Sunday, November 18, 2012

Meal Planning

A few of my friends have asked how we can live on around $50/week for groceries, feeding our family of 2 adults and a toddler (who eats about 1/2 the amount of an adult). So I decided to publish it on my blog and tell you what I do. I'll give you the "in a nutshell" version at the end, but all the gory details are up front:
1. I started by listing out our family's favorite meals. It took a while as I kept remembering meals I made a while ago that we liked. And I only put meals on our list, that were both yummy and fit into our diet. Preferably easy meals too, though I was ok with a couple more time-intensive ones. I keep this list and use it for reference when meal planning for the week. I typically go grocery shopping every Monday.

2. I take a few minutes every Monday morning to sit down and plan for the week. I always shop at Walmart, which does price-matching, so I sit down with the sales papers and pick some meals or snacks based on what's on sale. Then when I go to Walmart, I bring the ad and get super deals, like 99 cents (.10 cents/lb) for a 10lb bag of potatoes advertised at Aldi's. I pick 5 meals to make for the week. The other two days we eat leftovers or eat out. I include at least one vegetarian meal. I like to include at least one soup/stew as well. It is cheapest to only buy 1-2 types of meat each week, so we don't eat more variety than that weekly. Also, cuts of meat vary greatly by price. I can get way more chicken for the $ if I buy legs, thighs & wings than if I buy boneless skinless tenderloins. And bone-in chicken makes the best chicken broth, which takes only a couple minutes to make, plus boiling time, and then you have broth (that also freezes well) to use in recipes. But I digress.

3. Next, I make my grocery list, writing out everything I need to make the meals for the week and omitting anything I already have on hand. I also check our cabinets for staples I know we'll need, like raisins, rice cakes and cereal (I have a toddler, can you tell?). I maintain the shopping list on my phone throughout the week, so if we run out of a staple, like hummus, it goes on the list as soon as we're out. Much easier than trying to remember what we're out of at the end of the week. And when I'm shopping, I STICK TO THE LIST. It's hard sometimes, but it pays off in the end. The easiest way to do this is to not shop while hungry. I also keep a running approximate tally in my head and use my calculator a lot to figure out price per ounce (which is actually listed on most labels at Walmart) to figure out the best deal. But the best price per ounce isn't always the best deal. If you pay 20 cents/oz for a $5 big package, then throw away half of it because it went bad before you could use it, then you would have saved money buying the smaller, $3 package (even though "per ounce" it was more expensive), because you used all of it. One more thing. If I think I may be able to afford extras, I put them at the very end of the conveyor belt, and if I have money left over in my budget, I can get the optional item, but if I don't, then I have to put it back.

4. This is a big one: Cut all unnecessary food expenses! You do not need to buy desserts of any kind, soda of any kind, sweet tea or punch, chips just for eating (they're ok for recipes), or any highly processed foods (especially high-sugar ones) such as poptarts, "fruit" snacks, little debbies, etc. Also avoid "convenience" foods, such as pre-cut fruit and microwave meals. Cutting these things will not only make you healthier, it will greatly help your budget! Pre-made instant oatmeal packets run about .29 cents per bowl, whereas the big container of quick-cooking oatmeal is around .12 cents per bowl. It is pennies difference, yes, but if you pay more than double day after day to have someone measure out your oatmeal for you, is it really worth it?

5. Make homemade whenever possible. I have quick (5 minutes of prep time, tops) and easy recipes for chicken broth, yogurt, iced tea, microwave popcorn, pumpkin bread, cookies, flavored instant oatmeal packets, etc. and these recipes are pennies on the dollar to what you would pay for them in the store.

6. Be smart about breakfast, lunch, and snacks. A pack of M&Ms costs around a dollar, but a piece of fresh, seasonal fruit costs maybe a quarter, and is much better for you. Even if you jazz it up with peanut butter or caramel sauce, you're still getting many more vitamins & nutrients than M&Ms would give you. Cereal is more expensive than oatmeal. Microwave popcorn packets are more expensive than popping corn and a paper bag. Being smart about these substitutions will help your budget tremendously. Lunch can, more often than not, consist of leftovers from a previous day's meal. Sandwiches are inexpensive too, and can fill in between times. Packing a sack lunch for work instead of eating out will save you hundreds of dollars.

7. Cook from the list. I like to plan the more time-intensive meals around the days that I have more free time, and the quick throw-together meals for the days I have less time. The list is also helpful when you're running around and asking yourself, "What's for dinner?" Just check your list!

In a nutshell:

1. List out all meals your family likes so you have a starting point.

2. Each week, pick 5 meals with related ingredients from your meals list, using the sales papers to help get the best deals.

3. Make a grocery list of everything you need and stick to it at the store.

4. Cut unnecessary expenses (junk food, pre-made or sugary drinks, desserts or other treats).

5. Make homemade when possible: chicken broth, yogurt, iced tea, cookies, etc. All of these things are easy and CHEAP to make!

