Friday, July 11, 2014

I don't have to try.

And neither do you.

This music video by Colbie Caillat is speaking my language right now. Thank you for this beautiful song full of truth.

Watch, and then remember this when society's ideals about what is "beautiful" threaten to keep you from living life to the fullest and loving yourself completely.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What the heck's a LuLaRoe and why do I need it?

This post is sponsored by LuLaRoe. All opinions expressed are mine.

If you're on Facebook or Instagram, chances are you've seen something about LuLaRoe. You might be wondering what the heck it is and if it's worth your time. If you are, keep reading. If you already know and love LuLaRoe, then you can keep reading, too.

I first learned about LuLaRoe skirts and dresses when I was pregnant with Clara. I thought they were stinking adorable and looked equally as comfortable, but of course I never feel like buying fancy things when I'm pregnant. So, I put it all in the back of my mind.

A few months ago, when I was near the end of the pregnancy and had a melon for a belly, my friend Tarin contacted me about trying on some LuLaRoe skirts. She said after she had her baby Xander, she found them to fit her new body so comfortably and they also made her feel great. The concept of cute-but-functional fashion totally appeals to me, but I told her I wanted to wait until after I had my baby to consider anything but yoga pants for my lower half. So last week, I took her up on the offer and we met up so I could try on some skirts and pick one to review for you all.

LuLaRoe sells all sorts of maxis, A-lines, pencils and dresses in every size. I was quite impressed with Tarin's inventory and loved a lot of the prints and fabrics. True to my nature, though, I chose a flattering navy pencil skirt, The Cassie. It's simple, yet it makes a statement.

This skirt is all sorts of amazing. First, when I put it on, I felt like it accentuated my new mom curves perfectly. Va-va-voom! Second, I noticed how comfortable it really was. My mind then started spinning with a hundred possibilities of how I could wear it. It's so versatile, it works for any occasion!

I chose to model the Sunday Best style for you all since I was really looking forward to wearing my new skirt to church. Behold:

Top: Q Fashion, Necklace: Charlotte Russe, Skirt: LuLaRoe, Shoes: Brash by Payless

I've always liked the pairing of crisp white and navy blue for a dressier feel. This chiffon blouse is light and feminine and very easy to dress up. I'm currently digging the navy + jade green color combination so I chose the chunky jade necklace as an accessory. And you can never go wrong with gold platform wedges, right? How I love those shoes! I scored them at Payless last year for $10.

Since I last wore it, I've been thinking of other ways I could style this skirt. For a casual day out, I'd pair it with a slouchy V-neck and accessorize with some flat sandals and a straw fedora. For a night on the town, I'd wear it with a blazer, stiletto pumps, chandelier earrings and a fierce, red lip. During the winter, it'd be super-cute with some patterned tights or leggings, boot socks and combat boots along with an infinity scarf and knitted slouchy beanie. Of course, you could never go wrong putting it with a chambray top. Endless possibilities!

If you're interested in LuLaRoe skirts (and by now, you should be) and you live in Arizona, check out Tarin's Facebook page. She will hook you up with the cutest styles and prints LuLaRoe has to offer. She'll even help you host a party if you'd like to share this concept with your friends and family! Take a look.

In the meantime, how would YOU style The Cassie? What's your favorite way to wear a pencil skirt?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Two months.

So, I blinked and then sweet baby Clara was suddenly two months old. WHAT. We marked the occasion with another chair picture. Behold:

Here's a kind of funny story. You know how she was born at 3:49 AM on April 29? Well, at 3:48 on June 29, I heard her squawking and smacking her lips over the baby monitor. I trudged into her nursery to feed her, bleary-eyed and nearly comatose. As I sat their rocking her while she ate, the thought dawned on me that she woke up just in time for her official 2-month birthday and maybe she just wanted a celebratory drink with Mom.

Party like a rock star. At 4 AM. Cheers.

Later that day, Dill blessed Clara at church. I felt so much joy watching as men who love her surrounded her, and listening as Dill pronounced her name and invoked beautiful blessings from heaven. So many people came to support us and nosh on some brunch at our house afterward. It was a special, memorable day.

Clockwise from top: The happy parents, my parents, Dill's parents and grandmother, my best friend MoniQue

Here's the pretty princess in her blessing dress. Glamour Shots by Jenna, I guess you could say.

