Friday, January 22, 2021

C-section and VBAC Birth Stories

Giving birth is a miracle--it doesn't matter how much of a role modern medicine plays. 

Doing all of the right things during a pregnancy doesn't seem to have that much of an impact on actual birth itself. At a certain point, it is about genetics and your odds. Without modern medicine, my first baby and I would have died or become seriously injured. 

And I'm not talking about modern medicine like give birth at home in a pool--no I'm talking about the operating room being available right there to save my life and ensure my baby is as healthy as he can be.

And I did all the right things like dieting, prenatal visits, prenatal vitamins, and prenatal exercise. I researched how different vitamins and nutrients absorb into my body. And for vanity, I researched the best lotions and butters to put on my belly to ease the growing pains and permanent marks. 

 

C-section Birth Story

Disclaimer: there is a lot of medical advice out there from local and global health resources, this is not one of those posts. 

None of this helped when I woke up early in the morning with cramps that just did not go away. I am not 100% even during my normal wake up time, so it was no surprise that it didn't register as birth right away. I followed the medical directions and timed my contractions for an hour to reach that 5, 1, 1, rhythm--just like I learned in the birthing class. I took a non-medicated birth class too. 

After the longest car ride, and the longest paperwork sessions of my life, I was in a bed, in absolute pain. 

I took the epidural shot thinking that absolutely anything including death is better than this. The shot worked, the IV worked, and my husband who was there with me by my side the entire time felt that he could move the car. One nurse mentioned that I could sleep until the baby is ready to come. With that assurance, I relaxed, and my husband left the hospital building to move the car. 

The doctor came in , completed a check. The doctor said that the baby was stressed and in a position impossible to deliver safely and that a c-section was the best outcome. I don't exactly remember the words, but there was expediency and I was given lots of paperwork to sign. 

I am sure these procedures are derived from research, data, and training; however, at the time, it did not seem like a choice. What was I going to do? Let my baby die or become injured inside me? I scribbled on all of those signature lines and initial spots as fast as I could. I was moved into the operating room. 

My husband was surprised when he was given a set of scrubs to put on immediately when he came back. I did not notice him changing, but I assume it was fast. 

I was given additional anesthesia, but could not go under due to the epidural. The anesthesiologist checked to make sure that I could not feel a wet wipe on the surface of my belly. 

The amount of anesthesia made my head spin and I managed to throw up every where. It was embarrassing, no one was happy, and to make matters worse, it was red because I had eaten frozen cherries the night before as a healthy treat in place of something with more sugar.  

But I never felt the cuts, I barely felt a change in pressure. All I heard was a crying baby. I could not see him. My husband, who didn't even deliver his baby, saw him and took pictures of him. 

They sewed me up, while cleaning up my baby and giving him his newborn exams.

We were moved into a smaller room and my baby was snuggled up like a borrito in a hospital swaddle blanket. My husband helped with taking care of the baby and changing the diapers. I was still feeling signs of my anesthesia. 


C-section Birth Recovery 

C-section recovery was worse than birth itself. I had no core muscle strength since my muscles were stretched and also cut up from the c-section operation. It is a major abdominal surgery. It was awful. I did not have the strength and comfort level to sleep in my own bed. I just slept on the couch. I was not getting the same quality of sleep, and I was not recovering as fast as others who had c-sections. 

I had developed an infection at the incision site despite cleaning the area and taking the prescribed antibiotics. The infection slowed down the healing process and only after a 3 or 4-hour trip to urgent care did I have the antibiotics dosage right to fight the infection.

I recovered slowly, I could eventually use my core muscles, cough, sneeze, and laugh at jokes without being in pain. 

It took me about 6 weeks to be able to do what I would have been able to do immediately following a vaginal birth. 

 

VBAC Story

A vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is not the default. There is effort from practitioners to make these more common, but not everyone gets one. This Web MD resource is a good primer. Your body is rated for how likely you are to be successful at this endeavor. Arguably, none of the criteria are something you can easily control in a healthy way. Yes, BMI is on there as well, and I do not believe that drastically changing a BMI in a short span of time, and especially while pregnant, is possible in a healthy way. 