6. Be smart about breakfast, lunch and snacks.

7. Cook from the list.

Hope this helps some of you! And feel free to add more tips to help me stay under $50/week for groceries as well.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Phoebe's Birth Story

I had been 70% effaced and 1 cm dilated at my 38-week checkup, so I declined being examined at my 39-week appointment. Up until 39 weeks, I really hadn’t felt ready to have another baby yet—I still had too much to do! But once I hit 39 weeks, I finally started to get anxious to meet our new little person. I was ready to really know who our Jelly Bean was, boy or girl. Plus, that week the weather got back up into the 100s after having been in the 90s for several weeks, and 100 degree weather while 9 months pregnant is nothing short of miserable! Also, ever since I’d been around 6 months pregnant, I felt like our pregnancy would go a little early this time, not late like the first time. So I was anxious!
I was hoping to have another holiday baby so I was shooting for Labor Day…but it came and went and no baby. Wednesday night, I was up a bit late (as had been usual lately b/c sleeping at 9 months pregnant is so…difficult) and I felt like labor might be imminent. I had had lots of Braxton Hicks contractions the previous few days, and I felt crampy, too. I had a few contractions before finally going to bed around 2am, but wasn’t sure if they were real. They weren’t coming regularly at all, so finally, I decided that I should try to get some sleep and if they were real, they would wake me up.
I dozed lightly, and woke up just before 6am on Thursday with contractions coming frequently enough that I opened up my contraction timer app on my iphone and started timing them. They were coming pretty regularly at 30 seconds long every 3 minutes, but weren’t very strong. After lying in bed for 30 minutes, I decided to go to the bathroom. When I got up, I felt a tiny trickle of water down my leg, which could have been my water leaking, but definitely wasn’t it breaking. I was disappointed, since that meant I couldn’t take a bath (my first pain relief method of choice), because of the risk of infection. 
Around 6:45, my contractions had been regular enough that I knew labor was for real. I called my mom, who sounded excited when she said, “hello?” and I asked her if she felt like coming to Tulsa today. I told her to look for plane tickets but call me before she booked anything so I could let her know that labor was still progressing and hadn’t stalled. I kept timing my contractions, got out a new book I hadn’t read before, and sat in the living room on my birthing ball, reading and timing for a couple of hours until Naomi (21-months old) woke up around 7:30.
My mom called me back just before Naomi woke, and said she could be on a flight leaving around 11 and arriving in Tulsa at 3:50. I said that contractions hadn’t slowed down any, so she should book it! Daniel had had a late night working until around 2am, so I decided to let him sleep in a bit while I tended to Naomi, knowing that I could handle these early contractions without a problem and I would need him more later on for labor support as things got more intense. I tried to spend some good time with Naomi first thing as I knew the next few weeks would be hard to get good time with her, so we read several books together and cuddled on the couch. I washed all the dishes in the kitchen while I gave her a banana, and she was proud of the fact that she peeled it herself!
I heard Daniel’s phone ring around 9am, so we went in to tell him that I was in labor and we would likely be having a baby that day. He said “Really? Why didn’t you tell me?” and I explained that I wanted him to be rested up because I would need him more later! I also called and cancelled my 10am appointment since I knew I wouldn’t want to be there, and also called Kathy, my doula, to let her know that I was in early labor and would let her know how things progressed.
I was so determined that this birth would be different from Naomi’s 41 hours of labor, with its multiple visits to the hospital only to be told to go home again and come back when I was further along, that I had decided to labor at home as long as possible. I also wanted to try more things to get labor moving instead of just help me cope through the pain. Early labor wasn’t bad at all, and that worried me that I wasn’t progressing fast enough.
I knew that walking during early labor had been proven to shorten labor time, so once Daniel was up, we took a family walk down to the park, around 9:30 am. I kept walking through the contractions. They picked up some in intensity, especially on the walk back home, but still stayed pretty close to 30 seconds long every 3 minutes. To help me cope with the stronger intensity of the contractions, every time I had one I would say out loud, “Open, open, open. Down, down, down.” I would picture my cervix opening and my baby dropping further down. It helped me to realize that each contraction had a purpose, helped me dilate further, and helped my baby drop further into place for delivery.
When we got back from the park, I rested on the birthing ball for a few minutes. My contractions slowed a little to every 4 minutes, so after about 20 minutes, I decided to do more around the house to help keep things progressing. I finished packing my hospital bag, grabbing phone chargers, ipod speakers and other last-minute items.  I put away the clean dishes and rotated the laundry. I asked Daniel to cook us some scrambled eggs as I was really craving some with cheese on top. I got out a gluten-free bun to put mine on since he had an English muffin with his, and we sat down as a family around 10:30 or 11 to eat. I ate about 2/3 of my breakfast sandwich, and Naomi ate the rest. After breakfast, I kept cleaning around the house. I also asked Daniel to finish getting the guest room ready for my mom, and to help me clean off the table so the house wouldn’t be such a mess.
Around 12:30 or 1, Daniel said he needed to go to the bank really quick, if that was ok. My contractions were definitely stronger, to the point where I couldn’t do things while having a contraction, but needed to focus just to get through them. But I knew he’d only be gone 15 or 20 minutes, so I told him to go.  Naomi was sitting in her booster seat eating lunch, and she was watching me stand nearby at our tall file cabinet. I tried to make it a game for her, so she wouldn’t be scared. Every time I had a contraction, I’d put my head down on my arms and say “night night!” This is a game she and I would play sometimes anyway, pretending to go to sleep and then a minute later popping up your head and saying “wake up!” but my contractions were getting closer to 45 seconds long, so she kept asking me to “wake up!” before I was ready to, and she didn’t like that I wouldn’t “wake up!” sooner.
It was time for Naomi to go down for her nap, so I took her upstairs. Thankfully I didn’t have a contraction on the stairs, though I did have one right after. I got her into her naptime diaper, managed a contraction while she lay on the changing table, and got her into her crib before another one hit. After I got back downstairs, I got a text from Kathy checking up on me. I told her that they were getting more intense and painful, 45 secs every 3 minutes. She asked if I wanted her to come to our house or just meet at the hospital? I told her Daniel was at the bank and I’d check with him when he got back.
Things started picking up in intensity. I should say at this point, I had decided not to go by numbers, since that was what I’d done with labor the first time around, and that was when I’d had to go home twice after being checked twice. This time, I knew I’d be doing well if I went by how I was feeling more than by how frequent/long my contractions were. I knew that with my first labor, when I had HAD to start vocalizing through my contractions (low moaning), then I was near transition.  This time, I was determined to wait until I was vocalizing to head out.
