Postpartum Prepping

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Basically since I became a doctor-mama, my go-to baby shower gift has been a big-ol-bag of all the things you’re gonna want to have around after you give birth that no one else will gift you. It’s not the kind of gift that gets a round of, “AWWWWW!!”, and I usually advise the moms to open in in private later so as not to embarrass the grandmas and/or husbands in the crowd. But, after going through the birth aftermath myself, I realized it was the best thing I could do for friends to save them or their loved ones that trip to the grocery store/pharmacy after birth.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of course, I realize most other people don’t do this for baby showers. So here’s a list of all the things you maybe don’t know you will need. Try to have all this on-hand by about 36 weeks gestation just in case things happen early. I went to get mine at *ahem* 36 weeks exactly and posted about it on Instagram stories (follow us @asamotherblog if you don’t already!). At that point in pregnancy, most women and their babes still go home in the normal 1-4 day postpartum interval so you won’t have extra time to prep.

Diapers & wipes

You probably got some of these at the shower, but make sure you have the right start-up stash before baby is there. You’ll want 1 or 2 boxes of newborn sized diapers. Don’t get much more than that at first because many babies grow out of the N-size fairly quickly. Get 2-3 boxes, minimum, of the size 1’s. Which diapers? That’s up for a whole separate blog-post debate… However! For the N’s, make sure it’s a sensitive skin or natural diaper option to avoid early diaper rash and the ones with the blue stripe to tell when it’s wet are wonderful for your addled post-partum brain. For the wipes, just buy the biggest possible box of SCENT-FREE, sensitive skin wipes. You’ll use them.

Kirkland - ibqh Baby Wipes - Ultra Soft - 900 Count Box rcuzj

Maxi pads

Speaking of diapers, you’ll be wearing your own as well. In the hospital, they provide lovely, actual adult-diaper sized pads and mesh underwear to house them. Grab a few extras for the trip home if you can. After that, though you’ll want a box of heavy-flow, overnight, extra-large pads to wear. You will bleed much heavier than a regular period for at least one week, sometimes 2-4 weeks post-partum and you canNOT use tampons. Get another box of lighter ones for spotting after which can be another few weeks. Get unscented, sensitive ones – your lady parts will be, well…. fragile, to say the least.

Pro-tip: Take ~6 of these heavy duty pads, soak them in witch hazel (see below) and freeze for your own soothing stash of ‘padsicles’, this tip brought to you by my fave pregnancy/post-partum book, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Surviving the First Year Of Motherhood.

Clothes

You might already be set here depending how you shopped in pregnancy. The basic wardrobe of your first 2 months postpartum is as follows:

  • Nursing tank top or bra + boob accessible shirt
  • Kimono or sweatery-type thing
  • Stretchy pants
  • Slippers or comfy socks
  • Granny panties

Nursing tanks have 3 varieties: comfy, sporty, supportive. I would get yourself MINIMUM of one of each if you’re planning to breastfeed for a while. Here are a few of my faves:

The bras also have comfy and supportive options. Get at least 1 of each. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT get nursing bras with underwire. This is a HUGE risk factor for getting clogged ducts which hurt like a mofo. You won’t need that kind of support anyway once your milk plumps those puppies up.

I am super excited that the drapey-cover-up trend is still happening because there are SO many cute options to turn your nursing tank into an actual outfit these days! I mean, you basically get to wear a robe in public and are insta-stylish. For your stretchy pants, you will continue to rock your maternity pants for a while – fold the over-belly ones down if needed. Also, have some high-rise leggings around. NO low-rise, if you have a c-section, those will push on your incision and hurt and if you don’t it will not support your recently vacated tummy enough.

Buy at least a 5-pack of large underwear you don’t care about. The underwear should fit you at 3rd trimester pregnancy because (hopefully you already know this), you will look 5-6 months pregnant for the first several weeks after birth, minimum. When in doubt, size-up. You need ones that are soft, big enough to hold those overnight maxi-pads and that are cheap enough you feel fine throwing them away after they’re stained. Black is a good color choice. Again, avoid low-rise, get at least mid-rise. And add on whatever slippers/socks you like if someone didn’t gift you.

Food

Moving on! In recovery from birth and when starting up nursing, you will need LOTS of easy food. If you’re getting hungry a lot, your body will have a harder time making milk. Stock up on protein and healthy-fat rich snacks that are easy to grab and eat one-handed. My go-to’s are protein bars like RxBars, cheeses, nuts and nut-butters plus something to slather them on. If you like it, lunch meat is also a great option (you get to have it again, yay!).

Stock the freezer with ready-to-heat meals and the pantry with easy sides. I keep around bags of frozen vegetables (much better nutrition than canned), a supply of ground grass-fed meats to throw into the crockpot for marinara or chili, microwavable brown rice and quinoa, sweet potato fries and other easy meals you can throw together 1 handed.

Drinks

Yes, get yourself some celebratory wine/beer/liquor. This should go without saying, but… Should you get drunk while you’re sleep deprived and breastfeeding a tiny human? NO. If you have a history of alcohol or addiction issues, should you jump off the wagon? NO. Can the rest of you have a glass of champagne to celebrate being an actual superhero-miracle-maker? Heck yes!

