How to Help – practical tips for helping a family in need

** I will get to a list of practical things after a brief narrative, so bear with me! **

After Little Bear’s first surgery on April 13th, we thought maybe things would be okay. His incision started swelling within two days after surgery, I took him in to get checked out a week post surgery, then 5 days later, we ended up in the ER at Children’s because his incision had suddenly started leaking. I already knew what the protocol was because we had discussed it at length when he was still in the hospital after that first surgery. We rushed him in to Children’s, sat in the ER for an hour, then was moved up to the surgical center where Little Bear was taken back to have a drain placed. Surgery number 2 in less than two weeks. The protocol was monitor him for three days to make sure he didn’t have an infection and then decide whether to do a shunt or repeat the ETV (Endoscopic Third Ventriculostomy) and do a CPC (Choroid Plexus Cauterization) at the same time. He had an MRI before the second surgery to make sure the ETV was still open and working. When the drain was placed, his surgeon checked the ETV and found that yes, it was still wide open. Which meant that while the ETV was technically working to drain excess fluid from Little Bear’s brain, it wasn’t working enough.

Friday the 28th was the third surgery. And we decided to go for the CPC. His surgeon wasn’t ready to give up on the ETV yet and after asking quite a few of his colleagues, he said he felt comfortable doing the CPC. Que waiting, once again, in the waiting area of the surgical clinic, passing the time and watching the clock. Two hours later, his surgeon came out and said he felt really happy with how the surgery went. Another half hour and the anesthesiologists came out and said Little Bear was on his way to recovery and they felt things went well too. They came out to get me to take me back to Little Bear, and as soon as he was placed in my arms, I knew something was wrong. The very first thing I noticed was his eyes looked really unfocused even though they were wide open and flashing around. I asked if he could see all the while taking in that his limbs were stiff and he was making an awful grunting/gasping sound.

About 20 minutes went by of the nurses asking me interrogating questions about Little Bear’s behavior, them calling down the anesthesiologist, then calling back his surgeon when they realized he wasn’t reacting to the morphine and his heart rate was extremely high. At one point, his oxygen levels plummeted and the nurses starting preparing the oxygen masks just in case he was going to code. As soon as his surgeon got to Little Bear’s recovery room, he said it looked like my baby was having a seizure to which everyone jumped into high gear. They gave him adavan and keppra to help stop the seizure then rushed him down to get a CT scan to make sure there weren’t any clots or hemorrhaging. The scan showed a pocket of air that isn’t uncommon after a brain endoscopic procedure. Uncommon or not, it was still one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. Even a week and a half out I am still feeling blindsided by the echos of the terror and panic I felt watching my child and the helplessness knowing there was nothing I could do.

All of that to say, there were multiples things that friends and family have done for us over the past three months that have been very helpful, and even some things that weren’t so much. So here’s what I’ve been able to come up with as far as practical tips about helping families in our position.

  1. Offer Specific Help
    I came across this article a few weeks ago and while it deals with sudden grief and trauma, I found it helpful. Being in the midst of a crisis (having to rush Little Bear to the ER, terrifying recovery after surgery…) means the ability to respond to “let me know if there is anything I can do for you” disappears. Someone came and got Little Monkey (since he was with us when we rushed to the ER) and took him to play with their kids all day while we sat at the hospital. Someone brought Phil and I lunch while we waited for Little Bear to get out of surgery #2. Someone came and stayed overnight with me at the hospital after surgery #3 so I could get sleep and somewhat relax knowing someone had eyes on Little Bear at all times in case he had another seizure. In the few weeks following Little Bear’s sudden arrival, we had multiple people just drop off meals on the front porch. We are grateful for everyone who has offered to watch Little Monkey, bring us groceries, drop by a meal, or to simply come sit with me so I’m not by myself at doctor’s appointments or at home.The more specific the offer of help, the more helpful it is. I am so grateful for those who have just dropped by a meal, stopped by the hospital, called or texted, or even just sent us a gift card to Starbucks or a meal delivery service. These are the things that have helped the most.
  2. Check In 
    This may seem like a “duh” thing, but I have had multiple people say they didn’t want to bother us or intrude so instead kept their distance. The thing that’s meant the most in everything we’ve been through is the people who have left a message, sent a text, or email, just letting us know they’re thinking about us. Even if we can’t respond to every message, knowing we’re not totally alone in all of this has helped a lot. I think in an effort to “not intrude” most people draw back too much and end up unintentionally isolating the family going through the difficulty. We will let people know if it’s too much, but don’t hesitate to check in.
  3. Don’t Take Anything Personally
    I don’t think this has happened, but the emotions of having to deal with what we are facing are messy. It’s a big effing mess and some days I honestly just want to lash out and hit something because things are too much. The hardest part is as parents trying to wrestle with the overwhelming emotions that we’re facing. Unless you have been in the same position with your child, it’s hard to explain just how overwhelming it is. So if we don’t respond, or shut people out, it’s because things have become too much, but don’t let that stop you from checking in or offering help. Oftentimes it’s in those moments we need the most help or someone checking in means the most.
  4. Don’t Tell Us About Your Friend’s Brother’s Son Who Has ______
    This is something that’s been happening since we first got Little Bear’s diagnosis. While I assume someone telling us that their friend’s brother’s son has spina bifida is an effort to relate to us or maybe even try to encourage us, it is the least helpful thing anyone can do for us. This applies to any sort of condition someone may be diagnosed with. Even though I don’t always care for this response, it’s better to simply say “I’m sorry you’re dealing with this…” than to tell us about your friend. Every person it unique, every diagnosis is unique. It’s very easy to get false hope by reading someone else’s amazing story who has the same diagnosis. It’s also very easy to become extremely discouraged and scared by someone else’s story too. So for the parents’/individual’s sake, do not share anecdotes about someone with the same diagnosis.-
    and last but not least…
  5. Care Packages Help…A Lot
    The random cards and packages we’ve had show up have helped make our days just a little easier. So if sending care packages is your thing, then send things that help the parents or individual take care of themselves. Whether it’s gift cards, something you know they enjoy (candy, makeup, bath bombs, candles, scarf, figurine, movie…), or a bunch of random quotes that mean something special, do it. The little things mean so much more when the rest of life is in major chaos.

I don’t mean for this post to feel like I’m pointing fingers or anything like that. I just know friends have been struggling with trying to figure out how to help us. These are the practical things I’ve been able to come up with both from watching others and from our personal situation.

Thanks for reading, and I do hope this post has been helpful.

 

Enter the Beast – Postpartum Depression/Anxiety

I was dealing with a lot of un-diagnosed physical issues after Little Monkey was born so his first few months of life were a bit of blur. However, the one thing that remains crystal clear was hitting a point halfway between 6 weeks and 7 weeks postpartum and feeling like I had walked into a brick wall. A fog descended, I felt emotionally and mentally detached in a really disturbing way. Thankfully I was seeing a therapist weekly so I was able to get the help I needed. I do remember calling my therapist at one point and telling her that I was beginning to have a need to hurt myself just to feel something. She got me in for an appointment that very afternoon and we talked through everything running through my head. I think part of the reason for how bad things got was because Little Monkey’s birth was pretty traumatic for me, and I didn’t realize that until months afterwards. Because of a very clear onset of my postpartum depression after Little Monkey, I started preparing for ppd this time around 6 weeks pp (postpartum), and sure enough, I hit 7 weeks and enter the beast.

