I had a rough pregnancy with my oldest. I had a complete placenta previa, which is a condition where the placenta covers the cervix. It basically meant that I had a lot of bleeding, I would need to deliver via cesarean and was put on bed rest for about half of my pregnancy. I spent the last 2 months of my pregnancy in the hospital for closer monitoring. I ended up delivering 5 weeks early by c-section. My son was rushed to the NICU and my husband went with him. I ended up sitting alone recovering from surgery for hours before I got any updates. My husband then came down with the flu and wasn’t allowed near us. I spent the next 5 days recovering from my c-section, pumping like crazy, and staying in the NICU as long as possible. It was the hardest week of my life and I remember feeling so completely alone and I never wanted to experience that again.
When I found out that we were expecting baby #2, I decided to explore the idea of hiring a doula. My friends loved their experience and encouraged me to interview their doula. I felt so comfortable and decided I really wanted to make sure to have some support. I really wanted my birth experience to be different this time around.
As my pregnancy went on, my doctor told me I’d be an ideal candidate for a VBAC. I honestly had never considered it as I just assumed I’d have a repeat c-section. My c-section recovery had been brutal and I didn’t know how much of it was due to the bed rest or healing from surgery. This time around I’d have a toddler and was worried about not being able to lift him. I did a lot of research and ultimately decided that I wanted to try a VBAC. This meant I had no idea what I was in for.
My doula was great at walking me through what to do during labor, how to prepare my toddler for a sibling and answered my many, many questions with grace and confidence. When I started labor, I immediately had my husband call her and she encouraged us to get our childcare plans set in motion. I had a very short labor and she calmed me as we raced to get to the hospital in time. I had been so worried about what to do with my toddler that I never really took a moment to prepare myself for childbirth. Our doula guided me through my intense labor and reinforced the strength I knew I had in me. She took photos and video of our baby’s first breaths and captured that special moment when parents meet their baby for the first time.
After our baby was born, she not only made sure my needs were met but she also made sure my husband was eating and that we were all settled. She talked to nurses for us and set us up to have a nice quiet first night in the hospital with our baby. I couldn’t believe how much better I felt this time around and I attribute a lot of it to the fact that I felt completely supported. She checked in with us a lot those first few weeks and she made the transition from one child to two feel as seamless as could be expected. I’m very glad I made the decision to involve a doula in my second pregnancy.
written by VHS contributor// Marcie Cheung
Marcie in Mommyland
My life before children seems like a distant memory from my current (very busy) life. Sleeping in, uninterrupted meals, and my put-together appearance were luxuries I always took for granted. I never realized how much life changes when you become a parent. Now sleeping in is 7 am, my meals are always cold, and I look like a frazzled mess with a sloppy bun most days. I always said I wouldn't be THIS mom. I had several misconceptions about mothers until I became one.
1. I will always work out...there is ALWAYS time to work out. No, there is not. When your day starts early and is filled with preparing meals, endless cleaning, a full time job, and playing with your children, there is little time left for yourself. I wish I could wake up early like I used to and squeeze in a workout before work. But right now I already wake up at 5:30 just to make it to work by 7:30. On good days (when the baby sleeps through the night and I feel rested) I can get up at 5 am and squeeze in some weight training while everyone else is still sleeping. I do miss my Saturday morning yoga classes and Sundays paddle boarding, along with evening spin classes during the week. But right now, with a toddler and infant at home, I just don't have the energy to go to these fitness classes!
2. I will always be one of those fashionable moms! I used to love buying nice clothes, and loved jewelry and makeup. I had the time to coordinate my outfits and apply my eyeliner perfectly. But now, getting out the door in the morning is a project! From changing diapers to dressing kids that don't want to be dressed, I find myself out of breath by time we are getting in the car. It's just easier to put my (unwashed) hair up in a bun and slap on some foundation and go! I try to do little things that make me feel put together, like putting on mascara or wearing a pretty accessory. Thankfully, I've found The Vintage Honey Shop's teething and nursing necklaces, they make me feel put together and are baby friendly.