What I’m really talking about here though is hydration. You’ll need to drink 3-4 Liters of water daily, aka a GALLON A DAY, while recovering and nursing. If plain water isn’t your thing, stock up on what will help you get that in. Herbal teas with fenugreek are a great nursing support. These Upspring berry-flavor or chocolate options are also great. Fruit juices are cool if you’re not diabetic. Sparkling water counts. Just get. it. in. Avoid soda, please, for me?? It’s not good for your recovering body.

Baby First Aid

I strongly recommend getting the Fridababy Baby Basics set that has a snotsucker (much more gentle and effective than a bulb), a Windi (can be a miracle for colicky babies), the Dermafrida for your skin and nail clippers. This is great to put on the registry! Get some plain baby nasal saline drops for stubborn boogers. Have a good diaper cream on hand – Resinol has been our family go-to since I was a baby, but anything basic is fine. You also should have a rectal thermometer in the house in case you need to check a temperature accurately.

For your lady-parts

For you ladies who know you’re having a cesarean section for whatever reason, you don’t necessarily need this. For everyone else planning for a vaginal delivery, also get a large bottle of witch hazel or witch hazel flushable hemorrhoid wipes or pads. You will be far too tender to wipe at all at first and will just use the handy spray-bottle while you go then pat dry oh-so-gently. After that, though, you’ll want to use these gentle wipes, not dry TP for about 6 weeks. Also pick up a bottle of Miralax and some docusate stool softener if you’re not already using them. You’ll want your poo’s SOFT. Trust me on this.

Nursing supplies

If you can get a double-electric breast pump from insurance, definitely do that. If not, or I would say even if you do, I also recommend getting a manual pump as back up and for travel. It’s super helpful even if you’re not planning to bottle feed at all, just to have on hand if you’re engorged or have a clog. Also pick up a jar of organic coconut oil. This is by far the best nipple lubricant and safe for baby, no need to wipe clean before feeding. Put it on after EVERY feed and before EVERY pumping session until your nips have toughened up. You’ll usually be given some lanolin – this is usually WAY too sticky for sensitive nipples. Use it on baby’s bum instead. If it’s your first baby or you’re sensitive, you might need something stronger at first like this Motherlove Organic Nipple Cream.

Motherlove Nipple Cream Certified Organic Salve for Sore Cracked Nursing Nipples, 1 Oz.

Also grab yourself a pack of either washable or disposable (judgement free zone here) boob pads for leakage. I have hoarded all the removable pads from every swimsuit and athletic top I’ve ever bought and use those because they’re washable, but if you aren’t a weirdo like me, buy some 🙂

Last but not least, vitamins

You’ll need to stay on vitamins the whole time you’re recovering from birth (3 months) and longer if you’re nursing. You can keep taking your same prenatals if that works for you or transition to a post-partum vitamin. Two options that are good are Healthy Mama Postnatal and Naturemade Postnatal Support.

Be Well Rounded! Perfect Postnatal Multi-Vitamin +DHA Softgels. Once Daily to Optimize Nutrition While Breastfeeding. 1 Month

Nature Made Postnatal Multi-Vitamin Plus DHA Softgels, 60 Count

 

I’ll be adding Nerium’s Youth Factor vitamin and superfood drink because it can help prevent post-partum hair loss and might boost milk supply as well. Taking all the help I can get!

Here’s the list in-brief for printing:

  • Sensitive skin diapers: 1 box newborn, 2 boxes size 1
  • Sensitive, scent free wipes: largest possible box
  • Maxi-pads: 1 box overnights, 1 pack regular, unscented
  • Nursing tanks x3, Nursing bras x2, stretchy high rise pants
  • Pack of large, mid-rise underwear, dark colors
  • Slippers/socks if needed
  • Snack foods, pantry foods, freezer foods
  • Large water bottle (about 1 liter size), other hydration options
  • Fridababy Snot-sucker, nasal saline drops, Fridababy Windi, tiny nail clippers, rectal thermometer
  • Bottle of witch hazel or witch hazel wipes
  • Stool softeners (miralax and docusate)
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Other nipple cream if needed
  • Breast pads for milk leakage
  • Vitamins

Ok, I’ve got pregnancy brain and that’s all I can think of… all you experienced mamas out there, what else would you recommend?? Comment below!

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Annie Ray is a mom of 2 due any time now with baby #3, a family doctor and Target-lover in Sacramento, CA.

PostPartum Rage Is A Real Thing.

A couple of weeks ago, an article came across my newsfeed that stopped me dead in my tracks. We have discussed postpartum depression and anxiety here on the blog to help normalize the conversations about those two particular, and VERY prevalent, states of motherhood. But, what about those of us who have had both of those things manifest differently? What about those of us that cannot pinpoint what it is that we are feeling, leaving us confused, feeling isolated, and abnormal? What if our symptoms are not only sadness, stress, or anxiety? (as if that isn’t enough…sheesh)

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Photo Credit to Actify Neurotherapies

Commonly known symptoms of PPD and PPA are mentioned above, but with one caveat. The Anger/Rage category that is seemingly brushed over for the other symptoms listed here. My own postpartum manic anxiety turned into something I had never even knew existed until a couple of weeks ago…….it was FULL. BLOWN. RAGE.