After getting back downstairs, I was tired so I decided to try to labor in the side-lying position on the bed. Though I didn’t yet feel like I “had” to, it just felt good to vocalize, so I started some low-key moaning. Daniel got home from the bank, and rubbed my back a little. I asked him to go ahead and call Norine to come over and stay with Naomi, and asked him if we should have Kathy come over, so that she could help us know when we should go to the hospital. He agreed that we should, so I called Kathy while he called Norine.
Kathy asked me why I was waiting to go to the hospital, since second-time moms typically head out when their contractions are 4 minutes apart. I told her that my contractions had been consistently 3 minutes apart since I’d started having them at 6 am, so I was just waiting for them to get a bit longer. I also asked her to come to our house, as we were getting to the point where we would really appreciate having her support. After I hung up, the contractions really started picking up in intensity, and after Daniel told me Norine was on her way, I had a few really strong contractions and started feeling more downward pressure. Daniel loaded the car with our hospital bags.
Norine arrived and I decided that I wanted to go ahead to the hospital now and just have Kathy meet us there. I called Kathy, and she turned around and headed to the hospital. Daniel and I had a brief conversation about which vehicle to take, that resulted in us having to switch all the bags over from the Pathfinder to the truck.  I just wanted to get in the car and go! Finally, we headed out.
My contractions in the truck were so strong that I was finding it difficult to relax through them, and found myself clutching the door handle, the armrest, the seatbelt or anything I could get a hold of. Daniel was trying to drive gently but as we pulled up to the left turn arrow slowly and I watched it fade from green to yellow to red, I asked him, “Can’t you drive faster?? We just missed it!! We need to go faster!” He promised to drive faster, and told me he’d just been trying to be gentle for me. I said, “I don’t need you to drive gently, I need you to drive fast!” I kept timing my contractions this whole time; I think it gave me a focal point and also helped Daniel know when one of my contractions was starting. Instead of me having to say anything, he just saw me hit a button on my iphone, and he knew it was time to help me relax as much as possible. I know I told him around 5 different ways that I wanted him to stroke or not stroke my arm or leg while we were driving to the hospital, and I’m pretty sure I yelled the directions at him (which I apologized for later)! Kathy texted while we were in the car and said she had arrived at the hospital and asked if we wanted her to park our car. In between contractions, I typed the reply “yes, please. We are pulling in now” and I waited to hit “send” until we actually were pulling in.
I had one last contraction in the car as we pulled up to the entry, and Kathy heard me vocalizing, and encouraged me, saying I sounded good as she took over Daniel’s position behind the wheel. As we walked in past the front desk I had a good, strong contraction, and another on the elevator up to the third floor. We walked up to the Labor & Delivery desk, and there was a man being helped in front of us, so the nurse said, “I’ll be with you in a minute!” I had a strong contraction during that “minute” and my water broke all over the floor. I immediately felt a strong urge to push. “My water just broke!” I shouted. The nurse was unhurried as she asked my first name, last name and midwife’s name. Then she said, “When you feel up to it, we’ll go into this room right over here.” “Which room?!” I shouted, because I knew I had to get to a room quickly. “Room #2,” she said. I waddled over there, postponing the urge to push as much as possible so I could get into the room.
Kathy came in to the room about the same time as we did, and I said to her and Daniel, “I HAVE. TO. PUSH.”, enunciating each word very clearly so that they would know how much I meant it! The nurse said, “Let’s get your clothes off and put this gown on…” and I said, “I don’t have time for the gown!” I was thinking, I hope I have time to get my clothes off because this baby is about to be born in my pants! The nurse walked out of the room. Somehow I got my pants and shirt off, and climbed up on the bed, backing up into a position where I could push and I knew the baby would be ok even if born on the bed with no assistance. Kathy took one look at me, her eyes got really big and she started calling into the hallway, “We need a nurse in here!!”
About 8 people rushed in, saw me pushing and knew that our baby was coming, and coming quickly! At one point, Kathy told me to look down, and I saw our baby’s head coming out. One of the people who had rushed in was Dr. Coleman, who had just finished delivering a baby across the hallway, and he quickly asked for a gown and gloves, and got them on just in time to direct my last push. He asked for one more “little” push, so I pushed and out came our baby!
The birth position was somewhat sideways so all I could see was umbilical cord and thighs. “What is it? Boy or girl?” I said.  The doctor moved the cord so I could see and Daniel said, “It’s a girl!” “I knew it!” I said. “I knew it!” They handed her to me briefly, clamped the cord and asked Daniel if he wanted to cut it. I asked if we could delay the cord clamping and they said that there was meconium so they needed to suction her out right away. Daniel got to cut her cord, and then they took her over to the warmer where they suctioned her well and wiped her up a bit (she had a ton of vernix) while I delivered the placenta, which Kathy thankfully reminded them that I wanted to keep.
I got a first-degree tear, so Dr. Coleman worked on stitching me up. After about 3 or 4 minutes of them suctioning her, I finally couldn’t stand it any longer and asked several times, “Is she ok?” After they reassured me that she was fine I said, “Can I hold her?” No one really answered me the first time so I asked again. They said, “We need to take her vitals.” “Can’t you do that if she’s on me?” I asked. The nurses exchanged glances, but finally agreed I could hold her while they checked her, so I finally got some more serious cuddle time with our daughter. Holding her was the best anesthesia for being stitched. I had to get a shot of pitocin in my thigh to help my uterus clamp down, but since our baby was already born at that point, I didn’t care.
I was still in shock over how fast she had come. We didn’t need our birth plan. There had been no time for a hep-lock. No time for fetal monitoring. No time for a gown. I hadn’t had a single vaginal exam the entire time I was in labor! And of course no epidural or pain medications, but we hadn’t wanted those anyway. Kathy commented later, “That’s the way to have a baby!”
I am very grateful that I didn’t have to have those things. I was a bit disappointed my midwife was unable to be there, but it didn’t really matter because in the end all I really needed was someone to catch my baby. My midwife stopped by later to ask how we were, and ask if we had gotten the birth we wanted. I said that yes, we did! Though I wouldn’t have cut it so close if I had known.
The next day, one of the nurses who had been there when I had come in apologized to me. She said, “Nine out of ten times, when women come in and say that they’re having this baby now, there is still plenty of time for them to get a gown on, get checked, etc. You were that tenth time.” Kathy told me that the nurses were still talking about it later, out in the hallways. We got to leave the hospital the next night around 5:30pm. Her labor was so different from her big sister’s.
After we got home that night, we sat on the couch, looked at the clock, and Daniel said, “If this was Naomi’s labor, we would still have two hours of labor to go.” And that was not to mention the time in the hospital afterwards, yet we were already home with our darling, precious, tiny new daughter, able to enjoy our new family of four.
Phoebe Annelise was born a day early on Thursday, September 6th, 2012 at 2:58pm. Her APGARs were 8/9, and she weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz and was 21” long. 