So, I really wanted one. I did everything I did with my first baby, albeit less personal time since now I had a child. 

This baby did everything right during birth, and I had a long labor without losing patience. I had my wonderful epidural, I had my husband, I had my nurses, and it was a lot of pressure. I could feel a lot of pressure--not sure if it was pain exactly, but it was not the comfort other mothers have described like "having the biggest poop of your life."

Not for me anyway, my experience was long, and the baby's head took a while to go through the birth canal, and my body took a while. It just all took a while. My doctor said the right things to push me and she also knew that I was afraid of large tears seeing as I had a very bad experience with my c-section recovery. 

But the baby was happy the entire time while being born. It was the craziest thing going from a birth where I just heard my baby, to seeing the baby come out and go right to me. I had the baby on my chest crying like his brother did. It was a giant baby and the long labor made more sense after the fact. 

Unlike his brother, my younger baby had the classically reformed head from the birth canal journey. And like, his brother, he was almost the same weight. The doctor called my 9lb 7oz baby a whopper. 

I had a second degree tear that my doctor fixed with absorbable sutures. 

VBAC Recovery

The recovery was just like the Frida commercial that caused controversy. That was a good and honest commercial. But it was shorter. Much shorter, and I was able to walk longer distances sooner, as well as complete my chores. 

I had used up so many products from the hospital and from Amazon in order to make the recovery bearable.

While neither recovery from birth was glamorous, the recovery from the VBAC was much easier. I would recommend a VBAC to anyone who is able to get one. 

 

How the Births were the Same

1. Both were hard. 

2. Lack of sleep was consistent

3. My exercise routine was changed to being very gentle on myself after recovery.

4. Pain and discomfort were present during recovery

 

How the Births were Different

1. I could not drive after my c-section birth due to the pain relief medication, while I was able to drive almost right away after my VBAC.

2. I was unable to get up from the couch easily using my core muscles after a c-section, while I had trouble sitting from bruising my tailbone during birth after my VBAC. 

3. I was able to mitigate pain and recovery with my VBAC. The pain was in places that I could get to and I could identify what parts were in pain. I think I will write my experience bruising my tailbone in the future because it was profoundly painful weeks after birth and I don't think this injury is talked about enough.

4. I could laugh with a VBAC, meaning that I could relax with a VBAC.

5. While I am reminded everyday that I had a c-section when I get dressed, I cannot detect my second degree tear. Second degree tears are most common (link). 

6. Bathroom trips following a c-section were easier.

Monday, January 18, 2021

8 Approaches for Reaching and Surpassing Your 2021 Mama Goals

It's a new year! And I'm happy to be back and ready to make my 2021 goals not only a reality, but a happy reality. I want to run a few victory laps. 

But, it's difficult to do when you're a mom. 

2020 was a hard year during which many doors had closed and I wanted 2021 to be different. This is why I had gathered up resources to help my bring my goals and dreams for 2021 to fruition. 

 

1. Hour by Hour

 

There are so many cliches that come to mind about parenting such as "they're only little once," and "the days are long, but the years are short." All true, which only makes these sayings more cringeworthy. 

And yet, why do we as moms, and parents in general, sometimes find ourselves craving a stressful minute to just be over, for bedtime to start, or a babysitter to get here? It's because being "on" 24-7 is hard as a new parent and I bet it gets more stressful with age as the kids get older.

The hour by hour tracking system budgets each hour like a currency in a budget. Each hour was made for something. This way no longer does a day just slide out from underneath a tired caregiver, but the day can be tracked and documented. Each hour needs to work. 

I found this approach to be helpful when going for better habits like better communication with my kids.

I also found this approach to be useful when breaking down schedules that were weather dependent. For example, if it was going to rain around 3pm, the objective for a weekend was to complete a walk and take the kids to a playground before 2:30.