Have you ever just been having a normal conversation, and something triggers you and you have this overwhelming anger that makes your ears turn bright red, your blood boil, and before you know it, your whole family is crying because you’ve screamed for the last five minutes without knowing what you’ve said or even why?

Have you found yourself trying like hell to not throw something across the room when the toilet seat is peed on and you forget to check before you sit, and end up throwing said object anyway?

I have.

Hi, my name is Kristy, and I am just realizing that I have suffered from PostPartum Rage for 7 years.

People don’t often talk about this ugly symptom of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, because it describes a state of mind that is downright hard to talk about. To watch someone from the outside go through such uncontrollable anger must just look wrong. We have images within us that create this patient, loving, and kind image of a person that we hope to be as mothers.  I know that was my intention upon having children.  However, the “inner monster” that would come out of me during moments where I could not control my environmental triggers had other plans. It would create a panic that would lead to confusion, then frustration. Then, the trigger event happens and then boom….pop goes the mommy.

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Photo Credit New Scientist

I try to think back on all the times that I could feel my friends and family’s eyes on me, as I was triggered by the kids, dog, losing my keys or cell phone, or whatever. It was almost as if, in an instant, I would watch myself from outside my body. Normalcy would give way to rage, rage ended always in guilt, and all throughout this cycle, my inner voice is begging me,

200“Stop it this ISN’T a big deal! Breathe. Just please Breath.”

 

After my episode was over, I would go immediately into the depression cycle over the way I had “behaved” because I should have control over it. I would be so embarrassed for my family, that I’d regularly cry by myself or with my husband for significant periods of time over the next day or so. I’d then chalk it up to a bad day, pick myself up, and tell myself I’d never let it happen again.

But it always did.

The things is, I could not control it. It had its raging claws stuck in my brain, puppeteering me through episodes that could last seemingly for hours.

Thanks to Carolyn Wagner and her post on Motherly on a particularly bad day, I read what seem like a perfect description for what my postpartum symptoms were. I could never solidly say I was depressed or anxious all the time, but one thing I could always rely on, was having an anger button with a hair trigger.

When broken down though, Wagner explains it most perfectly by saying,

“In overwhelmed,  guilt 

I mean, Ding friggin’ ding. In one paragraph, I was given the gift I had always needed…… to feel UNDERSTOOD.

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She goes on to say that it “  

But how can this be? I am a strong woman. I have a support system. I have a great life, with GREAT kids. BUT, none of my friends or family had ever mentioned this type of symptom before. I hadn’t really even seen it as a doula!  I allowed that feeling of abnormality assist in isolating my rage, as I saw myself separate from my peers.  This is what created room for false perception to take over within me. AKA, self- judgement.

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After I peeled myself off the floor in a fit of tears, I immediately shared it on social media with Carolyn’s words still echoing in my head. The feedback was almost instant.

I really am not alone.

This symptom doesn’t go unnoticed, but it does seemingly get brushed under the rug in conversation. I believe it is more taboo because it is ugly, uncomfortable, and well……..angry.  Until now, I had felt that I had part monster inside of me. I even called it “Monster Mommy” while

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Photo from Readers Digest

apologizing to my family after calming down from an episode. Since I have been gifted a jumping off point towards being more informed about Postpartum Rage, I can now start creating awareness of its episodes within myself and with my support system. With this mindful awareness, I can understand what sets me off at it’s core, and avoid getting myself into those situations.

 

In cases where triggers are unavoidable, I have enlisted the help of my husband. As per the article, I would track when and what would set me off. We came up with a code phrase, “you are spinning” to alert my brain to what is about to happen. And, I dare say, it has been a powerful helper. We worked together to find one that wouldn’t cause the trigger to go off more immediately such as “calm down” or “you’re getting upset”   <shutter….jaw clench……okay just breath>

No matter what it is you do, there are a few things I want you to know:

  1. It’s okay. And it is okay to talk about it.  Please know that others need to know that this is a SYMPTOM, which means it can be treated.  You can ask your care provider to help you through this time. But please, have a true discussion about it.
  2. There is help. If you are a partner, friend, or family member of someone and you read this, please know that your partner doesn’t want to have this symptom anymore than you or your kids want her to. So don’t be afraid to ask whoever you can for help with it.
  3. You are loved. Self care is extremely important as parents. So, I am letting you know that  shifting into a self-care routine is vital to managing this. Your loved ones will thank your newfound self-care awareness when you learn how to tell when you need a break before you explode.
  4. A recurring theme of mine is that you’re never alone. Ever. And this is no exception.

                              ….It takes a village.

