A Birth Plan

I am totally not going to tell you whether or not you should write a birth plan.  With my first baby, and rolling suitcase when entering the hospital (oh yes- I did THAT), I was the over prepared mom.  I took with me everything from a snow suit in April (in my defense it was freezing temperatures the week before I had him) to my own bottles.  You may decide that there are more items than what I say here you need, but my best advice is that it’s better to be over prepared rather than under prepared!  So for that reason, I want to share with you the things I wrote down before going into labor about what I would like to happen during my labor and delivery, otherwise known as a birth plan.

My first piece of advice with this is to be open to the idea that it very well may change.  You may decide that an option you previously said “no way” to, is exactly what you need in the moment, and that is OK.  Especially for first time moms, there’s no way of really knowing how labor will affect you.  But having your plan written down is a great way to make sure that you have actively thought through all of your options, and it’s really great to have if there’s a chance your doctor or midwife may not be the one delivering your baby.

My second (and perhaps greatest) piece of advice is to be nice, respectful, and open with your nurses, doctor, and midwife.  My nurses were instrumental in a calm labor and delivery, and these ladies would go anywhere and do anything for their laboring mammas- labor and delivery nurses are some of the most incredible people you will ever meet!!!

Ok, so what to write.  I started simple- my name, due date, and physician’s name.  This information is all extremely helpful should you be out of town (hey, it could happen) when you go into labor.  The rest of your plan should be broken down into sections, and I wrote out simple things that I wanted.

Labor

  • Do you prefer to have a natural labor or do you know that you would like medication?  If you would like medication, does this include IV pain medication and/or an epidural?
  • If you opt for a medication free delivery, would you prefer a hep lock over an IV so you are able to move/walk around freely?
  • Are you open to having your water broken (artificial rupture of membranes)?
  • Who would you like to be allowed into the room with you?
  • Are you open to or opposed to having students/residents present in the room for labor and/or delivery?

Delivery

  • Would you prefer the use of a vacuum or forceps should you be unable to delivery the baby or if this is necessary, would you prefer to be given the option of a cesarean?
  • Would you prefer to have an episiotomy or no?
  • Would you like a mirror so that you are able to see the birth?
  • Would you like direction on when/how to push?
  • Are there any positions that you would like to try while delivering rather than the hospital standard?

Post-Partum

  • Do you prefer to have baby with you as soon as s/he is delivered?
  • Would you like to delay the bath?
  • Would you like to have your baby with you while baby is assessed?
  • If your baby is a boy, would you like him to be circumcised?
  • Feeding baby- express whether you would like to exclusively breast feed, formula feed, or both; many mothers also like to include whether they are for or against the use of a pacifier.

If there is anything else that stands out to you as an expectant mom, feel free to add it!  After all, you are the supermom!

A Baby Story (#2)

I shared with all of you my story of labor and delivery with D1 (which you can read here if you have not already)!  It was an intense experience with the induction and small amount of IV medication.

Around the 30 week mark I began having labor pains that were intense, which again resulted in a trip to the hospital.  It was decided that I would be monitored closely and was advised to stay off my feet as much as possible.  With a hot hot spring, I was more than happy to oblige this request!  I have to say, that being through this with D1 put me in the mindset that even though I was having these contractions, chances were that I would end up induced once I reached my due date.  There was no chance I was asking before that 40 week mark, to be put through THAT again.  But I was “sure” that it would be the end route.  And I was (thankfully) dead wrong!

It was a humid, rainy Saturday when I went into labor.  I had spend the better part of the morning cleaning the entire townhouse.  From top to bottom, baseboards and railings- you could not find one spec of dust in that whole place.  Then I made my way to the shower, because we were planning to head over to a friends house for dinner.  I was so excited for dinner- we were going to have mountain pies and a fire, what a great way to spend a warm spring night.  As we were en route to our friends house, they called to tell us that their power was out and we decided to head to a local restaurant instead (which has fabulous food as well, so I wasn’t all that disappointed).  Once we got to the restaurant we realized they were also without power.  So of course, the 38 week pregnant lady gets to decide the next thing we are going to try for dinner!  Back into the car we go to head to another restaurant that we knew wouldn’t be without power from this particular outage.  And in come the contractions.  They were very, very mild, not painful in any way.  I just felt a tightening around my abdomen.  I figured they would probably stop soon, and so I proceeded to ignore them and enjoy our dinner.