Despite being totally un-crafty, I made her headband for the special day. When I tried it on her a month ago, Dill skeptically said, "It's a little big ..." to which I replied, "Her head will grow by the time we bless her." I kind of lied. But I like the big flower. Big flower for a big day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Practical breastfeeding tips for new moms.

Breastfeeding and I have a complicated history. I only breastfed my first child for five weeks due to some digestion issues she had, but I nursed my second until he self-weaned at 11 months. Now I'm on my third baby. Breastfeeding is a lot like riding a bike and it all came back to me once Clara was born. We haven't had any major hiccups this time around, and I generally enjoy it.

Since it's frequently on my mind (roughly every two hours), I thought I'd share some usable breastfeeding tips for any new moms who might be worried or aren't sure about it. These are ideas that I personally found useful in my varied nursing endeavors. They might be helpful to you, too.

1. Request a lactation consultant's visit shortly after birth. This is of utmost importance. Breastfeeding is supposed to be a very natural activity, but if it's done incorrectly, it can be extremely painful and discouraging. An LC will show you how to properly latch your baby onto your breast and then observe you as you do it, correcting you as needed.

Don't feel sheepish about this. You need the hands-on experience and an expert to provide feedback. These ladies view boobs the way we laypeople view knee-caps, so don't worry what they'll think of your naked chest. They won't care. They want to help you because if they don't, you could very well end up with cracked, bleeding bloody nipples like I did with my first baby. Yowch!

If after one visit you're still feeling unsure, request the LC to make a second visit. Even a third. Take advantage of the "boob guru" in the early days, especially if you give birth in a hospital where they're on staff. And don't feel incompetent if your kid doesn't latch on perfectly the second he exits your womb. That's fantasy. In reality, breastfeeding is tricky to master. It's OK to get help!

2. Buy some good nursing bras. Your third trimester breasts are about the same size they'll be once your milk supply evens out a few weeks after your baby's birth, so go out and get a few bras before you deliver (I recommend wearing one during delivery if you insist on wearing a bra). Yes, a few. Chances are, even if you wear pads, you are going to leak during the day or night. Or maybe your child will barf at your breast and completely soak your bra (and shirt and anything else you're wearing). At that point, you'll want to change bras rather than walk around smelling like spoiled milk. I'm just guessing.

And buy them new! Don't wear your sister's stretched-out hand-me-downs. One reason women give up on nursing is they feel frumpy and embarrassed by their new body. Do yourself a favor and get a comfortable, well-fitting, supportive bra that will hold your "girls" up even at their fullest. This bra is going to be your new "breast" friend -- make it count!

3. Use lanolin on your nipples. Even if your latch is miraculously perfect straight out the gate, your delicate nips will have to get used to being sucked on by a small human all hours of the day and night. During those early weeks of your baby's life, apply a lanolin cream like Lansinoh onto your nipples in between feedings. The lanolin provides somewhat of a barrier to prevent chapping. Plus, it's very soothing. If you went a while with a bad latch and your nipples are extra-painful (cracked, bleeding or blistered), ask your doctor for a prescription for Newman's nipple cream. That stuff is gold, I tell you. GOLD.

And don't throw your lanolin out once you've got the latch thing down -- babies tend to nurse like crazy during growth spurts, so you might find yourself wanting to use it down the road, too. And I hear it makes an excellent lip balm, though I've not tried it to verify.

4. Don't worry about gadgets and gizmos. If you've been to Babies R Us, you know there's a whole market for breastfeeding accessories.  You could seriously go bankrupt trying to obtain all the equipment you supposedly NEED to be a milk-making success story: breastfeeding necklaces, nipple shields, cooling gel pads, supportive pillows and a whole bunch of pumps. Here's a hint -- aside from nursing pads and lanolin, you probably won't need any of it. Don't let all the gadgets overwhelm you.You can always make a trip to the store later if you want to try something out.

A word on pumps, though: I highly recommend the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump if you ever feel like bottle-feeding occasionally or want to have some expressed milk on hand for a rainy day. It's the best hand-pump out there. It's quick, efficient and doesn't hurt. I got one with my first baby and it still works like a charm.

5. When it comes to covering (or not), do what's comfortable for you. So much of the anxiety surrounding breastfeeding is wrapped up in the covering controversy, and it needn't be that way. Some people will tell you it's most appropriate to cover up and may even suggest a specific "hooter-hider" for the endeavor. Others will tell you not to worry what people think and to just whip those puppies out wherever, whenever. The fact of the matter is unless you live in West Virginia or Idaho (what the heck, people?!), you are protected by law to nurse uncovered in public. So do whatever YOU are comfortable with.