The past 8 months have been nothing but buckle down and fight forward with all of my might and then keep going when I have nothing left to fight with. I thought I would have an extra month between when finishing my lists to when Little Bear was going to arrive. I had planned to take those last four weeks to really take care of myself and make sure I had some energy and mental rest stored up. Even though that’s what I told myself, I knew even then that I wasn’t going to get a full last month. I just hadn’t expected to not get any of that time. As things are in a calm spot right now, the craziness of the past 8 months is catching up to me. Two weeks ago, Phil had a breakdown and I realized that we both have been barely holding it together. We’re holding each other up and giving each other safe spaces to process everything, but we’re both falling and I’ve known that unless we both got individual care and help, we weren’t going to make it much longer. The very next day I found a therapist’s name from our insurance company’s list and I called and set up a first appointment a few days later. Phil’s going to do the same. While our relationship is continuing to gain strength and is actually stronger than it was a year ago, everything with Little Bear is enough to wear anyone down. We both need individual care and that’s what we’re going to do.

I have learned, mainly a self-preservation technique, to shut my mind down and let my body relax and to let go any guilt that I’m not doing “enough” around the house. I know I am functioning the best that I can, and even if that means that I spend a few hours a day on the couch with Little Bear mindlessly binge watching a movie, then that’s okay. Letting my body relax is the only way that I am functioning still despite the lack of sleep at night. But even this small hold on functionality is slipping.

Four years ago today I walked into a therapist’s office for the first time ever in my 22 years of life. When asked why I was there, I simply responded, “I just need help.” I spent two years with that therapist and since moving halfway across the country two years ago, I have remained in contact with my now mentor/friend. Those two years taught me how to cope with my constant up and down depression, but the past 8 months since finding out something was wrong with my baby have brought up things that I know I can’t do on my own. The pain of having a child needing extra care is more than I think I can safely carry. That being said, I am going to be asking my new therapist tomorrow her advice about going on meds. I am not okay with not feeling okay and I need to be fully functioning if I’m going to be fighting with doctors to make sure Little Bear gets the best care possible.

I promised at the beginning of this blog that I would be honest, so here’s me being honest.

I. Am. Not. Okay.

And that is okay. I do not feel guilty for not feeling okay. I know the things that have occurred over the past 8 months since that October day when I was told “something is wrong with your baby” have been more than any person can bear and still be mentally intact. I know postpartum depression is a bitch of a beast and it’s taken out some amazing people. I have watched other moms around me struggle with PPD and some of them have almost lost the fight. I have watched this culture become more aware of the battle torn fields of PPD and PPA (postpartum anxiety). I, myself, broke chains surrounding my own depression a few years ago and started speaking up about it; trying to bring it in to the open and make it a more normal topic of conversation.

I have never taken meds for my depression, but this time I am willing to take that step. I am afraid of being “out of control” of my mind, but here’s the thing; I already am out of control. I know most of what I’m feeling (or not feeling) is because of chemical imbalances and hormones still out of whack.

If you’re struggling with depression, specifically postpartum depression, please get yourself help? Heck, if you just can’t pick up the phone and make a phone call, ask your partner to do it for you, or a friend. Simply having someone to talk to is a safe place to start when managing your postpartum depression/anxiety. The next step is determining whether you need meds or not. And please know there is no shame or guilt in that! We live in a culture where the needing of medicine to function is not looked kindly upon. But I think that mindset is slowly changing as more and more people are talking about how things like anxiety medicines are helping them feel more like themselves and like they can function.

So here’s to facing the beast and killing the beast. I am struggling to stay afloat and not completely shut down. I am pulling out my weapons and preparing to fight tooth and nail if I have to. My boys need me, I need me, and I am going to get the help I need.

Postpartum Essentials

My Little Bear will be a month old tomorrow and that’s a little crazy to me! It feels like his first month of life earth-side has alternately flown by and taken forever. While I’m now a month into postpartum healing and adjusting, I figured it is time to write about the things that I have found increasingly helpful during this first month.

Okay, first off, let’s talk about c-section recovery and the things that helped me the most with that. I’m grateful that Children’s gave me something call an “ON-Q” pump which administered pain/numbing agents directly into my incision for the first 48 hours. That little pump that clipped to whatever I was wearing was the most amazing little device ever. I even had a little difficulty letting my nurse take the pump out even though it was empty at the end of those first 48 hours! I am convinced because of that little pump, my first 48 hours were not as bad as I thought they’d be pain wise. Beyond the pain pump, my next course of action to maintain comfort was clothing. I hadn’t been really sure what to pack clothing wise so I picked things that I usually found comfortable and didn’t place much if any pressure on my lower abdomen.

I did pack two pairs of yoga pants, but those were a little difficult to wear the first few days as they kept falling and sitting right where the pressure was uncomfortable. I brought two of these night gowns (I have slowly collected about 6 pairs from Target over the past 3 years).

Nursing Chemise

(Just a note: the nightgowns I have aren’t nursing, but they’re identical to these in length and top design…I’d highly recommend the nursing ones or even the longer ones Target now has in stock. The ones I own have been all I need at night and I haven’t need a night time nursing bra)

I had done some research prior to packing my hospital bag about postpartum clothes/pants and discovered three different pairs of leggings. Two are specifically designed for postpartum wear and the third pair is merely highwaisted. The first pair I got is from Blanqi. These leggings are marketed as highwaisted + nursing leggings. The reason for “nursing” is the idea that you can lift your shirt up to nurse and still be covered and have your belly supported. I got these leggings during their 50% off sale around Black Friday. When they arrived, I was unsure if they were actually going to fit me, but was pleasantly surprised that even while still pregnant, I could comfortably pull them on. They were a little snug around my pregnant belly, but I felt comfortable hanging on to them for postpartum wear.

Blanqi Highwaist Postpartum + Nursing Support leggings

Now that I am not pregnant, am now nursing and am dealing with postpartum recovery, I have a slightly different opinion about these leggings. They still fit comfortably, however, they are really long. Being only 5′ 1″ myself, I found the excess material bunching up around my thighs or knees to be a bit annoying. I am also quite short waisted, so pulling these leggings up as high as they’re supposed to go means they go all the way past the very bottom of my rib cage. I would definitely recommend them for someone a lot taller!

The second pair of leggings I have are from Navel.

The Navel Pant

I actually wore these while still pregnant and absolutely loved them. The material they’re made from is thick but not too thick. They’re warm in colder weather, but I haven’t felt overheated in them yet. Granted, I have yet to experience Spring/Summer temps yet, so I can’t give a good opinion on that quite yet. These leggings do come with an additional insert that adds extra support beyond the top of the leggings themselves. These were in my hospital bag and I found them to be extremely uncomfortable during those first 4 days postpartum. They were a little too “snug” around my belly, and I found I still needed loose clothing for a little while longer. However, once I got home, and got a little more active, especially with driving back and forth to the NICU every day during that second week postpartum, I found these leggings to be exactly what I needed. There is still a tiny issue of them being made for someone slightly taller than myself, but I don’t even notice the extra material anymore and I wear these leggings several times a week.

