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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