For me personally, it depends on various circumstances. I've used a hooter-hider, blanket, burp cloth and nothing. I've nursed poolside, in the chapel at church, at the mall, in restaurants, indoors, outdoors ... you name it. But I've also retreated to a private area just as often as I've nursed publicly. I rely on my baby's temperament, the top I'm wearing, how I'm feeling, the people I'm with, etc. to make my decision. Bottom line: I do what's comfortable for me and my baby and no one else, and so should you! Don't feel badly if you choose to cover or even pump a bottle for when you're out. But also don't feel bad to nurse uncovered. Babies gotta eat and mamas gotta do what's right for them, too.

6. Breast is best ... except when it isn't. I do believe human breastmilk is the most nutritious thing to feed a human baby. However, sometimes things don't go according to plan and it's not actually the best option for a particular mother and baby. Medical conditions, depression, latch issues, dietary issues -- heck, it doesn't matter the reason! If breastfeeding isn't working out for you and your little one, there is another option: formula-feeding. And it's wonderful! My firstborn was raised on formula and she's very advanced, healthy and tall for her age. She's had maybe one ear infection in her whole life and zero cavities. I quite enjoyed bottle-feeding her, and so did Dill and a host of other family members. You can still bond with your baby and you can still feel close to them when they eat. They won't grow up to be sickly, malnourished serial killers if they take a bottle.

Now, I'm NOT suggesting you give up nursing at the first painful latch or extreme vomiting episode. These things happen. Give breastfeeding a fair chance, but don't sacrifice your well-being or your baby's for breastfeeding. Listen to your body and your heart to know if you've reached your limit. And if it's just not working out, don't be scared of bottle-feeding. It's great; I promise.

Nevertheless, I wish you the "breast" of luck in all your nursing adventures!

What other advice would YOU give to new mamas who want to breastfeed?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Family photos by Katherine Louise Harris Photography

For me, one of the best things about blogging is the interactive readership. I get to "meet" all kinds of people without ever leaving my home! Thanks to blogging, I've made friends with lots of people and most of them don't even live in Arizona. It's pretty neat.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of my long-time readers, Katie, in person. She's based in Minneapolis and blogs at Creole Wisdom. She and I share a connection to BYU and communications and because of that, I felt like I "knew" her right away when I started reading her blog. I could tell she is a genuine person who is always working to improve herself and helping others. She is also a supportive reader who leaves thoughtful comments and asks sincere questions, truly wanting to know more about others and not just reading for networking purposes. So even though I technically hadn't ever met her until last week, I felt like I'd already known her all these years by reading her words. Turns out she's as great of a person "in real life" as she is on the Internet!

Katie is also a professional photographer at Katherine Harris Photography and I LOVE her work. It's so clean, crisp and vibrant -- a style of photography towards which I gravitate.

Of course I was honored to have her take our family's pictures while she was in town. Check out how gorgeous they are!

And good news if you're in Arizona -- Katie is currently building her clientele in the Phoenix area. So If you are local and need pictures for any occasion, Katie's your girl! She'll be back in town this November when the weather returns to normal, non-Satanic temperatures, so be sure to hit her up for a photo sesh (e-mail here). Also, go like her Page on Facebook now for updates and samples of her beautiful work in your news feed!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Return of The Chair: 1 month!

Remember how when Carson was a little guy, I took a picture of him sitting in the little IKEA chair every month to document his growth? Well, I did! And I get to do it again with Wee Baby Clara. And you all get to benefit by seeing my cute baby in a tiny chair every month for the next year.

Yesterday marked the end of Clara's first month of life. I couldn't believe it. Seemed to go lightning-fast and sluggishly slow all at once.

This was the best chair picture of Clara I managed to get, thanks to Sleep-Deprived Mom Brain. I took, like, five completely blurry shots and even tried cleaning my lens before realizing I was in manual focus mode when I thought I was in auto. Doh. Of course by that point, she was screaming to be removed from the archaic torture device. C'est la vie.

