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.

In general, I would tell all pregnant mamas to do their research and be informed. Ask questions, especially early on, and especially if you are opinionated on how you want to give birth.
Some good questions for your birth provider (and ten more).
Some info on options during pregnancy, and another article on the glucose test specifically.
For natural-minded mamas, check out Mama Natural’s week by week emails.

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.

One thing to really speed up labor is making sure baby is in a good position:
Optimal Fetal Positioning – helping baby be in a good position for birth (as in sitting on a  balance ball instead of reclining on a couch!)
More on some daily activities for positioning baby
Turning a breech baby
Strengthening your pelvic floor
Five Movements for a Better Birth 
So sitting “forward,” lots of untucked squats, and trying to move and exercise in ways to prevent diastasis recti.
If baby is in a bad position during labor, try the Miles Circuit (I have not tried this, but we almost did before E).

What is diastsis recti (DR)? It’s an abdominal split due to pressure, and it is both preventable and treatable, but easier to prevent than heal, and even if you don’t fully prevent it then it will be easier to heal a small gap than a big one.
To learn more:
Pregnancy Q&A From Fit2B
Help finding your TVA (where the gap occurs, more or less. However, if you have a gap or are heavily pregnant don’t spend time on your hands and knees like that unless you’re really careful!). 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.
Check for DR while pregnant and improving your DR while pregnant
Some other habits to be aware of in relation to DR.
5 exercises to help heal DR
Top 5 non-crunchy Ab moves AND moves to avoid.
Walking posture
Good stuff on alignment
this kind of goes right along with alignment
Working out Differently to Prevent DR

Squats are important again!

Don’t let fear of DR prevent you from exercising! Exercise is SO SO SO important while pregnant, not just for body image and weight gain but to prepare your body for labor!

.Other things I did for a healthier pregnancy and smoother birth:
– 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 of pregnancy, 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, things to eat and drink, and some good, encouraging thoughts on pain and fear in childbirth. And some thoughts on having a good c-section.

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.
I also enjoyed Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.

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.

If you’re a new mom, be encouraged. I know it’s overwhelming and everyone has advice and I’m about to give mine, but know that even if you want to punch me for saying it now, you will eventually find YOUR way. What’s “best” is often not what so and so said or did but what works for YOU, so don’t worry about the naysayers and do your thing, and in difficult moments be sure to pray FIRST, before you look for ideas to fix it any other place.

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, and use lots of lanolin after nursing and make padsicles with witch hazel.
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.
Please, please read up on PPD. I have written about it generally here, and given some tips for those helping women with PPD here.

I also re-read some baby books (mostly “The Baby Whisperer”) 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

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:
The Nursing Throne
Prepping your toddler 
Timeline of a Breastfed Baby
Timeline of Postpartum Recovery
New Mom Survival Stations
Pregnancy in Japan
Bare Naked Gratitude (cultivating thankfulness for your postpartum body!)
a mama’s journey with her downs syndrome daughter
It’s normal to have babies
10 Tips to Surviving Pregnancy with a Toddler
15 Tips for a More Enjoyable Pregnancy
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

A Pregnant Woman’s Defense against the Schemes of the Devil

“It Gets Easier when you let God get bigger” (probably one of my favorite blog posts EVER).

And my own musings on motherhood.

5 thoughts on “Our Favorite Things: Pregnancy & Postpartum

  1. These are all such great resources! Many of these were familiar to me, but I had never heard about dates speeding up labor. I’ll have to remember that one! Thanks for including my list of questions to ask your midwife. I hope that will be helpful to your readers. 🙂


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