3. I will still be on time for important events. I barely make it to work on time! Despite having two hours to get ready and a 3-minute commute, things just happen! It might be a crisis (like I made waffles for breakfast when my toddler wanted eggs) or maybe the hugs and kisses good-bye lasted a little longer than planned. No matter how well I try to plan and prepare, my punctuality is just not the same anymore.
4. Grocery shopping can't be that hard with kids... Ha! I am finally just getting to a point where it's not too bad bringing both kids to Costco or Target. But the first few months were tough by myself! My toddler would insist on walking, which led to him rearranging every shelf we walked past. Trying to keep in the cart led to a huge tantrum. My baby wanted to be carried, which wasn't too bad since I'm a huge fan of babywearing. But if I didn't time our outings perfectly, I would sometimes have to nurse her in the store. No easy feat with a shopping cart and a toddler!
5. I will still be social, I'll want the break from the kids. This was by far my biggest misconception. From the moment my first child was born, my social life went out the window. Not because I don't have the help, but because I never want to leave my babies. I'm gone from them 40 hours a week! Suddenly weekend brunches with my girlfriends or late nights out just don't sound as appealing as they once did. I'd rather be home with my babies, as chaotic and messy it may be!
My life has certainly changed since having children, but definitely for the better. Although I sometimes miss my days of freedom and putting more effort into my appearance, I wouldn't change it for the world. I have found ways to squeeze in some time for myself and incorporate my kids into my old habits. My cardio workouts are now walking or running with my kids in the jogging stroller. My getting-ready routine includes my toddler sitting on the counter with me while I put on makeup. I do crave my alone time often... but I know in a few years they won't want to spend as much time with me, and I will miss the days when they wanted me so badly.
written by VHS contributor// Gloria Brooks
Sippy Cups and Seashells
As a busy mom, I have learned the hard way many times over how important it is to carve out “me” time. Unfortunately, the opportunity to get to that point is very hard! For me, one of my favorite ways to de-stress is by creating something, specifically sewing. I like sewing quilts, baby clothes, and baby carriers – but these are more time intensive projects and require some skill.
One of the easiest, most rewarding things I sew, on the other hand, are cloth wipes. They are super inexpensive to make, can serve many purposes, and are much gentler on skin than disposable wipes. In our house, we use them not just for dirty diapers but also for cleaning hands and faces after meals, quick body wipe downs between baths (especially for newborns!), and household cleaning. They are much more efficient at getting sticky and messy foods off hands (like peanut butter!).
Want to make some for your family? Here’s everything you need to know!
1) Pick your material. I prefer flannel. You can use old sheets, hospital receiving blankets, or pick up some cheap flannel scraps at the fabric store.
2) Cut your material. I cut my wipes to 7.5 inch squares. I make them double sided, and I typically make 10-15 at a time. So you should plan to cut 20 or more 7.5 inch pieces to start.
3) Figure out how to make a zig zag stitch on a sewing machine. Even basic machines will typically have this option. Place the wrong sides of your flannel fabric together and zig zag straight around all four edges of the square. I use quarter inch margins, and this allows some room for error in lining the squares up perfectly.
4) Make a wipes solution. There are plenty of recipes on the internet, but my favorite is 1 cup of water, 1 Tbsp baby oil, and 1 Tbsp liquid castile soap. I also like to add about 8 drops of grapefruit seed extract because of the antibacterial and antifungal properties. This recipe makes enough solution for 10-12 wipes. Stir the solution well to mix the oil and water. Place all the wipes in a bowl and pour the solution over the wipes to evenly moisten them. I ball my wipes up in a mixing bowl rather than stacking them so I don’t have to worry about the solution soaking all the way to the last wipe.
5) Store your wipes in a wet bag or a plastic wipes container. I store mine for about 2 days at a time, then I throw any unused wipes after that in the wash to avoid mold growth.