Okay the third pair was a random guess at a special deal the company was having for pre-ordering their leggings. I’m talking about the Girlfriend Collective leggings. They are no longer available until the whole line releases in a few more months. But, I will say these were and still are my total go-to leggings. They’re just as well made as the Navel pants and I’m excited about having good quality leggings that will last me for along time!

As far as tops and such, I had gotten several nursing camisoles and wore those non-stop during the first two weeks once I had been released from the hospital. While I was still in the hospital, I used this night time nursing bra the entire time because it was the most comfortable around my shrinking yet very sore rib cage.

Mirity Womens Seamless nursing bra

This bra is extremely soft and comfortable! I wore this with my nightgowns and a few tunic tops I had brought with me to the hospital. I have only worn it a few times since getting home, but it’s hanging out in the back of my drawer when I need some plain old comfort.

Okay, let’s talk about underwear for a minute. I had heard from several people that highwaisted underwear was 100% the way to go with underwear choices after a c-section. I hemmed and hawed about getting highwaisted underwear and finally decided on these instead. I tried a few pairs of highwaisted underwear and oh my, NOT for me.

Intimate Portal Women Under the Bump Maternity Panties Pregnancy Underwear

I got these several months ago and found them so comfortable especially while pregnant. I brought a few pairs to the hospital to wear once the bleeding had slowed (and I wasn’t wearing the mesh panties), and I am so glad I did. These hit perfectly just below my incision and not once rubbed against it or caught on the steri-strips or scabs. In fact, I loved these so much, I ordered a second set once I got home! (Sooo, I now have 10 pairs – I got both sets of 5 pairs) I highly highly highly recommend them for c-section recovery. Especially for those who can’t stand highwaisted underwear (like me).

Alright, so, moving on. I had an idea of what I would like or what worked for me when dealing with night time feedings with Little Monkey, so I was able to plan accordingly for Little Bear. I had relied on my cell phone flashlight for those middle of the night feedings. While that had worked with Little Monkey, I remember feeling frustrated and blinded by the flashlight several times. I did some research and found this light on Amazon and am so so glad I kept it on my registry!

Tumbler LED night light

However, I just discovered this light is now unavailable! If it does ever come back in stock, definitely grab it. It has been so incredibly helpful getting up with Little Bear in the middle of the night. It gives off just enough light to comfortably see but not enough to feel blinded and it’s a very soft yellow light.

Those are my recommendations for postpartum necessities! I’ll create an additional post later if I think of other things. Right now, Little Bear is crying for his food and I have Little Monkey anxiously telling me that Little Bear is crying.

The Brutal Truth – I’m not okay

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Little Bear came home this past Monday. And for the first two days, we got a lull in the chaos of bringing a baby home for the first time. Then on Wednesday, he had his first pediatrician appointment. I had asked Little Monkey’s pediatrician if she would feel comfortable being Little Bear’s pediatrician. She immediately said she would be his pediatrician, and she actually called me the day after he was born and I was still in the hospital. I must have put down her name somewhere saying that she would be his pediatrician (although I have no recollection of having done so…must have been when I was in labor before the c-section…). She wanted to check in and find out how everything had gone.

A little background about this amazing doctor. When we first moved to Colorado, Little Monkey needed a pediatrician and I did what I’ve always done with finding new doctors (pretty much close my eyes and point and then go with whatever doctor is under my finger…) and I happened to pick her. We saw her for two of Little Monkey’s appointments, then I found out that she had left that practice. I was so bummed, I really liked her and Ender responded well to her! So I found out which practice she had moved to, and we followed her. She was thrilled to see us at his next appointment. She remembered Ender and that meant a lot to me. I felt like she cared more for my child(ren) than other doctors I’ve seen. So of course I wanted her to be Little Bear’s doctor.

At his appointment with her on Wednesday, she almost made me start crying. She was so impressed with Little Bear and his progress (he had already gained 5oz since getting discharged two days before) but she also took a lot of time to learn everything she could about his stay in the NICU, his incision, the steps for future care, and wanted to be as hands on as possible with knowing how he was and is doing. She stopped at one point and turned to me and asked if I was doing okay. She wanted to make sure I didn’t feel too overwhelmed or like I was alone with all of his care and appointments and everything. She told me that she would do everything she could to make sure I/we didn’t feel overwhelmed and would help with everything she could as well.

It’s a double edged sword having so many medical professionals coming alongside us and giving their support and genuine care for us and Little Bear. While I greatly greatly appreciate the support we’re getting, it is also a bittersweet reminder of WHY they’re so supportive. That reminder that this will be our life from here on out. I started losing it on Thursday. I had received so many phones calls about new appointments for Little Bear. It was like we got those first three days of him being home to settle and find a rhythm and then boom, Thursday, it was like the flood gates had opened up and wave after wave of things necessary to his care kept being pushed towards me. I sat there looking at my calendar and felt my heart sinking. Some appointments won’t be for another two months, but others, some very important ones regarding his head, will be three days in a row of appointments this next week. I texted a fellow mama warrior and asked if the appointments ever end. Will he ever get to be a normal baby?

I am the mama of a baby who is on borrowed time right now with his head. I am shocked we got sent home from the NICU with Little Bear NOT having a shunt. That waiting, that watching is nerve wracking. 85% of spina bifida (myelomeningocele) babies end up with shunts. Some not for a good bit after being born, some the day they’re born, some a week later. But that 15%? Yeah, I feel like expecting/hoping Little Bear to fall into that small percentage is way too presumptuous. Something has to go wrong…Right? Or is he going to keep breaking the barriers and proving everyone wrong? Of course as his mama, I’m going to be cheering him on every step of the way, but I still worry about the what ifs, the probable maybes.

It’s difficult for me to put into words the feelings I get when I look at my baby in someone else’s arms and know that his life isn’t going to follow the typical path of a fully healthy and whole newborn. This little child is going to blaze such awesome paths, I have no doubt of that. But no mama wants to look at their child and fear that they’re going to miss those signs that something is going wrong and they catch them too late to prevent more damage from being done. No mama wants to stand by their baby’s crib and check and double check that their oxygen tank is still functioning and wondering when his next surgery is going to be. No mama wants to watch an incision heal that takes up a third of her baby’s back knowing that that will not be his last incision.

