My Newborn Essentials

Monday, May 22, 2017


Since I'm now 36 weeks pregnant, I've been thinking about what I consider to be essentials for having a newborn. This list consists of the things I used everyday for the first months of James's life. Of course, there are tons of other things that I haven't included (for instance, I would love these little kimonos!) but they are what I remember from my last go-around as being absolute lifesavers.

A quick note before I launch into the list: I have had great success using Craigslist and borrowing from friends for a lot of baby things. There are so many things that are useful for the first few months but then once the baby is 5 or 6 months old you won't really use them anymore.

1. Swaddlers
Swaddling helped James sleep so much, and I've double-checked our swaddle situation to make sure we're ready for this baby. We used SwaddleMes for James every night until he could roll over, at about 4 months. We also used Aden and Anais bamboo swaddling blankets and loved them as well. Lastly, because I like to have all my bases covered, I bought an brand-new Halo sleep sack off Craigslist for $5.

2. Burp cloths
I don't think you can ever have too many burp cloths on hand because a baby can go through 20 in 5 hours. Most of my burp cloths were resuable diapers that had fun fabrics sewed onto them, and they were thick and great for mopping up spit-ups and catching extra milk when nursing.

3. Baby wrap
My Ergo baby wrap was one of my favorite gifts last time around. I loved being able to snuggle with my baby but have my hands free. I still love the Ergo, but I also borrowed a Solly wrap from a friend because I worry the Ergo might be too thick for summer.

When James got a bit older, around 5 months or so, I bought the Ergo baby carrier (again, Craigslist! $40) and we used that all the time too.

4. Pacifiers
Pacifiers are so amazing. I liked the Soothie option best, because I found being able to put your finger in the middle of it really helped the baby get the sucking concept.

5. Baby swing
Really, any time of baby swing will do the trick. We had a Fisher-Price one for James that was passed around among all our friends, and this time I'm borrowing one from a friend here (the same one that's lending me her Solly wrap, bless her).

6. Stroller
I've loved the Britax travel system, which I've used daily for the past two years. It has an attachment for the carseat to clip into the stroller, it folds up super easily and can be used as a jogger.

Since I go on walks all the time, I knew that we need a double stroller and trolled Craigslist every day for months to find something. I ended up getting the Maclaren twin techno for $140, which I like because it also folds up easily, is side by side but not too wide, and the seats can lay completely flat.

Some breastfeeding lifesavers: I like reusable breast pads better than disposable ones, a breast pump is a lifesaver (I've been considering buying a hand pump but haven't yet pulled the trigger), and a nursing pillow helped my back and neck from being in excruciating pain.

Some Ramblings

Monday, May 8, 2017


Here are some of my recent random thoughts:

1. One thing I've been thinking about lately (especially after writing my recovery post) is how well I remember the details of birth, labor and recovery. This is not true for everyone, as I keep talking with women who tell me they honestly don't remember the pain. I had always thought the saying about how women can't recall the pain of birth was just a weird myth, but no, it's true! I am so shocked at that, because I remember everything so keenly. I'm not sure it will ever fade from my memory.

2. I'm looking for tips on using sunscreen with kids. I'm very very into sun protection (Brock thinks I have a sun phobia) but I'm struggling when it comes to James and sunscreen. He flails around and I'm never sure how much I actually get on him. Plus, he has a little sock tan and a neck tan, which makes me panicky. I'm thinking about finding a gel-type sunscreen that might be easier to apply, but maybe a spray is the way to go?

3. About a month ago, we got James a twin bed since we want the baby to be sleeping in the pack n play that James had been using. At first he slept through the night no problem. But the past two weeks or so have been pretty hard. He gets up constantly right after we put him in and we have to go in 3 or 4 times each night to tell him to get back in bed. Plus, he's been getting out of bed in the middle of the night. He'll quietly come and stand right next to my face and wait for me to notice him, which always scares the daylights out of me.

There have been a few nights (like last night) where he will get up and be in our room 3-4 times before 5:30. And if he hasn't been up before 5:30, then 5:30 is his new wake-up call. And before this he had been sleeping until 7! This is all a very rude reminder of what having a newborn will be like. Anyway, I don't know any strategies for keeping him in his bed but I'm desperate for some. Should we put a baby lock on his door so he can't open it?



4. Back in November, the state of California passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. I freaked out about it when I heard because we used the plastic bags to put dirty diapers in before we take them out to the trash. But I've been thinking lately how creative we've become with things we would usually throw away. I'll look at the bag that bread comes in or the empty bag of granola, or all the green produce bags we have and think, "Perfect diaper size". In a way, I'm grateful for the law because it's been fun to see what we used to throw away that we now stash to use for diapers.

5. We drink so much milk that it's a hassle. I have to go at least twice a week to get us more and between the three of us we drink 5-6 gallons a week. Doesn't that seem insane? Almost every time I load my cart up with 4 or 5 gallons someone will comment, "Wow, you sure like milk!" and I never know what to say. I hope that my love for milk will calm down after I have the baby, like it did after I had James, because this amount seems unsustainable.

Five Eye-Opening Books Set Outside the U.S.

Friday, May 5, 2017


I've been saying lately that having a child has killed my travel bug. The thought of dealing with a toddler on a long flight, fighting jet lag, and needing to take into account naps and early bedtimes makes me too exhausted to even want to take James to a different country.