These wipes are great for use with kids of all ages, and they also make a great gift! You can play around with the material and thread color to jazz them up. So go make your wipes, and prepare to feel like a DIY and natural mama rock star!
We received so much at our baby shower for our little girl (which we were more than thankful for) but there are some things that you just can't put on your registry and totally need to. Unfortunately, you don't find these things out until you're knee-deep in motherhood. Here are a few things from one mama to another that could've made my first few weeks more manageable.
Marley Rocking Chair Land of Nod// $1,000
Whether you're breastfeeding or formula feeding, a comfortable chair is everything. For our nursery, we used a vintage wooden rocking chair that has been in the family for years. Bad idea. No matter how many pillows and blankets I threw on it, my hips on down would painfully become numb at each nightly feeding. I often found myself wondering how my ancestors enjoyed using this chair to relax, when there was definitely nothing remotely relaxing about it.
The search for the perfect nursing chair can go on forever. Are you looking for a rocker, or do you just want to go with a club style chair? It's never ending. In my
opinion, if the chair is comfortable for your back and arms is what you need to go with in the end. The modern design of the Marley is a great look, no matter the style of the room this chair will always look great (also grows with baby and child).
Prepared meals are key for new mamas. Subscription boxes are a great option to feed yourself when you just don't have time or a clone. Mouth is a indie food subscription service that sends you premade dishes, snacks, etc. for a price (non subscription boxes available as well). This particular box was curated by the geniuses at Cool Mom Picks for those mamas who can now finally indulge in everything that they couldn't have during pregnancy. Win.
Ultimate Direction Fastdraw Water Bottle// $18
Please tell me why water bottles aren't on registries (if you're breastfeeding you know what I mean). Well here you go, the ultimate water bottle for the breastfeeding and pumping mama. Just because you still look like you're six months pregnant and breastfeeding doesn't mean that you aren't working out. Your body is literally running a marathon make milk for your little babe and not all of us can hold our wiggly child, try to breastfeed him or her and hydrate all at the same time. This water hands free water bottle is for you. Also it comes with a pouch, bonus points.
Organic Cotton Baby Wrap Moby// $60
Baby wearing is so important for your own health and baby's health as well. No one tells you these things. Something else no one tells you is that your child will choose how he or she wants to be carried. Also, no one told us this. We were given a very nice Baby Bjorn carrier before our child arrived and thought that we were set. Wrong. Very early on I tried to regain my independence as a new mama and come to find out my child hated it. The carrier wasn't right for her, she didn't feel comfortable (until she could hold her head up and I could face her away from me in it) and at that point she just dealt with it. I couldn't wait around so I tried other carriers. Slings were better but she still wasn't satisfied. Finally, I broke down and got a generic baby wrap. I felt bad initially because I had promised my fiance that I wouldn't wrap her because it didn't look safe and I didn't trust myself. Also, very wrong. She ended up loving it and I learned that babies choose the carriers, not the parents.
I did alot of research on wrap before I ended up getting one. The Moby wrap was great for my child because she is large for her age and I had read that this particular wrap held up well and didn't get all stretched out after several uses. It's a great
beginner's wrap and is very forgiving if you're not very confident with wrapping. Something to keep in mind though is that the fabric is very stretchy and thick to hold baby but also can get hot if you live in a warmer climate (babies hate being hot). Also, when baby is more than 10 pounds, you may want to consider wrapping her the "real" way because I found the manufacturer's way just wasn't cutting it anymore. Either way, I was able to do things around the house and bond with my little girl all at the same time.
The Vintage Honey Shop Teething + Nursing Necklace// $25
First of all, teething necklaces are great. They come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, you name it and there they are. You can usually find them in silicone but there are some really awesome shops like The Vintage Honey Shop that have your back and make many different styles for mamas to wear but they are more than just pretty necklaces because they double as a baby teether (and they're really affordable too, ranging between $25-$30). I was so addicted to these things when I was pregnant that I wore them as jewelry too! They are complete life savers once your little one starts teething (my little girl started at two months, just so you know). The counter presser helps to soothe sore gums plus these necklaces provide a distraction during feeding time. That's right no more fidgeting fingers pulling my hair or pinching my skin. There are so many cute patterns and colors you will want them all!
