sew that fast so I’ve had to invest in some transitional pieces. I’m in desperate need of pants that fit so I’ve started working on a pair of Arenite pants (after falling in love with Meg’s version!). Slowly but surely I’m gaining my sewjo back (so stay tuned!).

For more inspiration, check out these gorgeous C-Section Scar Photos – pretty powerful!

And remember: motherhood is hard enough. Don’t judge another mother’s experience. Very [VERY] little went as planned throughout my pregnancy and now throughout motherhood. This experience has taught me so much. We’re all just trying to be the very best we can be for our children. Sometimes we fall short of our own standards, but we’re all working really hard. Nothing we’ve done (including birth) was easy, but it was totally worth it.

Pregnancy Tips and Tricks from a Total Novice

I finally announced my pregnancy on social media {and in What I was lovin’ last month} so cat’s out of the bag! 😉

I’m now more than half way through this pregnancy and fast approaching my third trimester. I’ve been reflecting a lot on what has gone well so far, what I’ve discovered, and what I have found immensely helpful.

On that note {and the fact that I have found reading about the experience of other moms-to-be oh-so-comforting}, I have decided to share some tips and tricks with you!

*Disclaimer: This is my first pregnancy and I am very far from what anyone would call an “expert” so please take all advice with a grain of salt. Additionally, find a good doctor and remember that their advice trumps anything I [or anyone else] can tell you! 😉

Lessons to Learn

aka: What money can’t buy you

Just a few things I have learned (or am learning) along the way.

1. Slow down

Good gracious that first trimester was exhausting! {I can only imagine what the 3rd trimester…or the rest of my life chasing a tiny human around will be like.}

Forgive yourself when you can’t get everything on your to-do list done. Take some time to rest… nap if your body wants to! I hear you can’t get a lot of those after the little one arrives so soak it up.

I knew I wanted to sew something for the announcement and I finally settled on a pair of shoes in some coveted Liberty of London fabric. I had sewn the pattern before {see them in this post} which was comforting during a time when I wasn’t sure I’d have the energy to tackle something unfamiliar. I worked on the shoes little-by-little for several weeks {I wasn’t in any rush to share the news 😉 }. They turned out beautiful and I felt really great after finishing them.

Slowing down and taking the pressure off of myself was what I needed.

2. Find a friend who recently had a kid

Gold mine! The experience is fresh for them so they can answer all of your questions. Additionally, they’re going through baby clothes like hot cakes so they can hand-me-down more relevant clothes (rather than dusty bins from their attic). Bonus: If they’re similar to your size, they might be willing to share maternity clothes with you!

My sister (right) and I at her baby shower in January 2017.

My sister just had her baby in February. Regardless, I knew she’d be super supportive, but she’s also been an amazing resource!

Almost every time I see her, she has a bag of clothes or accessories that baby Guy has outgrown and is ready to share with his cousin. I really appreciate this – baby stuff is endless and can become a real bummer when you start to realize how short of a time the things you’re buying will be used.

If you’re already a mama – share the love! Pass along your maternity clothes, baby clothes/accessories & all that random equipment they require.

3. Do some meal prep

Start thinking of freezer-friendly meals. I have heard stocking your freezer with some easy-to-pop-in-the-oven meals for postpartum is a good idea. I plan to compile a few in the month or so before my due date.

Here are a few posts I found with vegetarian-friendly freezer meal ideas:

If you’re short on freezer space, dry-ingredient jar mixes like Spicy Three-Bean SoupChili Mix , Pleasing Pasta Soup (sub veg bouillon for vegetarian version) would also be good time savers. And this cheerio snack mix would be a good idea beside your nursing chair.

Here are 101+ meals in a jar recipes you can browse!

4. Switch sides of the bed

At the beginning of my pregnancy, the nurse recommended that I start trying to sleep on my left side (this seems to be more important further along in your pregnancy). When I mentioned it to my doctor she asked whether I slept facing inward or outward. Then she quoted a study that said regardless of which side of the bed you are physically sleeping on, if you typically face inward you will continue to do that or if you typically face outward you will continue to sleep in that position. So, figure out which side of the bed would allow you to continue to sleep facing the direction you prefer (in or out) while laying on your left side. Switch with your partner if necessary – I promise the adjustment isn’t so bad!

Things to invest in

aka: What money can buy you

There are a few things I’ve purchased and/or [mostly] been gifted/hand-me-down’d that have made pregnancy much more comfortable. Below are a few of those.

1. Body Pillow

This one on Amazon is similar to mine.

If you know someone who had a baby recently (or who holds onto things like this), they may have a pillow you could borrow. I have also seen several for sale on a local Facebook sales group {another great place to look for maternity & baby stuff since it’s where all the hip mamas hang out}. Most have removable, washable covers so if you can find a gently used one, that’s a good idea! I also got a coupon for one from my doctor after my first “I think I’m pregnant!” visit.

If you’re feeling up for it, you could even make your own – here’s a tutorial.

OR if you’re not loving the idea of investing in a weirdly shaped, very large pillow – you can build your own pillow fortress! This video from babycenter is a must-watch. It’s titled “How to sleep like a baby when you’re expecting one” and clearly the creators of the video totally get it. Honestly, even if you have a body pillow, watch it. It’s great if you’re traveling and don’t want to lug that heavy, awkward thing around with you.

