Our Favorite Things: Pregnancy & Postpartum

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Pregnancy and birth
I had an easy pregnancy and loved being pregnant, so I don’t have a lot to say about that part, but I do think things I did really helped my labor be so fast and easy, so wanted to share that.
This is a helpful article on various tests done during pregnancy.
From the beginning, I tried to do a lot of squats and spend a lot of time squatting. It’s good for the pelvic floor, which is good for childbirth! I also tried to lean forward, as that helps the baby be in a good position for birth (as in sitting on a balance ball instead of reclining on a couch!). Inversions also help with that. Also, see Five Movements for a Better Birth. I did these diastasis recti prevention exercises every day (I did still end up with a small one, though, which healed itself with more of the same exercises and being careful with how I wore and held S). It is much easier to prevent it by doing the TVA activation exercise in the KatySays link than it is to close it later! I highly recommend reading ALL of Katy Says blog posts on pregnancy, birth, etc. She also has a fantastic video on pain-free baby holding. Some other habits to be aware of in relation to DR.
Some more on DR:
5 exercises to help heal DR
Pregnancy Q&A From Fit2B
Top 5 non-crunchy Ab moves
Walking posture
Good stuff on alignment

Other exercise: I ran through 20 weeks, but next time would probably stop at the end of the first trimester and just walk. I also did strength training, keeping exercises the same and just a bit scaled back until the end of the first trimester, then slowly changing things to avoid diastasis recti (ie, no planks and pushups) or lying on my back (because of vena cava). But I exercised right up until the end and think it really helped.

I added gelatin to things from the beginning, but especially closer to the end as I was trying to strengthen my water bag and perineum… I can’t say it did anything, though, since my water broke first thing and I had first and second degree tears. This is a good article on preventing tears. 

In the second half, I had red raspberry leaf tea (for toning the uterus) almost every day, adding it to other teas, making a concentrate to add to water kefir, kombucha, or freeze in ice cubes, etc. Sometimes I also added coconut oil to my hot tea, too. Do not use RRLT in the first trimester.
I ate 4-6 dates every day in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy – they’re said to help you dilate faster!
Another must is probiotics.

During labor itself I didn’t do much of anything we’d prepared to do. I ONLY wanted to be on my hands and knees, which in retrospect probably helped S be in a good position, which in turn helped things go faster and be easier. Low moaning during contractions felt amazing.
With #2 my biggest change in plans for delivery will be using more pain relief techniques early on if I need to (since we didn’t use anything because we thought it would still be hours before she was born!), and doing more to prevent tearing, like not delivering in the water, hopefully on my side, and trying to breathe the baby out instead of actively pushing.
Some more labor tips.

I didn’t use much of the technique, but “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” was a big help to me in knowing what to expect, what my body was doing, and how to think about the pain (was I really in pain or was it just discomfort?). Unfortunately there is a lot of nudity in it, though. This is a good summary.

Really the only discomfort I had during pregnancy was restless legs, and magnesium oil seemed to relieve that quickly! A shot of Apple Cider Vinegar is great for heartburn.

I did do research on essential oil use during pregnancy and in labor and postpartum, but would recommend getting this book or doing your own research here. Some ideas of stuff to look at: oils for afterpains, postpartum depression, turning breech or posterior babies, relaxation and relief in labor, postpartum hemorrhage.

Postpartum
The first six weeks were easier than I expected. I was fully prepared to be totally miserable at least for the first few days while my body recovered, but even with the tearing I had it wasn’t that bad. Baths with epsom salts and herbs were amazing, even for someone who previously hated baths.
The second six weeks were a lot harder, though. We had an extra-tough time with reflux and then undoing bad sleep habits from the reflux, so it was closer to four months before I really started feeling like things got easier.

You really have to learn to choose not to be discouraged by poor sleep, crankiness, etc., but to find other things (hopefully God!) to put your hope in. It helps to remember that your baby isn’t irritating, but you’re irritable. And that I often love myself more than I want to serve or understand what baby needs. But in that we can remember it’s not about being a “good mom” but one that brings her children to God… which will often include saying “mama messed up and needs God’s help.”
When it was starting to get easier, part of me really didn’t want help any more. It felt like saying I couldn’t take care of us. But I also sometimes got discouraged by how much I still felt I needed help and couldn’t keep on top of food and housework, let alone exercising or playing music again like I wanted to be doing. Then I thought of cultures where the extended family all lives together and realized I never have to feel like I have it together. That’s why God gave us Himself, and husbands, and family, and community.