Fitbit Alta// $130
Your health is so very important. After you have a child your body goes through so many changes, and it's just never the same again. From stretch marks to saggy skin, it's new and overwhelming and all you want to do is get healthy again. It's important to take it one step at a time and when you get your doctor's ok to start exercising again using a fitness tracker can help you reach your goals (and have fun doing it). And for those times when you're not there yet, you can track your sleep and maybe laugh a little. Either way, you'll enjoy yourself.
Netflix Gift Card// $30
One of the things that truly saved my sanity in the early weeks of mamahood was Netflix. During those long, late night feedings you need something to stimulate your mind (or help baby sleep) and Netflix is the way to go. If you don't pay for it now, you will in the future. You're welcome.
Although there is nothing that can prepare you for having a child, hopefully these things can at least help you get through it. I honestly didn't know how I would get past the first four weeks of colic and endless nightly feedings that I thought would last forever but it happened. And now we have a happy, healthy little girl that makes us grateful to be alive every single day.
Written by VHS contributor// Allison Dandrea
These days, diaper bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. At my baby shower I was gifted a great diaper bag with a shoulder strap which we love, but it got to the point where it was just too heavy and bulky. I eventually came across diaper backpacks and I have to say whoever came up with these is a genius!
I know, the first thing you think of when it comes to a diaper bag is diapers of course. But how many do you pack? Well, it depends on the length of your trip and how often you have to change your little one. For us, I usually pack 2-4 diapers and our trips usually range from a half an hour to about 4 hours at the longest. Just remember that each baby is different so pack as many as you think will last the trip, just don't pack diapers and leave room for nothing else in your bag. Something you may also want to include are of course wipes. I suggest the normal size of wipes but depending on space, there are also smaller sizes.
Bottles are a given. Whether you just take one or go with a couple it's up to you and the length of your trip. If you are feeding your little one formula you can also get premixed bottles and pack those as well. Once the doctor says it's ok to start feeding baby food, you can food either in containers or jars (however it comes) with the utensils needed, just not the whole drawer.
I can't tell you how easy it is to overpack with blankets! Baby will always need one so depending on the weather or season you will need to choose wisely. We live in a warmer climate so I usually go with soft muslin blankets. I keep one in the car and in the diaper bag. Muslin blankets are great because they can keep baby either warm or cool, whichever is needed and they're also great as a breastfeeding cover for a feeding on the go!
Our baby was a C-Section baby and like most C-Section babies she had some breathing and swallowing problems in the beginning so the nasal aspirator was a must. I mean we took that thing everywhere for the first couple of months (even if it was the next room) because you just never know. Something else you may want to consider is a small travel thermometer. Let's face it, babies get sick. It's always an added bonus if you have one handy, just in case. Lotions are also great to keep on hand. Our baby had really dry skin about 2 weekend after she was born and our doctor suggested a non-scented lotion for her which we still keep handy. Also for the hotter months, sunscreen is a must! Babies burn very easily and you want to keep your little one safe when you're out in the sun!
Accidents happen and sometimes it’s best to pack an extra outfit if you have the space. An extra onesie and pair of socks (and sweater depending on the weather) are usually good enough.
Does your little one have a favorite toy or book? How about a baby mirror? Bring it. Sometimes peek-a-boo just won't cut it and you need some backup. Also, some extra bonding time is great for everyone!
We would've never thought that our baby was starting the beginning stages of teeth at a little over 2 months but there we were. With that in mind, I highly suggest at least packing a teething accessory of some sort, but me personally I try to always have a teething necklace on hand at all times. Bibs are also a must. Although our baby is a happy baby she sometimes spits up and drools and a bib comes in super handy. Pacifiers are also great for self-soothing, because sometimes baby is cranky and needs a little "me" time.