 

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Kristy is a doula, self-care advocate, struggle-bus rider, and mom of 2 in Virginia

 

Public Places, Crowded Spaces

I used to be really, really laid back.  I was so laid back, in fact, that many of my friends would comment about how much they loved having me around in large groups because I was so “go with the flow.”  When we were making plans, and everyone was trying to make a decision, I would often say, “I’m cool with whatever!”  And I meant it.  This wasn’t one of those, “I’m cool with whatever but then will be miserable with the decision.”  I legit would be happy anywhere with anyone and without complaint.

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Then, I had children.  Many people warned me about the ways we change after we make some miniature versions of ourselves.  For the most part, however, for me at least, they were all false.  I’m mostly the same person I was before kids.  Sure, I am a little feistier than my previous self (mess with my kids and you’ll get to see that lovely side of me).  I am still totally fine with going with the flow when it comes to me and plans with my friends.  However, despite all of the ways in which I didn’t change, I managed to change in the one way no one warned me about when it comes to my kids: Anxiety in Crowded Spaces.

I legit worry about people stealing my children.  All.  Of.  The.  Time.  Before I head into the grocery store?  I look for the various exits to make sure I know where they are in case I need to make a run for it.  In Target?  I eye all of the well-meaning strangers and tell my kids to stay in the cart at all times.  Before heading to a theme park like Disney?  Oh, you don’t even want to know.

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This all came to a peak the day after Thanksgiving this year.  My dear friend had this great idea.  “Let’s go to the Children’s Museum!”  I thought this was awesome.  My kids were excited!  This was a place where you could touch and play with everything.  What could be better?  Right?  Right?!?!?

Y’all.  Everyone and their mothers were there.  I am not exaggerating.  There were so many people there that you could barely move without touching another person.  It was the first time I truly realized that new Mommy-Margo no longer is easy-going and go-with-the-flow in public, crowded places with my children.

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I could feel it happening.  I was getting hot.  I was tense and stressed any time I couldn’t see both of my children in the same spot while one was ducking under an exhibit or running around the corner to go up stairs to a slide.

I managed to hold it all in and not verbally fret over my children, save for the occasional, “Hey, Levi, please stay close to your sister!”  Just because I have turned into the worst-case-scenario lady doesn’t mean my children should suffer, right?

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So, since I am a solution-oriented person, I called my OBGYN.  I was like, “Is it possible for me to have post-partum anxiety STILL?!  Two years later?!?”  She then asked me a bunch of questions, including the most important one, which was, “Does this feeling keep you from doing activities like going to the store or going to the museum or the park with your kids?  Does this feeling keep you from sleeping or eating?”  The answer was a no.  “So,” she said, “what you are feeling is the normal fear we all parents have.  It’s due to the news, and the world, and life.  Having children means worrying about them, too.  If you feel like it’s impairing your ability to do normal things, though, you need to schedule a time to come in and see me.”

So sure, I might be that person who, in preparation for a trip to Disney will write my phone number in sharpie on my children’s arms, put a tracker on their body and dress them in bright colors down to their shoes.  But apparently, it’s ok and I’m not alone.

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(This is not my phone number, but… you get the idea!)

Is this all over the top?  Maybe.  Am I resourceful and prepared?  Hell yea.  I am a planner after all.

If you are having these feelings, remember to be honest with yourself.  If it’s causing problems in your life, there are lots of ways out there to deal with it, and lots of professionals ready, willing and able to help you.  The Postpartum Support International website has lots of great resources – and NO, there is no time-limit on when you are considered “postpartum”.

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And, most of all, remember – you aren’t alone.

 

Pathways picture #3Margo is a financial adviser and mom of 2 little ones in Maryland.

Supporting a Friend During Infertility

Infertility is a topic that will impact nearly all women in some way. Either yourself or someone you know will likely struggle with this – it affects 1 in every 10 women. For some women, it can feel unbearable to wait 6 months to get pregnant – others will wait years and spend thousands of dollars, undergoing invasive treatments to conceive. As more women wait until they’re a bit older to start trying to conceive, more struggle with this every day. As a physician, I am very well practiced at discussing the “medical” side of this when patients come into the office…. but as a friend? I still struggle to come up with the right things to say and do.

I reached out to one of my #WCW’s, Natalie Bushman, fellow mommy-blogger at Nat your average girl, for some help and am so happy to share her wisdom here. On her blog, she has shared her journey through new motherhood, then through secondary infertility (difficulty conceiving after a successful natural pregnancy), the twin pregnancy that resulted from treatments and being a mom of 3 along with fabulous personal style and home decor posts.

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Total blogger crush on this cute fam!

She recently discovered they’ll be bringing baby #4 into the family (congrats!!!) and I asked her to give us some insight into being there for friends who are going through an infertility journey since she’s personally experienced this from multiple angles.

Thinking back to when you first got pregnant with Blair, did you have friends who were already dealing with infertility issues? How did you approach them with news of your pregnancy then?