Little Bear and I will share scars that mark his entrance into this world. If I could, I would take all of his scars (present and future ones), but I can’t. I look at my tiny baby and know that his future is going to include pain for him, and struggles, but I also know without a doubt that my child is one hell of a fighter. The moment I should be worried is when HE gives up. Little Bear made his appearance exactly 4 months to the day after we got the diagnosis of myelomeningocele. Those four months were some of the longest and fastest I have ever experienced. Those months were full of major emotional ups and downs as I considered what was coming the moment he would arrive. I thought I’d get a little bit more time, but maybe it was a good thing he decided to arrive so early? I didn’t have a chance to really get wrapped up in what his birth day would mean. However, now that he’s here, the emotions and thoughts I had before he was born have now increased ten fold. The need to fight for my child and be his advocate are so strong it overwhelms me at times. I am learning to get on the phone (something that’s always been a struggle for me) and call those doctors to find out what I need to do when something goes wrong or sideways. I am learning to trust my already sensitive “gut” even more and learning the great significance of following through with my mama bear instincts especially when it comes to Little Bear. I have to come out roaring to fight for my baby. I’m grateful I haven’t encountered too many medical professionals YET who have gotten in my way. But my claws are out, my baby may be a fighter, but he’s got a mama who’s willing to put herself in harms way to make sure he stays safe.

So many people keep telling me how amazed they are with how well I’m doing with everything. But can I tell you a secret? I’m not doing well. I feel like I could be shattered at any moment. I’m very good at pushing through the hell to get to the calm. I know the crazy of his first few months are going to pass. I know that he’s not going to be on oxygen forever. I know he’s going to be big enough I won’t feel worried about having to protect his little body so much in his car seat. I know, I know, I know, I know we will find a rhythm and we’ll fall into it and adjust. But for now? The moments of feeling insanely overwhelmed keep catching me off guard. The moments of sudden tears over how difficult this is on my heart keep creeping in. Most of the day, most of the night, I am okay. I am managing to keep track of everything. But I don’t always feel like I’m living in a real reality right now. Of all things, I can understand now why moms of two plus kids forget to wash their hair. I realized yesterday that I actually couldn’t remember when I had last washed my hair. Taken a shower, sure, I do that every morning without fail. That’s part of self-care I will not give up. Some days are easier than others, some have a lot more dark moments, and some go by so fast I blink and it’s already 11pm again and I’m not really sure what happened during the day.

And that’s where I’m honestly at for the time being. It is hard. I don’t want to remind myself that this is hard, instead I want to consider all of this simply a challenge to overcome. But it is hard. It is hard on my heart and soul merely knowing what his future could hold. I am trying hard to focus on the present and just get through one day at a time, but that future is always there lurking. It’s always glaring over my shoulder as I look down at my baby. I worry for his heart and soul. How is he going to handle things? How will his heart hold up when he realizes he can’t do something Little Monkey can do with ease? Will I be able to calm his fear as he goes into surgery and knows that that’s what is happening? I know, don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow. But these are the things that are constantly stalking around the back of my mind.

For the next month, my goal is to make sure I am taking time to take care of myself. I know it’s going to be very easy to forget to give myself a breather. And I think simply acknowledging the difficulty of all of this helps too. I’m not hiding and that’s what I promised this blog when I first started it. I wouldn’t hide the difficulties, the hardships, of what this journey was going to bring. I want other moms in my shoes to know that it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to have a meltdown (and in saying so, I’m giving myself permission to lose it and not hold it all in). It was one of my worst nightmares finding out about Little Bear’s diagnosis. My pregnancy with him turned into something mamas fear happening. We’ll make it through all of this with flying colors, but in the midst? It is hellish at times, it is hard, and mamas, if this is your story too, know that it’s okay to admit this? We can make it and we will make it. We are the mama bears fighting for our children.

Prepping For Little Bear – Freezer Meals –

Wednesday was my freezer meal day. I knew I was going to be absolutely exhausted after making all of the recipes, and I was, but it was one of those things I really wanted/needed to get done. I spent a few hours last month coming up with a list of the recipes I wanted to make and then the accompanying grocery list. It almost felt “too easy” once I had put everything together! I think planning out freezer meals is one of those things that once you sit down to actually do it, it’s relatively easy to put together. However, it is quite daunting even thinking about doing it!

So, what I want to do is explain my process, the tools I used, and then why I picked the recipes I did.

** I will say, as a side note, that I did do some freezer meals before Little Monkey was born. I realize now that I didn’t prepare very well for those freezer meals, nor did I plan out the recipes well either. In all honesty, we ended up throwing out 70% of the meals I made because they either a. didn’t freeze well and tasted weird when we reheated/cooked them and b. I didn’t know I/we had any food intolerance and most of those recipes included ingredients that didn’t sit well with us. **

Okay, pulling from my previous experiences with freezer meals, I set out looking for recipes that I knew would freeze well. Here’s what I mean about that; any recipe that includes products like a dough or flour aren’t typically going to freeze well. Unless you have enough moisture/liquid in the recipe, you will be stuck with a really dried out meal by the time you reheat it or cook it. Some of the things that will freeze well are soups, chilis, burritos (oddly enough), and SOME casseroles. Again, it really depends on how much liquid you can put in or the recipe calls for. Another food item that I’ve noticed freezes really poorly is rice. Which is why I removed a chicken, broccoli, and rice dish from my list because every single freezer meal I have ever eaten that consisted of a base of rice was horribly dried out and tasteless. (I do have one recipe that has cooked rice, but I felt like there was enough moisture/liquid in the recipe to compensate for the dryness of the rice. I also have two recipes with GF noodles, so I’m kind of going against my own advice…we’ll see how it reheats though!)

As usual, I turned to trusty ol’ Pinterest for my recipes. I researched specifically “Gluten Free Freezer Meals” as well as quick and easy freezer meals. I ended up on one of my favorite mom blogs called Diary of a Fit Mommy. I have a lot of posts from her saved on various boards on my Pinterest and I like her style of writing. When I stumbled upon her freezer meals post, I found that almost all of the recipes were simple, easy to put together, AND the most important thing, would freeze well. [Here’s the link to that post] I have one recipe I’m not sure where I found, I didn’t save the link, but the rest of my recipes came from that blog post. The ones that weren’t specifically GF, I modified to work for our dietary restrictions.

As a pregnant mama and with a rambunctious toddler at home, I looked around at our local stores and found that I could get a pretty decent deal having Walmart deliver the groceries instead of shopping for them myself. Also, I found that Walmart’s prices were not only cheaper than the local grocery store, but the choices of Gluten Free products far outweighed the local store too. I am not sure if Walmart Grocery is something available every where, but if it is, I highly recommend it for busy moms who don’t feel like traipsing around the grocery store with squirming kids.

Now, without further adieu, here’s my list of recipes and grocery list.

Recipes

Cheesy Taco Bake –

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 20 oz lean ground beef
  • Green pepper,chopped
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 T Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • ½ tsp Thyme
  • 2 tsp cuminhow we budgeted for the groceries and then 
  • 1/3 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9X13 baking dish with EVOO, set aside.
  2. Boil brown rice in water on stovetop. Set aside
  3. In a 12” pan, spray with EVOO or cooking spray, add onion & garlic & sauté over medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  4. Add ground beef, breaking it up as it browns. Cook for about 5 minutes & add peppers. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink.
  5. Add lime juice and seasonings. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  6. Remove from heat – add rice, tomato sauce, & 1/4 cup of cheese to the skillet and stir to mix well.
  7. Pour mixture into baking dish. Top with remaining Cheddar, cover, and freeze.
  8. To cook while frozen, cover with foil & bake for 40 minutes.
  9. Remove foil & bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted & edges are bubbling. Remove from oven & let cool for 10 minutes.