Naomi's Birth Story

             Tuesday, November 23rd, was our last Bradley natural childbirth class meeting. We went to class, one of four remaining couples that hadn’t had their babies yet from the original seven. We were the only ones who were overdue, and in fact, the three couples that had had their babies already had each given birth 3 weeks early, so we’d already seen 2 couples jump ahead of us in the due date/birth order. The last Bradley class was fun, and covered things like newborn care and labor relaxation practice. I had remarked to Daniel earlier that day, “wouldn’t it be funny if we went into labor during birth class tonight?” Well we didn’t. However, at the end of class, I went to the bathroom because I felt like I was leaking. It turned out I was losing my mucous plug. I was excited because I knew it meant something would be happening soon, but I tried not to get too excited because I also knew that it can take from several hours to several weeks after that for labor to start, and I didn’t know which one we would be. We went to Walmart on our way home that night, and bought some rice for our microwaveable rice sock, and a wristwatch for Daniel so he could more easily time contractions. When we got home, I fussbudgeted around doing things before bed that night, thinking in the back of my mind that contractions could start at anytime, so I wanted to get a few things done for sure. I finished putting together our baby’s quilt top, pinning the final pieces in place. I took pictures of it, the bird mobile I’d been working on, and of the rest of her nursery and posted them on facebook. When I finally went to bed it was past 2 am.
            Wednesday, November 24th, I woke up at 5am with contractions. They weren’t very strong at first, just strong enough to wake me up and consistent enough for me to realize what they were. I lay in bed for another hour, trying to drift back to sleep to try to sleep through them. It didn’t really work. I wasn’t sure yet if this was “real” labor, or Braxton Hicks “practice” labor, so I decided to change positions and see if that made a difference. I got up, went to the bathroom and took a warm bath. It was really soothing, but the contractions continued throughout it. When I got out of the tub, I’d heard Daniel’s 6:45am alarm go off for work, so I crawled back in bed with him as he hit snooze. When he woke up at 7, he was a little surprised that I was already awake and looking at him. I snuggled up with him as he turned his alarm off, and asked him, “What if I told you that there’s a good chance we’ll be holding our daughter in our arms in the next 24 hours?” He looked at me and said, “Well, then I’d smile”. I said, “Well, start smiling!” He looked puzzled and asked, “Are you in labor?” I replied, “I’ve been having contractions for about 2 hours now.” He quickly called into work and told them he wouldn’t be coming in to work that day. I called my parents about 7:30 and asked about Grandma, who was having a procedure done. She was doing really well they said, and when I informed them that I was having contractions, they were really excited. We promised to keep each other updated throughout the day. I called my brother next, as he and Sarah and their daughter, 2-year-old Katie were coming to visit us for Thanksgiving. I told them that it was likely they would be the first Millers to meet my daughter, and they were excited. They were eating breakfast on their way out the door, and we promised to keep each other updated as well.
            Labor that morning was pretty easy. While he cooked us breakfast burritos, I read to Daniel from “Babycatcher”, a book about a modern day midwife and some of the births she’d encountered. I was easily able to talk through the contractions that morning, and we laughed together over many of the book’s antics. About 10:00, I called our midwife Kim Kmita’s office and asked if I should keep my 10:45 appointment. They asked if I’d been having 5 contractions an hour. I’d been having them every 5 minutes at that point, and they said I should just go to the hospital. Though my contractions were close together, and lasting about 45 seconds, I still didn’t feel like they were very strong, maybe like menstrual cramps. I could still talk through them with only a little difficulty. We made a list of things we wanted to do before heading to the hospital, and took our time doing them. Daniel cleaned up the house in preparation for Chad, Sarah and Katie, and I stood at the sink and washed dishes, turning the water off whenever I had a contraction. With only one dish left, I felt emotional and practically cried, “I don’t want to do dishes anymore!” Daniel assured me I didn’t have to, and he hurriedly finished packing our bags in the car. At this point, I had hit the 3/1/1 signpost (contractions 3 minutes apart, lasting a minute each and continuing for an hour). I still didn’t feel they were awful, but I’d been in labor for 7.5 hours at that point, and was becoming a bit more serious about it.
            We arrived at the hospital at about 12:30, and walked right in to the Labor and Delivery wing. On the way there, I’d said to Daniel, “if I’m less than 3cm, I just want to go back home.” He agreed. The nurses checked me in to room 1, and did an exam. At that point I was 90% effaced, but only 1cm dilated. I was disappointed that I wasn’t further along, but I was glad to see the progress, since at my last appointment the previous Wednesday I’d only been 50% effaced and not dilated at all. At least there was some progress made towards having that baby, which meant that she was coming, sooner or later, but coming nonetheless. We went back home, phoning Kathy on the way. She advised me to try to get some sleep, so as soon as I got home I went to bed to try to nap.