She's such a dainty little screamer, though.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Clara's birth, part II

We arrived at the hospital a little before midnight. After waiting in the blasted emergency room for about 15 minutes, they took us up to maternity triage. Laboring in that tiny curtained area on what was basically a stretcher was insane, to put it mildly. Definitely couldn't walk around to cope with the pain. The contractions were hitting me every 1-2 minutes and I had to moan through them -- couldn't control it. Dill put counterpressure on my back and hips which helped some. We were watching the contractions on the contract-o-meter-majiggy (I don't know what that's called) and they were all off the chart.

All the while I was thinking, Where the heck is the nurse?! I need an antibiotic! I tested positive for Group B strep and I wanted to make sure I got a dose in before the baby came. Eventually, Paula the nurse came in and got that IV started. It took 30 minutes for the drug to be administered, so about 20 contractions later I was finally able to get into a delivery room. By this point, I didn't care what I sounded like -- I had to get through those brutal contractions and deep breathing wasn't cutting it. I'm pretty sure I was scaring the other people in triage with my wounded cow noises.

It was sometime between 1:00 and 1:30 AM when we got into the room. It was very spacious and nice. My midwife, Melissa was there. I basically hopped on the bed and then decided, nope, I've sat on a bed long enough, I need a new position to labor in. So I asked for the birthing ball and they rolled it in. It looked huge and I didn't think I could easily climb up there. Mind you, as a VBAC patient, I had to be continuously monitored, so I had all these dumb cords hanging off me. But Paula and Melissa were great about helping me maneuver around them however I needed to.

I sat on the ball for a long time and the contractions continued to get much harder. With each one, it was like a wave rolling in. I could feel it as if it were off in the distance, and as it got closer, I braced myself the best I could for what was to come. I tried not to fight the pain but it got more and more difficult not to as things progressed. Eventually, while on the ball, I felt this immense pressure and I surrendered to it -- that's when my water broke.

I gingerly climbed back on the bed to be checked. I was at 8 1/2 centimeters. But now, the contractions weren't just painful but also causing lots of pressure. Like, baby's-head-is-emerging-please-help-me pressure. Paula raised the head of the bed for me. I knelt to face it while draping my arms over it and rested my head at the top. She and Melissa cautioned me not to push because I could really damage my cervix. Well, it seriously took everything in me not to push. The feeling was so overwhelming, I started to get scared and hyperventilate. Paula slapped an oxygen mask on my face and they called the doctor.

Dr. Guzman came in and basically gave me some tough love. He was in "game on" mode -- stern but calm. He told me I needed to breathe deeply because I was stressing my baby out. "This is what you wanted, isn't it?" I nodded a little regretfully. No epidural? Yeah, I did actually want that. But my body freaking out and trying to eject the baby before it was ready? Not even a little. I did NOT want that!

Dill was the greatest support I could have asked for. He did whatever I needed -- brought me water to sip through a straw, rubbed my back and arms, stroked my head, talked me through it all ... he was just what I needed to get through it. True to his nature, he stayed calm through it all. A few times I looked him in the eyes and said, "I can't do this ... it's too much to bear!" He'd just quietly remind me that I could do it and was doing it and to simply focus on each contraction. He reminded me to breathe low and steady to keep the oxygen flowing. It was still incredibly difficult, but I knew I could do it as long as he was with me.

When things got really hard, I had to go deep within myself to find the courage to go on. I imagined my foremothers pushing their babies out without anesthesia. I envisioned Mary and Eve laboring outdoors. I thought of the Savior suffering these very same pains in Gethsemane.

I endured several more of those head's-coming-out contractions before I pounded on the nurse's button and begged to be checked. Melissa came in, checked me and said I was complete! Freakin' hurray! "Let's do some practices pushes," she said. I asked which pushing position would best prevent injury and she suggested side-lying, so on my side I went. She put this nifty yellow yoga ball shaped like a peanut in between my legs, saying it would encourage baby to come down

As soon as the next contraction started, Melissa directed me to breathe in deep and then push. I really didn't have to try as I'd been holding back the pushes for what seemed like centuries prior to that. As I pushed, she rubbed olive oil on my perineum, stretching it out so I wouldn't tear. She complimented me on my pushing so I kept at it. I could feel my baby moving down and eventually I sensed that the head was RIGHT THERE at the precipice of life. The feeling was confirmed when Melissa told me to turn onto my back because with one more contraction, my baby would be out! I enthusiastically flipped over and grabbed my legs. Paula directed me to curl around Baby and push as I felt the next contraction. I did just that without hesitation. And then, as they say on "Call the Midwife" ...