Extras You May Want to Think About
Ever since we got the green light from the doctor to take the baby out (and she got her 2 month shots) we took our little one out a little more with each trip, even if it was to the grocery store and we learned a lot. Something that no one ever thought to tell me was to bring a bag to put dirty diapers in. I mean what are parents supposed to do if they're on the road and don't have a trash can handy? Bring your own bag, even if it's a plastic one, it will make everyone involved a lot happier. Also, your baby is going to spit up. A lot. And if you're like me, sometimes you won't notice it until you're in the checkout line at Target. Bring an extra shirt. Lastly, depending on your view on baby wearing you can pack either an inexpensive sling or wrap as well (because you never know when you will be in a situation where you'll need one). I have a sling that easily folds up flat and I put in the front pocket of my diaper bag, it's such a life saver.
Just remember, these are all suggestions based on a new mama's experience. Every baby is different and your little one may have different needs. In the end it's all about you and your baby!
Written by VHS contributor// Allison Dandrea
Let's face it, finding a great work wardrobe is hard. It's even harder when you're trying to dress both a pregnant and then post-pregnant body, not to mention how expensive it can be. Just don't do it. If you can actually find clothes that fit, you'll most likely won't fit them in a short while anyway so essentially, it's a waste of money. What I didn't know when I was a soon-to-be mama and wished that someone told me was that I really didn't have to spend that much, most of the time what you wear while you're pregnant is totally wearable afterwards as well (when you're working on getting your pre-pregnant body back).
Here are some great mama approved work looks that you could totally rock when you're still transitioning your wardrobe and body, no matter the job.
Photo: Little Blonde Book
Whether you're meeting clients for a meeting or attending a luncheon, this look is great and it's all about comfort. As a soon-to-be mama, we all want to feel good in our clothes and most of all be comfortable. Just because you're not pregnant anymore doesn't mean that you have to throw out your maternity clothes, use them while you still can. Learn to love your post-pregnant body, and wearing clothes that fit will help you with that!
This look is great because we have everything about this look in our closets already. From the stretchy grey top and skinny pants to the comfortable booties, this is what makes this outfit so easy to copy and perfect for transitioning. The stretchy top that was tight in your third trimester, will perfectly cover your fourth trimester tummy, while you're still trying to get back to your normal self. Polished off by the blazer and in all neutral tones (which look good on everyone by the way), this look is a must.
Photo: How Does She
Office looks were definitely the hardest when I was pregnant. I wasn't the type of mama-to-be that wore super tight clothes that showed off my bump (even though it was super obvious and no offense to those who did/do), so I basically had to get creative. That's why this look is so great. No matter how much you grow while your pregnant and then shrunk afterwards, the shirt over the dress look is a great go to. The key to this look is finding a stretchy dress. It doesn't have to be a tight stretchy dress, just a comfortable dress and throw on a nice button-down shirt and there you go, office attire perfection.
Photo: Pink Peonies
I wished that I could try heels when I was pregnant with my little one but alas, my feet were too swollen very early on, but kudos to you all that could do it (you know who you are). Whether you work in fashion or marketing or maybe you just have a killer sense of style, this look is for you! This look has got to be the easiest look on this list because it revolves around a black dress. What's so great about it? We all have it in our closets already! This look works great for someone who's pregnant and just had a baby because it's not only stretchy but classic so it's 100% transitional for your after
baby body. The black dress will still show off your shape but also be comfortable, just add a fitted jacket and a pop of color and you're go to go!
Photo: Ella Brooks Blog
When I was pregnant I was very lucky because I worked at a very relaxed nonprofit in their art/marketing department and this was literally my outfit almost every single day (minus the hat). If your job dress code allows, this is the most fluid transitional look for mamas-to-be to mamas after baby. Everything about this look screams comfort
from the Birkenstocks all the way up to the long cardigan (without looking too relaxed for the office). This look is very forgiving and can either grow with you or shrink if need be. Even though I've lost most of my pregnant stomach, I still rock this look for time to time.