             I was able to doze, since my contractions weren’t excruciating, just painful at that point. I did wake most of the way up with each contraction, but was able to maintain a sleepy attitude and the same side-lying position for the whole nap. During my nap, my contractions slowed down to about 7 minutes apart and slackened off intensity-wise for a little bit. Finally, after a few hours, the sounds of people in the house woke me along with some stronger contractions. Daniel was gone.
             I walked into the living room to discover my in-laws had made a surprise visit to our house while I was in labor. They had been planning to visit with Daniel’s Aunt Corine and us for Thanksgiving, and Daniel had called them when they were on their way, informed them I was having contractions, and asked them to go straight to his Aunt’s house since he needed to be with me. They didn’t listen, however, and decided to just “stop by” for an hour or so on their way up to his Aunt’s house. It was frustrating to feel like we had to play host while they toured the baby nursery, got directions to the Aunt’s, and ignored every subtle hint we threw at them that we needed our alone time for labor. We finally decided to go for a walk, hoping that they’d be gone by the time we got back. At this point, the labor pains were like really bad menstrual cramps. 10 minutes later, we returned from our walk, the entirety of which was spent by me complaining about their rudeness, and Daniel sympathizing, despite the fact that it was his parents I was talking about. He knew I was in pain and didn’t mean half the things I was saying. He was so understanding and amazing. When we got back, he gave them a not-so-subtle hint that we really needed to do this alone and they needed to hit the road. They left, and we went for another walk.
            By the time we got back, Chad, Sarah and Katie had arrived. I felt guilty welcoming their arrival after shooing away my in-laws, but I knew that they would be perfect houseguests, not requiring any entertaining whatsoever, and only interacting with us as much as we wanted and not a speck more. And I was right. I had made a turkey bean soup earlier that day so it was in the crockpot ready to go, so we all sat around the table eating and talking. I ate a smaller bowl of soup, and it was so good I ate a second. I sat on the exercise ball at the table, and didn’t talk during contractions, but just breathed through them. I talked between them though, and was able to thoroughly enjoy Katie as she sat in Sarah’s lap. “Yum, turkey soup!” said Sarah. “Yum, turkey poop!” echoed Katie. I almost fell off my exercise ball.
            After dinner, Sarah washed all the dishes and Daniel and I decided to go for another walk. We walked around the block this time, and around and around it. We walked for several hours, coming back for occasional bathroom breaks. Any time I had a contraction, we stopped, faced each other and became partners in the “labor dance”: with my arms tightly wrapped around the back of his neck, I leaned my forehead into his chest, following his cues to relax various parts of my body and focus on deep, abdominal breathing. We had been watching a lightning storm come in during our walk around the block, and seemingly all of a sudden, the weather took a turn for the worse. We had barely reached our driveway when a contraction hit me, just as it started to hail. Daniel covered me with his arm and jacket and scooted me as quickly as it’s possible to hurry a woman in labor, up under the eaves where we’d be somewhat protected from the large quarter-sized hail.  I know he took a few hits from it, because I heard an “ouch!” or two. As we finished the contraction and went inside, Daniel said, “I sure am glad we were right by the house when that hit!” I agreed.
             It was probably around 8:30 when the bad weather started, and with its onset there was no more walking around outside. However, I really felt like walking helped the progress of my labor best, so I paced the house. Chad, Sarah and Katie were watching Monsters, Inc. in the living room, but thankfully my “caged lion at the zoo” path didn’t pass in front of the screen. I dreaded going to the bathroom because it always brought on a contraction, but I faithfully went every hour or so, and took sips of water to stay hydrated between contractions. Katie loved watching Aunt Shelley go up and down the stairs and wanted to go with me on my trek. I needed to go a bit faster than her 2-year-old legs could, however, so she soon gave up on me, since I was already halfway down by the time she was halfway up. Finally, Sarah put Katie to bed. I kept up my routine, pacing, going to the bathroom, pausing to lean on whatever wall was handy during my contractions.
             At 11:30 or so, Daniel and I decided, once again, to head to the hospital. He called Kathy to update her on our progress, and she agreed to meet us there in a little bit. At this point, I’d been in labor for about 18 hours, and was really getting tired of it. We walked right up to Labor and Delivery and checked in, once again, to room 1. We had forgotten to bring the exercise ball, so Daniel called Chad, who brought it by. I put on the gown, they hooked me up to the monitor, and checked me. I was finally fully effaced, but only 3 cm dilated! It was so frustrating. They wanted to keep me, but I knew my progress was slow, and faced with the prospect of spending all night in that uncomfortable labor bed, with nurses coming in to monitor for 15 minutes out of every hour, and poking and prodding me to start my hep-lock, do lab work, etc. we decided I’d be much more comfortable laboring at home in my own bed, so we signed my discharge papers once again. Kathy went home, and Daniel promised to call her with any change.