I was one of the first people to get pregnant in my friend group and didn’t know anyone at the time experiencing infertility. Looking back though, I was so naive and it never even crossed my mind that I could have a hard time getting pregnant (even though my Mom struggled for years). I just assumed that since I was healthy with a regular cycle that it would be a cinch… and lucky for me it was the first time! I didn’t think twice about miscarriage or not seeing a heartbeat at the first appointment. Ignorance was bliss but oh how the tables have turned!
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Baby Blair, their 1st

I’m sure people had all kinds of responses when you were struggling to get pregnant the second time around. You’ve blogged about the things people should NOT say to couples. Did any friends or family members say things that were helpful and supportive?

Yes, my close friends were amazing. Honestly one of the best things to say is simply,
I’m sorry. That’s so hard. Is there anything I can do for you to help?
Totally basic but shows that you care even if you haven’t experienced infertility yourself. The other things that helped were when my friends would check in on me after they knew I had a big appointment. Or they would say, “Call me after your appointment. I want to hear what the doctor said.” Things like that. Things that you would say to anyone going through a hard time or health scare. It’s just about showing you care. Hearing that someone is praying for a specific need of mine also made me feel better. To know that I wasn’t forgotten.

How can people approach this with friends who they aren’t sure if they’re having fertility problems – do you think that’s different than how you approach friends who have told you outright they’re in fertility treatment?

Ok, so I actually had a friend who told me she was struggling but she hadn’t told anyone else. At that point, she had an adopted child but had made it clear that he wasn’t adopted because of fertility reasons. She had even previously made it known to our friend group that she didn’t have a desire to have biological kids. However, over the course of time, things changed and her desire to have bio kids grew.  In group settings, it would be wildly uncomfortable because I knew to be sensitive but others didn’t. Other moms would share their birth/breastfeeding stories and I would try to direct the conversation elsewhere.
However, if people don’t know you are struggling then you really can’t expect them to be sensitive…especially if you have previously made it clear you aren’t interested in being pregnant. I guess it’s a balance. It kind of depends on your relationship with the person. I steer clear of asking strangers any type of kid-related questions. But if you’re my good friend and you’ve decided to be tight-lipped, then that is harder to help. Overall, I guess it’s just always best to be sensitive. But if people aren’t honest with their situation then it becomes harder to be sensitive.

Did you want people who knew what you were going through to check in on you regularly? Or did you feel like you just wanted to update them and not be bothered?

I kind of referred to this a little bit in question three. For me, I liked having people check in on me. There was only one instance in which I protected myself from this and that was right after IVF. I knew that I would get the phone call on December 28th that would tell me if I was pregnant or not (it was through a blood test result) and I purposely told my friends I wouldn’t know till December 30th. I wanted to be able to process the news (if it was bad) with just Matt. I wanted to have time to wrap my mind around it and be sad for a little while. I didn’t want to have to field a bunch of texts and phone calls. When we did find out I was pregnant I told them that day…it was too good to hold in!
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Evie and Cal

Did you worry about announcing this recent pregnancy since you didn’t have trouble conceiving this time?

Oh, totally. I was sweating over it. I know that a lot of my followers are dealing with infertility and I wanted to be SO sensitive to that. It was this weird mix of emotions because I was so thrilled/surprised by our pregnancy but so distraught over how others still struggling would react. I prayed that they would be encouraged and filled with hope that this could happen for them too, instead of feeling bitter or angry. This may sound ridiculous but when I was having a hard time getting pregnant, and I knew someone who just “looked at their husband” and got pregnant, I would be mad. But if someone who had struggled like me got pregnant, I would be so happy for them. Was that fair of me? No. But if I’m being honest I did have those feelings initially. Part of me hoped that since I had struggled in the past that I wouldn’t be that “annoying pregnant girl.”
For some reason, we seem to be happier for people who have “overcome” to get where they are. It sure makes for an incredible story. But, I regret being spiteful to those who didn’t have the same struggle as me. So what if they can get pregnant easily? You never know what else they could be dealing with behind closed doors… an abusive partner, ongoing sickness, the death of a parent, unemployment, depression… the list goes on and on. There’s so much sadness in our world.
I think if we all had a little more grace we’d all be better off!
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I can’t think of any better parting advice than that! Thank you Natalie! And friends, if you don’t already, go follow this awesome mama on instagram @natyouraveragegirl and check out her blog!
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Dr. Annie is a family doctor and mom in the Sacramento, CA area.

Election Day: Parent Edition

Yesterday was election day across the country. For some of us this might have been one of the first midterm elections you participated in, or even knew were happening. According to this article by Vox, the highest midterm voter turn-out for youngin’s (aka 18-29 year olds in voting talk) was 21% way back in 1986. If you’re wondering why it seems like older people make all the political decisions in this country… THIS IS WHY. According to a Harvard poll cited in that same article, expected turnout for these 2018 midterms is 41% in that age group. Nearly double. Times are finally a-changin’, booya! (I’m clearly out of this young hip age group because I can’t think of a ‘cooler’ way to say that)

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That age group also happens to contain most of our parents of young children across the country. The vast majority of women who bear children do it between ages 20-34*. If you line up those numbers, that means a WHOLE lot more young mamas and papas were planning to get-out-the-vote yesterday than in earlier years. Which got me to thinking… what’s everyone doing with their kiddos??