The contractions lasted throughout dinner without much incident.  I still had a great appetite (and writing this I am craving the Mexican food we had that night)!  After dinner, we attempted to leave the restaurant, only to find that our car would not start, for a reason that was not at all obvious.  At this point, I noticed that the contractions were more regular, and so I began timing them.  I tried my best to keep this to myself, as my husband was stressed about the car situation; but when my mother arrived to provide us with a ride home, she could tell something was going on.  Right before we transferred the carseat into my mother’s car, ours decided to start (thank goodness for small miracles)!  So I told her that we would drop off D1 and the puppy, since we would be heading into the hospital to get checked out.

I followed the procedure to call the doctor, pick up my hospital bag, and head into the hospital.  Upon arrival at 8:30pm, I calmly settled into bed with the fetal monitor in place, still absolutely thinking that this was going to stop at any moment and we would be heading home.  The nurse came into the room to check on me, and after her exam determined that I was 3cm dilated and in active labor.  Excuse me!?  She said she would call the doctor and be back in an hour, but to let her know if I needed anything at all.

To be honest, at this point, I was still so sure that I was going home.  Ok, maybe not, but a little more nervous about this whole not being prepared thing.  Well, I was prepared, but it snuck up on me!

Most of my evening progressed without much to report. My labor was smooth sailing.  I could get up and walk around the hospital, turn into any position I desired, sip on some water when I needed it, and take a nap if I felt like it.  Natural labor, felt to me, like a walk in the park.  There was some mild pain at times, and I could most definitely feel it increasing with time, but it was nothing that was unbearable.

Sometime around 6cm we decided to break my water.  It was into the morning hours and I was feeling a bit tired with the slow progression.  As expected, the contractions became stronger, more intense and concentrated.  But it was still not unbearable.  It felt more productive, simply because it was.

Around 3am, the pains became extremely intense.  I went through the whole “there’s no way I can do this feelings.”  But I knew that meant that he was close, very close to being in my arms.

At little after 3:30am, I was nearly 10cm dilated.  But there was a small problem.  D2′s little head was not straight, it was turned slightly to the side, preventing me from fully dilating and being able to deliver.  My physician worked wonders with me.  It was excruciating to have her rotate his head, and it was exhausting.  I remember thinking that even if she did rotate his head, there was no way I would have the strength left in me to push him into this world.

And then she did it.  She said that I was ready to push.  And little D2 arrived 2 quick pushes later.  One for the head, one for shoulders.  4:04am (that’s just mean, kid, keeping me up until 4am the night you’re born)!  I immediately grabbed him and placed him on my belly, telling him I was so happy he was finally here.  He didn’t cry one bit, which I now know is common for a drug free birth, but that was nerve wracking at first!  I held my slimy little vernix covered 8lb 1oz, 20in boy right there until I felt like I was going to pass out.  It turns out that I bleed a lot after giving birth (ew, I know, sorry).  So I handed him off to his daddy for some loving.

About an hour later, with a little caffeine in my system, I got up and showered off a little.  By 5:30am everyone had gone and it was time for some serious snuggles with my little bundle.

I felt SO energized after his birth, and really was not in any pain.  It was so incredible, the high I felt after the experience.  I really had a wonderful team between my husband, my nurse, my best friend, and my doctor- I couldn’t have imagined anything better.

Two Kids Under Two

One of my favorite bloggers, Mommy Life After PhD, wrote a hilarious and truthful post about have 4 children under the age of 5.  If you haven’t yet read her blog, you really should- starting with this post.

She makes some great points- my favorite being that we will be out of the baby phase sooner than if we had spaced out our kids far apart.  Of course it’s crazy now, but I think that’s the case with any amount of kids of any age.  So we will move from the germy, slobbering, diaper, 5 point harness car seat phase into the activities and homework crazy all at once.  And her point about the toys- SO true.  After reading, I wanted to expand on her post a little and share with you some of my favorite things about having 2 kids under 2.