Which leads to REST. I know it’s not always possible, but it’s SO important. This post has some really good ideas (and also some nudity, be forewarned). I do think one thing that contributed to my PPD was that all I was doing was resting, though. So this time I have a list of projects I can do in-bed, like writing the birth story, writing thank-yous, crochet patterns, and a stack of books – not that I think I’ll get to all or any of it especially with a toddler around, but I still think it will help.

I also re-read some baby books before #2 and wrote this out on 3×5 cards for easy reference:

Card 1: (this is all averages/in general… each baby is different!)
Newborn – needs 16-20 hrs of sleep, 50-60 minute awake times, nap 1 hr in 3, 5-6 hours at night
1 month – 15-18 hours (till 18 months), 60-75 minute a times, 3 naps, 1.5 hrs each (through 3 months)
2 months – 75-80 minute awake times
3 months – 1 hr – 1 hr 30 minute awake times
4 months – 1 hr 45 minute – 2 hr awake times, 2-3 naps, 2-3 hours each
5 months – 2-2.5 hr awake times
6 months – 2.5-3 hours a times, 2 naps
7 months – 2.5-3 hr 15 minute awake times
8-10 months – 3-4 hour awake times
10-12 months – 3.5-4.5 hour awake times
12-18 months – 5 hour awake times, transition to 1 nap.
Card 2: (mostly taken from Secrets of the Baby Whisperer)
Get to know who THIS baby is.
Remember it’s all new to her
Start as you mean to go on.
Stop. Listen. Observe. What’s up?
Extra nightwakings – tank up in day, increase awake times, learning new skill, teething, etc.
Shush/pat – if not working, hold till calm, then put down.
Night feeds are not play time! Dark, avoid eye contact.
5 S’s – swaddle, shh, sway, side, swing, suck
First week: feed on demand, no less than 2-3 hours, until birth weight regained, then no less than 3 in daytime and 4-5 at night until 1 month, then let sleep at night.
First 6 weeks – nurse 8-12 times a day, 3+ dirty diapers, 8-12 wet diapers. Goal: teach night and day.
Growth spurts: 2-3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months.
Wonder weeks: 5, 8, 12, 19, 26, 37, 46, 55, 64, 75 (from due date, not birth day)
Sleep regressions: 3-4 months, 8-9 months, 18 months, 2 years

Cues:
hunger – rooting, sucking, fists, smacking lips, “neh”
discomfort – wail with no volume change, arched back, pulling ears, etc. “heh”
tired – yawn, turning away (also overstimulated), eyes glassed over, frowning “owh”
gas – “eaih” (lower sound, lower gas – grunty) “eh” (higher pitched, higher gas)

As far as meals go, I didn’t freeze a whole lot with S, and it was mostly soup. You can also cook up meat, quinoa, grate cheese, etc. and freeze that. When Ezra was still home we ate a lot of couscous with grated cheese and chopped ham because it was tasty but quick. I actually mostly froze snacks, because I knew I was going to have good help for the first month (really the first two in the end the way everything worked out), but knew that when I wanted a snack I’d need something on hand. So I made lots of muffins, energy balls, You can also freeze actual smoothies or just make “smoothie bags” to throw into the blender. And coconut oil chocolate (coconut oil, honey, cocoa, to taste, roughly equal parts) was phenomenal. Coconut oil is great for your milk and will also make some of your post-birth bathroom trips easier, and being fat it will keep you full longer.
Half of the meals I did freeze I didn’t get around to needing until she was 3 or so months old and by then I couldn’t eat them because dairy and gluten bothered her. So that may be something to keep in mind, too, to try to make them allergen-free just in case. You can always add cheese on top later if you need to.
With all that in mind, this is what I froze for #2.

Also, to save you $40 on a nursing tank, try this combined with this – I added buttons to keep the tank top “whole” – it is more work to make and use than this tutorial, but means a higher neckline and then I can keep wearing the tank top even when not nursing.  😉

If you get plugged ducts, heat a rice sock in the microwave and nurse on hands and knees with baby’s chin pointed at the duct, and if you’re afraid it will turn into mastitis, chop up a few cloves of garlic and swallow them like pills, and get lots of fluids and rest!

Some other helpful things:
Prepping your toddler 
Timeline of a Breastfed Baby
Timeline of Postpartum Recovery
New Mom Survival Stations
Pregnancy in Japan
5 Movements for a Better Birth
10 Tips to Surviving Pregnancy with a Toddler
15 Tips for a More Enjoyable Pregnancy
Spinning Babies, Daily Activities
Fourth Trimester Take Two
Keep Sensations of Early Labor a Secret
Not Ready
How Caring for Children Changes the World
Milestones not in Baby Books
When Motherhood Breaks You
Raising My Ebenezer

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