              We got home about 12:30 or 1, and I tried to get some sleep again, but this time it didn’t work at all. My labor pains were too strong. I can’t remember exactly how long I stayed in bed, but after a bit, I had Daniel call Kathy. Labor kept picking up in intensity, though my contractions never really got closer together. I was exhausted at this point, though, and really running out of ideas on coping techniques, so we were both glad when Kathy got here. She helped us try different positions, like hands and knees, and taking a bath. She poured water over my stomach at each contraction, and Daniel kept adding hot water to the bath whenever it cooled off. By 9 Thursday morning, we decided to go back to the hospital. Sarah had been up cooking in the kitchen, and I asked if they knew we’d come back in the middle of the night. They said they’d eventually figured it out. We headed out the door yet again, saying that we hoped this would be the last time we came home without a baby. Chad and Sarah said they’d come by the hospital in a bit to bring us some breakfast.
              When I got to the hospital around 9:30, having already been in labor 28-1/2 hours, I was thankful to find that I was 5cm dilated, and they were going to keep me until I had the baby. There was a nurse on duty who told Daniel that he had to go back downstairs and fill out more paperwork before I could be admitted. We told her that we had already been admitted to a room twice before, and had pre-registered online, but she didn’t care and made him do it again anyway. Since it was Thanksgiving day, the nurses informed me that my midwife, Kim, was no longer on call, and another doctor would be delivering me. I was a bit upset about this, mostly because I didn’t know this new doctor, and didn’t know if he would be agreeable or antagonistic to my natural birth plan.  I later got to meet this doctor, and he had read my birth plan through and said he was happy to comply with our wishes. This gave me a bit of relief. We walked and walked the hallways to help labor progress. We went down every single hallway multiple times, in our wing, in the wing that was empty, and in the postpartum wing. Hearing the cries of newborns in the postpartum wing really helped me focus on why I was there.
             Labor progressed slowly. In the afternoon I was so exhausted that as Daniel napped on the couch, I sat on the birthing ball with my head in my arms on the bed. I would fall asleep for two or three minutes, only to be woken by a contraction. I hated going to the bathroom because every time I sat on the toilet, I had a contraction, which was painful and beginning to be exhausting. Later, I took a shower to help me cope with the contractions and exhaustion, but that seemed to slow down my contractions and my progress, so I only stayed in about 20 minutes.
            As the day moved towards evening, Kim came and checked on me, even though she wasn’t on call. She said that she was going to try to be there for my birth after all, which made me feel a lot better! She left to go put her kids to bed. Daniel and I kept walking the halls. Every time I had a contraction, we swayed “the labor dance”. I started telling myself “Open, open, open. Down, down, down” at each contraction, picturing my cervix opening and my baby moving down. Kim returned and checked me, and I was at a 7 or so. We decided to try using the squat bar for several contractions to see if that position helped me open up any faster, so the nurses brought it in and hooked it up to my bed. It did! It was painful, but pain was progress, and I dilated to an 8 with only a few contractions in the squatting position. At this point, it was around 7pm, and I had been in labor for 38 hours and was getting really exhausted.
            Kim checked my dilation, and said she could feel my bag of waters bulging. She asked if I wanted her to break my water. She said it was near rupturing on its own, but her breaking it could help my labor progress. I was so exhausted at this point that I was willing to try anything non-drug related to help labor progress. She broke it and I felt a warm gush of water. “That’s it?” I asked. I was expecting more of a bang, or at the very least, more pain. “That’s it,” she said. I labored on the squat bar for another hour, dilating from 8 to nearly 10. After the hour, Kim checked me again and there was still a lip of cervix preventing me from progressing to the point of pushing. She asked if I was ok with her helping manually dilate me the rest of the way, which had to be done during a contraction. I agreed, since I was at the point of exhaustion. It was extremely painful, but after she finished, a couple of contractions on the squat bar later and I felt ready to push.
             I tried pushing while holding the squat bar at first, but wasn’t very productive, so Kim asked if I would try the traditional pushing position, semi-reclined with Kathy holding one leg and Daniel holding the other. It worked! I pushed for around an hour and 10 minutes, with Kim supporting my perineum, Daniel and Kathy holding my legs and encouraging me. I expected Naomi’s head to be born in one push and the rest of her in another, like we’d seen on the birthing videos, but no, when I finally pushed her head out, the rest of her came out too! She was so warm. They wiped her a tiny bit and immediately placed her on my chest. As she was born, Kim realized that she was O.P. (occipital Posterior) or sunny-side up, (most babies are born facing downward) and also asynclitic, meaning her head was tilted to the side. We think this is probably what contributed to my extra-long labor, but it was unusual to have an O.P. baby and not have back labor, so I guess I was “lucky”. Poor Naomi had a big, wonky cone head on the back corner of her head from her unusual presentation, but thankfully by morning, most of the swelling had gone down. She made her way into the world on Thanksgiving, and the nurses were kind enough to bring me a turkey sandwich around 11pm so I got my turkey on Thanksgiving!
Naomi Ellen Clem was born 4 days late on Thanksgiving day, Thursday, November 25th, 2010 at 10:03pm. Her APGARS were 8/8 and she weighed 8lbs, 8oz and was 22” long.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ultimate Diaper Bag for Cloth Diapers--Unpacked!