2. Try Something New

 

Being a new mom often has days that just blend together in which the new and all important responsibilities dance around in a 24-hour cycle around the different squares of the calendar. To combat this boredom from repetitive responsibilities, I enjoy adding something different to the mix to make each week stand out a little. 

Ruts still happen, but they are much fewer than they were before. My first choice would be to go out into a new place in nature. While that only happens weather permitting, my second choice is to find a nice audio-book or a good movie to watch. My favorite morsels of creative entertainment have been "Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Bridgerton, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. 

Trying something new gives new life to the most standard and mundane tasks.

Yes, having a beautiful and well-kept home is a wonderful thing if you are summoned by the divine for this endeavor, but some days, it's just hard. This helps so much. Maybe this tip is only for extroverts, but maybe it's for everyone a bit. (Side note: I prescribe to the opinion that  extroversion or introversion is not "how social you are," but how much you prefer to interact with your environment.) 


3. Mom Report Card

 

This one is for all of the habit trackers out there, myself included. In the business world, I prefer ground truth data over feelings and Deming principles over "going with the flow." As moms or parents or caretakers, we have to make our own flow or the day makes us. 

This is a great approach to crushing goals because they are about honesty. First, goals should be realistic. If you created a lofty goal and its demoralizing watching it be further and further out of reach, replace it with something more realistic. Next, it's important to document wins and setbacks. Both are natural and a part of life. 

 

4. Make it a Game

 

This one is great for competitive parents out there. Yes, competition between parents is toxic and not the foundation to true friendship, but competition between you and your past self is fair game and fun. The old you did not have the same experience and mindset that you have now. Your old personal record is about to be crushed over and over. 

You can make either completing your smaller goals a game or you can make the journey to get to the goal a game. Take for example a clean kitchen floor. You can either do it super fast, on time, and mark that task done, OR you can give yourself point for every square foot of space that you clean.  

My personal favorite is a throwback to mall arcades. I write a to-do-list where every distinct task has its own number, then I designate how many complete tasks correspond to prizes and what the prizes are. While this sounds a tad like treating yourself, it is, but there are also ways to do this while also being fiscally conservative by either buying things that you will need later earlier (e.g. tooth paste, you will hopefully always need toothpaste), or paying down a debt, or adding to a savings account. 


5. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

 

I love the approach to happiness as the approach to the happiness of the whole family. And that's why I love the Maslow's hierarchy of needs approach. It's easy to follow, it just goes from the ground up. Every great building is built on good solid ground or a solid foundation. 

This is often second nature, but we sometimes forget to continue moving up the hierarchy of needs. 

As a disclaimer, I have seen people thrive while not having some of the basic needs met. There are always exceptions, but for me and many people I know, and modern psychology would side with building up. 

For me, I cannot excuse crafting while my home is dirty. I once came across the partial hoax, partially doctored message "from a Singer manual"--debunked here. It emphasized having all other affairs in order before undertaking sewing. This meant nothing in the physical or mental space was to be a bother. While the origin of the story was a hoax, the author of the linked blog follows through with exerts of the original doctored work with its good message preserved. 

 

6. Mind, Body, Heart, Soul

 

Okay, this one goes to all of those past studious students who would study in the library until finals, live there, then spend summers outside to make up for lost rays of sunshine. N

No. Extremes don't work in a family structure. You cannot, not bathe your kids, or not prepare bottles and pump. You cannot ignore the emotional needs of your children while making sure they can get a partial football scholarship. You can't ignore these important aspects of your life, because if you ignore them, no one else will take care of them. 

 I chose mind, body, heart and soul because those are the various areas of my family life and my focus. 

It's my focus for 2021 to care about all of these areas instead of just the mind and heart. Those were the 2020 objectives, but this year is going to be different. 

 

7. Continuous Improvement


One of my favorite words of all time is Kaizen, meaning change for the better. We have goals because we want to improve our lives in some way. 

This approach is perfect if you have BIG goals. You can break them down and try to reach small milestones without looking at the big goal all at once. 