But I don't want to stop learning about new countries and cultures, so I've compiled a list of some wonderful books that take place outside the U.S. In these books I've been exposed to ideas that have helped me savor the breadth of experience in human lives.


1. Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Thomas McFadden, a British citizen, is the center of this book. He is in the Bolivian prison San Pedro for drug smuggling, and experiences a bizarre form of freedom where inmates buy their cells, are able to have their families live with them, and can go on supervised visits to the outside world. It is a fascinating look at an inner world I knew nothing about.

2. My Life in France  by Julia Child
Julia Child's life was unfamiliar to me before reading this book, and I was amazed to learn that she didn't begin cooking until her late 30s, when she moved to France with her husband. Her book is full of great descriptions of food and France in the 1950s, and it is inspiring to read about her strong relationships with friends and family.

3. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
When I was 14, my family visited South Korea, including the DMZ, where I was able peer out at North Korea. Ever since then I have been fascinated by North Korea and the little bit we know about life there. This book helped quench my thirst for North Korea stories, as the author interviews six people who defected to South Korea and learns what their lives were like before they came. The reality of their experiences is a little hard to take sometimes, but I came away a more well-rounded person after reading it.

4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an incredible novel describing pre-and post-colonial life in Nigeria. It is rare that a book adequately describes what different areas in Africa looked like before European colonists came, and this one gives a vivid picture into the lives and traditions of the people. This book is on my 'best novels' list because it is thought-provoking and unique.

5. Japan at War by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore Failor Cook
In general, I'm not really a fan of WWII books, but I was convinced to try this one after Brock read it for a college class and assured me I would love it. He was so right; I lived and breathed this book and could barely tear myself away to do anything else. It's a collection of firsthand accounts of Japanese people during WWII. You'll read about soldiers who almost completed suicide missions, officers training others about beheadings, children exposed to the atomic bomb, and so much more.

Recovery

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Giving birth can be an extremely harrowing experience, and recovering is rarely quick or easy. I've been thinking a lot about the realities of recovery as I'm trying to make sure I'm prepared for this baby's arrival. I want to be open about how hard my recovery was with James in the hopes that maybe others can be more ready than I was.

Due to swelling and the pain of being in labor for almost 30 hours, I was unable to walk unattended for nearly two days. Every time I went to the bathroom Brock or a nurse (or both, at the beginning) had to help me get there. I couldn't even stand alone, which meant I couldn't get James out of his bassinet during the hospital stay, and wasn't able to take a shower until he was nearly two days old.

During labor, the epidural wore off on my back, and I begged constantly for heating pads to ease the pain. No one (including me) was paying much attention to how I used them and instead of wrapping them in a paper towel I would slap them directly on my skin. I ended up with a giant second degree burn on that spot that ballooned into a huge blister and was raw and painful for about a month. I still have a scar from it over two years later.

In the hospital, I had to sit on ice packs constantly because of how swollen my whole pelvic area was. The nurses would split open a baby diaper and stuff it full of huge ice cubes, then tape it back up. Sitting on a fresh ice pack was heavenly because it helped take the pain away for a bit. There was a numbing spray that went along with it and I would count down the hours until I could use it.

Then there's the bleeding. As the uterus shrinks back down after birth there is period-like bleeding for about six weeks. It tapers off near the end, but can be really heavy at the beginning. I had to wear huge pads for weeks, and about three weeks after birth I overexerted myself (by vacuuming, lol) and ended up passing two huge blood clots that made me feel weak and dizzy.

Night sweats were another unexpected side effect. For a week or two after James was born, I would wake up completely covered in sweat. That's not an exaggeration- I would be sweating from places I usually didn't sweat from, like my arms, my neck, my stomach, my scalp. The doctor said it was a way for my body to shed the water weight and that it was normal (although I have yet to meet anyone else who has experienced it).

The hormone surges I experienced were brutal. I had never felt such swings of emotion before and never cried over such trivial things. Brock once came into our room to find me quietly weeping on the bed. When he asked what was wrong, I sobbed out that James was growing up too fast. Brock replied, "He's only 3 days old." And then I said, "But I remember when he was 3 hours old!" and it only made me cry more. Obviously, I was hormonal and sleep-deprived and I understood that it was a little crazy to cry about my 3 day old baby growing up too fast. But the hormones made little things like that seem completely cry-worthy.

I remember crying because I just wanted to be free from the pain. So many aspects of my body hurt and on top of all this, I was only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. Coming into motherhood this way was a total shock to every aspect of my life. My body felt like it had completely fallen apart and I struggled to adjust to it along with taking care of a baby's every need. I'm not ashamed to admit that during the first month there were many times that I closed my eyes and wished for my old life back.

Yet, like everything else in life, it was a stage. A hard stage that challenged me and forced me to grow and mature in ways I didn't want to, but it ended. My body healed, my milk supply evened out, my baby started sleeping through the night, etc. And that time gave me such a deep perspective on what women go through to bring babies in the world. It made me feel grateful for my mother and mothers everywhere, and helped me feel connected to women throughout time.

I'm praying that this recovery goes easier than the last, but regardless of what happens I'm grateful for the perspective I've gained after already going through it.