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Me, the bump and hubby pants voting it up

I saw quite a few social media posts of people offering to watch other people’s kids so they could go vote – generosity itself! My own kids were in preschool/kindergarten while the hubs and I took just the bun-in-the-oven (currently our easiest child) to the polls. Of course there are the awesome people who plan ahead and vote-by-mail too (ahem… Christiana). But then, I saw even more posts of people carting their 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids with them into the polls and proudly showing off their little ones with “I voted” stickers.

In case you were wondering (as I was), it is legal to bring your minor children into the voting booth in ALL 50 STATES.

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Kristy shared voting with her little lady!

Now, I’m sure some of these civically minded parents were forced to drag their kids with them by fault of not having childcare (when are those politicians gonna get on THAT?? Hello America, we are way behind other civilized nations here! I digress…). I found myself, though, regretting not having taken our own girls in to be part of the process.

Is it more of a hassle to try to focus and remember which candidate or ballot measure you meant to mark with a 3 year old trying to climb up your leg, a newborn rooting around for a boob and/or a 6 year old wanting to mark the page with the sharpie they stole from who-knows-where? OMG yes. But it’s also an incredibly valuable opportunity to literally shape the future of America via your own offspring …which is basically why we are doing all of this parenting, amiright??!

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Margo displaying her voting prowess loud and proud!

Top 3 Reasons To Bring Kids To Vote:

  1. You show the kids the mechanics. One of the reasons cited frequently by millennials and younger for not voting was that they just, like, literally don’t know how you do it. If you get your kids running through the motions biannually from a young age, they’ll be ahead of the curve when they hit 18!
  2. You inspire others. You show other people that parents’ votes count. You show other parents that they can too get out the vote, whether they have childcare or not, to make it matter even more. The other people there can also see, and be reminded, that what they are voting on is going to impact the future, the actual children there in front of them.
  3. You demonstrate Democracy. We all know kids learn by seeing and doing better than being told. So seeing you vote, discussing the results and what it means in a concrete sense will teach your children what it truly means to live in a Democratic country better than the best TED talk or Daniel Tiger episode ever could.
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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Next election, you better believe I’ll be showing up with all 3 of my offspring. Still not convinced it’s worth the trouble? That’s ok! Swap childcare with a friend and go get your solo vote on. Or maybe even be super organized and get vote-by-mail and just show the kids the ballot like our smart lawyer friend ;^)

What do you think? Did you take kids to vote? Was it worth it? Would you do it again?? We want to hear in the comments!

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Dr. Annie is a mom of 2 strong future voting women growing a third voter of the future in California.

 

 

 

 

 


Lo and behold, other people had similar thoughts! This article by Girlscouts of America has a great guide to how to get your kids (girls specifically) involved and excited about voting from an early age. Other articles on Red Tricycle, The 74 Million and Kveller also give great reasons for voting with kids in tow and advice for raising engaged citizens if you want more information.
*Paul Taylor et al, The New Demography of American Motherhood. MAY 6, 2010; http://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2010/10/754-new-demography-of-motherhood.pdf

Bringing Home Baby: How to Manage Visitors

As an enthusiast for women advocating for themselves, the time I spend talking to couples about the postpartum period in my doula practice is vital. Whether a couple is just starting their journey as a new family of three, or they are adding more siblings into their mix, this family transitional period is precious and sensitive. I strive to teach some very hard and fast boundaries for the family to consider when introducing their newest family member to the world.

I have found that most research points are geared towards correcting the etiquette of the visitor (my favorite being THIS ONE,) but what I outline below are the simple reminders that I wish I had known within the first few weeks of being a new mom.

1) Be Selfish, Please.

In many cultural traditions, there is a two-week to two-month period of isolated bonding between mother and infant. I recently came across an interesting article from the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecology, and Neonatal Nursing, that astoundingly stated the modern shift away from “Lying-in” with your baby postpartum was mainly due to understaffing during WWII!

During World War 2, physician-researchers challenged the long-held practice of keeping postpartum women confined to bed for 10 to 14 days after a vaginal birth. Economic realities brought about change in the length of postpartum stays. Hospitals could not maintain their personnel because of labor shortages created by the war. Maternity units became crowded with more new mothers and were understaffed. Sending women home in 3 to 5 days after birth could alleviate staffing problems.

Ideally, you’d spend that time in bed or couch with your baby learning your nursing relationship (if you choose to breastfeed) and recovering your strength. This can help with your milk production by feeding on demand and with your overall rest. That sweet little one will want to nurse or have a bottle very often, so having them near you is a wise choice. 

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Photo Cred: Baby of Mine Lifestyle Photography

2) Ask for help.

Believe it or not, you CAN ask for help. I daresay you MUST. No matter what your home life looked like before the new baby, it’s going to look different now. Delegating simple responsibilities to other members of the family/community can be a huge relief to you during this time. Laundry, dishes, other kid drop off and pick up, even vacuuming? Yeah, girl. You are allowed, especially if you have limited maternity leave, to snuggle your baby as long as you want while others take care of the other tasks. Take this chance to ask, because folks will be MORE than willing to help you, even if they don’t get to hold the baby yet.