NOTE: I added more cheese and seasonings to this recipe before I put it in the freezer. I made sure to taste as I went because there is nothing worse than a bland casserole! Feel free to adapt or change the seasonings as you like. I used a rather large pan (ordered the wrong size) but this is an easy recipe to split between two 9×9 disposable casserole containers and will feed at least three people per container.

Tuscan Chicken Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 (16oz) box of bowtie pasta
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • ½ tablespoon dried basil
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into 8 pieces
  • 8-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste, if needed
  • 1 cup of chicken, cooked and cubed (I used three and a half chicken breasts, cooked in the oven)

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot or skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. Stir in the dried basil. Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it will become a smooth creamy paste. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.
  2. Over medium heat, add the milk and whisk quickly and constantly until it becomes into the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency, 5-10 minutes. Serve over hot, cooked noodles. I put my chicken on top, or you can mix it in. You actually don’t even need chicken you don’t want it!
  3. When making them into freezer meals – put the noodles and sauce into two 9×9 foil tins. Wait until it cools down a little, place foil on top, and stick in the freezer.
  4. To cook when frozen: Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until heated through
  5. To cook when frozen but then thawed: Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

NOTE: I found the sauce created a lot more than I thought it would, so I split it between two pans. Combined with the chicken, noodles, and sauce, I don’t think I ever would have been able to fit the entire dish into one pan! I also put mozzarella and Parmesan cheese on top of the dishes as well to melt when it’s time to cook them up.

Freezer Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 boxes elbow pasta
  • 3/4 a stick of butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • Stir together, then add:
  • 16 oz mozzerella cheese
  • 16 oz cheddar cheese
  • Add some salt and pepper to taste and stir well.

Instructions:

  • Cook elbow macaroni noodles as directed, drain and rinse and return to pot.
  • Add remaining ingredients to the pot and stir well until cheese is melted.
  • Spray a foil pan {these are so much cheaper if you buy them in bulk} with cooking spray and dump the pasta mixture in. You can freeze it at this point if you want to deliver it frozen.
  • Bake at 350 for 1/2 an hour to 45 minutes {if this is frozen it will probably need to cook longer}

NOTE: I used 2 boxes of elbow pasta and probably about 2/3s the amount of cheese the recipe called for. I have already defrosted/cooked one of the pans of this recipe and it actually cooked up well, the noodles weren’t too dry, and Little Monkey actually ate it, which is a big plus.

Pepperjack Chicken Taquitos

Ingredients:

  • 8oz. cream cheese
  • 3 c. chicken, cooked & shredded
  • 1.5 c. shredded pepperjack cheese
  • 1 6oz. can green chilies or 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 20 small tortillas
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tsp. cumin

Instructions:

  1. Melt cream cheese in a bowl. Mix in the spices, lime juice, chilies (or salsa), chicken, and cheese.
  2. Add 2 tbsp. of mixture to each tortillas and roll.
  3. To freeze, place on wax paper on a cookie cheet and stick in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove from cookie sheet and place in a ziplocked gallon bag.
  5. When ready to cook, bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

NOTE: okay, so I tried something that didn’t work with this recipe. I put almost all the ingredients in the crockpot to let the chicken cook down so I could shred it. It worked well for the chicken, but there was so much juice from the chicken that I lost the rest of the cream cheese and such. I then followed the recipe otherwise after that and mixed a new set of ingredients together to make the taquitos. I used small corn tortillas and when I tried rolling the taquitos with the tortillas warmed, I found that they didn’t crack, and when I cooked a few up in the oven, I was pleasantly surprised to find them quite tasty and not at all soggy or bland from the corn tortillas!

(SLOW COOKER) Maple Dijon Glazed Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed.
  2. When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours. Cook on LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours). Sprinkle with fresh or dried rosemary for serving.
  3. Serve over rice

NOTE: I used whole ground mustard instead of Dijon mustard…well, I used up the rest of the Dijon mustard I had in the fridge (about 1/4 cup) and then the rest was the whole ground mustard.


Chunky Beef Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 2lbs ground beef
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups onion
  • 1 packet chili seasoning mix

Instructions:

  1. Brown beef on stovetop and mix in remaining ingredients.
  2. Place in freezer bag to freeze.
  3. To cook, thaw and place in crockpot on low for 4-6 hours.
  4. Serve with sour cream, chips, and cheese to melt on top

NOTE: I modified this recipe as well. I added a second cup of water as well as some of my homemade taco seasoning as I found the finished product was still too bland. I will probably need to add a bunch more salt and seasoning when I cook the meal up at a later time. I also split the chili up into two gallon freezer bags so that’s two plus meals right there. I also added a can of black beans as well.

Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 1 c. teriyaki sauce
  • 1 c. water
  • 2/3 c. light brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ginger slices
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1 green pepper chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly

Instructions:

  1. Add contents to freezer bag and place in freezer. Make sure to get rid of any extra air in the bag.
  2. To cook, thaw and dump contents in crockpot and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

NOTE: This is the recipe I made the most modifications too. The original recipe did not call for the last three ingredients. I added the can of pineapple tidbits, sliced red onions, and chopped green peppers. Also, when the chicken has been cooked fully in the crockpot, I recommend removing the chicken and adding 1 tablespoon of cornstarch/water to the sauce left and letting that thicker to serve over the chicken and rice.

Grocery List

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Meats

1 bag frozen chicken thighs
1 large package of fresh chicken breasts (the package was roughly 4.75 lbs)
4 chubs ground beef
1 large bag cheddar
2 bags mozzarella
1 bag pepper jack
2 bag parmesan cheese
4 8oz packages cream cheese (came in two packs)

Pasta/Grains

1 bag jasmine rice (I didn’t end up needing this bag of rice as I already had rice in my pantry, but it is nice to have as I now won’t have to buy rice for awhile!)
1 box rotini pasta (Walmart was out of this pasta, so I picked up a box of GF penne pasta)
2 boxes elbow pasta
20 corn tortillas

Seasonings

1 packet chili seasoning (Walmart carries GF non-GMO chili seasoning packets)
1 bottle maple syrup
1 bottle whole ground mustard
1 8oz jar sun dried tomatoes

Fresh/Canned

1 bunch of cilantro
2 green peppers
1 can green chilis
1 bag of red onions

Containers

5 disposable foil pans

Already have – 1 can pinto beans, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can tomato sauce, 2 cans tomato paste, 2 onions, spices

Alright, I changed up my grocery list several times, so my original list is a little outdated. I forgot to add the pineapple chunks to the walmart order, so I had to run to the grocery store to get those before I started my cooking. Beyond that, everything else that isn’t on the list are ingredients I already had in my pantry. I’d say that with taking my time to keep on top of dishes and make sure I did each recipe correctly, it took me about 5 hours to put together all of the recipes. Now if you had multiple people helping, possibly a slightly bigger kitchen, and probably more energy, that time could be cut in half. However, that length of time included taking a break for lunch, playing with Little Monkey every so often, and washing dishes between recipes so I didn’t use ALL of my pots and pans and that meant that by the end of the cooking, my kitchen wasn’t a total mess!