I have been looking for a long, long time for a diaper bag that works well with cloth diapers. Diaper bags by nature are pretty varied, and I've been through a few in my time, from freebie hand-me-downs to downright pricey ones! And anyone who uses cloth diapers knows that a bag that fits more than 2 or 3 cloth diapers plus all the other diaper bag necessities is worth its salt.

After researching and asking many people, I decided the perfect diaper bag for me would be the Ju Ju Be BFF. It's shaped like a messenger bag, but opens like a backpack. It has many pockets for organization, and everything is easy to get to and won't get lost in the bottom of the bag.

Everything about this bag is perfect....EXCEPT the price tag! These bags retail for around $150 new!! With a toddler and one on the way, there was no way I could afford something like that. So I kept looking.

I finally thought that I might be ok with an actual backpack, so long as I could find one with all the features I was looking for. Well, back-to-school sales are in full swing around here, so I browsed all the backpacks at Walmart today, and guess what??

I think I found it!

The "ultimate" cloth diaper bag...I hope!

The first pictures shows it stuffed. And I mean stuffed like a turkey on thanksgiving! It still wasn't too heavy, either. Now let's look at my must-have features, shall we?

Stroller buckles and sippy cup pocket - on both sides of the bag

One feature on my ultimate dream diaper bag is built-in buckles so I can always buckle the bag to my stroller, shopping cart, umbrella stroller, etc. regardless of whether or not the basket underneath is full. This bag has these buckles! I have no idea what a student would do with them on a book bag, but it doesn't matter to me. I know what I'll use them for!

Fully packed and strapped to full-size stroller. It sits up a little higher than I'd like, but it works.

Fully packed and strapped to umbrella stroller. Yessssssss!

The next feature that I really had to have was external pockets for sippy cups. This bag has two of them (one on each side), as you can see in the pictures.

Now let's unpack this amazing bag, shall we?

First zipper open

I love all the many organizing pockets in the first, smaller zippered section! There are three up high and three down below, plus two pen pockets (that I use for baby spoons).

Everything from the first zippered section

The upper three pockets have a squeezy pouch snack, two fruit cups, and 6-ish nursing pads. Two of the bottom three pockets hold baby sunglasses & sunscreen, and other creams (teething gel, antibiotic ointment). I got three baby spoons in the two pen-holders. The third zippered pocket in the front is still empty. I also stuck a bib in the bottom of this zippered section.

Second zipper open - looks almost empty, right?

The second zippered section I used to store changes of baby clothes, plus kept that space available for me to stick my purse or some baby toys in as needed.

Everything from second zippered section

I put a baby jacket, romper, pants, legwarmers, 2 pairs of socks, a burp cloth, plus gum and tissues for me in this section. I also left room for my purse (I typically carry a smaller, clutch-size purse) in this section on top of all the clothes!

Third zipper open (with my 19-mo-old's hands "helping")

And now, you must prepare to be amazed at what I managed to fit in here. Seriously, you might want to sit down!

Contents of third zippered section

I was only going to put 3 or 4 diapers in here, but I had just finished folding diaper laundry, and thought hey, why not see how much I can cram in there? So just in case you're wondering what fit, I had 10 pocket and AIO diapers in there (8 bumGenius, one Green Bees, one GroVia), one Flip cover, three stay-dry Flip inserts, two disposables, three fleece liners and a tube of diaper cream. Bam!

But oh, we're not done!

"laptop" compartment in third zippered section

I wanted to make sure my backpack diaper bag had a "laptop" compartment so I would have an easy-to-access place to put my changing pad that I pilfered from our last diaper bag (the expensive bag that fell apart). So in this compartment, I had the changing pad folded up, and in its pocket were a case of wipes and a wetbag.

Changing mat, wipes case and wetbag in addition to the 15 diapers, cream and liners in that third zippered section

So there you have it! But before I let you go, let me show you a couple of other things I really like about it:

Mommy cell phone pocket behind one of the sippy cup pockets on the right side. You can also see the hand sanitizer hanging on the left--there's a little loop for it to hang from!

I took 4 pocket diapers out, and there's a lot more room in the middle section for my purse or some toys!

There is a place for my keys to clip on to either strap. 

Actually, there are about 4 places on each strap, and after trying the bag on, I decided I liked them clipped lower than they are pictured above.

The brand: Outdoor Products

I like that since the company makes a lot of outdoor backpacking products, the fabric is a heavier and hopefully longer-lasting backpack material, and not the cheap-o nylon that a lot of kids' backpacks are made of. I also like the bright colors; my daughter actually played with the bag a long time because of the colors and pattern!

And the best, the absolute best part about this bag? It only cost me $9! Yup, originally $14.88, but on sale with the back-to-school stuff at Walmart. 

I will post again in a month or more to update you all on how I'm liking the bag after actually using it for a while. But for now, I'm super impressed, especially for the price!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Since When Did Crunchy Mean Judgmental?

I recently had a friend tell me that she didn't even want to call me on the phone anymore for fear of me disagreeing with her parenting styles. Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back the train up. I am a passionate person by nature, and I enjoy talking about things I am interested in, and yes, that includes parenting. But what I perceive as a friendly discussion about how I do things, apparently comes across as judgmental. Ouch! So being different automatically means I'm judging people who don't do things the way I do them...that's really a rough thought and one I've been processing a lot lately.