My boys are best friends.  Of course I mean best friends in the- I love you but I’ll push you down anyway- way, and that’s ok.  They play together every day, and although they do enjoy their solo time, D2 misses D1 when he’s at school and D1 misses D2 when he naps.  They help each other, often times with things they shouldn’t be doing (how exactly did you get onto the countertop?), but always in such a loving way that it makes my heart ache in a good way to watch them.  When I am working on dinner and suddenly realize that it’s too quiet (yes, there is such a thing when toddlers are around), I often peak in the living room to see them sharing books and “reading” to one another.  There is no bond like that of two brothers who do not know life without one another.

Sharing clothes.  Not only are boy clothes way easier to match than girl clothes (I can put almost any shirt with any pants, because by pants I mean jeans), but since i have two boys whose birthdays are 13 1/2 months apart, that means they were born in the same season.  In the beginning, this meant that D2 had tons of super cute hand me downs in his closet.  Now that they’re in sizes longer, it usually means that he inherits mostly pajamas and jeans, because these boys can do a number on clothes with food and mud!  I have a feeling that D2 is going to be catching up in size to D1, and at that point I am either going to be writing middle initials on shirt collars, or making them share a closet.

So Supermom’s with 2 under 2- what is your favorite part of having your little ones so close in age?

Living Debt Free

I was (and still am in some ways) a financial statistic when I graduated from college.  I had racked up a mountain of student loan debt to pay for my courses, books, and housing.  Truthfully, I feel that it was unavoidable.  I worked my butt off, but I went to an expensive school and fell right on the line of “average,” so I didn’t receive nearly the financial aide that I believe a full time student working 2+ jobs should have.  So, with all of that, I became another statistic- that nasty one involving the whatever number it is of college graduates who are in whatever the number is of credit card debt.  The words still make me cringe- credit card debt.

Today, I can say that we do not have any credit card debt.  We still have our mortgage payment and those nasty student loans, which are next on my list.  But I feel like we beat the odds.  I feel like we have accomplished so much while putting ourselves in a better financial situation, which really does have an impact on your attitude and mental well being.

I see so many get out of debt books and shows and seminars and blah blah.. these people want you to spend your money on them to tell you what I can tell you right here.  So I wanted to share with you all how we did it.  It’s my hope that someone out there who’s thinking right now “we will never be able to afford a mortgage,” will be able to gain something from this post.

First thing first- CUT BACK.  I mean it.  Figure out where in your life you can do without and DO IT.  There was a time when I went shopping for clothes every time I got paid.  There was also a time when I put my groceries on a credit card.  DO WITHOUT.  You’ll be a better person for it.  Skip the meals out, don’t buy clothes you don’t absolutely need, pass on the items at the grocery store that are considered luxury.  To this day, we drink milk and water; we changed the habit of picking up juices, soda, and teas, and not only has it been a positive impact on our budget, but also on our health!  Take a good look at your lifestyle and figure out what you just don’t need.  Trust me, I know it’s hard to skip the steak at the restaurant and have a burger at home, but you will thank yourself later, when the steak dinner turns into a relaxing evening out instead of a dessert filled with guilt over going out for a meal you know you can’t afford.

Plan, plan, plan when shopping.  I cannot stress enough how important menu planning is for my family (here are some tips)!  Shop in your cabinets and freezer when you make your list- see what you already have that you can use.  And stick to the list!!  Don’t grocery shop without a list, and don’t deviate from the list.

Use your extra money wisely.  And by extra, I mean the money you scraped and saved and stole from other budgets (like the grocery).  Put those extra pennies toward paying off something.  This was our ticket.  Every time we had an extra $20, we paid it on something.  Eventually that $20 became $200.  When that debt is paid off, take ALL of the money you were paying on it, and pay it on the next thing.  You will be shocked how fast you can knock out debt once you pay off the first one, which admittedly will feel like a long time coming.  Don’t spend things like your tax return on something frivolous, instead use it to pay on or hopefully paying off some of that debt.