Chances are that if you break down your big goals into small tasks or baby steps, and commit even one full minute to it everyday, you will move forward with enough focus if you have the necessary resources.

A big goal for 2021 is to write more and live more fully. As a result I have monthly goals for how often I write. My BIG goal is to write a book by the end of 2021. We will see how that unfolds. 

 

8. Accountability 

A lot of people say they want something, they tell everyone, and then they never do it. That happens a lot and in order to avoid this, you have to be accountable to yourself or others. Talk to those who want to see you succeed. Truly succeed. 

Maybe figure out a way to be accountability buddies or to give yourself consequences for not meeting certain goals. This sounds harsh but could be a great motivator. 

Did you not complete that one work email that you really wanted to? I guess that ice cream can wait, ice cream is for closers. 

What I like about this approach is that you can have flexibility when you need to. Being accountable to yourself also means not abusing your energy. All of your being is accountable to all of your being. And that is truly beautiful.

URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2826113

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Favorite Planner Things

I don't know where I would be if it wasn't for planners. Planners are beautiful visual aids that make my goals and dreams come true through calendars, checklists, and notes. Yes, I have uncompleted resolutions of yesteryear too, but we will not talk about those just yet.


 URSTYLE Link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2824598


I love digital calendars. Sharing events on digital calendars is convenient and my life would be much harder without them, BUT there is something beautiful and irreplaceable about a physical planner because I love seeing my week come alive on each page. I also love being able to write things down to remember them better.

But they can be fairly expensive. So I have a round up of items that to jump start your planner journey from Michael's


 

While the planner community is full of nice bespoke agendas, templates, and accessories, I wanted to take the time and talk about planner things from Michaels. Why Michaels? Well, because it is an accessible store and it had pulled me though some hard times through crafts. 

The truth is that when I first started with my planned journey, as much as I wanted to go all over the internet, it was much more comfortable to go to the physical store and look at everything in its physical form without worrying about actual size or quality. 

Another reason to use a one stop shop like Michael’s is that I get to see if I like a product at a lower price point before jumping headfirst into some consumables I will never use up. 

I enjoy aesthetically dressing up my planner so that I know what I have to look forward to and also keep track of my year. Yes, 2020 has probably been the worst year for planner companies, but I hope 2021 is much better and at the very least here are a few ways you can jot down your COVID-19 shot appointment dates. 

Planner Shell

The planner shell is necessary. There are I believe three common sizes, A5, standard, and pocket, as well as some others.

While for a shell almost anything goes, I would say that I prefer those that meet my need to write as much as I can. I typically go for the A5 and the standard size.

 

Small Letter or Symbol Stamps

These are great for tracking your habits, chores, drinking 8 glasses, spending or not spending, etc. if your kind of goals revolve around numbers or day to day consistency, I highly recommend stamps that fit snugly into a page. And yes, stickers might work as well, but I often find that they are too big for this purpose. 

Big Stamps

Big stamps are for big events! If you have consistent events like vacations, flights, play dates, birthdays, seminars, or outings, I highly suggest a fun, big and visual stamp. 

Ink Pads

You can’t have stamps without ink pads, there are many different kinds and it’s important that your matches your basic needs like not bleeding through thin agenda pages or not being easy to wash away. 

Pens

I love pens and the finer and more vibrant in color the better. I think multiple colors are a great way to communicate different details such as making time in orange or location in green. This way, if you are scanning your pages for certain information, you can ignore the colors that aren’t important that moment. 

Highlighters

I use my highlighters to designate that something is done. It’s a great way to mark up pages without obstructing the original text.

Filler Pages

Filler pages are needed. There are some yearly start ones like a calendar at a glance and detail pages for each week. There are also habit tracked pages, mela planning, budgeting, drawing, etc.

Washi Tape

Washi tape is not a requirement, but it is SO PRETY and it’s easy to feel festive or seasonal by decorating your pages. 