So that’s basically how I made 7 recipes, have 12+ meals in the freezer, and did all of that for roughly $100. Feel free to ask questions or let me know your tricks for doing freezer meals!

 

What About When Things Don’t Go Well…

The more I read this book, Push Back by Amy Tuteur, MD, the more I wonder where the moms who haven’t had a good experience with birth, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, and such are. There is so much of a huge focus on the births that go well, the breastfeeding that goes well, and yet the moms who are buried beneath PTSD symptoms from a traumatic birth or “failed” breastfeeding get pushed under the rug.

I had a midwife appointment this past week, and had specifically requested the appointment be with one of the midwives who is also a lactation consultant. I wanted to ask her if she had any advice as to how to prepare for pumping as little bear will most likely not be able to nurse right away. She didn’t have very many tips for me, but she didn’t make me feel bad when I said I was still preparing to possibly not be able to breastfeed. I had a fairly difficult experience with Little Monkey. Sure, I did manage to breastfeed him for 15 months before he weaned himself. But those were hellish 15 months. I developed a nursing aversion in the beginning (like within a week of him being born) that included intense nausea and almost panic attack levels of anxiety every time my milk let down. He was also the kind of baby, and still is that kind of toddler, who absolutely refuses to eat unless he is hungry. This meant a lot of frustrated nursing sessions because I was engorged but he wasn’t ready to eat. Then add in severe back spasms (thanks to an un-diagnosed gallbladder issue) and I couldn’t nurse without severe back pain unless I had good back support. But I kept going, I refused to consider stopping because I was fed that constant narrative that “breast is best.”

Here’s what I want to make clear – yes, breast may be a bit better than formula, but for those of us who live in a first world country with access to good health care, good formula, and who actually get the CHOICE to breastfeed or not, breastfeeding doesn’t trump formula. Feeding your child formula isn’t going to destroy them for life. But there are many narratives that dominate the parenthood/motherhood arena of life that have been set up to make mothers who can’t or choose not to breastfeed feel severely guilty or ashamed. I would be willing to say that I continued breastfeeding Little Monkey to MY detriment. I struggled with a lot of postpartum depression and anxiety for months alongside the difficult breastfeeding. No one told me that it would be okay if I wasn’t able to continue breastfeeding. I cried the day he weaned himself. I didn’t cry because I “lost a bond” I cried from relief. But I had continued because I told myself that Little Monkey and I would lose our bond if I stopped.

This isn’t true though. Just because I fed my child from my breast doesn’t mean our bond wouldn’t have been any different than if I had fed him with a bottle. Think of the adoptive moms, and how they bond with their children while NOT being able to nurse them. That mother/child bond is not dependent on how you feed your child, or how you deliver your child into this world. It is, however, solely based on how much you take care of them. Are you there to make sure they feel safe and can rely on you to be there for them? Are you there to make sure their tummies are full and they have a comfortable place to sleep?

As I am mentally preparing for the possibility of not being able to breastfeed little bear, I am having to fight a HUGE inner battle against self-inflicted shame that that’s not doing what’s best for my baby. Logically I know that I’m going to do what is best for little bear, but holy crap, the shame and guilt I’m having to fight. It’s not good. Granted, I am in a slightly different situation with little bear’s condition. With his probable neurogenic bowel/bladder, breast milk is something that would/could greatly help him. There are options of using donor milk, but my goal is to make sure that if my body simply does not want to participate, then I want to take the shame off me and let him eat formula without any extra guilt on me. This whole pregnancy is teaching me the great importance of making the best decisions for my child AND me regardless of what the culture around me is trying to pressure me to do.

So what happens when it doesn’t go well? Nothing should happen. Nothing being no shaming, no guilt tripping, no making struggling mamas feel bad for not doing such n such. We should instead be supporting mamas for making the best decisions for themselves AND their babies. Did you notice that? I said “…making the best decisions for THEMSELVES.” Too much of the parenthood/motherhood culture builds a cage around mothers making it difficult for them to get the care they need. With postpartum depression on the rise, more mothers losing their lives to that and anxiety, we need to be more aware of helping mothers take care of themselves. Thanks to my amazing therapist, I had the tools to be able to take steps back from being Little Monkey’s mama multiple times because I felt like I was losing myself and losing my mind.

I want to see the narrative change. I want to see mothers hear that having a c-section is okay, that having pain meds during labor is okay, that not being able to or choosing not to breastfeed is okay. We already hear that natural birth is okay, in fact it’s so prevalent that that’s the loudest voice we hear. Hearing that breast is best is also such a loud voice that we don’t hear that not being able to or choosing not to is also okay. While there is nothing wrong with natural birth, I just want to see those advocates support and lift up the mamas who can’t have a natural birth or hey, guess what, choose not to!! No mama is any less or any more for how they bring their children into the world. Nor are they any less or any more for how they provide for their children. The thing that matters is how present you are for that child. How are you going to raise your child? That’s the more important question. Birth, breastfeeding, those are only a drop in the bucket of a child’s life.

 

Pregnant for the Last Time – Third Trimester Thoughts

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I am starting the third trimester today. It feels weird. I don’t remember having this sense of finality with Little Monkey’s pregnancy. This is the last time I will ever be in the third trimester. Sure, I have felt a difference with this pregnancy even from the start, but now it’s really real. I’m starting to daydream about wearing my normal jeans again! But it’s not the desperate daydreaming of a greatly uncomfortable mama. Which is also weird! It’s that daydreaming of knowing I am going to be wearing my regular jeans again and it will be very soon. In other words, it is way easier to accept that pregnancy does not last forever this time around. I still feel mostly comfortable with my body and the changes brought on by pregnancy, just minus the significant shortness of breath I’m starting to deal with. Thanks, little bear, I know I’m short-waisted, but my lungs feel like they’re in my throat!

I remember feeling absolutely exhausted from 30 weeks on when I was pregnant with Little Monkey. His pregnancy was relatively easy on my body (until I hit 32 weeks and started dealing with stronger and stronger braxton hicks that turned into prodromal labor) but it was also filled with that anxious anticipation of being a first time mom. Having grown up with many siblings, and having been a nanny, the practical side of having a baby didn’t scare me at all. It was the emotional side of things! Was I going to be able to connect with him? Haha, yeah, no worries on that front! My Little Monkey never ceases to amaze me at how happy he is and confident to try new things because he knows Mommy and Daddy are right there to help if he needs help. But you never know, right? You never know if things aren’t going to work out the right way.

Being now two thirds done with my second (and last) pregnancy, I don’t have the same worries. Obviously my worries now consist of little bear’s survival and thriving after birth, but that’s a whole other can of worms. This time I am eagerly and nervously looking forward to when I can actually hold him in my arms and I can’t wait for those first few weeks and months of bonding and loving on that little infant. I am not a terribly sentimental person, so the fact that this is my last pregnancy doesn’t weigh as heavy on me as it has and does on others. I am not in any way diminishing the mourning that naturally comes with that last baby, please hear that! This was a choice Phil and I made even before I got pregnant in June, and now with little bear’s diagnosis, that choice has been double, triple confirmed for us.