Photo: One Little Momma
This look is for everyone's favorite day of the week, Casual Friday. Even though the office dress code might allow you to technically wear a t-shirt and jeans, you want to
be comfortable and professional at the same time. While I was still pregnant, it was easy to swap out a graphic tee for a stretchy, loose fitting top that served the same purpose. Even after you have your little one, that top will still look great with your maternity jeans (if you still wear them) or a pair of comfortable skinny jeans. To polish off your look, add some cute peep toe shoes and your look is complete.
Just remember, no matter your size or shape it's so important to love who you are! Dressing your new body after baby should be fun, don't get discouraged because your "old clothes" don't fit anymore. It takes time to get your body back (you were carrying another human for crying out loud) and you should embrace the new you because you are beautiful!
Written by VHS contributor// Allison Dandrea
When my older daughter was about 8 months old, I became pregnant with her little sister. We were anxious, but excited! One of my earliest and most pressing concerns was keeping up my milk supply until she was at least a year old, and this was really a challenge with the hormonal changes of pregnancy. For me, this meant I needed to make sure I was taking in enough extra calories for both the needs of pregnancy AND breastfeeding.
One thing I started doing that I found really helpful and delicious was making smoothies. I would make up a big batch in our Baby Bullet in the morning, and it would be enough for both breakfast and a snack for the day. Initially, I just packed it with yogurt, fruit, and peanut butter. It was a good source of healthy calories for me but it was also high in fiber, so it kept me full between meals.
I still enjoy my smoothies now that I’m breastfeeding my second daughter. I’ve experimented over time with my “recipe,” and although it never really tastes the same, I have it down to a pretty good science. (I put recipe in quotations because I don’t measure anymore – I got a feel for throwing in a little of this and little of that, so I can make them much more efficiently now.) My latest and best addition has been spinach and kale. Thinking of giving it a try, but a green fruit smoothie freaks you out? I felt the same way! But I took it slow, and I made it work for me and still taste delicious. Bonus: my 2 year old loves my smoothies and always begs for some when she sees me take out the Bullet!
Here are my main ingredients and tips for making a healthy smoothie your whole family will love:
Start by blending together yogurt, a liquid, a banana, and a handful of frozen fruit. I like to use greek vanilla yogurt with at least a little fat. Depending on what I have in my fridge at the time, I’ll add a dash of orange juice or apple cider – just enough to help everything blend together without the blender having to work too hard. I also usually keep a frozen banana in the freezer in case we’re running low, and I stock up on fresh blueberries and strawberries when they’re on sale so I can freeze them and have them on hand for the winter. If I have some other fresh fruit at the time, I’ll also add that in. Mangoes are one of my favorites to change up the taste.
Next, add a teaspoon of peanut butter and a generous handful of spinach or a medium stalk of kale. If you’ve never added greens to a smoothie, I suggest starting small and adding in more as you become more comfortable with it. I honestly don’t notice any difference in the flavor even when my smoothie is 100% green in color. And neither does my toddler!
Since I’m breastfeeding, I also like to add about a tablespoon of flax seed and a teaspoon of Brewer’s Yeast. Any more than a teaspoon, and the flavor turns much too bitter for my taste. Flax seed is much more forgiving and mostly just changes texture more than flavor. I know there are a lot of other supplement options for breastfeeding and other uses, but these are the two that I’m comfortable using. As a general rule, I stick to ingredients that I would normally get from foods and avoid branded or herbal supplements – but do whatever you’re comfortable with!
A few other ingredients that I used to blend in but have kind of fallen away from (mostly just because I forget) include oats, Ovaltine, and honey.
My best advice for smoothies (green or not) is to just play around with ingredients and figure out what flavor and consistency you like the most. So go ahead – have some fun!