Stickers 

Stickers are another great way to decorate or label a planner. If you were an overachiever in school you might want to reward yourself with a set of stickers for days that go really well! Or just because you as an adult deserve them to brighten your day. 


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Five Reasons Why Sunday Night is the Loneliest Time for Working Moms--and What to Do About It

After a beautiful day of fun, accidents, messes, cuddles, and all around love, Sunday night is the LONELIEST TIME FOR WORKING MOMS.

URSTYLE link: https://urstyle.fashion/styles/2823227

 

Let's be clear, I wouldn't have it any other way, but knowing that you are about to wear so many hats during the week is hard for several reasons. 

1. It's Hard Filling Your Own Bucket While Momming

Let's face it, little kids need constant attention and focus on anything else for too long is either impossible or dangerous. And even while not watching them, I am making sure I order medicine, have enough diapers, and make calls to set up a doctor's appointment. These caregiver tasks don't end. Then, once the kids fall asleep, it's hard addressing my own tasks that I neglected for a while. Showers, planning out my week, writing a to do list, stretching, those things take time and are very hard to do within the small window between the kids' bedtime and my bedtime. It's just a space of alone time in my planner.

2. You Still Have Hopes and Dreams for Meaningful Social Interactions

I don't want to be melodramatic, but I still have things that I would like to complete in life like save the planet a little more, advance my career, travel, etc. And it is my non-parent friends that unabashedly talk about these things and I find a lot of common ideas, but not a lot of common free time to get into deep conversations on a regular basis. We end up bonding over our weekend projects instead through pictures and limited texting (please see number one about focus).

3. Getting Mentally Ready for the Week

I'm getting ready to juggle, my partner and I or our care giver team need to huddle up and know the game plan or someone will fumble a proverbial ball. One or two fumbles will not ruin a week, but little mishaps here and there add up until I'm are ready to count down to Friday.

I also have to switch personalities. No one wants to hear how potty training my child is going besides maybe another parent at work. I'm not saying you have to fake a stan level of interest in a sport or a movie, but it's time to put the "mom plus" personality away for the week because it does distract from the team dynamic at work. And also--people are shallow and generally don't value accidents involving bodily fluids. 

4. Then Sometimes, It's the Work You Have to Start Before Monday Ever Comes

There are a billion little tasks that need to get done as part of being a functioning person in society. These include regular doctors appointments, car service appointments, health and beauty appointments (self-care), and regular home repairs. Whether big or small, these errands and responsibilities carve away from the work week.

As a result, I want to get ahead before I can get behind. I also prefer to read important documents without kids crying and giggling in the background. Nights are perfect for first read overs, edits, and first email drafts.

5. Back to Number Two

It takes time to save the world, or to learn a new skill that can set you apart when you're back behind that computer. It's hard feeling like another weekend has passed and you are no where near where you wanted to be, and that's okay. I just feel empty compared to that energy boost I feel when I finish a big home or hobby project. 

 

What to Do About It

 

I bet you can already tell that I love numbers, so here are some suggestions without much order:

1. Do one minute of a hobby or home project. Be honest with yourself, you weren't going to install those solar panels yourself anyway. And you would have taken some time and thought about your choices before committing to a big project like this in the first place.

2. Learn to ignore anything that is not urgent. I am behind on Christmas cards and Christmas presents. It was just 2020 outside, I know people who did "everything right" and their stuff still arrived late and they are behind too. 

3. If your primary love language is quality time or words of affirmation, try out converting it to something that fits current COVID guidance. Words of affirmation can be completed on social media or over mail with cards. Quality time might be possible through refined coordination with friends and family about watching movies and shows at similar times or seeing each other while socially distancing. 

4. Instead of staying up late to work, focus twice as hard when you are at work and you can make every minute work a bit extra. 

5. Fill your bucket without apologizing. And figure out a way to fill your bucket faster and deplete is slower during the day. Sleep, hygiene, beauty, what ever it is. It is worth it. And the biggest investment that you can make is in yourself. This might be meal planning to include a decadent dessert after kids' bedtime.   

The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

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