However, I know this is not how it always goes for those who end up having that last pregnancy. Sometimes, it isn’t their choice, it’s something that has to happen because of health issues that would mean major damage and/or danger to mama and baby if they were to get pregnant again. The choice (whether it was made by you or your body) to not get pregnant again is not easy. We live in a world today that still puts great emphasis on women and their bodies having a sole purpose of bearing children. Please know if this is a choice you have had to make because your body can not handle another pregnancy, no judgment, okay? It is incredibly important to take care of yourself. Even if the choice to not have any more children is a personal choice, still no judgment. Take care of yourself so you can be there for your children as they grow. Mamas are important characters in children’s lives.

This post is kind of following the same lines of my previous post from yesterday. While I have had to mourn many things with this pregnancy, this being my last hasn’t been one of those things. Acknowledging this as my last has been bittersweet, but being pregnant has always made me uneasy and this time things have been super hard on my body physically. Even though this time around has been difficult for my physically, I have savored the lasts. The last positive pregnancy test, the last first ultrasound, the last time getting maternity clothes. This final trimester is a time for savoring the lasts, I think.

So if you are facing your last pregnancy, or already have, take the time to let yourself mourn? Grieve, because that is normal and okay. Write down what you are feeling, or create a memorial of your choosing for your heart. Take care of yourself and love the little ones you may already have. I won’t say be content, because I think there will always be a part of you/me that will miss those beginning days of a pregnancy and then a newborn. But love yourself, give yourself permission to acknowledge that hard decision! Do not shame yourself if your body has failed. That is not something any of us can control. Be proud of your body for what it has already accomplished.

I guess if I were to leave anything at the end of this post it would be this; us as mamas have a obligation to ourselves to take care of our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. That obligation comes from being an individual person/being BEFORE you are mama. I am feeling nostalgic as I’m starting this third trimester, and I know that’s going to present as depression and a lot of looking back. Because of that I am preparing even now for those darker days and the days when I need to remind myself this is not my fault. Take care of yourselves, mamas, you need you and so do your families.

**I will write more about depression and Postpartum Depression/anxiety another time as that is a topic I am paying a lot of attention to as I prepare for the final countdown to little bear’s birth

Shame, Guilt, “Natural?” – one mama’s opinions

It amazes me some times about just how absolutely terrible other moms can be. That’s the biggest reason I avoid comments on posts that deal with a potentially controversial mama topic. But since watching my entire birth plan dreams and hopes shift entirely, I’ve become aware of another part of the shaming mom community (yes, I do think this is a real thing, unfortunately!) that deals with the whole world of c-sections.

Now, cesarean sections are beginning to be a huge focus on mine because well, guess what, I’m having one. And while, I’ll be honest, hearing fellow mamas having had one in the past made me feel a little judgmental. Mainly, I was viewing their birth experience through eyes that the “natural birth culture” I was surrounded with gave me. The idea that having a c-section isn’t real birth, or that it was taking an easier way out. That was before I had a birth of my own and before I had really done any significant research into the world of carrying and delivering babies. I recently picked up a book called Push Back by Amy Tuteur, M.D. and even though I’m only a third of the way through it, the content of this book has already brought up a lot of thoughts.

While I do feel like this book is pretty far to one side of the spectrum when dealing with natural birth advocates and then the OBGYN’s side, I do think this book raises a lot of good questions. For instance, what really is natural when it comes to birth? According to Amy, natural is doing what mothers have been doing since the beginning of time, and that is more than half dying in childbirth because of complications, unknown conditions, babies not fitting through pelvis’, and so on. She goes on to mention how each generation of mothers have adapted to the culture they lived in and more and more babies and mothers have survived because of medical advancements in technology and the ability catch issues before they become too much of a danger to mother and baby.

I’m a teeny tiny bit put off by Amy’s obvious frustration with the natural birth community which stems from a lot of ignorance that she has seen in her 30+ years as an obstetrician. But, I do agree with her on a lot of points with that. (Read the book to find out exactly what I’m referencing, I’m not going to quote the whole thing here!) I have personally known mamas and read stories about mamas who have refused ultrasounds. While this didn’t bother me before being pregnant with little bear, it does now. I worry about those mamas because if I hadn’t had that 20 week ultrasound, we never would have known something wasn’t right with little bear. His heart is healthy, his movements are strong and I’ve been feeling him move since about 13 weeks. On all accounts, he’s perfect and there is no cause for alarm. However, as we’ve now seen, babies can seem perfectly healthy from the outside, but little (or big) things can be lurking underneath. While I can understand mamas’ reasons why not to go with “medical interventions” I do question their stands now that I have a high risk pregnancy and have seen how quickly things can go from being a-okay to whoa this is not good.

So where is the line? Where is the line for being aware and informed and then purposefully putting your baby at risk because you don’t want to do an ultrasound or some other such procedure? Where is the line where we as mamas need to support each other or when do we need to speak up and wonder if that was not the wisest decision for your baby’s health and your health?

I have felt like I personally need to justify WHY I’m having a scheduled c-section now. While I have so many amazing and supportive mamas around me, I still wonder who is judging me for taking these steps and getting the medical “interventions” they’re so against? It really makes me ponder how we as mamas can change the culture of judging and shaming and guilt tripping for those who haven’t made the same choices as you have. For me personally, I’m trying to figure out how to shake off the mama shame of not having the natural birth I wanted. Guys, that shame and guilt is a real thing and I hate that we put other moms through that and we put it on ourselves! And honestly, I really don’t know how to even deal with that right now. I know it’s partly shame and guilt I’m putting on myself, but really? My biggest thought since the moment we found out what was wrong with little bear has been how can I protect him? How can I make the best choices to make sure that he is going to survive the best that he can?

I’m still processing what I’ve read so far in the book I shared above. And I’m sure this won’t be the last post where I verbally process either! But seriously, can we at least try to come alongside each mama we know and encourage them in their choices for themselves and their babies? And maybe, just maybe leave the shaming and guilt tripping out of the conversation? Becoming a parent is hard, becoming a mom is hard, and that’s even without potential complications and shame and judgment from those around us. So I’m going to go back to reading my book, and maybe you all can think about this and let me know your thoughts?

 

 

How I’m Preparing Practically/Physically for My C-Section

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Having my hopes for birth sidetracked has made me flounder, looking for that solid ground to stand on. I know I can’t be the only mama who’s faced this floating in limbo feeling! So because of that I want to use this post to talk about some of the things that I am slowly putting together in a practical effort to prepare for the c-section and following chaos.

I know there is very little that I can do to physically/practically prepare for a c-section. While I don’t have any qualms with knowing I’m going to have a scheduled major surgery, I do feel the need to keep my hands busy. I am nervous about being separated from my little bear immediately upon delivery and not getting to be with him for who knows how long when he is taken to the NICU. But, that’s a post for another time!

I’m going to break this post down into two different sections; practical and physical.

Practical – 

The practical is possibly the easiest to talk about. Included in this is packing a hospital/NICU bag, planning freezer meals, researching what one will need specifically for a c-section recovery, finding out about the hospital’s protocols for c-section mamas, and so on.