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I’ll have more of this, please.

Have trouble asking for help? We see you do-it-all-myself mamas! Make yourself a list of what would be helpful ahead of time. Consider having someone else – your sister, your doula, your ballsy no-filter bestie – be the one to ask people for specific helpful tasks if you really can’t bring yourself to do it. Literally practice with someone you trust role-playing the “Can I do anything to help?”, “Yes, thank you! We could really use some more diapers and paper plates when you come by” so you don’t blurt out your usual “No, we’re doing fine, thanks!”. You know what’s amazing?? People actually WANT to help – it makes THEM feel good. So really, it’s selfish not to give out tasks!

3) You Can Say “No Thank You” to Visitors, but “Yes” to Food.

A lot of folks find it most comforting to not have to prepare meals during this time. You don’t have to rely on someone to do this for you or panic if you haven’t filled your freezer with easy to make meals. You can designate a person, or start a TakeThemAMeal.com account yourself, where people who want to help can sign up to bring you a meal.  You can personalize it to your specific dietary requirements, and even specify days/times you’ll need a meal.  If you don’t want a visitor at the time they bring the meal, you can set two coolers out on your porch for them to drop off at anytime. One cooler can be for hot items, and one for cold. I repeat, you do NOT have to visit with them at this time.

4) Doorbell Signage for the surprise”Drop In”

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There can always be that ONE person in your life, whether its a nosy neighbor, a loud talking sibling, or an oblivious friend who can just “pop-by to see the baby” without calling because they were “in the neighborhood”. If you are not wanting random visitors, it is okay for you to make a sign taped over a doorbell, or a high traffic door that states “No visitors today, please. We are resting” or “Please leave any deliveries or goodies on the porch because we are bonding as a family now”. I love this Scary Mommy Article about waiting to see visitors until your family was ready. Again, it is OKAY to ask people to wait.

5) Get used to saying “Wash your hands first!”.

Everyone who enters into your home environment brings the rest of the world’s germs with them. While it is impossible to keep your little one away from 100% of the little nasty cooties that come along, being a clean-hands ninja warrior on proper hand-washing and sanitizing is important for your sanity. It can keep big-kid and adult sized germs away from your newest little one, who hasn’t had the chance to build his/her immunity against them. You also have permission to deny entry to older kids who are not part of the family. No kids, no sick adults, no touching baby. Did grandpa wash his hands and then scratch his nose? Back to the sink with him! Practice saying this. If it helps, say “My [doctor/midwife] made me promise to be really on top of this!”. Stop sign

6) Look, but Don’t Touch.

We’ve all gone through this as new moms. You’re in Target picking out cute baby onesies your first time out with little one and you feel it happen. Out of the corner of your eye, the lady across the aisle is making googley eyes at you and the new baby and she approaches, seemingly to the theme music of jaws, and reaches her hand to touch the new baby.  Before you can say, “Don’t touch my baby, please”, she’s got a little foot in her mouth pretending to gobble it up it because, duh, it’s the cutest foot anyone in the whole world has ever seen.

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I’m gonna eat those sweet toes!!!!

In the first few postpartum outings, you may notice that the grocery store, department store, brisk walk in the park, and maybe even a public bathroom stop will be the “oh look at the new baby” show.  Strangers LOVE seeing new babies, and will reach out to touch any little squishy cute part they can manage to see. If this feels as uncomfortable to you as it did to me on my first outings, you now have my permission to tell people not to touch your baby’s face, hands, well…ANYTHING. Some options that can help deter this behavior are baby-wearing, or putting a sign such as this one on the car seat/stroller handle.

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Baby wearing for the win

Alternately, keep baby in the carseat/stroller with a cover or blanket covering it completely and pretend baby is asleep whether they are or not. Again, this would be a good thing to practice ahead of time if you’re timid…

7) Be Both Mindful and Gentle with Your State of Mind

One of the biggest things I ask new parents to do, is to become sensitive to the changes in mood that can be experienced. While mood changes are normal, I ask that partners especially become aware of any out of the normal postpartum blues. This article from PostPartum Progress describes my point wonderfully by stating,

There are mamas out there who are really, truly struggling more than we might expect them to in a healthy adjustment to motherhood but who don’t necessarily fit the criteria for a major depressive illness or an anxiety disorder. I’ve mentioned these moms before; they are the mamas who hold it all together for those around them but, behind closed doors, fall into a heap on the bathroom floor, or in bed at night, or any place where no one is looking. It’s these moms who I worry most about because they aren’t likely to reach out for the support that they need to thrive.

In the case of the mom who won’t reach out, please refer back to this post about finding your village through a doula.

Although symptoms of PostPartum Depression or Anxiety can be mild, they still can be addressed with your Primary Care Provider for monitoring and treatment. It is important to know you are NOT alone, and that you CAN talk about all you’re experiencing with someone.