It may not seem like a lot of detailed advice, but that’s because it really is that simple.  Cut back.  Plan.  Pay it off. 

Those first few weeks and months, maybe even the first year, it won’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.  But I am telling you, you will get there.  And faster than you think possible.  I planned for 5 years to debt free, and it took us about half by cutting back and planning to pay it off!!

Next is those student loans (shudder).. I’ll let you know if I ever figure out anything useful here!

My Going Green

A post on one of my favorite blogs, My Mama Adventure, about going green inspired me to look at what I was really doing to make a positive impact on our environment.  I’ve never been a wasteful person by any means, and my mother raised me to donate the things I could not use rather than throw them away, which is an amazing thing to teach your children.  But I remember being in elementary school and being taught to turn off the water while brushing my teeth.  Think about it- we wouldn’t dream of leaving it run for 2 minutes, but at one point, it was simply not something that anyone thought about.  My point is that we learn.. each generation learns more about what we can do to make our children’s lives better (not just with the environment, but in so many more ways).

I wanted to share with you the things that we have done as a family to save the environment (and in many cases, our wallets as well)!

  • Cold water washing.  (The only exception for us is the prewashing for our cloth diapers.  We discovered that the warm water made a big difference in the reduction of the actual washing needed done for these with our washer, detergent, etc.)
  • Line drying or low heat drying.  I love the smell of line dried laundry, especially bed sheets!  For the things I do not hang (personal garments, jeans and towels), or for the time of year I cannot hang (PA winters can be long and harsh), I try to dry everything on the lowest heat possible for the shortest amount of time possible.  For big or bulky items that don’t completely dry on the low heat, I toss them over a chair for a little while or on one of our radiators.
  • Cloth diapers.  This is a new one for our family, but we are loving them!!!
  • Reusable grocery bags.  We tried these in the past and for some reason, we slacked off on using these.  I use my large 31 bag and cooler bag for our Sam’s Club trips, and over one month I picked up 6 other various sized bags from local grocery stores (for $2 or less each).  It was a quick and cheap way to build up my supply, buying 1-2 on every trip.  I’ve found that I truly do prefer these bags over the plastic ones.  They hold more and don’t hurt your arms/hands while carrying heavier things into the house.  So I don’t forget them on my next trip, I simply fold them up and put them all beside the door so they get to the car the next day!
  • Using a great water filter in our refrigerator has been wonderful for drinking fresh water!  I have never been a fan of bottled water, and before we owned our home and were able to have a refrigerator with filtered water, we used our Brita all the time.  For on the go use, we have a few Brita water bottles that will filter water anywhere!
  • Recycling.  I really started pushing this in college, everything from plastic, to cans, to cardboard.  It’s incredible how much you will notice your actual garbage load going down when you cut out even one item, like junk mail.
  • Canning.  Ok, ok I know this sounds crazy at first.  But instead of buying canned goods at the store and disposing of them, I recycle my lids and reuse my jars and bands.
  • Planting our garden.  Again, it may sound silly, but we cut out a great deal of packaging in the summer when we are growing our own vegetables instead of having to bag them at the grocery store!
  • Generally cutting back.  I turn off any light that I don’t think is being used, and a TV will never be on if no one is in the room.  I don’t cut my showers super short, but I don’t drag them out anyway.  Making less trips out of the house by making fewer grocery trips per month and combining errand running into only a few days, results in less fuel consumption for our car.

Of course there is always room for improvement.  Just a few of the things I would like to start doing in the near future are:

  • Composting- a great way to recycle our vegetable peels and feed our garden!
  • Making laundry detergent and household cleaners- so many of these can be low cost and are simple to make, I really want to give it a try!
  • Use less paper towels and disinfecting wipes.  The wipes are definitely a generational thing that we need to cut WAY back on!
  • Make my own baby wipes!  We had just stocked up at Sam’s on wipes right before we switched to cloth diapers, so this is a next logical step.

Naturally, each list will grow and change as we learn more and improve, but I feel pretty good about our start.  I really want to make our planet a healthy place for our children, and teach them to do even more.