Let’s talk about packing that hospital bag first! I am planning on having my bag packed by 34ish weeks. Even though I will have an actual date for my c-section, knowing my body AND that we’ll be in the middle of Colorado winter (lots of rising pressure, which increases my braxton hicks, and I had started dilating a good bit by the time I was 36 weeks with Little Monkey), I want my bag packed as early as I can get it done. As labor is not an option for me anymore, I want to be able to just go if anything happens before the scheduled date.

A hospital bag list is something that Pinterest is an amazing resource for. I have found several specific pins for c-section recovery hospital bags and from those pins this is the list that I’ve put together. (it is subject to change as I start packing and decide what I really want to have with me or could do without)

C-Section/NICU stay Hospital Bag

  • pineapple juice
  • coconut water
  • GF muffins/snacks
  • Motrin
  • GasX strips
  • Cough medicine
  • cough/throat drops
  • colace
  • Vitamins – probiotics, cal/mag, prenatal
  • ice packs
  • kotex maxi pads
  • low rise underwear
  • regular pillow
  • body pillow
  • Nursing pillow
  • comfy blanket
  • towel
  • robe
  • Sweatshirts
  • 3 night gowns
  • 3-5 nursing bras (pack different kinds)
  • Nursing tank tops – all of them
  • 2 tops to wear over tanks
  • Navel and Blanqi Postpartum leggings
  • yoga pants
  • fuzzy socks
  • slippers
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, styling products, bar soap, puff, shaving cream, razor, loofah, face wipes, coconut oil, toothbrush/paste…)
  • Makeup bag
  • Hairdryer/straightener
  • Kindle
  • portable keyboard for taking notes on kindle
  • Charging block
  • Chargers for Iphone
  • Extension cord
  • insurance cards
  • hospital paperwork (both insurance and paperwork need their own folder)

Now my list above combines some of the things I will also need for the NICU stay as well. I will list my NICU Survival List down below as well. Some of these items, like ice packs, Motrin, and the toiletries are the things that are the eh maybe I won’t need them, I’ll decide last minute items. But, they are things I do want to make sure I have, whether the hospital provides them or not. As I’ve had the benefit (I suppose) of having gone through one birth already, I do remember what worked and didn’t work last time. Even though this time will be different, it helps that I am not starting from scratch.

Alright, so here are a few of the pins I pulled ideas from for the hospital bag list.

One of the things that I have found helpful is to take advantage of the knowledge from mamas I know who have had c-sections. If you have resources like that, use them!! They’re going to be the ones who can tell you specifically what helped them or didn’t help with c-section recovery. The same goes for if you will be needing to stay with baby while they’re in the NICU. Use your resources!

Now with my NICU Survival List, I have mostly relied on Pinterest for this list. I do know a few mamas who have had babies in the NICU, so I will be running this list by them as we get close to DD (Delivery Day) to make sure I’m not missing anything.

NICU Survival Kit

  • Chapstick – LOTS of chapstick
  • Cough/throat drops
  • hand lotion
  • hand sanitizer
  • Easy to carry notebook
  • pens – at least 6
  • Kind bars
  • yogurt
  • bananas
  • granola
  • kettle chips
  • nursing pillow
  • breast pump
  • freemie attachment
  • labels and markers for making bottles
  • nursing pads
  • robe
  • water bottle
  • baby lotion (find organic lotion…maybe california baby?)
  • 1-2 special outfits for little bear – specifically with snaps
  • laundry bag
  • bottles (figure out what bottle would be best)
  • coconut oil
  • 2-3 changes of clothes
  • baby nail clippers
  • inexpensive camera for nurses to take pictures with?

Like I said, multiple things overlap with each list, so I will most likely combine them into two bags when I head to the hospital. I’m not sure how long I’ll be in my room before I’m discharged and I move over to the NICU rooms. That’ll depend on c-section recovery and such. Here are a few of the pins I pulled NICU list tips from.

Feel free to take a look around my Mama Advice and Prepping for Little Bear boards. I have a bunch of other pins that I have found helpful on there!

As packing a hospital/NICU bag is a very practical thing to do, that’s a huge thing I’m focusing on right now even though I feel like I’m in limbo still. However, a hospital bag is only part of the practical things I can do to keep my hands busy. Another suggestion is planning out freezer meals! I did a few before Little Monkey was born, but those meals kind of flopped and we never ended up using them. Because I know what DIDN’T work for us last time, I am being quite particular planning freezer meals this time around. A few big changes for us since last time is my diet is gluten free and there are a few other foods I can’t eat because of my IBS as well as my fibromyalgia. Thankfully, I have found several phenomenal lists [on Pinterest] for GF freezer meals! I will be combining several recipes from these lists and hope to start prepping those come January.

Even though that last pin are not specifically GF meals, the techniques and recipes are simple enough to adapt for a GF version.

When I have my delivery planning meeting (yes, apparently this is a thing at our Children’s), I will be bringing a list of questions about the c-section itself, a procedure I will be having done during the c-section, and then what their protocols are for mamas after the surgery is done. That meeting is where I’ll also find out about the things available to me while I am in the hospital as well as getting to tour the facilities (recovery rooms and the NICU). After that meeting I will go back over my hospital bag list and add or take away anything I know I won’t need.

Physical 

Planning and preparing physically for a c-section is a little bit more involved and yet is almost nothing compared to planning practically! This is the area I have had the hardest time “coping” with. With a planned c-section you literally just show up and get prepped then go back for the surgery. A little bit more complicated than that, but that’s basically it! I don’t get increasingly nervous when I have knowledge of something like that happening beforehand. The idea and prospect of going in for the c-section is not what is making me feel overwhelmed or shaky. It’s the whole chaos of what’s going to happen after that makes me tear up, have nightmares about, and I already know I’m going to be a wreck when they take little bear to the NICU while I’m still on the table getting put back together.

However, I have put together a short list of the things I can do now to prep physically for the c-section. I am worried about my gut health/immune system AFTER the c-section, so I going to keep up with my kombucha tea, and in January, I will most likely start taking a probiotic as well to help keep my gut health strong. My body doesn’t usually have that much of an issue with antibiotics, but I don’t want to take chances, especially with what my body has been recovering from over the past year (unknown gluten intolerance discovered only a year ago, removal of gallbladder…).

I already have strong core muscles thanks to yoga and that being something I have been able to keep up with consistently. I am not really worried about how my abdominal muscles will recover post surgery, but I have added several core specific poses to my yoga routine. *it is important to note that core exercises while pregnant are not a good idea if you have diastasis recti (a separation in your ab muscles as your belly grows)* The core poses I have added are very gentle and are still yoga poses which means they’re done slowly, with care, and with attention to breathing. The article below is only one of two I found about preparing for a c-section.

After talking with a dear friend who’s had two c-sections this morning, I now have a game plan for the week before the c-section. But I’ll share that as we get closer to that date!

There really aren’t many things I can do to physically prepare besides the things I’ve listed above. The other things you/I can do between now and the c-section is just keep taking care of my body. I have to do yoga at least 1-3 times a week just to manage my fibromyalgia, but it is important to me to keep doing that as it is calming and gives me a way to manage stress and anxiety.