In essence, use this time to empower your new family dynamic by voicing what you do/don’t need or want when you have a new baby. This will help you to not only learn your new baby as a family, but it will also help to establish those who are willing to be part of this new tribe that has your best interest at heart. It is a time of transition, and it is ok to navigate that within your own powerful boundaries. And if you ever feel alone, reach out to us here at Real As A M*ther, because we are here to bring your village to you, and we fiercely have your back, mama.

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What is the most helpful thing someone did for you post-partum?? Comment below!
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Kristy is a certified massage therapist, wife, doula, and mother to 2 kids in Virginia.

Don’t Wash That Baby!

So, I know some of my Labor and Delivery or Newborn Nursery friends are gonna hate me for this post… but too bad, it’s important and our readers deserve the best information! I keep finding myself rushing to check in with friends and family who recently had a baby and try to catch them before the baby has gotten that adorable first bath. Such a cute moment! And the freshly combed wispy hair after?? Alllll the 😍😍.

The thing is, babies aren’t supposed to have a soapy bath so soon after their skin hits fresh air. Their skin has been protected in its own natural lotion called Vernix in a pH balanced amniotic fluid bath for their whole existence up until birth. It’s the most fragile and sensitive their skin will ever be when it first comes into contact with dry, cold air outside the womb.

My dad, a family doctor with a huge amount of experience, trained at a time when as soon as babies emerged from the womb, they were scrubbed down with chlorhexidine – a powerful antiseptic we use to sterilize ourselves before surgery.

It was thought at the time that this would “protect” them from the dangerous bacteria they encountered when they passed by your rear end. That was after the doctor had of course sterilized your vag with copious amounts of iodine solution. He told me this and my eyeballs very nearly popped out of my head. *GASP* The yeast infections that must have caused!! The superbugs that would breed!! NO WONDER so many kids have crazy allergies and autoimmune disease has skyrocketed!!

You see, I have been fortunate to be trained in the time of advances in the “Hygiene Hypothesis”. The understanding we now are working with is that, lo and behold, in the days before all this anti-septic overzealousness, those autoimmune and allergic issues (which are so freaking hard to treat, btw) were lumped into the “rare diseases” category. And while it’s great we now know to wash our food so we don’t all die of dysentery Oregon-Trail-style, we have certainly skewed too far into the anti-microbial realm which is boosting many if not all of these processes*. (In case you’re wondering, my dad was WAY ahead of his time and would not let this happen to his patients’ babies.)

SO back to that brand new baby. Current practice is to wash with your typical Johnson & Johnson baby wash within a few hours of birth. This makes it so that the health care team is not functionally putting their hands on something that came out of your vag when they come to check on baby. Also, it’s cute and baby then smells like what Johnson & Johnson have decided we should all believe a baby smells like. You get that white smooshy vernix stuff off so your photos don’t look like something out of a Halloween movie and everyone is happy.

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Rosie, fresh outta the womb and covered in blood and goo

…..Except the baby. It NEEDS that vernix still on there to protect it. There is no lotion on earth that can really replace that and a soapy scrub washes it all away. A review in Advances in Wound Care sums it up well*:

The retention of vernix on the skin surface contributes to a higher skin hydration, a lower skin pH, and relates to a reduced heat loss after birth

So, washing this off your baby is like slathering your face in a thick layer of Creme de la Mer and then immediately washing your face again to leave your skin naked and dry. But worse. Because you can’t buy more.

This is in addition to the absolutely critical happy bacteria (aka skin flora for the nerds like me) that you worked SO FREAKING HARD to put on your baby if you had a vaginal delivery or labored with your water broken. That “skin flora” has dramatic health implications. So much so that many hospitals are starting to swab mothers’ nether regions to coat the baby in them after c-sections too. A soapy wash kills up to 99% of those bugs and you may never get them back in the same way.

There are studies galore out there going on looking at the benefits those bugs go on to have on gut health, maintaining healthy body weight, absorbing nutrients, allergies, eczema, auto-immune disease and more. I won’t get over-sciency about this, but suffice it to say, we’re going to look back on this hyper-sterile era and cringe.

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Photo by Wayne Evans on Pexels.com

So is it a little weird to think about your baby being coated in all that stuff from your lady parts? Sure. Is it an extra step for the docs and nurses to put on gloves? Yeah. Is it still super worth it to wait a bit for that first bath? HellToTheYes. Bottom line, just wipe the excess gore off, wait at least 24 hours, and preferably do a gentle water wash when you get home. Thank me later.

I would LOVE your questions about this, comment below!!

 

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Dr. Annie is a Family Physician, mom of 2 with 1 on the way (nope, baby’s not here yet, that’s baby #1 over there, also, that’s my husband, not a creeper nurse, he’s a doc too so was working in scrubs when I went into labor) and lover of healthy bacteria in the Sacramento area.

 

 

 


*. 2015 Oct 1; 4(10): 587–595. doi:  [10.1089/wound.2015.0642] Skin Physiology of the Neonate and Infant: Clinical Implications. Teresa OrangesValentina Dini, and Marco Romanelli*