Another example: There is a video about "crunchy" (aka natural, eco, green, granola, etc) moms going around youtube, called "Crap Crunchy Moms Say" (except it's not crap, it's a more colorful expletive) and as I watched it, I laughed as I saw myself in many of those situations (though not nearly all!). The one that rather offended me, though, was when the mom said, "No, we chose not to mutilate (our son's) genitals." Wow. Judge much? Saying, "no, we chose not to circumcise based on the research we did" would have had way more of an impact to me. (by the way, I'm not decided yet whether we will or won't circumcise a son should we have one, but Daniel is for, and I'm definitely open to it.) But it made me question: When I talk passionately about one of my parenting decisions, does it come across that way? I certainly hope not.

I never really thought of myself as "crunchy". Sure, I cared about the fish in the ocean, pollution, etc. but not enough to really do anything about it. And then I got pregnant. All of a sudden, I have this little life I am responsible for making the best possible decisions I can for, and whoosh. I felt the weight of the world, of this little person's whole world, on my shoulders. I still don't think of myself as crunchy. Maybe I am, but it's definitely by default! I'm not trying to be. Each "crunchy" decision I've made has been decided individually for reasons of their own. For instance:

1. I had 41 hours of labor before my daughter was born. It was a drug-free labor and delivery, no epidurals, IV fluids, or even so much as Tylenol (which wouldn't have done anything anyway). Our decision to do this was largely based on my health conditions and the fact that I was already on so many medications to control my ulcerative colitis that I felt like I had to do what I could to cut the amount of drugs in my system, which meant cutting the "optional" drugs: the pain medications. I knew I couldn't just do it on my own (I really couldn't have) so my husband and I took a (I think) 12-week class on the Bradley method. Without the class, my husband, or my doula, I really think I probably would have wound up with an epidural. And you know what? I'm sure my baby would have been just FINE. But this was my personal decision based on my personal medical situation.

2. We use cloth diapers. This decision was purely a matter of two things. One, I had a friend who used cloth diapers and I saw how they were WAY easier than I thought they were. Two (and this was the biggest factor), we did a cost-benefit analysis, and saw that even if we spent $400 on cloth diapers up front, they would still save us around $1100 for our first baby, and around $1500 for each additional baby who used the same cloth diapers. Plus, we could re-sell the diapers when the last child was potty trained, and re-coup some of the expenses. ($400 is a generous estimate. Most people don't spend that much.) This decision was based 90% on the bottom line: money. The other 10% was realizing "I can do this" after watching my friend do it. If Naomi had worn disposables, she would have been just as happy and healthy and smart and beautiful as she is today. As a matter of fact, we use disposables for travel or for when she's on antibiotics and I don't want to ruin her cloth diapers. I wore disposables. My mom said I never had a cloth diaper on my bottom in my whole life. And I am perfectly normal and adjusted. Mostly, anyway. ;-)

3. Naomi was breastfed for 13.5 months until she weaned. This was also a financial decision. Formula costs money, people, and babies need to eat. I didn't have to go back to work after N was born, so mommy milk it was. I almost gave up when she was 3 weeks old and the pain was excruciating from my cracked, scabbed and bleeding nipples. And then I discovered the breast pump. It saved our breastfeeding relationship. But if I had switched N to formula then, she would still have been just FINE.

4. I stay at home with Naomi. This is purely a blessing from God that I can do this. I got to quit my crappy, underpaid job with a crappy boss (the same one who wrote me up for being sick 3 days before I was hospitalized for 10 days, then never visited or even CALLED me while I was there, but that's another story) and stay home with Naomi. But being a stay-at-home mom has meant sacrifices. Less eating out, no new anything big, we had to sell Daniel's Xterra and buy a cheap, paid-for car (no car payments! Woohoo!), and various other cutting back as well (see points 2 & 3). But if I had to work, or even WANTED to work (had I loved my job), so what? Naomi would be just fine in childcare. I would take the time to find the right situation for her, and she would be just FINE. I have plenty of working friends with babies who run the gamut from working full-time and baby in childcare, working part-time and baby in childcare, mommy working full-time and daddy staying with baby, and you know what? All of those babies are just FINE. As would Naomi be, if our financial situation changed and I had to join the working world and put her in some kind of childcare.

5. Naomi rarely eats jarred baby food. This again, is a matter of money. If you run the numbers, it is MUCH cheaper for me to buy a whole butternut squash, bake it for an hour, then puree it in the blender for 2 minutes and freeze what she won't eat immediately, than it is for me to buy the same amount of jarred butternut squash. Naomi eats a whole banana every day for breakfast. Every. Day. I swear the child is part monkey (must be her father's side!), and I am amazed at how no matter how big a bunch of bananas I buy, it's always less than $2. Always. Wow. But you know what? If she refused to eat anything that didn't come out of a jar, so that's what I always bought and fed her, then guess what? She'd be just FINE.

I hope you are getting the picture here. I am "crunchy" mostly by default. We have made the best decisions we could make for our family, and based these decisions on our personal situation. If Naomi came into the world via epidural/c-section/medications/doctor interventions, etc., only ever drank formula, only wore disposable diapers, went to childcare 40 hours/week, ate no baby food that wasn't from a jar (or those wonderful squeezy pouches we recently discovered!), then she would be JUST FINE. I hope this post goes to reassure people like my friend who, by the way, is a wonderful mommy making the best possible decisions for her baby. Even though they're *gasp* different decisions from mine. Of course they're different. We're all different. And I am so glad!

I just hope and pray my passion translates more positively in the future. I really don't want to be "That Crunchy Mom" from the video. May God grant me the wisdom to speak passionately when I need to and to hold my tongue when I need to!