The head was born.

And oh my, was her head ever born! It hurt like crazy upon exit and a whole lot of amniotic fluid gushed out along with it. One more push and her body slithered out, too.

I'd done it. I'd given birth and felt every single part of it. Except, I was still feeling it. And by "it," I mean a whole lot of pain and burning. Not the euphoric cocktail of oxytocin and love hormones that you're supposed to get. Not even close.

Another nurse put my newborn daughter on my chest and began drying her with a towel. Oh, she was precious! All three times I've given birth, I've been amazed at how small the baby is when I first get to hold them. My belly always gets so huge by the end, I'm expecting a 15-pound toddler to plop into my arms. But no, it's just this tiny, slimy, wailing creature roughly the size of a Dachshund. It's crazy, really.

I was excited to meet Clara finally but also, something wasn't sitting right. I felt sick, to put it mildly. More accurately, I was in a lot of pain still and had begun trembling in agony. Melissa made a discreet comment about needing another pair of hands in sterile gloves to help stitch me up. My stomach sank ... NO! I asked the question I already knew the answer to and Melissa confirmed I had indeed tore, just in the opposite direction from last time. Yeah, wow. Not the news I wanted to hear. Apparently, I had so much rigid scar tissue from Carson's birth that I couldn't tear in that direction this time. I got a tiny fissure there, but the main damage was done on the front end. Her head came out so fast ... it was inevitable.

Dill cut the cord shortly thereafter and then I had to push out the placenta. I somehow managed, knowing that the repair had to be made and that couldn't happen until the placenta was out. They weighed Clara -- a healthy 7 pounds, 3.5 ounces. Then, Paula put some Stadol in my IV line and I kind of passed out. I could still carry on a conversation and feel the stitching, but I felt very tired and "out of it." It took an hour to complete the repair. I felt like I was in a dream the whole time and that I would soon wake up in my bedroom, still pregnant. But then, I would open my eyes and see I was still in the delivery room. I was so scared to face the recovery from this tear. I knew I didn't have long before the pain medication would wear off and I'd feel the acute pain from the injury. I was terrified.

In a haze, I lamented to Melissa that avoiding a tear was THE reason I didn't want an epidural. She was very kind and understanding as midwives usually are. She had done everything to help me avoid it, but that last horrible delivery came back to haunt me yet again. As she reminded me, "Sometimes these things just happen."

After the stitching, I got to nurse Clara. She latched on well and it was so sweet to bond with her. I felt so blessed to have a perfectly healthy, happy baby in the aftermath of such a crazy birth. I had a feeling in that moment that she would be a peaceful, calming influence in our family. So far, she has been just that. She rarely cries and practically came out of the womb on a feeding schedule. She nurses well, sleeps long stretches at night and she's just happy to be alive. Everyone loves her. I am so grateful she is the one to complete our family.

I have processed a lot of feelings since Clara was born -- anger, pain, sadness and grief at not having the type of birth I wanted. I didn't expect it to be easy; in fact, I expected it to be exquisitely hard with the hope that my recovery would be infinitely easier this time. Everything I'd read and studied supported this belief. But I managed to defy those statistics. I also felt regret -- for not getting an epidural, for taking the castor oil, for not taking a childbirth class. Maybe this was all my fault. Maybe I deserved it.

It's now been two weeks since the birth and things still hurt. I am healing, but it's a slow process. I still ponder on what I went through that day and how now, I not only carry the emotional and physical trauma of Carson's birth, but also some from Clara's, too. I hoped that I would have a gentle birth experience to erase my past trauma and subsequent pessimistic feelings on the matter. But I didn't, so those feelings remain. I'm trying so hard to come to grips with it. I hope in time I will.

Through it all, I still believe midwifery is the way to go if you want to have your best birth possible. I wouldn't have chosen any other way. Every step of the pregnancy, I was guided by the most caring, kind women in all my decisions. They supported me fully and encouraged me continually. They really do want what's best for you from start to finish. And when things don't go as planned, they are there for you to comfort and help you heal. So, I want thank you to my wonderful midwives and OB -- Melissa Troncale, Ramona Joseph, Tiffany Jackson and Grayson Guzman, whom I now consider my friends. They're the best birth advocates out there!

I'll leave you with a shot of Clara from our last day in the hospital. She's simply precious and we love her to pieces.