2. Ginger Turmeric Tea from Trader Joe’s

 

Luckily I wasn’t very sick which I am very grateful for! But I had a lot of nausea in the first trimester. The Ginger Turmeric Herbal Tea from Trader Joe’s was amazing – it usually bought me some extended time of feeling more normal/less nauseous.

In fact, when we traveled to Canada {and climbed Mount Royal!} I was 9-ish weeks pregnant and was SO happy I’d packed this tea! It came in handy in the morning and evening (and anytime in between if we were back at our flat).

I still have a bag or two in my lunch box, drawer at work, purse…anywhere I might find myself in a pinch and not feeling so hot.

3. Comfortable Nursing Bras

A well known fact that can be quite awkward: Your boobs grow a lot (pretty quickly) and they get quite heavy. Do yourself a favor and go ahead and buy a comfortable nursing bra – that way you can use it after the baby arrives!

This one from Motherhood Maternity is so great – I bought three immediately and am considering more (keep an eye out for their sales!). Since your breasts can be really tender, I found that soft cup (no wire) bras with back hooks (no sliding overhead) worked best. I was also told this particular bra can “grow with you” to accommodate multiple sizes as you fluctuate before and after baby.

4. Buy skin products from the baby section

I tried to research lotions that were safe to use during pregnancy and had little luck. One of the best hacks I’ve discovered is – when in doubt, purchase from the baby section. If it’s safe for an infant, it should be safe for pregnancy (at least in terms of lotions, body washes, sunscreen, etc.).

I’ve been using The Honest Company’s Face + Body Lotion in ultra-calming, dreamy lavender and I love it! It’s light and the scent is not too strong.

5. Body Oil

Whether or not it actually prevents stretch marks is still debatable, but why not make your stretched skin feel a little more luxurious? My sister gave me some Bio-Oil in the beginning that I used up pretty quickly. I really liked it!

Out of convenience, I bought Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Nourishing Body Oil and I love it! It’s packed in my gym bag and I use it daily. I will warn you that it’s quite messy! No matter how you try to contain the bottle, the oil still gets everywhere so be warned.

6. Pregnancy-friendly clothing

Go ahead and make yourself comfortable. Don’t bother squeezing into your pre-pregnancy clothes in hopes of avoiding the expense of maternity wear. Check out your local thrift stores, consignment shops, and online for gently used maternity clothes. Better yet – find a friend who’s just had a baby & is willing to let you borrow her stash (ask her to put her initials in any of the items she wants back so you don’t have to rely on #BabyBrain to remember what to return).

My sister and her friend gave me 2 bins of maternity clothes which was wonderful! Their pregnancies were a year ahead of mine but lined up seasonally. However, they both wear a lot of separates and I’m more of a one-piece (dress) gal. So, I have purchased a few things myself. My favorite: LuLaRoe’s Carly Dress! If you have a friend who sells LuLaRoe, ask if you can attend her next party to snag some super comfortable dresses (they usually have good deals at the in-home parties!) that will last you through your pregnancy and beyond.

{PS: If you want to see more LuLaRoe maternity-friendly styles, check out this post from See Kate Sew for Gugu Guru.}

In a LuLaRoe Carly Dress just a few weeks into my 2nd trimester – Swing dresses are your best friend!

I had high hopes of sewing my own dresses but that didn’t work out {have I mentioned growing a human is exhausting?}. If you still have the energy, here are some recommendations:

Resources to check out

aka: What to read that won’t make you paranoid

In the beginning of my pregnancy, I asked a few trusted mom-friends what books I should read. One of them gave me some really great advice: don’t try to read everything. There are a billion ways to parent and trying to read about them all can be overwhelming.

I have been pretty reserved on the books I’ve read {though my sister passed down a copy of Your Pregnancy Week by Week and I have enjoyed reading that}, but I have found loads of articles around the internet to be quite informative and helpful.

1. This post from Motherly about whether you’re ever really “ready” for a baby. Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot with feeling like I’m not ready (I still feel this way most of the time). Reading this post made me feel much better!

2. This is a really comprehensive, practical list of what to pack in your hospital bag – and it’s written by a Labor & Delivery Nurse!

3. I appreciate the honesty of this list – 10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Becoming a Parent.

4. Some of the smartest hacks I’ve found – 31 Incredibly Helpful Tips And Hacks For A New Baby.

5. A great list of 25 Things to Do Before Your Baby is Born.

6. I like to over-plan and over-prepare. It’s a weird and obsessive thing that brings me lots of comfort when I’m feeling anxious. While planning for a natural delivery is great, preparing for all possible outcomes is ideal (at least in my mind). This “Be Prepared Guide to C-Sections” is a good read for all moms-to-be.

I would LOVE to hear your tips & tricks for pregnancy and beyond. Share them in the comments! 🙂

*Disclaimer: Because pregnancy is exhausting and staging photos is quite a task, most of the photos included in this post are not mine. I have linked the original sources so if you click on the photo, you will be routed to the website I borrowed it from.
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